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Starting Pitcher Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 2

The game is undeniably tougher in the opening weeks. Baseball is not a game where you derive much of anything from just a few games, so we really need to get into the season before we have trustworthy data.

When talking about starting pitchers, it takes a long time to build up your data since these guys pitch just once every five (or even six in 2021) days. That makes it tough to feel confident while perusing the waiver wire for a starting pitcher to add to your team.

One thing is certain, there are some hidden gems to uncover on the waiver wire, it's just a question of locating them. Let's talk about some waiver wire additions that might really strengthen your rotation as the season progresses. Some leagues have extended week ones going from April 1 to April 11, and others are already on Week 2, but either way we are looking for some guys to scoop up for their starts in the week ahead and possibly beyond here.

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Pickups for Shallow Leagues

Domingo German, New York Yankees (71% rostered)

German has made the Yankees rotation after a bit of a tumultuous offseason. He looked strong in the spring with 17 strikeouts and one walk in 13 innings. While he has been far from consistent in his career, he has flashed some serious upside. In 2019, he struck out 153 batters in 143 innings while walking just 39. Those aren't numbers you see from many pitchers, so German is certainly someone who should be given a chance in your fantasy league. The Yankees lineup is also mostly healthy right now and should be providing their starters with ample run support to get some wins here early on.

Michael Pineda, Minnesota Twins (50% rostered)

If you have read any of my work this offseason, you know about my love for Pineda. A veteran arm with a fantastic slider that limits walks while getting strikeouts and ground-balls. His spring doesn't look great by the numbers with the 7.04 ERA hanging there, but he had the swing-and-miss stuff working collecting 10 strikeouts in his 7 2/3 innings. He finds himself as the Twins third starter, which will generate lots of great matchups for him this year. He starts his campaign with a Sunday start against the Brewers, and his second start lines up to be against the Mariners. Those are two pretty juicy matchups, and you can feel pretty confident about at least getting some nice strikeout counts from Pineda.

Yusei Kikuchi, Seattle Mariners (38% rostered)

There was some hype on Kikuchi heading into the season as his big fastball and constant tinkering with his arsenal signal to many fantasy managers of impending improvement. Despite that, his rostered percentage remains low across the board. This may change in a hurry after his very encouraging ten-strikeout performance on Friday night in which he also earned a quality start. He did give up two home runs, and that was a huge problem for him in his rookie year back in 2019 when he gave up two homers per nine innings. He did make great strides in ground-ball rate in the short 2020 season, however, with a 52% ground-ball rate in his 47 innings. One thing is certain, Kikuchi has the arm to be a really solid fantasy pitcher, and he should be added in most leagues.


Pickups for Deeper Leagues

Drew Smyly, Atlanta Braves (38% rostered)

It's really surprising how few leagues have Smyly rostered right now. He finally got healthy in 2020 and looked amazing in his 26 innings with a 38% strikeout rate, 3.42 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. The strikeouts were still coming in bunches this spring as well, with 16 in 13.2 innings. The most important thing for Smyly was that the velocity was still there and the reports were that he felt really healthy. The guy has always had a great arm but just has not been able to stay on the field. His stuff is good enough to be a really useful fantasy pitcher; the time to add him is right now.

Logan Webb, San Francisco Giants (37% rostered)

The Giants righty was not relevant for fantasy purposes the last two seasons, posting back-to-back years with an ERA above five and a strikeout rate below 22%. He came into the spring looking like a completely different guy, and he was probably the best pitcher in either spring league, striking out 22 batters in 17 innings while giving up just seven hits and allowing just one run. While there's a chance this was just a random hot run of 17 innings, it's hard to discount it when you see it.

Webb does have a nice pitch mix, throwing four different pitches over 10% of the time last year. His sinker/changeup combination gets tons of ground-balls, so the 50% rate should be sustained this year. That's always a nice place to start from. If the tweaks he made in the spring are legitimate and he keeps striking out a batter or inning or more, we could be looking at a breakout here. There's no reason to believe he's a top 20 starter, but there are indicators suggesting that he could be a more than serviceable arm for your fantasy squad.

Tarik Skubal, Detroit Tigers (25% rostered)

Skubal has a really great fastball. He consistently threw it in the upper 90s last year and earned a 12.6% swinging-strike rate on the pitch, which is really good for a four-seamer. The problem is he was overly reliant on the pitch, throwing it 58% of the time.

We saw Skubal throw a lot of splitters this spring, and that could elevate him to the next level. He was very successful in his 17 spring innings, allowing just three earned runs while striking out 18. His control wasn't great with nine walks, but that wasn't an issue for him last year with an average 8% walk rate. If you've played fantasy baseball in recent years, you probably have not had any success with Tigers pitchers, but Skubal might be one to change that in 2021.

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