Especially in H2H, you really can never get enough starting pitching. I’m a firm believer that most of your bench spots should be utilized for having SPs. One, because it is frustrating trying to decide between what hitters to start and seeing stats sitting on your bench. And two, because I’m also a believer that the more the merrier when it comes to starts and pitching strategy in H2H. Yes, there is a greater likelihood that your ERA and WHIP can get blown up with just a couple bad starts. However, I think that giving yourself more starts and trying to win strikeouts and wins every week will pay off more times than being conservative and trying to win ERA and WHIP. Because let’s face it, even the times you try to do that it can all come crashing down with a bad start or two anyway. And then you’re at a disadvantage in strikeouts and wins too because you only used 6 or 8 starts.
Since I love chasing winning strikeouts and wins every week, I’m always trying to find guys to add to my pitching staff. Here are 4 starting pitchers that are less than 40% owned in ESPN leagues.
Bassitt has looked strong in his first 5 starts of 2019, posting a 2-1 record with a 1.93 ERA and 0.92 WHIP through 32 2/3 innings of work. Hitters have just a .179 average against him, 7th lowest among SP with at least 30 innings pitched. He has 38 K’s to just 9 walks, giving him a K-BB% of 22.8% which ranks 16th in the league. His 10.47 K/9 is strongly backed by a 11% swinging strike rate. Bassitt gets the luxury of pitching his home games in a very pitcher-friendly environment in Oakland. Hitters make hard contact on 29.1% of batted balls, and his average exit velocity of just 85.1 MPH ranks in the top 8% of the league. One red flag for Bassitt is that he currently has a 100% left on base percentage, which surely is not sustainable. He also averages about 1 HR surrendered per start, giving him a 1.38 HR/9 that is significantly higher than his career 0.76 mark through 224 major league innings. Though he won’t retain a sub-2 ERA, his 3.35 xFIP and 3.37 SIERA indicate that he appears to hold value as as solid arm to round out your rotation. Both marks are top-20 in the league among SP with at least 30 innings pitched. A healthy amount of K’s, a productive offense behind him, and a pitcher-friendly home ballpark help make Bassitt a pretty valuable fantasy SP 5/6.
Steamer ROS: 6-6 with 8.52 K/9, 3.31 BB/9, 4.14 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 4.22 FIP through 103 IP (15 GS)
Giolito is a prime post-hype sleeper that has finally been showing us flashes of why he was such a highly touted prospect. He is 5-1 on the year through his 8 starts of 2019, including winning each of his past 3. In those past 3 starts, he has surrendered just 2 earned runs while posting 20K:6BB across 19 1/3 innings. On the season, Giolito has posted a 3.35 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 50K:18BB through 43 innings of work. His 3.88 xFIP and 3.93 SIERA suggest his ERA has been pretty on par with his performance thus far. His walks have remained an issue for him (10.3% BB rate), but the bright side is that his strikeouts are way up at 10.47 K/9 compared to his career 7.00 mark. Whether they stay that high as he accrues more innings remains to be seen, but his jump in swinging strike rate from 8.3% last year to 11.7% this year suggests that he is missing more bats and can sustain the bump in strikeouts. Opposing hitters are batting just .205 against him this year and that is on a .282 BABIP too (career .258), so it is not like he’s getting incredibly lucky either. His home runs are also way down, as he has allowed just 3 in 43 innings, compared to the 27 he surrendered across 173 1/3 innings last season. If he can continue to limit the long balls, keep his walk rate from getting too high, and strike out batters at or around his current clip, Giolito will continue to be a viable fantasy option.
Steamer ROS: 6-8 with 8.38 K/9, 4.48 BB/9, 5.00 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, and 5.04 FIP through 120 IP (21 GS)
Okay these projections don’t really support my case but I needed to include them.
Strahm has been flying under the radar due to playing for the small market Padres, but he has low key been one of the most consistent starters in the league this year. Aside from surrendering 5 ER in his first start of the season, Strahm has allowed 2 or fewer runs while going 5+ in each of his other 6 starts. He only has 1 win to show for it however, as the Padres and their 6th fewest runs scored haven’t been giving him much run support. Those that play in quality starts leagues can rejoice though, as he has recorded 4 in his last 5 outings. Through 44 innings of work on the year, Strahm has a 3.07 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 39K:8 BB. His 7.98 K/9 isn’t amazing, but his 1.64 BB/9 is stellar and his improved control has been paying dividends for him. His average against is a bit higher than you’d like to see it at .256, but this may be a result of a .310 BABIP that is 40 points higher than his career average. His 4.15 SIERA and 4.48 xFIP compared to his 3.32 FIP suggest he may have some regression coming his way, but Strahm seems pretty locked in as of late. Playing his home games in Petco is a huge plus for his value going forward, though it may be a reason he hasn’t been getting much run support. Regardless, Strahm has been extremely productive thus far and as mentioned gets a boost in leagues that count quality starts. It should be noted that his manager stated that his pitch counts will be monitored all season, but hopefully he doesn’t get shut down early.
Steamer ROS: 5-6 with 8.73 K/9, 3.23 BB/9, 4.24 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 4.35 FIP through 92 IP (17 GS)
Okay I felt the need to give at least one significantly less owned player than the other three included. I know they all fit the bill as this is a <40% owned piece, but I also know that Razzballers tend to be ahead of the curve compared to your typical fantasy baseballer. My hope is that they are still available in your leagues, but I wanted to include one that should definitely available so that I’m not completely useless. Griffin Canning, come on down. Canning has been pretty impressive in his first 4 MLB starts, going 2-1 with a 3.80 ERA and 1.08 WHIP through his first 21 1/3 innings of work. It appears as though the Angels have been trying to gradually increase his workload, but it is very assuring to see that he went 7 strong innings his last time out. Canning has a 3.81 SIERA and 4.11 xFIP which suggests his current ERA is pretty spot on of his production so far. Opposing hitters are batting just .200 against him. He has struck out 24 batters (10.13 K/9) compared to walking 7 of them (2.95 BB/9) through his first 21 1/3 IP. Though across a small sample size, Canning has a stellar 17.7% swinging strike rate. This includes 16 swinging strikes his last outing against the Royals on 90 pitches. His workload may be monitored as the season goes on, but Canning represents a high upside arm that is widely available.
Steamer ROS: 6-5 with 8.86 K/9, 3.46 BB/9, 4.29 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, and 4.38 FIP across 93 IP (16 GS)