I was having a good day on Sunday until I received a live scoring update on my TGFBI team and saw that Jose Berrios had given up a season high eight earned runs to the Milwaukee Brewers before being pulled in the third inning. He has given up five home runs in his last two starts and struck out only two as his ERA soared to 5.86 and his WHIP 1.39. He has only 64 strikeouts over 78.1 innings.
Wasn’t it just three months ago that I had felt so good about my pitching staff on this team? After all, I had drafted Max Scherzer, Sandy Alcantara, Berrios and Charlie Morton to anchor my pitching staff. Only one out of four has met my expectations. Morton got off to a miserable start, only recently starting to show signs of life, and Scherzer has been out with an oblique injury since May 18th.
It’s not a stretch to believe that some readers are enduring similar struggles with starting pitchers. You may have drafted Lucas Giolito with a second- or third round pick. He had his first decent start in more than three weeks on Monday, having allowed 30 runs (27 earned) over his previous 25.2 innings. There are some advanced stats, including a .360 BABIP, that suggest he’s had some bad luck, too.
There are other starting pitchers that were drafted in the early rounds that have also been more than a little disappointing. Lance Lynn, Trevor Rogers, Blake Snell and Jack Flaherty were all top 50 pitchers according to NFBC ADP. None of them have returned any value. You shouldn’t be dropping any of them, but you’re probably leaving them on your bench unless you’re a glutton for punishment.
As we near the midpoint of the season, you may need help. There’s always a chance you can trade for someone, but trading for an impact arm will cost you a pretty penny. What about the waiver wire? If you play in a shallow league, there’s probably a number of good options. If you play in a deep league like TGFBI (15 teams in each league), it’s going to be more difficult. But it’s not impossible.
I was able to pick up Spencer Strider for a song in mid-April on that team when he was still pitching in long relief for the Braves. He was already missing a lot of bats, and I speculated that the Braves would move him into the starting rotation. Did you happen to catch him pitching on national television against the Dodgers on Sunday night? He might still be available in your league. Check right now.
More than a month after I acquired Strider, I picked up Jeffrey Springs. He had also been in the Rays bullpen (are you seeing a theme here?) but had moved into the starting rotation by that time. Springs has a 3-2 record, with a 2.25 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. He also misses some bats, striking out a season-high nine batters in his last start. Like Strider, he might be available in some shallow leagues.
Here are some starting pitchers that are available in at least 50 percent of Yahoo and ESPN leagues:
KEEGAN THOMPSON (SP, CUBS, 50%/44%)
Thompson started out the season in long relief for the Cubs, and he’s aging like a fine wine. If you were streaming Thompson earlier this month, you suffered through two dismal starts. But in his last two starts, he’s given up a total of six hits and one earned run while striking out 16 over 12 innings. The right-hander has been effective overall this season (7-2, 3.10 ERA, 1.15 WHIP).
ROSS STRIPLING (SP, BLUE JAYS, 38%18.7%)
Stripling also emerged from the bullpen to pitch well as a member of the Blue Jays rotation, logging a 2.81 ERA before Tuesday night’s game. The good news is that he plays for a team who will provide run support. The bad news is that he pitches in the AL East against teams like the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays. Stripling doesn’t miss many bats, but he has an ERA close to 3.00 and a WHIP close to 1.00.
TYLER WELLS, SP, ORIOLES, 26%/22%)
Here’s another pitcher who was plucked from the bullpen. At the beginning of the season, he was expected to pick up where he left off last year as the Orioles closer. Instead, he joined the starting rotation. He’s won each of his past five decisions, registering a 1.97 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. As a flyball pitcher, he’s surely benefitted from them pushing the wall back in Camden Yards.
DEVIN SMELTZER (SP, TWINS, 17%/14.4%)
I was attracted to Smeltzer because of his name and picked him up for my TGFBI team shortly after he was promoted from Triple-A St. Paul on May 25th. He has earned a permanent spot in the Twins rotation. With a funky delivery, he has a quality slider and curveball that can offset unimpressive fastball velocity. He’s similar in some ways to Stripling, with an ERA and WHIP in the that range.
JUSTIN STEELE (SP, CUBS, 6%/3.8%)
For the deeper leagues, take a look at Steele. His 4.39 ERA and 1.48 WHIP may not impress you but know that he plays in the weak NL Central division and is continuing to improve, while missing a lot of bats. The 23.8 K% last year was promising for a rookie, but the 10.9 BB% along with a 1.9 HR/9 offset the gains from his strikeouts. He has improved on those stats and is a diamond in the rough.
Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about baseball and football for CreativeSports. You can also follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.