It’s the weekend, meaning it’s your last chance to flip categories in head-to-head leagues. Every week, Michael Beller will provide you with the best pitchers to stream in shallow, normal and deep leagues. Pitchers with availability rates of 50 percent to 70 percent are considered streamers for shallow-league owners. If a pitcher is available in 71 to 89 percent of leagues, he falls in the normal section. Anyone available in 90 percent of leagues or more is a deep stream option.
Here are Beller’s picks for this weekend.
Jason Hammel, Cubs (Sunday vs. Brewers)
It’s a little hard to believe that Hammel’s ownership rates aren’t a touch higher after what he has done dating back to last season. He has been quietly great in his second go-round with the Cubs, posting a 3.55 ERA, 3.02 xFIP, 1.03 WHIP and 23 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings so far this season. He’s coming off his best start of the year, an eight-inning gem against the Pirates in which he didn’t allow a run and fanned seven batters. He’ll draw the lowly Brewers on Sunday, a team that could get Carlos Gomez back Saturday, but will definitely be without Jonathan Lucroy. You know the ugly story in Milwaukee by now. The Brewers are in the bottom-fourth of the league in nearly every offensive metric. Hammel should have another fine afternoon.
Chris Tillman, Orioles (Friday @ Rays)
The Orioles will be the home team in this game, but the important part for fantasy owners is that the game will be played in Tampa, which is why it’s listed as at the Rays above. That’s good news for a fly-ball pitcher like Tillman. What’s even better for the righty, who carries a 7.58 ERA into his start against the Rays on Friday: At least he’s not facing the Blue Jays. In two starts against Toronto this year, the 27-year-old has surrendered 14 runs on 12 hits and eight walks in seven innings. In his two other starts (against the Rays and Red Sox), he has allowed just two runs with nine strikeouts in 12 innings. His 5.56 xFIP isn’t anything to write home about, unless you’re asking mom and dad to give you a shoulder to cry on, but the fact that it’s a full two runs lower than his ERA suggests better days are ahead. The Rays continue to hit Asdrubal Cabrera third by choice. This lineup isn’t scaring anyone.
Brandon Morrow, Padres (Saturday vs. Rockies)
I’m going to keep dropping Morrow into the Weekend Stream until his ownership rates reach an appropriate level. We’ve been over his merits time and time again during the first month of the season, yet he remains available in approximately four-fifths of fantasy baseball leagues. This is awfully hard to figure out, given his performance, track record when healthy, and home park. Add in the fact that he has recouped nearly all of the velocity and movement he lost due to a litany of arm injuries, and it becomes nearly impossible to explain why fantasy owners aren’t jumping in feet first. Grab him for his start against Colorado at home this weekend, and then keep him around for the long haul. You will not be disappointed.
Dan Haren, Marlins (Saturday vs. Phillies)
Life on the goodship for Haren isn’t going to last forever. He barely has more than twice as many strikeouts as walks, and he’s giving up a ton of fly balls and home runs. That’s a dangerous mix that is sure to catch up with him eventually. I’m willing to be that comeuppance happens sometime after his start against the Phillies this weekend, however. They rank 28th in the league in slugging, 29th in wRC+, and last in both wOBA. Haren faced them earlier this year, and while he allowed four runs and two homers, he also struck out seven batters in six innings. Moreover, that game was in homer-happy Citizens Bank Park. Saturday’s game is in the much friendlier environs of Marlins Park.
Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays (Saturday @ Indians)
Sanchez has had some struggles in his move to the rotation, allowing 11 earned runs in 19 2/3 innings, and walking 14 batters while striking out 16. Still, the whiffs have been there, and that’s where he can help fantasy owners this weekend. Sanchez is only a pitcher to stream if you’re chasing strikeouts and are simultaneously out of the rate categories. His secondary pitches just haven’t been effective this year, and he has leaned all too heavily on his four-seam fastball (80.9-percent usage rate). As overpowering as that pitch can be for him, major leaguers will catch up to it if they know they don’t have to worry about anything offspeed. That’s what has made him such a rate killer this year. If you’ve already got nothing to lose in ERA and WHIP, he can make up ground for you in strikeouts. The Blue Jays have also kicked around the idea of moving him back to the bullpen, where he was quite effective last season. By grabbing him now for a spot start, you may also poach the new closer in Toronto.
Joe Kelly, Red Sox (Sunday vs. Yankees)
Kelly is similar to Sanchez in that if you’re looking for help in the rate categories, you might want to go in another direction, but if you need to add a few whiffs to your ledger, he’s your man. Kelly has 28 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings, and just fanned 10 Blue Jays in his last start. Of course, he allowed five runs in six innings in that start, the second straight game in which he let five runners cross the plate. Kelly, however, has the naturally high ceiling of a pitcher who’s four-seamer averages 97.2 mph, and two-seamer checks in at 96.7 mph. He has largely abandoned the changeup this year, a bit of a surprise given that it was a pitch that worked well for him against lefties. He has mostly made up for that deficit with more sliders, and that offering has a 23.6-percent whiff rate on the season. Kelly allowed just one run and struck out eight in seven innings against the Yankees in his first start of the season. This is another good spot for him.
Drew Pomeranz, Athletics (Saturday @ Rangers)
Pomeranz is basically the Weekend Stream poster boy. He’s not good enough to warrant a regular spot on a roster outside of deep leagues, yet he is good enough to consistently take advantage of good matchups. He has one of those against the Rangers on Saturday. They’re toward the bottom of the league in every meaningful offensive statistic, and are dead last in slugging percentage. They don’t strike out a ton, but that’s about the only thing they’ve done well at the plate this year. If Pomeranz can avoid the long-ball troubles that have gotten to him in his last few starts, he should be able to make it relatively deep into this game.
Hector Santiago, Angels (Saturday @ Giants)
Santiago is a guy who has had successful stretches in the past, so it’s not a huge surprise to see him off to a good start this season. It certainly helps when you’re striking batters out, and he has fanned 22 in 23 2/3 innings this season. That has helped offset the 13 walks, though he has also paid by allowing three homers. Santiago relies on his fastball-cutter-changeup trio, though he will mix in a curve and slider a few times per game. The combination has worked thus far, but it also helps to make him an extreme fly-ball pitcher. The good news is that you can get away with that at AT&T Park. The Giants also aren’t that threatening, evidenced by a .362 slugging percentage that has them tied for 23rd in the league.
Roberto Hernandez, Astros (Sunday vs. Mariners)
Sunday streamers are looking for any help they can get, but that’s only part of what makes Hernandez attractive. He has earned quality starts each of his last three times out, including a game against these very same Mariners in which he allowed three runs in six innings. Hernandez is inducing a ton of ground balls, which tells you that his changeup, a pitch he throws nearly 30 percent of the time, is really working for him this year. Deep-league owners won’t have a ton of choice on Sunday, but Hernandez is a guy who can give you six innings of solid rates and potentially pick up a win.
Rubby De La Rosa, Diamondbacks (Friday @ Dodgers)
De La Rosa has had a nice month, despite what the neophytes would say about a 4.68 ERA. He has fanned a batter per inning, while being the victim of a .319 BABIP and 68.2-percent strand rate. De La Rosa’s fastball velocity is up a bit, but it has really been his changeup, with a 15-percent whiff rate at nearly 30-percent usage, that has driven his performance this year. He has a tough draw with the Dodgers on Friday, but he can take advantage of the confines at Chavez Ravine.
Kyle Lobstein, Tigers (Friday @ Royals)
There is essentially once instance in which Lobstein would make a stream candidate, and that’s as a play for a cheap win. The fact that he pitches on Friday makes it a bit harder to trust him, given that many owners will likely still be contending for the rate categories with three full days remaining in the week. If you’re not, however, Lobstein can poach a win with the potent Detroit offense at his back. Chris Young will take the mound for the Royals, not exactly a pitcher that will strike fear into the hearts of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Yoenis Cespedes or J.D. Martinez. All Lobstein has to do is get through five innings.
John Danks, White Sox (Saturday @ Twins)
Danks hasn’t been great this year, but he won’t have to be to take advantage of the Twins on Saturday. They have the 10th-highest strikeout rate in the league, and are tied with the Rangers for the worst slugging percentage. The Twins are also saddled with the third-lowest OPS in the league at .615. They have been a bit better against righties, but that still has translated to just a .248/.305/.335 slash line. Danks can be effective for those of you in very deep leagues.
Do Not Stream
Nick Martinez, Rangers (Saturday vs. Athletics)
Small sample sizes early in the season create some silly-looking stat lines. Take Martinez, for instance. The 24-year-old righty has a sparkling 0.35 ERA through 26 innings. At the same time, he has fanned just 11 batters while walking eight, and that’s a ratio both FIP and xFIP frown upon. Martinez’ xFIP is 4.92, which suggests he has been just about the luckiest pitcher in the majors. The A’s have lit up righties to the tune of .284/.337/.446 this season. Don’t be fooled by Martinez’ ERA. This is a terrible spot to get him in your lineup.