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% to 70% are considered streamers for shallow-league owners. If a pitcher is available in 71% to 89% of leagues, he falls in the normal section. Anyone available in 90% of leagues or more is a deep stream option.
Here are Beller’s picks for this weekend.
James Paxton, Seattle Mariners (Saturday @ Blue Jays)
Paxton has turned in consecutive useful outings for the fantasy community, tossing 14 shutout innings with seven strikeouts his last two times on the mound. Both of those starts were at home, where he has fared better this season, save a seven-run shelling at the hands of the Rangers. Rogers Centre is not an easy place to pitch, and the Blue Jays’ lineup isn’t exactly inviting Paxton to a lovely picnic in Toronto, but he’s generally a good pitcher who should probably be more widely owned in fantasy leagues. If his curveball is working, he can have a strong performance against a right-handed heavy lineup like Toronto’s.
Miguel Gonzalez, Baltimore Orioles (Sunday @ Marlins)
In five of his eight starts this year, Gonzalez has allowed one run or fewer, or has struck out at least eight batters. In other words, he’s regularly finding ways to be a good spot starter in shallow fantasy leagues. He’ll take the ball against the Marlins on Sunday, and this should actually be a good matchup for him. Gonzalez is a fly-ball pitcher, so he should love pitching at Marlins Park. The Miami lineup also features a number of fly-ball hitters, most notably the 3-4 combo of Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna. There are lesser offenses that would present Gonzalez with a tougher matchup. This is just the sort of game in which you want to stream him into your lineup.
Hector Santiago, Los Angeles Angels (Sunday @ Red Sox)
The good times keep rolling for Santiago, who earlier this week held the mighty Blue Jays to one earned run on four hits in seven innings, fanning five and walking three. Santiago now has five quality starts in eight outings this season, and most have been much better than the baseline six-inning, three-run variety. He has allowed more than one run in just two of his starts and is striking out more than eight batters per nine innings. He’s proving himself to be a guy you can stream in almost any matchup. This Sunday at Boston is no different.
Rubby De La Rosa, Arizona Diamondbacks (Saturday vs. Cubs)
De La Rosa had his best start of the season, and likely of his career, the last time he took the mound. He threw a complete game against the Marlins, allowing two runs on six hits, striking out five and walking none. De La Rosa has been mostly effective this year, notching five quality starts in eight total trips to the bump. He isn’t consistent enough to keep around in leagues with 12 teams or fewer, but he can be a profitably pitcher in the right matchup. We’ve talked about the Cubs a lot in this column already this season. It must be said that their offense is significantly improved this year, but they still strike out a lot. In fact, they lead the league with a 25.6% strikeout rate. At the very least, De La Rosa can be an asset for you if you’re chasing strikeouts this weekend. If you need help in the rate categories, however, you may want to look elsewhere.
Lance McCullers, Houston Astros (Saturday @ Tigers)
McCullers made his first career start on Monday, allowing the A’s one run on three hits and three walks with five strikeouts in five innings. The 21-year-old appeared on both MLB.com’s and Baseball America’s top-100 prospect lists before the 2014 season, but fell off after a disappointing year at High-A Lancaster. The Astros started him at Double-A Corpus Christi this year, and the guy who looked like an improving prospect was back. In six appearances with the Hooks, he compiled a 0.62 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 43 strikeouts in 29 innings. McCullers features a power fastball that sits in the mid-90s, and a filthy curveball that is already a plus offering, and has the ceiling to be a wipeout pitch. He draws a tough assignment with the Tigers this weekend, but he’s worth a kick of the tires, especially if you’re in the market for strikeouts.
Jimmy Nelson, Milwaukee Brewers (Sunday @ Braves)
Nelson was great in his previous start this week, a win over the Tigers. He allowed just one run in eight innings, surrendering three hits and four walks while striking out five batters. The walks were a bit concerning, but the fact that he was able to hold the Tigers at bay made this one of his most impressive outings of the season. He draws a far less imposing foe in the Braves on Sunday. Atlanta ranks 18th in the league with a .309 wOBA and 19th with 92 weighted runs created plus. It’s essentially a league average offense Nelson will face this weekend. Given that he’s on the mound Sunday, the final day of the week, you’ll know exactly what you need out of him to change your fortunes. He’s the best realistic stream option on Sunday for owners in any format.
Mike Wright, Baltimore Orioles (Saturday @ Marlins)
Wright dominated the Angels in his first career start last weekend, throwing 7 1/3 scoreless innings and allowing just four hits while fanning six batters without issuing a walk. Wright didn’t boast an impressive prospect profile coming into this season, but he had a strong start at Triple-A Norfolk. The 25-year-old made six starts, amassing a 2.64 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 30 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings. The Marlins rank 24th in wOBA and seventh in strikeout rate. This is a lineup that can be exploited.
Carlos Frias, Los Angeles Dodgers (Sunday vs. Padres)
The 25-year-old Frias has put together enough of a run as a member of the Dodgers’ rotation to stay there for the foreseeable future. In four starts this season, he has surrendered seven runs in 22 1/3 innings, striking out 17 batters and walking five. Those aren’t world-beating numbers, and he’s not going to reach that level over the course of the entire season. What he can be for fantasy purposes is an effective spot starter, and he has just that opportunity on Sunday. The Padres made plenty of improvements during the offseason, but they’re still just 22nd in wOBA, and will be without Wil Myers when the face Frias. He’s an advisable play in 12-team leagues in addition to deeper ones.