Every week, we’ll give you pitches to add for spot starts who can help you chase down a category or two in head-to-head leagues. All of the pitchers we offer will fall under one of three headings. If a pitcher is a stream candidate in shallow leagues, it means he has an ownership rate between 35% and 50%. Medium translates to pitchers with ownership rates between 21% and 34%, while those under the “deep” heading are owned in 20% of leagues or less.
An endorsement for a pitcher in a shallow or medium league would also apply to the leagues beneath it, but those of you in deep leagues shouldn’t hold out hope that a pitcher with an ownership rate of 40% will be available.
Mat Latos, White Sox (Sunday vs. Rangers)
Latos has been one of the great surprises in the first three weeks of the season, allowing just one run on six hits and striking out 11 batters in 18 1/3 innings. The $3-million gamble White Sox GM Rick Hahn looks like it will pay off in a big way. Now it’s time for fantasy owners to jump on the bandwagon. At the very least, Latos is a worthwhile stream pitcher in all formats on Sunday. The Rangers do have a dangerous offense, but it isn’t often that you can stream a pitcher who has put together a three-start run like Latos has to begin the year. Given that he starts Sunday, he’ll be one of the last stream options on the board, as well.
Mike Leake, Cardinals (Sunday @ Padres)
Think of Leake as almost identical to Latos, just without the hot start. In three starts with the Cardinals, Leake has surrendered 11 earned runs on 21 hits in 17 1/3 innings, amassing a 5.71 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. While he’s not going to be usable in every outing, he’s still a better-than-average pitcher who can exploit a good matchup, and that’s exactly what he has in San Diego on Sunday. The Padres have been one of the most pitcher-friendly offenses this year, and are likely to end the season among the league trailers in all offensive statistics. Leake, a heavy ground-ball pitcher, has just a 40.7% ground-ball rate this year. Expect that to turn around sooner rather than later.
Adam Conley, Marlins (Sunday @ Giants)
Conley is the sort of pitcher with whom you want to pick your spots, and this, on its face, is a bad one. The Giants are 13th in the majors in wOBA and they do not strike out, limiting pitcher upside against them. Having said that, Conley is a lefty who can neutralize some of the bigger bats in San Francisco’s lineup. Indeed, the Giants’ wOBA against lefties is 45 points lower than it is against righties. That Conley takes the mound Sunday only adds to his stream candidacy. If you need someone on the last day of the week, he’ll be one of your best options.
Erasmo Ramirez, Rays (Saturday @ Yankees)
Ramirez is off to a great start this season, allowing just two runs on eight hits in 12 2/3 innings, striking out 11 while walking exactly zero batters. This is after he put up a 3.75 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 126 strikeouts in 163 1/3 innings last year. Ramirez has the look of a backend starter in all fantasy formats, and yet he still available in about seven out of every 10 leagues. Not only is he worth a spot start when he takes on the Yankees this weekend, he’s someone who should likely stick on the roster of anyone who adds him. You may not use him in every start, but he’s a useful pitcher in all formats.
J.A. Happ, Blue Jays (Saturday vs. A’s)
Happ became the latest Ray Searage success story last year, though there was understandable concern that he’d be able to keep it rolling when he left Pittsburgh for Toronto in the offseason. Happ has quieted the doubters, allowing just four runs on 18 hits in 19 innings while winning two of his first three starts. With the mighty Toronto offense at his back, rarely will he lack for run support, making him one of the best stream options if you’re in need of a win this weekend. The A’s, meanwhile, are just 25th in wOBA on the year.
Nick Tropeano, Angels (Friday vs. Mariners)
Tropeano has surrendered just one run in 10 2/3 innings this season, but he really doesn’t have enough upside to stick on rosters in anything but very deep leagues. However he is likely capable of giving owners a good spot start in the right circumstances. He showed that in outings against the A’s and Twins, two of the worst offenses over the season’s first three weeks, and he gets another cushy matchup with the Mariners on Friday. They’re 24th in the league in wOBA and have a strikeout rate of 22.2%. That’s a nice formula for any potential spot starter.
Jon Gray, Rockies (Friday vs. Dodgers)
Gray is set to make his 2016 debut on Friday against the Dodgers at Coors Field. You only want to start him if ERA and WHIP are a lost cause for you this week, and those of you in rotisserie leagues shouldn’t be considering him at all. Still, he’s worth adding now because of the upside he continues to present, despite the frustrating start to his career. He made a pair of rehab starts with High-A Modesto, striking out 11 batters while allowing two earned runs in 8 2/3 innings. More importantly, he hit 99 mph with his fastball. That was always his calling card, so to see the velocity back where it once was regularly is encouraging. If you wait to see the results Friday, you might be too late to add him.
Shane Greene, Tigers (Sunday vs. Indians)
I know, I know. We’ve all been down this road before, but beggars can’t be choosers. Greene may never reach his full potential, but there’s no doubt that he brings significant strikeout upside to the table every time he takes the ball. Cleveland is sixth in the majors in strikeout rate, fanning in just shy of one-quarter of their plate appearances. If nothing else, Greene should give you a fair number of strikeouts, and the Detroit offense will also give him a shot at a win if he can keep the Indians mostly at bay.