Every week in the Weekend Stream, we’ll give you pitchers 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 in one of three categories. 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.
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Chris Tillman, Orioles (Sunday vs. A’s)
Tillman’s swinging-strike rate climbed over his first four starts, but it hadn’t yet showed up in his strikeout totals. That has changed in his last two turns. Tillman has 18 strikeouts in those starts covering 13 2/3 innings, picking up wins over the Rays and Yankees. Tillman now has 33 strikeouts in 32 innings and likely won’t be a streaming option much longer. The 28-year-old has a 2.81 ERA, 2.63 FIP and 1.13 WHIP, and that increased whiff rate is a foundation for him to sustain that success this season. Whether or not he can stick around on your team, he can be a great spot starter on Sunday.
A.J. Griffin, Rangers (Saturday @ Tigers)
Before this season, we hadn’t seen Griffin in the majors since he was a member of the A’s in 2013. Given that, you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you didn’t see this coming. Through five starts and 31 innings, Griffin has a 2.32 ERA, 3.29 FIP, 1.00 WHIP and 26 strikeouts against 11 walks. The walk rate is a bit high and his elevated fly-ball rate suggests he has been a bit lucky to keep the ball in the park to the degree he has, so he might not have the same season-long juice Tillman does. He also has a much tougher matchup this weekend. Griffin is worth a stream if you need one, but be careful if you’re in a tight ERA or WHIP battle.
Bartolo Colon, Mets (Saturday @ Padres)
This was pretty much the easiest two-start stream to predict in the history of fantasy baseball. Colon kicked off his week by dominating the hapless Braves, tossing eight shutout innings while striking out seven and earning his second win of the season. Now he gets nearly as plum an assignment with the Mets in San Diego to take on the Padres this weekend. The Padres enter that series 28th in the league in wOBA with just one consistently threatening hitter in the form of Matt Kemp. If you grabbed Colon for his start against the Braves, don’t cut him loose just yet. He still has more value to provide. If he’s out there in your league and you can have just one streamer this weekend, he’s your man, regardless of league size.
Nathan Eovaldi, Yankees (Saturday vs. Red Sox)
Do you have the stomach to get back on this ride? The entire fantasy community has likely come to grips with the fact that Eovaldi isn’t going to reach the full potential of his natural stuff. On top of that, this same Red Sox team shelled him less than a week ago. Still, there’s no doubting his strikeout upside, and that’s where he enters the streaming equation. If ERA or WHIP are coming down to the wire this week, you don’t want to risk an Eovaldi spot start against Boston. If those categories are decided and you need help in the strikeout department, give him a whirl. He’s still running his fastball up into the high-90s and has 31 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings this year.
Nathan Karns, Mariners (Saturday @ Astros)
At the heart of the Astros’ surprising struggles this season is their continued propensity to swing and miss. After being among the league leaders in strikeout rate all of last year, the Astros are right back at the top of the list this season, fanning in an alarming 26.1% of their plate appearances. Karns may walk more than his fair share of batters, but the Seattle righty knows how to miss a bat or two. He has 29 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings this year, and was just shy of a strikeout per inning across 147 frames with the Rays last season. Karns is a nice stream across the board this week, but especially for those of you looking for strikeout help.
Aaron Blair, Braves (Friday vs. Diamondbacks)
How’d you like to get a call to the majors at 23 years old? How would you then like to be told that in your first two starts you would face the teams that met in the NLCS the previous season? No one would blame you if you were more than a little intimidated. Such was Blair’s fate, who faced the Mets and Cubs in his first two major league outings. The rookie impressed, holding the Mets to three runs in 5 1/3 innings before doing as good a job as anyone has against the Cubs this year, limiting that juggernaut to a single run and two hits in six frames. The Diamondbacks are another tough draw, but the rookie is well worth a spot start for those of you in deep leagues with limited options.
Matt Wisler, Braves (Sunday vs. Diamondbacks)
Wisler is coming off his best start of the season, an eight-inning, one-hit gem against the Mets in which he allowed nary and struck out four batters while walking two. He’s also one of the few realistic, somewhat-attractive streaming options for owners in deep leagues on Sunday. This is a use-at-your-own-risk suggestion. Wisler should only be on your radar if you absolutely need a streamer at all costs to wrap up the week.
Jon Gray, Rockies (Saturday @ Giants)
We all know Gray isn’t perfect. I, however, am willing to overlook those imperfections for a pitcher with his pedigree who has struck out at least 10 batters in two of his three starts this season. He got roughed up in his first two starts this year, but both of those were at Coors Field. After allowing two runs before retiring a hitter against the Padres last week, he ultimately set down 16 in a row and fanned 11 in what we could end up looking back at as a coming-out party. Any time Gray is outside of Coors he’s intriguing, even in a tough matchup with the Giants. If he pitches well again on Saturday, you’ll want to keep him on your roster and use him wisely.