It’s the weekend, which means 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.
Miguel Gonzalez, Orioles (Friday @ Yankees)
Through five starts this season, Gonzalez’ strikeout rate is up to 21.1%, nearly five percentage points higher than it was last year. He owes many of those extra whiffs to a small change he made in his pitch usage. Gonzalez is throwing his splitter more frequently than he did last year, and it has been his best offering this season. Opposing hitters are coming up empty 27% of the time Gonzalez throws his splitter. To give you an idea of how good that is, Masahiro Tanaka’s splitter had a 29.1% whiff rate last year. That splitter can help him combat all the left-handed bats in the Yankees’ lineup, making him a good stream candidate for owners in shallow leagues.
Drew Hutchison, Blue Jays (Saturday vs. Red Sox)
It has been an ugly month for Hutchison, who was a popular breakout pick back in draft season. After fanning just shy of a batter per inning across 184 1/3 frames last year, Hutchison has just 23 strikeouts in 31 1/3 innings in 2015. The Boston offense, however, has scuffled of late, scoring just 13 runs in its last five games. Hanley Ramirez, the team’s best hitter to date, remains sidelined with a shoulder injury, making this lineup even more advantageous for an opposing pitcher. Even if Hutchison isn’t going to stick around for you beyond this weekend, he can be of service when he takes the ball against the Red Sox on Saturday.
Jimmy Nelson, Brewers (Friday vs. Cubs)
Ignore Nelson’s horrific start against the Reds, in which he allowed seven runs in 2 1/3 innings, and you find a pitcher who has surrendered six runs and struck out 23 batters in 26 2/3 frames. Now, this isn’t figure skating and pitchers don’t get to expunge the worst and best scores from their record, but the fact remains that Nelson has been very good in four of his five starts this season. One of those came against the same Cubs team he will see on Friday. For all the improvements they’ve made offensively, the Cubs still strike out a ton. They’ve passed the Astros and now own the highest strikeout rate in the league. Let Nelson help you out this weekend.
Jonathon Niese, Mets (Saturday @ Phillies)
Niese has been a quietly effective pitcher thus far in 2015, posting a 2.70 ERA through 30 innings. His other stats—from a 1.57 WHIP to a 3.48 xFIP to a K/BB ratio that’s less than two—all suggest the other shoe will drop at some point. That’s unlikely to come against the punchless Phillies this weekend. The Phils are lost, by far, in wOBA, with their .267 number a full seven points behind the 29th-ranked Brewers. They’re last in wRC+, last in slugging percentage and 29th in OBP. Pick an offensive stat, and chances are overwhelming that the Phillies are bad at it. Niese is your first of two opportunities to exploit them this weekend.
Joe Kelly, Red Sox (Saturday @ Blue Jays)
Kelly’s going to show up in this column a lot this season. He’s good enough at missing bats that he can always be an asset for owners chasing strikeouts, but he’s not quite good enough to keep on your roster, unless you’re in a deep league. The last time Kelly faced the Blue Jays, he struck out 10 batters in six innings. He also surrendered five runs on five hits and three walks, so he may not be the best play if you’re still in a battle for the rate categories. There’s no doubt, however, that he can rack up six or seven strikeouts, so long as he doesn’t get knocked around in the first few innings.
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Jesse Chavez, Athletics (Sunday @ Mariners)
Chavez began this season in the bullpen, but has started three games over the last two weeks. He was bad in the middle outing, but sandwiched that with a pair of starts in which he allowed a total of one earned run and fanned 11 batters in 13 1/3 innings. Chavez’ velocity is up across the board, though that could mainly be a result of making four relief appearances to start the year. The big change is that he’s throwing his cutter more often, and that it has a whiff rate of 15.8%, which is almost six percentage points better than last season. If the cutter has truly become a weapon for him, he could be a fantasy mainstay. He’s definitely worth streaming against the Mariners, and would be worth keeping around for a tryout if he has another good start, especially if he does so on the strength of his cutter.
Roberto Hernandez, Astros (Friday @ Angels)
Hernandez is out there for a very specific owner this week, and that’s the one in a deep league chasing wins. The Astros are still among the hottest teams in baseball, even after having their 10-game winning streak snapped earlier this week. The Angels, meanwhile, have had no consistent offense outside of one-man wrecking crew Mike Trout this season. As a team, they’re 27th in wOBA and 25th in wRC+, even though Trout individually is 17th and 13th, respectively, in those stats. If you can keep Trout from beating you, the Angels are in a lot of trouble. That makes Hernandez a solid play if you need a win this weekend.Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays (Friday vs. Red Sox)
Fantasy owners can’t trust Sanchez if they’re still in the hunt for rate categories, especially on a Friday when there’s still two full days left in the week. Where he can be an asset, however, is in strikeouts. He has struggled mightily to find the plate this season, evidenced by a 17.5% walk rate, but he has started to induce a lot of empty swings over his last two starts. In those outings against the Red Sox and Indians, he struck out 12 batters in 11 1/3 innings. Seven of those came against the Red Sox, and that was a game in which they had Hanley Ramirez. If you’ve already given up on rates but are in need of strikeouts this week, give Sanchez a spin on Friday.
Kyle Hendricks, Cubs (Sunday @ Brewers)
Hendricks struggled against the Cardinals his last time out, but there are two reasons you shouldn’t let that sway you from streaming him this weekend. First, Hendricks has actually been a bit unlucky this year. He does have a 5.61 ERA, but his FIP is down at 4.13, while his xFIP checks in at 4.12, indicating he hasn't been nearly as bad as that gaudy ERA indicates. With those two numbers being so close, they’re a much better representation of how he has pitched this season. Second, the Brewers are not the Cardinals. Even with Carlos Gomez back, they are one of the worst offensive teams in the majors. Hendricks doesn’t walk anyone, keeps the ball on the ground (53.1% ground-ball rate), and is getting more than 7 K/9 on the year. This is a great spot for him, especially given he gets the call on the final day of the week.
Dillon Gee, Mets (Sunday @ Phillies)
The thinking behind this recommendation is nearly identical to that of Gee’s teammate, Jonathon Niese. Gee has pitched well enough at the backend of the Mets’ rotation this year, amassing a 3.86 ERA, 3.69 xFIP and 1.35 WHIP. He’s not going to strike out a significant number of hitters, but he can be useful to fantasy owners in other ways this weekend, namely by shutting down an anemic Philadelphia offense. Remember all the numbers we laughed at earlier regarding that offense when discussing Niese? They all apply here, too.