Weekend Stream: Chen, Paxton and Garza are your best bets in fantasy
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.
Wei-yin Chen, Orioles (Friday vs. Angels)
Chen has been very good this year, and he owes most of that to improvements in both his slider and his splitter. Both pitches have been effective offerings for him this season after being mediocre at best last year. The Angels have been better offensively as a team of late, but if you can force someone other than Mike Trout to beat you, it’s hard for them to put together sustained rallies. Chen is still available in just over 50% of leagues, so chances are those of you in a shallow league can ride with him on Friday.
James Paxton, Mariners (Sunday vs. Red Sox)
Paxton has become a different pitcher than the one who had a mini-breakout (albeit injury-shortened) 2014 season. He’s throwing his changeup about twice as often this year and has added a cutter and sinker, both of which he uses sparingly in place of a slider that simply wasn’t a good pitch for him. He still runs his four-seamer into the mid-90s, but it’s that changeup that has kept hitters off-balance this year. The pitch has a whiff rate north of 15%, and that’s helping push his strikeouts per nine up toward eight. The Red Sox’ offense has been up and down this year, and Paxton is one of your best bets to flip a category on the final day of the week.
Matt Garza, Brewers (Saturday @ Mets)
This is almost purely a matchup play. Garza long ago dispelled the notion that he was anything more than a slightly above-average pitcher, and his strikeout rate has held steady at about 18% over the last two seasons. This Mets team, however, is a mess at the plate without David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud. They’re 26th in the league in weighted on-base average (wOBA) and 28th in slugging percentage, and those numbers, of course, include Wright and d’Arnaud. Garza may not be the pitcher he was with the Rays, or even the Cubs, but he can still exploit a lineup like this.
Clay Buchholz, Red Sox (Friday @ Mariners)
Are you in a standard 5x5 head-to-head–12-team league? Do you need strikeouts this weekend? Then look no further than Buchholz. The Boston starter has had a bit of a roller-coaster season, but it’s impossible to ignore the fact that he has been roughed up in three of his seven starts. At the same time, when he has gotten outs, they have routinely been of the variety most desired by fantasy owners: Buchholz has 43 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings this year and has at least seven whiffs in four outings. The Mariners sit right at league average in strikeout rate, which shouldn’t be too daunting for Buchholz.
Alex Colome, Rays (Saturday @ Twins)
After two good starts to kick off his tenure in the Rays’ rotation, Colome got knocked around for eight runs and eight hits—including four homers—in his last start, a loss to the Yankees. Having said that, he did strike out six batters in as many innings and has fanned exactly one batter per frame this year. The Twins rank seventh in the majors with a 21.3% strikeout rate, and while they have swung the bats better than expected this season, they’re still just 23rd in wOBA. At the very least, Colome can help fantasy owners in need of some strikeouts.
Jesse Chavez, Athletics (Saturday vs. White Sox)
Chavez has pitched well enough this year to be held on rosters in deeper leagues, but really, he’s the perfect stream pitcher. He’s good, but not great; he can get you strikeouts; and he’s capable of turning in a really strong effort every so often. But he’s also not a pitcher you’d typically prize over having a swing spot on your roster. The White Sox' offense has really struggled to meet expectations this year, while Chavez has mostly cruised to a 2.56 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 32 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings. His 3.77 xFIP suggests that happy days aren’t here forever, but he’s a solid play at home against a fly-ball-happy Chicago team.
Chris Heston, Giants (Sunday @ Reds)
Heston dominated the Astros his last time out, tossing a complete game and allowing just one run and two hits while fanning 10 batters. Despite the improvements the Astros have made, they’re still a heavy swing-and-miss team. So, too, are the Reds. Their 20.8% strikeout rate has them tied with the Pirates for 10th in the majors. Heston has been mostly good this year and has now turned in five quality starts in his seven outings this year, and he appears to be a useful pitcher in deeper leagues, where you could think about keeping him on your roster. In standard leagues, he’s a strong streamer on Sunday.
Wily Peralta, Brewers (Sunday @ Mets)
Everything previously stated about the Mets’ offense with regards to Matt Garza earlier stands here as well. as Peralta can also take advantage of this shorthanded lineup. The difference, however, is that Peralta brings some other virtues to the table. He has been a bit unlucky this season, evidenced by a .322 batting average on balls in play and 80.8% strand rate. Peralta’s ground-ball rate is up at 53.1%, and his hard-hit rate is a tidy 31.3%. There’s plenty of reason to believe that his best baseball is still to come, and that he got it started with the strong outing he had against the White Sox earlier this week. He’s a smart play on Sunday.
Wandy Rodriguez, Rangers (Friday vs. Indians)
Rodriguez apparently spent his offseason discovering the fountain of youth, as he has compiled a 2.70 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 22 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings this year. In three of his four starts, he has allowed exactly one earned run. Rodriguez gets an ideal opponent on Friday, as he’ll face the lefty-heavy Indians. Over his career, Rodriguez has limited lefties to a .247/.307/.387 slash line. That bodes well against Cleveland, which has Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis and Brandon Moss all swinging it from the left side of the plate, and with Carlos Santana as more dangerous, at least from a power perspective, as a lefthanded hitter.
Kyle Hendricks, Cubs (Friday vs. Pirates)
Hendricks had another useful outing, at least for a stream-worthy pitcher, his last time out, throwing 5 1/3 scoreless innings against the Brewers, allowing five hits and two walks while whiffing three. If you find yourself in need of a similar outing this weekend, Hendricks can be your man. Disappointing seasons from Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison have the Pirates sitting 28th in the league with a .287 wOBA. The Cubs’ offense, meanwhile, is 11th in the league in wOBA and has a great matchup on Friday against Jeff Locke. Hendricks could poach a cheap win in that game.