Need some pitching help in your fantasy league this weekend? Michael Beller runs down the best options, including two top prospects.
Every week in the Weekend Stream, 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%, and 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.
Aaron Nola, Phillies (Saturday @ Pirates)
Too many fantasy owners lost faith in Nola after his disastrous end to the first half, and that has opened the door for shallow-league owners to steal, at worst, a top-40 starting pitcher. Nola started the second half on the right foot, tossing six shutout innings against the Marlins and allowing just two hits, striking out five and walking one. Nola isn’t simply someone shallow-leaguers should be streaming this weekend; he’s worth keeping around in all formats.
Jameson Taillon, Pirates (Sunday vs. Phillies)
Making his first start on Tuesday after returning from the disabled list, Taillon had a terrifying moment when he took a line drive off the back of his head. The Pirates' brain trust somehow let him stay in the game, and he ended up allowing one run on five hits in six innings, striking out three batters. Like Nola, the only reason his ownership rate fell beneath 50% was because of a change in fortune, though his had to do with an injury. The rookie isn’t nearly as bankable as Nola, but he has the better matchup this weekend against a relatively punchless Phillies offense. Shallow leaguers who aren’t in keeper formats don’t need to roster Taillon beyond this weekend, but he could be worth it depending on your team’s composition.
Mike Leake, Cardinals (Saturday vs. Dodgers)
Leake has never been much of a strikeout artist in his career, so it was a bit of a surprise to see him post consecutive 10-strikeout games in his last two starts. Leake has been one of the most consistent members of the Weekend Stream thanks to a floor that almost always makes him a worthy spot starter but a ceiling that prevents him from being a priority addition to most rosters. That’s the same boat he lands in this weekend in his matchup with the Dodgers.
Kevin Gausman, Orioles (Saturday vs. Indians)
Like Leake, Gausman has frequently found himself in the Weekend Stream. He has a tough draw against the Indians on Saturday, but he has shown enough this season to make him someone a streaming owner should at least consider in most matchups: He has three quality starts in his last four outings and always has the powerful Baltimore offense at his back. Even with Josh Tomlin on the other side of this game, Gausman is worth a look if you need some help this weekend.
Jon Gray, Rockies (Friday vs. Braves)
Gray dominated the Braves in his last trip to the mound, throwing seven shutout innings, striking out eight batters and taking a tough-luck no-decision. That start was in Atlanta and this one is in Colorado, but that’s no reason to fade the 24-year-old. Gray is enjoying a solid season with the Rockies, amassing a 4.33 ERA, 3.89 FIP, 1.17 WHIP and 103 strikeouts in 95 2/3 innings. The former top prospect's career was previously characterized by fits and starts, but he is figuring things out at the major league level.
A.J. Griffin, Rangers (Sunday @ Royals)
Griffin has been knocked around in two of his three starts since returning from the DL, and a date with the Royals in Kansas City isn’t exactly what the doctor ordered. This is more of an end-of-week play than anything else. If you’re in a position on Sunday where you need another warm body to take the mound, Griffin’s pre-injury track record makes him worth the gamble. He’s no more than a last-ditch effort for an owner who absolutely needs one more start on the last day of the week.
Archie Bradley, Diamondbacks (Friday @ Reds)
Bradley has faced the Giants and Dodgers in his last two starts, allowing a total of three runs on 13 hits in 12 innings, striking out nine and walking five. That’s an impressive showing for a 23-year-old against a pair of teams tracking toward the postseason. Going back to June 19, Bradley has a 3.09 ERA, 1.42 WHIP and 30 strikeouts in his last 35 innings, a stretch that covers six starts. He’s well worth a shot for deep-league owners against the Reds this weekend.
Chad Kuhl, Pirates (Saturday vs. Phillies)
Kuhl may not be Jameson Taillon or Tyler Glasnow, but he has taken four turns through the Pittsburgh rotation and doesn’t appear to be losing any grip on his spot. He was excellent his last time out, throwing six shutout innings against the Nationals and holding the first-place team in the NL East to just one hit, striking out five. After facing the Cubs and Nats in his last two trips to the mound, he’ll welcome a start against the Phillies on Saturday. Deep leaguers can feel free to cut him after the spot start, but he’s worth a look this weekend.