Welcome back to the FreezeStats weekly article where I cover starting pitcher streaming options for the week ahead. I apologize for missing last week, I was out of town and didn’t have a chance to get out a quality product. You know the rules here. The pitchers I cover are available in at least 75% of FantasyPros Yahoo/ESPN Consensus leagues. I’m doing things a little differently this time. I am covering seven pitchers but only suggesting five of them. I discuss why I’m passing on the other two next week despite the favorable matchup. Let’s dig in!
Griffin Canning (SP – LAA), 19% owned, @CIN, Monday 8/5
Normally I try to shy away from pitchers going in Great American Ballpark given the way the balls fly out at alarming rates. For reference, the Reds have home run per fly ball rate (HR/FB%) of 16.5% at home this year which is about 1.5% higher than league-average. But, they have just a 95 wRC+ in Cincy and just lost one of their best hitters in Yasiel Puig. This is a below-average offensive club and Canning carries a 1.20 WHIP, 25.1% strikeout rate, and 7.7% walk rate. All of those metrics are quite a bit better league-average. Canning has been very good at inducing swings and misses in his rookie campaign and coming off a scoreless outing against the Tigers. More importantly, he’s only walked three batters in his three starts. Add in the fact that he won’t have to face a DH and I think he’ll be good for more than a strikeout per inning and a good chance at a win. STREAM
Note: Canning just hit the IL & will miss this start. Let’s find a replacement.
Vince Velasquez (SP – PHI), 9% Owned, @SF, Saturday 8/10
VV has been a bit of a roll lately and is even making assists from left field. While he hasn’t gone six innings in any of his recent starts, he’s struck out seven, nine, and six batters in his last three outings. He’s relying heavily on his fastball which is good and bad. His velocity is up a tick from last year and his 12.7% swinging strike rate on the pitch is among the best in the league. The issue is home runs. With a 24% HR/FB rate, it’s earned a negative pitch value. So this is a very boom or bust play. Since I’m a gambling man (not really) but this start is in Pitcher friendly Oracle Park, so I’ll take my chances. If his control is bad, this could go sideways but he could also throw 5-6 shutout innings with nine strikeouts. Let’s STREAM.
Dylan Cease (SP – CHW), 10% owned, @DET, Tuesday 8/6
Cease faced the Tigers in his Major League debut last month where he gave up three earned runs over five innings with six punchouts. That game was at home in hitter-friendly Guaranteed Rate Field. Next week, he’ll be in Comerica Park which suppresses home runs. In addition, the Tigers lost one of their best hitters in Nick Castellanos. Even with Nicky C, the Tigers have a wOBA of just .276 at home with a strikeout rate of 25.8%. They also walk about 2% below the league-average rate which should offset Cease‘s control. Cease averages over 96 MPH on his fastball and has registered positive Pitch Values per FanGraphs on all three secondary offerings. Cease needs to command his fastball better but I feel like he can dominate the Tigers and grab his second career win. STREAM
Danny Duffy (SP – KC), 11% owned, @DET, Thursday 8/8
I’ve already bashed the Tigers who will probably end up being the number one team I will stream against going forward, so I’ll keep the negative comments to a minimum. Some other interesting statistics regarding the Tigers at home include a .229 batting average and 34 home runs hit in 49 games in Comerica Park. That’s simply not good. Let’s turn out focus to Duffy. He’s had mixed results versus the Tigers this year but has yet to give up a long ball against them and has 10 strikeouts across nine innings. Duffy has backed off his slider recently and his strikeout rate has dipped as a result. I think he needs to bring it back but there’s no guarantee he will be utilizing it. Maybe he’s lost the feel for it, I don’t know. I’m not all that interested to find out if he can get the feel back. Besides, despite how poor the Tigers have been the last couple seasons, Duffy has still struggled against them. I’m passing here and Staying away.
Cal Quantrill (SP – SD), 11% owned, Home vs COL, Friday, 8/9
It will be interesting to see if the Padres start this game with an opener as they did against the Cubs a couple of weeks ago. Quantrill flourished in that start but also has gone at least 5.1 IP in his last four outings. So at a minimum, he should qualify for a win in this one. Over those last three outings, prior to yesterday’s start against the Dodgers, he’s killing it with a 0.53 ERA and a 0.76 WHIP. He’s also throwing his slider more frequently, which has been his most successful pitch. I don’t think he’s going to pile up the strikeouts but the Rockies have been absolutely brutal on the road this year, so I think his ratios will be fine. How bad have the Rockies been away from Coors this year? They are ranked 29th in both wOBA and wRC+ and rank dead last in strikeout rate at 27.6%. It’s almost like facing the Tigers. I’m Streaming here.
Drew Smyly (SP – PHI), 4% owned, @SF, Friday, 8/9
Did Philidelphia figure something out with Smyly or is his success related to the weak opponents in the Giants and Pirates? Well, let’s check his pitch mix. Here’s something, his cutter usage has jumped from just over 10% to nearly 30% in his two outings with the Phillies. He’s also throwing a few more curveballs and his fastball is way down to 38%. The problem for Smyly is that his cutter has been crushed this year. What’s happened in his last couple starts, he’s inducing more swings out of the zone on the pitch and getting a ton of ground balls. I don’t actually think the cutter is any better, but he’s faced some poor opponents as I mentioned earlier. Now, the lack of familiarity may have helped in Smyly’s success but this will be the second time the Giants have seen him. I’m not buying into Smyly’s recent success given the poor performance of his cutter. The Giants have been much better since the break with a .322 wOBA good for 15th in Major League Baseball. I’m sitting this one out.
Jakob Junis (SP – KC), 14% owned, @DET, Sunday, 8/11
Unlike his teammate Duffy, Junis has been successful against the Tigers over the last couple seasons. He has a career 2.62 ERA against Detriot which is just about where his ERA is since the start of 2018. The Tigers have managed just a .258 wOBA against him and it’s mostly due to his devastating slider. Junis is essentially a two-pitch pitcher but the slider has basically been thrown 50% of the time. I doubt he gets through the lineup three times but should be just fine in leagues that don’t count quality starts. Expect something like 5+ innings with six strikeouts with two runs or fewer. That’s playable in deeper formats, so let’s STREAM
Chris Bassitt (SP – OAK), 23% owned, @CHW, Sunday, 8/11
I’m a little bit perplexed to find that Bassitt is only owned in 23% of Yahoo/ESPN leagues. His ERA is 3.84 on a year when the average ERA for a starting pitcher is 4.50! That’s insane. That’s nearly 0.25 over last season which means, his adjusted ERA (compared to 2018) is about 3.60. In addition, his WHIP is just 1.17 compared to league-average 1.30. Maybe his strikeout rate is extremely low? Nope, 8.58 K/9 which is a hair above league-average. I’m not really finding an issue here. His BABIP is low but he also induces infield flys (IFFB%) at 15%, so a lower BABIP is partially justified. He draws the White Sox and while it’s not at home (unfortunately), the White Sox are weak offensively and just lost Yoan Moncada. Even within their hitter-friendly environment in Chicago, they have a 90 wRC+ and strikeout over 25% of the time. I’m definitely streaming Bassitt.
Photo credit: Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knghts