Welcome back to a new fantasy baseball season! I’m fortunate to be your weekly host for the death-defying adrenaline rush that we call “pitcher streamers”.
It can be a scary process because we are working with the inconsistent, the fallers, the young, and the old. We’re attempting to catch lightning in a bottle by playing a good matchup or riding the hot hand. When we try to predict the best available starter for a given day, we are hoping for a flash of brilliance, or perhaps even acceptable mediocrity. And all of this should be…fun! Don’t forget it.
As I did last season, I will recommend the best (and most widely) available pitcher to stream every single day. I try to stay below 30% owned in Yahoo leagues, but I break that rule sometimes. I must choose someone, no matter how bad the options are, but I will tell you if it’s a good idea to take a day off from streaming.
- I like these two-start pitchers: Corey Kluber (BOS) and Ryan Pepiot (LAD).
- I’m claiming and holding Clarke Schmidt (NYY), just in case he becomes a steady presence in New York.
It’s a long first week, so let’s dive right in!
Fantasy Baseball Streaming Pitchers
Thursday, March 30
Corey Kluber (BOS) vs. BAL, 15%
I’m recommending a couple of hypnotic snake charmers in the first three days of the 2023 season. Yes, “Klubot” is pitching for Boston on Opening Day. The 36-year-old managed a 3.24 ERA in 16.2 IP in Spring Training. What I like about Kluber is that he seems to be learning how to be successful as he gets older. Last year, he was top 11 among qualified pitchers who induced the most soft contact, tied with Dylan Cease (and he was 10th for lowest average EV, exit velocity, allowed). His 3.57 FIP during the 2022 season also looks close to that Spring Training line. Baltimore’s lineup can no longer be considered weak, so I’m not deluding myself. But there is some hope that Kluber can lull them to sleep for 5-6 innings.
Friday, March 31
Michael Wacha (SD) vs. COL, 11%
This is more of a matchup play. Wacha managed a 3.32 ERA last season for Boston, and some might point to the increased use of the sinker as the culprit, but it’s not the pitch itself that tantalizes. It seems more like a show-me pitch that has significantly increased his infield flyball percentage and reduced his home-run rate for his fastball and changeup. I might guess that he’s improved his ability to throw off a hitter’s timing, so he fits the theme of this article: soft contact. Let’s not forget that the Padres have a powerful lineup behind him, and they’re playing at home.
Other option: David Peterson (NYM) at MIA, 14%
Saturday, April 1
Shintaro Fujinami (OAK) vs. LAA, 4%
I should point out that this is not a good day to stream a pitcher. Here’s your choice: You could take a day off, or you could really bet on an unknown variable as a fan. That’s right, I’m talking about the possibility of Shintaro Fujinami battling Shohei Ohtani in Oakland. If that sounds scary, it is. “Fuji” is an unknown for general baseball fans. The 28-year-old former pitcher for the Hanshin Tigers signed with Oakland for a one-year, $3.25 million contract. He has six pitches, but it might look like he throws more than six pitches because of how he varies his delivery and movement. Fans should watch closely to see how effective his fastball (often clocked in the triple digits in Japan, but probably closer to 97 mph) and splitter mix will fool hitters in the U.S. He had a 3.86 ERA in 18.2 IP in Spring Training.
Sunday, April 2
Jared Shuster (ATL) at WSH, 19%
Shuster, the 25th overall pick in 2020, has impressed so far in Spring Training. The 24-year-old has managed a 1.45 ERA and a 0.59 WHIP in 18.2 IP. He pitched more in AA last season, nailing down a 10.52 K/9 and a 2.18 BB/9 with a 2.78 ERA (3.46 xFIP) in nearly 100 IP. His K/9 has actually been higher this spring. On Sunday, he’s facing a weak lineup and has a stronger supporting cast than the other option below. Shuster is a pitcher who could quickly become unavailable if his first few starts go well.
Other option: Graham Ashcraft (CIN) at PIT, 24%
Monday, April 3
Ryan Pepiot (LAD) vs. COL, 8%
Last season, in nearly 100 innings in the minors, Pepiot managed an 11.23 K/9 and a 2.56 ERA. Of course, that was coupled with a 3.55 BB/9 and an 86.2% LOB%, so danger does lurk here. However, a relatively high LOB% has followed him throughout his career, and he’s managed to limit the damage, probably in large part due to the same reasons Corey Kluber is on the list this week: soft contact. In 30.1 IP last year, Pepiot managed a 20.5% Soft% according to Fangraphs, which is a small sample size but even higher than Kluber’s (who finished in the top 11 for qualified pitchers in that category). Pepiot had a 3.29 ERA in Spring Training and punched out 19 hitters in 13.2 IP. With a solid lineup to support him, I’m crossing my fingers for a win today.
Tuesday, April 4
Yusei Kikuchi (TOR) at KC, 9%
I believe in Kikuchi. There, I said it. The fan in me sees serious potential on a good team. This spring, he has punched out 25 guys in 18 innings. That’s with a 1.00 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. Kikuchi had a 5.19 ERA last year, but it was coupled with a 4.07 xFIP. But hey, he struck guys out last year with that 11.09 K/9. We already know that. It was the dreaded free pass that hurt him (5.19 BB/9). I’m not here to say this issue is completely fixed, as he has walked 10 guys already in his 18 innings. The news is that Kikuchi is working with a new curveball, which will only be great if he can command it. Kikuchi has also said that the pitch clock helps him avoid overthinking. Watch this first game against K.C. and see how he manages the walks.
Wednesday, April 5
Corey Kluber (BOS) vs. PIT, 15%
Please see my notes above about Kluber. He has increased his cutter usage, which has led to more flyballs, but remember that it’s often the weak flyball that he manages to get. Since the defensive shift is limited, we might begin to wonder what the results will be for high groundball pitchers in 2023, which is why I’m more willing to look at streamers this year with a higher FB% if it’s coupled with soft contact. Add to this the fact that Pittsburgh was 27th in runs scored and 28th in OPS last year; why not attempt to stream “Klubot” for the two-start pitching fun?
Thursday, April 6
Clarke Schmidt (NYY) at BAL, 36%
For the next three days, I’m breaking the rules because of weak matchups. These pitchers won’t be as available. Schmidt is definitely one that you should pick up and hold if he becomes a long-term answer to an injury-riddled Yankees rotation. Schmidt added a new cutter to his arsenal this year, and the results have been impressive during the spring. It’s a valuable pitch for him because he has a very vertical repertoire with a changeup, sinker, and curveball included. That up-down action allows hitters to focus on a falling action, but the cutter seems to help Schmidt induce more swinging strikes as hitters look to meet the ball low. Let’s see if he can make mincemeat of the Orioles.
Friday, April 7
Alex Cobb (SF) vs. KC, 53%
Here we go again. I feel like Cobb was a weekly favorite last year, but I promise not to beat this drum too much for 2023. For one, he’s already owned by more people. I’ll give you the short version. The 35-year-old has actually increased his velocity as he’s gotten older, and he’s managed more strikeouts with a sinker that seems to paralyze hitters. They often don’t swing, and he often drops it in the zone. If you add the splitter to the mix, which has been nicknamed “The Thing”, then it’s not only about strikeouts, but also harmless contact. The reason he tends to stay available in leagues is because of bad luck, as evidenced by his 3.73 ERA and 2.80 FIP (and injuries). He could be a solid addition to your team this early if you need pitching long term.
Saturday, April 8
Ross Stripling (SF) vs. KC, 49%
Stripling pitched to a 3.01 ERA last year that was largely supported by many of the underlying stats. The strikeouts went down (8.35 K/9 in 2021 versus 7.44 K/9 in 2022), but the groundball rate went up (35.5% in 2021 versus 43.8% in 2022). That’s because he stopped throwing his heater half the time and moved toward a changeup that has continued to improve. He’s seen a nearly 20% increase in groundballs on that pitch alone. It’s a boring stream, perhaps, but both Cobb on Friday and Stripling on Saturday will offer us a pitcher-friendly ballpark as well. Let’s go for it.
Sunday, April 9
Ryan Pepiot (LAD) at ARI, 8%
Arizona may be a team of the future, but let’s assume they’re not quite there yet. They finished in the middle of the pack in runs scored in 2022. The Dodgers led the league in that category. If Pepiot manages to find success early in the season, we may only be able to use him for a short time in this streaming column, as he could become widely unavailable. All of my reasons from Monday apply here, but if he was shaky on April 3, you could consider giving him a pass.
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