2020 Fantasy Baseball: Week 1 Streamers

Nathan Eovaldi
Nathan Eovaldi is no longer a closer, but a recommended streamer (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images).

 

The 2020 fantasy baseball season is probably a bad time to start something new. But here we are.

When it comes to recurring articles, I’ve never really found my niche. But as I’m always hunting for streamers or mining for cheap MLB DFS starters anyway, I figure these efforts can be my push to streamline that hunting.

And it should go without saying, but there’s streaming work out there already that is more refined. I’d always suggest that you read SPStreamer, first. Then you can come here…deal? This isn’t meant to be a replacement or a mimicking, but an addition. I don’t know how this process will morph over time, but I have a general sense of where I’d like to start.

The Thresholds

Initially I think hold to targeting players who are 30% owned or less on Yahoo. But if I have to go a little above to include a play, I’ll do so. I may amend this threshold as the season wears on.

As for the streamers themselves, I’m wondering if too much criteria will leave me with zero hits. So I may have to tweak this as time rolls on, but here’s the launching point:

Offense being targeted is bottom third of the league in K-rate, ISO, wOBA, and wRC+ against the streamer’s handedness.

Streamer is better than the 2019 MLB average for starting pitchers in K-rate (22.3%), walk rate (7.7%), ground ball rate (42.7%), and HR/FB rate (15.5%).

Obviously for now I’m leaning into last season’s statistics, incomplete as they are given that many players have changed teams. As the season moves along and I have recent data to work with, it would be nice to work from recent performances.

I’ve always gravitated towards pitchers who generated ground balls at an above-average clip…while also striking batters out at an above-average clip. During the season I hope to look at the raw number of ground balls over a player’s recent stretch. I won’t throw out a full season’s worth of work (i.e. a guy’s historical production) but if a dude is on a roll with generating ground balls and strikeouts, AND he’s got a good-looking matchup based on the above marks…I’ll probably feel pretty good about streaming him.

Lastly, I reserve the right to tweak the thresholds/criteria and/or to bypass them at any time. Even in today’s effort, I took some liberty with my choices. If I didn’t, I might not have anyone to stream. During the season, I’ll keep a running tally of my streamer performance, both for transparency and to see how I’m faring.

With no further ado, here’s the first “week” of the season broken down by day. Some of this is murky, as I’m guessing who will start on a given day. As we get more clarity, I’ll add and share any updates throughout the week.

Thursday, July 23

No streamers to see here. Only two games are on the docket, and it’s likely three stud aces (Cole, Scherzer, and either Kershaw or Buehler) as well as whoever the Giants trot out against the Dodgers. The Dodgers are not a team we stream against. I’m not even looking up their numbers. You know better. Okay fine, the Dodgers ranked fourth in K-rate, first in ISO, second in wOBA, and second in wRC+ against RHP in 2019. The top three possibilities for the Giants are all right-handers. Satisfied?

Friday, July 24

RHP Nathan Eovaldi (16% owned) vs. Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles ranked 12th in K% vs. RHP last year, at 22.8%. But they fit all the other criteria, ranking 24th in wOBA (.307), 21st in wRC+ (88), and 21st in ISO (.173). And I didn’t plan to do much of this from the jump, but the losses of Trey Mancini and Jonathan Villar are significant.

The loss of Eduardo Rodriguez (COVID-19) to the IL has Eovaldi assuming de facto ace duties. Eovaldi is scheduled to pitch six innings this Sunday, which should put him on track for this start. Eovaldi had a disastrous 2019, but still managed a 23.2% K-rate. His 11.6% walk rate doesn’t meet criteria, but it’s the only year of his last five pitched that you can say that for. His four years previous he posted walk rates of 5.0%, 7.3%, 7.6%, and 4.4%…and his career walk rate is 7.5%. Eovaldi’s 44.6% ground ball rate last year was solid, and you have to go all the way back to his rookie season to find a mark below our threshold. Lastly, his 22.9% HR/FB rate from 2019 is well over our mark. However, his career 10.5% HR/FB rate paints a better picture. In fact, Eovaldi has only been over our HR/FB% threshold in two of his eight professional seasons.

As for right now, Eovaldi has worked up to 82 pitches already. He was dominant in Spring Training 1.0 and has looked good in “summer camp.” Here’s our favorite Pitching Ninja with some disappearing splitter propaganda:

This is the matchup that leapt off the page when I began researching. I’m happy to see some of the numbers lining up. Again, I don’t think I’ll get all criteria met–we’ll have to accept some fleas, somewhere. But this looks like a great streaming play for Week 1.

John Means (@ BOS) and Danny Duffy (@ CLE) met the % owned criteria but not the matchup criteria. Sure, I could see Means surprising us on Opening Day. But the Sox were a top 10 unit in ISO and K-rate against southpaws last year, and above average in wOBA and wRC+. Even without Mookie Betts, the matchup doesn’t warrant chasing Means, in my opinion.

Saturday, July 25th

RHP Garrett Richards (31% owned) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks

The D-backs didn’t strike out much against righties last year, ranking 8th best in the league with a 21.7% K-rate in the split. But the .171 ISO (22nd), .308 wOBA (23rd), and 87 wRC+ (23rd) weren’t threatening.

As for Richards, he reportedly has no limitations on his workload for the 2020 season, so that’s good news. And as he only managed 8.2 innings last year, I’ll be citing career statistics for the 32-year-old. A career 52.4% ground ball rate and 10.5% HR/FB rate are both well within our thresholds. The career 8.7% walk rate is a percent above the mark, while the 20.7% strikeout rate is below. However, Richards has upped his strikeout rate in recent years, logging totals of 23.0%, 25.0%, and 26.9% from 2016-2018. And go figure, his three highest years with regard to swinging strike rate have come in those three recent seasons (11.2%, 12.7%, 11.3%).

Richards is basically a fastball/slider guy, and he’s traded out some heaters as his slider usage has risen over the last few years. Hitters have a career .234 wOBA and 56 wRC+ against the slider, compared to a .330 wOBA and 120 wRC+ against the four-seamer. Sounds like a good switch to me. He’s the better pitcher of the two options for this day, but he does have the tougher matchup…

LHP Martin Perez (1% owned) vs. Baltimore Orioles

I hate to pick on them again, but the Orioles hit every threshold against southpaws last year. Here are the numbers:

Category Rank
23.8% K-rate 21st
.159 ISO 23rd
.310 wOBA 25th
90 wRC+ 23rd

As for the lefty Perez, he’s another story. Last year’s 48.0% ground ball rate and 15.0% HR/FB rate are were both better than average–especially the grounders. But his low strikeout rate (18.3%) and above-average walk rate (9.1%) are not encouraging. He’s not a recommended streamer, but I wanted to mention the matchup in case someone was desperate. Hopefully you aren’t, at least not this early in the season.

Sunday, July 26th

RHP Griffin Canning (23% owned) @ Oakland Athletics

Canning had an elbow issue entering the original start to the season, but the layoff and some “biological injections” have apparently fixed the issue. He hurled five innings during an intrasquad game earlier this week (Tuesday the 14th) and struck out eight batters. Last year’s 25.0% strikeout rate fits the bill, and the 7.8% walk rate is right in line with the 7.7% threshold. Canning was a “fly ball pitcher” in the majors last year, only generating a 37.6% ground ball rate. The good news is, his 12.8% HR/FB rate was above-average. That, and he generated more grounders in the minors, so there’s some hope there moving forward.

As for the matchup, it’s not good.

Category Rank
22.2% K-rate 11th
.194 ISO 7th
.323 wOBA 9th
104 wRC+ 6th

I listed Canning primarily due to his long-term prospects, not because the matchup against Oakland is something I’d normally target with a streamer. That said, I’d rather bet on Canning’s skill set than take a shot on some of the more disgusting pitcher options that will probably exist for Sunday’s games. And it’s logical to think he’d get a boost on those fly balls within the confines of Oakland’s home stadium.

RHP Matt Shoemaker (10% owned) @ Tampa Bay Rays

Shoemaker is in a similar spot to Canning. This isn’t a matchup I’d normally target, but I like both of them long-term. The absence of Austin Meadows (COVID-19) is a boost to Shoemaker’s chances, though. And this goes without saying, but hopefully Meadows has a speedy recovery. His symptoms are reportedly mild, thankfully (sounds like a lot of fatigue). As for Shoemaker, increased usage of his splitter at the end of last season gives us some hope of upside moving forward. Here’s some filth:

As for the Rays, here are the ranks:

Category Rank
22.9% K-rate 13th
.183 ISO 16th
.322 wOBA 12th
103 wRC+ 8th

Told ya, it’s not the matchup we want. But I like Shoemaker more than most. At least, he’s a guy I’ll hold in my 15-team leagues no matter what the results are from this start.

At this point I don’t have anyone else I dig for Sunday’s games. But with plenty of information about starters coming out between now and next week, I’ll update this when necessary.

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