Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitcher Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 1 (2022)
Welcome to the 2022 fantasy baseball season, RotoBaller readers! We are back with our fantasy baseball waiver wire pickups for starting pitchers and Week 1 – April 11 to April 17. We are grateful to have you back with us this year, and once again hope to help a group of you win your leagues.
I’m Jon Anderson and I’m rocking this weekly piece again. Every Sunday, we’ll go over several starting pitchers who are most likely available on your league’s waiver feed. We generally target around 50% enrollment or less. We will also split this post into two sections, one for the shallower leagues and one for the deeper leagues. The more confident recommendations will, of course, fall in the shallow end of the league.
An important note – this is not a streamer’s article. I don’t care much about matchups this week, they’re pitchers who I think can prove to be good enough to stay on your roster and be guys you start all season. What worries me the most with starting pitchers is strikeout rate, walk rate and ground ball rate. I won’t delve into the rich pitch data often, because I really don’t think we need it to assess fantastic pitch. Strikeouts, walks and home run rates have proven to be great indicators of future performance, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
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Wire Pickups waiver for shallow leagues
Alex Cobb, San Francisco Giants (59% registered)
We haven’t seen an Alex Cobb yet this season, and he’s a bit above the threshold that we typically set for this position, however, I can’t let him sit here at 41% unlisted and do not speak. After finally escaping Baltimore, Cobb’s career enjoyed some resurgence in 2021. He posted a 3.76 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and a solid trio of my favorite stats with a 25% K%, an 8% BB% and a 53% Go%.
Now Cobb is moving to his fourth team, and it’s the best pitching environment he’s seen in San Francisco. This guy gets tons of ground balls, and the strikeouts were enough to keep him relevant for fantasy purposes last year. He should continue to be one of the best pitchers in the league to prevent the long ball, which is great for the fantasy. The WHIP may be shy compared to the top flight, but I think Cobb has a solid ERA and a nice supply of quality starts and wins this year. Go and get it.
Tylor Megill, New York Mets (39% registered)
Megill replaced Max Scherzer on Opening Day and pitched excellently, pitching five scoreless innings with six strikeouts and no walks on just three hits against the Nationals. His four seams averaged 96 on the gun, a touch more than we saw in 2021, and he generated five puffs on eight swings on his 14 sliders thrown. It was a truly impressive start to the year for the youngster (26).
His rookie year wasn’t too bad either with a 26% K% and 7% BB%, but a disheartening 4.52 ERA that was driven by some issues with the long ball (1.91 HR/ 9). It’s far too early to say he’s fixed that, but it would be hard to imagine that high home run rate repeating itself in 2022. With Jacob deGrom out for the foreseeable future, Megill has a locked-in spot in rotation and I don’t expect him to give it up. Add this man!
Matt Brash, Seattle Mariners (38% registered)
I recommend you pick Matt Brash before he even makes his MLB debut. It’s dicey territory, but these top rookie pitchers are worth a speculative addition because it really costs you nothing. In 97 minor league innings last year, Brash had a 32% strikeout rate while giving up 0.5 homers per nine. These are elite numbers at all levels. The downside was a very poor walking rate of over 11%.
That walk rate can really kill a guy in the Majors, so we have to watch his command closely. He was great in spring training in that regard, and the strikeouts kept pouring in even against high competition. I’m not sure you should start Brash right away, but the withdrawal rate makes him a guy we should add for now.
Yusei Kikuchi, Toronto Blue Jays (38% registered)
It was a bumpy ride for Kikuchi last season. He started off mediocre, looked like an ace midway through the year, but then limped to the finish line, posting a pretty bad finish line for the year. He now finds himself on a new (and better) team in Toronto, and I can’t wait to see what he can do.
The reason I like Kikuchi so much is the improvements he made in 2021 in the three most important categories. His 25% K% was the best mark of his career, and he brought his walk rate down to 9% after really struggling with that in 2020. In June and July last season, he posted a 29% K% with an 8% BB% and a 51% GB%. It was only two months, but they were glorious.
He is now with a new pitching team, and a team that has recently been able to get the most out of its starters. The downside is the matchups against the Yankees and Red Sox, which will be plenty. I’m less confident in Kikuchi than Megill and Cobb right now, but I’ll be watching closely this week as he steps up to the rubber for the first time in Toronto blue.
Waiver Wire Pickups for Deeper Leagues
Hunter Greene, Cincinnati Reds (44% registered)
Another pitcher who hasn’t made his MLB debut yet, but chances are one of these exciting rookies will really pay off to some fantastic ends this year. In the deep leagues, I’m giving Greene and teammate Nick Lodolo a chance here early on. In 65.1 innings in AAA last season, he posted a solid 29% K% with a respectable 9% BB%. A minor home run glitch (1.5 HR/9) kept his ERA at 4.13. The fact that he has a non-elite walk rate with a high home run rate gives me less confidence in him, but I’ll still be interested in a pitcher who strikes out nearly a third of the batters he faces.
The Reds aren’t a good team to pitch at, especially this year as their attack has gotten considerably worse, but I’ll take a flyer on Greene.
Kyle Gibson, Philadelphia Phillies (28% registered)
A boring old veteran sandwiched between two exciting recruits. Gibson looked sharp in his season debut on Saturday, pitching seven shutout innings with 10 strikeouts. The problem was that it was arguably against the league’s worst offense in the Oakland Athletics. The other problem is that we know that’s just not who Gibson is. Right-handed is a pitch-to-contact type that relies on soft touch to display numbers.
The good news is that he has always been strong enough to be a useful part of a deep league fantasy pitching team. And the Phillies’ huge offensive additions this season help a bit, too. Gibson is a decent addition in the deep leagues, especially leagues that feature a quality start.
Nick Lodolo, Cincinnati Reds (27% registered)
Same story with Greene here, but we saw even less Lodolo. He pitched just six innings over AA last year, so there are real questions about what will happen here once he faces legitimate competition. To his credit, he posted a ridiculous 39% K% in AA (44 innings) to go with an elite 5% walk rate. It’s much, much harder to do that stuff in the Majors, obviously, but those kinds of numbers aren’t something you see very often.
Let’s try Lodolo, but don’t be afraid to cut the bait quickly if things don’t go well for the first few starts.
Andrew Heaney, Los Angeles Dodgers (17% registered)
We’ll have to see how it goes early here for Heaney, as the last few years have been brutal for him. The reason we’re interested again is the team’s move to the Dodgers, who just might be the best possible team to pitch these days. He doesn’t have a strong hold on a spot in the rotation, but he will at least get the chance to show what he can do.
The real reason for optimism is the really K%-BB% career of 27%-7%. Few pitchers can cross the 20% mark in this metric, and that largely leads you to success in and of itself. What held him back were major hard contact management issues, and he was completely murdered by longball a season ago, dropping 2.01 HR/9. That just can’t happen again, it’s just too ridiculously high a number. That doesn’t mean it won’t be bad again this year, it probably will be. We’re just hoping the strikeouts and walks are enough to make up for it a bit, and maybe the Dodgers coaching staff can help him out a bit too.
Try Heaney and watch his first start closely.
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