League formats, size, and the ever evolving starting pitching climate necessitate change. This is especially true with top starting pitchers rocketing up draft boards in early average draft position, but also in industry drafts. In February’s 15-team mixed LABR draft, four starting pitchers came off the board in the first round, five in the second round and after five rounds, 24 starters were taken out of 75 total picks (32 percent) representing almost one of every three selections. For years, many avoided pitching early in drafts loading up on reliable hitting statistics depressing starting pitcher draft capital, however, analytics pointing to the competitive advantage of avoiding lineups for a third time caps innings, wins, and counting statistics for many pitchers. 

Depending on league rules, streaming pitchers continues to pervade the fantasy landscape. Targeting two-start pitchers on a weekly basis or using a different starting pitcher on a daily basis in head-to-head leagues makes more and more sense for those willing to put in the work. It can also burn one with a rough outing, but maximizing innings and match-ups to mine strikeouts while chasing wins can be an effective way to survive the inflation attached to “ace” level pitchers. 

In order to assess value of pitchers, and whether or not to stream, here’s the 80th percentile statistics for the four categories accrued by starting pitchers from two different NFBC leagues to set a baseline: 

  • 80th Percentile of NFBC 15-team Main Event Categories: 94 wins, 1,476 strikeouts, 3.845 ERA, 1.202 WHIP 
  • 80th Percentile of NFBC 12-team Online Championship Categories: 96 wins, 1,525 strikeouts, 3.745 ERA, 1.18 WHIP

For further reference, check out how many starting pitchers recorded the following benchmarks among qualified starters last season: 


  • Two starters won at least 20 games in 2019 (Justin Verlander , Gerrit Cole )
  • 14 starters won at least 15 games
  • 29 starting pitchers won at least 13 games


  • Two starters notched at least 300 strikeouts (Justin Verlander , Gerrit Cole )
  • Eight starters recorded at least 250 strikeouts
  • 29 starting pitchers struck out at least 200


  • Nine qualified starters finished with an ERA below 3.00
  • 20 recorded an ERA of 3.50 or lower
  • 37 registered an ERA of 4.00 or below


  • Five starters recorded a WHIP of one or below 
  • 15 starting pitchers finished with a WHIP of 1.10 or lower
  • 24 qualified starters notched a WHIP of 1.20 or less

Health, regression and volatility contribute to the risk of investing in starting pitcher on a yearly basis. This provides the foundation for those who try to maximize match-ups by streaming pitchers. Using these as a guide, trying to find a pitcher to work at least five innings, needed to record a win, along with strikeout upside while protecting ratios requires research. Noting a pitcher’s velocity stabilizes after three starts (hat tip to research by Eno Sarris), team trends also emerge to exploit early in the season. Tracking which teams struggle versus the handedness of a pitcher or whether a team hits better at home (Rockies for one) and not as well on the road emerge each season. 

In an effort to identify early season targets which could translate well for 2020, using underlying indicators along with win totals provide a bevy of information. Searching the bottom 10 teams in terms of strikeout percentage, swinging strike percentage and contact rates from 2019, the following franchises appeared in all three categories: 

Although the Padres made upgrades to their lineup in 2019, they still struggled with contact while striking out a high rate. Adding Tommy Pham will benefit the lineup, but how much? Seeing Miami and Detroit should not surprise anyone. In fact, these two teams remain front and center to target when streaming pitchers. Keep this in mind later on in the article, especially since a second team in the American Central will appear soon. Chicago added Yasmani Grandal and Edwin Encarnación to the lineup meaning there will be days to avoid them when streaming pitchers. However, Leury García ’s slated to leadoff and Luis Robert owns tremendous upside along with holes in his plate discipline. 

Next, here’s the teams in the bottom of run production, isolated power and weighted on-base average (wOBA):

Once again, Miami, Detroit, San Diego and the White Sox rank in the bottom 10 of team ranks with two others emerging. Both San Francisco and Kansas City will be popular streaming options in 2020. This helps identify starting pitchers to deploy due to favorable match-ups. Remember, an advantageous situation does not guarantee results, but puts the odds in a savvy owners favor. Using two different sites win totals, here’s the teams with win totals of 71 or fewer according to TheLines.com and Fan Duel: 

  • Baltimore: 56.5 on both sites
  • Detroit: 57.5 on The Lines, 56.5 on Fan Duel
  • Kansas City: 64.5 on both sites
  • Miami: 64.5 on both sites
  • Pittsburgh: 70.5 on both sites
  • San Francisco: 70.5 on both sites
  • Seattle: 65.5 on The Lines, 67.5 on Fan Duel

There’s one team in each division projected to finish below 71 wins in the majors with only one owning two of them, the American League Central. With this in mind, here’s pitchers potentially available on the wire in 12-team or shallower formats in play as streaming options opening the 2020 season in alphabetical order by league:  

American League 

  • Chicago White Sox (83.5 win total on both sites) - This will depend on the league, but Dylan Cease and Reynaldo López will be wild cards. Cease surged his last seven starts with a robust 46:15 K:BB over 34 innings with a 3.56 xFIP. Lopez gained velocity in the second half resulting in a 4.29 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 83 strikeouts in 86 innings. Also keep tabs on Michael Kopech after the All-Star break. 
  • Cleveland (86.5 win total on both sites) - Both Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac own appeal as streaming options with two weak lineups in their division. Civale finished 2019 with a 2.34 ERA and 1.04 WHIP while yielding only four barrels on 164 batted ball events. During 18 minor league starts across two levels (AA, AAA), Civale went 7-1 with a 92:25 K:BB and a 2.35 ERA. Plesac won eight games last year for the Indians with a 3.81 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. His ratios can be shaky at times but one cannot ignore the chance for wins in favorable match-ups. 
  • Houston (96 win total on The Lines, 94.5 on Fan Duel) - Name recognition should get Lance McCullers Jr. drafted, but if he’s on the wire, use him at the start of season. A more under the radar target will be Jose Urquidy. He fired a six inning gem versus the Nationals in the World Series and went 2-1 for Houston in 76 innings last year during the season with a 3.95 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. Combining his minor league and major league totals, Urquidy recorded 174 strikeouts versus 28 walks in 144 innings last year. Pretty, pretty good. 
  • Los Angeles Angels (84.5 win total on The Lines, 85.5 on Fan Duel) - Since he burned many in 2019, Dylan Bundy could be mined for early streaming in shallower formats. He increased his ground ball rate last year while reducing fly balls. His 5-5 record on the road with a 4.63 ERA and 1.24 WHIP provides hope for improvement compared to a 1.45 WHIP in Camden Yards. If only Bundy could lower his 6.30 ERA in the first inning from 2019. Ross Stripling (trade contingent) and Griffin Canning could qualify if not drafted in your league. 
  • Minnesota (91.5 win total on both sites) - Will the real Homer Bailey please stand up? During his time in Oakland, Bailey went 6-3 with a 4.30 ERA, 3.65 FIP and 1.20 WHIP over 73.1 innings spanning 13 starts. If he can carry over the gains in Minnesota, Bailey could thrive, especially with starts versus his old team in Kansas City and versus Detroit. Randy Dobnak notched a tidy 23:5 K:BB in 28.1 innings last year in the majors with two wins and a save. His 1.59 ERA comes with a 3.77 xFIP but Dobnak went 12-4 across two levels in the minors with a 2.04 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in 135 innings. 
  • New York Yankees (101.5 win total on both sites) - With the news of James Paxton being out due to back surgery, fellow southpaws J.A. Happ and Jordan Montgomery move to the forefront of intrigue. Happ struggled in 2019 but his last 41.1 innings yields a 3.27 ERA, 45 strikeouts and a 1.14 WHIP. He adjusted his arsenal throwing more four-seam fastballs down in the zone and increased his sinker usage. It’s a bit early to toss dirt on him for fantasy purposes. Montgomery will be returning from injury and could benefit from an opener, but racked up nine wins in 2017 with a 3.88 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 155.1 innings. Monitor his health and velocities in spring. Also potential factors in a fluid fifth starting spot, Deivi Cruz and a return from suspension by Domingo Germán later in the season. 
  • Oakland (89.5 win total on The Lines, 90.5 on Fan Duel) - While everyone fawns over Jesús Luzardo and A.J. Puk , and with good reason due to talent, many will overlook Chris Bassitt . He gained velocity with his fastball last year and won 10 of his 15 decisions over 25 starts. Oakland could shift to a six-man rotation to protect innings making Bassitt an intriguing stream option or late round flier in deeper formats. In the second half, Bassitt recorded a 3.26 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with 66 strikeouts against 15 walks in 66.1 innings. 
  • Tampa Bay (91.5 win total on both sites) - Like many of the options above, two options could be mined on the waiver wire in Yonny Chirinos and Ryan Yarbrough . Chirinos went 9-5 in 2019 with a 3.85 ERA, 4.10 xFIP and 1.05 WHIP. He does not generate high strikeout totals with 114 in 133.1 innings but also limits traffic with a 5.3 walk percentage. Yarbrough has won 27 games the last two years and in 2019 went 11-6. After the All-Star break, he reeled off a 70:9 K:BB with a 3.79 ERA in 78.1 innings. 

National League

  • Atlanta (90.5 win total on both sites) - Moving to the bullpen allowed Sean Newcomb to reduce his walk rate while adjusting his arsenal. He ditched his change-up using a slider with success. He enters spring training as the odds on favorite for the fifth spot in the rotation. Newcomb will need to carry over his 49 percent ground ball rate along with the gains in his curve (.147 expected batting average, 45.7 strikeout percentage, 43.3 whiff rate) and slider (.195 expected batting average, 34.8 strikeout percentage, 20.9 whiff rate). This could be a fluid situation so keep tabs on Ian Anderson , Bryce Wilson and Kyle Wright as well. 
  • Los Angeles Dodgers (100.5 win total on both sites) - No organization uses the injured reserve list and it’s pitching depth better than the Dodgers. Signing Alex Wood to a performance laden one-year contact makes him a potential useful spot starter. During his career with the team, Wood owns a 31-20 record with a 3.46 ERA, 3.50 FIP and 1.17 WHIP over 434.2 innings. Health and velocity will ultimately determine his fantasy value but if he looks good in the spring, fire him up, especially in home starts. Also worth tracking, Dustin May and Jimmy Nelson . No, not listing Julio Urías since he will be owned in most formats. 
  • New York Mets (89.5 win total on The Lines, 87.5 on Fan Duel) - At some point, Michael Wacha could become a factor for the Mets, but for now, Steven Matz along with Rick Porcello could linger on the waiver wire early on in 2020. Matz went 11-10 last year with a 4.21 ERA, 4.33 xFIP and 1.34 WHIP while recording 153 strikeouts in 160.1 innings. It feels like he’s one adjustment away from success but backslides. Heed his 47.1 ground ball rate last year but may need to be used versus teams with poor splits versus southpaws. Porcello will not return to his 2016 self, but still won 14 games in 2019 with an inflated 5.82 ERA and 1.39 WHIP. Transitioning to the senior circuit could help his ratios positively migrate but Porcello needs to infuse more slider and curves into his arsenal. 

Using this list only would not be ideal over the course of the season. Drew Smyly showed strikeout upside and pitching in San Francisco will help his peripherals. Those who stream can use this as a primer to identify pitchers on teams projected with higher win totals to maximize the category, but chasing wins in fantasy makes for a slippery slope. Protecting ratios in rotisserie leagues proves more challenging than head-to-head formats where the categories reset each week. Know the lineups to target, exploit the data, and stream with confidence if necessary to gain an advantage. 


Statistical Credits: 






Fan Duel (https://sportsbook.fanduel.com/sports/navigation/1110.1/7627.1)