A fantasy owner’s best friend is the waiver wire—where finding value can make the difference between a great week and a very disappointing one. Most pitchers see the mound once every seven days, but if you want to maximize the number of starts per week, it’s important to look for pitchers pitching twice and exploit favorable matchups if they exist. With that being said, let’s take a look at some pitchers you should be starting this week, and some you should just leave on your bench
Jake Arrieta | Chicago Cubs
Opponents: Jonathan Niese (PIT), Tanner Roark (WSH)
It’s safe to say that Jake Arrieta is matchup proof right now. The righty had himself a very good month of April and is looking to carry that momentum into May. Arrieta has allowed one run or less in four of his five starts and has picked up at least six strikeouts in all of his starts. The Pirates are hitting .290 against right-handed pitchers, but Arrieta should be able to neutralize a rather average Pittsburgh lineup, while the Nationals pose little to no threat to opposing hitters outside of Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy. The TCU graduate is a safe bet this week to pick up two quality starts and a bunch of strikeouts.
Bartolo Colon | New York Mets
Opponents: TBA (ATL), James Shields (SD)
Bartolo Colon has two of the best matchups this week, and there’s a pretty good chance he’s available on the waiver wire. The veteran pitcher will take on two below-average hitting teams—the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres. Colon doesn’t have the stuff to strike out a ton of batters, but the Padres swing and miss quite a bit and the Braves are unable to hit the ball out of the ballpark. If the 42-year-old can pick up two quality starts, call it a steal. No other pitcher on the waiver wire this week will give you that kind of production.
Matt Harvey | New York Mets
Opponents: Matt Wisler (ATL), Andrew Cashner (SD)
Just like Colon, Matt Harvey has himself two excellent matchups this week. The 27-year-old has had and up-and-down season up to this point, but the Braves and Padres don’t pose much of a threat to opposing pitchers. In his last start against the Braves, Harvey went five innings and gave up two runs. If he can make it to the sixth inning and strike out about six in both games, fantasy owners should be really happy.
Other Must Start Pitchers: Johnny Cueto, Gerrit Cole
Michael Wacha | St. Louis Cardinals
Opponents: Aaron Nola (PHI), Gerrit Cole (PIT)
Michael Wacha is definitely an interesting option to consider. The Pirates are very good at hitting the ball against righties, but the Phillies are closer to the middle of the pack in that category. With one average matchup and one risky matchup, it’s hard to gauge how Wacha will perform this week. He’s been decent to start the season—posting a 3.07 ERA and 1.33 WHIP—but he hasn’t done anything exceptional to make him an elite starter this week. There’s a good chance that the 24-year-old has some difficulty this week, but he should be able to pick up at least one quality start against the Phillies. He’s worth a roster spot despite the uncertainty.
Dallas Keuchel | Houston Astros
Opponents: Jose Berrios (MIN), Nathan Karns (SEA)
It was a tough April for the Houston Astros, including Dallas Keuchel. The lefty finished the month with a 4.41 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP. He has the stuff to turn his game around and he’ll look to get start this week against two below-average hitting teams. Both the Mariners and Twins are ranked 23rd and 25th in team batting average against left-handed pitching, which bodes well for Keuchel. There’s still a risk that his struggles continue in the month of May, but if he and the Astros are going to turn their season around, it starts right here with these two starts.
Jose Quintana | Chicago White Sox
Opponents: Steven Wright (BOS), Jose Berrios (MIN)
The Chicago White Sox are off to a tremendous start this season, and part of that is thanks to Jose Quintana. The Colombia native is 3-1 so far this season, with a 1.47 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP. He’s also racked up 32 strikeouts in 30.2 innings of work. Both the Red Sox and Twins are ranked in the bottom half in team batting average against lefties, so Quintana could be in for a big week if everything goes according to plan.
Other Options to Consider: Gio Gonzalez, Edinson Volquez, Chris Tillman, Marco Estrada, Jose Berrios, Jon Gray, Aaron Nola, Matt Moore.
Adam Wainwright | St. Louis Cardinals
Opponents: Jeremy Hellickson (PHI), Jeff Locke (PIT)
It would be nice to trust Adam Wainwright this week, but the veteran pitcher currently sports an ugly 7.16 ERA and a 1.70 ERA. What’s even more concerning is the number of strikeouts—14 in 27.2 innings of work. If Wainwright can’t get opposing batters to strike out, that’s a recipe for disaster against a good hitting team like Pittsburgh. It would be best to wait till Wainwright shows some consistency before starting him, but the veteran pitcher might be getting too old to be good in the majors.
Jered Weaver | Los Angeles Angels
Opponents: Jimmy Nelson (MIL), Matt Moore (TB)
Here’s an interesting fact; Jered Weaver is 3-0 this season despite a 1.41 WHIP and 11 strikeouts in 23.1 innings. His velocity issues have been well documented since last season, and with his inability to strike anyone out, it’s only a matter of time before Weaver gets rough up every time he takes the mound. Even against a Rays team that ranks dead last in team batting average against right-handed pitcher, it’s still not a good idea to start Weaver. At this point of the season he’s worth a roster spot in REALLY deep leagues, but there’s a good chance he ends up on the waiver wire in all formats/leagues by the end of May.
Tanner Roark |Washington Nationals
Opponents: Chris Young (KC), Jake Arrieta (CHC)
Tanner Roark has been exceptionally good his last two starts, including a 15-strikeout performance against the Twins. The problem is that Roark has been facing some pretty terrible teams since the start of the season (Braves, Phillies & Twins) and this week could be the week he gets lit up. The Cubs are Royals are middle of the pack when it comes to strikeouts against righties and both teams are above average when it comes to team batting average. This will be Roark’s first real test of the season, and it may not end very well. It’s best to bench him this week and see how he fairs.
Other Pitcher to Avoid: R.A. Dickey, Jeremy Hellickson, Justin Verlander, Steven Wright, Martin Perez, Eddie Butler, Andrew Cashner, James Shields