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Streaming Away

Volatile Times

by Brad Johnson
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Welcome back to Streaming Away, a twice weekly column serving all your fantasy streaming needs. I'll be using DFS techniques to help you select players for your normal fantasy leagues. With careful execution, you'll be one step closer to a fantasy championship. As always, the column will run on Sundays and Wednesdays to better prepare you for the thin Monday and Thursday schedules.


For more info about how and why to stream, check out the first edition of Streaming Away.


Editor’s Note: Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Baseball: Get in the game and create or join a league today.


Volatile Players


You'll frequently see me refer to a player as volatile. Let's talk about what I mean by this “volatility.” In a sport like baseball, everybody is technically volatile on a given day. Mike Trout is just as likely to hit two home runs as Khris Davis. He's almost as likely to go 0-for-4. However, some players are a bit more consistent with their production while others - like Davis or Jay Bruce - tend to lump all of their value into a few days.


For waiver wire streaming, it's best to target especially volatile players when you need big numbers. This early in the season, roto owners shouldn't be feeling too much pressure – even if you've dug a deep hole. In head-to-head leagues, you'll want to look for volatile players when you're losing certain categories late in the week. Home runs, steals, and strikeouts are common targets.


Most volatile players are simply unestablished. They may not actually be volatile but they appear to be so because there are inherent advantages and disadvantages to being a new major leaguer. Scouting reports may be initially incorrect. Then the reports might fail to recognize when a player has the ability to adjust to their weaknesses. For some rookies, adjustments are second nature. Others need years for the game to slow down enough to cope.


Volatile veterans come in a few flavors. Some, like a certain pitcher we'll discuss in a moment, are perfectly confusing. Others simply take an all-or-nothing approach to hitting (see Davis and Bruce). They'll lock in for weeks at a time then disappear for months at a time. Catch the right days, and they'll carry your team, be it real or fantasy.


If you find yourself out to an early lead thanks to volatile talents, it might be time to cash them in for more stable alternatives. Eric Thames may continue to hit like he's in Korea. There's a good chance the scouts find a weakness he can't easily fix. Perhaps you'll want to consider swapping Thames for Daniel Murphy. To be clear, that's just an example. It's up to you to decide who you believe to be real and who's a mirage.


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Monday, April 24


The fourth Meager Monday of the season includes nine games. Despite the thin slate, we have a wide array of streaming options for any need.


Pitchers to Use


We've all had a taste of Francisco Liriano's special brand of volatility. Sometimes he's an ace; like when he recorded 10 strikeouts in 6.2 innings on April 13. Sometimes he allows five runs in one-third of an inning. He did that on April 7. He'll go on completely unpredictable hot and cold streaks. We've all had our good and bad Liriano fantasy experiences. Tomorrow, he'll face the Angels, a team currently ranked as a below average offense. He's 42 percent owned on Yahoo. Unless you're protecting your ratios, he's an easy pick for a two-start week.


If you need to reach deeper for an available pitcher, Hyun-Jin Ryu is only 16 percent owned. And his matchup is at least as good as Liriano's. Ryu is opposed by scrubby Matt Cain. More on him in a moment. Ryu's return to starting has been... interesting. His 5.87 ERA hides a strong 9.98 K/9 and 2.35 BB/9. He's been plagued by home runs. Of 11 fly balls allowed, six have left the ballpark. Ryu typically limits home runs, but it's also important to remember he hasn't pitched regularly since 2014.


While you may receive great performances from Liriano or Ryu, Miguel Gonzalez is merely a volume pick. He's also only four percent owned. The righty has a kitchen sink approach to unbalancing hitters. He'll usually keep the White Sox within striking distance of a win. Although he's opposed by the hot Jason Vargas, I still consider this to be an evenly matched pairing. I'm not quite buying Vargas just yet. I think the league can adjust to the way he's using his pitches.


If you're ready to take a gamble, Tyler Anderson has a tough week ahead of him facing the Nationals and Diamondbacks. The Nats have plenty of lefty mashers, although Anderson has shown reverse platoon splits. I usually ignore reverse splits, especially in a small sample. The only real exception is with changeup pitchers. Anderson throws a wonderful changeup. This season, he's struggled to induce ground balls and limit home runs. He's a very risky pick.


Brett Anderson and Chad Kuhl face each other in Pittsburgh before moving on to winnable matchups later in the week. Anderson has the easier assignment versus a 26th ranked Pirates offense. Kuhl is a pitch-to-contact guy who keeps his team in the game. Neither is a flashy streaming option, but they'll give you a chance for victory.


Pitchers to Abuse


As promised, let's talk about Cain. The Giants starter hasn't been a fantasy asset since 2012. His fastball velocity is now around 5 mph below his peak. Although he's managed to fight through three starts with a sub-4.00 ERA, it's only a matter of time before he allows six runs in three innings. The Dodgers have the kind of offensive firepower to chase him very quickly. It's too bad the game is at AT&T Park – the least friendly park for home run hitters. Even so, bet on at least one Dodger going yard.


The Brewers will call upon Matt Garza to hopefully pitch like it's 2014. That's the last time he was any good. It's shaping up to be a day of obsolete pitchers. The Brewers are hosting the Reds at homer happy Miller Park. Assuming Garza is rusty, a couple balls may enter the stands.


Ubaldo Jimenez is volatile but in a way that is almost never good for fantasy owners. His best outings still tend to feature some kind of bad ratio. Jimenez tends to struggle early in the season, making tomorrow a great day to pile on all the Rays you can find. Especially if they like batting versus ground ball pitchers. Tampa's offense leads baseball in strikeouts, although Jimenez has only managed 4.96 K/9.


Other exploitable pitchers include Jhoulys Chacin at hitter friendly Chase Field, Phil Hughes at Martin Perez, and Ricky Nolasco hosting a broken Blue Jays roster. Maybe Nolasco's actually a sneaky start in the mold of Gonzalez.


Hitters: Power


We have a wide array of options for power tomorrow – 24 names by my count. With his 80 grade power, Joey Gallo is among the most exciting and volatile of the bunch. He's only 21 percent owned on Yahoo despite being one of the top ranked players. Gallo also has that trendy prospect sheen that so frequently increases a player's value in trade talks. I highly recommend picking him up for a start against Phil Hughes - and then talking him up as a trade target. Other available Rangers include Shin Soo Choo and Carlos Gomez.


Jayson Werth is expected to return to the active lineup on Sunday. He's recovering from a groin strain. If he proves he's healthy, Werth is of interest versus a southpaw like Anderson. Especially when said southpaw is struggling to produce positive results. Werth is a career .296/.395/.543 hitter against lefties. While those numbers overstate the value of this 37-year-old, he's definitely a true platoon masher.


David Peralta has been batting second when the Diamondbacks face a righty. On Monday, they'll see an easy one in the form of Chacin. Peralta looks like his old self – a ton of hard contact, too many ground balls, and an aggressive approach. Chase Field is the best venue to be a hard ground ball hitter – it's probably the fastest moving infield in baseball.


If you have to reach deep into the well, Scooter Gennett has been drawing starts after a hot .297/.316/.622 start to the season. He's popped three home runs in 38 late appearances. This is not the first or even the second time Gennett has shown more power than expected in April. My impression is that pitchers occasionally forget to respect his home run potential by treating him like a slappy hitter. He batted second in his latest start. Gennett, Zack Cozart, and Scott Schebler will face Garza.


Rays leadoff man Corey Dickerson is hitting like it's 2014. For those who have already forgotten, that's when Dickerson was a breakout star with the Rockies. In 72 plate appearances, he's hitting .324/.361/.603 with four home runs and .367 BABIP. He posted similar BABIPs during his Rockies heyday. Dickerson is a fly ball hitter, making him a superb matchup versus Jimenez. Also consider Kevin Kiermaier and Logan Morrison.


Other power bats include Josh Bell, Domingo Santana, Robbie Grossman, Melky Cabrera, Brandon Moss, Alex Gordon, Brandon Drury, Ryan Schimpf, Yangervis Solarte, Austin Hedges, Justin Smoak, and Chase Utley. Whoever doesn't start Sunday of Jett Bandy or Manny Pina will probably play Monday. My favorite options from this list are Bandy and Hedges for those who need a catcher and Santana if you just need an all purpose bat.


Hitters: Speed


As always, the speed list is a tad thin. Kiermaier remain a quality option if your league is shallow enough. Keon Broxton and Tim Anderson have both fallen below 50 percent ownership due to painfully slow starts. Broxton is an excellent option if you have room to stash him. He'll have the platoon advantage versus rookie southpaw Amir Garrett. Broxton offers a tantalizing combination of power and speed. It's accompanied by a 40 percent strikeout rate. Tim Anderson may need a reboot in the minors – he's flailing at everything. He'll face Vargas.


Manuel Margot is exactly 50 percent owned for his matchup against Zack Greinke. The Padres leadoff man is hitting decently, but he's stolen only one base in 78 plate appearances. On an aggressive Padres roster, it's surprising he hasn't swiped at least five bags. Teammate Travis Jankowski is at risk of falling into a backup role if he doesn't start reaching base. Greinke can be hard to run against.


Shortstop Alcides Escobar has proven his ability to steal 15 to 25 bases while doing almost nothing else of value. He could run versus Gonzalez and the White Sox. Other stolen base threats include Jorge Polanco, Gorkys Hernandez, and Tyler Saladino. Of those, only Polanco is a decent hitter. And he's by far the least likely to steal.


Brad Johnson

You can read more from Brad Johnson on NBC Sports Edge, FanGraphs, and RotoFanatic. Find him on Patreon and Twitter @BaseballATeam.