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 11th through April 17th. We’re grateful that you’re back with us this year, and we hope to once again help a bunch of you win your leagues.

I’m Jon Anderson and I’m once again rocking this weekly piece. Every Sunday, we’ll go over several starting pitchers that are quite possibly available on your league’s waiver wire. We typically target around 50% rostered or lower. We’ll also split this post into two sections, one for shallower leagues and one for deeper leagues. The most confident recommendations will, of course, fall in the shallow league part.

An important note – this isn’t a streamer article. I’m not concerning myself much with the matchups this week, these are pitchers that I think may prove good enough to stick on your roster and be guys you start all season long. What I am most concerned about with starting pitchers is strikeout rate, walk rate, and ground-ball rate. I won’t often delve deep into the rich pitching data, because I really don’t think we need to when evaluating fantasy pitching. Strikeouts, walks, and home run rates have proven to be excellent indicators of future performance, so if it ain’t broken – don’t fix it!

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Waiver Wire Pickups for Shallow Leagues

Alex Cobb, San Francisco Giants (59% Rostered)

We haven’t seen any Alex Cobb yet this season, and he is a bit above the threshold we typically parameterize for this post, however, I can’t let him sit here at 41% un-rostered and not speak up. After finally escaping Baltimore, Cobb’s career had a bit of a resurgence in 2021. He posted a 3.76 ERA, a 1.26 WHIP, and a strong trio of my favorite stats with a 25% K%, an 8% BB% and a 53% GB%.

Now Cobb moves on to his fourth team, and it’s the best pitching environment he will have 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 at preventing the long ball, which is an excellent thing for fantasy. The WHIP may be well shy of elite, but I think Cobb offers a strong ERA and a nice supply of quality starts and wins this year. Go get him.

Tylor Megill, New York Mets (39% Rostered)

Megill stepped in for Max Scherzer on Opening Day and pitched excellently, throwing five scoreless innings with six strikeouts and no walks on just three hits against the Nationals. His four-seamer averaged 96 on the gun, up a touch from what we saw in 2021, and he generated five whiffs on eight swings on his 14 sliders thrown. It was a really impressive start to the year for the young guy (26 years old).

His rookie year wasn’t all that bad either with a 26% K% and a 7% BB%, but a discouraging 4.52 ERA that was driven by some problems with the long ball (1.91 HR/9). It’s much too early to say he’s fixed that issue, but it would be hard to imagine that high of a home run rate repeats in 2022. With Jacob deGrom out for the foreseeable future, Megill has a locked-in spot in the rotation and I don’t expect him to give it up. Add this man!

Matt Brash, Seattle Mariners (38% Rostered)

I’m recommending you pick up Matt Brash before he even makes his MLB debut. That’s risky territory, but these top-prospect rookie pitchers are worth a speculative add since it doesn’t really cost you anything. In 97 minor league innings last year, Brash had a strikeout rate of 32% while allowing 0.5 homers per nine. Those are elite numbers at any level. The downside was a really bad walk rate above 11%.

That walk rate can really kill a guy in the Majors, so we have to keep a close eye on his command. He was awesome in Spring Training in that regard, and the strikeouts kept pouring in as well even against some elevated competition. I’m not sure you should start Brash right away, but the strikeout rate makes him a guy that we should add for now.

Yusei Kikuchi, Toronto Blue Jays (38% Rostered)

It was a bumpy ride for Kikuchi last season. He started off mediocre, looked like an ace in the middle of the year, but then limped to the finish line, posting a pretty bad final line for the year. He now finds himself on a new (and better) team in Toronto, and I’m excited to see what he can do.

The reason I like Kikuchi so much are 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 it in 2020. In June and July last season he posted a 29% K% with an 8% BB% and to 51%GB%. It was only two months, but they were glorious.

Now he is with a new pitching staff, and one that has been pretty successful recently at getting the most out of their starters. The downside is the matchups against the Yankees and Red Sox, which there will be plenty of. I’m less confident in Kikuchi than Megill and Cobb right now, but I’ll be watching closely this week as he toes the rubber for the first time in Toronto blue.

Waiver Wire Pickups for Deeper Leagues

Hunter Greene, Cincinnati Reds (44% Rostered)

Another pitching who has yet to make his MLB debut, but there’s a pretty good chance one of these exciting rookies really pays off for fantasy purposes this year. In deep leagues, I’m giving Greene and his teammates Nick Lodolo a shot here early on. In 65.1 innings in AAA last season, I have posted a strong 29% K% with a respectable 9% BB%. A bit of a homer issue (1.5 HR/9) kept his ERA up at 4.13. The fact that he had a non-elite walk rate with the high homer rate gives me less confidence in him, but I’m always going to be interested in a pitcher striking out nearly a third of the batters they face.

The Reds are not a good team to pitch on, especially this year as their offense has gotten significantly worse, but I’ll take a flier on Greene.

Kyle Gibson, Philadelphia Phillies (28% Rostered)

An old boring veteran sandwiched between two exciting rookies. Gibson looked sharp in his season debut on Saturday, throwing seven shutout innings with 10 strikeouts. The problem was that it was against arguably the worst offense in the league in the Oakland Athletics. The other problem is that we know that just isn’t who Gibson is. The righty is a pitch-to-contact type of guy who relies on soft contact to put up numbers.

The good news is that he’s always been solid enough to be a useful piece on a deep league fantasy pitching staff. And the huge offensive additions the Phillies this season help a bit too. Gibson is a decent add in deep leagues, especially leagues that feature the quality start.

Nick Lodolo, Cincinnati Reds (27% Rostered)

Same story with Greene here, but we’ve seen even less of Lodolo. He only threw six innings above AA last year, so there are real questions about what will happen here once he faces some legitimate competition. To his credit, he did post a ridiculous 39% K% in AA (44 innings) to go with an elite 5% walk rate. It’s much, much tougher to do that kind of stuff in the Majors, obviously, but those kinds of numbers aren’t something you see very often.

Let’s give Lodolo a shot, but don’t be afraid to cut bait quickly if things don’t go well for the first few starts.

Andrew Heaney, Los Angeles Dodgers (17% Rostered)

We’ll have to see how it goes early on here for Heaney, because it’s been a brutal few years for him. The reason we’re interested once again is the team shift to the Dodgers, who just might be the best possible team to pitch for these days. He doesn’t have a strong hold on a spot in the rotation, but he’ll at least get the chance to show what he can do.

The real reason for optimism is the really career K%-BB% of 27%-7%. Not many pitchers can clear the 20% mark in that metric, and that takes you a lot of the way towards success by itself. What has held him down are major issues handling hard contact, and he got absolutely murdered by the longball a season ago, giving up 2.01 HR/9. That simply can’t happen again, it’s just too ridiculously high of a number. That’s not to say it won’t be bad again this year, it probably will be. We’re just hoping the strikeouts and walks are enough to offset it a bit, and maybe too much that the Dodgers coaching staff can help him out a bit.

Take a stab at Heaney and watch his first start closely.

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