This week’s two-start waiver fodder-types feature one grizzled veteran, one underrated giant, and a pair of young guys with accommodating matchups.
Let’s dive right in:
Neither Lowe nor Gomez have been particularly good this year; Lowe isn’t walking or whiffing anyone, and Gomez’ ERA is a bit inflated. But both have very salacious — and identical — matchups this week as they head to Minnesota and then open a home interleague series versus Miami. Both hurlers are getting by with excellent ground ball rates — Gomez at 53.3 percent and Lowe 61.2 — so as a result both have relatively good xFIP/FIP numbers (though Lowe is vastly outperforming them thanks to an 80-plus percent strand rate). Nonetheless, they both get a Twins offense that, while vastly better at home, isn’t any good (.295 team wOBA), and is particularly adept at hitting weak grounders (MLB-leading 51.9 percent). It’s a great matchup for both. The Fish are also more than helpful at pounding the ball into the ground (10th in the MLB at 46.7 percent), and are the next team up the wOBA leaderboard above the Twins at .297. Ride these righties into the ground.
Jeff Niemann (3.5 percent ESPN/10 percent Yahoo!) – @TOR, v. ATL
The gigantic righty has been really, really good this year, without even a shred of doubt hiding in his numbers. His current ERA? 3.48. His current xFIP? 3.49. It’s been a nice mix of groundballs (49.5 percent), whiffs (8.0 per nine, 21.3 percent of hitters), and a halving of his HR/FB rate (12.6 → 6.9 percent). All told, the former Rice product is in the finest season of his five-year career, and few talk about him with guys like David Price, Matt Moore, and James Shields in the fold. This upcoming week, Niemann faces a pair of pretty good offenses in Toronto (ninth in ISO despite relatively routine .311 wOBA and 96 wRC+) and Atlanta (.327 wOBA is eighth in MLB). The Jays are a patient bunch (fifth in walk rate), and despite Bert Blyleven’s insistence, aren’t all that whiff-prone at 18.2 percent (22nd). The Jays are worse against righties (.303 wOBA), but are insanely good (.344) at home. I like the matchup more because I believe in Niemann than I don’t the Jays offense, for what it’s worth. The Braves, on the other hand, don’t have a discernible home/away split (eight points difference in wOBA), but are a bit more susceptible to the whiff than their Canadian counterparts (19.8 percent, t-22nd). Again, I trust more in Niemann here than I am trying to denigrate either offense. He’s been good, and I think he’s for real.
Christian Friedrich (1.3 percent ESPN/2 percent Yahoo!) – @SF, v. SEA
Friedrich’s a bit of a blue-light special; these two starts will only be the second and third of his big league career, but in his first go-round, he looked pretty dang good. Granted, he was facing the San Diego Padres (sixth-worst in the bigs by wRC+), and was in Petco (surely accommodating to the 11 combined fly balls and line drives he allowed), but he certainly looked the part by fanning seven while only walking one over six innings. The Giants are a bad offense (.302 team wOBA, .276 against southpaws), and their home park has been pretty suppressive to the longball so far this season (82/99 park factor for LHH/RHH via StatCorner), so I like Friedrich in that one. Seattle? Well, the M’s have a .289 team wOBA, have fanned in 20.2 percent of the time, and hit a ton of fly balls. I’ll fully admit that Friedrich is a risky move, but I’d rather take a high-risk, high-reward than starting someone like Alex White or Homer Bailey, both of whom also make two-starts this week and don’t necessarily make my socks roll up and down.