It was Sandy Koufax who said: “Pitching is the art of instilling fear.” Agree or disagree with the Hall of Famer, when it comes to fantasy, the Bonus Baby’s genius holds true. That is because when skippers face a shortage of good pitching to stream, it is always a quaking, harrowing, and otherwise nerve-wracking situation. Avoiding such feelings of distress, of course, happens by hitting the waiver wire almost every week. The issue? With the season almost over, it becomes very difficult to identify the impact of recent play because a player’s stats are essentially locked in for the year. Thus, identifying say, a late-season breakout or an underperforming stud, becomes very challenging.
Fortunately, with this edition of My last 30 days, aid has arrived. Below, seven pitchers who are all enjoying a fruitful late season breakout over the last 30 days–in spite of overall statistics that fail to tell the whole story–are analyzed for ambitious fantasy managers prepared to hit the waiver wire.
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Seven Pitchers Breaking-out Right Now
Javier Assad, SP, Chicago Cubs
2.86 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 1-0 W/L, 5.32 SO/9 in four starts since joining the Cubs’ rotation.
Every relief pitcher hoping to make a living playing ball understands one solemn commandment of the bullpen: When the phone rings, be ready. In the case of Javier Assad, that call came on August 5, when he replaced an injured Marcus Stroman in the rotation. Accustomed to a versatile, multi-inning relief role before Stroman’s injury, Assad answered the call and has not looked back.
Despite a rough start to the year, with a 3.13 ERA on the season (*including a dominant 0.47 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 9.42 SO/9 July*) and an extremely effective four starts since joining the rotation, there is a lot to like about Assad. The wins should come because of the Cubs’ overpowering offense, and as proven in July, he does have considerable strikeout potential. With Stroman out for the foreseeable future, riding Assad’s late-season breakout is a no-brainer for the time being.
Javier Assad, Dirty 77mph Curveball. 😨 pic.twitter.com/1CWZoFmisB
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 21, 2023
Hyun Jin-Ryu, SP, Toronto Blue Jays
1.89 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 2-0 W/L, 7.11 SO/9 in four starts since returning from TJ surgery
If the Blue Jays’ season were a storyline, Hyun Jin-Ryu would be the deus ex machina. Since making his triumphant return from Tommy John surgery on August 1, Ryu has been the godly savior the Blue Jays needed.
Save for a tough outing against Baltimore in his first appearance, the veteran has enjoyed an impressive 14 consecutive scoreless frames in his last three starts and looks like the vintage Ryu of old. Refreshed and reinvigorated from TJ surgery, Ryu is proving that hesitant fantasy managers should look past his struggles in 2021 and 2022. As far as late season breakouts go, Ryu might be the best still available. The time to add him is right now.
2.35 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 2-1 W/L, 9.24 SO/9 over the past 30 days (five starts)
Pitching to the tune of a 4.00 ERA while on the lowly A’s, Paul Blackburn has probably not received the respect he deserves from most fantasy managers. However, with his recent play, it would seem that Blackburn is on the fast track towards exaltation.
That is because, despite early struggles, Blackburn has been very sharp over the last month. In his last five, the RHP has recorded four QS (*all with two runs or less*) and has managed an impressive two wins. To boot, because of his recent stretch, his SO% is also well above its mark last season. As a result, although caution is important with someone like Blackburn, he is definitely worth streaming if slated for a good matchup.
Grayson Rodriguez, SP, Baltimore Orioles
2.61 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 1-1 W/L, 7.26 SO/9 over the past 30 days (five starts)
With a strong ownership rate across the fantasy matrix but a start rate that pales in comparison, debunking the uncertainty behind streaming Grayson Rodriguez is essential. Despite an unsavory 5.38 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP on the season, after returning from his minor league demotion on July 17th, Rodriguez has lived up to the hype.
Having finally managed to get the home run ball (*just 2 HR allowed in his last 41.2 IP*) and his walks under control, the power pitcher has been very dependable as of late. With strikeout stuff, ERA, WHIP and pitching wins on his side, Rodriguez checks all the boxes. Thus, even if his season stats are not sparkling, the RHP is probably worth streaming for now.
Brandon Pfaadt, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
3.30 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 0-2 W/L, 8.4 SO/9 over the past 30 days (five starts)
Known for his impressive strikeout stuff and heralded as a pitcher to watch back in Spring Training, the young starter’s introduction to the big leagues has been less than stellar. However, like Rodriguez, after a dismal May that saw the rookie land back in the minors, Pfaadt has been showing flashes of brilliance lately.
Despite sporting a 6.13 ERA to go with a 1.41 WHIP on the season overall, in two of his last five starts (*Aug.3rd @ SF, 1 ER, 7 IP and Aug.18th @ SD, O ER, 7 IP*), Pfaadt has dominated. While he could not manage a QS in any of the other three, his exciting potential as a late-season breakout candidate remains clear. Gutsy fantasy managers should watch him closely as he makes his next few starts and consider streaming Pfaadt on a matchup-to-matchup basis.
Brandon Pfaadt on when it occurred to him that he had a no-hitter going:
"I was aware of it the whole time." pic.twitter.com/6aeKhgkhhP
— PHNX Diamondbacks (@PHNX_Dbacks) August 19, 2023
Lance Lynn, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
1.44 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 3-0 W/L, 9.00 SO/9 in four starts since joining the Dodgers
When Lance Lynn joined the Dodgers, it was easy for fantasy managers to see the potential. With his track record, any change of scenery at the trade deadline seemed as though it could flip a switch in the struggling former ace. Sure enough, in L.A., Lynn has been able to do that and then some.
Obviously, a simple glance at his stat line demonstrates how Lynn is the epitome of a late-season breakout. While it is important to take a breath and recognize that all four of his starts have come against subpar offenses (*Aug.1 vs. OAK, Aug.6 @ SD, Aug.11 vs. COL, Aug.17 vs. MIL*), the time to ride Lynn is right now. While he is probably already rostered in most leagues, his start rates still remain disproportionately low and based on Lynn’s recent performance, and that is probably about to change.
Lance Lynn continues his hot streak since joining the Dodgers pic.twitter.com/ahZB3i1S8h
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) August 18, 2023
Patrick Corbin, SP, Washington Nationals
2.70 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 2-0 W/L, 6.62 SO/9 in four August starts
Lately, the rebuilding Nationals have been playing a solid brand of baseball, and Patrick Corbin has been one the many reasons why. After the former two time all-star got off to another poor start to the season this year, it seemed as though Corbin would suffer from the same struggles that plagued both his 2021 and 2022 campaigns. However, quietly over the past month, his outlook has drastically changed.
Since the calendar has turned to August, fantasy managers have to wonder: Could Patrick Corbin be returning to his old form? Maybe. While his August performance has been very promising, his overall season statistics are too inflated for most skippers to tolerate. Furthermore, when judged against the savant test, Corbin fails. As a result, the jury remains out on Patrick Corbin. Without being too hasty, fantasy managers should keep an eye on the Nationals southpaw for now.