By Fred Zinkie
Special to Yahoo Sports
For those who are looking to find early season pitching gems on the waiver wire, K/BB ratio is one of the leading indicators of fantasy success.
Each of the nine hurlers listed below has logged a K/BB ratio of 4.0 or higher and is owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues. They are ranked in order of my interest in adding them right now.
Michael Pineda, Twins
Pineda appears to be back, as he is generating plenty of whiffs (9.0 K/9 rate) and limiting free passes (1.2 BB/9 rate). And after throwing 96 pitches across six innings in his most recent start, the right-hander has alleviated fantasy owners’ fears that he won’t have enough length in his game during his comeback from Tommy John surgery. With so many favorable matchups in the AL Central, Pineda should be added in virtually every league.
Jacob Junis, Royals
Junis has been frustrating (5.74 ERA), but he likely deserves a longer leash. After all, his 11.5 K/9 rate is elite, and he has been victimized by a .409 BABIP and a 67.6 percent strand rate. When noticing his 3.21 FIP and nearly identical 3.32 xFIP, owners will see that Junis could soon offer a nice combination of solid ratios and plenty of whiffs.
Brandon Woodruff, Brewers
Owners who reject Woodruff on the basis of his 6.00 ERA may be making a mistake. The right-hander has shown strong strikeout skills (12.0 K/9 rate) while being victimized by a .385 BABIP and a 58.3 percent strand rate. Those who notice his 2.55 FIP and 3.28 xFIP will see that he has potential to impact shallow leagues once his luck reverses course.
Merrill Kelly, D-backs
A 30-year-old rookie, Kelly has continued a long-term pattern from his overseas career by limiting walks thus far in the Majors. Overall, his 3.79 ERA and 1.05 WHIP are likely not too far off what owners can expect going forward. Kelly isn’t overpowering, but his four-pitch mix should help him have a productive debut season.
Nick Margevicius, Padres
Margevicius has logged some of the worst swing-and-miss skills of anyone on this list (6.8 K/9 rate), but he has shown the control skills (0.6 BB/9 rate) that fantasy owners dream of. His stinginess towards free passes was present throughout his Minor League career, where he walked just 25 batters across 183 career innings. The southpaw’s fastball averages just 88.0 mph, which leads to concerns that opposing batters will soon tee up on his plentiful in-the-zone offerings, but he should be a WHIP asset throughout his rookie year.
Dereck Rodriguez, Giants
Like Margevicius, Rodriguez is rarely recording whiffs (6.2 K/9 rate) but limiting walks at an extreme rate (0.5 BB/9 rate). Although some control variance is inevitable, the right-hander logged a solid 2.7 BB/9 rate as a rookie in 2018. His fastball velocity is slightly down this season, and Rodriguez is giving up plenty of hard contact (43.6 percent), which raises concerns that he will struggle to make notable improvements on his 4.15 ERA.
Trevor Cahill, Angels
Cahill is striking out batters (8.0 K/9 rate) at a similar rate to recent seasons while thus far showing improved control (1.0 BB/9 rate). Although his walk rate should soon push towards his lifetime 3.6 mark and his batted-ball luck (.229 BABIIP) is unsustainable, he could maintain a sub-4.00 ERA in the coming weeks. A lengthy injury history means that Cahill is someone owners should view as a spot starter rather than a long-term asset.
Jordan Zimmermann, Tigers
Zimmermann is off to a hot start (2.50 ERA), but his .170 BABIP is the biggest reason. While the veteran has continued a career-long pattern of limiting walks, he hasn’t shown any improvement on his strikeout skills and his average fastball velocity is a career-worst 90.6 mph. Owners who see a 32 year old with a 4.86 xFIP will make the correct decision to leave him on waivers.
Lance Lynn, Rangers
Although I’m hesitant to believe in Lynn’s major control improvement, I have to admit that there is some encouraging data behind his 6.3 K:BB ratio. The right-hander owns an unsightly 4.82 ERA but poor luck (64.4 percent strand rate) has been a major problem and his 3.09 FIP and 3.80 xFIP are solid marks. Still, Lynn is my least favorite target on this list.