After a week of aces populating the two-start pitchers list, fantasy baseball’s Week 4 sees a greater number of untested, back-of-the-rotation types gobbling up the multiple-start assignments. Of the 37 pitchers scheduled to work twice, 23 are rostered in more than half of ESPN leagues, and of those 23, 14 find themselves available in greater than 90% of leagues. Pick your two-start pitchers well, and you might garner a good amount of production for the dirt-cheap price of a pickup.
With that in mind, the first of Monday’s three recommended pickups is a must-start pitcher from the list of those projected to take two turns. All three pickups, meanwhile, are well worth the add to help bolster your pitching staff.
Johan Oviedo, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates: He has been excellent to date, and enters Week 4 with three consecutive quality starts, most recently going six strong innings at Colorado’s Coors Field. That represented one of only seven quality starts by any pitcher (in 20 tries) at that venue so far in 2023. Acquired in the 2022 trade deadline’s Jose Quintana deal, Oviedo has shown a distinct uptick in average fastball velocity since the move, averaging 96.4 mph with the pitch over 11 Pirates starts, compared to only 95.0 in his 19 starts and 14 relief appearances with the St. Louis Cardinals, and his four individual outings with his highest average fastball velocity have all come with the Pirates (Sept. 2, 24 and 30, 2022, and April 14, 2023).
Perhaps more importantly, however, Oviedo has shown greater reliance upon his breaking pitches, both slider and curveball, with the former continuing to serve as his put-away pitch, and the latter utilized 27% of the time against left-handed batters while allowing only a .087 batting average overall. He’ll get quite a test in his first turn of the week, Tuesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, but gets one of the softest matchups any pitcher could draw on Sunday, on the road against the Washington Nationals. Considering Oviedo’s uptick in his velocity and pitch performance, he’s well worth scooping up now in the hopes that his hot start has legitimate staying power.
Eduardo Rodriguez, SP, Detroit Tigers: He has made 175 starts and six relief appearances during his eight-year major league career, yet we have seen his best individual performance according to fantasy points scored, as well as his seventh best, in just his past two turns. Rodriguez tossed an absolute gem against the Cleveland Guardians this past Tuesday, going eight shutout innings while striking out 10 for a career-best 35 points, then retired 20 Baltimore Orioles in a row to begin Sunday’s start en route to a 26-point fantasy performance. Always one of the better pitchers at neutralizing hard contact, Rodriguez’s control has stepped up this season, his 4.3% walk rate through his first five starts significantly beneath his 8.0% number, and he’s getting significantly more vertical movement on his cutter, his go-to out pitch against right-handed batters. He had a 19-win and 213-strikeout season as recently as 2019 and did that while facing a considerably tougher schedule as an American League East pitcher. Rodriguez’s control gains alone lower the amount of WHIP risk he previously had, and by the way, he’s out there in more than three-quarters of ESPN leagues.
Brandon Pfaadt, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks: Following the team’s decision to designate Madison Bumgarner for assignment — the move effectively puts him on the path toward free agency, unless he wishes to accept a demotion to the minor leagues — the Diamondbacks have a rotation opening beginning on Monday. They’ll fill it initially with a different widely available pitcher, Tommy Henry, but it’s clear that this move advances Pfaadt’s, their top pitching prospect, big-league timetable. Equipped with a 94-95 mph fastball, swift-moving slider and changeup, Pfaadt delivered a trio of promising spring-training outings (among four total), posting a 3.75 ERA and 33.3% strikeout rate in Cactus League play, and he’s coming off back-to-back strong outings for Triple-A Reno (combined 12 innings, 13 strikeouts and two runs allowed). Considering how often rotation openings come up for teams, as well as his own next-in-line status following Henry’s promotion, Pfaadt is a smart pitcher to stash now.
Hitting schedule advantages
One of the reasons Henry isn’t an ideal pickup from the two-start list is that the Diamondbacks will spend their upcoming weekend at Coors Field, a no-no for less-proven pitchers in fantasy. However, that series naturally boosts the value of visiting hitters, and the Diamondbacks are no different. They’ll begin the week with three home games against the weak Kansas City Royals pitching staff, and are projected to face three left-handed starters in their six games total.
The three lefty opponents present a great bounce-back opportunity for two of the more experienced hitters from the Diamondbacks’ lineup, No. 2 hitter Ketel Marte and cleanup hitter Christian Walker. Marte is a .281/.348/.475 hitter (.355 wOBA) against lefties since the beginning of last season, while Walker is a .263/.348/.506 (.363) hitter against them during that same time span, with their wOBAs placing in the 81st and 83rd percentiles among hitters with at least 100 plate appearances against lefties. Each now finds himself available in greater than one-quarter of ESPN leagues entering the week, but both should be slotted into your lineup at least through Week 4.
Three starting pitchers managers should add