We've had some pretty awesome pitcher breakouts in the early going of the Fantasy Baseball season, but you'd be forgiven for not being excited about the state of starting pitcher after the first 11 days of the season. Because the attrition rate has just been absolutely ridiculous so far. 

At this point, you surely know the names, but if not, here's an (incomplete!) recap: Spencer Strider, on the IL with UCL damage; Gerrit Cole, out since the spring with elbow inflammation; Justin Steele, hamstring; Eury Perez and Shane Bieber, both having Tommy John surgery. And that's just from the top 30 in SP ADP. That's not counting Sonny Gray, Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga, Walker Buehler, Bryan Woo, Eduardo Rodriguez, Braxton Garrett, or Kyle Bradish, among others, who opened the season on the IL. 

And it's certainly not counting the likes of Kevin Gausman or Max Fried, who have been ineffective early on while dealing with worrying diminished velocity, but who are, as far as we know, currently healthy. Nor is it counting Shohei Ohtani, Sandy Alcantara, Jacob deGrom, Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May, Jeffrey Springs, Shane McClanahan, or Robbie Ray, all of whom are currently recovering from Tommy John surgery and may not pitch this season. 

Attrition is always a big part of the pitching landscape, but it feels like it's been worse than ever over the past year or so. And, with Strider out for an indeterminate amount of time and Bieber and Perez requiring Tommy John surgery this week, things are getting significantly worse, not better. So, as we take a look at the top waiver-wire targets ahead of Week 3, we have to look at the starting pitcher position first. 

We'll start with some shallow-league targets who probably need to be more rostered than they are, then focus on some short-term streamers, before turning our attention to some deeper-league targets who might not be able to help right now, but who have the upside to at least start to make up for what you've lost with those big-name pitchers.

Of course, it goes without saying that every single pitcher written about below has an implied, "If he stays healthy …" tacked on to the end of every write-up at this point. 

10- or 12-team targets

  • Mackenzie Gore, Nationals (67%) – I wrote about Gore's first start here, where he showcased both increased velocity and an improved changeup, and he kept rolling in his second start against the Phillies Sunday. I think many Fantasy players are hesitant to buy in, given his underwhelming 2023, but I'm excited about what Gore has shown so far and think he can be a must-start guy. 
  • Tanner Houck, Red Sox (67%) – Houck seems much more confident in his splitter this season, and adding a second very good secondary pitch could help him take off. I'm impressed. 
  • Luis Severino, Mets (72%) – Severino's second start went a lot better than his first, and he now has 13 strikeouts to two walks in 10 innings of work. His slider still isn't where it needs to be, either, so there's room for even more improvement if he figures that out. 
  • Zack Littell, Rays (71%) – Littell doesn't have huge swing and miss stuff, but he's got terrific command, a very good team backing him up, and a 3.58 ERA in 106 innings since joining the Rays. He's got good matchups against the Angels in his next two starts and should be a solid option moving forward.
  • Luis Gil, Yankees (62%) – Gil hasn't been able to get through the fifth inning in either of his starts so far, so he might belong more in the "long-term upside" category below. But he's looked really impressive so far and might have three legit swing-and-miss pitches if his changeup can play up consistently like it did Sunday, when he had four whiffs on nine swings against the Blue Jays. His next three starts should come against the Guardians, Rays, and A's, which is a pretty good stretch to get him in your lineup for. 

Slightly deeper streamers

  • Logan Allen, Guardians (62%) – Allen has had a pretty solid start so far, but I'm just not sure how much upside is here for a relative soft-tosser. But he's relatively widely available and pitches for a team that tends to get the most out of their pitchers, so it's not a bad bet to make, at least for his next start against the Luis Robert-less White Sox. After that, he might face the Red Sox, which is harder to get excited about, so consider sitting him until an upcoming turn against the A's.
  • Brady Singer, Royals (74%) – Singer has had some hype around him before, and with 14 strikeouts to just two walks through his first 13.1 innings, maybe he's starting to live up to it. He's traded some sinkers for some four-seam fastballs, and that pitch has been a much better swing-and-miss offering, so maybe that combination can play up. I'd be hesitant to start him against the Astros this week, but I'm not outright avoiding him. 
  • Ronel Blanco, Astros (65%) – Scott White got the scouting report for Blanco after his no-hitter earlier this week, and he might not just be a two-start wonder. This is another one where I don't love the upcoming matchups – two against the Rangers, followed by a turn against the Braves – but if he can pitch like did against the Blue Jays last week, it might not matter. 
  • Javier Assad, Cubs (30%) – I think Assad is probably just decent and not much more, but with two starts on the way against the Padres and Mariners this week, he can be a decent streamer to get you through Week 3, especially in points leagues, where he has RP eligibility. 
  • Spencer Turnbull, Phillies (30%) – Another two-start streamer, Turnbull was magnificent in his first start, striking out seven and walking none in five innings against the Reds. I didn't see much to suggest he's suddenly a much better pitcher, but with two starts this week against the middling Cardinals and Pirates, backed by a very good Phillies team, he's a viable streamer. 

Looking for longer-term upside

  • Gavin Williams, Guardians (74%) – Williams flashed ace upside as a rookie, with room to grow his decent strikeout rate thanks to a slider and curveball that both looked like swing-and-miss pitches. He's coming back from an elbow injury – stop me if you've heard that before – but he has the upside you're hoping for if you can stash him. 
  • Bryan Woo, Mariners (76%) – Similar story here: Woo has upside and an elbow injury, though in his case, he's already started throwing without any reported setback yet. 
  • Nick Lodolo, Reds (71%) – Lodolo is likely to make his return from the IL this week, and unlike the two ahead of him, he doesn't have an elbow injury to worry about – his issue is a leg injury dating back to last season. Lodolo wasn't sharp in his final rehab outing Sunday, allowing four runs in 2.2 innings of work, but he has shown legitimate ace strikeout potential and could be a must-start pitcher if he keeps the ball in the yard for the Reds
  • Ricky Tiedemann, Blue Jays (37%) – There's really no question about the upside with Tiedemann, who has 202 strikeouts in 127 innings as a professional. The problem is he has thrown just 127 innings in two-plus seasons as a professional, with shoulder and biceps injuries slowing him down last season and a hamstring injury delaying his start this spring. A couple of iffy starts to kick off his Triple-A season might have slowed his timeline down, but if he irons out those issues, there's no doubting there is difference-making upside. 
  • Edward Cabrera, Marlins (30%) – Cabrera has walked seven in seven innings across two minor-league starts on his rehab assignment, which isn't a great sign as he works his way back from a shoulder issue from the spring. That's always been the biggest issue for Cabrera, and it might continue to hold him back. But if he ever figures it out, there's significant upside here, and I'll still chase it when all it costs is a bench spot (or, ideally, IL stash). 


Henry Davis, Pirates (58%) – We've seen very little from Davis so far this season in terms of results, and his 29.4% strikeout rate is certainly a red flag. But he's also a recent top prospect with plus raw power and athleticism who just gained catcher eligibility, so I'm just going to keep buying in on the upside and hope he figures it out. 

Deep-league target:  Ivan Herrera, Cardinals (5%) – A hand injury to Willson Contreras has given Herrera a chance to play more regularly lately, and he responded with three straight two-hit games last week. It's not clear how much he'll play when Contreras is healthy, but he might be forcing his way into the lineup enough to be relevant in two-catcher leagues.

First Base

Alex Kirilloff, Twins (37%) – Kirilloff has always had potential, but injuries have derailed his attempted breakouts in the past. Well, he's healthy right now and sporting a massive 93 mph average exit velocity and 12.5% barrel rate. It's a tiny sample size, but Kirilloff has hit safely in every game he's appeared in so far this season and is worth an add in case the former top prospect is finally figuring it out now that he's healthy. 

Deep-league target: Jared Walsh, Rangers (10%) – Walsh is a platoon bat with an expiration date for his Fantasy relevance, but Nate Lowe isn't going to be back this week, so Walsh should still be a useful option for a little while longer.

Second base

Brice Turang, Brewers (54%) – Sorry, points leagues players, but this one isn't for you. Turang has started seven games in a row for the Brewers and has seven stolen bases in that stretch after Sunday's theft. He probably isn't going to be a good enough hitter to matter in those shallower points leagues, but he looks must-roster in all categories leagues with how much he's playing and running, especially. 

Deep-league target: Luis Garcia, Nationals (6%) – I've always been intrigued by Garcia, who was probably rushed to the majors and hasn't looked great as a result. But he has generally made a lot of contact while showcasing plus raw power, and he's tapping into it right now, with 10 of his first 15 batted balls coming off the bat at 95 mph or harder. Skepticism is warranted, but this could be a delayed breakout for a guy with the physical tools to go 20-10.

Third base

Michael Busch, Cubs (41%) – Busch started the season in a 2-for-13 slump, but he had three hits Wednesday and is 6 for 12 with an extra-base hit in three straight games since. Busch's minor-league track record suggested he should have a terrific eye at the plate with plus power, and that's what we're seeing so far, with a 21% strikeout rate and 91.3 mph average exit velocity. I liked him coming in, and we're seeing signs of why. 

Deep-league target: Willi Castro, Twins (25%) – It's been a tough start to the season for Castro, who is just 3 for 28 entering play Sunday with no steals. But he's playing everyday in Royce Lewis' absence, and stole 33 bases last season as much less than an everyday player, so his upside there makes him worth rostering in all categories leagues where you are chasing speed.


Vaughn Grissom, Red Sox (36%) – Grissom should begin a minor-league rehab assignment this week, as he continues to work his way back from a spring groin injury. Grissom has shown the ability (in small samples) to be a batting average standout, and that skill set should play very well at Fenway Park, and he could be back within the next couple of weeks – though the second base eligibility we assumed was coming may not be there after Trevor Story's shoulder injury.

Deep-league target: Blaze Alexander, Diamondbacks (7%) – I'm not sure I buy the hot start Alexander is off to, but in deeper leagues, it makes sense to add him just in case, because Geraldo Perdomo's knee injury could keep him in the lineup for the next month or so.


MJ Melendez, Royals (51%) – Melendez's breakout might have already happened last year and we just didn't notice. He sported elite quality of contact metrics and his .325 expected wOBA was quite a bit better than his actual .310 mark – though, it's worth noting he's blowing both marks out of the water so far. He's homered in three of the past four games and has legitimate 30-plus homer power if he sustains the contact improvements he's showing so far. 

Ceddanne Rafaela, Red Sox (49%) – The Red Sox have so far not been willing to move Rafaela to shortstop after Trevor Story's shoulder injury – but he has appeared in two games at second base, so he'll only need three more to gain eligibility there. Rafaela probably needs to do more at the plate to force his way into the everyday lineup, and I have my questions about that – he hit for power in the minors with plus speed, but also had plate discipline issues that kept scouts from believing fully in his offensive profile. Still, there's clearly talent here, and I do expect him to play somewhere more or less everyday moving forward. If the bat shows up, he'll be a must-start Fantasy option. 

Lars Nootbaar, Cardinals (47%) – I thought there was a chance Victor Scott would prove so good that the Cardinals might have a playing time crunch looming in the outfield, but that has definitely not been the case so far, as the rookie is hitting just .083 after going hitless Sunday. He probably needs more time in the minors, which means Nootbaar should be coming back to an everyday role whenever he's ready, which could be as soon as the beginning of this coming week. He didn't break out the way many hoped last season, but we'll take 15-homers and double-digit steals at the top of a decent enough lineup. 

Deep-league targets: JJ Bleday, Athletics (15%), Dominic Fletcher, White Sox (0%) – Fletcher is probably just for AL-only leagues, but Fletcher might get some decent run with Luis Robert on the IL with a hip injury. He's played 167 games at Triple-A (mostly in the hitter paradise of the PCL), and he has 15 homers and 10 steals.