MLB Week 16 Pitching Waiver Wire: Can We Count On Jon Gray Again?

NamePositionTeamESPN Own %
Joe RossSPWashington Nationals35.3
Cole IrvinSPOakland Athletics39.4
Jon GraySPColorado Rockies30.6
Wily PeraltaSPDetroit Tigers4.3
Merrill KellySPArizona Diamondbacks22.6

1. Joe Ross | SP | Washington Nationals

Yes, Joe Ross, again. I put him on last week’s list, despite his tough matchups, and he balled out. He pitched 6.1 innings against the Rays on Tuesday, picking up the win while giving up two earned runs and striking out seven. He followed that up with a loss against the Dodgers, giving up just three earned runs and striking out 11 (!!!) in 6.2 innings pitched. In six starts since the beginning of June, Ross has a 2.31 ERA with a 44-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Once again, he’s just been too good to not roster. He’ll likely pitch against the Padres and Orioles in his first two starts after the All-Star break, followed up possibly with a few starts against the Phillies. He doesn’t get to face the Pirates three times in a row, sure, but he’s been good enough to start him anywhere for now.

2. Cole Irvin | SP | Oakland Athletics

Remember when Cole Irvin was a thing earlier in the year? in six starts from mid-April to mid-May, Irvin maintained a 1.89 ERA with 34 strikeouts and six walks. He came crashing back down to Earth, however, as his ERA in the following six starts ballooned up to 5.13 and his strikeouts were cut in half down to 17. That being said, his last three starts have been much better. He’s posted a 2.25 ERA with 17 strikeouts and five walks in 20 innings pitched, picking up two wins along the way. To be fair, his metrics do not look great. He’s still giving up a ton of hard contact and not striking out enough batters. That being said, I am primarily recommending you pick him up because of the potential in his schedule. It’s hard to pin who his upcoming starts will be against as the All-Star Break usually resets rotations, but he’s got a lot of potential juicy matchups coming up. He’ll likely come out of the break with starts against Cleveland and Seattle, with a lot more Cleveland and Texas in the near future after that. Looking even further, there’s the Yankees, Seattle again, and Detroit on the schedule as well.

3. Jon Gray | SP | Colorado Rockies

How can we forget about Jon Gray? One of the more popular waiver wire staples in recent years, Gray once again finds himself as a premier spot-start option in fantasy baseball. That’s what a career ERA of 4.52 and pitching half of your games at Coors field will do to your fantasy relevance. Gray followed April (3.15 ERA, 3-2 record in six starts) with a worse May (4.44 ERA, 1-3 record in five starts). He made one start in June before hitting the injured list and has made three starts since returning. In those three starts, he has been pretty darn good. He picked up one win and has posted a 2.65 ERA with 23 strikeouts and five walks in 17 innings pitched. All signs point towards Gray as an average pitcher at this point. In addition to his 3.94 ERA, Gray is floating between the 40th and 60th percentiles in Average Exit Velocity, Expected Batting Average, Expected ERA, and Whiff%. That being said, while his upcoming matchups aren’t spectacular, he’s been pitching well over his last few starts and has a strong enough track record of success in his past to be worth rostering.

4. Wily Peralta | SP | Detroit Tigers

Wily Peralta? This is the flyer of the week. This isn’t Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, or Matt Manning. It’s 32-year-old Wily Peralta transitioning to a permanent spot in the Detroit rotation. On the season, Peralta has a 2.14 ERA with 14 strikeouts and five walks in 21 innings pitched. He’s picked up the win in each of his last two starts, not allowing a run in 12 combined innings with 11 strikeouts and zero walks. There’s not much of a sample size in 2021, and his career track record in no way indicates he’s going to maintain a 2.14 ERA. However, he’s pitching well, shouldn’t have an innings limit like his younger teammates will in Detroit, and could have a string of good matchups coming up. As it stands, he’ll likely make his first few starts after the All-Star break against the Rangers and the Royals, to be followed up with either the Twins or the Orioles. The schedule is then followed up with a stretch against Cleveland, Baltimore, and Cleveland again. If players such as Joe Ross and Jon Gray are available in your league, you’re likely not needing to scrape this far down the barrel. However, in deeper leagues, Peralta could be a sneaky player over the next month or so.

5. Merrill Kelly | SP | Arizona Diamondbacks

Down there at the bottom of the barrel with Peralta lies Merrill Kelly. He might still be living off of his 2020 success, where he finished 3-2 with a 2.59 ERA over 31.1 innings pitched. Now with 18 starts in the bank in 2021, 2020 appears to have been more of a fa├žade than anything. On the season, Kelly is 5-7 with a 4.60 ERA, 90 strikeouts, and 26 walks in 103.2 innings pitched. He hasn’t been horrible, he just hasn’t been the pitcher people thought he might be after 2021. That being said, he’s been much better lately. Over his last four starts, Kelly is 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA and 18 strikeouts to just two walks in 25.1 innings pitched. The lack of strikeouts is concerning, as he continues to show an inability to generate swings and misses. Regardless, he’s been getting the job done and should get to face Pittsburgh coming out of the break. He might face Texas in his next start after that, but it’ll likely be the Cubs instead. Either way, this might be a short-lived waiver-wire add. Pick him up for the Pittsburgh start and go from there.

Zach Boeder is a high school math teacher that has a passion for sports and data journalism. Zach received a Bachelor's Degree in Mathematics and a Master's Degree in Education from the University of Arizona. He currently teaches in Saint Paul and Lives in Minneapolis with his partner Sarah, their dog Dozier, and cat Remy. Zach plans to argue for a very long time that "2020 would have been the Twins' year if baseball hadn't been shut down."

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