MLB Week 5 Pitching Waiver Wire: A Few Closers Worth Rostering

NameTeamPositionESPN Own%
Dane DunningTexas RangersSP33.2
JT BrubakerPittsburgh PiratesSP18.6
Taijuan WalkerNew York MetsSP28.2
Josh FlemingTampa Bay RaysSP4.9
Emmanuel ClaseCleveland IndiansRP48.9

1. Dane Dunning | SP | Texas Rangers

Dunning’s solid start in Ranger blue has helped curb the pain of trading away Lance Lynn. So far in three starts, Dunning has allowed just one earned run in 15 innings, good enough for a 0.60 ERA. He has also struck out 16 batters while walking just two. While the 26-year-old does not have overpowering stuff, he has great command, and continues to utilize his pitch mix, led by a great sinker, to induce weak contact. Even going back to his minor league track record, Dunning has done nothing but generate swings and misses and create weak contact for opposing hitters. For such a highly-regarded prospect to follow up a solid 2020 with a great start in 2021, he should be taken seriously.

2. JT Brubaker | SP | Pittsburgh Pirates

Brubaker isn’t the shiniest tool in the shed, but at this point, it’s hard to keep overlooking him. Through his first three starts, Brubaker has a 1.76 ERA and 1.043 WHIP in 15.1 innings of work. He’s also struck out 18 batters while walking just 5. Dating back to 2020, Bruber now has 66 strikeouts in 62.2 innings. His ability to generate swings and misses gives him a solid baseline to work with, as evident by his 4.16 and 3.95 FIP over that stretch. As it stands, he should get his next start at home against Kansas City.

3. Taijuan Walker | SP | New York Mets

How long will it take before Taijuan Walker starts getting the credit he is due? While referencing his injury history is fair, he’s still managed a 3.82 ERA over 592 career innings. After missing most of 2018 and 2019 with injuries, Walker began his redemption arc in Seattle in 2020 and was ultimately traded to Toronto midseason, before signing with the Mets this offseason. Over that stretch beginning with Seattle in the 2020 season, Walker has a 2.69 ERA over 63.2 innings. This year he has a 2.61 ERA in 10.1 innings of work over his first two starts, including 12 strikeouts and five walks. Keep in mind, Walker has great stuff and is just 28 years old. If he’s healthy, which it appears he is, he could soon find himself a permanent home on fantasy rosters for the rest of the season.

4. Josh Fleming | SP | Tampa Bay Rays

While you won’t find Josh Fleming at the top of the Rays’ prospect list with the likes of Wander Franco and Luis Patino, Josh Fleming is off to a solid start in his major league career. He finished 2020 with a 2.78 ERA over 32.1 innings of work. So far in 2021, he’s 1-1 with a 0.87 ERA in 10.1 innings. While you’d like to see a better strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5-to-2, it’s hard not to fall in love with results of Fleming’s pitching. His HardHit%, Average Exit Velocity, and Chase Rate are all in the 89th-percentile or higher. As it stands, Fleming should get a start at home against Houston this week and is worth an add.

5. Emmanuel Clase | RP | Cleveland Indians

I didn’t include any relief pitchers in last week’s pitching waiver wire. This week, however, I couldn’t resist. No longer can we overlook Emmanuel Clase. It seems the preseason hype over James Karinchak was a little premature, as Clase seems to have already taken over as the top dog. The 23-year-old Dominican Republic native impressed as a rookie for Texas in 2019 and was ultimately sent to Cleveland in the Corey Kluber trade. After missing 2020 with a suspension, Clase is off to a hot start in 2021. Through 7.1 innings of relief, Clase has yet to give up an earned run, while striking out 10. Even more promising is his takeover of 9th inning duties, as he has now racked up four saves. With Cleveland figuring to be at least a decent team, Clase should put together a roster-worthy season if he stays penciled in as the closer.

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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