Gaudin, Paulino good spot-start options

We can't have aces trot out to the mound for us every day, and on Friday, a number of fourth and fifth starters -- or even worse, Quadruple-A pitchers -- take the ball. But that does provide an opportunity to fish for a couple of spot starters, as even those back-of-the-rotation hurlers can pick up some strikeouts and a win or two. In Chad Gaudin, Jorge De La Rosa and Felipe Paulino, you have a trio of starters who strike out more than eight batters per nine innings and are owned in less than 5 percent of leagues. Will any of them be worth streaming, providing that extra boost for your head-to-head matchup? Take a look at the day's rankings to find out:

For starters

Starting pitcher rankings for July 3

Rk.: The author's ranking of that pitcher for that day only. T: Pitcher throws left-handed or right-handed. W-L: Pitcher's win-loss record. ERA: Pitcher's earned run average. WHIP: Pitcher's average number of walks plus hits surrendered per inning. K/9: Pitcher's average number of strikeouts per nine innings. OPSA: Pitcher's on-base plus slugging percentage surrendered to opponents. OPS: Pitcher's opponent's composite team on-base plus slugging percentage. CT%: Pitcher's opponent's success rate putting the ball in play (versus striking out).

Selected notes:
Everything about Joel Pineiro has been impressive, other than his strikeout rate. Can you believe he's averaging 6 2/3 innings per start? He allows a lot of hits, sure, but since most of them are on the ground, not many go for extra bases. The better lineups will hit him often enough to make it a moot point, but against poor offenses, his skill set can really shine, and only three offenses have a worse team OPS than the Reds' .711 mark. … Hiroki Kuroda hasn't walked a batter in four consecutive starts, striking out 22 batters in 26 1/3 innings during that span. The fact that his ERA in those starts is 5.17 might be a little disheartening, but in the grand scheme of things, a 22-0 strikeout-to-walk ratio is a winning formula. Kuroda has been undone by four home runs, but since he's facing the Padres in Petco Park, where the home team slugs a major league-worst .341, that shouldn't be much of a problem. … A matchup against the Rangers in Arlington will be a good test of just how healthy Scott Kazmir is. He pitched well during his rehab starts and in his return versus the Marlins, but the Rangers are deadly at home. Fortunately, he has done well against the Rangers in his career (2.09 ERA, 1.07 WHIP), even at Rangers Ballpark, and Texas has struggled quite a bit against lefties this season. … It now has been two months since Kenshin Kawakami allowed more than three runs in a start. That he has compiled only five quality starts during that time is a little disappointing, but he has a 3.20 ERA the past two months nonetheless. Assuming he can keep that streak going for at least one more outing, a start against the punchless Nationals also offers a good shot at win No. 5, giving him value as a spot starter. … Chad Gaudin has been extremely inconsistent, getting pounded one start and then dominating his next. He has strung together his most impressive streak of starts recently, however, striking out 28 batters in 21 innings en route to a 2.14 ERA his past three starts. He might be risky to depend on, but a 28-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio is worth gambling on. … Felipe Paulino dominated the Tigers in his return from a strained groin, so one must imagine he's feeling pretty healthy. He struck out nine, giving him 46 strikeouts in 50 2/3 innings this season, and while his ERA is still bloated, it hasn't been all his fault; his .353 batting average on balls in play indicates he has been quite unlucky. But let's not beat around the bush: The main reason for his recommendation is a matchup against the lowly Giants. You simply are not risking all that much by throwing him out there. A good bet for some strikeouts and a better-than-average chance at a win is all you can ask from a spot starter.

Now batting

Hitters' count:

Hideki Matsui, OF, Yankees: Not only is Matsui 6-for-11 against Brian Tallet, but four of those hits have gone for extra bases, including one home run. Tallet might be a southpaw, but lefties hit him better than righties; his .869 OPS against left-handers is more than 200 points higher than his mark against righties.
Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs: Eleven of his 21 hits versus Jeff Suppan have been of the extra-base variety, including an impressive four long balls. Suppan can't seem to solve him; overall, Lee is hitting .447 in 47 at-bats.
A.J. Pierzynski, C, White Sox: Pierzynski apparently loves facing Zack Greinke; he has a .412 average against the Royals ace in 34 at-bats. He hasn't taken any walks, instead slapping singles all over the place, and he has kept up that trend this season, going 5-for-8 with a double and four singles against him.
Curtis Granderson, OF, Tigers: The splits are in Granderson's favor -- lefties hit .349 off Kevin Slowey, while 16 of Granderson's 18 dingers have come against righties -- and history is as well, as he has gone 4-for-12 with two doubles and a homer.
Brian Roberts, 2B, Orioles: Against Ervin Santana, Roberts is hitting .381 and slugging .714 in 21 at-bats, blasting two home runs in the process. He has yet to face Santana this season, but he has to be licking his chops to get a shot at the right-hander as he returns from the disabled list. For Santana's sake, let's hope the righty is close to 100 percent.
Jose Lopez, 2B, Mariners: The free swinger obviously sees something he likes when he faces Tim Wakefield, as he's 4-for-12 against him. Most notably, all four were extra-base hits, including a home run, giving him a robust .833 slugging percentage against the knuckleballer.

Travis Hafner, DH, Indians: Left-handers are slugging a whopping .602 and have hit 12 homers off Trevor Cahill. Even better for Hafner, his shoulder has responded well since being activated from the disabled list, so he should become an everyday player once again.
Michael Cuddyer, OF, Twins: Cuddyer has hit as many home runs (six) against left-handed pitching as he has against righties in 126 fewer at-bats. His slugging percentage is also 126 points higher, and he faces Luke French, a rookie left-hander making his first major league start.

Pitchers' count:

J.J. Hardy, SS, Brewers: Hardy has shown some signs of breaking out of his seasonlong funk, but seek alternatives when he faces Carlos Zambrano, who has limited him to two hits in 19 at-bats, striking him out five times.
Mike Cameron, OF, Brewers: Cameron has been even worse, with just a single to his name in 13 at-bats against Big Z, also striking out five times.
Hank Blalock, 1B/3B, Rangers: Scott Kazmir looked good in his return Saturday, and a healthy Kazmir is usually the last thing left-handers want to see; he limited them to a .214 average and a .587 OPS the past three seasons. Southpaws have always been Blalock's anathema, and predictably, Blalock is hitless in six at-bats, with three strikeouts, against Kazmir in his career.
Stephen Drew, SS, Diamondbacks: Jorge De La Rosa is a lefty-killer in his own right, and his splits have been particularly one-sided this season, as southpaws have hit just .176 against him. Drew has struck out in half of his at-bats versus De La Rosa lifetime.
Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox: Konerko has been thoroughly dominated by Zack Greinke in his career, striking out 29 percent of the time while hitting .111 in 45 at-bats. He has drawn a couple of walks and even hit a home run, but a .178 slugging percentage isn't anything to write home about.
Marco Scutaro, 2B/3B/SS, Blue Jays: Before hitting a double in the third inning Wednesday, Scutaro was hitless in his past 16 at-bats, and you have to go back to June 21 to find his last multihit game. He's slugging worse than .400 against right-handers, and he's only 3-for-12 with three singles versus A.J. Burnett in his career.

If you're hardcore

Josh Willingham, OF, Nationals: With five multihit games in his past seven, Willingham is heating up again. He also has five doubles in that span. He's effective against both righties and lefties, so fantasy owners have a full-time outfielder at their disposal, and one owned in just 2.3 percent of ESPN.com standard leagues.
Martin Prado, 1B/2B/3B, Braves: Prado has been serviceable in limited playing time for the Braves, but Kelly Johnson's prolonged slump, combined with Prado's six hits, six RBIs and four runs scored the past two games, earned the praise of manager Bobby Cox, who said he is "too hot" to remove from the starting lineup in the near future. Since he's hitting in front of Chipper Jones and Brian McCann, he becomes a nice option in NL-only leagues until Johnson wins back his job.
Franklin Gutierrez, OF, Mariners: Since June 16, Gutierrez is hitting .392 with four home runs, also stealing a couple of bases in the process. It probably won't last too long, but fantasy is all about milking the hot hand.
Gordon Beckham, 3B/SS, White Sox: Beckham has multiple hits in three consecutive games and four of his past five. Of course, when you're dealing with a much-ballyhooed hotshot rookie, nothing is a secret for long, as his ownership already has increased 3 percent in the past week.
Scott Hairston, OF, Padres: After going just 2-for-20 in his first five games off the disabled list, Hairston has since gone 6-for-14, with four extra-base hits (one homer). He's also the rare Padre who can hit well at Petco Park, as he's hit .290 with 18 home runs in 328 career at-bats there.


Injury list: Out

Adrian Beltre, 3B, Mariners (15-day DL, shoulder)
Khalil Greene, SS, Cardinals (15-day DL, anxiety disorder)
Mike Lowell, 3B, Red Sox (15-day DL, hip)

Injury list: Day-to-day

Nelson Cruz, OF, Ranges (back)
Mark DeRosa, 2B/3B/OF, Cardinals (wrist): DeRosa could be out until the weekend with a mild sprain in his left wrist but isn't expected to land on the disabled list.
Yunel Escobar, SS, Braves (hip)
Casey McGehee, 2B/3B, Brewers (knee)
Brandon Inge, C/3B, Tigers (knees): Inge was inactive Wednesday, and earlier in the week, manager Jim Leyland said Inge will receive a day off a week to rest his sore knees leading up to the All-Star break. Consider him probable for Friday.
Adam Jones, OF, Orioles (neck/shoulder): Jones crashed into the outfield wall Tuesday and missed Wednesday's contest. He isn't expected to be out for long, however.
Nate McLouth, OF, Braves (hamstring)

Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins (groin): Morneau left Wednesday's game in the seventh inning but is targeting a Friday return.
Mike Napoli, C, Angels (knee; available to pinch hit): Napoli was hit in the kneecap Tuesday and sat out Wednesday's game, although he did appear as a pinch hitter. Since being a catcher calls for squatting, he might not be able to bounce back immediately, and he's questionable for Friday.
Alexei Ramirez, 2B/SS, White Sox (finger): Ramirez left Wednesday's game in the eighth inning after going 3-for-4 and is not expected to play Thursday. His status for Friday will become clearer once the results from the X-rays are known.
• Ervin Santana, SP, Angels (15-day DL, triceps): All signs point to Santana returning Friday, pushing Matt Palmer back a day to Saturday and leaving Sean O'Sullivan skipped and probably out of the rotation.

Weather concerns

• Only the Tigers-Twins affair is weatherproof.
• Rain looks like a potential problem in Denver, where the Diamondbacks and Rockies have a 50 to 60 percent chance of storms. In the Midwest, Kansas City has a possibility of storms (40-50 percent), while on the East Coast, Florida (40 percent) and Boston (30 percent) round out the day's weather risks.

Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.