Daily notes: Pitcher and hitter rankings for Friday

Don't sleep on Toronto Blue Jays starter Francisco Liriano when he faces the Tampa Bay Rays. Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that didn't take long. Midweek washouts have forced some rotation changes. Sometimes this causes a loss of a pitching start or turns a favorable matchup into one you'd rather avoid in your fantasy baseball lineup. Maybe it gives a hitter an unexpected day off or vaults him into facing a better hurler. That's what we're here for -- to identify some under-the-radar pitchers and hitters so you can end the fantasy week in a strong fashion.

As always, if you have a question about anything on Friday's slate, feel free to pose it in the comments or tweet me @ToddZola. Here are some low-owned pitchers and hitters to consider on the first Friday of the regular season.


Starting pitchers

Mike Leake (St. Louis Cardinals vs. Cincinnati Reds, 6 percent ownership in ESPN leagues): "Crafty" is usually reserved for lefties who don't throw hard; Leake is a crafty righty. Sitting at about 91 mph, Leake sports a below-average strikeout rate. However, Busch Stadium is a comfortable place to pitch, while the visiting Reds don't sport an intimidating attack.

Francisco Liriano (Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays, 34 percent): Fantasy enthusiasts have been slow to warm to Liriano, especially after being dealt to the Jays. However, since becoming a denizen of the American League East, Liriano has twirled a sparkling 2.92 ERA with a tidy 1.18 ETA, bolstered by an impressive 9.5 K/9. The veteran southpaw is in a great spot to kick off 2017 in like fashion, facing a Rays squad that has troubles with lefties. Spot starters are usually better at home, but we're looking at a significant park upgrade, as Tropicana Field is much more forgiving than Rogers Centre.

Mike Foltynewicz (Atlanta Braves at Pittsburgh Pirates, 18 percent): The guy known as Folty was a popular sleeper in deeper formats, making Tristan Cockcroft's annual Kings of Command list. The emerging righty catches the Pirates at a good time, as they faced the tough combo of Rick Porcello and Chris Sale between off days. The Pirates hitters' timing may be off a little -- to Foltynewicz's benefit.


Sam Dyson is off to a horrendous start, putting Matt Bush (11 percent) and Jeremy Jeffress (3 percent) in the mix for saves out of the Texas Rangers' bullpen. With A.J. Griffin on the hill, expect the Rangers to go to their relievers early if he has a lead over Raul Alcantara and the Oakland Athletics.

Trolling for that all-important save? Despite being on the road, Phil Hughes and the Minnesota Twins should be favorites over Derek Holland and the Chicago White Sox. This renders Brandon Kintzler and his 26 percent ESPN ownership a sneaky plug-and-play.

Projected game scores

Note: W-L, ERA and WHIP are full-year 2016 statistics. GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. A "*" means that the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author's ratings.



Chris Gimenez, Minnesota Twins (less than 1 percent): With southpaw Holland on the hill, Gimenez should get the start behind the dish, enjoying the platoon edge in a hitter's park.

First base

Jesus Aguilar, Milwaukee Brewers (2 percent): Aguilar bashed his way on to the Opening Day roster and is a good bet to play against lefties, at least until he cools off. The visiting Cubs are sending Brett Anderson to the bump in hitter-friendly Miller Park.

Second base

Devon Travis, Toronto Blue Jays (43 percent): While the righty-swinging Travis doesn't have the requisite number of plate appearances to be deemed a reverse-split hitter, ESPN Fantasy's Kyle Soppe points out that so far in Travis' young career, he has handled right-handed slants as well as lefty offerings. This is relevant, since Travis faces Matt Andriese, a righty who isn't any more effective versus right-handers than he is left-handers. Further, Travis leads off a potentially potent lineup.

Third base

Chase Headley, New York Yankees (6 percent): Switch-hitting Headley will step into the left-handed batter's box in hitter-friendly Camden Yards with righty Ubaldo Jimenez on the hill for the Baltimore Orioles. Jimenez is more effective versus righties, putting Headley in a good spot to knock in some mates from the No. 7 hole, as the visitors are top-heavy with left-handed batters.


Danny Espinosa, Los Angeles Angels (6 percent): Even though he's playing second base for the Halos, Espinosa also qualifies at shortstop for fantasy purposes. The switch-hitter has pop from both sides of the plate, which will come in handy against the hittable Yovani Gallardo.

Corner infield

Mark Reynolds, Colorado Rockies (14 percent): This feels too easy, as Reynolds -- and his pair of homers so far -- sets up in the right-handed box, taking hacks at Hyun-Jin Ryu as the Los Angeles Dodgers visit Coors Field for the Rockies' home opener.

Middle infield

Jed Lowrie, Oakland Athletics (5 percent): Lowrie joins several other switch-hitters making the day's list. The veteran enjoys a nice park boost, facing Griffin in Arlington.


Tyler Naquin, Cleveland Indians (5 percent): While Naquin is being given a chance to play every day, his success against righty throwers assures him of the strong side of the platoon at-bats. Shelby Miller will be on the Chase Field hill for the opposing Arizona Diamondbacks. Miller looked like a different pitcher this spring, but until he proves otherwise, Miller should be considered vulnerable to left-handed hitters.

Matt Joyce, Oakland Athletics (1 percent): It won't be long before we make it a house rule to assume Joyce is in play with a weak righty on the hill, especially in a hitter's park. With the A's traveling to Globe Life Park to face Griffin ... check and check.

Jake Marisnick, Houston Astros (less than 1 percent): The Astros have a lot of moving parts, so it's not a sure thing Marisnick will be in the lineup, and if he is, he'll be batting ninth. Still, in deeper leagues, you may need a fill-in, so with the mediocre southpaw Jason Vargas taking the ball for the Kansas City Royals in Minute Maid Park, it's worth peeking at the lineups to see if Marisnick's name is there.

Hitter ratings

Notes: Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's recent history (three years' worth, as well as the past 21 days) and ballpark factors. "LH" and "RH" ratings account only for left- and right-handed batters, respectively. Weighted on-base average (wOBA) is the primary statistic used in the calculation. Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. So, for example, a 10 is a must-start rating, while a 1 should be avoided (if possible); a 1-2 is poor, 3-4 is fair, 5-6 is average, 7-8 is very good and 9-10 is excellent.