Aces abound on a busy Friday slate. Keeping pace with, or making up ground on, an opponent featuring Clayton Kershaw or Noah Syndergaard is a tall task, but that's what we're here for. Here are your under-the-radar pitchers and hitters to get your weekend off on a strong note.
Trevor Bauer (Cleveland Indians vs. Detroit Tigers, 29 percent owned in ESPN leagues): In the first of many battles between AL Central foes, Bauer gets the nod, squaring off with Daniel Norris in Progressive Field. With J.D. Martinez out, and Miguel Cabrera yet to get in a groove (though he homered yesterday), Bauer catches the Tigers at a good time. The visitors are always dangerous, but they also are among the league leaders in strikeouts versus right-handers.
Tyler Anderson (Colorado Rockies at San Francisco Giants, 11 percent): A date in the best pitcher's park in the game is just what Anderson needs to get on track, and gain some confidence. The Giants have a keep-the-line-moving type of attack, but it's loaded with lefty swingers, giving Anderson the advantage.
Martin Perez (Texas Rangers at Seattle Mariners, 7 percent): There's risk here, as Perez still suffers from control issues. However, the southpaw enjoys a big park upgrade against a team whose better hitters swing from the left side.
Adalberto Mejia (Minnesota Twins versus Chicago White Sox, 1 percent): Don't chase wins; they're too fickle, right? Wrong. Sorry, but that's bad advice. Yes, there's significant variance, but there's still a positive correlation between wins and quality of team. The home team will be favored with Dylan Covey and the White Sox in town, so if you need a late-week victory, Mejia is in play.
Let's stay in the Twin Cities. Mejia isn't going to go deep into the game, hopefully entrusting a lead to his bullpen. Closer Brandon Kintzler is available in over half of all ESPN leagues, but don't stop there. On a day the bridge to Kintzler will be busy, Ryan Pressley, Matt Belisle and Craig Breslow are in the mix for a hold, or perhaps even a vulture win.
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.
Russell Martin (Toronto Blue Jays, 62 percent): Yeah, I know, Martin exceeds the 50 percent cutoff we use to identify latent lineup help, but it's a self-imposed mark, so I can make exceptions to make a point. Martin if off to a slow start, so it's justifiable he's available in standard ESPN leagues. That said, by season's end, he's likely to finish as a top-ten fantasy backstop. This is the time of season when owners panic and drop slow-starters. Be sure to monitor your league's transactions and be ready to pounce. If you're desperate for a catcher, Travis d'Arnaud is one of the few Mets benefiting from the platoon edge over Conley.
Danny Valencia (Seattle Mariners, 10 percent): In the pitching notes, it was mentioned that Martin Perez would face a bevy of lefty-swinging Mariners. Valencia is an exception. For his career, the journeyman corner infielder has handled southpaw pitching well.
JT Riddle (Miami Marlins, less than 1 percent): Who? Against Syndergaard? Let me explain. Desperate times require desperate measures. If you need speed, Thor is easy to run against. Granted, Riddle needs to find a way to get on, but if he does, he's a threat for a bag. Hitting eighth doesn't help his case, but if nothing else, now you know Syndergaard has his faults -- speed guys can take advantage.
Eugenio Suarez (Cincinnati Reds, 37 percent): Suarez checks all the streaming boxes. He sits in the productive five-hole at home in a hitter's park, enjoying the platoon edge against Tommy Milone, a homer-prone lefty.
Marcus Semien (Oakland Athletics, 47 percent): Semien has quite a lot of pop against lefties, checking in at 14th overall last season in homers per plate appearance versus southpaws. Semien will face Dallas Keuchel, who usually doesn't allow homers, but he also doesn't miss many bats, giving Semien a chance to do damage without taking him deep.
Travis Shaw (Milwaukee Brewers, 44 percent): Shaw has been fairly quiet after going yard on Opening Day. He'll square off with Scott Feldman, coming off a strong effort in St. Louis. On paper, it may not stand out, but it's important to ignore recency bias. Big picture, Shaw should benefit from the platoon edge against an inconsistent pitcher in a homer-friendly venue.
Brandon Phillips (Atlanta Braves, 30 percent): Sometimes we rely too much on platoon matchups and not simply on picking on a weak opposing mound foe. The Braves should do some damage against Jhoulys Chacin with Phillips in the middle of things.
Mitch Haniger (Seattle Mariners 46 percent): Haniger has been batting second in a loaded lineup. Perez's advantage over the likes of Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Jarrod Dyson and Leonys Martin has been cited, and Haniger's righty swing stands to benefit from the encounter.
Brandon Moss (Kansas City Royals, 10 percent): Moss will face JC Ramirez, taking Garrett Richards' spot in the Angels' rotation. Initially, Moss has the platoon edge. "Initially" is key, since Ramirez isn't likely to throw more than four or five innings, since he's coming out of the bullpen. That said, Moss can handle southpaws, so he isn't likely to be lifted if the Angels bring in a lefty, and chances are he'll face a righty again later in the game.
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.