Hey, it's Friday, so where are all the games? In what continues to be a bizarre schedule, a result of the midweek opening to the season, many East Coast cities have an off day following their home openers on Thursday.
The short slate thins the herd for those seeking pitchers or hitters to fill their open roster spots. Many are nearing the end of a long 11-day first transaction period and need to make up ground. That's where we come into play, poring over the matchups, unearthing under-the-radar players in favorable spots.
Trevor Williams (R), rostered in 4 percent of ESPN leagues, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Cincinnati Reds: In what's going to be a common theme, the Reds' offense will pick it up, but early on, it has been sluggish versus right-handers with a high strikeout clip. Williams' first start was curious, no-hitting the Tigers through six but walking five with only one whiff. Working in pitcher-friendly PNC Park is always a good thing when looking for a spot starter.
Brandon Woodruff (R), 2 percent, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Chicago Cubs: Woodruff won the fifth starter role but has been working out of the bullpen to this point, as the Brewers have taken advantage of the early schedule. The Cubs are another club off to a slow start against righties, including a hefty 25 percent strikeout rate in this scenario. Woodruff isn't dominant, but he does miss ample bats to be dangerous.
Derek Holland (L), 1 percent, San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Dodgers: After struggling against southpaws in 2016, the Dodgers reversed that last season, but they are off to a poor start against left-handers to begin 2018. They'll turn it around, but why not take advantage early? With the cavernous AT&T Park at his back, the veteran Holland is an option in deeper formats. Holland is coming off a terrible campaign with the White Sox, with whom his walk and home run rates ballooned. The Giants hope the league and venue change get Holland back on track.
Parker Bridwell (R), 1 percent, Los Angeles Angels vs. Oakland Athletics: Bridwell is an intriguing hurler, as he's a healthy arm among a staff of injury-prone teammates. Bridwell isn't dominating, but he doesn't beat himself with walks. If the righty can keep the ball in the yard, he'll keep the Angels and their revamped offense in games. Especially at home, Bridwell is worth a look when handed the ball.
Pitchers to avoid
Kevin Gausman (R), 80 percent, Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees: Even if you're on the Gausman bandwagon, this is far too dangerous a matchup to roll the dice. I'm not giving up on a solid season from the inconsistent righty, but considering his issues with the long ball, Gausman is best kept on reserve.
With all the buzz around bullpens, there was surprisingly little talk about Kelvin Herrera. Granted, the Royals don't profile to give a lot of save chances, but a healthy Herrera is perfect as a third closer in shallower leagues or second closer in deeper formats. Thus far, Herrera looks like the dominating pre-2017 version, throwing 97 mph, fanning five without a free pass in 2 1/3 innings.
Projected game scores
GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. The "*" symbol means the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author's ratings.
Caleb Joseph (R), 1 percent, Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees (LHP CC Sabathia): Sabathia still gives lefty hitters fits, but according to ESPN research associate Kyle Soppe, the southpaw is one of the weakest pitchers versus righty swingers the past several seasons. Joseph is trying to hold off top prospect Chance Sisco. To do so, he'll need to take advantage of opportunities with the platoon edge.
Luis Valbuena (L), 3 percent, Los Angeles Angels vs. Oakland Athletics (RHP Daniel Gossett): With dual first and third base eligibility, Valbuena is on the first-call list when there's an opening at corner. Angels Stadium may not be the best hitter's park, but the Halos should score some runs. Gossett registers the third-lowest projected game score in today's rankings, in large part due to a 2017 season in which he surrendered 21 homers in only 91 1/3 frames.
Logan Forsythe (R), 4 percent, Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants (LHP Derek Holland): Forsythe historically handles southpaws well, sporting a .354 weighted on-base average (wOBA) with the platoon edge.
Drew Robinson (L), 1 percent, Texas Rangers vs. Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Marco Estrada): Robinson has made this space a couple of times, and for good reason. In the first week of the season, Robinson recorded both a homer and steal, though all isn't rosy, as he fanned seven times in 11 at-bats. Still, the ability to score points with his bat or legs comes in handy on a fill-in basis.
Marcus Semien (R), 28 percent, Oakland Athletics at Los Angeles Angels (RHP Parker Bridwell): Shortstop has been a hard spot to find help, with old favorites Semien and Freddy Galvis leading the way. Eventually, others will emerge, but for now, find your replacement shortstop first, then move on to other open positions. Despite lacking the platoon bump, Semien has been hitting at the top of the Athletics' lineup.
Ryan Flaherty (L), 6 percent, Atlanta Braves at Colorado Rockies (RHP German Marquez): With Johan Camargo sidelined, Flaherty has parlayed a strong start into regular playing time at the hot corner whenever a righty is on the hill. Marquez is talented, but Coors Field is still Coors Field.
Tyler Wade (L), 1 percent, New York Yankees vs. Baltimore Orioles (RHP Kevin Gausman): Wade's solid spring earned some early-season playing time, but at some point, Gleyber Torres will be ready. Wade's strength is running, but he's been on base only three times in the first week. If he does get on, Wade has a good chance to take advantage of one of the weaker batteries on the slate with respect to controlling the running game.
Randal Grichuk (R), 22 percent, Toronto Blue Jays at Texas Rangers (LHP Matt Moore): Last season, Moore exhibited reverse splits, but that's not something to rely on repeating. It's still best to take advantage of power hitters with the platoon edge in a hitter's park.
Gerardo Parra (L), 5 percent, Colorado Rockies vs. Atlanta Braves (RHP Brandon McCarthy): For the latter part of his career, McCarthy has pitched well between DL stints. He's healthy now, throwing the ball well. That said, while he is a cerebral hurler, it takes more than that to handle Coors Field, with Parra and possibly Ryan McMahon or Tony Wolters the only Rockies likely available in a majority of leagues.
Brandon Guyer (R), less than 1 percent, Cleveland Indians vs. Kansas City Royals (LHP Danny Duffy): The danger with using right-handed platoon hitters is they're likely to be pinch hit for later in the game, as they'll inevitably face a right-handed reliever. Guyer is no exception, but he should see Duffy a few times. The Royals' southpaw is coming of an outing during which he allowed three long balls to right-handers in just four frames.
Hitter matchup ratings
Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's history (three years' worth) as well as 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 to 10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. 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.