Friday night's slate is the perfect storm for those looking to fortify both their pitching and hitting lineups. There's a full schedule, maximizing options. The highest projected Game Score is 58, suggesting no aces, or at least the better starters have tough opponents. The combination avails a plush inventory of spot starters and hitters in potentially productive spots.
In fact, it's bonus Friday. Since there aren't any pitchers to avoid, you'll get two extra streaming candidates. Here's what you need to head into the weekend on a strong note.
Pitchers to stream
Reynaldo Lopez (R), rostered in 31 percent of ESPN leagues, Chicago White Sox at Minnesota Twins: The Lopez bandwagon is picking up steam, but beware, walks are still an issue. The Twins pose a dangerous offense, so giving them free baserunners is dangerous. However, the underlying metrics portend a jump in strikeouts from the 24-year-old and his 95 mph fastball. Both his swinging strike and first-pitch strike rates usually translate to more punchouts than the 11 in 13 frames Lopez has registered thus far. It won't be often Lopez is also in play for a win, but with Phil Hughes returning from the disabled list, the White Sox should score some runs.
Mike Leake (R), 25 percent, Seattle Mariners vs. Oakland Athletics: Leake won't rack up a ton of whiffs, but he usually doesn't beat himself. He has posted a BB/9 under 2.0 the past two seasons, along with an HR/9 right around 1.0, a below-average mark in today's power-laden climate. Unless he's facing a top offense, or matched up against an ace, Leake will almost always be an option for home starts. Mound opponent Andrew Triggs is pitching well but is not to be feared.
Eduardo Rodriguez (L), 21 percent, Boston Red Sox vs. Baltimore Orioles: Rodriguez's 2018 debut was a mixed bag, as he lasted only 3 2/3 innings, tossing 95 pitches but also fanning seven. The strikeout, along with the win potential is the allure, as it's still cold in Boston, giving the edge to the pitcher facing a powerful, but strikeout-prone Orioles lineup.
Steven Matz (L), 19 percent, New York Mets vs. Milwaukee Brewers: Matz catches the Brewers at a good time, with Christian Yelich sidelined along with a banged-up catcher corps and Lorenzo Cain hobbled. Further, Matz enjoys the platoon edge over two of the Brewers' better bats in Eric Thames and Travis Shaw. Thames may even sit out. The Mets' lefty is looking to get back on track following a couple of injury-riddled seasons. After a lackluster opener, Matz was sharp against the Nationals, fanning eight with two walks in five frames.
Chad Kuhl (R), 3 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates at Miami Marlins: To no one's surprise, the depleted Marlins offense is in the bottom third of the league. The surprise could be they're not among the bottom three. Kuhl has pitched better than his early-season ERA, sporting a respectable 9.3 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9, with only one homer allowed in 10 2/3 frames. Look for his 5.06 ERA to regress the good way facing the Marlins.
Tyson Ross (R), 2 percent, San Diego Padres vs. San Francisco Giants: Long term, there's a lot to worry about with Ross, as the comebacks from thoracic outlet surgery aren't nearly as promising as Tommy John surgery. He's healthy now, and in daily leagues, that's all that matters. The Giants aren't a daunting lineup, but Petco Park remains one of the better venues for hurlers.
Sometimes you need to do more than look at the box score to get the full picture. Nate Jones posted a save Wednesday night. This is relevant, since the White Sox claim they'll split closing duties between Jones and Joakim Soria. Soria registered the first two saves, so on the surface, it was Jones' turn. However, dissecting the late innings suggests otherwise. The White Sox were trailing in the eighth when Jones began to loosen up. They took the lead in the bottom of the inning. Since Jones was hot, and needed the work, he came in for the ninth, picking up his first save. Sure, some clubs would have sat Jones down and summoned their closer, but with Jones' injury history, it made sense not to waste him. In terms of the big picture, Soria is still likely to get the lion's share of saves, with Jones collecting a few more than the typical setup man.
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.
Austin Hedges (R), 17 percent, San Diego Padres vs. San Francisco Giants (LHP Ty Blach): Let's tag in ESPN Fantasy research associate Kyle Soppe to extol the virtues of this matchup. But first, on behalf of the Daily Notes team, congrats to Kyle on his recent engagement! Last Friday, he sent me the weekend's notes early, saying he had "a big personal weekend" upcoming. That's dedication. Soppe points out no one questions Hedges' power; the concern is contact. Soppe then notes contact isn't an issue facing Blach, as the lefty is last among qualified starters. Further, Hedges has a penchant for chasing pitches, while Blach induces very few swings at pitches out of the zone.
Cheslor Cuthbert (R), 1 percent, Kansas City Royals vs. Los Angeles Angels (LHP Andrew Heaney): Cuthbert entered the season eligible only at the hot corner, but in leagues with five-game requirements, he's now eligible across the diamond. This may not seem like a big deal, but there will be occasions using a hitter at a perceived stronger position has an overall positive effect on your lineup. The Royals like Cuthbert's stick and will give him a good look while rebuilding. However, for now, it's best to deploy him against only southpaws, against whom he has had much better success so far in his career.
Howie Kendrick (R), 7 percent, Washington Nationals vs. Colorado Rockies (LHP Kyle Freeland): Like Cuthbert, Kendrick picked up eligibility at a new position, which in his case is an old position. Daniel Murphy's rehab from microfracture surgery extended into the season, which opened second base, where Kendrick has been part of the contingent filling in. Kendrick's career splits aren't huge, but he has handled lefties a little better than righties.
Maikel Franco (R), 48 percent, Philadelphia Phillies at Tampa Bay Rays (RHP Jacob Faria): You may see a lot of references to "reverse splits" with respect to this matchup. While it's true Franco fared better versus righties last season, the opposite was true in 2016. Franco doesn't have ample at-bats under his belt to draw meaningful conclusions. Faria doesn't have a bevy of innings on his ledger, but pitching splits are more telling than hitters' stats, especially early in careers. Faria has had more difficulty with the platoon edge so far. He's also a fly ball pitcher, aiding Franco's cause. The Phillies have a logjam in the infield and outfield, but with the designated hitter available in the interleague affair, expect Franco to occupy a middle-of-the-order spot.
Jordy Mercer (R), 2 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates at Miami Marlins (LHP Dillon Peters): Mercer has been hitting second against lefty starters. They'll no doubt slow down, but to this point of the season, the Pirates are the second-highest scoring lineup in the league.
Derek Dietrich (L), 16 percent, Miami Marlins vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Chad Kuhl): Dietrich is taking advantage of early-season playing time, hitting safely in 10 of the Marlins' first 12 contests. Kuhl is vulnerable to lefty swingers, while Dietrich has swatted all 21 of his long balls since 2016 when facing a right-hander.
Ben Zobrist (B), 24 percent, Chicago Cubs vs. Atlanta Braves (RHP Anibal Sanchez): Anthony Rizzo's visit to the disabled list has cleared first base for Zobrist. Not only that, he has been inserted into the cleanup spot, a great place to be with Sanchez on the hill.
Jackie Bradley Jr. (L), 43 percent, Boston Red Sox vs. Baltimore Orioles (RHP Chris Tillman): Bradley Jr.'s slow start has been buffered by Boston's strong overall play. That said, Bradley Jr. has fanned only four times in 34 at-bats, a harbinger for better days. The hits could start falling sooner than later, enjoying the platoon advantage against the lowest-ranked pitcher on Friday's docket.
Mallex Smith (L), 8 percent, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Philadelphia Phillies (RHP Vince Velasquez): On paper, this isn't a good setup if you're looking for steals. According to the hitter rankings, the Rays aren't a good bet to run. Plus, Smith is only 2-for-5 this year. However, Smith's history suggests he will come around, and the five attempts says he's not shy about running. Despite the strong battery, Smith is still in play for snagging a bag, facing a pitcher allowing too many baserunners.
Nicky Delmonico (L), 2 percent, Chicago White Sox at Minnesota Twins (RHP Phil Hughes): Hughes isn't officially announced for this start, but all indications point toward his activation from the disabled list. Delmonico is off to a slow start; facing Hughes could be the perfect panacea. The veteran righty has allowed a whopping 52 big flies in his past 268 innings.
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.