<
>

Daily notes: Pitcher and hitter rankings for Saturday

Over his last four starts, Andrew Heaney has a 1.80 ERA with 26 Ks. Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday's slate features a slew of intriguing matchups. Two former Cy Young winners square off, as Corey Kluber and the Cleveland Indians travel to Houston to take on Dallas Keuchel and the Astros. Two exciting young hurlers in the Milwaukee Brewers' Freddy Peralta and the Minnesota Twins' Fernando Romero go toe to toe at Target Field. And New York Yankees ace Luis Severino goes to Kansas City to face ... Danny Duffy? Hey, they can't all be winners.

Here's a look at the day's most interesting streaming options, focusing on players rostered in 50 percent or less of ESPN leagues.


Pitching

Pitchers to stream

Andrew Heaney (L), rostered in 13 percent of ESPN leagues, Los Angeles Angels vs. Tampa Bay Rays: It may be time to start taking Heaney seriously in fantasy. Over his last four starts, the 26-year-old lefty holds a 1.80 ERA with 26 Ks in 25 innings. What's more impressive is that those four outings include matchups against the Yankees and Houston Astros, along with a trip to Coors Field to play the Colorado Rockies. Thursday's start against Tampa Bay is much more favorable. Since the beginning of May, the Rays rank in the bottom 10 in baseball with a 90 wRC+ and an MLB-worst .106 ISO.

Fernando Romero (R), 51 percent, Minnesota Twins vs. Milwaukee Brewers: While the 23-year-old Romero has just three big-league starts under his belt, it's hard to argue with the early returns. Over 16 2/3 frames, he's allowed just 11 hits and one earned run with 20 strikeouts. The walks (4.9 BB/9) could eventually catch up to him, but as long as he's missing bats (10.8 K/9) and keeping the ball on the ground (54 percent ground ball rate), there should be value here. Romero should continue his early success against a Brewers team that ranks bottom-10 in both wOBA and wRC+ this season.

Nick Kingham (R), 20 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. San Diego Padres: After being sent to the minors last week (the Pirates' schedule didn't require them to carry a fifth starter), Kingham is set to rejoin Pittsburgh's rotation and start against San Diego on Saturday. The 26-year-old has been lights-out this season. He posted a 2.20 ERA and 9.4 K/9 in five Triple-A starts, and his two big-league outings have seen him put up a 2.92 ERA with an 11.7 K/9. Some growing pains are likely to crop up eventually, but probably not on Saturday. The Padres' lineup has been one of the worst in baseball this year, demonstrated by an 82 wRC+ versus righties and a bloated 26.9 percent whiff rate.

Zach Eflin (R), 19 percent, Philadelphia Phillies at St. Louis Cardinals: The sample size is small, but Eflin has shown some promise since joining the Phillies rotation earlier this month. He's allowed just one run on seven hits in 12 2/3 innings while sporting a 9.2 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9. While it's natural to be skeptical about the boosted strikeout rate after he posted a 4.9 K/9 in 11 starts in 2017, it's possible that some of the gains are legit. After averaging 93.3 mph and 93.7 mph on his fastball the last two seasons, Eflin's average fastball velocity has jumped to 95.3 mph this season. On Saturday, he matches up well with a Cardinals lineup that ranks 23rd against righties with a .306 wOBA and 24 percent whiff rate.

Freddy Peralta (R), 40 percent, Milwaukee Brewers at Minnesota Twins: Sticking with the "small sample size" theme, we come to Peralta. The 21-year-old righty made the baseball world stand up and take notice last Sunday, when he fanned 13 batters in 5 2/3 scoreless innings against the Rockies at Coors Field. What's fascinating is that he dominated the Rockies lineup by throwing his four-seam fastball 92 percent of the time. Time will tell how long he can get by on primarily one pitch, but for now, he makes for an interesting streaming option. The Twins have been non-threatening against right-handed pitching this season, sporting a below-average 91 wRC+.

Pitcher to avoid

Dylan Bundy (R), 69 percent, Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox: After a string of rough outings, Bundy bounced back his last time out with seven shutout innings against Tampa Bay. That's not enough for me to trust him against the Red Sox, the most lethal team in baseball against right-handed pitching this season (116 wRC+, .349 wOBA). Let's not forget that, prior to his last outing, Bundy had surrendered a whopping 22 runs (20 earned) over his previous nine innings of work.

Bullpen

While Atlanta Braves closer Arodys Vizcaino is already widely owned in ESPN leagues, the bullpen features a slew of arms to consider if you're looking for holds or simply want to improve your ratios. A.J. Minter (2.50 ERA, six holds) was a popular late-round selection in deep leagues, and Shane Carle (0.72 ERA, seven holds) and Daniel Winkler (0.98 ERA, seven holds) have stepped up to help make the Braves' bullpen one of the deepest in the game. Winkler has been particularly impressive of late, as he's thrown 10 1/3 straight scoreless innings with 16 K's and just two hits allowed.

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.


Hitting

Catcher

Welington Castillo (R), 32 percent, Chicago White Sox vs. Texas Rangers (LHP Matt Moore): Moore is one of those hurlers who you want some exposure against any time he takes the mound. A 7.82 ERA and .396 wOBA allowed to righty hitters will do that. A career .291/.352/.489 hitter against left-handed pitching, Castillo makes for an easy plug-and-play option at the catcher position on Saturday.

First base

Mitch Moreland (L), 27 percent, Boston Red Sox vs. Baltimore Orioles (RHP Dylan Bundy): We already hit on Bundy above as someone to avoid, so let's really drive the point home. The right-hander sports a 9.53 ERA since the beginning of May, has allowed multiple homers in three of his last four starts and has surrendered a .330/.402/.505 slash line to lefty batters. Moreland, meanwhile, has smashed righty pitching this year to the tune of a .333/.410/.653 slash line.

Second base

Ben Zobrist (B), 21 percent, Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati Reds (RHP Luis Castillo): Castillo is slowly showing signs of improvement after a brutal start, but he still has work to do. His work against left-handed batters in particular (.387 wOBA allowed) needs to improve. Zobrist, who's batting .295/.377/.410 versus righties this year, finds himself in a nice spot while the young right-hander works to right the ship.

Third base

Miguel Andujar (R), 45 percent, New York Yankees at Kansas City Royals (LHP Danny Duffy): While Andujar has cooled down of late (.275/.288/.294 in May), this is still a very talented young hitter in a very enticing matchup. Duffy has surrendered a .306/.385/.597 slash line to righty batters this year, so this could be just what the rookie needs to bust loose.

Shortstop

Jordy Mercer (R), 2 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. San Diego Padres (LHP Clayton Richard): Mercer doesn't generate much attention in fantasy circles, but Saturday's matchup makes him worthwhile. A career .290/.355/.450 hitter against lefties, the Pittsburgh shortstop squares off against Richard, who's allowed a .355 wOBA to right-handed hitters over 834 career innings.

Corner infield

C.J. Cron (R), 43 percent, Tampa Bay Rays at Los Angeles Angels (LHP Andrew Heaney): We already highlighted Heaney above as one of the day's top streaming options, but Cron can't be ignored right now. Despite being available in nearly 60 percent of ESPN leagues, he's been the No. 4 first baseman in fantasy this season, according to the ESPN Player Rater. Cron is batting .378/.429/.622 against lefties and deserves a look whenever he has the platoon advantage.

Middle infield

Marcus Semien (R), 50 percent, Oakland Athletics at Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Joe Biagini): Semien won't have the platoon advantage here, but he remains a high-end streaming option. In addition to batting atop a strong Oakland lineup, Semien gets a nice park upgrade going to the Rogers Centre. More important is the fact that he's matching up against Biagini, who's been hammered by both right-handed (.376 wOBA) and left-handed (.399 wOBA) batters this year.

Outfield

Adam Duvall (R), 45 percent, Cincinnati Reds vs. Chicago Cubs (LHP Jose Quintana): Ignore Duvall's .191 batting average. If you're streaming the Reds slugger, it's for the power. He held a .292 ISO versus lefty pitching in 2017, and he owns a .303 mark this season. Quintana has not looked like himself this season, sporting a 5.23 ERA, including a .379 wOBA allowed to righty batters.

Nick Williams (L), 2 percent, Philadelphia Phillies vs. St. Louis Cardinals (RHP John Gant): Williams isn't getting everyday playing time, but he's an under-the-radar play if he's in the lineup. While the sample size is small, he's 8-for-19 (.421) in May with a double, a homer and as many walks as strikeouts (three). The matchup would be a very favorable one, as Gant owns a career 5.19 ERA as a starter with a .340 wOBA allowed to left-handed batters.

David Dahl (L), 12 percent, Colorado Rockies at San Francisco Giants (RHP Chris Stratton): I almost inserted Carlos Gonzalez into this spot because I highlighted Dahl in Thursday's Daily Notes, but there's no need to get cute here. Dahl is the better player at this point. He's batting .368/.429/.579 against righty pitching this year, and Stratton has not done a good job holding lefty batters in check (.349 wOBA allowed).

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.