Two of baseball's best highlight Monday's typically short slate, with Max Scherzer and the Nationals hosting the Red Sox in an interleague tussle and Corey Kluber leading the Indians into Kansas City. Keeping in mind that a projected game score of 50 predicts a quality start, the lowest expected number from Monday's 20 starters is a very respectable 48 -- with 16 pitchers checking in at 50 or higher.
With such a strong scheduled set of starters, most of Monday's pitchers exceed our guideline of being on a roster in more than 50 percent of ESPN leagues, while the inventory of hitters in a favorable spot is lighter than normal. But, that's where we come in! After agonizing over the data, here are the most-available pitchers and hitters in the best spots to help fortify the natural holes in your Monday lineup, with one-third of the league enjoying an off day.
Pitchers to stream
Brent Suter (L), rostered in 38 percent of ESPN leagues, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Minnesota Twins: Relying on a pitcher who is averaging just 87 mph with his fastball doesn't give one the "warm fuzzies," but Suter has been making it work. The key is pinpoint control, as Suter has walked only 18 batters in his 88.1 innings. Not only will the Twins be devoid of the designated hitter as the visitor in this interleague affair, the bulk of their lineup swings from the left side, giving Suter the edge.
Kyle Gibson (R), 32 percent, Minnesota Twins at Milwaukee Brewers: Gibson is catching the Brewers at the right time with Lorenzo Cain still out and Christian Yelich missing the weekend with a sore back and a candidate to visit the disabled list. For the season, the Brewers are a mid-pack offense when a right-hander is on the hill. Gibson's swinging-strike rate has increased every season of his career, and it currently sits at 11 percent. Gibson has a chance to take advantage of a Brewers team that whiffs 24 percent of the time when facing a righty.
Nathan Eovaldi (R), 10 percent, Tampa Bay Rays at Miami Marlins: Eovaldi's return from Tommy John surgery has gone well -- especially in the velocity department -- as he's throwing the same 97 mph he did pre-injury. Unfortunately, like before, he's not generating the strikeouts usually commensurate with an above-average fastball. He's also surrendered eight homers in just 35.1 frames, though four of those came in just one outing, against the Astros. So far, this doesn't seem like support for using him as a streaming option, so let's highlight some positives. In his last three outings, Eovaldi has 19 punchouts with just three walks in 19.1 frames. On top of that, Eovaldi draws a Marlins club ranking among the lowest in baseball in terms of production versus righties, especially with respect to power.
Nick Kingham (R), 6 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates at Los Angeles Dodgers: With Chad Kuhl on the disabled list, Kingham is expected to be recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis, after being scratched from his weekend starts and not being listed as probable on the minor league team's upcoming schedule. He already had a six-start run in the first half, impressing the Pirates brass. He's looked at as a mid-rotation type, but so was Aaron Nola when he first came up. The Dodgers are an above-average offense but, on a tough slate, Kingham is in play.
Ryan Borucki (L), 1 percent, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Detroit Tigers: Aaron Sanchez isn't yet ready to return, giving Borucki a follow-up start to his MLB debut last week where he faced the dangerous Astros, allowing two runs in six frames -- albeit with four walks and just three strikeouts. Monday's foe isn't nearly as daunting, with the Tigers sitting fifth from the bottom in wOBA versus right-handers.
The Giants are using a "closer by committee" while Hunter Strickland recovers from a self-defeating encounter with a wall. The latest to join the party is Will Smith, who is having a strong season after having missed 2017 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Through Saturday's action, Smith has fanned an impressive 33 batters (with an even more impressive three walks) in 24 frames. Madison Bumgarner starts Monday's Coors Field affair, putting a save opportunity in play.
Projected game scores
Mitch Garver (R), under 1 percent, Minnesota Twins at Milwaukee Brewers (LHP Brent Suter): Garver's power has been surprisingly dormant since taking over primary catching duties from the injured Jason Castro. However, Garver's hard-hit rate is above average, which plays against Suter and his pitch-to-contact style.
Yonder Alonso (L), 36 percent, Cleveland Indians at Kansas City Royals (RHP Jakob Junis): Junis' first half was a bit of a roller coaster, ending on a down note -- with an 8.31 ERA and 1.75 WHIP over his last four June outings. Facing the Indians is a tough draw to begin July as Cleveland is a top-10 offense with a right-hander on the hill. Alonso, along with teammates Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall and Tyler Naquin all pose threats, each stepping in with the platoon edge.
Brad Miller (L), 1 percent, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Minnesota Twins (RHP Kyle Gibson): With the Brewers banishing the disappointing Orlando Arcia back to Triple-A, it appears Miller will be the club's primary shortstop. He's always hit righties well, though he's yet to repeat the success of his career-best 2016. Still, with Miller riding a modest five-game hitting streak into Sunday's action, he'll be in play against Gibson.
David Freese (R), under 1 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates at Los Angeles Dodgers (LHP Alex Wood): The Pirates continue to play Freese against southpaws instead of letting Colin Moran get more experience in that role. Monday could be a good time to use Freese, however, as all 10 of Wood's home runs allowed are courtesy of right-handed swingers.
JT Riddle (L), under 1 percent, Miami Marlins vs. Tampa Bay Rays (RHP Nathan Eovaldi): Finding a quality shortstop to stream has been a challenge all season long. Riddle's return, after missing a month-plus to begin the season, has added another option to the mix. He's posted a tidy .759 OPS over the past month, including a .984 mark in the last week of action.
Jake Bauers (L), 18 percent, Tampa Bay Rays at Miami Marlins (RHP Elieser Hernandez): Lost in the outstanding pitching the Rays have been receiving of late is the fact that Bauers has been an on-base machine since being called up from the minors in early June. Bauers has registered an impressive .409 OBP, which is most useful in points leagues, where his 19 percent walk rate is a latent source of points. Keeping in mind it takes five seasons of full-time play for a lefty swinger to own his splits against southpaws, Bauers has handled lefties better than righties so far in his young career. Plus, Chen has failed to finish five innings in 7-of-12 outings, meaning Bauers is likely to have a few chances against a weak bullpen.
Jose Peraza (R), 47 percent, Cincinnati Reds vs. Chicago White Sox (RHP James Shields): After a slow start, Peraza is finally rewarding league managers with some solid production. He has slashed .327/.378/.455 with six swipes over the past month. Peraza even muscled up for a pair of homers this past week. On Monday, he's a dual threat as, not only is Shields homer-prone, but he and the White Sox don't control the running game very well.
Aaron Hicks (B), 46 percent, New York Yankees vs. Atlanta Braves (RHP Anibal Sanchez): Hicks is having a typical campaign for him, hitting for a low average but still contributing across the board. Since he's batting atop one of the league's most prolific lineups, the low average can be forgiven. Hicks will step in against Sanchez, who generally doesn't work deep into games. As a switch-hitter, Hicks will still be relevant once he gets to face the Braves bullpen.
Curtis Granderson (L), 5 percent, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Detroit Tigers (RHP Mike Fiers): Granderson, now 37 years old, is in the lineup to do just one thing -- drive the ball over the fence. He's done it nine times this season, with six of those blasts coming the last month. On Monday, Granderson will be given a good chance to increase his power numbers against Fiers and his bloated 1.70 HR/9 -- which is actually an improvement from last season's 1.88 mark.
Austin Slater (R), under 1 percent, San Francisco Giants at Colorado Rockies (LHP Kyle Freeland): It's rare that we recommend a Giants hitter for his power potential, but it's much more common when they visit Coors Field. Slater isn't a prototypical slugger, but he did have 31 extra base hits in 195 at-bats for Triple-A Sacramento prior to his call-up. Other Giants to consider in this offensive environment include Alen Hanson, Gorkys Hernandez and Austin Jackson.
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.