Friday features the long-awaited return of Noah Syndergaard, starting for the Mets in Citi Field against the stumbling Nationals, who will counter with Tanner Roark. Every season, the Giants and Athletics play for Bay City bragging rights, but this time the stakes are a little higher as the winner gets to hold the new Bridge Trophy, constructed with metal from the original San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The crosstown rivals square off in the first of six interleague affairs with Madison Bumgarner welcoming Edwin Jackson into AT&T Park.
The rest of the schedule features the usual array of starters with a handful in a matchup worthy of streaming into your fantasy lineup. As always, there's a bevy of hitters lined up for a productive evening.
Here's a look at the day's top streaming options, focusing on players rostered in less than 50 percent of ESPN leagues.
Pitchers to stream
Jake Odorizzi (R), rostered in 26 percent of ESPN leagues, Minnesota Twins vs. Tampa Bay Rays: While I still don't trust Odorizzi long term, he's taken full advantage of a stretch facing lesser and/or strikeout prone lineups, spinning a 1.06 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over his last three outings, fanning 22 in those 17 innings. Over the past month, the Rays have an impressive 18-9 record, but it's a result of excellent pitching. With a righty on the hill in that span, they've posted a weak .297 weighted on base average (wOBA) with a generous 25 percent strikeout rate.
Clayton Richard (L), 26 percent, San Diego Padres vs. Chicago Cubs: It's risky playing off short-sample splits, especially against left-handed pitching since only 30 percent of pitches are tossed by southpaws, further minimizing the sample. That said, for the past month, the Cubs have been weak versus lefties, recording a .309 wOBA with a 25 percent strikeout rate. Kris Bryant is back, which helps, but Richard has demonstrated enough to be trusted, especially in pitcher-friendly Petco Park. Speaking of which, this will be Richard's first home start since June 4 with six road outings in the interim. Richard is averaging almost 6.1 innings per start, well over the league average, thus is a sneaky option in points leagues where innings pitched are important.
Anibal Sanchez (R), 22 percent, Atlanta Braves vs. Arizona Diamondbacks: I'm still wary of a pumpkin in Sanchez's future as his peripherals aren't appreciably different than past seasons, save for an extremely low soft-contact rate fueling a low batting average on balls in play. He's throwing his cutter more which could help induce soft contact, but still, the current rate is a big target for regression as the second half wears on. While true regression is out of the pitchers', and opponents' control, the Diamondbacks offense is one of the poorest versus righties, so Sanchez should be able to get by on his skills, including an above average 23 percent strikeout rate with a below average 8 percent walk rate.
Brad Keller (R), 5 percent, Kansas City Royals at Chicago White Sox: Keller's rookie campaign has been uneven, part and parcel to being a first-year hurler. He's coming off his worst outing of the season against the Red Sox, though that's nothing to be ashamed of as Boston is causing fits for pitchers of all shapes and sizes. If Keller wants to be a rotation mainstay long-term, he needs to improve his strikeout rate, currently a meager 14 percent. Just 22 years old, the right-hander's minor league pedigree portends improvement, though not to the dominant level. On Friday, Keller draws a White Sox club that can aid his strikeout pace as the Pale Hose whiff at a 26 percent clip against right-handers along with checking in with a low .311 wOBA.
Wei-Yin Chen (L), 1 percent, Miami Marlins vs. Philadelphia Phillies: Chen is strictly a matchup play, best used at home in the friendly confines of Marlins Park. Chen and the Fish entertain a Phillies club toting a low .309 wOBA versus lefties into South Beach.
Sometimes the way to get an edge is getting a step ahead of your competition. The Brewers and Pirates play a doubleheader on Saturday. The respective closers, Corey Knebel and Felipe Vazquez are likely already rostered in your league but with two games, there's a few relievers to look at, especially in points leagues where innings, strikeouts and perhaps holds are scored. While Josh Hader joins Knebel and Vazquez as probably unavailable, the Brewers recently advanced top pitching prospect Corbin Burnes, planning on using him in the bullpen. Long term, he still projects as a starter or even trade bait for someone like Manny Machado or Jacob deGrom. Grabbing him in advance of Saturday's twin bill gives you a shot at a quality reliever and maybe a sneaky save (he earned one in his debut) in the event Knebel is taxed in the opener.
Projected game scores
Sandy Leon (B), 2 percent, Boston Red Sox vs. Toronto Blue Jays (LHP Ryan Borucki): Before Christian Vazquez hurt his hand sliding, Leon handled Rick Porcello and Chris Sale. Expect him to add to that workload, continuing to catch all those starts with Blake Swihart behind the dish for selective non-Porcello and Sale outings. With Porcello toeing the rubber on Friday, Leon will be in the lineup, enjoying the platoon advantage against Borucki, as well as the ensuing relievers from a weak Jays bullpen.
Lucas Duda (L), 3 percent, Kansas City Royals at Chicago White Sox (RHP James Shields): Because he's an oft-injured platoon hitter, many don't realize how good a hitter Duda is when healthy, boasting a career 132 wRC+ versus right-handed pitching. This renders him a threat against quality righties, let alone Shields. To his credit, Shields has done a good job keeping the ball in the yard this season. Still, ignoring recency bias gives the nod to Duda.
Niko Goodrum (B), 15 percent, Detroit Tigers at Houston Astros (LHP Dallas Keuchel): Sometimes we're reticent to use a hitter against a name-brand pitcher. Keuchel is still effective, but not someone to shy away from. Stating he's the weakest Astros starter reflects how strong the first four are, though some of it is due to Keuchel's skills being off so far this season. Specifically, the southpaw is fanning fewer hitters, amplified by a bit of bad luck with a higher BABIP. Goodrum's career is far too young to draw anything from splits other than with an .886 OPS versus lefties, the switch-hitter is comfortable from the right-handed side of the batter's box.
Maikel Franco (R), 25 percent, Philadelphia Phillies at Miami Marlins (LHP Wei-Yin Chen): While calling it a last chance to show the Phillies he's part of their future is a bit hyperbolic, Franco has certainly picked the right time to be productive with J.P. Crawford on the shelf. Franco's slashing .338/.402/.581 over the past month with the bulk of the damage coming in the past couple of weeks. As a southpaw it makes sense, but Chen has historically had greater difficulty with righty swingers.
Ketel Marte (B), 23 percent, Arizona Diamondbacks at Atlanta Braves (RHP Anibal Sanchez): While he's not a burner, I keep waiting for Marte to unleash some of the stolen base ability exhibited with the Mariners before he was dealt to the desert in the Jean Segura deal. If he's going to run, Friday should be the time as the Snakes score the maximum 10 on Tristan Cockcroft's Forecaster stolen base ratings for the matchup.
Ronald Guzman (L), 2 percent, Texas Rangers at Baltimore Orioles (RHP Alex Cobb): It's time we give Rougned Odor a break, He's been a frequent visitor to this space, deservedly so. While Odor is still in play, so is his teammate Guzman, who's been raking in July after missing five games with a concussion. So far this month, Guzman has put up a 1.160 OPS. Cobb continues the indignity of being one of the worst starting pitchers in all of MLB, with no tangible signs of turning things around.
Brad Miller (L), 3 percent, Milwaukee Brewers at Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Nick Kingham): While the trade winds blow in Milwaukee, Miller continues to play against righties. He's in a rut but historically hits well with the platoon edge.
Michael Conforto (L), 40 percent, New York Mets vs. Washington Nationals (RHP Tanner Roark): Conforto is a good reminder why it's always necessary not to assume a player isn't available. Of course, his slump has frustrated many, resulting in his release from many fantasy clubs, but he's too good of a hitter not to revert to form. One way to be ahead of the break out is looking at recent plate skills. Over the past week, Conforto's strikeouts are down while he's drawing walks. The method isn't fool-proof, however improved discipline often preempts a hot streak.
Travis Jankowski (L), 6 percent, San Diego Padres vs. Chicago Cubs (RHP Tyler Chatwood): While his seasonal strikeouts have finally leapfrogged his walks, Chatwood's control is still subpar. Jankowski has the patience to draw a walk and the speed to turn it into a double.
Ben Gamel (L), 1 percent, Seattle Mariners at Colorado Rockies (RHP Antonio Senzatela): After finishing June on a heater, Gamel has been ice cold in July with one knock in 19 at-bats so far this month. Coors Field has cured more than a few slumps over the years.
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.