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Fantasy baseball daily notes: Pitcher and hitter rankings for Saturday

Orlando Ramirez/USA TODAY Sports

After a rare Friday slate with only 13 games, we're back at full strength on Saturday. It's a day filled with aces, as Blake Snell, Justin Verlander and Jose Berrios are all slated to take the mound. Once we get past the aces, though, that's where things get interesting. That's where we find the streaming possibilities. Which, of course, is why we're here.

Here's a look at the day's top streaming options, focusing on players rostered in fewer than 50 percent of ESPN.com leagues.

Pitching

Pitchers to Stream

Merrill Kelly (R), rostered in 10 percent of ESPN leagues, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Diego Padres: After reinventing himself in the Korean League over the past few seasons, Kelly has made a strong first impression back in the States. He delivered a quality start against San Diego in his season debut, and he held the Red Sox to just one run over eight innings with nine K's and zero walks on Sunday. Kelly still remains largely an unknown, but the early results are positive and his four-pitch repertoire might be good enough for sustained success. On Saturday, the Arizona right-hander draws a Padres lineup that's done little against righties this season, sporting a 77 wRC+ with a 23 percent strikeout rate.

Matt Strahm (L), 17 percent, San Diego Padres at Arizona Diamondbacks: Opposing Kelly on Saturday is Strahm, who has yet to live up to his spring training hype. Even so, there are reasons to not give up on the 27-year-old lefty just yet. He pitched much better in his second start, holding a good Cardinals lineup to one earned run over five innings, and the fact that he was hitting 94 mph on the gun was a good sign. His secondary offerings also offer plenty of swing-and-miss potential when he's on his game. The Diamondbacks have been one of the least patient teams in the majors this season, ranking 29th in baseball with a 6.3 percent walk rate, which could benefit Strahm, whose control hasn't been sharp in the early going.

Caleb Smith (L), 7 percent, Miami Marlins vs. Philadelphia Phillies: A matchup against the Phillies is normally one we want to avoid, so keep in mind that there's some risk here. That said, there's upside here, too. Smith has displayed big-time strikeout potential in the big leagues, fanning batters at a 27 percent clip over 16 starts in 2018 and striking out 15 hitters in 11 frames so far this season. Walks can sometimes be an issue, but if he can keep them in check, there's a pretty nice ceiling here. Despite the tough matchup, the Phillies actually haven't done much damage versus lefties this season (93 wRC+), and Marlins Park, one of the game's most pitcher-friendly venues, helps offset some of the risk.

Adam Wainwright (R), 5 percent, St. Louis Cardinals at Cincinnati Reds: Wainwright got roughed up by the Pirates in his first start (4 ER in 4 IP), but he bounced back his last time out, spinning six innings of one-run ball against the Padres with nine strikeouts. The veteran right-hander has shown enough inconsistency over the past few seasons that we're not going to overreact to one good outing. That said, Wainwright's inclusion here is about the matchup against Cincinnati. Outside of a 14-run outburst against Miami on Tuesday, the Reds' offense has been stuck rubbing two sticks together, ranking 28th in baseball with a 51 wRC+ and a 25.4 percent strikeout rate. Wainwright may not be super-trustworthy, but the matchup warrants streaming consideration.

Bullpen

Jeremy Jeffress, currently out on a rehab assignment as he works his way back from a shoulder injury, appears set to rejoin Milwaukee's bullpen soon. While Josh Hader has been lights out for the Brewers in the closer role, they could very well decide to move him back to a setup capacity and let Jeffress handle the ninth inning in certain situations. Jeffress is available in 75 percent of ESPN leagues and might be worth a preemptive add if you have a roster spot available.

Projected game scores


Hitting

Catcher

Tyler Flowers (R), 2 percent, Atlanta Braves vs. New York Mets (LHP Jason Vargas): Over the past three seasons, Flowers is a .292/.432/.462 hitter against left-handed pitching. On Saturday, he matches up with Vargas, who sported a 7.13 ERA in 12 road starts in 2018.

First Base

Mitch Moreland (L), 12 percent, Boston Red Sox vs. Baltimore Orioles (RHP Andrew Cashner): Moreland does all of his damage against right-handed pitching, and he's taken that to the extreme so far this season with a 1.058 OPS against righties. Cashner was one of the very worst pitchers in baseball in 2018, and early indications are that little has changed in 2019. Moreland is a no-brainer in this spot.

Second Base

Brandon Lowe (L), 5 percent, Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Clay Buchholz): Buchholz will join Toronto's rotation on Saturday after getting a late start due to an elbow injury that prematurely ended his 2018 season. The fact that the right-hander allowed four homers in his final rehab start at Triple-A suggests he's still shaking off the rust. This looks like a fine time to fire up Lowe, who gets the platoon advantage, as well as a significant park upgrade at the Rogers Centre.

Third Base

Evan Longoria (R), 34 percent, San Francisco Giants vs. Colorado Rockies (LHP Kyle Freeland): It's been a slow start for the veteran Longoria (.188/.204/.292), but the fact that he sports a career-best 44.7 hard-hit percentage suggests things should turn around soon. On Saturday, he gets the platoon advantage against Freeland, who's been roughed up his past couple of times out (9 ER in 9 2/3 IP).

Shortstop

Nick Ahmed (R), 17 percent, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Diego Padres (LHP Matt Strahm): Ahmed might not be an exciting fantasy option, but he's swinging a hot stick so far, especially against lefty pitchers. In 16 at-bats against southpaws, he has eight hits, including four that have gone for extra bases. Ahmed will look to stay hot in a matchup against Strahm, who's allowing loads of hard contact (65.5 percent) in the early going.

Corner Infield

Hanley Ramirez (R), 2 percent, Cleveland Indians at Kansas City Royals (RHP Homer Bailey): Ramirez may be hitting just .222 on the young season, but don't let that fool you. Not only does Hanley sport a 20.6 percent walk rate, but he has a .374 wOBA and a 137 wRC+. His 43.8 percent hard-hit rate is also his best mark in the past six seasons. Meanwhile, Bailey's ERA over his past 44 starts sits at 6.29. It's all systems go for the veteran slugger on Saturday.

Middle Infield

Garrett Hampson (R), 11 percent, Colorado Rockies at San Francisco Giants (LHP Madison Bumgarner): This isn't an ideal matchup for Hampson, but with a lefty on the mound, there's a good chance he'll be in the lineup. It's been slow going for the 24-year-old, but this is still a potential game-changing skill set for fantasy. Rough matchup or not, I still want exposure to Hampson when he's on the field.

Outfield

Brett Gardner (L), 17 percent, New York Yankees vs. Chicago White Sox (RHP Ivan Nova): The Yankees' lineup is far from full strength right now, but being the Bronx Bombers' leadoff man is still an awfully good place to be. While Gardner is batting just .196 entering Friday's action, he has a pair of homers, a pair of steals and has walked more than he's struck out. It's a limited sample, but Nova is allowing a .417/.440/.542 triple slash to lefty swingers this season.

Josh Reddick (L), 5 percent, Houston Astros at Seattle Mariners (RHP Felix Hernandez): It's sad to say, but Hernandez has been closer to a batting practice pitcher than an ace in recent seasons. Over his past 69 starts, his ERA sits at 4.62. For his part, Reddick owns a .291/.356/.452 slash line against right-handed pitchers over the past three seasons.

Jason Heyward (L), 39 percent, Chicago Cubs vs. Los Angeles Angels (RHP Chris Stratton): Heyward has been a fantasy afterthought the past few seasons, but it's hard not to take notice of his early hot streak. Through 10 games, he's batting .371 with four dingers and two steals. It's fair to be skeptical, and it would not at all be surprising if he went back to irrelevancy in the next few weeks. Even so, let's ride that hot hand against Stratton, who allowed a .357 wOBA to lefty batters in 2018.

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).