The injuries continue to mount, with Freddie Freeman the latest casualty, expected to miss about ten weeks with a fractured wrist.. Sometimes you need to be take a chance on a lesser heralded prospect. While everyone else is fighting over Ian Happ and Bradley Zimmer, consider Rio Ruiz who came close to making the Braves in the spring. He's not lighting up Triple-A Gwinnett with a .262/.205/.447 triple slash, but considering Ruiz will turn just 23 years old this Monday, he's holding his own and could help Atlanta fill in for Freeman, as well as Adonis Garcia.
Friday's slate features Chris Sale looking to extend his double-digit punch-out streak with the Red Sox to seven games, along with Alex Wood trying to further cement his spot in the Dodgers' rotation. The Cubs are at home, meaning a day game in Wrigley Field.
You won't be able to replace a player like Freeman's production in one fell swoop. The best approach is looking for incremental edges to keep your roster at maximum strength. Here are some suggestions to kick off the weekend.
Pitchers to stream
Nate Karns (R), 28 percent ownership in ESPN leagues, Kansas City Royals at Minnesota Twins: Over the winter, Fangraphs' Eno Sarris wrote an interesting piece on Karns and his fastball spin rate. The conclusion was Karns needs to recapture his old spin rate in the heater to make his secondary pitches more effective. So far, so good, as the Royals' righty has done just that. Karns needs his curve and change to work, as even with more spin, his fastball unto itself isn't an effective pitch. It's his secondary stuff that's rendered Karns effective against left-handed hitters, and as ESPN researcher Kyle Soppe points out, the opposing Twins lineup has a bunch of lefties and switch hitters. Further, Brian Dozier and Miguel Sano are more productive when facing a southpaw.
Ariel Miranda (L), 7 percent, Seattle Mariners vs. Chicago White Sox: You wouldn't think so by looking at their lineup, but the White Sox have been effective versus southpaws this season. Further, while they've been more effective at home, they're above average in this scenario on the road as well. The problem with using data against left-handers, even seven weeks into the season, is the sample is too small to draw confident conclusions. I'll take my chances with Miranda in Safeco Field.
Eddie Butler (R), 8 percent, Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers: After a string of unseasonably warm days in Wrigley Field with the wind blowing briskly towards Waveland Avenue, Friday's matinee affair looks to be cold and clammy, with the wind blowing in. Butler won't rack up the whiffs, but he should keep his club in the game while his mates take aim on a yet-to-be decided starting pitcher. Unless current pitching coach Chris Bosio comes out of retirement to don his old Brewers uniform -- advantage defending champs.
Jeremy Hellickson (R), 50 percent, Philadelphia Phillies at Pittsburgh Pirates: Admittedly low on the list of the world's greatest mysteries, it's curious what happened to Hellickson's strikeouts. Even though the Pirates hit Tanner Roark and the Nationals bullpen hard yesterday, they're still one of the worst teams in the league with a right-hander on the hill, so Hellickson doesn't need whiffs to be effective.
Pitchers to avoid
Aaron Sanchez (R), 79 percent, Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles: This note isn't to say blindly "put Sanchez on your reserve" but rather to remind he's one start removed from a disabled list stint due to a blister that hasn't completely healed. Sanchez was removed from his previous outing after just five innings. While his finger was noticeably bleeding, he claims there was no pain. Still, it's apparent he's not out of the woods yet. Facing a powerful Orioles lineup in Camden Yards, putting Sanchez on the pine is defensible.
Let's circle back to the Steel City where Hellickson will need a little help from his friends to defeat the Bucs. Hector Neris has secured the closer role for the Phillies. He's available in 71 percent of ESPN leagues for those trolling for saves. Neris' strikeout rate is down, but it's still high enough to be effective and a positive asset.
Projected game scores
Note: W-L, ERA and WHIP are full-year 2016 statistics. GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. A "*" means that the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author's ratings.
Alex Avila (L), 16 percent, Detroit Tigers vs. Texas Rangers (RHP Nick Martinez): Avila may not be behind the dish, but with both Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez absent, he'll be in the lineup somewhere, perhaps even in a prime spot. Streaks aren't always predictive, but with a 1.228 OPS versus righties so far, it's fair to say Avila will feel comfortable facing the middling Martinez.
Mike Napoli (R), 34 percent, Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers (LHP Daniel Norris): Napoli's average may be ugly, but his power stroke is still present, including knocking three over the fence this week. Napoli's weakness is strikeouts. Norris' whiff rate is below league average.
Devon Travis (R), 13 percent, Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles (RHP Chris Tillman): With Kevin Pillar serving the back half of his two-game suspension, Travis could return to his old leadoff spot. Travis may lack the platoon edge, but hitting atop the order is reason enough to hope he stays hot.
Chris Taylor (R), 9 percent, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Miami Marlins (LHP Justin Nicolino): Logan Forsythe is due back soon, perhaps even Friday night, but the way Taylor has been producing, the Dodgers will find a spot for him with a weak southpaw on the hill.
Dansby Swanson (R), 34 percent, Atlanta Braves vs. Washington Nationals (LHP Gio Gonzalez): After a slow start, Swanson is picking up the pace, hitting over .300 the past week. That said, he's still fanning at an elevated rate. Swanson enjoys the platoon edge over Gonzalez, whose strikeouts are down with more walks.
Mitch Moreland (L), 25 percent, Boston Red Sox at Oakland Athletics (RHP Kendall Graveman): Moreland is in a cold spell, punctuated with excessive strikeouts. However, he's still walking at an elevated clip, portending a turnaround. The Coliseum may quash homers, but its cavernous dimensions play well for a gap hitter like Moreland.
Whit Merrifield (R), 1 percent, Kansas City Royals at Minnesota Twins (LHP Hector Santiago): Merrifield has been dropped in the order, but with a southpaw on the hill, he's very much in play. Over his short career, spanning an admittedly small sample of 111 plate appearances, Merrifield has recorded a respectable .880 OPS.
Jayson Werth (R), 27 percent, Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves (RHP R.A. Dickey): Here's another tip from Soppe: historical batter-versus-pitcher data is usually non-productive. However, he intuits an exception can be made here, considering Dickey throws the gimmicky knuckler. For his career, Werth is slashing .481/.563/.815 versus the former Cy Young winner.
David Peralta (L), 28 percent, Arizona Diamondbacks at San Diego Padres (RHP Jered Weaver): Check the injury reports, as Peralta has missed time this week with a sore glute, but if he's in the Snakes' lineup, he should be in yours, facing Weaver, one of the worst hurlers in the league.
Delino DeShields (R), 6 percent, Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers (LHP Daniel Norris): Deshields jumps to the top of the order against southpaws, possessing the patience to take advantage of Norris and his 4.6 BB/9.