The weather is finally warming, meaning the record pace of home runs should accelerate even further. There's some solid arms on Sunday's card, though, so while we should still see a fair number of long balls (which will continue to pad fantasy stats), it may not be the day for the explosion to begin. Your job is to identify pitchers minimizing damage while finding hitters looking to foil their efforts. My job is to point you in the right directions with some suggestions of my own. Let's get to it.
Pitchers to stream
Jaime Garcia (L), 26 percent, Atlanta Braves vs. New York Mets: Garcia continues to reward owners willing to give him a mulligan on last season's disaster campaign. His strikeout and walks rates are worse than last season, but he's doing a much better job keeping the ball in the yard, which is key in today's "swing hard in case you hit the ball" mindset. With Yoenis Cespedes back, a major power source has returned to the Mets, but Garcia holds the platoon edge over most of the visiting team's lineup. Garcia's mound foe, Seth Lugo, will be making his 2017 debut and is also in play. It's just that, even without Freddie Freeman, the Braves are sneaky good against righties -- especially at home.
Aaron Nola (R), 42 percent ownership in ESPN leagues, Philadelphia Phillies at St. Louis Cardinals: Big-picture wise with Nola, the key is to keep in mind he's only 24 years old. Perhaps because he was more polished than most prospects when they embark on their MLB career, it feels like he should be older. While injuries have curtailed his development, Nola seems poised to get in a groove, and he's coming off of his best outing of the season -- an eight-inning, one-run effort against the aforementioned Braves in their house. On Sunday, Nola squares off with a Cardinals club in the bottom half of the league with regard to weighted on base average (wOBA) versus righties.
David Paulino (R), 3 percent, Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Angels: It's a Sunday tradition to recommend an option for those pining for another win to close out the fantasy week. Paulino worked into the sixth last time out and the Astros have a solid bullpen. Run support shouldn't be an issue with the prolific Houston attack that'll face Jesse Chavez. The Angels tote the sixth-weakest offense in terms of wOBA versus righties into Minute Maid Park.
Hyun-Jin Ryu (L), 7 percent, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Cincinnati Reds: The Reds have done some damage this season versus southpaws, but most of it has been at home. On the road is a different story, especially considering the huge park hit they're enduring in Dodgers Stadium. Ryu isn't beating himself lately, walking only three hitters in his past four starts, spanning 22 1/3 innings.
Pitcher to avoid
Jose Quintana (L), 83 percent, Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Indians: It's easy to be a numbers scout and proclaim someone with the consistency and durability of Quintana will find his form. While he's upped his strikeouts, overall, Quintana isn't as sharp as normal. Keep in mind, this is a pitcher who historically outpitches his xFIP, suggesting he's either been lucky with homers or has an uncanny ability to limit the long ball year after year. That's disappeared in 2017, at least so far. At home, the Tribe's home run rate versus left-handers is above average, making this a risky start for the veteran lefty.
Hopefully you're aware that the Pittsburgh Pirates have relieved Tony Watson of his closing duties. Perhaps you're deciding which is the better pickup between Juan Nicasio or Felipe Rivero? Here's a vote for Rivero, who by rights should have been handed the job for himself a while ago. He's fanned 34 with only six walks in 31 frames. Rivero is available in 75 percent of ESPN leagues, well, now 74.9 as I just picked him up in the staff dynasty league.
Projected game scores
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. A 50 typically earns the pitcher a "quality start" by this measure, while a 70 is considered a dominant start.
Jason Castro (L), 5 percent, Minnesota Twins at San Francisco Giants (RHP Matt Cain): Part of the trick in finding a worthy catcher is featuring one almost assured to play, which on Sundays can be difficult. Not only is Castro in a good spot, holding the platoon edge over Cain, Chris Gimenez did the squatting on Saturday
Adrian Gonzalez (L), 37 percent, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Cincinnati Reds (RHP Tim Adleman): I understand why Gonzalez isn't more frequently owned -- he's scuffling and many first basemen have emerged as worthy of a full-time roster spot in ESPN leagues. However, if your first baseman is getting Sunday off, the veteran Gonzalez is worth a look, enjoying the platoon advantage over a middling righty. To his credit, A-Gonz is making contact, he just isn't hitting for the same power he's displayed throughout his illustrious career.
Yangervis Solarte (B), 42 percent, San Diego Padres vs. Kansas City Royals (RHP Jake Junis): Junis impressed as a starter in Triple-A Omaha, earning a big league promotion. The 24-year-old righty hasn't enjoyed the same success since his call-up to the majors, though, walking 10 in only 10 1/3 innings. He's started twice, lasting only 4 2/3 and 3 2/3 stanzas. On a day where a parade of bullpen arms is likely, it helps to have a switch-hitter on the other side, especially since the Royals are likely to deploy their lesser arms.
David Freese (R), 7 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Miami Marlins (LHP Jeff Locke): In between injuries, Locke's been tinkering with a new curveball, with some success. Still, Freese is in a favorable spot hitting in the meat of the Bucs' order and enjoying the platoon bump as Locke faces his former team.
Jordy Mercer (R), 9 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Miami Marlins (LHP Jeff Locke): Mercer jumps to the leadoff spot with a lefty on the hill, joining Freese as a solid option against his old teammate.
Danny Valencia (R), 29 percent, Seattle Mariners vs. Toronto Blue Jays (LHP J.A. Happ): After a slow start, Valencia's beginning to make some noise, especially against left-handers. Happ's still shaking off the rust, walking six while allowing four homers over 9 1/3 innings in two games since coming off the DL.
Chase Utley (L), 2 percent, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Cincinnati Reds (RHP Tim Adleman): The Dodgers are getting healthy, which should cut into Utley's playing time. If he's in Sunday's lineup, he's worthy of being in yours as he holds the platoon edge over a pedestrian right-hander.
Chris Young (R), 1 percent, Boston Red Sox vs. Detroit Tigers (LHP Daniel Norris): Young's been platooning with Andrew Benintendi as of late, so there's a good chance he'll be patrolling the sacred ground in front of the Green Monster with Norris on the Fenway Park hill.
Max Kepler (L), 30 percent, Minnesota Twins at San Francisco Giants (RHP Matt Cain): Taking Cain deep will be a challenge in AT&T Park, though the Twins touched Jeff Samardzija for a pair of big flies on Saturday. Regardless, Kepler has the ability and speed to take advantage of triples alley.
Josh Reddick (L), 27 percent, Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Angels (RHP Jesse Chavez): Reddick has become a staple in this spot. While part of my objective is to get unknown players on your radar, this is the last day of most scoring weeks, so highlighting the best options has to take precedence.
Hitter matchup ratings
Notes: Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's history (three years' worth, as well as the past 21 days) and 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. So, for example, a 10 is a must-start rating, whereas 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.