The Chicago Cubs are on the road, which means the entirety of the Friday ledger will be played under the lights, as opposed to the traditional Friday matinee at Wrigley Field. The marquee matchup features Max Scherzer leading the Washington Nationals into Citi Field to take on the New York Mets and sometimes pinch-hitter, Steven Matz.
Other highlights include Atlanta Braves rookie southpaw Sean Newcomb making his second career start and Jeff Samardzija taking his outstanding peripherals into Coors Field. Today's notes feature several lesser owned players in a great spot to fortify your fantasy squads, including a stack of hitters not usually in the spotlight.
Pitchers to stream
Junior Guerra (R), 24 percent ownership in ESPN leagues, Milwaukee Brewers vs. San Diego Padres: Guerra's 2.45 ERA is less than half that should be expected, according to both FIP and xFIP. His strikeout and walk rates are both worse than average. However, Guerra faces the great equalizer in the Padres. With a righty on the hill, the Friars sport the second lowest weighted on base average (wOBA) in the majors and the worst strikeout rate.
Ian Kennedy (R), 16 percent, Kansas City Royals at Los Angeles Angels: Kennedy's primary crutch is the long ball. Not only does he enjoy a park upgrade to a venue that squashes power, Kennedy faces a lineup in the lower third of the league in terms of power, and is still devoid of Mike Trout.
Daniel Norris (L), 9 percent, Detroit Tigers vs. Tampa Bay Rays: Much has been made of the Rays' surprising offense, averaging 4.8 runs per game, 13th best overall. However, most of the damage has been inflicted upon right-handers. Tampa ranks in the top-five with respect to wOBA versus righties, but sits in the bottom-five with a southpaw on the hill. Norris' 4.1 BB/9 suggests he can be wild, though his 8.4 K/9 is plenty sufficient to rack up the punchouts against a club with a bloated 27 percent whiff rate versus left-handers.
Sean Newcomb (L), 15 percent, Atlanta Braves vs. Miami Marlins: Newcomb was impressive in his MLB debut, allowing just one unearned run to the Mets in 6 1/3 innings, fanning seven with just two walks. The 24-year old southpaw draws a Marlins squad that's above average versus lefties, so it won't be easy, but with home-field advantage along with the unfamiliarity factor on his side, Newcomb's in play for those looking for a late-week push.
Pitcher to avoid
Jeff Samardzija (R), 76 percent, San Francisco Giants at Colorado Rockies: I'll be honest, I'm torn here, primarily because I'm rooting for Samardzija to keep lowering his ERA to match his wonderful strikeout and walk peripherals. On the other hand, the Shark has had issues with the long ball. It comes down to this: In leagues with an innings or a starts cap, I'd sit Samardzija. But if there's no limit, I'd roll the dice since I don't foresee a complete disaster.
Sean Manaea (L), 73 percent, Oakland Athletics vs. New York Yankees: I feel the same way about Manaea as I do with Samardzija; avoid him in formats with innings or start limits. The 25-year old lefty is one of the best young starters in the league and is having a nice season. However, the Yankees offense is on another level, capable of beating you in so many ways.
The Milwaukee Brewers have been mentioned a few times in this space, primarily to showcase Corey Knebel but also Jacob Barnes. This note is to point out that former closer Neftali Feliz was released. Feliz struggled with control, so his usual trouble with homers wasn't his only downfall. However, in the big picture, homers are the bigger concern. Keep in mind Feliz' 2016 success came in PNC Park, a venue that suppresses power. If Feliz lands in a similar locale, he still could be worth a look in deep leagues that count holds.
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.
Cameron Rupp (R), 3 percent, Philadelphia Phillies vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (LHP Patrick Corbin): Considering his woes against righties, it's a head-scratcher why the Diamondbacks continue to trot Corbin to the hill as a starter instead of making him a lefty specialist. That's the Snakes' problem. Yours is finding a means to take advantage with a few Phillies, beginning with either Rupp or switch-hitter Andrew Knapp. Either way, you're in good shape if you need a little help behind the plate.
Tommy Joseph (R), 13 percent, Philadelphia Phillies vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (LHP Patrick Corbin): I figured Joseph would have low ownership, but was a little surprised it was this low. The 25-year old slugger has power, especially versus lefties against which he's hit 12 of his 31 career homers, in about one-third of his trips to the dish.
Howie Kendrick (R), 13 percent, Philadelphia Phillies vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (LHP Patrick Corbin): The final Fighting Phillie is Kendrick, returning to his old keystone spot with Cesar Hernandez sidelined. Note, not only is Kendrick getting on base at about a 40 percent clip this season, he's running too, with seven steals, four in the last week.
Nicholas Castellanos (R), 43 percent, Detroit Tigers vs. Tampa Bay Rays (RHP Erasmo Ramirez): Castellanos has become the poster boy for a hitter due for a turnaround based on Statcast data, specifically exit velocity. Continuing to hit the ball with authority will eventually pay dividends. Don't sweat the lack of the platoon edge; it's a little early to say Ramirez exhibits reverse splits, but to this point of his career, it's leaning that way.
Brandon Crawford (L), 47 percent, San Francisco Giants at Colorado Rockies (RHP Antonio Senzatela): Sometimes you have to go for the low-hanging fruit. If Crawford was having a typical season, he wouldn't be available. But he isn't, so why not check your free agents for a shortstop with pop, continuing a series in Coors Field?
David Freese (R), 8 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs (RHP Eddie Butler): Admittedly, the first hitter I looked at for this spot was Josh Harrison, but was pleasantly surprised his ESPN ownership finally eclipsed the 50 percent plateau. His teammate, Freese, grabs the spot instead, facing a pitcher with a low strikeout rate, so putting the ball in play shouldn't be an issue.
Eric Sogard (L), 5 percent, Milwaukee Brewers vs. San Diego Padres (RHP Miguel Diaz): Sogard continues to take advantage of Jonathan Villar's absence. The journeyman is on a favorable scenario, hitting leadoff against a raw righty in a hitter-friendly venue.
Jose Martinez (R), 1 percent, St. Louis Cardinals at Baltimore Orioles (RHP Kevin Gausman): Much like wanting as many Phillies as possible against Corbin, I want some Cardinals exposure to Gausman. Martinez has been playing a lot lately, often hitting clean-up.
Kole Calhoun (L), 50 percent, Los Angeles Angels vs. Kansas City Royals (RHP Ian Kennedy): Here's another instance of low-hanging fruit, as Calhoun is one of the few power threats Kennedy has to deal with in the Angels lineup.
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.