Welcome to the final weekend before the All-Star break. Many ESPN fantasy baseball leagues combine next weekend with this week, so there will be more chances to find pitchers to stream. That's a good thing since Friday's slate has a hefty 19 starters projected for a quality start, leaving scant under-the-radar options to sneak in for a spot start. It also renders fewer weak arms to pick on with respect to hitting.
Don't worry, though, after poring over the matchups, there's still an ample supply of players available in over half of ESPN leagues to keep your teams strong heading into the break.
Pitchers to stream
Kevin Gausman (R), 38 percent ownership in ESPN leagues, Baltimore Orioles at Minnesota Twins: Really, Gausman? Has Zola gone crazy? Bear with me. Gausman has thrown two straight scoreless outings, spanning 12 1/3 innings. Over his past four efforts, the beleaguered righty registered an impressive 11.0 K/9 with a palatable 3.4 BB/9 over 23 2/3 frames. Further, Gausman has surrendered only four homers in his past seven games, covering 39 stanzas. The Twins aren't pushovers, but it's time to dust off Gausman and give him a chance to make up for some of the damage inflicted on your squad in April and May as well as being a viable pickup.
Matt Moore (L), 16 percent, San Francisco Giants vs. Miami Marlins: There's not a lot in Moore's recent performance to hang your hat on other than he's doing a good job keeping the ball in the yard. Fortunately, that's integral in a time when a greater percentage of runs are scored by way of the long ball than ever before. Moore's issue has been allowing far too many baserunners, by way of both hits and walks. For the season, the Marlins on-base percentage versus lefties is in the top 10; however, it's in the bottom 10 for the past month. If Moore can continue to keep the Fish off the base paths, he has a chance at a quality outing.
Nick Pivetta (R), 5 percent, Philadelphia Phillies vs. San Diego Padres: While Pivetta has pitched well, save for a shellacking from the Diamondbacks, this is driven by the matchup against the offensively challenged Padres. Pivetta has walked nine in his past two games, spanning 9 2/3 innings, and the Padres display above-average patience versus right-handers. However, ESPN researcher Kyle Soppe points out the Friars also own the highest strikeout rate and third-lowest weighted on-base average (wOBA) with a righty on the hill.
Eddie Butler (R), 3 percent, Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates: Wrapping up Friday's riskier than normal streamers is Butler. The allure of facing the Pirates isn't all that daunting, as the Bucs will tote a bottom-third offense versus righties into Wrigley Field. The problem is they don't fan much, nor does Butler miss many bats. Like mentioned in the intro, it's not a great slate for spot starters.
Pitcher to avoid
Jake Odorizzi (R), 63 percent, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox: This could be like picking low-hanging fruit, as Odorizzi has been pitching poorly lately while the Red Sox offense has been clicking lately. Further, Odorizzi's main issue has been homers, allowing a big fly in 14 of his 15 starts. Boston's power output is still down, but after hitting just 37 homers on their first 42 games, they've slugged 50 in the past 43.
Fernando Rodney has a penchant for going on ridiculously effective runs before eventually blowing up. He's in the midst of one of his patented hot streaks, giving up his first earned run since April earlier in the week. It's never comfortable relying on Rodney as your main source of saves, but as a secondary or tertiary option, he's fine, and available in a reasonable 31 percent of ESPN leagues.
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.
Welington Castillo (R), 23 percent, Baltimore Orioles at Minnesota Twins (RHP Felix Jorge): The Orioles' offense has been underwhelming this season, ranking 22nd in terms of runs per game, and that's playing half the time in Camden Yards. That said, Friday presents an opportunity for Baltimore to let loose facing Jorge, a 23-year-old rookie making his second career start. Joining Castillo is streaming stalwart Seth Smith.
Tommy Joseph (R), 11 percent, Philadelphia Phillies vs. San Diego Padres (LHP Clayton Richard): Joseph's production tailed off in June, dropping his ownership at a loaded position. Friday, Joseph is in a great spot to build on hitting two homers the past week, facing Richard. The veteran southpaw's been hit hard lately, allowing 18 hits, including three homers, resulting in 12 earned runs over his past two starts. Maikel Franco joins Joseph in a good spot, also holding the platoon edge on Richard.
Jurickson Profar (B), 1 percent, Texas Rangers vs. Los Angeles Angels (RHP Ricky Nolasco): Elvis Andrus, on paternity leave, is away from the Rangers for the first time in his nine-year career. Former top prospect Profar has been summoned in his stead. Profar likely will hit at the bottom of the order, but against Nolasco, he should still be able to contribute. Joey Gallo is another option against the volatile righty.
Chase Headley (B), 9 percent, New York Yankees vs. Milwaukee Brewers (RHP Junior Guerra): Headley has been hitting fifth in the injury-riddled Yankees lineup. Hitting before and after Headley is a string of lefty swingers also in play against Guerra, including Didi Gregorius, Jacoby Ellsbury and Ji-Man Choi.
Stephen Drew (L), 1 percent, Washington Nationals vs. Atlanta Braves (RHP R.A. Dickey): Noted knuckleballer Tim Wakefield is on record as saying he preferred facing big-swinging sluggers than hitters like Drew. Brian Goodwin and Michael Taylor are top-of-the-order options against Dickey.
Tzu-Wei Lin (L), 1 percent, Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays (RHP Jake Odorizzi): Lin currently occupies the seat in the season-long game of musical chairs at the hot corner for the Red Sox. Odorizzi has been vulnerable lately, so even hitting ninth, Lin will get his chances, as will Mitch Moreland, a frequent visitor to this space.
Joe Panik (L), 24 percent, San Francisco Giants vs. Miami Marlins (RHP Dan Straily): Straily has been tough, but it's tough finding decent spot starters on Friday's pitching-string slate. The Giants' keystone combo of Panik and Brandon Crawford both enjoy the platoon advantage over Straily.
Kyle Schwarber (L), 45 percent, Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Trevor Williams): The recently recalled Schwarber was released in enough leagues to drop his ownership below the 50 percent cutoff we use to identify potential pickups. Hurry, as he won't be as available much longer. Schwarber responded well to his demotion, slashing .343/.477/.714 with Triple-A Iowa. Jon Jay and Ian Happ are other Cubs to consider.
Lonnie Chisenhall (L), 21 percent, Cleveland Indians vs. Detroit Tigers (RHP Jordan Zimmermann): Chisenhall remains a cheat code when a righty is on the hill. He's actually hitting lefties well this season, too, but crushing right-handers is still his forte. Bradley Zimmer and the recently activated Abraham Almonte are other Tribe hitters in the mix.
David Peralta (L), 46 percent, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Cincinnati Reds (RHP Tim Adleman): Peralta is another plug-and play with a righty on the hill. The only catch is Peralta hasn't started since July 1, as the Snakes had an off day followed by three games started by a lefty.
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.