Baseball is back, and so is Daily Notes, where we identify under-the-radar options to keep your lineup strong every day.
Despite the time off, there aren't many top-of-the-line pitchers on the docket -- but there aren't many bottom feeders either. Instead, there are inviting options in terms of spot-starting pitchers along with many familiar hitters opening the post-break schedule in a strong spot.
Pitchers to stream
Kevin Gausman (R), 38 percent ownership in ESPN leagues, Baltimore Orioles vs. Chicago Cubs: Despite being touched up by the Twins a week ago, Gausman is showing signs he could be over his first-half doldrums. He hasn't given up a homer for three straight games, surrendering only four over his past eight outings. In his past five starts, spanning 27 2/3 innings, Gausman has whiffed an impressive 36 hitters and walked only nine. The Cubs entered the break with the eighth-lowest weighted on base average (wOBA) with a righty on the mound.
Charlie Morton (R), 34 percent, Houston Astros vs. Minnesota Twins: If Morton hadn't been hurt, his ownership would be well over the 50 percent threshold used to identify streaming options. Before landing on the disabled list in late May, Morton was striking out more than a batter an inning. He fanned only two Blue Jays in his first start back but looked strong. The Twins whiff at an above-average clip versus right-handers so look for Morton to get back on track.
Nick Pivetta (R), 7 percent, Philadelphia Phillies at Milwaukee Brewers: Sticking with the strikeout theme, the Brewers own the third-highest strikeout rate versus righties. Pivetta has fanned at least nine in three of his past five starts.
Clayton Richard (L), 7 percent, San Diego Padres vs. San Francisco Giants: Richard is a below-average hurler and draws Johnny Cueto, but if you're desperate for another starter, the Giants don't pose much of an offensive threat, checking in with the fifth-worst wOBA versus southpaws.
Pitchers to avoid
Jose Berrios (R), 85 percent, Minnesota Twins at Houston Astros: Long term, Berrios has ace potential. Maybe the break throws off the timing of the Astros' offensive juggernaut, but entering the break Houston was crushing it, scoring double-digit runs in four of its final five games.
With no breaking closer news, this is a great time to remind you our Fantasy Baseball Closer Chart tracks all 30 bullpens, which could be extremely useful as the trade deadline rapidly approaches. Get ahead of the curve, knowing who will inherit the saves after a trade.
Projected game scores
GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. The asterisk (*) means that the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author's ratings.
Chris Iannetta (R), less than 1 percent, Arizona Diamondbacks at Atlanta Braves (RHP R.A. Dickey): It's anecdotal, but I like using catchers against knuckleball pitchers. They stay with the ball longer and know not to over-swing. If not Iannetta, consider Jeff Mathis or Chris Herrmann.
Josh Bell (B), 16 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. St. Louis Cardinals (RHP Mike Leake): There aren't many first baseman available, so let's call upon a first-half stalwart. Both Bell and teammate John Jaso are in a good spot against Leake, who is effective but doesn't miss many bats. Both Bell and Jaso should be able to put the ball in play, an overlooked skill in this day and age.
Whit Merrifield (R), 42 percent, Kansas City Royals vs. Texas Rangers (LHP Martin Perez): After cycling through a few other options, Merrifield enters the second half as the Royals' leadoff hitter, playing the keystone nearly every day. Friday is a particularly favorable scenario, as he historically hits lefties well while Perez had even more difficulties than normal dealing with right-handed hitters in the first half.
Jae-Gyun Hwang (R), less than 1 percent, San Francisco Giants at San Diego Padres (LHP Clayton Richard): Hwang might cede this spot to Eduardo Nunez, but for now, let's assume Hwang gets the start. Nunez was slated to play third base Wednesday but instead served as designated hitter for high-A San Jose. Hwang enjoys the platoon edge over the pedestrian Richard.
Brad Miller (L), 20 percent, Tampa Bay Rays at Los Angeles Angels (RHP Ricky Nolasco): Finally healthy, Miller has taken over at second for the Rays, hitting sixth on most nights. Last season, Miller hit 30 homers so he certainly has the ability to take advantage of Nolasco's generosity with the long ball.
Sam Travis (R), 1 percent, Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees (LHP Jordan Montgomery): With the unexpected news that Michael Pineda could be headed for Tommy John surgery, the Yankees will open the second half with Montgomery. The Red Sox have been using a platoon at first base, so Travis is likely to get the call versus the southpaw. Boston is the third-most productive team in the league with a lefty on the hill, paving the way for Travis to contribute, regardless where he hits in the order.
Cory Spangenberg (L), 2 percent, San Diego Padres vs. San Francisco Giants (RHP Johnny Cueto): Not the greatest matchup, though Cueto isn't nearly as sharp as last season. Spangenberg has settled in as the Padres' fifth hitter, a nice spot to produce some runs.
Shin-Soo Choo (L), 24 percent, Texas Rangers at Kansas City Royals (RHP Jason Hammel): Choo's ownership is tempered due to the "injury-prone" label. When healthy, he still possesses solid on-base skills, especially useful for points leagues.
Ben Gamel (L), 18 percent, Seattle Mariners at Chicago White Sox (RHP James Shields): One of the first half's biggest surprises, Gamel still plays in relative obscurity in the Pacific Northwest. He opens the second half in a great spot, facing the eminently hittable Shields in a hitter-friendly venue.
Joey Rickard (R), less than 1 percent, Baltimore Orioles vs. Chicago Cubs (LHP Mike Montgomery): Rickard and Hyun-Soo Kim comprise a left-field platoon, with Rickard getting the nod coming out of the break with a southpaw on the mound. Rickard always hits lefties well, and is a threat to take advantage of the Cubs' lack of a strong defense against the running game.
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.