We're past the quarter pole, and down the stretch we come. Coming into Monday's games, only the Chicago White Sox have more than 40 games left on their schedule, and they play two to open the week. While looking at your standings, think how wacky the first six weeks of the season were. Ryan Zimmerman and Eric Thames each had 13 homers. Jason Vargas and Andrew Triggs both earned five wins. The names will change, but there will be players with unexpected performances, good and bad. Don't give up, keep grinding. We'll be with you through the last day of the season.
Pitchers to stream
Carlos Rodon (L), 39 percent ownership in ESPN leagues, Chicago White Sox vs. Minnesota Twins: Stop reading, pick up Rodon, then come back and finish. I'll wait...okay, welcome back. It's understandable if some want to see Rodon get in a groove before grabbing him, but four straight starts throwing at least 6 2/3 innings, along with a 2.12 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 28 strikeouts in his last 29 2/3 frames is more than enough to trust the lefty not only for this start, but also the stretch run.
Eduardo Rodriguez (L), 26 percent, Boston Red Sox at Cleveland Indians: Rodriguez is back in the groove displayed pre-injury. Over his last three starts, the lefty has tossed 17 1/3 innings, fanning 18 with five walks. Most importantly, Rodriguez allowed no homers over that span.
Tyler Skaggs (L), 8 percent, Los Angeles Angels vs. Texas Rangers: Skaggs is still shaking off the rust after spending most of the season on the disabled list with an oblique injury. On Monday, he draws a Rangers squad taking a huge park hit that's already one of the league's weakest teams when a lefty is on the hill.
Chris Stratton (R), 4 percent, San Francisco Giants vs. Milwaukee Brewers: Speaking of park downgrades, it doesn't get much steeper than Miller Park to AT&T Park. The Brewers are one of the easiest teams in the league to punch out, and Stratton is coming off a dominant performance, fanning ten Nationals in 6 2/3 stanzas.
Pitchers to avoid
Cole Hamels (L), 93 percent, Texas Rangers at Los Angeles Angels: OK, let's be honest, you're likely starting Hamels and you probably should. This note is more to caution those counting on the veteran for solid numbers down the stretch that his 3.48 ERA and 1.11 WHIP are fraught with good fortune. Both are likely to worsen in the final six weeks. A .236 batting average on balls in-play not supported by batted ball data is likely to regress, raising his WHIP. A 4.52 FIP and a 4.75 xFIP, are much more reflective of his true skill level, which includes a meager 5.7 K/9. All this said, the Angels are a weak offense and Angels Stadium is a great pitching venue, so the correction may be on hold.
The Twins and White Sox are playing a pair. This means both dumpster fire bullpens have a chance to blow two saves. Or, maybe someone runs into a successful conversion, or dare I say two. Ranking the most likely candidates, Juan Minaya checks in first since Carlos Rodon is, by far, the best starter of the quartet toeing the rubber. Next is Matt Belisle, as he's actually converted three of four chances over the past couple of weeks. If these relievers aren't available, Taylor Rogers is preferred over Jake Petricka.
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.
Tyler Flowers (R), 31 percent, Atlanta Braves vs. Seattle Mariners (LHP Andrew Albers): It'll be Flowers or Suzuki doing the squatting for the Twins. Either way, both hit in the middle of the order while enjoying the platoon edge on a middling southpaw. Brandon Phillips, Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson are all widely available and in a good spot fortify your infield on a day where you likely have open roster spots.
Yonder Alonso (L), 36 percent, Seattle Mariners at Atlanta Braves (RHP Mike Foltynewicz): Last season, Foltynewicz showed glimpses of a breakout season over the second half. This year, he's fading in a big way. Alonso is also sliding since a monster first half, but after a pinch-hit yesterday, he's riding a modest eight-game hitting streak. Considering Foltynewicz's struggles versus lefties, Alonso's in a favorable spot, hitting second in a park conducive to lefty power.
Neil Walker (B), 21 percent, Milwaukee Brewers at San Francisco Giants (RHP Chris Stratton): Walker's incurring a big park downgrade, but he's hitting from his stronger side in the two-hole.
Jefry Marte (R), less than 1 percent, Los Angeles Angels vs. Texas Rangers (LHP Cole Hamels): As discussed previously, the regression monster is due to pay Hamels a visit. Marte's been picking up the hot corner at-bats with a southpaw on the hill.
Eduardo Escobar (B), 5 percent, Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox (LHP Carlos Rodon): Chances are that very few Twins will play both ends of Monday's doubleheader since the White Sox are starting a lefty and a righty. As a switch-hitter, Escobar has the best chance to channel Ernie Banks and play two.
Ryon Healy (R), 26 percent, Oakland Athletics at Baltimore Orioles (LHP Wade Miley): Healy is enjoying a fine sophomore campaign, particularly successful with a southpaw on the hill, as evidenced by a .999 OPS in that scenario. Healy has the platoon edge, over a weak lefty in a great hitter's park.
Marcus Semien (R), 20 percent, Oakland Athletics at Baltimore Orioles (LHP Wade Miley): Like Healy, Semien is in a great spot, favored with the platoon edge with a huge park upgrade.
Brandon Nimmo (L), less than 1 percent, New York Mets vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (RHP Taijuan Walker): Nimmo is a candidate to take over the leadoff spot with a righty on the hill. Another Mets hitter benefitting from the resent moves is first baseman Dominic Smith, who could be moved into the meat of the order.
Nicky Delmonico (L), 6 percent, Chicago White Sox vs. Minnesota Twins (RHP Tim Melville): The Twins are sending two right-handers to the hill, giving Delmonico a chance to play two, or at minimum play one and pinch-hit in the other. Players with a chance to pick up extra at-bats are good for roto scoring, but even better for points leagues. Delmonico is excellent in that regard, considering he's been an on-base machine since his callup.
Seth Smith (L), 1 percent, Baltimore Orioles vs. Oakland Athletics (RHP Chris Smith): We'll send you out with an old friend. Since the break, Smith is up to his old tricks, registering a .990 OPS against right-handed pitching.
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.