The September 1 fireworks came a day early, as the Angels essentially replaced Cameron Maybin with Justin Upton in waiver deadline deals. Both will be eligible for the playoffs for their new clubs, with Maybin landing in Houston. The Angels' pitching is getting healthy with Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney back in action, along with the impending return of Garrett Richards, currently on rehab.
Friday features the activation of Clayton Kershaw and Johnny Cueto. Both will be on pitch counts, so beware of that when setting lineups. The Marlins are expected to call up southpaw Dillon Peters, while the Cardinals are summoning Jack Flaherty, the first two of many rookies making their debut as rosters expand.
While there are the standard 15 games on the schedule, note the Indians and Tigers play a day/night doubleheader with the Astros, and the Mets get a rare Friday off in advance of their own twin bill on Saturday. There are of matinees, including the first game between the Indians and Tigers, along with the traditional Friday afternoon affair in Wrigley Field, where the Cubs will entertain the Braves.
Pitchers to stream
Luis Castillo (R), 35 percent rostered in ESPN leagues, Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates: Castillo will likely be shut down after one of two September starts. Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, and despite currently owning just two wins, this has been a great freshman campaign for the 24-year-old righty. He's in a great spot to add another quality start to his ledger in a rematch against the club he dominated last time out.
Mike Clevinger (R), 27 percent, Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers: This was a good matchup before Upton was dealt to the Angels, now it's even better. Clevinger enjoys a park upgrade against a lineup likely further lessened since this game is the nightcap of the doubleheader, so there are probably some reserves playing.
Blake Snell (L), 24 percent, Tampa Bay Rays at Chicago White Sox: By the numbers, the White Sox have been, and continue to be, productive versus southpaws. That said, they're not very patient and offer strikeout upside, syncing nicely with Snell's inconsistent control but ability to miss bats. Jose Abreu sat out Thursday with an elbow injury. He's expected back Friday, but if he remains sidelined, Snell obviously benefits.
Jack Flaherty (R), 6 percent, St. Louis Cardinals at San Francisco Giants: Mike Leake's trade to Seattle paves the way for the 21-year-old righty to make his debut. It's a nice opponent for the rookie, as the Giants sport one of the weakest offenses in the league. Flaherty dominated at both Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis, recording a 1.42 ERA, .92 WHIP with the former and 2.74 ERA, 1.14 WHIP for the latter, rendered more impressive when considering age versus level.
Dillon Peters (L), less than 1 percent ownership, Miami Marlins vs. Philadelphia Phillies: Peters has thrown only 63 innings this season, missing about 10 weeks after fracturing his thumb on a come-backer. He earned a September promotion with a 1.97 ERA over nine starts, spanning 45 2/3 frames for Double-A Jacksonville. Peters, like Flaherty, is in a favorable position for his inaugural effort, facing a middling offense at home in Marlins Park.
Pitcher to avoid
Johnny Cueto (R), 73 percent, San Francisco Giants vs. St. Louis Cardinals: Given Cueto's track record suggests his 2017 woes were health related, I need to see an outing or two before trusting the veteran. Fueling this is that Cueto was knocked around in his last rehab start, giving up eight runs (five earned) on nine hits in just three innings.
With the Indians playing a pair of games where they'll be favored, they could turn to Bryan Shaw in the ninth of the nightcap if Cody Allen pitches in the opener. Even if he doesn't get a save opportunity, there's a good chance Shaw works in at least one of the contests, offering whiffs, ratio protection and holds, if your league scores them.
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.
Mike Zunino (R), 24 percent, Seattle Mariners vs. Oakland Athletics (LHP Sean Manaea): While nothing has been reported, something isn't right with Manaea, as he's fanned just seven in his last 17 2/3 innings, surrendering five homers over that span. Over 25 percent of Zunino's hits have left the yard.
Greg Bird (L), 14 percent, New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox (RHP Doug Fister): Studies show hot streaks are real for pitchers, and Fister is coming off a pair of stellar efforts. However, that's not nearly enough to mitigate his career trends. Historically, Fister is vulnerable to power-hitting lefties. After the spring Bird had, it's a shame we didn't get to see how well he'd adjust to the early season struggles. Bird has a chance to end the season with a flourish.
Brandon Drury (R), 23 percent, Arizona Diamondbacks at Colorado Rockies (LHP Kyle Freeland): Sometimes, when former everyday players fall into a platoon role -- especially right-handers -- they struggle keeping sharp. Since this will be the fourth southpaw the Diamondbacks have faced within a week, Drury's timing shouldn't be a problem. Freeland is by far the weakest of the lefties Drury will see this week -- plus, Coors Field.
Yandy Diaz (R), 1 percent, Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers (LHP Matthew Boyd): With two games, Diaz will for sure play against Boyd. He may even play the first game with Buck Farmer on the hill, despite lacking the platoon edge. Of particular note for points or OBP leagues, Diaz has been an OBP machine lately.
Tim Anderson (R), 9 percent, Chicago White Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays (LHP Blake Snell): Check the lineup, as Anderson missed Thursday's game with a sore hamstring. He's expected to return Friday, which would be a good thing, since he's handled southpaws well for his short career.
Maikel Franco (R), 27 percent, Philadelphia Phillies at Miami Marlins (LHP Dillon Peters): This is as much to recommend using Franco on Friday with the platoon edge against a rookie, as it is to point out while his numbers are disappointing, Franco's underlying metrics hint at hitting into some bad luck this season. Regression doesn't follow a calendar. Franco could have a solid September, or it may not be until 2018 for the likely improvement.
Neil Walker (B), 19 percent, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Washington Nationals (RHP Tanner Roark): I'm admittedly reticent to feature Walker, since he's had an off year and has been fanning at an elevated clip lately. That said, Roark doesn't pile up the whiffs, and for his career, Walker hits better from the left side. I'll side with history, as well as Miller Park boosting lefty power as much as any venue in the league.
Alex Verdugo (L), 1 percent, Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres (RHP Dinelson Lamet): Pitchers aren't the only ones being called up, as the Dodgers advanced Verdugo on Thursday. He's not assured of playing time, serving as Corey Seager insurance, as Chris Taylor has been playing shortstop instead of center field. Check the lineup, if Seager is out, Verdugo could be playing, and with the platoon edge on a fellow rookie.
Max Kepler (L), 17 percent, Minnesota Twins vs. Kansas City Royals (RHP Jason Hammel): It's good to see Eddie Rosario finally eclipsed the 50 percent ownership cutoff used to identify a player to recommend. Kepler isn't having the same type of season as Rosario, but he's still in play against a pedestrian righty, as is Zack Granite, Jason Castro and in a pinch, Joe Mauer.
Boog Powell (L), 2 percent, Oakland Athletics at Seattle Mariners (RHP Mike Leake): Powell is another solid choice for points or OBP leagues, leading off against a hurler with a low strikeout rate. If you want more pop, Matt Joyce and Matt Olson are also in play.
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.