As has been the case for the past several years, MLB graces us with a full Labor Day slate with start times staggered throughout the afternoon and early evening. Monday also marks the start of the final month of the season, as there are only four more weeks remaining in the marathon season.
Even though you don't need to fill empty roster spots as usual to kick off the week, there's a treasure trove of hitting to fortify your offense, as well as some pitching available to get the scoring period off on the right track.
Pitchers to stream
Alex Cobb (R), 46 percent ownership in ESPN leagues, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Minnesota Twins: I'm a little surprised Cobb is under the 50 percent threshold bounding potential streamers. Though, a pedestrian 6.1 K/9 likely curtails his ownership. Still, at home in Tropicana Field, Cobb is in good shape for a solid effort in line with his 3.72 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.
R.A. Dickey (R), 21 percent, Atlanta Braves vs. Texas Rangers: Normally, a pitcher registering a 2.97 ERA over the past two months would be more widely owned. But, there's something uneasy about trusting a knuckleball artist. There's risk, but the Rangers will be without their designated hitter, not to mention weakened with Adrian Beltre nursing a Grade 2 left-hamstring strain.
Jake Junis (R), 13 percent, Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers: Junis has been typically inconsistent for a rookie, but he can be effective when spotted in a favorable scenario. Taking on a depleted Tigers lineup qualifies as a time to roll him out there.
Mark Leiter Jr. (R), 6 percent, Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets: Leiter is making a case for a 2018 rotation spot, sporting a 3.88 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 65 frames. The Mets are also using a patchwork lineup and have predictably struggled scoring runs as of late.
Pitchers to avoid
Perhaps because I'm aggressive, especially early in the week, there's no one causing me any pause.
It appears Blake Parker is now the full-time closer for the Angels and not just Plan B when Cam Bedrosian worked the previous contest. Obviously, anything can happen in a four-week period, but personal research suggests winning teams with low ERAs generate more saves than other squads. With the Halos' revamped offense and potentially good pitching as the rotation get healthy, Parker should be among September's leaders in saves.
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), 47 percent, Baltimore Orioles vs. New York Yankees (LHP Jordan Montgomery): Montgomery has thrown well for the Yankees but will be on a pitch limit. As a fly ball pitcher, he's vulnerable to the long ball. Castillo has hit four homers over the past week and is crushing southpaws to the tune of a 1.012 OPS this season.
Dominic Smith (L), 6 percent, New York Mets vs. Philadelphia Phillies (RHP Mark Leiter Jr.): Leiter was listed as a good spot starter, but he isn't dominant enough to avoid potentially good matchups. Smith along with Jose Reyes, Brandon Nimmo, Norichika Aoki and Asdrubal Cabrera are all in play.
Brandon Phillips (R), 48 percent, Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Athletics (RHP Chris Smith): Smith has served up 12 of his 13 homers to righties, which is dangerous, considering the Angels are mostly a right-handed attack. Phillips leads the way atop the lineup. Kole Calhoun is also in the mix.
Yandy Diaz (R), 1 percent, Cleveland Indians at Chicago White Sox (RHP James Shields): Diaz has carved out a regular role, playing against both left- and right-handers. He doesn't hit for a lot of power but is an on-base machine. The Tribe are in a great spot to stay on a collective hot streak. Bradley Zimmer and Lonnie Chisenhall are other Indians to consider.
Eric Sogard (L), 1 percent, Milwaukee Brewers at Cincinnati Reds (RHP Homer Bailey): Sogard has cooled significantly from early in the season, but he's still in a great spot, leading off against one of the weakest arms on the docket. With a righty on the hill, Stephen Vogt is an option, as well.
Rio Ruiz (L), less than 1 percent, Atlanta Braves vs. Texas Rangers (RHP Andrew Cashner): Trusting the process despite the outcome means you have to be willing to accept occasionally being burned when someone continually defies a mediocre skill set. For me, that someone is Cashner. I refuse to buy into his ability to induce weak contact, mitigating a meek 4.7 K/9 and above average 3.3 BB/9. The roof will eventually cave in, so I'm not afraid to use hitters against the Rangers' righty. With the trade of Phillips, Ruiz is getting another look at the hot corner, enjoying the platoon edge on Monday.
Kolten Wong (L), 21 percent, St. Louis Cardinals at San Diego Padres (RHP Luis Perdomo): Wong has been hitting either leadoff or fifth, both nice positions for fantasy purposes. Perdomo has tossed a few solid games but in general sports below average skills and hasn't been missing many bats lately.
Ben Zobrist (B), 39 percent, Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Chad Kuhl): The Cubs have scored the most runs since the All-Star break, by far, averaging more than six tallies per contest. For obvious reasons, not a lot of Cubs hitters are available for pickup, so being able to grab Zobrist can get some exposure, often from the leadoff spot.
Nick Williams (L), 18 percent, Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets (RHP Rafael Montero): Rhys Hoskins has been in the spotlight, while Williams has quietly put up a strong .811 OPS since his call-up. As expected, he has been more effective with the platoon edge, putting him in a great spot from the 3-hole against a lesser right-hander.
Brandon Moss (L), 2 percent, Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers (RHP Artie Lewicki): The Royals have had trouble pushing runners across the plate lately, but facing Lewikci, they should be in line for a rare productive affair. Moss is hitting low in the order but has the power to do some damage.
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.