This is the final weekend for some head-to-head leagues, while others combine the last two weeks of the regular season for their championship. Regardless of your format, there isn't much time left, making your roster decisions even more crucial. Here's some names to help fortify your squad on a typically full Friday slate.
Pitchers to stream
Alex Cobb (R), 49 percent ownership in ESPN leagues, Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles: Let's chalk Cobb's availability to being late in the season with less activity on the waiver wire. How else can you explain the 39th ranked starting pitcher on our Player Rater on a roster in just under half of ESPN leagues? It's a park downgrade, but the offense isn't as daunting as previous seasons. For the season, Cobb's strikeouts are down, but he's been punching out a batter an inning for the past month, which he can continue Friday facing a lineup with an above average strikeout rate versus righties.
Garrett Richards (R), 32 percent, Los Angeles Angels at Houston Astros: Admittedly, this is as much a heart as it is head call since I'm a fan of Richards potential. The problem is the Astros are one of the best offenses in the league with a righty on the hill. Still, there aren't any arms available with Richards' upside.
Brandon Woodruff (R), 21 percent, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Chicago Cubs: Woodruff is one of the reasons this four-game weekend set still has divisional implication, though realistically, unless the Brewers take at least three of the games, they're fighting for a wild card berth. While they've slowed down from their blistering pace coming out of the break, the Cubs are still handling right-handed pitching well, though they're whiffing at an elevated clip. With a 7.1 K/9, Woodruff isn't dominant, but he should be able to miss enough bats to help in the category.
Sean Newcomb (L), 7 percent, Atlanta Braves vs. Philadelphia Phillies: Newcomb is only likely to throw five frames, tempering chances for the win, but against a weal offense, they should be quality innings. The Phillies are near the bottom of the league with a lefty on the hill.
Ubaldo Jimenez (R), 2 percent, Baltimore Orioles vs. Tampa Bay Rays: No, I didn't leave out the "Pitchers to Avoid" heading, there aren't any today. It's crunch time and Jimenez has thrown well enough to be in the "Break Glass in Case of Emergency" category, especially if you're chasing strikeouts. Jimenez has punched out 15 in his last two outings, spanning five innings while the Rays are the second easiest club for a right-hander to strike out.
The Rangers bullpen has been a game of musical chairs all season. Alex Claudio is currently seated in the throne, gathering three saves in the last week.
Projected game scores
GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. A "*" means the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author's ratings.
Christian Vazquez (R), 11 percent, Boston Red Sox at Cincinnati Reds (RHP Sal Romano): The Red Sox employ a strict catcher rotation, with Vazquez having the honors with Porcello on the bump. In part because of injuries, but also due to his hot stick, Vazquez has been hitting high in the order, ranging from second to sixth. Platoon edge is nice, but I'll take hitting higher in the lineup. It should be noted Romano has pitched well down the stretch, but I still like Boston to score some runs.
Lucas Duda (L), 8 percent, Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles (RHP Ubaldo Jimenez): Despite finally cracking the streaming section, Jimenez is a huge risk. Two of the reasons are Duda and Kevin Kiermaier, a pair of lefty swingers in good lineup spots.
Yoan Moncada (B), 36 percent, Chicago White Sox vs. Kansas City Royals (RHP Jason Hammel): Moncada has quieted those wondering if he's overrated, slashing .311/.378/.541 the last month, with three steals. Hammel has struggled in September, allowing 17 earned runs on 30 hits in 21 1/3 innings this month.
Jeimer Candelario (B), 12 percent, Detroit Tigers vs. Minnesota Twins (RHP Kyle Gibson): After a stretch of solid efforts, the Jays touched up Gibson last time. Candelario has been crushing it the last month, sporting an impressive .960 OPS. He's been even more productive the last week with a 1.183 mark, featuring a pair of homers.
Jorge Polanco (B), 41 percent, Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers (LHP Daniel Norris): With rosters expanded, there's a greater chance a player is replaced after a pitching change. Not to mention, we're at the point of the season changes are made with increased frequency. Norris has been working out of the bullpen, so he isn't likely going to work more than four or five innings. As a switch hitter, Polanco is in little danger of being lifted. It also helps he's been hitting third and has been crushing it since the break, slashing .295/.355/.516.
Jose Martinez (R), 39 percent, St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Ivan Nova): While Nova pitched well earlier in the season, he was outpitching his peripherals. Regression caught up in a big way as he's toting a 6.22 ERA and 1.55 WHIP for the last couple of months. Martinez has assumed the regular gig at first base as he's no longer just playing versus southpaws.
Marcus Semien (R), 16 percent, Oakland Athletics vs. Texas Rangers (RHP Nick Martinez): Semien is better with the platoon edge, but he's still a threat facing a weak righty like Martinez. The Rangers hurler has allowed seven homers over his previous 24 frames.
Brandon Moss (L), 8 percent, Kansas City Royals at Chicago White Sox (RHP Reynaldo Lopez): Lopez has fanned just four hitters in his last three starts, covering 19 innings. I like my chances when Moss makes contact.
Nick Markakis (L), 21 percent, Atlanta Braves vs. Philadelphia Phillies (RHP Ben Lively): Yawn. Markakis is boring, but he's still batting cleanup in front of a couple productive hitters. With the platoon edge on a middling righty, boring can be beneficial.
Norichika Aoki (L), 2 percent, New York Mets vs. Washington Nationals (RHP Edwin Jackson): Aoki heads a list of lefty-swinging Mets in a good place against Jackson. Dominic Smith and Brandon Nimmo 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.