Friday offers the standard full slate with the traditional matinee at Wrigley Field when the Cubs are home for the weekend. Max Scherzer and Corey Kluber are the main events on the card, along with the 2017 debut of Andrew Heaney. With several mainstay hitters finally eclipsing the 50 percent cutoff we use to feature players, I can add a few new batters to the database, along with a couple of old friends in favorable spots.
Pitchers to stream
Matt Moore (L), 12 percent ownership in ESPN leagues, San Francisco Giants vs. Philadelphia Phillies: A couple weeks ago, I finally gave in and swore off Moore. Since then, he's tossed a pair of solid efforts, fanning 16 with just one walk in 13 innings. Homers are still an issue, but the Phillies are taking a huge park hit, playing in the venue least generous to lefty power.
Trevor Williams (R), 11 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. St. Louis Cardinals: Williams carries a pedestrian walk rate with a higher-than-average walk rate. So what's the allure? He's surrendered only two homers over his last eleven games, covering 64 1/3 innings. Since the break, only the Pirates and Giants have a lower home run rate versus righties than the Cardinals.
Austin Pruitt (R), 4 percent, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Seattle Mariners: Since entering the rotation, Pruitt has handled himself well against three division leaders and another club in wild-card contention. The Mariners have been scuffling versus righties as of late, giving Pruitt another chance to impress against a talented club. The righty is also aided by home-field advantage.
Andrew Heaney (L), 4 percent, Los Angeles Angels at Baltimore Orioles: This note is more to tell of Heaney's long-awaited return from Tommy John surgery, as it is to recommend him for this start. Some leagues don't permit pickup of injured players. If that's the case, and you play in a keeper or dynasty format, consider stashing Heaney. Don't expect much this season. The important thing coming off TJS is having the pitcher gain confidence so he can spend the offseason in his normal routine, not fretting throwing his first pitch in anger next spring. That said, the Orioles aren't especially daunting versus southpaws, thus providing some strikeout upside.
Pitchers to avoid
Along with Kluber and Scherzer, there are several other upper-echelon hurlers on the card, with none being in a precarious spot. Deploy your troops with confidence.
Wednesday night, after Carlos Rodon left after 8 1/3 innings with a 4-2 lead over the Dodgers, I presciently tweeted, "Finally -- we're about to learn who'll be blowing saves for the White Sox now."
With the understanding that those in ESPN standard leagues can avoid this train wreck, there are some in deeper formats desperately in need of saves. Juan Minaya was first out of the bullpen. Whether this was because he's staying in setup or because White Sox skipper Rick Renteria opted to use who he considers his best reliever in that crucial spot is unclear. The important thing is Minaya got two outs, sending the games into the bottom of the inning with the two-run lead intact. Renteria then played matchups with Gregory Infante, Aaron Bummer and Jake Petricka, with only Infante retiring a hitter. Forced to choose, I'd slot Minaya ahead of Infante for the next save opportunity,
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.
Travis d'Arnaud (R), 6 percent, New York Mets vs. Miami Marlins (LHP Justin Nicolino): Part-time third baseman, then second baseman, then third baseman, then second baseman, d'Arnaud should be back behind the dish Friday night. For those who didn't see it Wednesday night, Terry Collins took a page out of the Little League handbook and moved d'Arnaud and Asdrubal Cabrera between second and third, depending on the handedness of the hitter. The Mets have fortified their infield so d'Arnaud won't be joining Anthony Rizzo with second base eligibility. With respect to this matchup, the last time the Mets faced a southpaw, d'Arnaud hit fifth, a nice place to be against a left-hander.
Lucas Duda (L), 12 percent, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Seattle Mariners (RHP Erasmo Ramirez): Former Met Duda appears to be coming out of his rut, much like the rest of his teammates. Streaks are generally non-predictive, however when a hitter begins to whiff less, it's often a harbinger to a break out. After fanning nine times in four games, Duda struck out only three times in his next three, through Wednesday night.
Neil Walker (B), 19 percent, Milwaukee Brewers at Colorado Rockies (RHP German Marquez): Walker is platooning at second, hitting in the two-hole against all right-handers. Here's a great chance to pick up some exposure to Coors Field.
Matt Chapman (R), 7 percent, Oakland Athletics at Houston Astros (LHP Dallas Keuchel): Keuchel snapped out of a malaise last time in Texas. Still, he's allowed a homer in four straight contests, and before his last outing, fanned only seven in his three previous efforts, spanning just 12 frames. On the other side, Chapman's laying claim to the hot corner gig, flashing the leather while smashing seven long balls the last month.
Amed Rosario (R), 27 percent, New York Mets vs. Miami Marlins (LHP Justin Nicolino): It took longer than it should have, but Tim Beckham finally is on more than 50 percent of ESPN rosters, allowing us to shift focus elsewhere. Rosario is a great landing spot, enjoying the platoon edge on a pitcher we have projected for the lowest Game Score on the docket.
Ryder Jones (L), less than 1 percent, San Francisco Giants vs. Philadelphia Phillies (RHP Zach Eflin): Elfin doesn't rank much higher than Nicolino, putting Jones, along with teammate Jarrett Parker in a good spot to do some damage from the left side of the box.
Chase Utley (L), 1 percent, Los Angeles Dodgers at Detroit Tigers (RHP Jordan Zimmermann): Utley's playing time has been reduced lately, but with an interleague tilt in Comerica Park, he's likely to be in the lineup somewhere. Putting the ball in play shouldn't be an issue for the veteran infielder, as Zimmermann has punched out a meager 12 in his last 28 stanzas.
Nick Markakis (L), 22 percent, Atlanta Braves vs. Cincinnati Reds (RHP Sal Romano): Part of identifying solid options is considering the team context and not just the player's setup. Sure, one-on-one, Markakis is in a favorable position facing Romano. What makes this enticing is that while Markakis isn't a power threat, the Braves as a club should be productive against a guy with a bloated 6.05 ERA. Hitting fourth, Markakis' potential for runs and RBIs is great for points leagues, as well as those chasing those categories in roto formats.
Shin-Soo Choo (L), 24 percent, Texas Rangers vs. Chicago White Sox (RHP James Shields): Much to the demise of ESPN Research Associate Kyle Soppe, Joey Gallo has vaulted past 50 percent ESPN ownership. That said, we're dealing with Shields, so some exposure is needed. Why not Choo, slotted in the two-hole, still dangerous versus right-handers.
Nicky Delmonico (L), 2 percent, Chicago White Sox at Texas Rangers (RHP Andrew Cashner): I'm not buying into Cashner. His peripherals are trash. His saving grace is keeping the ball in the yard. Delmonico carried an 11-game hitting streak into Thursday night's game, fanning only nine times in that stretch.
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.