Fantasy baseball daily notes: Pitcher and hitter rankings for Saturday

Brendan McKay is expected to return to the mound on Saturday to help out Tampa Bay in a doubleheader against Baltimore. AP

As we head into the first weekend following the All-Star break, we're being treated to a supersized 16-team slate, with the Rays and Orioles squaring off in a doubleheader. What makes this twin bill interesting is that top prospect Brendan McKay, who had been optioned to Triple-A last week in order to limit his innings, will be recalled to be Tampa Bay's "26th man" and start one of the games. He immediately steps in as a high-end streamer. Here's a closer look at McKay, along with the day's other top streaming options, focusing on players rostered in fewer than 50% of ESPN.com leagues.


Brendan McKay (L), rostered in 34% of ESPN leagues, Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles: As we were saying, McKay has made a strong impression in his first two big league starts, holding his two opponents to a combined three runs across 11 innings. The strikeouts haven't been there just yet, but they will come. He's fanned more than a batter per inning at every stop in the minors. McKay's swing-and-miss stuff, combined with his pinpoint control, makes him a tantalizing fantasy asset in the second half. Despite his limited big-league experience, the two-way player should have no trouble holding down an Orioles team that finished the first half with a .300 wOBA (27th in MLB) and a healthy 24% strikeout rate.

Zac Gallen (R), 16%, Miami Marlins vs. New York Mets: Gallen, another top pitching prospect, draws a not-so-intimidating home matchup against the Mets on Saturday. The Mets have been below average versus righties this season, putting up a 97 wRC+ in the first half. Like McKay, Gallen has already shown that he can hold his own against big league batters by piling up 16 strikeouts in his first 12 innings. After having his last start cut short by a rain delay, the 23-year-old should be ready to deliver five to six strong innings on Saturday, with plenty of K upside.

Merrill Kelly (R), 24%, Arizona Diamondbacks at St. Louis Cardinals: Based on the Cardinals' recent offensive struggles, Kelly's matchup against St. Louis is one of the most favorable of the day. Over the last 30 days, the Cardinals' offense ranks worst in the National League with a 79 wRC+ and a .291 wOBA. Matt Carpenter returned from the IL on Friday but, given his struggles this season (see his .706 OPS), I'm not sure it matters. For his part, Kelly has been on a nice little run, holding a 2.98 ERA and an 0.93 WHIP over his last seven starts. His up-and-down strikeout totals can be frustrating, as in those last seven starts he whiffed nine-plus twice and three or fewer three times. However, he's compensated for that with terrific control in the form of only five total walks in that stretch. Look for Kelly to keep rolling against a stagnant offense.

Dakota Hudson (R), 27%, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Arizona Diamondbacks: Opposing Kelly on Saturday is Hudson, who put together one of 2019's most consistent stretches in the first half. The right-hander closed out the first half with 14 straight starts of three or fewer earned runs. Granted, one of his most recent outings lasted just 1 2/3 innings, as he allowed six baserunners and seven runs (one earned) to the Padres. Still, Hudson delivered a 3.08 ERA during that stretch and continues to have success keeping the ball in the park thanks to an elite 60% ground-ball rate. The Diamondbacks are no pushover, but they've been fairly ordinary of late, sporting just a 99 wRC+ over the last month.


All-Star Liam Hendriks remains available in 67% of ESPN leagues. Even with Blake Treinen back from the injured list, it was Hendriks who nailed down Oakland's last two save opportunities before the break. Sure, it's possible Treinen gets the closer job back soon, but it's also possible that Hendriks keeps it for the rest of the season. Hendriks has been by far the more effective reliever, and the fact that Treinen has already missed time with shoulder issues isn't encouraging. Scoop up Hendriks where he's available.


Catcher -- Danny Jansen (R), 36%, Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees (LHP J.A. Happ): Jansen is one of the hottest-hitting catchers in fantasy. Over the last 30 days, Jansen has been the No. 4 catcher, batting .301 with six homers, 14 runs and 16 RBI. On Saturday, he gets the platoon edge against Happ, who sports a bloated 6.29 ERA at Yankee Stadium this season.

First Base -- Christian Walker (R), 22%, Arizona Diamondbacks at St. Louis Cardinals (RHP Dakota Hudson): Walker's rostered percentage dipped after a slow May that saw him put up a .658 OPS. Since June 2, however, he sports a .284/.348/.539 slash with seven homers and 23 RBI in 31 games. He also has a 49.1% hard-hit rate that ranks 11th in baseball. Walker has hit right-handed pitching much harder this season, which puts him in a good spot again Hudson.

Second Base -- Ryan McMahon (L), 5%, Colorado Rockies vs. Cincinnati Reds (RHP Tanner Roark): Getting the platoon advantage at Coors Field is reason enough to stream McMahon on Saturday, but the matchup against Roark is particularly enticing. The right-hander has been hammered by left-handed batters this season (.388 wOBA), with nine homers allowed in just 38 1/3 innings.

Third Base -- Jeimer Candelario (S), 5%, Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals (RHP Brad Keller): Candelario has been on a power binge since the beginning of July. In just 40 at-bats, he's clubbed four homers and three doubles, culminating in a .350/.435/.725 slash. Meanwhile, Keller sports a 5.11 ERA over the last month, with five homers allowed in his last four outings.

Shortstop -- J.P. Crawford (L), 5%, Seattle Mariners at Los Angeles Angels (RHP Matt Harvey): Harvey is set to return to the mound after missing more than a month with an upper back strain. The right-hander has a 7.50 ERA in 10 starts with the Angels this year and posted a 16.50 ERA in two rehab starts at Triple-A. Needless to say, we want some exposure against the Angels right-hander on Saturday. A good way to get that exposure is Crawford, who sports a .297/.349/.525 triple slash versus righties.

Corner Infield - A.J. Reed (L), under 1%, Chicago White Sox at Oakland Athletics (RHP Chris Bassitt): Reed, a former top prospect, is getting a fresh start in Chicago. Expectations are low, but he still showed power (12 HR in 56 games) and strong on-base skills (12% walk rate) at Triple-A. With somewhat regular playing time, Reed could carve out some deep-league value with the White Sox. On Saturday, he draws the platoon edge against Bassitt, who hasn't registered a quality start in over a month.

Middle Infield -- Chris Taylor (R), 48%, Los Angeles Dodgers at Boston Red Sox (LHP Chris Sale): We obviously don't go out of our way to stream batters against Sale, but the Boston left-hander has looked very human this season. He's allowed five earned runs in back-to-back starts and has surrendered 16 homers to right-handed hitters this season. Taylor, meanwhile, has been on a tear of late, batting .357/.418/.595 over the last month. He gets a nice park boost going to Fenway.

Outfield -- Jackie Bradley Jr. (L), 39%, Boston Red Sox vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (RHP Ross Stripling): The last 30 days have seen Bradley hit .314/.404/.547 with four homers, six doubles and a pair of steals. Fantasy managers might as well ride the wave. Stripling should get things straightened out eventually, but he hasn't made it out of the fifth inning in any of his last three starts since rejoining the Dodgers rotation.

Outfield -- Jason Heyward (L), 41%, Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Jordan Lyles): Lyles has hit a rough patch. After putting up a 1.89 ERA in his first eight starts, he's posted an 8.16 ERA in his subsequent six starts. Heyward, who has an .891 OPS versus righties and a .321/.376/.577 slash over the last month, should be able to take advantage of the right-hander's struggles.

Outfield -- Phillip Ervin (R), under 1%, Cincinnati Reds at Colorado Rockies (LHP Kyle Freeland): Ervin is a mile away from being a fantasy asset in standard formats, but he can be a mighty fine streamer in the right situation. Saturday brings us such a situation. In a limited sample, Ervin has produced a .409/.500/.727 triple slash against southpaws this season -- and Coors Field in 2019 is playing more homer-friendly than ever.