Winning your fantasy league is hard. Those who are counting streaming pitchers as a main part of their strategy are finding it even harder this season, as back-end pitching is even more inconsistent than normal. In previous seasons, it was common for five or even six options to be available on a full slate. Now, we're lucky if there are four, and sometimes we have to settle for three. Friday is an example of another scarce night with most of the matchup plays facing dangerous offenses.
Good luck this weekend; here are some suggestions to get things off on the right foot. Everyone is available in at least half of ESPN leagues.
Marcus Stroman (R), rostered in 50% of ESPN leagues, Toronto Blue Jays at Detroit Tigers: With fewer than two weeks until the July 31 trade deadline, every start Stroman makes for the Blue Jays could be his last for the organization. The veteran is in a good spot to impress suitors, facing the American League's weakest offense with a righty on the hill. Stroman doesn't rack up many strikeouts but could punch out an extra batter or two, as the Tigers fan at a 26% clip against righthanders.
Eric Lauer (L), 7%, San Diego Padres at Chicago Cubs: Obviously, you can't erase them, they're on Lauer's permanent record, but if you take away his two disasters at Coors Field, Lauer has posted a 2.94 ERA and 1.13 ERA so far this season. The Cubs' production sits mid-pack with a southpaw on the hill, whiffing at a generous 25% clip in that scenario.
Tyler Mahle (R), 5%, Cincinnati Reds vs. St. Louis Cardinals: Mahle continues to be a fantasy tease, displaying above-average stuff while also exhibiting inconsistent control and command. On Friday, Mahle draws a Cardinals offense checking in as the 22nd-ranked team according to wOBA (weighted on-base average) against righties.
Bullpen: An official announcement hasn't been made, but all signs point to Nathan Eovaldi's activation over the weekend and immediate insertion into the closer's role for the Boston Red Sox. Eovaldi threw an inning on Thursday for Triple-A Pawtucket, fanning three with one walk, registering 11 strikes on 19 pitches, touching 98 mph.
Projected game scores
Catcher -- Travis d'Arnaud (R), 5%, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Chicago White Sox (RHP Reynaldo Lopez): Add d'Arnaud to the list of surprising American League backstops. Since coming over from the Mets, d'Arnaud has slashed .274/.333/.526. The receiver faces Lopez, author of 23 homers in just 104 innings.
First base -- Justin Smoak (S), 43%, Toronto Blue Jays at Detroit Tigers (RHP Jordan Zimmermann): It's been a rough season for Smoak, as he's reverted to 2016 form. However, he's showing signs of breaking out, sporting a modest four-game hitting streak entering the weekend set with the Tigers. Zimmermann picked up after the break where he left off, allowing seven runs in each of his past two outings.
Second base -- Tommy Edman (S), 5%, St. Louis Cardinals at Cincinnati Reds (RHP Tyler Mahle): Edman won't light up any single category, but he'll contribute across the board. He hasn't displayed it yet at the big-league level, but Edman's on-base skills were a plus the past couple seasons at Triple-A Memphis. The ability to get on base and chip in with some homers and steals plays in any format, but is especially helpful in points leagues.
Third base -- Jeimer Candelario (S), 5%, Detroit Tigers vs. Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Marcus Stroman): Overall, it's been a disappointing campaign for Candelario. In fact, he's been sent down to Triple-A Toledo on a couple of occasions. That said, since returning to the majors in late June, Candelario has registered a tidy .306/.377/.613 slash line.
Shortstop -- Miguel Rojas (R), 4%, Miami Marlins at Los Angeles Dodgers (LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu): Rojas is coming off a couple of hitless outings, but since May 15, he's been one of the league's top leadoff hitters. Ryu is having a Cy Young season, but he couldn't keep up the early place, allowing 40 hits over his past 36 frames, spanning six starts.
Corner infield -- Dominic Smith (L), 2%, New York Mets at San Francisco Giants (RHP Tyler Beede): After clubbing a half dozen long balls in June, Smith went yard for the first time in July on Wednesday. He's been a stalwart in the lineup versus right-handers, taking advantage with a .926 OPS, featuring eight of his nine homers with the platoon edge.
Middle infield -- Adam Frazier (L), 20%, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Philadelphia Phillies (RHP Jake Arrieta): Arrieta's 4.54 ERA is higher than league average, just one of the many reasons the Phillies' season is falling short of expectations. The disheartening thing is Arrieta's expected ERA is almost half a run higher. Several Pirates are in good position to take advantage of Arrieta's troubles, beginning with Frazier, as Arrieta has really had issues with lefty swingers.
Outfield -- Marwin Gonzalez (S), 37%, Minnesota Twins vs. Oakland Athletics (RHP Chris Bassitt): Last season, using Gonzalez was a common means to get a piece of the powerful Astros lineup. This season, the role is the same, though the team is different. The Twins are the third-highest scoring offense in the league with Gonzalez one of the few hitters available on many league's waiver wire.
Outfield -- Oscar Mercado (R), 18%, Cleveland Indians vs. Kansas City Royals (LHP Mike Montgomery): The newly acquired Montgomery is being thrust right into the Royals' depleted rotation. Montgomery was dealt for Maldanaldo, a catcher adept at controlling the running game. This helps Mercado, who has begun to run more, swiping eight bases since being called up in mid May.
Outfield -- Manuel Margot (R), 6%, San Diego Padres at Chicago Cubs (LHP Jon Lester): Speaking of steals, Margot has the wheels to take advantage of Lester's woes with base runners. Not only that, Margot has the power stroke going, blasting three homers since July 5.
Hitter matchup ratings
Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's history (three years' worth) as well as 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. For example, a 10 is a must-start rating, while a 1 should be avoided (if possible).