Just a couple of weeks ago, the Minnesota Twins were battling for home field in the American League playoffs. Now, they're more concerned with fending off the surging Cleveland Indians. Monday kicks off an important series for both AL Central contenders with the Twins entertaining the team with the team with the league's top record as the New York Yankees visit Target Center while the Indians cross the border for a set in Rogers Centre with the Toronto Blue Jays.
In terms of fantasy, in part due to the typically abbreviated Monday schedule, spot starters are scarce while the continued elevated run scoring environment keeps a plush supply of available batters to fill in lineup holes.
Good luck this week. Here are some names to start things off in the right direction, all available in at least half of ESPN leagues.
Sonny Gray (R), rostered in 50% of ESPN leagues, Cincinnati Reds at Milwaukee Brewers: If it were anyone but Gray posting his numbers, he'd be rosters in well over 90% of ESPN leagues. Gray's 28.6% K% is a career best while his 8.6% BB% is a tad above league average but still palatable. The key to Gray's success is keeping the ball in the yard as he's only served up 11 homers in 103 1/3 innings. The Brewers offense is shockingly the 25th most productive with a righthander on the hill.
Daniel Ponce de Leon (R), 12%, St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates: Ponce de Leon's first start after being named an official member of the Cardinals rotation fell short of the efforts earning him the promotion. Ponce de Leon has a chance to enact revenge with a return date with the Pirates, this time in the Steel City. Given some was in relief, 41 strikeouts to 13 walks in 31 1/3 frames bodes well for Ponce de Leon to flip the script this time around.
Trevor Richards (R), 9%, Miami Marlins at Chicago White Sox: Richards possesses one of the game's best changeups although he hasn't honed the rest of his repertoire enough to take full advantage. Still, when he's on, Richards can stifle any offense. The White Sox check in as an average lineup facing righties, though they fan at an elevated 25% clip in that scenario.
Bullpen: Speaking of the White Sox, their closer Alex Colome could be moved to a contender, albeit in a setup fashion. Especially with Kelvin Herrera on the shelf, Aaron Bummer is a prescient stash. The southpaw has 10 holds in addition to a 1.73 ERA and .88 WHIP. Obviously, he'll be hard-pressed to maintain those ratios, but they likely have earned him ninth inning duties if the opportunity arises.
Catcher -- Mitch Garver (R), 42%, Minnesota Twins vs. New York Yankees (LHP CC Sabathia): There's no way Garver can match his first half pace, right? A .333/.415/.778 slash with five homers in July begs to differ.
First Base -- Matt Adams (L), 1%, Washington Nationals vs. Colorado Rockies (RHP Peter Lambert): The Nationals are giving Ryan Zimmermann frequent rest as he recently missed time due to plantar fasciitis. It isn't a sure thing Adams will be in the lineup but if he is, the veteran remains a big-time power threat with a righty on the hill, slugging .507 with the platoon edge this season.
Second Base -- Scooter Gennett (L), 42%, Cincinnati Reds at Milwaukee Brewers (RHP Chase Anderson): Admittedly, Gennett is making it hard to be positive as he's struggled mightily since coming off the IL in late June. The toughest part is Gennett's Statcast metrics demonstrate it's not simply a case of bad luck, he's not hitting the ball with authority. That said, water usually finds its level, so this is one last reminder Gennett has a history of production against righty pitching, providing nice pop from the middle infield.
Third Base -- Gio Urshela (R), 8%, New York Yankees at Minnesota Twins (LHP Martin Perez): Urshela has fallen back into a reserve role though there's a decent chance he plays Monday as Luke Voit could get the day off as he's still feeling the effects of taking a pitch in the face. Voit cleared concussion protocol and started Sunday, but the Yankees could opt to play it safe. Urshela was a key cog over the first half, helping the Yankees hold the fort though the plethora of injuries.
Shortstop -- Brandon Crawford (L), 7%, San Francisco Giants vs. Chicago Cubs (RHP Alec Mills): Buoyed by a four-game set in Coors Field, Crawford has been raking since the break, posting a 1.121 OPS. Back home in Oracle Park obviously isn't as advantageous but facing a middling righty boosts Crawford's stock.
Corner Infield -- Daniel Vogelbach (L), 50%, Seattle Mariners vs. Texas Rangers (RHP Adrian Sampson): Hurry, there's a strong chance Vogelbach is one of the more popular pickups and may have eclipsed our 50% cutoff by the time you look. If available, Vogelbach is one of the better choices to leave the yard, facing a righty that's administered 19 homers in just 97 frames.
Middle Infield -- Neil Walker (S), 2%, Miami Marlins at Chicago White Sox (RHP Ivan Nova): Walker isn't an everyday player for the Marlins though he is often active against righthanders. With the added availability of the designated hitter slot, there's a good chance Walker is in there, facing a pedestrian righthander in a hitter-friendly venue.
Outfield -- Hunter Pence (R), 49%, Texas Rangers at Seattle Mariners (LHP Marco Gonzales): Several Rangers warranted this spot as Asdrubal Cabrera and Danny Santana are also in a favorable position. Gonzales has already endured correction on his early season ERA, currently sitting at 4.48. However, a 5.28 xFIP and 5.11 SIERA hint there's more to come.
Outfield -- Jarrod Dyson (L), 7%, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Baltimore Orioles (RHP Aaron Brooks): With 21 steals in 23 tries, Dyson is among the league leaders in the department. On Monday, he's likely to have Chance Sisco behind the dish for Baltimore. On the season, Sisco has snared only three would-be pilferers in 23 tries.
Outfield -- Jordan Luplow (R), 1%, Cleveland Indians at Toronto Blue Jays (LHP Ryan Borucki): Luplow has cranked nine of his 10 long balls with a lefty on the hill. Borucki is slated to make his first start of the season after rehabbing a sore elbow. In 11 innings for Triple-A Buffalo previous to his activation, Borucki surrendered four homers.
Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days) 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 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. So, for example, a 10 is a must-start rating, while 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. A "*" means that the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate hitter rating; these are the author's ratings.