Fantasy baseball daily notes: Pitcher and hitter rankings for Sunday

Ben Zobrist's return to action with the Cubs couldn't come a moment too soon for them, but he can help your fantasy lineup too. Kamil Krzaczynski/AP Photo

Welcome to the penultimate Sunday of the regular season. Both Central Divisions are still up for grabs along with the four wild-card spots. While several of Sunday's contests have playoff implications, they all matter for fantasy.

It's a good day for streaming starting pitching with several options. Something to keep in mind is we're at the point of the season where nothing should be taken for granted. Peruse your available player pool carefully as often there are solid players dropped to clear a roster spot on an opponent's squad. They may not need him but perhaps you can take advantage.

That said, here are the standard carousel of players, all available in at least 50% of ESPN leagues.


John Means (L), rostered in 36% of ESPN leagues, Baltimore Orioles vs. Seattle Mariners: On the surface, Means has enjoyed a solid rookie campaign, currently sporting a stingy 3.65 ERA for one of the worst staffs in MLB history. However, his expected ERAs are nearly two runs higher, which point towards some luck. Formulaically, the area he's most fortunate is homers. Allowing 21 home runs in 143 innings may not seem low, but as a fly ball pitcher in Camden Yards, on paper it should be higher, especially when considering a pedestrian 19 percent strikeout clip means more balls are in play. This is more of an offseason concern when ranking Means next season. On Sunday, he faces a lineup vulnerable to southpaw pitching -- Seattle's home run rate against lefties during the second half is below average and their strikeout rate is above average.

Martin Perez (L), 26%, Minnesota Twins vs. Kansas City Royals: This is strictly a call for those scrounging for wins. Perez started the season off looking like a new guy, adding velocity and missing more bats. He couldn't maintain those gains, resulting in an up-and-down campaign. The Twins have yet to clinch the AL Central, so they'll be playing at full strength, putting Perez in line for a win against the Royals who are looking at their second straight 100-loss season.

Tanner Roark (R), 22%, Oakland Athletics vs. Texas Rangers: Roark is a great example of how a fly ball pitcher can be successful working in a big park with good defenders behind him. Since being dealt to the Athletics, Roark is a tidy 3-0 with a 2.83 ERA in the Coliseum. On Sunday, he looks to get Oakland one step closer to an AL wild-card berth in a home date with the Rangers.

Reynaldo Lopez (R), 16%, Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers: It hasn't manifested in the numbers, but Lopez is showing signs of growth in the second half. His velocity and spin have improved, now he needs to follow in teammate Lucas Giolito's footsteps and spend the winter learning how to take advantage of the changes. On Sunday, Lopez is in a great spot to go into the offseason on a high note, drawing the anemic Tigers, the lowest scoring offense in the league.

Pablo Lopez (R), 5%, Miami Marlins vs. Washington Nationals: A rule of thumb down the stretch is avoiding pitchers facing teams still in the playoff picture. However, Lopez is in play in the deeper leagues, protected a bit by Marlins Park, one of the top pitching venues in the league.

Bullpen: The Milwaukee Brewers are using more of a piggyback setup than the traditional opener with Brandon Woodruff and Gio Gonzalez both expected to throw multiple innings in their important tilt with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Since he'll be coming into the game second, Gonzalez will be eligible for the win and is thus another fantasy option.


Catcher -- Austin Nola (R), 10%, Seattle Mariners at Baltimore Orioles (LHP John Means): Those expecting Nola to turn into a pumpkin are still waiting. While he remains productive against all pitching, he has been especially effective with a southpaw on the hill as evidenced by a .597 slug with the platoon edge.

First Base -- Christian Walker (R), 24%, Arizona Diamondbacks at San Diego Padres (RHP Garrett Richards): Walker has emerged from a second-half swoon, finishing the season on the upswing, going 6-for-10 with three walks and just two strikeouts of late. For the season, Walker has bashed 26 homers, also chipping in with eight steals in nine attempts.

Second Base -- Luis Arraez (L), 23%, Minnesota Twins vs. Kansas City Royals (RHP Jorge Lopez): A .346 average for a 22-year-old rookie is already noteworthy. Even more impressive is that Arraez has done it while surrounded by teammates neck-and-neck with the Yankees with respect to the most homers ever by a team. Instead of getting caught in the power wave, Arraez has stayed true to his skills, making frequent and solid contact, and it has paid off handsomely.

Third Base -- Starlin Castro (R), 39%, Miami Marlins vs. Washington Nationals (RHP Austin Voth): With another home run, Castro will set a new personal best as he's currently at 21, the same number he bopped with the Yankees in 2016. Voth has surrendered eight homers in 45 MLB innings, sixth courtesy of right-handed batters.

Shortstop -- Mauricio Dubon (R), 1%, San Francisco Giants at Atlanta Braves (LHP Dallas Keuchel): Mike Yastrzemski has been in the spotlight lately, and deservedly so with 20 homers including one landing in the bleachers in Fenway Park where he often accompanied his grandad Carl while growing up. But with a lefty on the hill, let's shift the focus to another Giants player with Red Sox roots, as Dubon was initially drafted by Boston. The 25-year-old infielder is making a play for next season's roster with three homers and a pair of steals in limited action.

Corner Infield -- Sam Travis (R), under 1%, Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays (LHP Ryan Yarbrough): After being mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, skipper Alex Cora said the Red Sox will play their regulars through the Tampa Bay series, then use them sparingly the final week. This should keep Travis in the lineup most of the upcoming week. On Sunday, he's in play with the platoon edge.

Middle Infield -- Ben Zobrist (S), 12%, Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals (RHP Miles Mikolas): After attending to personal matters for much of summer, Zobrist is back with the Cubs in the nick of time. He's up to his old tricks with a .326/.404/.457 line since returning early this month.

Outfield -- Nick Markakis (L), 50%, Atlanta Braves vs. San Francisco Giants (RHP Logan Webb): Speaking of veterans coming back at the right time, Markakis hit safely in his first five games after being activated from the injured list. Entering Saturday's action, he's batting .346 (9-for-26) since returning, with only one strikeout.

Outfield -- Brandon Nimmo (L), 36%, New York Mets at Cincinnati Reds (RHP Trevor Bauer): Nimmo is another hitter contributing down the stretch after a lengthy absence. He rejoined the Mets when rosters expanded, struggling for a week or so. Since, Nimmo has picked it up, recording a 1.248 OPS since September 11.

Outfield -- Victor Reyes (S), 5%, Detroit Tigers vs. Chicago White Sox (RHP Reynaldo Lopez): Center field has been a sore spot for the Tigers all season. The long-term expectation is for Daz Cameron to take over, though he'll need more seasoning in Triple-A, maybe even the entire season. Reyes is stating his case to be the stopgap, slashing .313/.338/.447 with five steals over the second half.