Assuming the schedule goes off as planned, Friday will be just the third time all MLB clubs will play on the same day. After missing a week, the St. Louis Cardinals return to action as they entertain the Cubs to begin a three-game set. Elsewhere, the Tampa Rays attempt to snap out of their early season malaise behind Blake Snell at home in the opener of a four-game weekend series with the New York Yankees while the Philadelphia Phillies welcome the Atlanta Braves to Citizens Bank Park for a weekend trio.
There isn't a whole lot at the top of the card, suggesting it could be a good day for the bats to finally get rolling as league-wide batting average is the lowest since... well... ever. The previous low is the .237 mark from 1968 which resulted in lowering the mound from 15 to 10 inches.
Here are some hitters and pitchers in a favorable position to get the weekend off in the right direction with everyone available in over half of all ESPN leagues.
Chris Bassitt (R), rostered in 36% of ESPN leagues, Oakland Athletics vs. Houston Astros: A young prospect shows a glint of promise and there's a stampede to the waiver wire. A boring vet begins the season by allowing just one run in 9 2/3 frames, fanning 12 along the way and he's available in about two-thirds of ESPN leagues. Granted, the Astros pose a risk, but Bassitt deserves more attention. In 144 frames last season, he posted a tidy 1.19 ERA, fanning 141, nearly a batter an inning.
Sandy Alcantara (R), 36%, Miami Marlins at New York Mets: This comes with a warning as Alcantara was one of the Marlins infected with COVID-19 and was placed on the associated IL. However, he's officially listed as starting Friday's contest. Based on his initial start of the season, the 24-year old righty is someone to watch as he surrendered just one earned run to the Phillies, punching out seven in 6 2/3 stanzas. That said, while he may have recovered and is at full strength, his workload could be tempered.
Griffin Canning (R), 24%, Los Angeles Angels at Seattle Mariners: Canning was initially slated to start Thursday and was featured in the Daily Notes so let's tag in my colleague Mike Sheets, here's what he had to say. Canning was generating plenty of offseason buzz before elbow issues cropped up in late February, but now he's healthy and looking sharp. Armed with a curve that gets lots of swings and misses and a slider that gets lots of grounders, Canning sports a 10.1 K/9 through two starts and is coming off an outing in which he limited the Astros to one run over five frames. The 24-year-old will get an easier test this time around, squaring off against a Mariners team that's been below-average offensively (96 wRC+) with a 26.9% K rate that's third worst in baseball. Grab Canning for Friday's start and consider keeping him around if he performs well.
Anibal Sanchez (R), 8%, Washington Nationals vs. Baltimore Orioles: Sanchez is coming off a poor season and is off to a rough start as the Blue Jays hammered him with four homers in his 2020 debut, though he did fan seven with just one walk in five frames. The Orioles are one of a handful of teams where it's worth hoping the cagey veteran navigates a young lineup, leaning more to the high whiff, low walk side as opposed to the home run issue.
If Wednesday's game is any indication, Carl Edwards Jr. may emerge with the Seattle Mariners closing job. He fanned two Angels in the ninth, capturing his first save. The caveat is Taylor Williams, author of two saves this season pitched the eighth, but it was against the meat of the Halos order, including Mike Trout, who took him deep. The Mariners host the Colorado Rockies for a weekend interleague series and have three southpaws lined up to start. The visitors have struggled on the road against southpaw pitching the past several seasons, so another save opportunity or two could be in the offing.
For the latest team-by-team closer situations, please consult our Closer Chart.
Projected game scores
Catcher -- Kurt Suzuki (R), 7%, Washington Nationals vs. Baltimore Orioles (LHP Tommy Milone): Catcher is even tougher than usual to find a quality fill-in. Suzuki gets the nod on the strength of having the platoon bump as most of the other options are facing same side pitching. Since 2018, Suzuki has posted a productive .837 OPS facing southpaws.
First Base -- Mitch Moreland (L), 7%, Boston Red Sox vs. Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Tanner Roark): The Blue Jays are sending right-hander Roark to the hill, putting Moreland and his three early homers in play. He also has a double, fueling an impressive .762 slugging mark to begin the season. Since 2018, Moreland has slugged an impressive .505 facing righties.
Second Base -- Luis Rengifo (S), under 1%, Los Angeles Angels at Texas Rangers (RHP Jordan Lyles): With Andrelton Simmons sidelined, Rengifo has seen steady action, getting on base in four of his last five games. The 23-year old infielder has good speed, though he needs to improve his base-stealing technique as he was caught five times in seven tries last season.
Third Base -- Maikel Franco (R), 14%, Kansas City Royals vs. Minnesota Twins (LHP Devin Smeltzer): After his two-homer game on July 27, Franco is just 7-for-35, albeit with a good 17% strikeout rate. Perhaps facing a soft-tossing lefty will be the panacea to get Franco back on track.
Shortstop -- Andres Gimenez (L), 2%, New York Mets vs. Miami Marlins (RHP Sandy Alcantara): Gimenez filled in for Amed Rosario who is nursing sore quadriceps. Even if Rosario returns, Gimenez could slide to the keystone as Robinson Cano is on the IL. Gimenez is just 21-years old, debuting this season after spending 2019 toiling for Double-A Binghamton. He has good speed with developing power. His contact skills are advanced for his age, though he's rather impatient.
Corner Infield -- Phillip Evans (R), 1%, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Detroit Tigers (LHP Matthew Boyd): An 11-for-25 stretch has earned Evans regular playing time, shuffling between third, left field and designated hitter. His early season success along with enjoying the platoon advantage should keep his hot bat in the Pirates lineup, often in the two hole, a productive spot for fantasy purposes.
Middle Infield -- Jake Cronenworth (L), 4%, San Diego Padres vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (RHP Luke Weaver): Cronenworth is a shortstop by trade but has been chipping in at first base while Eric Hosmer convalesces on the IL. So far, Cronenworth is slashing .318/.248/.727, albeit buoyed by a series in Coors Field. If the former Rays prospect can keep it going, he's a candidate to play second base when Hosmer returns.
Outfield -- Nick Senzel (R), 42%, Cincinnati Reds at Milwaukee Brewers (LHP Eric Lauer): Injuries have curtailed Senzel's development. In fact, he escaped an early season issue after being scratched from Monday's contest with a sprained finger. Fortunately, he was able to play Tuesday. In the early going, Senzel has flashed the power and speed making him such an enticing fantasy prospect with five extra base hits and a bag through Wednesday's action.
Outfield -- Kole Calhoun (L), 31%, Arizona Diamondbacks at San Diego Padres (RHP Zach Davies): Different laundry, same Calhoun. The lefty swinger remains a low average, power threat, especially against righthanded pitching. Davies game up 20 homers in 159 2/3 innings last season and had already surrendered a pair in 10 frames this year.
Outfield -- Anthony Santander (S), 14%, Baltimore Orioles at Washington Nationals (RHP Anibal Sanchez): It's too early to draw conclusions, but worth noting Santander's strikeout rate is just 11.4%, down from 2019's mark of 21.2%. Further, according to Statcast's expected batting average, Santander has been hitting into some bad luck. Put together, the 25-year old outfielder is due for an uptick in production.
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.