While the Cardinals didn't play a single game last week, we avoided any further outbreaks and actually got a tinge of baseball normalcy after it felt like the season was on the brink just the week before. This Tuesday's recommendations go deep on the pitching side and inadvertently stumbled into a theme with several of the hitters.
Brandon Bielak (R), rostered in 4% of ESPN leagues, Houston Astros vs. San Francisco Giants: Injuries have ravaged the Astros' pitching and forced Bielak into the rotation likely sooner than the team expected. After a pair of multi-inning relief outings, Bielak made his first start last week and looked sharp with five shutout innings of two-hit work. He had only one strikeout against three walks in the outing against Arizona, but the 24-year-old has looked pretty good thus far (10 1/3 total innings). The Giants' .690 OPS against righties actually slots them 18th in the league, which is higher than we probably expected from them, but it's more because league hitting is down thus far, as a .690 last season would've slotted them 29th.
Kris Bubic (L), 3%, Kansas City Royals at Cincinnati Reds: Speaking of being pressed into duty ahead of schedule, Bubic peaked at High-A last season but now finds himself two starts into his major league career. The 22-year-old left-hander has used a solid three-pitch mix en route to a 3.60 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in the two starts, facing each of the Chicago teams. The Reds are a tough matchup at their best, but the offense has been essentially average against lefties this season with a .725 OPS.
Elieser Hernandez (R), 2%, Miami Marlins at Toronto Blue Jays: Hernandez made his season debut last week with 4 1/3 innings of scoreless work, allowing two hits, one walk and five strikeouts. He's been a bit inconsistent over his career due in large part to his home run issue, so he'll have to manage the long ball to have a good start here, but even if he doesn't dominate the Jays, he should deliver some strikeout upside.
The Brewers once again have a strong bullpen supporting their rotation. They have a 3.41 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 58 innings. Unlike past years, they haven't had to overly rely on their pen, 19th-most in the league. Their 21% K-BB ratio is third best in the league behind Cleveland (26%) and Oakland (22%).
The Twins and Rays will deploy the now standard opener/bulk reliever, both smartly alternating handedness to force the opposing manager to set lineups accordingly, perhaps weakening their bench for the late innings if they pinch-hit early. The Twins will start with veteran Tyler Clippard before handing the ball to Devin Smeltzer for the middle innings. The Rays planned on starting Andrew Kittredge, so it's unclear if he'll still get the nod after being called upon to save last night's affair with the Red Sox. Lefty Jalen Beeks is likely slated to be the primary reliever.
For the latest team-by-team closer situations, please consult our Closer Chart.
Projected game scores
Catcher -- Isiah Kiner-Falefa (R), 40%, Texas Rangers vs. Seattle Mariners (LHP Marco Gonzales): IKF can be a fantasy dream in the right league type, as a he's a catcher-eligible player who doesn't catch. He's been a full-timer for the Rangers at 3B, so he doesn't miss the standard time of a catcher, and he doesn't get exposed to the injury risk that faces backstops. The tough part was knowing whether he'd hit enough to be worth it, though. He carried a .659 OPS in 618 career plate appearances into the season but also had 10 SB. So a non-catching catcher with some speed was appealing if he could hit ... and he has hit indeed! IKF has an .830 OPS with an American League-best 4 SBs, too, making him a viable option even in one-catcher leagues. He's also raking against lefties this season (.400 AVG, .937 OPS), albeit in a tiny 17 PA sample.
First base -- Edwin Rios (L), 1%, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Diego Padres (RHP Garrett Richards): Imagine having so much talent in your organization that you can't even find regular playing time for someone as good as Rios. He has hit well throughout his minor-league career, leading to a 1.010 OPS cup of coffee last year, and he's getting mixed into the lineup here and there this season, hitting 3 HRs in 17 PA (1.169 OPS). If a regular slot ever opened up for him, he'd be an all-formats option with his power and positional flexibility.
Second base -- Niko Goodrum (S), 16%, Detroit Tigers vs. Chicago White Sox (LHP Gio Gonzalez): Goodrum has a severe platoon split since the start of last season with a .355/.402/.555 line against lefties and .208/.288/.381 against righties. A little power, a little speed, and a lot of positions makes Goodrum an interesting fill-in option, especially when the Tigers face lefties.
Third base -- Yandy Diaz (R), 37%, Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox (LHP Martin Perez): Speaking of doing well against lefties, Diaz smashed southpaws to the tune of a .311/.393/.583 line last season. He's struggling a bit to start the season (.621 OPS), but he's striking out less and walk more, so once his .268 BABIP starts to normalize, his numbers will come up.
Shortstop -- Dylan Moore (R), 20%, Seattle Mariners at Texas Rangers (LHP Mike Minor): Apparently, I've stumbled on an inadvertent theme with another recommendation who does his best work against lefties. Moore has a 117-point platoon split with an .808 OPS against lefties. He's hitting a cool .500 against lefties this season, though it's a whopping eight at-bats. He does have 3 HRs and 3 SBs against righties, though, so even if the Rangers go to some righty relievers, he could still produce on Tuesday.
Corner infield -- Jesus Aguilar (R), 15%, Miami Marlins at Toronto Blue Jays (LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu): Aguilar is looking a lot more like his 2018 self so far this year with a .306/.341/.694 line that include 4 HRs, 8 RBIs, and 7 Rs in 41 plate appearances. He's struck out only 12% of the time, too, well below his career mark of 26%. The Marlins are somehow 7-2, and Aguilar has been a big part of that.
Middle infield -- Carter Kieboom (R), 11%, Washington Nationals at New York Mets (RHP Rick Porcello): Kieboom hasn't gone boom yet, but he's off to a solid start, hitting .313 with five walks in 21 PA early on. It's a tiny sample, but so were the 43 plate appearances he had in 2019, when he hit just .128/.209/.282 in his cup of coffee. The top prospect isn't playing every day, but there's still a lot of upside in this bat.
Outfield -- Matt Kemp (R), 13%, Colorado Rockies vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (RHP Zac Gallen): We have to get some Coors Field action for Tuesday, and Kemp is our best bet from the Rockies among the few guys likely to be available. Coors has reinvigorated Kemp's bat, as he's hit .300/.364/.650 at home with both of his homers on the season. Gallen isn't an easy matchup, but Coors is rough on even the very best pitchers.
Outfield -- Brian Goodwin (L), 26%, Los Angeles Angels vs. Oakland Athletics (RHP Mike Fiers): Goodwin has been put into a platoon with the promotion of Jo Adell, but he should draw the start on Tuesday. He's hitting .281/.395/.500 against righties on the season with 1 HR and 1 SB in 38 plate appearances.
Outfield -- Kevin Pillar (R), 24%, Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays (Bullpen game): As mentioned, earlier, the Rays are set up for a bullpen game with last night's "closer", Andrew Kittredge, being a candidate to open. Southpaw Jalen Beeks is an option for bulk innings. With Alex Verdugo back, Pillar is likely facing a platoon role with Andrew Benintendi, so if you were using him as a full-timer, you should consider looking for someone else. However, for those of us looking for a spot start, he's been pinch-hitting for Benintendi in these scenarios. We'll lean on his .828 OPS against left-handers since the start of 2019.
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.