Friday's schedule may feature 16 games. However, the Phillies-Marlins and Orioles-Yankees play doubleheaders, so two other teams are off. If you normally start Astros or Dodgers, make sure you find a replacement; every roster spot is integral.
Several of the league's top pitchers will be on the hill, rendering it a bit tougher to find hitters in favorable spots. Fortunately, trade deadline machinations and some recent call-ups have fortified the batting inventory, so don't fret.
Good luck this weekend. Here are Friday's picks to get things started in the right direction. As always, everyone is available in at least half of ESPN leagues.
Garrett Richards (R), rostered in 27% of ESPN leagues, San Diego Padres vs. San Francisco Giants: Richards has been very inconsistent this season, so caveat emptor. That said, he switched up his pitch mix last time out, throwing far fewer four-seam fastballs while increasing usage of his slider, curve and sinker. Whether it's a permanent change or a game plan for that day remains to be seen, but Richards is coming off his best start of the season. The veteran righty fanned nine Athletics over seven innings with nary a walk.
Yusei Kikuchi (L), 9%, Seattle Mariners at Arizona Diamondbacks: Kikuchi has been snakebit this season, as his actual 5.23 ERA is bloated compared to his 2.79 FIP and 3.09 xFIP. The primary culprit has been a 55.6% left on base mark. Kikuchi's 19.4% K%-BB% is quite respectable and more predictive than ERA. The lefty is in a great spot, facing a Diamondbacks team sitting last in the league in terms of weighted on-base average versus lefties -- and now are without Starling Marte, one of their best hitters in that scenario.
Keegan Akin (L), 5%, Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees: Really? Stream an Orioles pitcher against the Yankees? Welcome to 2020. Yes, there's risk, but Akin has fanned 17 in his first 15 frames, albeit with seven walks. As a team, the Yankees rank 20th in wOBA versus lefties, obviously hurt by missing Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton for most of the season. In addition, the Yankees fan at a 24% clip with a left-hander on the hill. Further helping Akin's cause is the fact that the teams are playing a doubleheader, so not only will the bullpen be streamlined, but he may face a weaker lineup if Yankees manager Aaron Boone wants to have more players see action across the pair of games.
Caleb Smith (L), 31%, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Seattle Mariners: Smith will be making only his second start of the season. He began the year with the Marlins, but remained on the IL after the club resumed play following their COVID-19 delay. Smith was traded to the Diamondbacks in the Starling Marte deal and has been stretching out in bullpen sessions with his new club. He's up to 70 pitches so, if he's effective, Smith should be able to pitch deep enough to qualify for a win. There's a good chance it happens, considering the opposition is the poorest offense in the league with a left-hander on the hill, toting a 26% strikeout rate.
Bullpen: The Phillies bullpen has been abysmal, with Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree acquired from the Red Sox to shore it up. Workman has been shaky but has converted 5 of 6 save chances along with grabbing a win, though Hembree has been terrible, recording a 9.53 ERA since the deal. Hector Neris has righted the ship, spinning a 1.23 ERA with a win and save over his last 7 1/3 innings. With a pair on tap for Friday, Neris is a solid pickup since he may see a save chance if Joe Girardi opts to use Workman just once.
For the latest team-by-team closer situations, please consult our Closer Chart.
Catcher -- Sean Murphy (R), 14%, Oakland Athletics at Texas Rangers (RHP Jordan Lyles): The bottom line is squeeze in as many Athletics batters as possible into your Friday lineup, as Lyles is having a horrible campaign, sporting an unsightly 8.07 ERA and equally damaging 1.65 WHIP. Jonah Heim, a switch-hitting rookie, is also in the mix if he's behind the dish. It takes years for a player's platoon splits to be real, so Murphy's career .247/.376/.557 mark against right-handers is subject to regression. That said, it's apparent he's at minimum comfortable without the platoon edge.
First Base -- Jared Walsh (L), under 1%, Los Angeles Angels at Colorado Rockies (RHP German Marquez): After a strong start to the 2020 season both home and away, Marquez has been shellacked in his last two Coors affairs, adding 15 runs to his ledger in just 11 frames. The Angels are giving Walsh playing time down the stretch, and he has responded with a .333/.778/1.111 slash, including a pair of homers
Second Base -- Ty France (R), 9%, Seattle Mariners at Arizona Diamondbacks (LHP Alex Young): September has been kind to France, as evidenced by a .333/.417/.476 slash. He's yet to go yard since he was acquired by the Mariners at the trade deadline, but he does have a double and triple over his last two games.
Third Base -- Rio Ruiz (L), 7%, Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees (RHP Masahiro Tanaka): Ruiz is an early leader for Player of the Month, hitting safely in all eight games heading into Thursday's action. He's 10-for-28 in that span, including a pair of long balls.
Shortstop -- Luis Urias (R), 5%, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Chicago Cubs (LHP Jon Lester): Urias is yet another player enjoying a strong September, registering a .375/.444/.458 since August ended. After some early-season good fortune, the regression monster has caught up to Lester in a big way, as the southpaw has a 9.26 ERA and 1.97 WHIP over his last five starts.
Corner Infield -- Josh Fuentes (R), under 1%, Colorado Rockies vs. Los Angeles Angels (RHP Griffin Canning): Fuentes has seen intermittent action since being recalled from the Rockies' alternate training site, but .308/.345/.500 decimals when he's played could earn him more playing time at Daniel Murphy's expense down the stretch. If Fuentes is sitting, either Murphy or Ryan McMahon is in play.
Middle Infield -- Erik Gonzalez (R), 3%, Pittsburgh Pirates at Kansas City Royals (LHP Kris Bubic): Gonzalez had a nine-game hitting streak snapped Wednesday night, batting .317 (13-for-43) in that span. He's in a favorable spot to start another streak, facing Bubic, who has allowed 37 hits in 35 stanzas.
Outfield -- Adam Duvall (R), 44%, Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals (RHP Erick Fedde): There's chasing stats and there's assuming a guy with a pair of three-homer games this month is seeing the ball well.
Outfield -- Brock Holt (L), 2%, Washington Nationals vs. Atlanta Braves (RHP Josh Tomlin): Holt was signed by the Brewers as a free agent but never got untracked with Milwaukee. The Nationals signed the former Red Sox utilityman, and he has crushed ever since, as seen by a triple slash of .400/.438/.533. When first joining the defending champs, Holt manned the hot corner, but with Carter Kieboom back, Holt has been roaming left field in place of Juan Soto and his sore elbow. So long as Holt continues to produce, Dave Martinez will find a way to keep the versatile veteran in the lineup.
Outfield -- Edward Olivares (R), 1%, Kansas City Royals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (LHP Steven Brault): Olivares was an under-the-radar deadline acquisition, coming to the Royals from the Padres in the Trevor Rosenthal deal. Since being installed as an every-day player, Olivares has notched a tidy 1.000 OPS.