Fantasy Baseball
Mike Sheets 39d

Fantasy baseball daily notes: Pitcher and hitter rankings for Saturday's games

Fantasy MLB, MLB

A standard 15-game Saturday slate with no double-headers used to be the norm. Not this season. Now, it's a rarity. Assuming all games play as scheduled, this will be the first - and only - 15-game Saturday slate of 2020. There are plenty of appealing plays on both the pitching and hitting sides, so you're going to have some tough decisions to make. With just over a week left in the regular season, those decisions are more important than ever.

Here's a look at Saturday's top streaming options, focusing on players rostered in fewer than 50% of ESPN leagues.

Pitching

Kwang-Hyun Kim (L), rostered in 56% of ESPN leagues, St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates: Kim is rostered in slightly more than 50% of leagues, but he's just been too good to ignore. Since joining the Cardinals rotation, Kim has allowed just one earned run over 27 2/3 innings. One. That's led to a 0.33 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP as a starter. Sure, he's not missing many bats (5.3 K/9) and he's encountered some good luck (.193 BABIP), but it's unlikely that we'll see his fortune change against the Pirates, the worst-hitting team in the National League (273 wOBA, 69 wRC+).

Pablo Lopez (R), 36%, Miami Marlins vs. Washington Nationals: After getting lit up by the Braves, Lopez rebounded against Philadelphia his last time out, hurling seven innings of one-run ball with six strikeouts and no walks. Aside from a two-start blip to open September, Lopez has held opponents to two-or-fewer earned runs in seven of his nine starts this season. With career-best fastball velocity (94.5 mph), Lopez is whiffing nearly a batter per inning (8.8 K/9), and he's getting more grounders than ever (54.7%), thanks to increased sinker usage. Against a Nationals club that's limping to the finish line with a .295 wOBA in September, Lopez deserves strong streaming consideration.

J.A. Happ (L), 22%, New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox: The 37-year-old Happ is still finding a way to get it done. The left-hander has allowed two-or-fewer runs in four of his last five starts, leading to a 2.45 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP during that span. Happ's strikeout rate has dwindled over the last few years as his velocity has declined, but he still has managed 19 strikeouts in his last 16 1/3 frames. He's also done a great job in limiting hard contact. In fact, his 28.4% hard-hit rate ranks 10th-best in baseball. While the Red Sox have fared better against lefties this season, Happ shut them down when he last faced them in mid-August, spinning 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball.

Michael Pineda (R), 39%, Minnesota Twins at Chicago Cubs: Pineda hasn't missed a beat since returning from his suspension. In three starts, he has posted a 3.57 ERA with a 10.2 K/9 and a 2.0 BB/9. Despite the long layoff, his velocity (92.6 mph) is just about where it was in 2019 (92.8 mph). Pineda possesses some nice strikeout upside against the Cubs, who are fanning at a 26% clip, the fourth-highest rate in baseball.

Alec Mills (R), 30%, Chicago Cubs vs. Minnesota Twins: A matchup against Minnesota is far from ideal, but it's hard to gloss over what Mills has done recently. After twirling a no-hitter against the Brewers his last time out, Mills has now thrown 17 straight scoreless innings. The fact that he doesn't rack up many strikeouts means he doesn't have much room for error, but he's clearly at the top of his game right now. Because the Twins lineup can do a lot of damage in a hurry, Mills does carry some risk on Saturday. However, he still belongs in the streamer conversation.

Bullpen

Since taking over the closer role in Boston, Matt Barnes has quietly racked up eight saves with an impressive 12.8 K/9 rate. While the 4.58 ERA is unappealing, the right-hander has produced a far more palatable 2.35 ERA over his last eight appearances. With a roster percentage at just 20%, Barnes is a worthy option if you're in need of saves.

For the latest team-by-team closer situations, please consult our Closer Chart.

Projected game scores

Hitting

Catcher -- Sean Murphy (R), 19%, Oakland Athletics vs. San Francisco Giants (RHP Kevin Gausman): Murphy has been one of the best-hitting catchers in baseball in September, so it's convenient that he's still available in most leagues. The Oakland backstop is batting .346 with four home runs and eight RBIs in his last eight games, and it helps that he's done most of his damage this season against right-handed pitching.

First Base -- Jared Walsh (L), 33%, Los Angeles Angels vs. Texas Rangers (RHP Lance Lynn): Walsh showed big-time power in the minors, swatting 36 dingers in just 98 games at Triple-A last season -- and now he's displaying that pop in the majors. In 22 games with the Angels, Walsh is batting .328/.349/.793 with seven homers, 15 runs and 17 RBI in 22 games. Lynn is a tough customer, but Walsh has put up a .351/.390/.946 line versus right-handers.

Second Base -- Jurickson Profar (S), 28%, San Diego Padres at Seattle Mariners (LHP Justus Sheffield): With so many big names in the Padres lineup, Profar often gets lost in the shuffle. The 27-year-old deserves some recognition, though. The switch-hitter is batting .414/.435/.621 over his last 18 games with three homers and three steals. His dual-position eligibility -- he can also play in your outfield --makes it easier to get him into your lineup.

Third Base -- Brad Miller (L), 17%, St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Mitch Keller): Keller has made only three starts this season and they haven't been pretty. Note his 5.06 ERA and more walks than strikeouts. The Cardinals lineup has been struggling, but this is a good time for the team to get back on track. Miller, who has put up a .387 wOBA against righties this season, is one of the better bets.

Shortstop -- Andres Gimenez (L), 12%, New York Mets vs. Atlanta Braves (RHP Ian Anderson): Gimenez has earned regular playing time against right-handed pitching, and it's easy to see why. The rookie is batting .325/.378/.525 in September, and he's making good use of his elite sprint speed (94th percentile) with seven steals.

Corner Infield -- Garrett Cooper (R), 9%, Miami Marlins vs. Washington Nationals (LHP Patrick Corbin): Cooper has quietly been an on-base machine, getting aboard at a 37% clip. This is especially useful in points leagues. Heading into the season, Corbin was considered a top-end fantasy hurler but he hasn't been sharp, sporting an uncharacteristically high 1.44 WHIP.

Middle Infield -- Joe Panik (L), 1%, Toronto Blue Jays at Philadelphia Phillies (RHP Vince Velasquez): Like Belt, Panik is another veteran lefty bat who's been raking of late. Panik is hitting .346/.460/.519 over his last 16 games and matches up well with Velasquez, who has been hammered by left-handed batters (.389 wOBA) in 2020.

Outfield -- Ryan Braun (R), 26%, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Kansas City Royals (LHP Kris Bubic): Braun is one of those boring old veterans that many fantasy managers overlook. Don't make that same mistake. Since the beginning of September, Braun is hitting .367 with four homers and 13 RBI in just 10 games. On Saturday, he draws the platoon edge against Bubic, who is allowing lots of hard contact (44.4%).

Outfield -- DJ Stewart (L), 28%, Baltimore Orioles vs. Tampa Bay Rays (RHP Charlie Morton): Morton hasn't looked great since returning from the injured list, so now is a good time to attack him. Stewart is a good candidate, given the way he's been stinging the ball. Over his last 11 games, Stewart is batting .325 with seven homers and 12 RBI.

Outfield -- David Peralta (L), 41%, Arizona Diamondbacks at Houston Astros (RHP Cristian Javier): Peralta has been a frequent mention in this space over the years, given his success against right-handed pitching. That's the case again in 2020. The veteran sports a .307/.350/.472 line against righties, while most of Javier's struggles this season have come against left-handed swingers

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.

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