It's been a week marred by cold and wet conditions in many ballparks, and while the weekend is looking up, temperatures are still cool in the Northeast with rain still an issue in the Midwest. The Friday schedule begins with the traditional Wrigley Field matinee when the Cubs are at home. Zach Davies will take the hill for the home team while the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates will hand the ball to Trevor Cahill.
The slate is intriguing for streamers, with four options available in at least 88% of all ESPN leagues, though each carries an element of risk. For hitters, it will be tag-team Friday as several teammates are in good spots, with all batters cited rostered in fewer than half of all ESPN leagues.
Chris Flexen (R), rostered in 12% of ESPN leagues, Seattle Mariners at Texas Rangers: Prior to his last outing, Flexen looked like a different pitcher after spending the 2020 season with the Doosan Bears in the KBO. He relies more on his breaking stuff, helping fuel an increase in strikeouts until Flexen failed to fan any Angels in four frames in his last start. However, the Halos are the second-toughest lineup to punch out while the Rangers are the third easiest.
David Peterson (L), 9%, New York Mets vs. Arizona Diamondbacks: Through five starts, Peterson has induced grounders at a 55% clip, but a bloated 36% HR/FB mark has resulted in five homers in 24 1/3 innings. This explains an actual 4.81 ERA as compared to a 2.85 xFIP. Such a high level is usually a combination of bad luck and bad pitching, though Peterson's 21% K-BB% is very good, suggesting there is some steep correction on the way. The problem is the Diamondbacks are leading the league in HR% against lefties. The deciding factor is Citi Field suppresses power so while there is risk, Peterson is in play.
Griffin Canning (R), 8%, Los Angeles Angels vs. Los Angeles Dodgers: With the Angels using a six-man rotation, Canning is slated to spend the season as the swingman, starting when necessary, to keep the others on a five-day rest schedule while working as a reliever in between. Last time out, Canning started and hurled his best effort of the season, fanning nine Mariners in 5 1/3 innings with just two walks. At some point, the Dodgers are going to make opposing pitchers pay, but they are currently mired in a team-wide slump. Take away the 16-run explosion against the Brewers and the Dodgers have averaged well under three runs the past week. However, the game against Milwaukee is a reminder they can snap out at any time.
Austin Gomber (L), 5%, Colorado Rockies at St. Louis Cardinals: After being shellacked by the Giants, Gomber rebounded with his fourth quality start in his past five outings. Gomber will try to keep the momentum with a start against the team that sent him to Colorado as part of the Nolan Arenado deal. The Cardinals handle southpaw pitching well, but Busch Stadium is not only familiar to Gomber, but also a huge upgrade on his new digs.
Bullpen: After reeling off seven scoreless outings, collecting six saves in the process, Giants reliever Jake McGee has hit the skids with a 12.71 ERA over his next six appearances, spanning 5 2/3 innings. This was enough for skipper Gabe Kapler to announce Tyler Rogers could be in the mix for saves. While Rogers is a good short-term pickup, patience is necessary with McGee as he should rebound and is more skilled than Rogers.
The Brewers are making Friday a bullpen day with lefty Brent Suter taking the hill first. Suter is capable of working multiple frames, but will fall well short of the five necessary for a win. If you want to speculate on a vulture victory, J.P. Feyereisen is unscored upon in 15 innings and has worked himself into high-leverage scenarios for Milwaukee. That said, he has walked seven, so once his .129 BABIP normalizes, he'll need to improve his control or the runs will come in bunches.
For the latest team-by-team closer situations, please consult our Closer Chart.
Catcher -- Francisco Mejia (S), 4%, Tampa Bay Rays at Oakland Athletics (LHP Sean Manaea): Mejia still needs to work on presenting pitches, but he's erased three of seven would-be base stealers, helping to keep his bat in the lineup. A .300/.348/.450 slash to open the season is also helping, with the majority of the damage coming against left-handed pitching. Teammates Manuel Margot and Kevin Kiermaier also enjoy the platoon bump.
First Base -- Jeimer Candelario (S), 30%, Detroit Tigers vs. Minnesota Twins (RHP Matt Shoemaker: if Candelario were on another team, his rostership would likely be closer to, if not eclipsing the 50% threshold. That said, his numbers are a bit down from last season. Even so, Candelario is pacing for a combined 130 runs plus RBI, which is fine for a streamer. As a team, the Tigers are running, and the Twins are poor defending the running game. Candelario isn't likely to take advantage, but Niko Goodrum is as he's swiped three bags in his last four games heading into Thursday's action.
Second Base -- Gavin Lux (L), 42%, Los Angeles Dodgers at Los Angeles Angels (RHP Griffin Canning): After a rough few weeks to open the 2021 campaign, including a stay on the IL for a sore wrist, Lux has recorded three multi-hit efforts is his last four games. Lux will be looking for his first homer of the season in one of the friendliest venues for lefty power.
Third Base -- Matt Duffy (R), 10%, Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Trevor Cahill): With Kris Bryant roaming the outfield a lot lately, Duffy has been manning the hot corner. Duffy has earned the playing time with a solid 43% on-base mark. Further, Duffy has been running, swiping three bags, two over the last week. The Pirates are a good opponent for Duffy to continue pilfering.
Shortstop -- Miguel Rojas (R), 19%, Miami Marlins vs. Milwaukee Brewers (Undecided): Rojas started out slow, causing many to view last season's improvement as a fluke. Since April 13, Rojas has posted a .292/.395/.462 line, similar to last season. Corey Dickerson is beginning to find his stroke and is another option from the Marlins.
Corner Infield -- Andrew Vaughn (R), 34%, Chicago White Sox at Kansas City Royals (RHP Brad Keller): The power hasn't appeared yet, but Vaughn is showing signs he's getting comfortable with a .295/.333/.386 line over the past two weeks. The White Sox need his bat with Luis Robert joining Eloy Jimenez on the IL. Robert's injury also keeps Leury Garcia in the lineup. Keller has been frustrating as he's surrounded two solid efforts with four clunkers.
Middle Infield -- Cesar Hernandez (S), 19%, Cleveland Indians vs. Cincinnati Reds (LHP Wade Miley): Early in the season, Hernandez was a frequent recommendation as he's a solid player, but generally underrated. Once he continued to struggle, Hernandez was absent from this space. However, there is ample data to suggest he's been more snake-bit than struggling. Statcast numbers need to be considered in context, but the discrepancies with Hernandez are too big to ignore. To wit, his xBA is 98 points above his actual batting average while his xSLG is a whopping 211 points higher than his actual slugging mark.
Outfield -- Austin Hays (R), 52%, Baltimore Orioles vs. Boston Red Sox (LHP Eduardo Rodriguez): Yes, Hays has nosed above the 50% cutoff, but he was under the threshold when the players were chosen and there are signs he's poised to go on a power surge. Specifically, Hays average exit velocity on fly balls and average fly ball distance portends more power. With the weather warming, the ball should start flying out of Camden Yards soon. Ryan Mountcastle's power should also benefit.
Outfield -- Avisail Garcia (R), 23%, Milwaukee Brewers at Miami Marlins (LHP Trevor Rogers): Garcia carried a modest six-game hitting streak (.524/.583/.571) into Thursday's game, but he didn't start. He should be back in the lineup Friday with a lefty on the hill.
Outfield -- Austin Slater (R), 3%, San Francisco Giants vs. San Diego Padres (LHP Blake Snell): Slater's 29% on base clip is minimizing his chances to run, but when he reaches first Slater is a threat with five steals in five tries this season. For his career, Slater is a tidy 21-for-22 in that department.