Fifteen teams in each league and interleague play requires an odd number of cross-league games to be played each day or an odd number of teams in each league enjoying an off day. Such is the case on Friday as the Yankees and Phillies spend a rare Friday on the sidelines as they prepare for their two-game set over the weekend.
The Cubs and Cardinals open the slate with a Friday matinee in Wrigley Field followed by the remaining 13 contests played under the lights. The marquee matchup features Blake Snell and the Padres visiting Queens to take on Jacob deGrom and the Mets. It's also Shohei Ohtani night with the unique twist the Angels are in the desert for an interleague affair so the Halos will not be complaining they have to play without a designated hitter.
Here are Friday's featured players in favorable spots to jump-start your weekend. Everyone is available in at least half of all ESPN leagues.
Tarik Skubal (L), rostered in 28% of ESPN leagues, Detroit Tigers vs. Chicago White Sox: Through May 13, the White Sox posted a .385 weighted on base average (wOBA) against lefthanders, by far the top mark in the league. The party line was avoid streaming lefties against the White Sox. Since then, they've recorded a .310 wOBA. This isn't the reason to use Skubal, just a reminder team splits facing southpaws are not reliable. The case for Skubal is he has fanned 50 over his last six starts, spanning 32 innings. In this stretch, the sophomore has registered a 3.09 ERA and 1.28 WHIP.
Ryan Yarbrough (L), 37%, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Baltimore Orioles: Even though home runs remain a problem, Yarbrough has recorded three quality starts in his last four outings, including a complete game effort last time out. He only fanned 20 in those 25 1/3 innings, but Yarbrough seemingly has corrected his walk issue and is again able to pitch deeper into games, a boon for points-league scoring. The Orioles lineup isn't a pushover, but Tropicana Field is a big downgrade for their offense.
Garrett Richards (R), 22%, Boston Red Sox vs. Toronto Blue Jays: Red Sox pitching in general is beginning to incur some regression, along with facing stiffer competition. It doesn't get any easier with the Blue Jays flying into Fenway Park. Of the three back-end Red Sox starters, Richards has a better chance than Nick Pivetta or Martin Perez to fend off inevitable regression by improving skills. Specifically, Richards needs to improve his control as his 11.3% walk rate is the second worst of his career and well over his 8.8% career level.
Cole Irvin (L), fewer than 1%, Oakland Athletics vs. Kansas City Royals: Early in the season, Irvin's strikeout totals were not supported by the underlying metrics, then he went through a stretch where he was shorted punch outs based on the leading indicators. As is often the case, things settle, and Irvin's strikeouts are in sync with factors like swinging strike rate. That said, he's not especially dominant, but misses ample bats to be deployed against a middling offense in the comfort of RingCentral Coliseum.
The Rangers Ian Kennedy is tied for eighth in MLB with a dozen saves, but he's on the IL with a sore hamstring. Kennedy's bullpen-mate Josh Sborz was charged with a pair of blow saves over the past week which could open the door for Demarcus Evans to swoop in and vulture ninth-inning duties. Since being called up on May 25, Evans has punched out 10 in 7 1/3 innings.
For the latest team-by-team closer situations, please consult our Closer Chart.
Catcher -- Omar Narvaez (L), 41%, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Chase De Jong): When searching for someone to fortify your catcher spot, having a good matchup is generally suitable. Not only does Narvaez face one of the lower ranked arms on Friday's card, but he does also it with the platoon edge at home in a great hitter's park. Plus, he's been hitting in the five-hole with a righty on the hill.
First Base -- Andrew Vaughn (R), 35%, Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers (LHP Tarik Skubal): Vaughn and Skubal are likely to square off several times over the next few season. Despite Skubal's recent success, Vaughn is in play since he's clubbed four of his five homers against lefties, slashing .292/.404/.708 facing them.
Second Base -- Jonathan India (R), 34%, Cincinnati Reds vs. Colorado Rockies (LHP Kyle Freeland): A few weeks back, it was suggested India was primed for a bust out as his underlying metrics showed he was a bit snake bit at the time. That proved prescient as the rookie slashed .407/.529/.704 in the nine games leading into Thursday's action. The heater has lifted India to the lead off spot as he'll also have the platoon bump on Friday.
Third Base -- Maikel Franco (R), 9%, Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays (LHP Ryan Yarbrough): Overall, Franco has been a disappointment, having the worst season of his career despite playing in a hitter's paradise. However, he's been palatable against lefties, posting a .261/.307/.449 line.
Shortstop -- Taylor Walls (S), 3%, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Baltimore Orioles (LHP Keegan Akin): Walls defense has come as advertised. The rookie rates second overall at shortstop, behind only Miguel Rojas. He has held his own at the plate too, especially lately with a .292/.414/.500 line over the past week, chipping in with a couple of steals as well.
Corner Infield -- Matt Carpenter (L), 1%, St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs (RHP Kyle Hendricks): injuries have paved the way for Carpenter to regularly play the past week and he's responded with a 1.063 OPS. Hendricks' ERA has been falling, but he's only fanned 26 over his last 34 frames while surrendering 35 hits.
Middle Infield -- Jed Lowrie (S), 48%, Oakland Athletics vs. Kansas City Royals (RHP Brady Singer): June has been kind to Lowrie as he's slashed .391/.481/.435 this month, resulting in five run and a pair of RBI. He should remain productive as Oakland's offense is on the upswing.
Outfield -- Joc Pederson (L), 46%, Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals (RHP Johan Oviedo): When he first came up, many fashioned Pederson's patience and speed would result in a long career as a leadoff hitter. Well, the stolen bases never materialized and too many strikeouts relegated him to more of a platoon power bat. Fast forward and injuries have cleared the way for Pederson to be atop the Cubs order against righties. He has taken advantage with six runs and five RBI over the past week, buoyed by three homers in that span.
Outfield -- Kevin Pillar (R), 3%, New York Mets vs. San Diego Padres (LHP Blake Snell): Since returning from getting hit in the face, Pillar has posted a .296/.321/.519 line including a pair of homers on Wednesday using the blood-stained back from the gruesome incident. Expecting more of the same is aggressive, but Pillar has historically excelled with the platoon bump.
Outfield -- Jake Fraley (L), under 1%, Seattle Mariners at Cleveland Indians (RHP Aaron Civale): Fraley was initially featured in Thursday's notes but was replaced when the Tigers opted to start lefty Tyler Alexander. With the Indians starting a righty, Fraley is back in play. Here is what my ESPN Daily Notes colleague Mike Sheets originally had to say on Thursday, "The 26-year-old has flashed power and speed in his professional career, and he's put up a 1.113 OPS with two homers and a steal in seven games since his call-up. There could be some short-term value here."