The difference in games players between the teams playing the most and least is as exaggerated as I can remember at this point of the season. Heading into Friday's slate, Oakland will have 78 games in the books while the Mets have played only 69. By the end of the evening, Mets will be at 71 as they play a pair with the Phillies, in a twi-night doubleheader beginning at 4:10 PM ET. Please note, the Brewer and Rockies matchup is also an afternoon affair with the same start time.
There were a few days this week where it was hard to find pitchers to stream. That ends today and -- spoiler alert -- continues though the weekend with a plethora of enticing candidates.
That said, we play this game one day at a time so let's begin with Friday's array of pitchers and hitters designed to get the weekend going in the right direction.
Mike Minor (L), rostered in 44% of ESPN leagues, Kansas City Royals at Texas Rangers: Minor's 4.48 ERA and about half a run higher than expected based on the various estimators. He's been victimized by a slightly high home run rate and a low left on base mark. Though, to be fair, Minor historically serves up an above average number of homers. On Friday, Minor faces a Rangers lineup with the sixth lowest home run rate against lefties in the league.
Kwang Hyun Kim (L), 11%, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates: Kim has lost five of his last six starts, despite pitching to a reasonable 4.33 ERA. However, he and the Cardinals are favored for this home matchup against the Pirates, so Kim has a good chance to snap the streak. He's only allowed two earned runs his prior two outings, spanning 10 innings. The Pirates are averaging the fewest runs per game in the league.
Alek Manoah (R), 43%, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Baltimore Orioles: In Manoah's first five starts, he's allowed seven homers. Curiously, he didn't allow any to the Yankees, Red Sox and White Sox but surrendered three to the Marlins and four to the Orioles in his last effort. He was also suspended five games for throwing at Mikael Franco in that contest, but is appealing. The rematch is at home in Sahlen Field where Manoah should fare better than Camden Yards.
Dane Dunning (R), 12%, Texas Rangers vs. Kansas City Royals: Dunning is in a rut, posting a 6.65 ERA and 1.94 WHIP over his previous five outings. Granted, it can't all be attributed to bad luck, but an unfortunate .446 BABIP in this stretch is a big factor. An underappreciated ramification of a high BABIP is the pitcher is forced to work from the stretch where most hurlers skills aren't as strong as when the use the windup. Dunning still managed to fan 23 in this span of 21 2/3 innings. Friday is a good spot for Dunning to get back on track, facing a middling Royals lineup in pitcher-friendly Globe Life Field.
Jon Lester (L), 13%, Washington Nationals at Miami Marlins: Lester was initially scheduled for Thursday before the Nationals flip-flopped the southpaw and Joe Ross. Here is what my colleague Mike Sheets had to say yesterday: "It's been a few years since Lester has been fantasy relevant, but he's at least worked himself into the streamer discussion by surrendering two or fewer runs in each of his last five starts. While it's fair to say that Lester has been more lucky than good, he does match up well with a Marlins team that ranks bottom-five against southpaws this season, putting up an 87 wRC+ and a bloated 28.2% K rate."
When Josh Staumont came off the IL earlier this month, it was assumed he'd slide back into the closer role for Kansas City. However, Staumont has pitched in low-leverage situations this month, not even collecting a hold in five appearances. The closer has been Greg Holland, though the veteran blew his fourth save in nine chances earlier this week, so perhaps it won't be long before Staumont usurps ninth inning duties.
The Rays and Twins will both be using a bullpen game this evening. Tampa Bay will pair Andrew Kittredge with left-hander Josh Fleming while Minnesota will summon Danny Coulombe from Triple-A to start, followed by several relievers and perhaps rookie Griffin Jax. This was necessitated when Randy Dobnak was placed on the IL with a right finger strain.
For the latest team-by-team closer situations, please consult our Closer Chart.
Catcher -- Jorge Alfaro (R), 5%, Miami Marlins vs. Washington Nationals (LHP Jon Lester): Like most righthanded hitters, Alfaro fared better with the platoon edge though his split is higher than the average. Since coming off the IL in late May, Alfaro has quietly been one of the more productive backstops, slashing .288/.350/.411 with three steals in 24 games.
First Base -- Josh Naylor (L), 6%, Cleveland at Minnesota Twins (Bullpen game): Perhaps it's just a coincidence, but since Cleveland dealt Jake Bauers to Seattle, Naylor has posted an improved .271/.314/.417, fanning just 12% of the time. Maybe having less competition for playing time has helped Naylor. Regardless, he's in a favorable spot as the Twins will deploy a bullpen game today.
Second Base -- Kolten Wong (L), 42%, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Colorado Rockies (RHP Jon Gray): Hopefully Wong is over his first half injury woes as he's putting together a career season, no doubt buoyed by a big park upgrade from Busch Stadium to American Family Field. With six homers, he's already halfway to his career best though getting caught on four of nine stolen base attempts is a surprise considering his 76% success rate in that department.
Third Base -- Abraham Toro (S), 7%, Houston Astros at Detroit Tigers (RHP Wily Peralta): Regular readers of this space know one of my favorite is using a switch-hitter when the opposing club will likely send multiple pitchers to the hill. In this case, the relievers will come from one of the weakest bullpens in the league. It doesn't hurt Toro also avails some exposure to a potent lineup.
Shortstop -- Kyle Farmer (R), 2%, Cincinnati Reds vs. Atlanta Braves (LHP Drew Smyly): While no one in the Queen's City is mistaking him for Barry Larkin, Farmer has shored up shortstop, earning a respectable one defensive runs saved while displaying slightly above average range. At the dish, he's been below average though he is more productive with a lefty on the hill.
Corner Infield -- Alex Kirilloff (L), 28%, Minnesota Twins vs. Cleveland (RHP Cal Quantrill): It's been an up and down first half for Kirilloff, though he's been solid in June, registering a fine .302/.362/.429 slash. His power is down as Kirilloff has hit fewer fly balls this month, but the average exit velocity on fly balls is still high so a power surge is coming.
Middle Infield -- Donovan Solano (R), 3%, San Francisco Giants vs. Oakland Athletics (LHP Sean Manaea): Solano won't overwhelm the box score with homers and steals, but he can help improve batting average, an often-overlooked category in roto-scoring. He's lagging behind the .300-plus seasons posted the last two years, but with the league average down, Solano's .272 mark is still beneficial.
Outfield -- Taylor Ward (R), 7%, Los Angeles Angels at Tampa Bay Rays (LHP Josh Fleming): Ward has been helping to fill in for Mike Trout and, although he's dipped lately, he's been hitting in the meat of the Angels order. Friday is a good chance for Ward to get back on track as Fleming has also been sliding lately, fanning just 17 batters over his prior 28 frames, while also allowing four homers in that span. Please note, Fleming will be the primary pitcher, with Andrew Kittredge opening.
Outfield -- Eli White (R), 1%, Texas Rangers vs. Kansas City Royals (LHP Mike Minor): I'm against riding streaks, so don't read too much into White's .333/.379/.704 performance over the last week. The main driving force here is enjoying the platoon edge against a southpaw and the last time Texas faced a lefthander, White batted second.
Outfield -- Jon Berti (R), 8%, Miami Marlins vs. Washington Nationals (LHP Jon Lester): I'll wrap up Friday's notes by again tagging in Mike Sheets who offered this analysis before the Nationals sent Joe Ross to the hill on Thursday, mitigating Berti's advantage: "This matchup lines up quite well for Berti, who has been playing every day for the Marlins, hitting .327 with a .415 OBP in June. Not only is Lester allowing a .375 wOBA to right-handed batters, but he's notoriously easy to run on, which is good for Berti and his elite wheels."