<
>

MLB daily notes: Fantasy rankings for Friday

In an effort to serve daily fantasy players and season-long fantasy players who use daily lineup settings, we present daily notes each day of the season. It's a daily version of our Fantasy Forecaster in which we project the best pitcher game scores as well as the best team hitting matchups based upon a number of factors.


Pitching

Elite

Is Matt Harvey a safe pick? You'd like to think so, as the Mets righty gets a home matchup against the Braves, who have one of the weakest lineups in baseball. Then again, Harvey has a 5.71 ERA over his first three starts, his walk rate is up (3.6 BB/9) and he hasn't even been missing bats (4.7 K/9) to help make up for it. Although Harvey has some red flags, too, I have more confidence in him going forward than I do Felix Hernandez and a few other pitchers who are off to slow starts -- and this is a prime matchup for the Mets righty to ease some of those concerns.

Solid

If Hernandez and Harvey both make you nervous, Jon Lester is a great pivot. Although he's also enjoyed some good luck this season (.220 BABIP, 84.5 percent strand rate), the lefty has looked sharp in the early going and gets a favorable matchup against a Reds lineup that's been middle of the road this season. Of course, Great American Ball Park boosts offense, and the Reds don't strike out much (18.8 percent), but all the top hurlers on Friday have warts. Lester should be able to overcome them.

Sonny Gray gets a tough draw, as he's set to square off against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. If the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field is the most dangerous matchup for a pitcher, the Jays at Rogers Center isn't far behind. Dating back to last season, the Blue Jays own a .356 wOBA at home. Gray can shut down any offense when he's on, but this is generally a matchup to avoid. He also doesn't have the strikeout upside to be a great tournament play.

If a road tilt against the Blue Jays is close to a worst possible matchup, facing the Padres at Petco Park is close to the best. That's where Adam Wainwright finds himself on Friday. Unfortunately, the Cardinals righty has struggled to find himself this season. He has an 8.27 ERA on the year and has walked more than he's struck out. Even mediocre to poor lineups (Reds and Braves) have hit him hard. Yes, the matchup is close to ideal, but Wainwright is a "stay away" for me until he shows us something positive.

Everything has been clicking for Gio Gonzalez so far. Despite a 3.8 career walk rate, he has a 2.1 BB/9 through two starts and is still missing bats, which has contributed to only one run allowed in 13 innings. Of course, he's faced the lowly Phillies and Braves so far, but he gets another low-rung lineup on Friday as the Twins come to town. Averaging fewer than three runs per game, the Twins have been helpless against lefties this season (.274 wOBA) while striking out 23 percent of the time. If you're not paying up, Gonzalez is an excellent midtier option.

Also deserving of some midtier love is Aaron Sanchez, who draws the A's at home. After walking none in his first start, Sanchez has allowed seven free passes in his past 13 innings, which is worth keeping an eye on. Then again, his stuff has been so nasty that the walks haven't mattered. Through three starts, he is whiffing a batter per inning while generating nearly 60 percent ground balls. The A's make a lot of contact, so the strikeout upside is somewhat capped in this matchup. But this is also a lineup that has a bottom-three wOBA (.270) this season. It's worth noting, though, that a win could be tough with Sonny Gray pitching for the other side.

Aaron Nola was touched up by the Nationals his last time out (7 ER in 5 IP) and saw his ERA balloon to 5.68, but the 10.9 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 should still make you take notice. He'll take that 7.7 strikeout-to-walk ratio to face the Brewers at Miller Park on Friday. With a 26 percent strikeout rate and .296 wOBA against right-handed pitching, the Brewers look to be in for a long night against Nola, who is a fine play at what should be a very affordable price.

Spot starters and streamers

Going from PNC Park to Chase Field is a big downgrade for Jonathon Niese, but he's still one of the day's better streaming options. His ability to induce grounders helps mitigate some of the risk, and he's actually seen his strikeout rate climb to 7.5 over his first three starts, which sets him up nicely against a Diamondbacks team that's whiffing at 27 percent clip versus southpaws this year. Niese is available in 86 percent of ESPN leagues.

Nick Tropeano, available in 93 percent of ESPN leagues, is also in a good spot, coming off two strong outings against the Twins and A's in which he allowed only one run in 10 2/3 innings. He gets a home start against the Mariners, who have a .297 team wOBA and strike out 23 percent of the time against righties.

A matching 5.1 strikeout and walk rate will scare many owners away from Kyle Gibson. However, he's allowed fewer free passes in each start this season, and his track record suggests his walk rate will continue to improve while he starts punching out a few more batters. On Thursday, he faces the DH-less Nationals, who have a .304 wOBA against righties this year while striking out at a 23 percent rate. Available in 95 percent of ESPN leagues, Gibson makes for a decent option if you're shopping for streamers.


Hitting

Target left-handed Orioles hitters against Chris Young, a big-time fly ball pitcher who has allowed a .491 wOBA to lefty batters this season. This would be an even better DFS opportunity if the matchup took place at Camden Yards instead of Kauffman Stadium, but Chris Davis and Pedro Alvarez can hit the ball out of any park.

CC Sabathia has actually had more success against right-handed batters than left-handers this season, but I'm still focusing on righty Rays hitters in this matchup given his track record. Whether you believe in the predictive value of batter vs. pitcher data or not, it's interesting to note that Evan Longoria has hammered the lefty in his career, going 24-for-64 (.375) with six homers, eight doubles and 13 walks.

Martin Perez toeing the rubber for the Rangers means you should get right-handed White Sox hitters locked and loaded. Perez has surrendered a .376 wOBA to righty hitters this year, so Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier, and to a lesser extent Brett Lawrie and Avisail Garcia, are all in very favorable spots.

Finally, give some love to left-handed hitting Mets on Friday, as they square off against Bud Norris, the owner of a .385 wOBA against lefties in 2015 and a .408 mark so far this season. Michael Conforto is still too cheaply priced on most sites, and Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda and switch-hitter Neil Walker deserve consideration, too.

Most likely to go yard: Chris Davis. I'm going with the aforementioned Davis, who is in a prime spot to go deep against Young, who had the highest fly ball rate in baseball in 2015 and has already allowed three homers to left-handed hitters this season.

Most likely to swipe a bag: Eugenio Suarez. Jon Lester's struggles holding runners on are well documented. It feels like cheating to go with Billy Hamilton here, so I'll give the nod to Suarez, who has three steals on the year.