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MLB daily notes: Fantasy rankings for Sunday

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

No one doubts Stephen Strasburg's talent. It's his ability to avoid injury that causes some pause in seasonal formats; DFS players need not worry about that on a game-to-game basis. The Washington Nationals' right-hander will take the mound on Sunday to close out an interleague set with the Minnesota Twins, sporting an eye-popping 1.25 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. While those are certainly impressive, keep in mind that he has faced the Atlanta Braves twice and the Miami Marlins -- both of which reside in the lower third of the league in weighted on base average (wOBA) against right-handers. Still, when healthy, the big righty is one of the most talented hurlers in the league, and with another soft matchup, he's the clear option for DFS cash play, as well as a GPP option with strikeout upside.

The Detroit Tigers are starting to have a lot in common with the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros of 2015 -- a dangerous offense that also whiffs a bunch, as demonstrated by Corey Kluber's shutdown performance on Saturday. Carlos Carrasco has the swing-and-miss stuff to take advantage, as the Cleveland Indians wrap up a weekend visit to Comerica Park. The Tigers are fanning at a 25 percent clip against right-handers, which plays right into Carrasco's wheelhouse, as he finished last season with an impressive 10.6 K/9. The explosive nature of the Tigers' attack does render Carrasco more of a GPP play than a cash option.

On paper, Jacob deGrom's return from the paternity list to face the punchless Atlanta Braves looks like a great spot, but the New York Mets have announced that their star right-hander will be on an 85-pitch limit, as they don't want him to re-injure the lat that was giving him issues before he took his leave. Seasonal owners should still have him active, as five or six frames against the Braves is plenty to put him in position for a win; it's DFS enthusiasts who should fade deGrom.

Solid

Knocking on the door of the elite is oft-injured Drew Smyly. His peripherals are already there; the Tampa Bay Rays southpaw just needs to display a better record of durability and reliability. In fact, Smyly is worthy of ace status in more favorable matchups; but he drops a peg with a road date at Yankee Stadium. The left-hander has the platoon edge over Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Brian McCann, or the Yankees can counter with less skilled right-handed swingers. Either way, this aids Smyly as he looks to build on his fantastic April, in which he has had 27 strikeouts with only four walks in 21⅓ innings.

When Jerad Eickhoff can command his curveball, it's one of the best strikeout pitches in the league. To wit, in his first 70 Major League innings, Eickhoff has fanned exactly 70. The Milwaukee Brewers and their 25 percent strikeout rate against right-handers, entertain the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday -- rendering Eickhoff a strong DFS candidate in all formats.

After a horrible season opener that was perhaps mercifully cut short by a rain delay, Adam Conley has been sharp with a pair of outings in which he tossed 12⅔ innings with 17 punch outs and just two free passes. The San Francisco Giants welcome the Marlins into AT&T Park for the finale of a weekend visit to the Bay Area. The home team carries league-average numbers against southpaws, so when you factor in price, Conley's in a favorable spot to help save some budget in a DFS lineup.

Perhaps the limited innings are by by design, to prevent him from being exposed to an order an extra time through, but for someone with such solid peripherals, Jason Hammel does not go deep into games. Over the past two seasons, Hammel has started 60 total contests, but he's averaged fewer than six innings a start, despite sporting impressive WHIPs of 1.12 and 1.16 -- which suggests he limits baserunners, hence the pitch counts. That said, Hammel's floor is solid, which is what you want for cash play, so long as it comes at a discounted cost. Sunday's matchup with the Cincinnati Reds is a nice opportunity to use Hammel in that fashion, especially on multiple-pitcher sites.

Steamers

Hot Spots

If last season's success exhibited by rookie debuts carries over into this season, Braves' prospect Aaron Blair is an intriguing play against the Mets, who strike out at an above-average 24 percent clip against righties. The caveat is that Blair's strikeout rate plummeted last season at Double-A and Triple-A, but he has rebounded thus far in 2016, as he whiffed 22 in 19 innings at Gwinnett. Anticipating a win in Turner Field is never a wise idea, but as alluded to earlier, Blair's foe Jacob deGrom is on a pitch limit, so perhaps the Braves can get to the Mets bullpen.

Henry Owens isn't making his major league debut after getting three starts down the stretch last season, but he is making his inaugural 2016 big league appearance upon being summoned to replace the injured Joe Kelly. He also has a chance to pad your strikeout totals in this last day of the head-to-head scoring week with a date in Minute Maid Park against the contact-challenged Houston Astros.

On one hand, Mat Latos is off to an impressive start to the 2016 campaign, sporting a 0.49 ERA and 0.60 WHIP. On the other, he has only whiffed 11 in 18⅓ innings and hasn't faced a tough schedule with contests against the weak hitting Oakland Athletics, Twins and Los Angeles Angels. The tiebreaker for Sunday is his opponent; the Texas Rangers aren't lighting it up, so if you're desperate for a win, Latos is in play. Just beware he's not pitching as well as his surface stats indicate.

Any time Drew Hutchison is on the hill, he can whiff 10 or get lit up for 10. The A's aren't the best fodder for some late-week strikeouts, but there also isn't another option with the ceiling of Hutchison.

Mike Leake isn't known for his strikeout ability, but in facing the San Diego Padres and their 26 percent whiff rate against righties, he could tack on a couple of more punchouts than normal while also providing some ratio support.

Cold Streams

As always, Sunday is break glass in case of emergency day, so depending on your team's situation, everyone is in play. That said, it would take a very desperate set of circumstances to venture into Coors Field for either Alex Wood or Jordan Lyles. Add Alfredo Simon facing the Cubs to that, with Scott Feldman taking on the Boston Red Sox a borderline call.


Hitting

Lather, rinse, repeat: A couple of mediocre-at-best hurlers are taking the hill at Coors Field. To be fair, Alex Wood as flashed periods of effectiveness. But still, the right-handed Rockies' brigade of DJ LeMahieu, Trevor Story, Nolan Arenado, Mark Reynolds and Ryan Raburn are licking their chops at the thought of facing the susceptible southpaw. On the other side, the Los Angeles Dodgers lefties, including Adrian Gonzalez and Joc Pederson, are anxious to take aim against Jordan Lyles.

Alfredo Simon is just a placeholder until the Reds' young stable of arms is either healthy enough (or just plain ready) to pitch in the bigs. As such, there's always the risk of the club hanging Simon out to dry, to take one for the team. This really benefits a deep lineup such as the Cubs', so consider everyone in play.

Will the real Shane Greene please stand up? Greene has also been effective in the past, but until he can display consistency, a team that rakes against righties like the Indians will be a threat. Starting with new leadoff hitter Carlos Santana and followed by Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor, the Tribe should be in for a productive day.

The Toronto Blue Jays haven't yet clicked as a team, coming off of a campaign in which they lapped the field with 891 runs scored. A date with lefty Eric Surkamp at Rogers Centre sounds like the ideal panacea for Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki to recall the echoes of 2015 as a unit.

It's with some reticence that the Pittsburgh Pirates are highlighted here, since Robbie Ray is a few less walks away from taking the next step; so perhaps this is best framed as a contrarian stack on a day where there is a treasure trove of good hitting scenarios. The Bucs handle righties very well, so pick and choose from top to bottom.

Most likely to hit a home run: Anthony Rizzo isn't hitting for average, but he is hitting for power -- and facing Alfredo Simon -- so he has the chance to do both.

Most likely to steal a base: The hard part will be getting on with Drew Smyly on the hill. The easy part will be Jacoby Ellsbury running on either Hank Conger or Curt Casali.