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.
A couple of southpaws top a challenging Friday DFS slate. One's a staple while the other is picking up where he left off last season, leaving analysts scratching their heads, waiting for the pixie dust to run out.
The mainstay is Chris Sale, off to an impressive 7-0 start despite a strikeout rate well below his norm. The lanky left-hander leads the Chicago White Sox into the Bronx to face the New York Yankees. The home team is league average versus left-handers, both in terms of weighted on-base average (wOBA) and strikeouts. Sale is easily the top cash option on the docket and is in play for GPP, after all, carrying a lower than normal strikeout rate didn't seem to bother Max Scherzer.
Remember when Rich Hill had a terrible spring and then scuffled his first start of the season versus the Kansas City Royals? Hopefully his seasonal owners didn't panic as he currently checks in with an 11.0 K/9, albeit with a high 3.8 BB/9. Hill's visit to the elite is buoyed by a favorable matchup as the Oakland Athletics visit Tropicana Field for a weekend set with the Tampa Bay Rays. The home team is dangerous versus southpaws as evidenced by a 0.337 wOBA but they also fan at an elevated 24 percent clip. This combination, along with Hill's spotty control, is better suited for GPP tournament play.
The next two hurlers, according to projected Game Score, have road affairs against potent offenses in hitter's parks. Further, neither lineup whiffs much. Francisco Liriano leads the Pittsburgh Pirates into Wrigley Field to challenge the Chicago Cubs while the New York Mets entrust Matt Harvey to contain the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Some consider a contrarian option simply to be a player in a bad matchup. The better approach is to look for something to hang your hat on, usually strikeout potential. As argument can be made that Liriano and Harvey both have intrinsic strikeout potential but since both opposing lineups fan at a below average rate, let others play the contrarian card and instead fade Liriano and Harvey.
Last season, Michael Wacha tossed at least six frames in 21 of his 30 starts. So far this year, the St. Louis Cardinals right-hander is six-for-six. This is the type of consistency desired from a cash game anchor. Granted, Wacha's 7.9 K/9 is below what you prefer but that's one reason his cost is more moderate. Friday's matchup in Dodger Stadium against an offense sporting a mediocre 0.301 wOBA and slightly above average 22 percent strikeout rate against righties puts Wacha very much in play for cash action.
Steven Wright floating knucklers to the Houston Astros in Fenway Park is guaranteed to be entertaining, one way or another. The visitors fan at a 27 percent pace versus right-handers but is that applicable versus the Boston Red Sox second coming of Tim Wakefield? Wright is in play for tournaments with the suggestion If you decide on exposure, the best advice is to watch another game.
Add Gio Gonzalez to the list of hurlers beginning the campaign with a lower than normal strikeout rate but in a good spot to reverse the trend as the Washington Nationals entertain the Miami Marlins in the opener of a weekend series. The southpaw will look to school the Fish and their 25 percent strikeout rate against southpaws.
After beginning the season with a pair of five-inning efforts followed by an outing one out longer, Nate Karns has tossed at least six frames in his subsequent three starts. With the offensively challenged Los Angeles Angels visiting Safeco Field, the Seattle Mariners right-hander is set up to go deep into the game again, though the Halos' 16 percent strikeout rate against righties will put Karns 9.9 K/9 to the test. This tilt has more of a cash game feel, especially on sites requiring multiple pitchers.
The something-has-to-give matchup on the ledger is Chris Tillman and the Baltimore Orioles hosting the Detroit Tigers in Camden Yards. The visitors are righty-heavy but are still dangerous as evidenced by a 0.328 wOBA against right-handers. On the other hand, spurred by Justin Upton's unsightly 38 percent strikeout rate, the Tigers as a team whiff in one quarter of their trips to the dish when facing a righty. Tillman's career K/9 is a pedestrian 6.8 so this season's 9.4 mark is likely to regress. But maybe not yet, rendering Tillman the top contrarian play.
Because he's a non-dominant fly ball pitcher, Josh Tomlin is always a risk. However, pinpoint control often frustrates opposing offenses. With the Minnesota Twins visiting Progressive Field, the Cleveland Indians right-hander has chance to stifle an offense that totes a 0.306 wOBA and 23 percent strikeout rate against righties.
After allowing four total earned runs in his first 17 2/3 innings this season, Brandon Finnegan has allowed three earned runs or more in each of his four starts since. This has dropped his ESPN ownership to an acquirable 16 percent. The Cincinnati Reds journey to Citizens Bank Park to face the Philadelphia Phillies. When facing southpaws, the hosts whiff at an elevated 24 percent pace while recording a meek 0.270 wOBA in this scenario.
Jeff Samardzija's return to the National League has been a success. His date with the Arizona Diamondbacks in the desert registers in the streaming range as some of last season's woes are carried over along with the Game Score algorithm accounting for a road game in a hitter's park. The Snakes may hit righties to the tune of a 0.335 wOBA but they do punch out at a 21 percent clip. This doesn't move the needle for DFS but it does pave the way to use the Shark in seasonal formats.
The Friday slate is curious in that while there aren't a bevy of options that profile as a strong spot-start, there aren't many to completely avoid either. The most intriguing option is Lance McCullers making his season debut against the scorching Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park. The Beantown bunch lead the American League in scoring by a wide margin. A healthy McCullers is capable of shutting down anyone, however if you've been anxiously waiting to activate him, be patient for another five days.
With R.A. Dickey it's less about the park and more about the opposing offense. After all, he works half his games in the Rogers Centre, one of the best hitting venues in the game. Ergo, Friday's encounter in Globe Life Park is a risk more because the opposing Texas Rangers are second in scoring in the American League, though the hitter's venue doesn't help.
This is the rare night when a Coors Field game doesn't take the top spot. In fact with Matt Harvey taking on Jon Gray, it's not going to be mentioned at all.
Leading off on fade Coors Field day is the tangle between the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers in Arlington. Throw handedness out the window when a knuckleballer is on the hill, instead focusing on home run hitters. The Texas Rangers have plenty of those, beginning with Rougned Odor and Nomar Mazara at the top followed by Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder, Mitch Moreland and Ian Desmond. The visitors right-handed contingent will look to counter against Martin Perez. Josh Donaldson heads the way followed by the usual suspects, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and the slumping Troy Tulowitzki.
Justin Verlander celebrated his engagement with a stellar performance last time out against the Rangers. However, previous to that he surrendered a homer in four straight games, fueling a 1.5 HR/9 for the season. Led by Chris Davis and Manny Machado, the powerful sticks of the Baltimore Orioles will look to send a few out of Camden Yards. Other options include Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo and Pedro Alvarez.
Even if McCullers is on his game and keeps the Boston Red Sox in check, he's not likely to throw more than five or maybe six frames, which means the home team should get a couple of cracks against the Houston Astros' bullpen. Davis Ortiz is in play against any right-handed hurler with Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez constituting a contrarian stack since they'll lack the platoon edge.
Another intriguing stack features the San Francisco Giants in Chase Field, squaring off with Shelby Miller. Brandon Belt is the top option with Joe Panik, Matt Duffy, Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford in the mix.
Most likely to hit a home run: It feels like a long night in Texas for R.A. Dickey so a Ranger has to be the call. An argument could be tabled for five or six guys so let's tab Adrian Beltre for his combinations of contact, power and experience.
Most likely to steal a base: The Pittsburgh Pirates are in the top-ten with respect to stolen bases while the Chicago Cubs struggle stopping it so look for Gregory Polanco to get the green light and take advantage.