The first Friday of August avails the typical full slate, including the traditional Wrigley Field matinee affair with the Cubs home for the weekend. The card also features Chris Archer making his Senior Circuit debt at home in the Steel City as well as the second game of a four-game set between American League East combatants the Yankees and Red Sox. The other marquee game is a rematch of last year's World Series with the Astros' Justin Verlander leading the defending champs into Dodger Stadium.
It's not the plushest group of streaming options so be judicious -- there will be more chances over the weekend to fortify your pitching stats. The recent flurry of activity has embellished the supply of available hitting, a few of which are featured below.
Here's a look at the day's top streaming options, focusing on players rostered in less than 50 percent of ESPN leagues.
Pitchers to stream
Vince Velasquez (R), rostered in 45 percent of ESPN leagues, Philadelphia Phillies vs. Miami Marlins: Putting aside the health risk, Velasquez is one of the more flummoxing starters. The talent is unquestioned. Consistency, on the other hand, remains an issue. Velasquez sports an impressive 11.5 percent swinging strike rate, though he fails to take full advantage, throwing first-pitch strikes only 57 percent of the time. His 9.3 percent walk rate isn't terrible, but it is above average. To his credit, his 4.02 ERA is a little high as suggested by a 3.72 FIP and 3.89 xFIP. As for Friday's matchup, Velasquez draws one of the weakest lineups with strikeout upside.
Jake Odorizzi (R), 21 percent, Minnesota Twins vs. Kansas City Royals: This is the first of three recommendations that could be trap games. That is, the impetus for the suggestion is more the weak opposition than the pitcher's merits. Obviously, facing a weak offense is a significant factor, but hitters get paid too. Not just here, but for the remainder of the season, don't automatically plug and play against the lesser lineups. Make sure there's something positive about the pitcher. With that as a backdrop, Odorizzi's down season is one reason the Twins were sellers this year. However, despite allowing more baserunners than ever, Odorizzi is fanning more than a hitter an inning, albeit with a tempered total since he rarely works into the sixth, let alone finishes it. The Royals tote a below-average offense into Target Field, putting Odorizzi in play on a weak streaming slate.
Brett Anderson (L), 1 percent, Oakland Athletics vs. Detroit Tigers: Here's Exhibit 2 of a lesser hurler facing an even weaker offense. For the past month, the Tigers have registered a .289 weighted on-base average (wOBA) while whiffing at a 25 percent clip versus southpaws. Anderson tossed six innings in each of his past two outings, on the road in Colorado and Texas, a pair of the least friendly pitching environments. He allowed a total of six runs with just seven strikeouts. Still, working this tilt at home, Anderson makes the cut on a docket with limited choices.
Ariel Jurado (R), fewer than 1 percent, Texas Rangers vs. Baltimore Orioles: The last risky affair features one of the league's weakest offenses devoid of two of their best batters. The problem is, Jurado has done little to warrant this spot other than happening to match up with the Orioles. The rookie righty escaped Houston with a win last time out, allowing just two hits with one earned run in six frames. However, he threw only 61 percent of his pitches for strikes, generating just three of the swinging variety. This won't cut it, even against the poorest lineups. On another slate, Jurado wouldn't make the grade, but in the spirit of providing four options, he gets the reluctant nod.
Pitchers to avoid
Luis Severino (R), 99 percent, New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox: Severino is amid his first real rough patch since becoming a rotation staple. His ERA the past four outings is a ugly 8.84 along with an equally unsightly 1.91 WHIP. That said, he fanned a respectable 19 with just four free passes in those 19 1/3 frames. The issue was 33 hits, including seven homers. Cases like this are almost always a mix of bad luck and bad pitching. On deck is, by far, the game's best lineup versus righties. Severino has demonstrated the ability to rise to the occasion, so perhaps facing Boston will give him the focus he needs to return to form. Your team, your call. If you start Severino, be prepared to make up for some potential damage later in the weekend.
Friday lines up to be a true bullpen game for Tampa as Ryan Yarbrough, Tyler Glasnow Jake Faria and Jalen Beeks all have pitched multiple innings the past few days. Yonny Chirinos is the most likely to see action, having worked three frames on Sunday.
Not all the closer scenarios have completely fleshed out since the flurry of activity at the deadline. Of all the likely ninth-inning candidates available in at least half of ESPN leagues, Jose Leclerc (available in 87 percent of ESPN leagues) is the most enticing. He seems older, but the righty is just 24 years of age. His strikeout rate is akin to the elite at the position -- he just needs to hone his control.
Projected game scores
Austin Hedges (R), 6 percent, San Diego Padres at Chicago Cubs (LHP Jose Quintana): Hedges is finally warming up, posting an .863 OPS the past month, including a .967 mark the past week. Just as it appeared Quintana flipped the switch with three straight solid outings, he turned in a clunker last time versus St. Louis, seeing six runners touch the plate in just three frames.
Jake Bauers (L), 33 percent, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Chicago White Sox (RHP Lucas Giolito): I know it's getting close to football season but even that isn't an excuse for Bauers to be available in two-thirds of all ESPN leagues. The rookie is on another heater, smashing three homers in his past four games. Giolito has been one of the worst hurlers all season. Enough said.
Daniel Descalso (L), 16 percent, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Francisco Giants (RHP Chris Stratton): With Jake Lamb reportedly out for the season, Eduardo Escobar will remain at the hot corner. This means the middle-infield rotation deployed by Arizona most of the season remains intact, so Descalso will continue to play when a righty is on the hill. On Friday, Descalso draws Stratton, who's back in the rotation after being demoted earlier in the season. Johnny Cueto's impending Tommy John surgery has paved the way for Stratton's return.
Colin Moran (L), 6 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. St. Louis Cardinals (RHP John Gant): Moran remains productive versus righties, recording a .773 OPS in that scenario, including hitting all eight of his long balls. Gant has been vulnerable to lefty power, allowing each of his six homers to that side of the batter's box.
Amed Rosario (R), 6 percent, New York Mets vs. Atlanta Braves (RHP Anibal Sanchez): This is a great example of the utility of the stolen base score. The Mets check in with an excellent 10. Rosario has been hitting leadoff lately, the perfect spot to be in against Sanchez and either Tyler Flowers or Kurt Suzuki.
Mark Canha (R), 6 percent, Oakland Athletics vs. Detroit Tigers (LHP Blaine Hardy): Placing Canha at corner is taking a little liberty, though with five appearances at the hot corner, he qualifies by the official rule book. He's been playing almost every day anyway, but with the demotion of Dustin Fowler, Canha's everyday role is even more secure. With a .303/.358/.661 triple slash against southpaws, Canha is a no-brainer against Hardy's middling left arm.
Niko Goodrum (B), 8 percent, Detroit Tigers at Oakland Athletics (LHP Brett Anderson): Goodrum hits for more power as a lefty but for a better average from the right side. He's likely to see chances from both sides with Anderson starting.
Cameron Maybin (R), 5 percent, Seattle Mariners vs. Toronto Blue Jays (LHP Ryan Borucki): American League-only fantasy managers are likely hoping Tommy Pham's foot injury isn't serious. However, if it is, or if you just need steals, Maybin jumps to the top of the list of recent crossover players to acquire. He sets up nicely, facing a young but still raw southpaw.
Daniel Palka (L), 3 percent, Chicago White Sox at Tampa Bay Rays (HP bullpen game): The truth is, half of the White Sox lineup will be in play on most days. This speaks to the club not having many fantasy-worthy hitters, but also to some stealth potential of some of their lineup. Palka and fellow outfielder Nicky Delmonico profile best on Friday, as the bulk of Tampa's likely relievers look to be right-handers.
Phillip Ervin (R), under 1 percent, Cincinnati Reds at Washington Nationals (LHP Gio Gonzalez): ESPN Research associate Kyle Soppe said in his notes that this one if digging deep. However, with Mason Williams, Preston Tucker and Scott Schebler (when he returns) all lefty swingers, Ervin should see action whenever a lefty is on the hill. He profiles for double-digit homers and steals prorated to a full season.
Hitter matchup ratings
Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's history (three years' worth) as well as ballpark factors. "LH" and "RH" ratings account only for left- and right-handed batters, respectively.
Weighted on-base average (wOBA) is the primary statistic used in the calculation. Ratings range from 1 to 10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. For example, a 10 is a must-start rating, while a 1 should be avoided (if possible); a 1-2 is poor, 3-4 is fair, 5-6 is average, 7-8 is very good and 9-10 is excellent.