Among the many quirks with the 2018 MLB schedule is that Wednesdays are no longer automatic full slates ... the Diamondbacks and Rangers are sitting this one out. Another change is the preponderance of day games, even in the dog days of August. Beware, there's a pair of 1:10 PM ET matinees to start Wednesday's action.
With respect to pitching, this is one of the weaker slates in recent memory, both at the top-end and streaming options. Without many elite arms to worry about, the inventory of available hitting is wide open.
Here's what you need to get your team over the midweek hump, with all players available in at least half of ESPN leagues.
Pitchers to Stream
Shane Bieber (R), rostered in 37 percent of ESPN leagues, Cleveland Indians at Cincinnati Reds: Since July 8, Bieber has posted 10.0 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and 0.8 HR/9 peripherals. His 5.40 ERA and 1.35 WHIP during those six starts includes an implosion versus the Pirates in which the rookie served up seven hits and seven runs in just 1.2 innings. This serves as a great reminder that young arms, no matter how talented, are subject to occasional blowups. On paper, Wednesday is fairly safe despite a road affair at a hitter's venue. For the season, the Reds are middle-of-the-pack versus righty pitching though since the break, they're 21st in weighted on base average (wOBA) with a 25 percent strikeout rate in that scenario.
Jordan Zimmermann (R), 11 percent, Detroit Tigers vs. Chicago White Sox: In what amounts to be half a season's worth of games (16 starts), Zimmermann checks in as a slightly better than average pitcher. This suggests he can be useful in shallower leagues with the right matchup. The concern is despite toting a poor offense into Comerica Park, the one thing the White Sox do better than average is hit homers, which is Zimmerman's recent Achilles' heel. Still, with the park downgrade for White Sox hitters, Zimmermann is in a good spot for this third consecutive quality start.
Robbie Erlin (L), 2 percent, San Diego Padres vs. Los Angeles Angels: This is a digging deep move for larger mixed leagues where the available pool isn't as plush. Erlin spent most of the season in the bullpen before entering the rotation. In his two starts, he's tossed five frames with one walk and no homers in each, albeit with only a tempered total of seven punch outs. The Angels' offense can be dangerous, but they're without Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, their designated hitter against right-handers.
Felix Pena (R), 1 percent, Los Angeles Angels at San Diego Padres: At first glance, this is a good spot for Pena, but upon further review, it could be a trap game. Still, in deeper leagues, Pena is an option but beware, he hasn't pitched well lately while the Padres' offense versus righties has picked up since the break.
Luis Cessa (R), fewer than 1 percent, New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays: Cessa enters the Yankees' rotation in place of the disabled CC Sabathia. He's not likely to last more than five frames before passing the ball to the vaunted bullpen. However, that could be enough to secure a victory at home with the Rays deploying their newfangled bullpen game. Since the break, the Rays' offense sports the fourth poorest wOBA with a righty on the hill.
While I don't want Shane Greene active on my roster every day, with 25 saves and a strikeout an inning, he's fine in favorable spots. Wednesday is a good time to slide him in, especially if you're short with Brad Boxberger and Jose Leclerc with an off day.
Hunter Wood is slated to open the Rays tilt with Jake Faria the likely follower. Faria is a starter by trade but, since he's coming off the disabled list, is not likely to pitch more than three or four frames. Considering the opposition is a dangerous Yankees lineup, neither Wood nor Faria is in play for fantasy purposes.
Projected game scores
Mike Zunino (R), 27 percent, Seattle Mariners at Oakland Athletics (LHP Brett Anderson): When you strike out as often as Zunino -- 109 times in 285 plate appearances through Monday's action -- batting average is going to be a problem. That said, if you play in a league without a significant penalty for strikeouts, Zunino's pop provides plenty of points potential.
Ryan O'Hearn (L), under 1 percent, Kansas City Royals vs. Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Marco Estrada): The Royals are using the last quarter of the season to audition some of the fringe prospects in their organization. O'Hearn has been seeing a lot of time at first base or designated hitter with a righty on the hill. His main fantasy asset is power, though even then we're looking at a league-average level. Estrada has been quite generous in that department, surrendering 18 long balls in just 106 frames.
Jason Kipnis (L), 15 percent, Cleveland Indians at Cincinnati Reds (RHP Robert Stephenson): Kipnis is doing his best to salvage his season after a miserable first half. For the past month, the veteran has registered a respectable .785 OPS, featuring four homers. Stephenson was pitching well for Triple-A Louisville previous to his recall. However, in his 2018 debut, the Mets got to him for three runs in four innings, spurred by five free passes. Perhaps the wildness was jitters, but until Stephenson can translate minor-league success to the majors, he's a soft target for opposing hitters.
Evan Longoria (R), 34 percent, San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers (LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu): It's been a typical season for Ryu, pitching well between injury stints. The lefty last pitched in the majors on May 2 and is coming back after only two rehab starts, totaling just nine innings. Longoria and his mates look to take advantage of Ryu's rustiness. The veteran third baseman has dealt with injury woes of his own and is in the throes of a slump, but he's been making solid contact, often a harbinger of breaking out.
Enrique Hernandez (R), 13 percent, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants (LHP Derek Holland): Sorry, but if Hernandez is facing a righty, he's the no-brainer choice, though some correctly point out his platoon splits aren't quite as severe this season. Still, Hernandez hits cleanup versus southpaws for the most productive team in that scenario.
Kendrys Morales (B), 7 percent, Toronto Blue Jays at Kansas City Royals (RHP Jorge Lopez): Morales is another batter mired in a slump. That said, for the majority of the season, he's been hitting the ball harder than his numbers may suggest. Deploying a switch-hitter versus Lopez, being converted back to a starter after working as a reliever with the Brewers, followed by a sketchy bullpen? That's usually a recipe for success.
Johan Camargo (B), 28 percent, Atlanta Braves vs. Miami Marlins (RHP Jose Urena): Like Hernandez, Camargo is one of the most frequent visitors to this space. Maybe it's because he hits lower in the Braves' order, but his production is commensurate with players on other teams in more favorable lineup spots.
Michael Conforto (L), 50 percent, New York Mets at Baltimore Orioles (RHP Dylan Bundy): As of this writing, Conforto barely makes the 50 percent cutoff, so hurry. Conforto is squaring off with Bundy, author of 14 homers in his last six games, covering 30.1 innings. Add in the short porch at Camden Yards and Conforto will no doubt be a popular pickup.
Eric Thames (L), 44 percent, Milwaukee Brewers at Chicago Cubs (RHP Kyle Hendricks): With more solid hitters than they have lineup spots, it's always necessary to check who the Brewers are playing, but with a righty on the hill, there's an excellent chance Thames is playing ... especially since The Crew has faced a couple of southpaws in their last two games. Since returning to the majors from overseas, 40 of the 47 homers Thames has swatted have come off right-handers.
Daniel Palka (L), 5 percent, Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers (RHP Jordan Zimmermann): Earlier, the White Sox power versus righties was discussed. Palka is one of the main reasons, smashing 16 of his 17 long balls with a right-hander toeing the rubber.
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.