Sunday's slate features two of the best southpaws in the league squaring off with Jon Lester and the Chicago Cubs closing out a series at Dodgers Stadium against Clayton Kershaw. Other marquee names include Michael Pineda looking to continue his stellar start to the season, Rick Porcello hoping to recapture some of the Fenway magic he enjoyed last season, Lance McCullers Jr. looking to cement his spot as one of the best starters in the American League and Johnny Cueto trying to regain the form making him one of the most consistent hurlers the past few seasons.
Despite the presence of more elite arms than usual, there are still plenty of lesser options taking to the mound across the league, opening up potentially appealing hitting matchups -- as well as a couple of under-the-radar arms you can spot start to close Week 8 on a high note.
Pitchers to stream
Joe Ross (R), 24 percent ownership in ESPN leagues, Washington Nationals vs. San Diego Padres: It has been a bumpy start to the campaign for Ross. The 24-year old righty began in Triple-A Syracuse since the Nationals didn't need a fifth starter right away. Ross impressed when he debuted in mid-April, but a pair of poor starts sent him back down to Triple-A. Ross was recalled last week and promptly stifled the Mariners for eight innings, holding them to just five hits and one run, fanning eight along the way. Ross isn't just a great acquisition for a sweet date with the offensively challenged Padres, but he deserves a permanent spot on a roster in ESPN leagues.
Scott Feldman (R), 12 percent, Cincinnati Reds at Philadelphia Phillies: Feldman has held his own after being thrust into an injury-riddled Reds rotation. He's prone to rough outings like those he endured recently against the Cubs and Pirates, but he has also spun five quality starts, including a complete game against the Giants. Sunday lines up to be another solid effort as the host Phillies are one of the weakest teams in the league when a right-hander is on the hill. They're below average on weighted on base average (wOBA) and above average in strikeout rate in this scenario.
R.A. Dickey (R), 4 percent, Atlanta Braves at San Francisco Giants: Dickey has a tough opponent in Cueto, but he's facing a team bereft of the raw power necessary to take advantage of his knuckleballs, especially in the homer-suppressing AT&T Park. In fact, the Giants are the worst team in the league facing righties, though this holds less weight against a knuckleballer.
Jose Urena (R), 4 percent, Miami Marlins vs. Los Angeles Angels: Continuing a theme, the Angels join the Padres, Phillies and Giants as one of the league's worst clubs against righties. In addition, the visitors will be without the designated hitter. Note Albert Pujols has played first base in the first two games of the series, so there's a chance Mike Scioscia gets him off his feet for the interleague finale, further aiding Urena's cause.
Pitcher to Avoid
Andrew Triggs (R), 71 percent, Oakland Athletics at New York Yankees: While it's unfair to say Triggs has been doing it with smoke and mirrors, he's far from dominant, relying on pinpoint control and deception. The Yankees' offense has cooled off, but they still possess a number of lefties and switch-hitters to make Triggs vulnerable. Facing Pineda, the win-and-whiff potential isn't sufficient to risk damage to your ratios, for those in tight ERA and WHIP battles.
Circling back to Miami, AJ Ramos is only owned in 60 percent of ESPN leagues if you need another save as the scoring period ends in most head-to-head leagues. His numbers aren't pretty, but the Marlins' closer has been nails at home, and other than Mike Trout and perhaps Pujols, the Angels don't have the power threats to make you nervous.
Projected game scores
GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. A "*" means that the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author's ratings.
Alex Avila (L), 27 percent, Detroit Tigers at Chicago White Sox (RHP Miguel Gonzalez): Avila has been a frequent visitor to this space, but until leagues catch on, or he cools off, he deserves a mention with a righty on the hill. First as a sub for Miguel Cabrera, now filling in for the injured James McCann, Avila has been an integral part of the Tigers' offense. There's really no concern he sits on Sunday, a day many catchers rest, as Detroit played a doubleheader yesterday, with Avila sitting out the nightcap.
Justin Bour (L), 45 percent, Miami Marlins vs. Los Angeles Angels (RHP Matt Shoemaker): Bour is another regular in this space, available in over half of ESPN leagues, despite having a May worthy of Player of the Month honors. Shoemaker has been throwing better lately, but Bour is locked in.
Logan Forsythe (R), 25 percent, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Chicago Cubs (LHP Jon Lester): As has been discussed a couple of times, when searching for some lineup help, too many dismiss good hitters facing good pitchers, regardless of the ancillary factors. Forsythe has been leading off and should be back at the top of the Dodgers' order, enjoying the platoon edge over the veteran southpaw.
David Freese (R), 9 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. New York Mets (RHP Matt Harvey): Another error made is overlooking hitters without the platoon edge. The way Harvey has been throwing, anyone is capable of taking him deep. Freese has hit four of his five homers this season off a right-hander.
Jose Reyes (B), 16 percent, New York Mets at Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Tyler Glasnow): Reyes is exhibiting a little more patience this season, which could come in handy versus Glasnow and his sketchy control. Furthermore, the Pirates are easy to run on for those seeking an extra steal or two.
Justin Smoak (B), 50 percent, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Texas Rangers (RHP Andrew Cashner): Recommending Smoak feels like cheating, but if I didn't even look up his ownership, someone may also assume he isn't available and not check. Smoak is not only in a great spot against the middling Cashner, but his skills suggest continued success.
Devon Travis (R), 29 percent, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Texas Rangers (RHP Andrew Cashner): Here's another example of ignoring the handedness and focusing on a solid hitter drawing a lesser hurler. Now that Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki are back, the hot-hitting Travis may be low in the order, but it doesn't matter.
Josh Reddick (L), 28 percent, Houston Astros vs. Baltimore Orioles (RHP Alec Asher): The Orioles finally had enough of Ubaldo Jimenez, banishing him to the bullpen. Asher takes the rotation spot and, quite frankly, isn't much, if any, of an upgrade. Reddick hasn't hit a homer since May 19. However, he has only fanned five times in his last 59 plate appearances. The power will reappear.
Curtis Granderson (L), 23 percent, New York Mets at Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Tyler Glasnow): With the Mets getting healthier, Granderson has been dropped to seventh in the order. Still, he has the power and patience to take advantage of the erratic Glasnow.
Max Kepler (L), 25 percent, Minnesota Twins vs. Tampa Bay Rays (RHP Alex Cobb): Cobb is rounding into the form many thought he'd show before Tommy John surgery but is still susceptible to lefty swingers. Kepler has been swinging well lately, sporting a .953 OPS the last two weeks.
Hitter matchup ratings
Notes: Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's history (three years' worth, as well as the past 21 days) and 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. So, for example, a 10 is a must-start rating, whereas 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.