Sunday is a streamer's delight, as many extended head-to-head scoring periods are down to the last day. There's a lot to discuss, so let's jump right in.
On the surface, Jon Lester's first post-break effort is an indication that the slide he was on previously is over, as he held the New York Mets to one run on four hits in 7 2/3 innings. However, a closer look suggests he's not completely out of the woods -- he fanned only three while issuing a trio of free passes. Facing the Milwaukee Brewers will be a great litmus test as they whiff at an accelerated rate versus southpaws. There's some danger here for DFS cash play, but GPP enthusiasts can take advantage of a depressed cost for the veteran Chicago Cubs left-hander.
Corey Kluber is the only other option landing in the elite tier as the Cleveland Indians wrap up a weekend set in Camden Yards. Kluber's peripherals are stellar, as usual, and the Baltimore Orioles provide a platform for extra punchouts, but they are also one of the league's most productive squads versus right-handers. This renders Kluber as another stud better-suited for tournament than cash action.
Continuing the theme of a difficult slate for DFS cash game enthusiasts, five hurlers fall in the solid tier, none of which emit that warm and fuzzy feeling intrinsic to cash play. Vince Velasquez kicks off the tier as he squares off with another solid option, Jameson Taillon, as Keystone State rivals -- the Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies -- close out a series in the Steel City. Velasquez is intriguing since the Bucs have been slumping versus right-handers; in July, they sport the third-worst weighted on-base average (wOBA) and have an above-average strikeout rate. Taillon is coming off an outing where he was struck in the head with a line drive, but he has checked out fine. He's more than holding his own, though his 6.4 K/9 is low for DFS. The Phillies are weak offensively so Taillon is also in play, but the elevated strikeout potential for Velasquez gives him the nod.
Attention, cash game players, this one's for you. Steven Matz leads the Mets into South Beach for the finale of a set against the Miami Marlins. Keeping in mind that safety is relative to the rest of the field, Matz is in a good spot versus a squad with an average wOBA and a healthy strikeout rate versus southpaws. Also, the 25-year old lefty will be opposed by Jose Urena, so on paper, Matz should get run support.
Jose Quintana almost always checks in as a fine cash option, but that enthusiasm is tempered as the Detroit Tigers take on the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. The venue plays neutral in terms of runs, but there's still some risk as the visitors parade several powerful righty hitters to the dish in a park that embellishes power. Considering the other options, using the steady southpaw is defensible, but he sets up better for GPP deployment.
The final solid option is Junior Guerra as the Brewers entertain the Cubs in Miller Park. The 31-year-old righty has maintained an elevated level of performance long enough to be considered a solid major league hurler, though he's outpitching his skills -- his actual 3.06 ERA is almost a full run better than his 4.03 xFIP. Taming the Cubs is a tall task, so Guerra is best used as a contrarian option since most will be focused on his foe, Jon Lester.
A whopping 20 of Sunday's scheduled starters register a projected game score between 46 and 52 and thus are in play for a spot start. Let's take a look at the best options owned in fewer than half of ESPN leagues. If we miss someone of interest, please don't hesitate to inquire in the comments or send a tweet to @ToddZola.
Lucas Giolito is slated to make his return, drawing one of the easier teams as the San Diego Padres take on the Washington Nationals in Nationals Park. Giolito struggled with control during his debut stint in the bigs, walking six in his initial 7 2/3 innings. Against a lesser squad, perhaps taking the wait-and-see approach is prudent, but against the team sporting the second-poorest wOBA and strikeout rate against righties, the rookie warrants an active roster spot.
A.J. Griffin is owned in only 19 percent of ESPN leagues, which is low considering he's set up for a solid outing as the Texas Rangers take on the Kansas City Royals in Kauffmann Stadium. Griffin's walk rate is well above average but the Royals are the least patient team in the league.
Anibal Sanchez's stay in the rotation may be fleeting but he earned another start with a solid six-inning stint last time out against the Twins, featuring 10 whiffs with only two walks. He's in line for another decent performance against a White Sox squad that's well below average with a righty on the hill.
With his ESPN ownership at 70 percent, Scott Kazmir carries a surprising 9.8 K/9 into Busch Stadium to challenge a St. Louis Cardinals squad sporting the eighth-worst wOBA against southpaws. The reason Kazmir is featured despite a high ownership is he's also in play for DFS, especially since the Redbirds will call up a rookie to start the game. The doubleheader earlier in the week along with the extra-inning affair on Friday night have thinned the choices.
There's some risk, but Zack Godley and his miniscule 1 percent ownership are in the mix, especially for those chasing wins. Godley will take the ball for the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Great American Ballpark, which seems daunting, but the dirty little secret is that the venue is neutral for runs despite being a homer haven. Godley is a ground ball pitcher, so if he can keep the ball in the yard, he should hang around long enough to be in play for a win.
Blake Snell is another rookie worthy of a spot start as the Tampa Bay Rays finish a set in O.co Coliseum against the middling Oakland Athletics. The 23-year-old lefty is coming off a pair of solid six-inning stints, featuring 16 punchouts to five walks.
Snell will be opposed by Jesse Hahn, making his return to the majors after honing his craft with Triple-A Nashville. Hahn was far from dominant but did a good job keeping the ball in the yard, which was an issue earlier this season with the big club. The Rays' offense is well below average versus righties, so Hahn is in play for those needing a late-week boost.
Mike Mayers will be summoned by the Cardinals as they need a spot starter. He's a 24-year-old righty who has split his season between Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis. He's not especially dominant but he keeps the ball in the yard. It's a bit curious that Mayers has pitched more than six innings only once all season, his initial outing. If you're chasing a win, Mayers is in play.
Tommy Milone is the sort who can thwart what looks to be an obvious stacking scenario, so fading the Boston Red Sox is defensible. That said, on paper, this looks to be a great spot for the Fenway faithful to be rewarded with a big game. Keep an eye on catalyst Mookie Betts, who sat out Saturday with a sore knee that's been a lingering issue. Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez and Xander Bogaerts are always a threat when a lefty is on the hill. Get used to seeing Aaron Hill as an option versus southpaws as he'll pick up some time at the hot corner against lefties.
The Indians are hitting right-handers very hard, and that is bad news for Vance Worley and the Orioles. Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis get things started for Francisco Lindor and Lonnie Chisenhall. Tyler Naquin hits lower in the order but has exhibited surprising power, making him an intriguing GPP option.
The Houston Astros' sticks have calmed down after a strong start to the month, but with Lincecum taking the ball in Minute Maid Park, the likes of Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa are very much in play. Marwin Gonzalez is a sneaky play from the 2-hole, with Luis Valbuena and Preston Tucker other options with the platoon edge.
Finally, baseballs have not been flying out of Coors Field this weekend, but that could change with Tyrell Jenkins on the hill for the Braves. Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez will be chalk, with Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story as options despite lacking the platoon edge.
Most likely to hit a homer: Someone for the Astros is going to take Lincecum deep. George Springer isn't fazed facing righties, with 14 of his 21 homers in that scenario. Here's looking at No. 15.
Most likely to steal a base: Let's go back to the well with Jon Lester on the hill and give the green light to Jonathan Villar.