Get ready for a week of late scratches and Twitter panic every time a player hugs another as the trade deadline approaches. Keep in mind the actual cutoff is Monday, Aug. 1, since July 31 falls on a Sunday. We'll do our best to keep the pitching and hitting rankings current throughout the week.
The week begins with a typically abbreviated slate with all the games under the lights. There's a little bit of everything in terms of pitching with a couple of marquee matchups in Citi Field and Fenway Park. We'll fill in the blanks there and everywhere in Monday's Daily Notes
The layoff appears to have rejuvenated Jake Arrieta. In his first outing after the break against the New York Mets, the Chicago Cubs' right-hander tossed seven frames for the first time in six starts, striking out eight while walking only one along the way. Next up is an interleague tussle on the road against the crosstown Chicago White Sox. Arrieta sets up nicely for DFS cash play as the American League representative of the Windy City is among the lowest-scoring teams in the league while the Cubs are one of the highest-scoring squads.
The night's top pitching matchup features ace Noah Syndergaard and the New York Mets hosting Carlos Martinez and the St. Louis Cardinals in Citi Field. As special as he is, it's tough to recommend Thor for either cash or GPP action. The Redbirds hit righties well while not striking out very often. Plus, ever since the issue with bone spurs in his elbow became public, Syndergaard isn't going deep into games on a consistent basis. Skills-wise, he's one of the game's finest, so he's always an option for tournaments. But in terms of bang-for-the-buck, there are better options.
Since he was just mentioned, let's kick off the solid tier with Martinez. The Mets whiff at an above-average clip versus righties, so despite drawing Syndergaard, the Cardinals' right-hander checks in as a GPP option, albeit a bit contrarian since the win is in jeopardy and the price will be high.
The night's second marquee matchup involves Drew Pomeranz and the Boston Red Sox welcoming Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers into Beantown for the opener of a three-game series. It certainly won't be easy for Pomeranz in his second Fenway Park start since the trade, as the visitors are dangerous at the plate. But they also strike out at an above average clip. Supported by one of the league's most potent offenses, Pomeranz and his 10.2 K/9 are in the mix for tournament play.
If you want to start an argument between a numbers-based analyst and someone who primarily watches games and goes by feel, drop the name Michael Pineda. Personally, I lean more to the numbers with an open mind to the likely possibility there's some bad pitching mixed in. By the numbers, Pineda's 10.8 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 should portend to a better ERA than the 5.25 he's recorded. The two contributors hurting the New York Yankees righty are a bloated .342 batting average on balls in play in tandem with an elevated 18 percent home run to fly ball rate. This is the area that likely combines bad luck with bad pitching.
The expected ERA of xFIP fleshes the assumed luck out of home run rate and lands Pineda at a much more palatable 3.24. If you're in a seasonal league, it's fair to expect Pineda's ERA to regress towards the better mark down the stretch.
DFS gamers approach Pineda with opposing mindsets. The number-crunchers consider him a great GPP option since his xFIP says he's a bargain for his price tag. The gut players stack against him, mostly to counter those using him as their pitcher, expecting that he'll continue to struggle. It's a great debate, one which will persist until we get a better handle on the next wave of data, namely exit velocity, launch angle and the like.
The immediate concern is Pineda squaring off with another sabermetric enigma in Dallas Keuchel. Adding to the intrigue is the fact the Houston Astros provide the platform for Pineda to have a huge strikeout game, or knock him out early. Traditional fantasy enthusiasts may not like this approach, but the best tactic is to deploy Pineda in a GPP then set a different hedge lineup with a Houston stack.
Speaking of Keuchel, his actual 4.70 ERA is more than a run higher than his 3.55 xFIP, so he too should see better outcomes down the stretch. It also should be noted that Minute Maid Park is perceived to be a hitter's park, since it's very homer-friendly, but in fact the venue plays neutral for runs. (Actually, the same is true of Yankee Stadium.) As for this contest, the Yankees don't strike out often, but also aren't very potent. Keuchel has worked at least six frames in 17 of his 20 outings, seven of which were seven innings or more. This is the consistency sought in cash play, meaning Keuchel is one of the better options for that format on the docket.
Aaron Sanchez's pedestrian strikeout rate costs him in terms of projected game score, but with the San Diego Padres and their 25 percent strikeout rate versus righties crossing the border for an interleague tilt in the Rogers Centre, the Toronto Blue Jays' right-hander sets up well for GPP play.
An underlying theme of Monday's ledger is that most of the better hurlers are facing one another, the final such example being Anthony DeSclafani taking the ball for the Cincinnati as they head west for a series in AT&T against the San Francisco Giants led by Jake Peavy. Granted, deeming Peavy one of the better hurlers is a stretch, but he's not the quite as bad as he appeared to be early on this season, and this game is in one of the best pitcher parks in the league. That said, neither pitcher really profiles well for DFS purposes.
Hector Santiago is in the midst of an effective stretch, not so coincidentally buoyed by allowing just one homer over his past four starts. Seasonal league players should be wary of a long-term commitment, since the Los Angeles Angels' lefty is an extreme fly ball pitcher and will no doubt see a reversal of fortune. But if you can pick him up for just this start, Santiago is in play against a Kansas City Royals squad that isn't much of a long ball threat at home versus southpaws.
If you haven't already noticed, Jeremy Hellickson has been extremely effective lately, especially his past five outings. With just a 29 percent ownership in ESPN leagues, there's ample opportunity to jump on the bandwagon. The Philadelphia Phillies' veteran righty is on the trading block, so there's a slight chance he's scratched, but the more likely scenario is trying to convince a contender he can help them get to the promised land. It won't be easy, as the opposing Miami Marlins are tough at home, but Hellickson's recent success warrants being active in seasonal formats as well as a DFS GPP candidate.
This being the first day of the scoring period, the conservative approach was taken for spot starters. Granted, there weren't many options but it's a shorter-than-usual slate. That said, there are not many arms that are no-brainers to avoid, either.
Jorge De La Rosa can be deployed on the road, but when the road leads to Camden Yards, he's best left out of your lineup.
Justin Verlander is a tough call. At times, he's pitched like the salad days, but he's now susceptible to really poor outings, especially when facing a strong hitting club like the Red Sox. Let's call it a game-time decision. If Mookie Betts is back, then sitting the Detroit Tigers' veteran is defensible.
The other borderline call is Daniel Mengden in Arlington. The Oakland Athletics' righty has scuffled with control lately, and you don't want to give the Texas Rangers extra base runners. This is a contextual call. If you're league has innings or games started limits, there are likely better options. However, if there are no limits, my aggressive DNA says let it ride.
There may not be a Coors Field game to consider, but the Rockies are nonetheless involved in determining our top hitting options as they're giving the ball to Jorge De La Rosa in Camden Yards. Normally, the veteran lefty sports respectable road numbers, but this season he's just as incendiary away from home. Adam Jones continues to lead things off for the Baltimore Orioles with Jonathan Schoop taking over the two-hole. Manny Machado and Mark Trumbo are also big threats to go deep.
Colin Rea has surrendered a modest 12 homers in 93 1/3 innings with eight coming off the bat of a right-hander. The Toronto Blue Jays feature a bevy of powerful righties, most notably Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki. Don't forget Devon Travis and Kevin Pillar as cheaper options as well as lefty Michael Saunders.
Chase Anderson's past five efforts have been putrid. He's hurled a total of 18 2/3rd innings, allowing 20 runs with just 12 whiffs and a whopping 17 free passes. The Arizona Diamondbacks visit Miller Park and must be licking their chops. Jean Segura, Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb are the primary Snakes to target with Michael Bourn and Welington Castillo in play as well.
The Oakland Athletics don't have the lineup depth for a typical stack, but getting some right-handed exposure against Martin Perez is a great way to fill out a lineup. Marcus Semien, Khris Davis and Danny Valencia are the chief beneficiaries with Jake Smolinksi, Ryon Healy and Billy Butler in the mix.
Most likely to go deep: Both sides of the contest at Camden Yards have plenty of run-scoring potential, so let's use this space to highlight the fine season Jonathan Schoop is enjoying, swatting 16 homers so far, the next one setting a career high. Here's to that happening on Monday night.
Most likely to swipe a bag: There are a lot of things to like about Anthony DeSclafani, but holding runners is not one of them. Denard Span is no doubt aware of this weakness and will look to take advantage.