The final weekend of the first half kicks off with a typical full Friday slate of MLB games, all played under the lights. Aces are scant, but there’s a nice array of spot-starters to fortify your pitching as well as hitters to help you make up ground as the fantasy week nears a close. Along those lines, teams are dipping into their farm systems, so if you have a question on a player not featured, please take advantage of the comment section and I’ll be sure to reply.
Pitchers to stream
Mike Montgomery (L), 25 percent ownership in ESPN leagues, Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati Reds: Montgomery’s conversion to starting has gone swimmingly, though beware his 2.50 ERA is artificially deflated as evidenced by a 3.64 FIP and 4.25 xFIP. Still, in today’s landscape, those numbers are acceptable for a streamer, especially one in a favorable spot. The Great American Ball Park has a reputation as a hitter’s haven. However, while it certainly inflates power, it plays around neutral for runs. This aligns perfectly with Montgomery’s extreme ground ball tendencies. Further, the Reds are the least patient team in the league with a lefty on the hill.
Mike Foltynewicz (R), 18 percent, Atlanta Braves at Oakland Athletics: Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like Foltynewicz is always on the docket when it’s my turn to write. The thing is, recommending the 25-year-old right-hander continues to pay off, as he’s had a solid outing in 10 of his 13 efforts. One of the poor games was against the Nationals, against whom he wouldn’t have been suggested. There’s no issue going to the well again as Foltynewicz takes on the Athletics in one of the best pitching venues in the game. Despite the Oakland Coliseum depressing strikeouts, A’s bats have whiffed at an elevated 25 percent pace with a righty on the hill.
Sam Gaviglio (R), 4 percent, Seattle Mariners at Los Angeles Angels: Gaviglio has been a welcome addition to the Mariners staff, stepping up while some veterans were and are disabled. He’s not flashy — in fact, his skills are pedestrian. But in the right scenario, he can be a fantasy asset. This is such an occasion as he’ll take the hill against a weak Angels offense in power-suppressing Angel Stadium.
Austin Bibens-Dirkx (R), 3 percent, Texas Rangers at Chicago White Sox: Bibens-Dirkx is one of the feel-good stories of the first half. The career minor leaguer made his MLB debut at the ripe age of 32. He’s tossed seven innings in two of his past three starts, a pair of road tilts against the prolific Yankees and Nationals. He doesn’t miss many bats, but he doesn’t beat himself with walks. In most cases, Bibens-Dirkx would be too risky. However, facing one of the league’s worse clubs against right-handers, he’s worth a shot, especially if you’re chasing late-week wins.
Pitcher to avoid
Mike Leake (R), 74 percent, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Washington Nationals: Leake’s owners aren’t complaining about his current 3.12 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, but they may have a thing to say about the damage the Nationals are likely to inflict on his ratios Friday night. Whether you want to look at season-long numbers, or how they’ve done the past few weeks, it doesn’t matter: The Nationals crush righties. Leake’s strength is limiting walks and homers. Sure, he may frustrate the visitors, but there’s a better chance Washington’s deep lineup takes advantage of Leake’s 90 mph fastball all night.
Could there be a changing of the guard in St. Louis? Seung-Hwan Oh‘s days of being the Final Boss may have come to an end, at least for now. After giving up a run in three of his past four games, Oh was passed over for the save Wednesday night, with Trevor Rosenthal entrusted with ninth-inning duties. That said, Rosenthal hasn’t exactly been spotless lately. This is a scenario worth following.
Projected game scores
GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. A “*” means the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author’s ratings. A 50 typically earns the pitcher a “quality start” by this measure, while a 70 is considered a dominant start.
Wilson Ramos (R), 24 percent, Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles (RHP Chris Tillman): It won’t be long before Ramos’ ownership scoots up. If he was healthy from the get-go, he’d be a borderline top-10 receiver. Ramos is only 1-for-9 since coming off the disabled list, but after sitting out Thursday, he should be chomping at the bit to get things going against Tillman, the lowest-ranked pitcher on Friday’s docket.
Lucas Duda (L), 10 percent, New York Mets vs. Philadelphia Phillies (RHP Ben Lively): After not giving up a homer in his first two starts, Lively surrendered four in his following three outings. Further, Duda’s 25 percent strikeout rate isn’t as much of an issue facing a righty sporting a meager 3.1 K/9.
Logan Forsythe (R), 13 percent, Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres (LHP Clayton Richard): Forsythe has jumped all around the order as well as being bumped up and down the order, but with a lefty on the hill, he’ll almost assuredly be in the lineup somewhere. It speaks to the strength of the Dodgers that they’ve been able to score so many runs without a major contribution from Forsythe. Look for that to change in the second half as water finds its level.
Joey Gallo (L), 35 percent, Texas Rangers at Chicago White Sox (RHP Mike Pelfrey): Pelfrey is having an interesting season. Lately, he’s produced better numbers as the White Sox have protected him from going through the order a third time, a longtime issue for the veteran righty. In addition, even though he’s never been more than a middling-innings eater, homers haven’t been as issue. Hence, since more runs than ever are scored via the homer, his ERA hasn’t risen as much as many intuit based on his reputation of being a subpar hurler. This may be enough to be cautious about stacking against him for daily fantasy sports purposes, but not enough to shy away from using a hitter like Gallo. ESPN researcher Kyle Soppe offers the main reason to like the matchup: With his low strikeout rate, Pelfrey can’t take advantage of Gallo’s primary flaw. When Gallo makes contact, especially against a righty, good things usually occur.
Paul DeJong (R), 4 percent, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Washington Nationals (RHP Tanner Roark): Sending Randal Grichuk to Triple-A worked, and the Cardinals are hoping the wake-up call does the same for Aledmys Diaz. In the interim, DeJong inherits the run at shortstop. Part of the reason for Diaz’s demotion is DeJong has been swinging a hot stick, sporting a modest eight-game hitting streak.
Jae-Gyun Hwang (R), less than 1 percent, San Francisco Giants at Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Gerrit Cole): Third base has been a revolving door all season for the Giants. Regular third baseman Eduardo Nunez is on the shelf with a sore hamstring. When healthy, Nunez was asked to help fill the void in left field for some of the first half. Currently, the hot corner will be shared by Hwang and Ryder Jones. It’s unclear how the playing time will be divided, but note Hwang would receive less since he’s the righty half of the platoon. At Triple-A Sacramento, Hwang was displaying some pop, then hit a dinger in his MLB debut. If Jones plays instead of Hwang, he’s also an option.
Ian Happ (R), 46 percent, Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati Reds (RHP Scott Feldman): Happ’s been whiffing a lot lately. While this is a concern, the switch-hitter is still a good play facing a righty with a below-average strikeout rate.
Keon Broxton (R), 46 percent, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Miami Marlins (RHP Edinson Volquez): Broxton’s been filling up the stat sheets lately with five homers and four steals over the past couple of weeks. He received Thursday off, so look for a refreshed Broxton to pick up where he left off against Volquez. The author of a no-hitter earlier this month has been in a recent rut, walking 14 with only 11 punchouts his past three starts, spanning just 13 2/3 innings.
Ben Gamel (L), 24 percent, Seattle Mariners at Los Angeles Angels (RHP Parker Bridwell): If Gamel played in a major market, his ownership would be at least double. Toiling in the obscurity of the Pacific Northwest, the 25-year-old fly-chaser continues to produce, wrapping up a month with a .946 OPS entering Friday’s action.
Denard Span (L), 4 percent, San Francisco Giants at Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Gerrit Cole): Despite playing for the offensively challenged Giants, the leadoff hitter managed to score an impressive 18 runs this month. Cole’s been pitching better, though he’s still vulnerable to lefty swingers.
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.