Friday is a typically full slate with everything under the lights except the traditional matinee in Wrigley Field. On paper, it should be a high-scoring night with only one elite arm, Gerrit Cole, taking the hill.
As we do every day, after poring over the matchups, here's some pitchers and hitters set up for a productive game, all available in at least half of ESPN leagues.
Pitchers to stream
Shane Bieber (R), rostered in 34 percent of ESPN leagues, Cleveland Indians at Chicago White Sox: It's good to see the rookie shake off a rough go against Pittsburgh coming out of the break, and get back on track in his following two efforts. In those pair of starts, Bieber averaged six innings with seven strikeouts. He's in great shape for another solid performance, drawing one of the weaker lineups versus righties carrying big strikeout potential.
Derek Holland (L), 15 percent, San Francisco Giants vs. Pittsburgh Pirates: Holland has been pitching extremely well and will be at home in the best pitching venue in the league. The veteran lefty continues to dazzle with new-found dominance, fanning 37 in his previous 29.2 frames. The Pirates are a tick below average versus southpaws, though they'll be incurring a park downgrade.
Austin Gomber (L), 2 percent, St. Louis Cardinals at Kansas City Royals: Streaming pitching is more than just identifying the weakest offenses and picking on them. There must be something about the pitcher to hang your hat on. In Gomber's case, it's 11 punch outs in 10.1 innings as a starter, facing a squad with an above average strikeout clip versus southpaws. Even against the Royals, there's ratio risk but if you need strikeouts, Gomber is in play.
Brett Anderson (L), 2 percent, Oakland Athletics at Los Angeles Angels: Not much has gone well for the Angels this season, with the miserable plight versus lefthanders among the chief downfalls. To wit, the Halos sit 26th in weighted on base average (wOBA) versus lefties and may be without Mike Trout, pending a batting practice session planned for Friday afternoon. The red-hot Athletics should be able to do some damage against Felix Pena, whose skills have declined significantly the past several outings.
Jacob Nix (R), fewer than 1 percent, San Diego Padres vs. Philadelphia Phillies: This is more a thumbnail sketch of a promising starter than a straight recommendation, though the increased strikeout potential facing the second easiest lineup for a righty to fan in the comforts of Petco Park put Nix on the radar in deeper formats. The 22-year old righty is just one of a treasure trove of young arms populating the Padres system. He's not especially dominant, fanning just 41 in 52 stanzas for Double-A San Antonio before being advanced to Triple-A El Paso, where he whiffed three in six frames in his only start before the major league promotion. Nix is pitch-efficient, consistently throwing six or seven innings, a nice trait for points leagues.
Pitchers to Avoid
Kyle Hendricks (R), 88 percent, Chicago Cubs vs. Washington Nationals: This is a tough call as Hendricks has been missing more bats lately. However, overall he's not as sharp as previous seasons with fewer strikeouts and more homers allowed. Therein lies the rub as the Nationals don't offer any strikeout upside while possessing the power to take advantage of Hendricks homerun proclivity. The chances for a disaster are low, but so is the probability of a quality start. If you're in a tight ratio battle, the limited strikeout potential isn't sufficient to mitigate the possible hit to ERA and WHIP.
A tale of two debuts, or perhaps the better reference is the song remains the same. Roberto Osuna tossed his first inning for the Astros, recording three outs on five pitches, all strikes. He was rewarded with a win for his effort as Houston took the lead in the bottom of the eighth, after Osuna worked the top. It's still unclear if Osuna will usurp Hector Rondon's closer spot or continue to pitch in earlier high leverage scenarios.
On the flip side, Ken Giles' first two appearances for the Blue Jays were a mixed bag, as he fanned three and allowed one run in his Toronto debut, following up with a scoreless frame albeit far from clean with a hit, hit batter and wild pitch on the ledger. However, Giles was pounded by the Red Sox, surrendering five runs on four hits, including two homers while recording just a pair of outs. If nothing else, his transition to closer will require a few clean appearances so Tyler Clippard could continue to see save chances in the foreseeable future.
Projected game scores
Isiah Kiner-Falefa (R), 13 percent, Texas Rangers at New York Yankees (RHP Masahiro Tanaka): Multi-position players are commonplace. Those eligible to be clicked in at catcher are rare. Kiner-Falefa has been playing all over the place and has enough pop to take advantage of Tanaka's home run generosity. He hits lower in the Rangers order, but Ronald Guzman is also in play, enjoying the platoon bump.
Jake Bauers (L), 38 percent, Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Marco Estrada): If you solely focus on Bauer's triple slash, it's not that impressive, especially in leagues scoring batting average. However, lost in the decimals is even when Bauers is running cold, he's been getting on base which boosts his stead in points leagues.
Kolten Wong (L), 2 percent, St. Louis Cardinals at Kansas City Royals (RHP Burch Smith): Wong has to be among the leaders in appearances in the space for the season. For a while, many of the recommendations were based on potential and not current performance. Well, Wong is currently crushing it, slashing .412/.444/.529 since returning from the disabled list a week ago. Plus, this being an interleague game in an AL park, hitting towards the bottom of the order isn't as detrimental as usual.
Evan Longoria (R), 36 percent, San Francisco Giants vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Clay Holmes): While the name brand exceeds actual production, the impending football season no doubt is influencing Longoria's widespread availability, especially since he's been locked in lately, sporting a .892 OPS with a pair of homers since coming off the DL on July 26. This is a good reminder in general, don't assume a player is rostered, always take the minute to confirm as interest for some wanes as the horsehide transitions to pigskin.
Brock Holt (L), 2 percent, Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles (RHP Dylan Bundy): The bottom line is as productive as the Red Sox lineup is, you want as much exposure as possible. Obviously, most of the Boston batters are already rosters with Holt readily available, assuming he's playing. With Rafael Devers back at the hot corner, Holt will share keystone duties with Eduardo Nunez until Ian Kinsler returns, likely in a week.
Miguel Sano (R), 35 percent, Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers (RHP Jordan Zimmermann): Here's another example of fantasy football aiding the diligent fantasy baseball manager. Sano has endured a miserable season thus far, but recently returned after dropping some weight, hoping to salvage the last quarter of the campaign. Few have the raw power he possesses, making him someone to not only spot in against Zimmermann, but consider keeping him for the ceiling.
Cory Spangenberg (L), under 1 percent, San Diego Padres vs. Philadelphia Phillies (RHP Zach Eflin): Eflin has enjoyed an impressive campaign albeit with a vulnerability to lefthanded power. While Spangenberg doesn't qualify as a slugger, with 16 of his 19 homers the past two season coming off a righty, Spangenberg can take an Eflin mistake out of the yard.
Michael Conforto (L), 49 percent, New York Mets at Miami Marlins (RHP Jose Urena): Conforto's power is down this season as he's battled through a series of minor ailments. Facing Urena could get Conforto back on track as the Marlins righty has served up five long balls over his last 15 frames.
David Dahl (L), 6 percent, Colorado Rockies vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (RHP Kenta Maeda): It appears the Rockies are finally going to give Dahl, and perhaps Ryan McMahon, the extended look they both deserve. It's especially time Colorado sees what Dahl can do when healthy, as they'll have a couple outfield openings next season. As most know, Dahl possesses the power/speed combo coveted by fantasy managers, embellished with the Coors Field factor. Maeda isn't the easiest matchup, though the righty is coming off a string of three lesser efforts, registering a 6.88 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in that stint, spanning 17 frames.
Jim Adduci (L), under 1 percent, Detroit Tigers vs. Minnesota Twins (RHP Ervin Santana): Initially, the plan was to profile outfielder Mike Gerber as he's been occupying the juicy leadoff spot. However, there's been nothing in his performance to warrant using other than the fact he'll get five tries a game. So, let's slide down the order to Adduci who has posted a 1.267 OPS the past week, albeit in limited action.
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.