Friday brings some bonus baseball as the slate is kicked off with the White Sox hosting the Royals in the only matinee on the docket. A pair of future Hall of Famers are in action with Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer both poised to take the hill for the Dodgers and Nationals, respectively.
As is usually the case, scoring is creeping up in May with 4.43 runs per game as compared to 4.25 in April. This trend should continue through August before it falls back in September. As such, we're still at the point of the season pitching is better than what it will be for the next few months. It's integral to take advantage now before the benefits of streaming are lessened.
To that end, here are Friday's top arms to spot start, along with the usual array of hitters designed to fill weak spots in your lineup. As always, all suggestions are available in over half of all ESPN leagues.
Nick Pivetta (R), rostered in 47% of ESPN leagues, Boston Red Sox vs. Los Angeles Angels: Pivetta's rostership has steadily grown as he rebuilds fantasy trust. A 4.67 xFIP and 4.98 SIERA indicate his 3.19 ERA is artificially low, but he's exhibiting latent skills growth which should help offset regression. While a .244 BABIP and 5.9% HR/FB rate are both due a correction, so is his 14.7% walk rate as the percentage of balls thrown portends fewer free passes. The Angels will pose a challenge as they high righthanders well, but Pivetta has taken well to the Red Sox organization-wide dictum to work quickly and should continue to improve.
Tyler Anderson (L), 28%, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. San Francisco Giants: Those stuck on Anderson's first two starts of the season have missed out on a 2.32 ERA and 0.84 WHIP over the subsequent five outings, spanning 31 frames. Granted, Lady Luck lent a hand with just 16 hits with no homers over this stretch, but Anderson's improved cutter and changeup should continue to keep his walks low and ball in the yard.
Griffin Canning (R), 8%, Los Angeles Angels at Boston Red Sox: Streaming against one of the top offenses in the game is risky, but every team endures slumps over a 162-game grind and the Red Sox are currently amid a team-wide malaise, fanning at a 32% clip over the previous three games. Of course, they could snap out of it at any time, so caveat emptor. Canning has rebounded a couple of subpar efforts with two straight wins, fanning 13 over 11 stanzas.
David Peterson (L), 6%, New York Mets at Tampa Bay Rays: Peterson will look to bounce back from a poor effort against the Diamondbacks his last time on the hill as he lasted just 1 2/3 innings after surrendering three runs on three hits and three walks. Three of his four starts before that were solid and Peterson is in a good spot to add another quality outing as the Rays have fanned 32% of the time against southpaws while sporting the eighth lowest weighted on base average (wOBA) against them.
Bullpen: With MLB managers seemingly reluctant to use they closer in both ends of a doubleheader nowadays, twin bills are a good place to search for saves. Liam Hendriks of the White Sox is no doubt unavailable, so skipper Tony LaRussa could turn to Aaron Bummer if needed and Bummer is available in 97% of ESPN leagues. The Royals Josh Staumont is their primary closer and he's only rostered in 22% of ESPN leagues.
For the latest team-by-team closer situations, please consult our Closer Chart.
Catcher -- Mike Zunino (R), 7%, Tampa Bay Rays vs. New York Mets (LHP David Peterson): Injuries have increased Zunino's playing time and he's taking advantage, at least in terms of power with a pair of homers this past week, giving him seven on the year. Meanwhile, Peterson has served up five round trippers in 26 frames.
First Base -- Mitch Moreland (L), 2%, Oakland Athletics at Minnesota Twins (RHP Matt Shoemaker): After an emotional return to Fenway Park, Moreland heads to the Twin Cities. For his career, the veteran has excelled against righthanders while Shoemaker has been crushed by lefty swingers to the tune of a .327/.387/.636 slash so far this season.
Second Base -- Starlin Castro (R), 13%, Washington Nationals at Arizona Diamondbacks (RHP Riley Smith): Historically, Castro hits better against lefty pitching but this matchup prevails over splits as Smith is the weakest starter on the card and Castro is enjoying a strong May, registering at least one in every game this month.
Third Base -- Jeimer Candelario (S), 36%, Detroit Tigers vs. Chicago Cubs (RHP Jake Arrieta): Perhaps to a fault, batters currently in the midst of a hot streak are favored when looking for a fill in. The fact is, hot and cold spells can be snapped at any time and are not predictive. This is why someone like Candelario is such a good option as he's been consistently productive all season and as a switch hitter, he always has the platoon bump.
Shortstop -- Kyle Farmer (R), 1%, Cincinnati Reds at Colorado Rockies (RHP German Marquez): With a weekend set in Coors Field, all Reds are in play. Farmer gets the nod here as he's likely under the radar but has been playing a lot of shortstop with Eugenio Suarez moving back to third. Nick Senzel, Tucker Barnhart and Jonathan India are all readily available Reds with a chance to take advantage of the thin air.
Corner Infield -- Josh Fuentes (R), 1%, Colorado Rockies vs. Cincinnati Reds (LHP Wade Miley): Johnny Vander Meer's record of two straight no-hitters is likely safe as Miley's reward for his gem is a date in Coors Field. Fuentes has not benefited from the extra playing time he's received but he has hit southpaws better than righthanders.
Middle Infield -- Leury Garcia (S), 2%, Chicago White Sox vs. Kansas City Royals (Doubleheader): Keeping in mind using a batter in a doubleheader is a risk since he may only play one seven-inning game, Garcia's defensive versatility and switch-hitting gives him a reasonable chance to appear in both ends.
Outfield -- Avisail Garcia (R), 34%, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Atlanta Braves (LHP Drew Smyly): Garcia has been one of the few bright spots in the Brewers lineup and while getting caught twice in five tries isn't ideal, it's great to see he's also running. With the platoon edge on a struggling southpaw in American Family Field, Garcia is the best pickup on the Friday ledger.
Outfield -- Adam Duvall (R), 18%, Miami Marlins at Los Angeles Dodgers (LHP Clayton Kershaw): Even though Kershaw has been keeping the ball in the yard this season, he's been generous with homers the past couple of years. Duvall has slugged .588 facing lefties since 2019.
Outfield -- Josh Naylor (L), 8%, Cleveland Indians at Seattle Mariners (RHP Chris Flexen): Naylor has slashed .270/.325/.486 in May with a solid chance of keeping the roll going facing a righty who has only punched out a pair over his prior two starts, covering 10 1/3 innings.