After multiple short slates in a row, we’re back at full strength on Saturday, with all 30 teams suiting up for action.
Even if you don’t necessarily have any holes to fill in your starting lineup, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any work to do. Pay close attention to platoon splits and park factors to ensure you’re maximizing your team’s potential day in and day out. It can be a lot of work, but that work pays off.
Of course, we’re here to help, too. Here’s a look at the day’s top streaming options, focusing on players rostered in fewer than 50 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Michael Wacha (R), rostered in 30 percent of ESPN leagues, St. Louis Cardinals vs. San Diego Padres: Wacha pitched well in his season debut, delivering six innings of one-run ball against Milwaukee. The four walks were more than you’d like to see, but he struck out seven and basically neutralized a very dangerous Brewers lineup at Miller Park, one of the game’s most hitter-friendly environments. San Diego’s lineup may be more threatening than it’s been in past seasons, but squaring off against the Padres at Busch Stadium is still a much more favorable situation. Wacha also has a history of putting up strong numbers in April (when he’s often at his healthiest). The right-hander has produced a 2.82 ERA during his past 13 April starts.
Trevor Williams (R), 35 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Cincinnati Reds: Cincinnati’s lineup is stuck in neutral. Entering Wednesday’s action, the Reds ranked 28th in baseball with a brutal 39 wRC+ and a bloated 27.3 percent strikeout rate. This presents a very enticing spot for Williams, who blanked this very Reds team his last time out, spinning six shutout frames with six strikeouts and just one walk. Better yet, this matchup comes at PNC Park, which is a massive upgrade for pitchers compared to Great American Ballpark. Don’t expect Williams to repeat last season’s 3.11 ERA, but he’s still a great streaming option in favorable matchups like this one.
Corbin Burnes (R), 15 percent, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Chicago Cubs: Burnes’ first start against the Cardinals on March 31 was eventually derailed by a trio of long balls, but it left fantasy managers plenty to be excited about. The young right-hander racked up 12 K’s on the night in just five innings, largely thanks to a four-seam fastball with a very high spin rate. Burnes’ fastball averaged 2,912 revolutions per minute (rpm) on Sunday. For reference, no pitcher averaged higher than 2,661 rpms in 2018 (min. 500 pitches). A high spin rate doesn’t necessarily lead to success, but it does often lead to more swings and misses. While we don’t want to put too much emphasis on one start, it was a very encouraging outing for the 24-year-old. A matchup against the Cubs isn’t ideal, but this is a high-upside arm to bet on.
Lucas Giolito (R), 8 percent, Chicago White Sox vs. Seattle Mariners: After he posted an MLB-worst 6.13 ERA in 2018, it’s easy to forget that Giolito was once considered arguably the game’s top pitching prospect. He’ll probably never live up to that promise, but he did show some encouraging signs in last week’s outing against Kansas City. He carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning, accumulated eight strikeouts and averaged 93.5 mph on his fastball — a notable jump after averaging 92.4 mph in 2018. Things unraveled a bit in the seventh inning when he allowed a pair of runs, and it’s not like shutting down the Royals’ lineup is worth getting excited about. Still, there was enough here to make us pay attention. On Saturday, Giolito draws a Mariners squad that’s due for some regression.
We often talk closers in this space, but setup men have value, too, especially for those who play in holds leagues. Trevor Rosenthal was expected to serve as Washington’s top setup man this season, but he’s amazingly failed to record a single out in three appearances. This has opened the door for Justin Miller and Tony Sipp to take on more prominent roles. Both have already registered three holds on the young season and could be in line to rack up plenty more on a Nationals team that is going to win lots of ballgames.
Projected game scores
Austin Barnes (R), 35 percent, Los Angeles Dodgers at Colorado Rockies (RHP Jon Gray): Barnes has opened the season on a tear, sporting a .400/.471/.867 slash line with a pair of homers through five games. And when you add in the fact that this matchup is happening at Coors Field? Count me in.
Mitch Moreland (L), 6 percent, Boston Red Sox at Arizona Diamondbacks (RHP Luke Weaver): Weaver was a huge disappointment in 2018, posting a 4.95 ERA across 30 games (25 starts), and his first start for the Diamondbacks was more of the same. He lasted only 4 1/3 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on six hits and two walks. There’s still hope for Weaver, but he looks like a name to target hitters against right now. Meanwhile, Moreland does almost all of his damage against right-handed pitching, setting him up nicely for Saturday’s bout with the Arizona right-hander.
Starlin Castro (R), 32 percent, Miami Marlins at Atlanta Braves (RHP Kyle Wright): The Marlins’ lineup is largely a wasteland for fantasy purposes, but Castro is making the most of a dire situation, hitting .321 with two homers through seven games. Miami’s second baseman doesn’t have significant righty/lefty splits, so he matches up well with Wright, who looked overmatched in his first big league start, allowing three earned runs in 4 1/3 innings and generating more walks (6) than strikeouts (5).
Zack Cozart (R), 4 percent, Los Angeles Angels vs. Texas Rangers (LHP Drew Smyly): Cozart has struggled out of the gate, but this could be a get-right matchup. While injuries limited him to just 54 games last season, he batted .337/.426/.633 against lefties in his last healthy campaign in 2017. Smyly, who has made just one start since 2016, has blowup potential in this matchup.
Garrett Hampson (R), 15 percent, Colorado Rockies vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (RHP Walker Buehler): We don’t make a habit of targeting hitters against Buehler, but we’ll make an exception here. First off, this is a Coors Field game. Second, Hampson, who is in line for somewhat regular playing time now with Daniel Murphy sidelined, has game-changing speed and double-digit homer power. He’s worth a roll of the dice here.
Yonder Alonso (L), 11 percent, Chicago White Sox vs. Seattle Mariners (RHP Mike Leake): Alonso has popped 51 homers over the past two seasons, with 83 percent of them coming against right-handed pitching. Now he’s playing in Guaranteed Rate Field, the best park he’s played in for left-handed power since he played for the Reds in 2011. Alonso draws a nice matchup against Leake, a pitch-to-contact hurler who has seen his hard-contact rate increase each of the past four seasons.
Ian Kinsler (R), 7 percent, San Diego Padres at St. Louis Cardinals (RHP Michael Wacha): Like much of San Diego’s offense, Kinsler has had trouble getting going this season. That said, this matchup is better than it might seem. Kinsler hit much better against righty pitchers last season, while Wacha was hit much harder by righty hitters. The veteran might eventually be unseated by Luis Urias at second base, but for now he still offers double-digit home run and steal potential while hitting leadoff for a much-improved Padres lineup.
Jorge Soler (R), 24 percent, Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers (LHP Matt Moore): Moore threw seven innings of shutout ball against Toronto last week, but forgive me if I’m not quite buying in after his 5.52 ERA in 2017 and 6.79 ERA in 2018. Soler absolutely tattooed lefties last season (.315/.415/.648).
Josh Reddick (L), 5 percent, Houston Astros vs. Oakland Athletics (RHP Aaron Brooks): Brooks is one of the lowest-rated hurlers on the day, and he’s traveling to Houston to face one of the most lethal lineups in baseball. This one could get ugly. You’re going to want some exposure to this Astros lineup, and Reddick is a great way to get it. Over the last three seasons, Reddick has produced a .291/.356/.452 triple slash line versus righties.
Christin Stewart (L), 12 percent, Detroit Tigers vs. Kansas City Royals (RHP Jorge Lopez): If it’s cheap power you seek, look no further. A former first-round pick, Stewart possess high-end power to go along with a really strong walk rate. He’s one of the few potential bright spots on a Tigers team that’s light on star talent. Look for Stewart to tee off against Lopez, who allowed tons of hard contact last season (43.4 percent) and surrendered 53.3 percent hard contact in his season debut last week.
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.