Sunday's card is the typically loaded with matinees, save the prime-time affair featuring NL Central rivals with the Milwaukee Brewers wrapping up a weekend set with their neighbors to the south in Wrigley Field. There's a pair of intriguing pitching duels with Masahiro Tanaka and the New York Yankees visiting Blake Snell and the Tampa Bay Rays, along with Hyun-Jin Ryu and the Los Angeles Dodgers hosting Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals in their own weekend series finale.
For fantasy enthusiasts, Sunday marks the end of another scoring period, meaning it's the last chance to make up ground or pull ahead in head-to-head formats. Regardless of your format, good luck and remember to call your Mom and let her know how your team is doing.
John Means (L), rostered in 44 percent of ESPN leagues, Baltimore Orioles vs. Los Angeles Angels: Means' transition to the rotation has gone well, with the warning his pedestrian 7.1 K/9 since moving into a starting role renders him vulnerable to a rough outing. The Angels aren't the best matchup as they make more contact than anyone in the league. Still, Means is limiting walks and is on a roll -- ride it out.
Lucas Giolito (R), 9 percent, Chicago White Sox at Toronto Blue Jays: Giolito is showing signs of the promise anticipated when he was one of the top pitching prospects in the Nationals' system. He's missing bats, but also missing the strike zone, pairing an impressive 11.0 K/9 so far this season with a bloated 4.4 BB/9. This is a great spot for Giolito as the Blue Jays are one of the least patient teams while fanning the second-most often in the game.
Tyler Mahle (R), 5 percent, Cincinnati Reds at San Francisco Giants: This will be the sixth straight road start for Mahle, which isn't a bad thing considering home is the Great American Ballpark. Better yet, on Sunday, Mahle will toe the rubber in run-suppressing Oracle Park, facing the sixth lowest-scoring offense. Mahle's 4.82 ERA over his past five games is misleading as he's fanned 29 with just four walks, spanning 28 innings. Four homers have been his issue, but the Giants aren't a power threat.
Dakota Hudson (R), 4 percent, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates: This is more anti-Pirates than pro-Hudson. Granted, their lineup has been injury-riddled, but to date the Bucs are the fourth lowest-scoring offense in the league. Hudson is protected at home by Busch Stadium, and backed by an offense set to do damage against Steven Brault. If you need one more win, Hudson is a good place to look.
Cole Irvin (L), fewer than 1 percent, Philadelphia Phillies at Kansas City Royals: With Vince Velazquez visiting the IL, Irvin will be promoted to make his MLB debut. The 25-year old southpaw was named the International League Pitcher of the Year in 2018. He has picked up where he left off, posting a tidy 2.25 ERA in six starts for Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Despite the accolades, Irvin isn't considered a top prospect as he relies more on control than dominance, as evidenced by fanning just 154 with 43 walks in 197 ⅓ innings in one-plus seasons with the IronPigs. Irvin draws a favorable lineup for his inaugural start as the Royals are near the bottom in terms of production facing left-handers.
Corbin Martin (R), 4 percent, Houston Astros vs. Texas Rangers: After some initial success transitioning back to the rotation, Collin McHugh has hit the skids thus will return to the bullpen. In his stead, Martin will be recalled. Martin doesn't have the upside of Forrest Whitley, but he's more polished and his next start lines up with today. Martin isn't dominant, but he has good control and keeps the ball in the yard. There are good traits when supported by the potent Houston offense.
Bullpen: The focus is usually on saves, but many fantasy leagues use holds so let's check out the league leaders through Friday's action. Alex Claudio and Craig Stammen are tied for the MLB lead with nine, followed by Ryan Pressly, Brandon Workman, Adam Ottavino, Adam Kolarek, Diego Castillo and Adam Morgan with eight.
Catcher -- Christian Vazquez (R), 12 percent, Boston Red Sox vs. Seattle Mariners (LHP Marco Gonzales): Before expounding Vazquez's virtues, Mitch Garver is still inexplicable available in 70 percent of ESPN leagues. With respect to Vazquez, Sandy Leon squatted on Saturday making it likely Vazquez does the honors on Sunday. Early on, Vazquez has hit the ball much harder than ever, posting his career-best average exit velocity and hard-hit rate.
First Base -- C.J. Cron (R), 32 percent, Minnesota Twins vs. Detroit Tigers (LHP Daniel Norris): Garver (did I mention he's only rostered in 30 percent of ESPN leagues?) isn't the only Twins righty in a favorable spot. Cron also enjoys the platoon bump while facing a pedestrian southpaw.
Second Base -- Garrett Hampson (R), 6 percent, Colorado Rockies vs. San Diego Padres (LHP Nick Margevicius): This isn't about Hampson as much as wanting as much Rockies exposure to Margevicius who has walked 11 with just seven whiffs in his past 16 ⅓ frames. Heading into the season, Hampson was expected by many to secure the second-base job, providing stolen bases in an environment where steals are scarce. Now, he's relegated to the weak side of a platoon.
Third Base -- Kelvin Gutierrez (R), 2 percent, Kansas City Royals vs. Philadelphia Phillies (LHP Cole Irvin): Gutierrez's one walk to 14 strikeouts in 45 plate appearances is worrisome, but he's making hard contact. The strikeout woes are lessened by facing Irvin, a rookie lefty who generally pitches to contact.
Shortstop -- Nick Ahmed (R), 9 percent, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Atlanta Braves (LHP Max Fried): Fried is expected to make Sunday's start despite leaving his past outing after taking a hard liner off the hand. The southpaw has been generous with homers lately, serving up five over his previous 25 ⅔ innings. Ahmed is homering at a slower pace than last season, but his doubles are up.
Corner Infield -- Albert Pujols (R), 7 percent, Los Angeles Angels at Baltimore Orioles (LHP John Means): It remains to be seen how playing is parsed now that Shohei Ohtani is back, although it's near certain Pujols will be in the lineup against all left-handers. He's posted a .548 slugging percentage with the platoon edge, buoyed by four of his six homers with a southpaw on the hill.
Middle Infield -- Yairo Munoz (R), under 1 percent, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (LHP Steven Brault): Chalk this up to a Sunday hunch, but this is a good time to get Munoz, and possibly Jedd Gyorko into the lineup with Brault, a middling southpaw on the hill. Working mostly as a reliever, Brault has given up seven walks and three homers in just 12 ⅔ innings.
Outfield -- Odubel Herrera (L), 42 percent, Philadelphia Phillies at Kansas City Royals (RHP Jakob Junis): After a sluggish return from the IL, Herrera is exhibiting signs of life, getting on base in three straight games, knocking in four runs in that span. For his career, Junis has allowed a generous .345 wOBA (weighted on base average) to righty swingers.
Outfield -- Jake Bauers (L), 35 percent, Cleveland Indians at Oakland Athletics (RHP Daniel Mengden): With Mike Fiers in need of an extra day after his 131 pitch no-hitter last time out, Mengden will be summoned for a spot start, although he's pitching well for Triple-A Las Vegas, one of the best hitting parks in the minors. Bauers is finding his groove again, posting an .858 OPS the past week.
Outfield -- Mac Williamson (R), 3 percent, San Francisco Giants vs. Cincinnati Reds (RHP Tyler Mahle): While Williamson is in a good spot on Sunday, this is also a longer-term play in deeper leagues as the Giants appear committed to give Williamson a long look. Injuries have been an issue, but the slugger is another example of someone reworking his stroke as part of the launch angle revolution. When he's healthy, there are signs it could pay off.