Welcome to the quarter pole, though it seemed like just yesterday we were complaining about the break between the opening series in Japan and the full Opening Day. Friday's slate is strong with respect to starting pitching with 19 hurlers registering a projected Game Score of at least 50. Still, there's a handful of streaming options along with some hitters lining up for a productive evening with all 15 contests under the lights.
Good luck this weekend. Here are some suggestions to start it off strong, all available in at least half of ESPN leagues.
Jeff Samardzija (R), rostered in 38% of ESPN leagues, San Francisco Giants at Arizona Diamondbacks: Samardzija has been a frequenter of this space of late, in fact as recently as yesterday, but his start was pushed to Friday. My colleague Mike Sheets had this to say before the Shark jumped a day: "The right-hander owns a 1.95 ERA and 1.05 WHIP over his past eight starts. During that stretch, he's surrendered more than two runs only once, including just three runs allowed over his last 24 frames. The truth is that Samardzija is pitching a bit over his head right now. His .191 second-half BABIP doesn't match up with his 43.3% hard-hit rate, and his 4.20 FIP and 4.24 xFIP don't match his 2.27 second-half ERA. That said, fantasy managers might as well ride the hot streak. Friday's matchup against a hot-hitting Arizona team isn't ideal, but it helps that the Diamondbacks have been below average against right-handed pitching this season (90 wRC+)."
Mike Leake (R), 16%, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Francisco Giants: Leake's return to the land of no designated hitter was marred by a disaster in Dodger Stadium last time out as he surrendered four homers to the NL West leaders. While the veteran righty is never a safe play, at least he's at home against a lesser Giants offense, checking in as the fifth lowest in terms of home run rate facing right-handed pitching.
Jacob Waguespack (R), 9%, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Seattle Mariners: Waguespack is coming off a rough relief effort against the Yankees... that'll happen. In his two previous efforts, the 26-year-old righty fared better, tossing six frames in Tampa and Kansas City. On Friday, Waguespack draws the league's third-weakest offense since the break, fanning at a 30% clip with a right-hander on the hill.
Patrick Sandoval (L), 1%, Los Angeles Angels vs. Chicago White Sox: Sandoval is another matchup play, though to their credit, the White Sox have been around league average against southpaws since the break. Still, on a night lacking a bevy of solid streaming options, the park advantage afforded Sandoval in Angels Stadium is actionable.
When you think of the Rays' bullpen, the thought is likely they spread saves around so it's better to look elsewhere for a steady closer. This may have been true earlier in the season, but Tampa skipper Kevin Cash seems to have settled on Emilio Pagan. For the season, Pagan sports a 1.95 ERA and 0.87 WHIP with 72 strikeouts in 50 2/3 innings. He's notched 13 saves, four coming in the last week. It's time for Pagan to be rostered in more than 25% of ESPN leagues.
Catcher -- Travis d'Arnaud (R), 34%, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Detroit Tigers (LHP Daniel Norris): Especially with a lefty on the hill, d'Arnaud has become a cheat code. The former Mets backstop has slugged nine of his 13 homers facing southpaws, despite fewer plate appearances with the platoon edge.
First Base -- Ryan McMahon (L), 15%, Colorado Rockies vs. Miami Marlins (RHP Sandy Alcantara): It should be a given McMahon is in play whenever the Rockies are home, lined up to face a righty. He only gets mentioned when the matchup is especially promising, like this one. McMahon's crutch is still a high strikeout rate. However, Alcantara's 17% K% is well below average.
Second Base -- Asdrubal Cabrera (S), 44%, Washington Nationals vs. Milwaukee Brewers (RHP Adrian Houser): While Cabrera is by no means an upper-tier player, he was still a major fantasy disappointment, failing to take advantage of the huge park upgrade when signing with the Rangers. The veteran is in process of salvaging his season after the deal to Washington. Cabrera carries a modest five-game hitting streak into Friday's action, with a .400/.429/.600 slash over that span.
Third Base -- J.D. Davis (R), 28%, New York Mets at Kansas City Royals (LHP Mike Montgomery): Speaking of hitting streaks, Davis entered Thursday's slate hitting safely in eight straight, posting a .462/.483/.923 line along the way. He's particularly potent with a lefty on the hill.
Shortstop -- Freddy Galvis (S), 15%, Cincinnati Reds vs. St. Louis Cardinals (RHP Adam Wainwright): There isn't a definitive plan yet with Galvis, but the Reds have indicated they'll play him frequently after claiming the veteran off waivers from Toronto. Galvis' switch-hitting will play well in the senior circuit, especially at home.
Corner Infield -- Brian Anderson (R), 45%, Miami Marlins at Colorado Rockies (RHP Jon Gray): This weekend is the time to dust off all Marlins, including middle infielders Jon Berti and Isan Diaz. Garrett Copper is also in play, but since Anderson is more of a fly ball hitter, he gets the featured nod.
Middle Infield -- Keston Hiura (R), 50%, Milwaukee Brewers at Washington Nationals (LHP Patrick Corbin): I'll make you guys a promise. Get Hiura over the 50% mark for good and I'll stop pointing out he's pacing for hitting over .300 with 40 homers and 20 steals.
Outfield -- Randal Grichuk (R), 33%, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Seattle Mariners (Bullpen game): Grichuk is a power threat regardless who is on the hill, which is a good thing considering the Mariners will likely open with a righthander before passing the baton to the homer-prone Wade LeBlanc.
Outfield -- Franmil Reyes (R), 24%, Cleveland Indians at New York Yankees (RHP Masahiro Tanaka): The following was a late addition to Thursday's notes, but it's so telling it bears repeating, especially against Tanaka and his penchant for allowing homers. Reyes has only pulled seven of his 29 homers this season, profiling perfectly for the short porch in Yankee Stadium. Reyes has slugged a dozen homers to center with 10 opposite field blasts.
Outfield -- Jarrod Dyson (L), 8%, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Francisco Giants (RHP Jeff Samardzija): When a homer-prone pitcher like Tanaka is on the hill, the Pavlovian response is gravitating to opposing power hitters. With the Samardzija toeing the rubber, the reaction should be to immediately identify base stealers as Samardzija struggles mightily controlling the running game.