Friday offers the typical full schedule with all 15 games under the lights. The strikeout leaders in each league will take the hill with Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals hosting the Arizona Diamondbacks, while Gerrit Cole and the Houston Astros entertain the Toronto Blue Jays. There are also several arms in a good spot to stream.
On the hitting side, the focus is on batters eligible at multiple positions. An underutilized tactic is rostering a player who adds flexibility to your lineup, especially in daily leagues. Not only do you get that hitter's production, but the ability to move him around allows filling in the other spots with the strongest available options. Having a batter eligible at more than one position is akin to adding extra reserve spots.
With that in mind, here are Friday's picks to click, jump-starting your weekend.
Kyle Gibson (R), rostered in 50% of ESPN leagues, Minnesota Twins vs. Kansas City Royals: There's a strong chance Gibson's availability will be less than 50% when you're reading this, especially in points leagues where wins are scored heavily. The Twins continue to dominate the AL Central, a whopping 23.5 games ahead of the cellar-dwelling Royals entering Thursday's action. Gibson has quietly upped his strikeout rate each of the past three seasons, currently sitting at a career-high 25 percent mark.
Trevor Richards (R), 19%, Miami Marlins vs. Pittsburgh Pirates: Richards, with his befuddling changeup, has been on a roll lately, posting a 1.09 ERA and 0.81 WHIP over his past four starts spanning 24 2/3 innings, fanning 24 with only one homer allowed along the way. The Pirates usually enjoy a park upgrade on the road, but not this time with Marlins Park suppressing scoring more than any venue in the league.
Steven Brault (L), 1%, Pittsburgh Pirates at Miami Marlins: In what portends to be a low-scoring affair, Richards is the preferred option, though Brault isn't a bad fallback. The Marlins' offense sits on the ocean's floor facing lefties while Brault is coming off a solid effort, working 6 1/3 frames against the Milwaukee Brewers, allowing a pair of runs with five punchouts.
Adam Plutko (R), 1%, Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers: Plutko has started three games this season, a pair of quality efforts sandwiching a pummeling at the bats of the Tampa Bay Rays. Last time out, Plutko quieted the New York Yankees, holding them to two runs in six stanzas, with four whiffs. The competition isn't nearly as daunting this time with the Tigers 29th-ranked unit facing right-handers on the docket.
Daniel Ponce de Leon (R), 1%, St. Louis Cardinals at New York Mets: There were some mumblings Alex Reyes might be the one to replace the injured Adam Wainwright, but at least for now Ponce de Leon gets the nod. This will be Ponce de Leon's second major league start of the 2019 campaign, the first coming in late April. The Mets are slightly below average facing righties, with a strikeout rate a little higher than average.
Ken Giles' chances to impress contenders looking for bullpen help is on hold for at least 10 days, as the Blue Jays' closer is sidelined with elbow inflammation. Giles has allowed only three runs all season, the last coming on April 16. Joe Biagini, Daniel Hudson and Tim Mayza are all ninth-inning candidates in Giles' stead. Biagini faltered in his first opportunity on Wednesday night, with Hudson picking him up for the save.
Projected game scores
Josh Phegley (R), 30%, Oakland Athletics vs. Seattle Mariners (LHP Marco Gonzales): Phegley has been in a rut lately, so perhaps facing a lefty will be the elixir. Albeit in just 42 plate appearances, Phegley is slashing a robust .342/.357/.562 with a southpaw on the hill.
Brandon Dixon (R), 1%, Detroit Tigers vs. Cleveland Indians (RHP Adam Plutko): There aren't many bright spots in Motown, with Dixon one of the few. The 27-year-old former Reds farmhand has quietly posted a .791 OPS for the season, squeezing in three steals the past three weeks. That said, he's not as useful in points leagues, since he's coaxed only three walks in 122 trips to the dish.
Brock Holt (L), 1%, Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles (Undecided): Holt is the first of several players eligible at multiple spots, as he's also legal at shortstop in ESPN formats. Holt has been productive since returning from the IL with an eye injury, slashing .359/.405/.562. Andrew Cashner was scratched with a blister on his throwing hand so, if the Orioles start a southpaw, Holt could cede this spot to Eduardo Nunez, another multiple-eligibility infielder.
Kyle Seager (L), 25%, Seattle Mariners at Oakland Athletics (RHP Chris Bassitt): In a piece I wrote for ESPN+ in early May, Seager was identified as a potential beneficiary of the juiced ball, as his batted-ball profile and average fly ball distance fell in the sweet spot. While it's far too early for a victory lap, so far the observation has been prescient, as Seager has left the yard four times in June after coming off the IL on May 25.
Marwin Gonzalez (S), 46%, Minnesota Twins vs. Kansas City Royals (RHP Brad Keller): Gonzalez is the prototype for lineup flexibility, as he plays nearly every day and is eligible everywhere but behind the plate. He's a no-brainer as a permanent fixture on teams with three or fewer reserve spots, as the ability to fortify elsewhere more than makes up for any production deficiency compared to other individual players. After starting out slowly with the Twins, Gonzalez has slashed a more typical .276/.345/.459 since April 14.
Ryan McMahon (L), 5%, Colorado Rockies vs. San Diego Padres (RHP Cal Quantrill): McMahon, eligible at first and second, has been on the strong side of a keystone platoon with Brendan Rodgers as the rookie's initial foray in the bigs has been a bit sluggish. This will be the first of what should be many visits Quantrill makes to Coors Field. To his credit, the freshman righty has pitched well, fanning 16 with two walks over his past two starts, spanning 11 frames. However, Coors Field remains undefeated, with seasoned veterans, let alone raw rookies succumbing to its run-embellishing powers over the years.
Hanser Alberto (R), 3%, Baltimore Orioles vs. Boston Red Sox (LHP Eduardo Rodriguez): While not quite as flexible as Gonzalez, Alberto has second, third and shortstop on his resume, not bad for a batter crushing lefties to the tune of .425/.432/.550 in 81 plate appearances this season.
Franmil Reyes (R), 46%, San Diego Padres at Colorado Rockies (RHP Jeff Hoffman): The Rockies should sell tickets to the visiting Reyes taking batting practice. The Padres' outfielder sports a 35% home run per fly ball rate that is due for a downturn, though perhaps delayed a few games. Hoffman has six homers in just 25 2/3 frames this season.
Hernan Perez (R), 1%, Milwaukee Brewers at San Francisco Giants (LHP Drew Pomeranz): Perez is the last of the multi-eligibility options, as the utilityman can also be placed at second, third and shortstop. This flexibility helps the Brewers keep his bat in the lineup against southpaws, against whom he is slashing .315/.352/.556 in 2019.
Jordan Luplow (R), 1%, Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers (LHP Ryan Carpenter): While not strictly a platoon player, Luplow has been much more effective facing lefthanders, posting a 1.033 OPS with the platoon edge as opposed to .431 without it.
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).