The first Monday of the summer is an abbreviated slate with only seven games on tap, all under the lights. The marquee matchup features a pair of veterans who have been teammates and rivals, as Clayton Kershaw leads the Los Angeles Dodgers into the desert to face Zack Greinke and the Arizona Diamondbacks. In other action, Lucas Giolito looks to rebound from the drubbing inflicted by the Chicago Cubs last time out, but it won't be easy, as the Chicago White Sox head east to open a series in Fenway Park to take on Eduardo Rodriguez and the Boston Red Sox.
Despite the short schedule, there are a few intriguing arms to stream, as well as some veteran hitters in favorable matchups. Good luck this week -- here are the recommended players to start the scoring period strong.
Steven Matz (L), rostered in 36 percent of ESPN leagues, New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies: Team splits versus lefty pitching aren't as reliable compared to right-handed numbers due to the smaller sample. On paper, the Phillies should be better than average facing southpaws, but they've struggled finding a groove after losing Andrew McCutchen for the season. Matz was roughed up by the Braves last time out, but Atlanta is one of the best teams when a lefty is on the hill. Prior to that outing, Matz threw five consecutive six-inning efforts, fanning 34 over those 30 frames. It's not an ideal matchup, but on a truncated card, Matz is in play.
CC Sabathia (L), 11 percent, New York Yankees vs. Toronto Blue Jays: Sabathia is by far the best spot starter of the day. The Blue Jays are weak versus left-handers, and the Yankee lineup is finally at full strength. Not to mention, with a pair of consecutive off days later in the week, the Yankees can tax their bullpen a little more than usual so Sabathia is in even better shape for a win, even if he tosses only five frames.
Adam Plutko (R), 5 percent, Cleveland Indians vs. Kansas City Royals: Despite working only 4 1/3 innings last time out, Plutko has pitched reasonably well since being inserted into the Indians' rotation. Over that span, he has pitched 16 1//3 innings, fanning 15 with just one walk. He's in a good spot to keep the groove going, facing a Royals offense toward the bottom of the league in production versus right-handers.
Injuries have resulted in some turbulent bullpens, with Blake Treinen, Diego Castillo and Jordan Hicks all sidelined. The Oakland Athletics gave Liam Hendriks the first save chance with Treinen out. Hendriks is available in 98 percent of ESPN leagues. The Rays will likely mix and match to backfill Castillo's absence, especially since Jose Alvarado is still out for personal reasons and with Emilio Pagan the leading candidate to get the bulk of the chances. Hicks is dealing with shoulder tendinitis. If he's out for an extended time, Carlos Martinez is ready to step in and close.
Catcher -- James McCann (R), 20 percent, Chicago White Sox at Boston Red Sox (LHP Eduardo Rodriguez): Given, the White Sox don't have many other options, but clean-up is clean-up, and that's where McCann has been situated. In an era in which clubs are aware of "third time through" and often avoid it with an early hook, Alex Cora has taken the opposite approach with Rodriguez and is trying to make him a six- or seven-inning guy. While Rodriguez has indeed tossed seven frames each of his last two outings, he's still vulnerable and could be victimized later in the game.
First Base -- Jake Bauers (L), 31 percent, Cleveland Indians vs. Kansas City Royals (RHP Brad Keller): Bauers was in the lineup almost every day anyway, but the release of Leonys Martin fortifies his playing time, mostly in left field. The 23-year old has improved his contact rate a few ticks from his rookie season last year but is walking less. Curiously, he's hitting better without the platoon edge, but that's likely just noise. A pitcher's splits are more telling, and Keller has more issues with lefty swingers.
Second Base -- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (R), 40 percent, Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees (LHP CC Sabathia): When Gurriel Jr. signed, the book was good plate skills but limited power and speed. Well, that was half-right, as the 25-year old Cuban defector has developed pop, knocking 20 of his 39 hits this season for extra bases.
Third Base -- Scott Kingery (R), 48 percent, Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Mets (LHP Steven Matz): Despite being a southpaw, Matz is poor at controlling the running game. Kingery has the skills to hit a mistake over the fence or pilfer a bag or two.
Shortstop -- Brendan Rodgers (R), 6 percent, Colorado Rockies at San Francisco Giants (LHP Drew Pomeranz): Rodgers is back in the bigs with Trevor Story landing on the IL with a hand injury. It has been only a couple of games, but thus far, Rodgers' return has been rough, fanning five times in his first eight trips to the dish. With a 7.09 ERA and 1.78 WHIP, Pomeranz could be just what Rodgers needs to get on track.
Corner Infield -- Christian Walker (R), 19 percent, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (LHP Clayton Kershaw): Walker has recovered from an early June swoon, slashing .346/.370/.615 the past week. Kershaw is back among the elite, though nine of the 10 homers he has administered have come courtesy of right-handed bats.
Middle Infield -- Didi Gregorius (L), 57 percent, New York Yankees vs. Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Aaron Sanchez): OK, technically Gregorius eclipses the 50% threshold used to identify spot starters. However, he doesn't miss by much, and the Yankees square off with Sanchez, the bottom-ranked arm of Monday's docket.
Outfield -- Jackie Bradley Jr. (L), 37 percent, Boston Red Sox vs. Chicago White Sox (RHP Lucas Giolito): As has been documented in this space, Bradley Jr. is over his early season doldrums and has been one of Boston's most productive hitters as of late. To wit, since May 21, Bradley Jr. is slashing .301/.395/.602 with three steals.
Outfield -- Jason Heyward (L), 35 percent, Chicago Cubs vs. Atlanta Braves (RHP Julio Teheran): Teheran can be tough, but the recipe for success is stacking left-handed hitters. Heyward's April power spurt has leveled off, though he does have two long balls this month.
Outfield -- Alex Verdugo (L), 22 percent, Los Angeles Dodgers at Arizona Diamondbacks (RHP Zack Greinke): Is there a quieter .300 hitter in the league? Verdugo's walk-off Saturday night made some noise, but overall, he's lying in the weeds, sporting a productive .847 OPS with seven homers and three steals.