Friday offers a nearly full slate, with only the Reds and Cardinals sitting this one out. The Cubs host the Angels in an interleague matinee, the only game not contested under the lights. Rookie hurlers highlight the schedule, with Trent Thornton, Chris Paddack and Sandy Alcantara all looking to build on early success.
With respect to fantasy, Friday is a good night to look for streaming arms as there are several attractive options. There's also the usual array of bats positioned for a productive start to the weekend. Here are Friday's favorable plays, all available in at least half of ESPN leagues.
Pitchers to stream
Brad Keller (R), rostered in 25 percent of ESPN leagues, Kansas City Royals vs. Cleveland Indians: Keller completes his tour of the AL Central with a home date against the Indians. After efforts against the White Sox, Twins and Tigers, the sophomore is picking up where he left off last season, outpitching his peripherals. What seems like a back-handed compliment is a warning. While Keller is a fine option at home facing a depleted Tribe offense, his skills portend to an ERA north of 4.00 as opposed to hovering around 3.00.
Trent Thornton (R), 9 percent, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Tampa Bay Rays: The bespectacled freshman throws a mid-90s fastball, mixing in a slider, curve and change. Inserted into the rotation for the injured Ryan Borucki, Thornton is making a case to make the spot permanent, with 15 strikeouts and just two walks in his initial 10 2/3 frames. The Rays are midpack facing righties, though they could be at a disadvantage, never having faced Thornton.
Wade Miley (L), 7 percent, Houston Astros at Seattle Mariners: The Astros have made a habit out of bringing in starters and developing a game plan to best take advantage of their strengths. It's too early to judge if they're followed suit with Miley, though he's coming off holding the slugging Athletics scoreless over 5 2/3 innings. This will be a great test, as Seattle has come out of the gate crushing southpaw pitching.
Drew Pomeranz (L), 3 percent, San Francisco Giants vs. Colorado Rockies: Friday's deep-league special is more about history than Pomeranz's skills. Rosters turn over each season, yet the Rockies have struggled on the road versus lefties for the past several seasons. With the newly named Oracle Park having his back, the lefthander is an option for those needing to scrape the bottom of the barrel.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? Ryne Stanek has yet to allow a run as opener, albeit over two outings covering just three frames. It's unclear whom the Rays will bring in after Stanek exits, with both Ryan Yarbrough and Yonny Chirinos available. The expectation is for Chirinos to return to the rotation, but at least for this week, he's available out of the bullpen. There's a good chance both Chirinos and 2018 16-game winner Yarbrough see action.
Projected game scores
Josh Phegley (R), 4 percent, Oakland Athletics at Texas Rangers (LHP Drew Smyly): Early on, it appears Phegley has taken over as Oakland's primary backstop, fitting in well with their "swing for the fences" style of offense. This is an ideal set up facing the homer-prone Smyly in power-friendly Globe Life Park.
Jake Bauers (L), 41 percent, Cleveland Indians at Kansas City Royals (RHP Brad Keller): Bauers is off to a slow start, particularly with the platoon edge. However, his plate patience remains good, and he's making more contact than during his rookie season, so the base knocks will soon follow.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (R), 3 percent, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Tampa Bay Rays (RHP Ryne Stanek): Gurriel Jr.'s steal of home against Chris Sale earlier in the week is an example of the type of ball the Blue Jays will play under new skipper Charlie Montoyo. He may not steal home again, but expect Gurriel Jr. and his mates to be more aggressive on the base paths, something absent from the John-Gibbons-managed clubs.
Neil Walker (S), 3 percent, Miami Marlins vs. Philadelphia Phillies (RHP Jake Arrieta): With Garrett Cooper injured and Pete O'Brien roaming right field, Walker has taken over at first base for the Marlins. The switch-hitter has always fared better from the left side, which is where he'll be facing Arrieta. Since 2017, the veteran right-hander has surrendered a hefty .359 wOBA to lefty swingers.
Garrett Hampson (R), 11 percent, Colorado Rockies at San Francisco Giants (LHP Drew Pomeranz): One of the spring's top sleepers has yet to wake up as Hampson is slashing a meek .100/.097/.100 through Wednesday's action. However, his minor league track record foretells better days ahead. Injuries have landed Hampson in the leadoff spot versus southpaws.
Mitch Moreland (L), 12 percent, Boston Red Sox vs. Baltimore Orioles (RHP David Hess): Early on, Mitchy Two-Bags isn't satisfied with doubles as he's knocked four balls over the fence. After not allowing a long ball in his first two outings, spanning 8 2/3 innings, Hess served up three dingers to the Yankees last time out, on the heels of a 2018 campaign where he let 22 leave the yard in just 103 1/3 innings.
Chad Pinder (R), 9 percent, Oakland Athletics at Texas Rangers (LHP Drew Smyly): Smyly, as always, had tantalizing skills, save for his penchant for giving up homers. As such, Smyly signing in Arlington put a frown upon many a face. On the other hand, Pinder and his early-season .931 is looking forward to stepping in against Pinder, enjoying the platoon and park bump.
Shin-Soo Choo (L), 33 percent, Texas Rangers vs. Oakland Athletics (RHP Mike Fiers): It's been a mixed bag for Fiers. After a rough outing in Japan, Fiers spun a pair of solid efforts before getting lit up by the Astros last time out. Choo feasts on righty pitching, smacking 40 of his 43 homers since 2017 in this scenario.
Clint Frazier (R), 24 percent, New York Yankees vs. Chicago White Sox (RHP Lucas Giolito): Frazier has gone hitless in his last two games after stringing together a modest five-game hitting streak. He's in a great spot to get back in gear, facing Giolito and his career 5.40 ERA/1.40 WHIP.
Keon Broxton (R), 1 percent, New York Mets at Atlanta Braves (RHP Kyle Wright): While his running may be curtailed a bit if he remains at the bottom of the Mets order, the Braves are not adept at catching would-be base stealers.
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).