With the mercury rising everywhere, those competing for a playoff berth in head-to-head leagues are especially feeling the heat as the time to make up ground is dwindling. With another week ending Sunday, it's time to pull out all the stops. Often, this entails taking more risks or focusing on individual categories in rotisserie-scoring leagues.
As always, we'll help show you the way, highlighting under-the-radar players or those excelling in a specific area. Here are the suggestions on Sunday's full schedule, all available in at least half of ESPN leagues.
Andrew Cashner (R), 28%, Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles: Revenge game! Well, maybe not as Cashner is likely grateful he was moved to a team with playoff aspirations. Cashner is looking to rebound from a poor debut with Boston as the Blue Jays tagged the veteran for five runs in five frames. Before the trade, Cashner was quietly throwing well with five straight quality starts, posting a 1.41 ERA and 0.72 WHIP in that span.
Zach Plesac (R), 26%, Cleveland Indians vs. Kansas City Royals: Don't be fooled by Plesac's surface stats, his walk and strikeout rates are pedestrian. A .205 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) and 82.6% rate of men left on base both reek of luck and are due for some damaging corrections. That said, the Royals are one of the weakest lineups facing righties and are again without Adalberto Mondesi Jr., one of their top hitters.
Michael Pineda (R), 24%, Minnesota Twins vs. Oakland Athletics: Chasing wins is a fool's mission, unless you need one to claim your head-to-head victory. The Twins should be favored at home and Pineda has held the opposition to just one run in five of his past six outings. Further, his punchouts have picked up in that span, as he's struck out 34 batters in those 34 ⅔ innings.
Alex Young (L), 16%, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Milwaukee Brewers: Here's an example of doing what it takes to win as Young has been extremely fortunate as a 25-year old rookie. When he was called up, Young had posted a rather unsightly 6.09 ERA and 1.70 WHIP for Triple-A Reno. In his inaugural 18 ⅔ MLB innings, Young has allowed just six hits (.087 BABIP) with only 13 whiffs. He's in play because the Brewers have been a weak offense when on the road versus southpaws.
Bullpen: Pop quiz -- Who is the leader in saves since June 15? Wrong, try again. Nope, it's Ian Kennedy with 10, two more than Kirby Yates. Kennedy has transitioned well to the role, fanning 13 in 12 ⅓ innings over this stretch. Best of all, Kennedy is only rostered in 23% of ESPN leagues.
Catcher -- Matt Wieters (S), 1%, St. Louis Cardinals at Cincinnati Reds (RHP Anthony DeSclafani): Catcher is a tough spot to fill on this ledger so let's take advantage of DeSclafani's vulnerability with lefty swingers. The Redbirds are mostly right-handed with Tommy Edman joining Wieters as a switch-hitter plus Kolten Wong from the left side.
First Base -- Albert Pujols (R), 10%, Los Angeles Angels at Seattle Mariners (LHP Yusei Kikuchi): Be sure to check the lineup as Pujols tweaked his hamstring, missing Friday's action. If available, Pujols has been productive lately, hitting safely in seven of his past eight games, knocking in 13 with five runs scored.
Second Base -- Joey Wendle (L), 14%, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Chicago White Sox (RHP Dylan Cease): Wendle has been in a rut since coming off the IL in mid-June. However, he has been frisky on the base paths with four steals in as many chances. If you're looking for the elusive stolen base, Wendle is a sneaky option.
Third Base -- Todd Frazier (R), 3 percent, New York Mets at San Francisco Giants (LHP Connor Menez): Streaming hitters in Oracle Park isn't usually a priority. However, Frazier is slashing .304/.368/.536 against southpaws and the venue is a bit friendlier to right-handed batters. Menez will be making his major league debut, taking the rotation spot of Drew Pomeranz. The 24-year old southpaw was pitching for Triple-A Sacramento where he was sporting a 3.82 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 35 ⅓ innings.
Shortstop -- Brock Holt (L), 3%, Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles (RHP Asher Wojciechowski): Pop quiz No. 2 -- Who leads the majors in batting average since May 27? That's right, it's Holt with a .396 mark. Things could change when Mitch Moreland returns, pushing Michael Chavis back to second base, but for now Holt is Boston's primary second baseman as Eduardo Nunez is officially a free agent.
Corner Infield -- Danny Santana (S), 27%, Texas Rangers at Houston Astros (RHP Rogelio Armenteros): Santana continues to perform at a career-best level though the past week has been even more special with four homers and three steals. Armenteros isn't likely to work deep into the contest so the switch-hitter will enjoy the platoon edge on the Astros bullpen.
Middle Infield -- Donovan Solano (R), under 1%, San Francisco Giants vs. New York Mets (LHP Steven Matz): Buoyed by a four-game set in Coors Field, Solano has slashed .579/.571/.895 the last week with most of the damage coming against lefty pitching.
Outfield -- Ender Inciarte (L), 45 percent, Atlanta Braves vs. Washington Nationals (RHP Joe Ross): It's unclear how the Braves will divide playing time with Inciarte back, though with Austin Riley slumping it's easier for the Braves to sit the rookie. If he's in the lineup, Inciarte is another source of steals for those needing a bag or two in head-to-head formats.
Outfield -- Oscar Mercado (R), 18%, Cleveland Indians vs. Kansas City Royals (RHP Glenn Sparkman): Speaking of speed, Mercado is more than a burn-and-churn option, he's in play for a permanent roster spot in mixed formats. The rookie has transitioned well, pacing towards around 20 homers and 25 steals over a full season, while batting a tidy .299.
Christin Stewart (L), 3%, Detroit Tigers vs. Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Jacob Waguespack): It's not all about steals as some may need a long ball or two as well. That's Stewart's niche, although his bat has been quiet lately. Still, in deeper formats, Stewart is a power threat facing a 25-year old rookie with two homers allowed in his initial 13 ⅔ major league innings.