After a two-game appetizer on Thursday and a 14-game schedule on Friday, Saturday brings us our first full slate of the 2020 season. It only took an extra four months to get here. With all 30 teams suiting up, there’s a little something for everyone, as Saturday features multiple aces, some exciting but volatile young arms, and even former first-round pick Brady Singer making his major-league debut. It’s going to be a good weekend.
Here’s a look at the top streaming plays of the day, focusing on players rostered in fewer than 50% of ESPN leagues.
Rich Hill (L), rostered in 58% of ESPN leagues, Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox: Hill slightly exceeds our 50% threshold, but he’s too good to ignore. While the left-hander has trouble staying healthy, the fact that he’s healthy now is all that matters. More importantly, when Hill is healthy, he’s effective. Hill had a 2.45 ERA with a 30% strikeout rate in 13 starts last season, and he hasn’t posted an ERA north of 3.66 since 2013. The White Sox may have a young and exciting lineup, but it’s also a lineup that sported a 25.6% K-rate in 2019 — the third-highest strikeout rate in baseball. Not only is Hill a high-end streamer on Saturday, but he’s a guy you should keep on your roster as long as he’s healthy.
Caleb Smith (L), 49%, Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies: While Smith’s 4.52 ERA last season was largely forgettable, it doesn’t tell the complete story. He posted a 2.38 ERA, a 12.1 K/9 and a 2.4 BB/9 through his first nine starts. He just wasn’t the same after being sidelined by a hip injury. If Smith can regain the velocity he lost after last year’s injury, there’s reason for optimism in 2020, as the upside we witnessed was awfully enticing. The Phillies lineup features plenty of thump, but also plenty of swing-and-miss.
Alex Wood (L), 32%, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants: The Giants are going to be a popular offense to attack this season. This is a lineup that was one of the worst in baseball in 2019 (83 wRC+), and this year’s model looks even less threatening. After all, Buster Posey has opted out and Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria are both on the IL. Wood was hurt for most of last season, but he’s been largely effective when healthy. Prior to 2019, he had posted ERAs of 3.84 or below for six straight seasons. Fire him up for what’s pretty much an ideal matchup.
Corbin Burnes (R), 14%, Milwaukee Brewers at Chicago Cubs: Burnes is coming off a disastrous 2019 campaign that saw him post an 8.82 ERA across 32 appearances (four starts). However, a 3.37 xFIP and a 12.9 K/9 suggest it wasn’t all bad. Now Burnes is getting another crack at the rotation with Brett Anderson sidelined. Despite last year’s struggles, Burnes’ stuff is still intriguing. He features a fastball that can reach the upper 90s and a swing-and-miss slider. It’s understandable that some will want to take a wait-and-see approach here, but sometimes you have to be early to the party. Saturday’s bout with the Cubs will present the 25-year-old with a formidable test to help us determine whether or not he can put it all together.
There are a lot of unsettled bullpens out there, but Cardinals manager Mike Shildt provided some clarity in St. Louis by naming Kwang-Hyun Kim as his closer earlier this week. The news apparently hasn’t sunk in quite yet, as the left-hander is still available in 60% of ESPN leagues. It’s certainly possible that Giovanny Gallegos (who was the Cardinals’ best reliever in 2019) could work his way into the ninth-inning mix once he comes off the IL, but Kim is the guy for now. He needs to be more widely rostered
Projected game scores
Catcher — Travis d’Arnaud (R), 26%, Atlanta Braves at New York Mets (LHP Steven Matz): You won’t find many exciting catchers to stream — because they don’t exist. Still, d’Arnaud has pop, hits in a good lineup, and draws the platoon advantage against Matz. That’s enough to give d’Arnaud the recommendation here.
First Base — Mitch Moreland (L), 2%, Boston Red Sox vs. Baltimore Orioles (RHP Alex Cobb): Moreland is nearing 35 years old, but he’s still a reliable source of production against right-handed pitching. He put up a .372 wOBA versus righties in 2019, and he should still hit in the middle of Boston’s order, making him an easy streamer against Cobb, the lowest-ranked hurler on the day.
Second Base — Jonathan Schoop (R), 20%, Detroit Tigers at Cincinnati Reds (RHP Luis Castillo): Schoop gets a significant lineup downgrade going from the Twins to the Tigers. However, he’s still got big-time pop (23 homers in 121 games in 2019) and will now get to bat near the top of the order instead of the bottom. Cheap power is cheap for a reason, but there are worse places to find it.
Third Base — Matt Carpenter (L), 32%, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Trevor Williams): Carpenter is out to prove that 2019’s disappointing season was a fluke, and recent reports out of Cardinals camp is that the veteran is locked in. Last year’s struggles aside, Carpenter is still adept at getting on base and is expected to bat second ahead of Paul Goldschmidt. A matchup against Williams, who surrendered a .393 wOBA to left-handed batters in 2019, should help get Carpenter off on the right foot.
Shortstop – Chris Taylor (R), 24%, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants (RHP Kevin Gausman): Taylor is nice guy to have around when you need someone to plug in, as he carries eligibility at second base, shortstop and outfield. With some pop, some speed, and a spot in one of baseball’s best lineups, Taylor should find himself featured in this space often.
Corner Infield — Daniel Murphy (L), 41%, Colorado Rockies at Texas Rangers (LHP Mike Minor): Murphy failed to meet expectations last season, but perhaps he should be forgiven, as he never quite looked right after returning from his early-season finger injury. This is still a potentially high-impact bat that’s widely available. Murphy won’t have the platoon advantage here, but he hit .320/.381/.500 versus southpaws in 2019.
Middle Infield — David Fletcher (R), 37%, Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Athletics (LHP Sean Manaea): Fletcher offers eligibility at four different positions and could bat near the top of the lineup against lefties, making him a valuable weapon for streamers. Manaea showed decreased velocity during summer camp, suggesting he may be vulnerable here.
Outfield — Shogo Akiyama (L), 28%, Cincinnati Reds vs. Detroit Tigers (RHP Ivan Nova): Akiyama is still a relative unknown after coming over from Japan, but there appears to be a lot to like here. Expectations are that Akiyama brings 15-20 HR pop (for a full season) with a high OBP, and he’s set to open 2020 batting atop a loaded Reds lineup in one of the game’s most hitter-friendly parks. Nova presents one of the most favorable hitting matchups of the day.
Outfield — Mark Canha (R), 46%, Oakland Athletics vs. Los Angeles Angels (RHP Dylan Bundy): Bundy has gotten beat up pretty good the last two seasons, particularly by the longball. This creates an intriguing spot for Canha, who whacked 26 homers in just 126 games last season and put up a .301/.415/.528 triple-slash in the second half.
Outfield — Josh Reddick (L), 3%, Houston Astros vs. Seattle Mariners (RHP Taijuan Walker): Everyone is waiting for Kyle Tucker to take over right field in Houston, but it’s Reddick who refuses to go away. The veteran should get multiple opportunities with runners on base against Walker, who has made just four starts over the last two seasons combined.