When MLB added more off days to the schedule in 2019, they also quietly added more day games deeper into the season to help facilitate traveling. Wednesday brings three matinees with a dozen contests under the lights.
The slate is strong for spot starters though not as lush with batter. Looking ahead, just 10 games are on Thursday's docket so spending a little more time to optimize Wednesday pitching could pay dividends.
Here are the standard array of arms and sticks designed to get you over the hump. Each is rostered in fewer than half of all ESPN leagues.
Austin Gomber (L), rostered in 29% of ESPN leagues, Colorado Rockies at Miami Marlins: It's time to forgive and forget. Since Gomber was pounded by the Giants on April 26, he's posted a 2.68 ERA and 0.89 WHIP with 43 strikeouts to just four walks in 41 1/3 innings. While it may appear Gomber benefited from only two of seven Coors starts in that stretch, he didn't allow a run in either home effort. The lefty should continue the momentum with a road start against a weak lineup in a great pitching venue.
Tony Gonsolin (R), 38%, Los Angeles Dodgers at Pittsburgh Pirates: Warning: Gonsolin will likely he restricted to around 75 pitches, but that should be plenty to work five frames and qualify for the win against the lowest scoring team in the league. Gonsolin's 2021 debut was delayed after a sore shoulder sent him to the IL in early April. The righty managed 60 pitches in his final rehab start, hence the conservative expectation against the Pirates.
Brad Keller (R), 10%, Kansas City Royals at Los Angeles Angels: After recording a 12.00 ERA and 2.58 WHIP in his first four starts, Keller has recovered with a 3.71 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in his ensuing eight efforts. Granted, he's allowing too much traffic on the base paths, but 42 punch outs in those 43 2/3 innings is playable in the right matchup. The Angels lineup isn't daunting, and Angels Stadium represents a park upgrade for Keller.
Griffin Canning (R), 9%, Los Angeles Angels vs. Kansas City Royals: Canning is more suited for a points league than rotisserie scoring where he's a risk to ratios. He's racking up strikeouts which plays in all formats, fanning 50 in 43 1/3 frames. However, he's also issued 20 free passes and 11 home runs. Angels Stadium should help but in the small sample it is not. That said, the venue favors lefty power, but the Royals do not post a threat in that realm.
Sam Long (L), 1%, San Francisco Giants at Texas Rangers: Consider this more of a mini-scouting report than straightforward recommendation, though Long is in play in deeper leagues as the Rangers are not an intimidating lineup. Long impressed at the alternate site and into this season, with the expectation he pitched out of the bullpen since he relies on two pitches, a 97-mph fastball and a curve. His minor league numbers are impressive, but he's been a couple years older than most of his competition at the Double- and Triple-A level. In 7 2/3 scoreless innings with Triple-A Sacramento, the 25-year-old lefty allowed just one hit and one walk while fanning 15. He'll probably be limited to around 75 pitches in his MLB debut as he's not fully stretch out.
Staying with the Giants, manager Gabe Kapler has flip-flipped Jake McGee and Tyler Rogers with the latter taking over closing duties. The sidewinder has six saves and a win in his last nine appearances, yet is available in over half of ESPN leagues.
For the latest team-by-team closer situations, please consult our Closer Chart.
Catcher -- Tyler Stephenson (R), 8%, Cincinnati Reds vs. Milwaukee Brewers (LHP Brett Anderson): Stephenson has been helping fill the void at first base with Joey Votto out. Even if Votto returns this week, Stephenson is likely to remain in the lineup as catcher with a lefty starter. Limited sample caveats apply, but Stephenson's .276/.344/.552 line facing southpaws should have him in Wednesday's lineup.
First Base -- Daniel Vogelbach (L), 1%, Milwaukee Brewers at Cincinnati Reds (RHP Vladimir Gutierrez): With Kolten Wong back on the IL and Keston Hiura back on the farm, Vogelbach's playing time is on the rise. Vogelbach won't hit for a high average, but as a one-day fill-in, he's a threat to leave the yard, especially in the Great American Ball Park.
Second Base -- Willi Castro (S), 12%, Detroit Tigers vs. Seattle Mariners (RHP Chris Flexen): While it was clear last season was a sample size anomaly for Castro, the hope was his skills improved so the regression wouldn't be too steep. After bottoming out with a .191/.232/.277 line on May 1, Castro has gone .274/.357/.479, cutting his strikeouts to a palatable 26% in this stretch.
Third Base -- Yandy Diaz (R), 13%, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Washington Nationals (LHP Patrick Corbin): Diaz extended his hitting streak to four games with his first homer of the season on Sunday. Even so, don't expect a power surge as he still hits a preponderance of ground balls. Where Diaz comes in handiest is points leagues where his 17% walk rate is a boon.
Shortstop -- J.P. Crawford (L), 10%, Seattle Mariners at Detroit Tigers (RHP Casey Mize): Crawford is slashing .353/.385/.676 over his last nine games. Chasing hot streaks is often risky, but in Crawford's case, the heater has elevated him to the leadoff spot. This call isn't because Crawford is hot, but rather streaming a leadoff batter with the platoon edge is always solid process.
Corner Infield -- Jake Lamb (L), 3%, Chicago White Sox vs. Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Alek Manoah): Lamb was productive filling in for Andrew Vaughn while the rookie was clearing COVID-19 protocol. With Billy Hamilton sidelined, Lamb should remain in the lineup even with Vaughn back. Lamb responded with getting regular playing time by posting a .316/.409/.526 line the past week.
Middle Infield -- Nick Ahmed (R), 3%, Arizona Diamondbacks at Oakland Athletics (LHP Sean Manaea): Ahmed may fall short of the necessary career plate appearances to confidently say he owns his platoon splits, but he's been around long enough to feel comfortable he handles southpaws better than the typical league average split. Since 2019, Ahmed is a robust .306/.368/.533 with the platoon edge.
Outfield -- AJ Pollock (R), 48%, Los Angeles Dodgers at Pittsburgh Pirates (LHP Tyler Anderson): While he is never universally rostered, Pollock is typically north of the 50% cutoff we use to identify streamers. Pollock's low rostership is due to an IL stint, but he's back and after going hitless his first game after returning, Pollock collected knocks in the next two.
Outfield -- Marwin Gonzalez (S), 5%, Boston Red Sox vs. Houston Astros (RHP Jake Odorizzi): There are several available Red Sox bats to feature (Christian Arroyo, Hunter Renfroe). Gonzalez gets the nod since recent struggles have forced almost all of his team managers to cut bait. However, he's showing signs of coming out of it, carrying a four-game hitting streak into Tuesday's action (.333/.375/.733).
Outfield -- Mason Williams (L), under 1%, New York Mets at Baltimore Orioles (RHP Matt Harvey): Williams is one of the many veterans the Mets have called upon to help bridge the time before their regulars return. Williams hasn't taken advantage, but squaring off with one of the weakest pitchers on the slate in hot Camden Yards could reap benefits in deep leagues.