As part of a new daily feature at MLB.com, we’ll be breaking down every matchup on the schedule to help give fantasy players an edge, whether it’s in daily contests or season-long leagues. The “Fantasy Daily Dish” will break down every starting pitcher on the slate, as well as all of the notable hitters in that particular game. We’ll dive into all the specifics of a given matchup looking for everything from batters who thrive against certain pitch types to hot/cold streaks to platoon splits — and everything in between.
Jacob deGrom has won two of the last three National League Cy Young Awards and he might be better than ever this season — but he has to deal with pitching at hitter-friendly Coors Field on Friday night. Meanwhile, Max Scherzer has three Cy Young Awards to his name and he’ll be taking the mound at home in a favorable matchup.
So which one should get the call? And has it reached the point where Ronald Acuña Jr. has to be locked into all of your lineups?
Here’s a closer look at all of Friday’s action:
Braves (Smyly) at Cubs (TBD), 2:20 p.m. ET
Braves SP: Drew Smyly, LHP
Key stat(s): .542 slugging percentage vs. four-seamer this season
2020 stats: 0-1, 3.42 ERA, 37.8 K%
Breakdown: Smyly has given up nine runs (seven earned) off nine hits over 11 innings in his first two starts. The positive is that he’s struck out 11 while walking only one, but the negative is his fastball is just catching too much of the plate right now. The graphic below shows where his fastball has been sitting this season, and that helps explain why opposing hitters are slugging .542 with a pair of homers this season against his four-seamer — a pitch with which he held opponents to a .263 SLG without a single homer in 2020.
Javier Báez: .536 slugging percentage and .879 OPS in his career vs. LHP (.452 SLG, .742 OPS vs. RHP).
Kris Bryant: .989 career OPS and 5.7 HR% vs. left-handers (.860 OPS, 4.0 HR% vs. RHP).
Anthony Rizzo: .776 career OPS vs. LHP (.884 vs. RHP)
Ronald Acuña Jr.: Seven home runs (most in MLB); over his last seven games, he’s hitting .552 with 10 extra-base hits (including five homers) and a 1.864 OPS.
Freddie Freeman: 2-for-18 (.111) with a .582 OPS on the road this season (.975 OPS at home).
Marcell Ozuna: Hitting .163 with a .479 OPS this season (went 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs on Tuesday; he’s 5-for-45 with one RBI outside of that game).
D-backs (Widener) at Nationals (Scherzer), 7:05 p.m. ET
D-backs SP: Taylor Widener, RHP
Key stat(s): Throws four-seamer 64.6% of the time
2020 stats: 0-1, 4.50 ERA, 25.0 K%
Breakdown: Widener had an encouraging debut, tossing six shutout innings against a potent Padres lineup before giving up four runs (three earned) off seven hits over five frames against the Reds in his second outing. Opposing hitters can expect a steady diet of fastballs, as he threw the pitch 64.0% of the time last year out of the bullpen, and that’s continued this season as a starter (64.6%).
Notable Nationals hitters
Juan Soto: 95.1 mph average exit velocity this season (sixth in MLB among players with at least 30 batted balls).
Trea Turner: Only one stolen base this season, despite leading MLB with 14 bolts (any run faster than 30ft/sec, per Statcast).
Nationals SP: Max Scherzer, RHP
Key stat(s): 35.5% whiff rate this season
2020 stats: 5-4, 3.74 ERA, 31.2 K%
Breakdown: Scherzer’s season got off to a disastrous start, with the three-time Cy Young Award winner allowing four homers to the first 10 batters he faced. He hasn’t allowed one since, and is coming off a solid outing against the reigning champion Dodgers in which he allowed just one run off three hits over six innings. Early homers aside, Scherzer has struck out 14 and walked only one, while racking up a 35.5% whiff rate and 31.8% strikeout rate — right in line with the numbers from some of his best individual seasons. One potential concern: His fastball velocity (93.0 mph) is down slightly from last season (94.5 mph), though it’s very possible that’s simply a result of slowly ramping up for the full 162-game season.
Eduardo Escobar: 2-for-16 (.125) lifetime vs. Scherzer.
David Peralta: 4-for-8 with two homers and three doubles off Scherzer since 2017.
Cardinals (Martínez) at Phillies (Eflin), 7:05 p.m. ET
Cardinals SP: Carlos Martínez, RHP
Key stat(s): .349 opponents’ BA vs. sinker since 2017
2020 stats: 0-3, 9.90 ERA, 16.4 K%
Breakdown: Martínez has revamped his pitch mix following a rocky 2020 campaign. Through two starts this season, his most-used pitch is his cutter (29.4%) — a pitch that he developed in ’18 before mostly abandoning in ’19 (2.3%) and ’20 (1.0%). Meanwhile, his sinker — the pitch he used most from 2016-19 — has been used only 11.9% of the time, as he continues to struggle to get outs with the pitch.
Rhys Hoskins: 2-for-22 (.091) with nine strikeouts over last six games after starting season 10-for-24 (.417) with seven extra-base hits in first six games.
Andrew McCutchen: 7-for-41 (.171) with 11 strikeouts lifetime vs. Martínez.
Bryce Harper: Though Harper (.798 OPS) hasn’t gotten off to his usual torrid start (1.012 career OPS in April), his barrel percentage (18.5%) and average exit velocity (92.7 mph) are both higher than last season.
Phillies SP: Zach Eflin, RHP
Key stat(s): Opponents were 4-for-40 vs. curveball last season
2020 stats: 4-2, 3.97 ERA, 28.6 K%
Breakdown: After an excellent season debut against the Braves (7 IP, 1 ER, 8 K), Eflin wasn’t quite as sharp in his second start against Atlanta six days later (6 IP, 4 ER, 2 K). Eflin will deploy a five-pitch mix, led by his sinker (51.6% of pitches last season; 40.8% so far this season). That sinker has been responsible for seven of his 10 strikeouts on the young season, while he’s already allowed three hits off his curveball (3-for-7, including a home run) after holding opponents to 4-for-40 with zero homers and 20 K’s on his curve last season.
Notable Cardinals hitters
Nolan Arenado: Has a hit in 11 of 12 games this season; hitting .319 with a .947 OPS; 2-for-11 (.182) career vs. Eflin.
Paul Goldschmidt: One extra-base hit in last 10 games after going 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles on Opening Day.
Indians (Allen) at Reds (Hoffman), 7:10 p.m. ET
Indians SP: Logan Allen, LHP
Key stat(s): 14.8 career K%
2020 stats: 0-0, 3.38 ERA, 14.3%
Breakdown: Allen isn’t going to miss many bats (21.8% career whiff rate, 14.3% strikeout percentage), but he’s done two things well this season: Limit hard contact (87.6 mph average exit velocity) and induce ground balls (59.3% ground-ball rate). The Reds will likely be sitting on Allen’s fastball, as opponents are hitting .333 vs. his four-seamer since the start of last season and just .154 against his other pitches (slider, changeup and curveball).
Nick Castellanos: .301 career hitter with an .884 OPS vs. LHP (.266 BA, .773 OPS vs. RHP).
Reds SP: Jeff Hoffman, RHP
Key stat(s): 91.0 mph average exit velocity since start of last season (sixth-highest in MLB)
2020 stats: 2-1, 9.28 ERA, 19.2 K%
Breakdown: Hoffman was hit hard out of the Rockies’ bullpen last season, allowing 23 runs (22 earned) off 32 hits in just 21 1/3 innings. That came after he allowed 77 hits in 70 innings as a starter in 2019. Overall, he’s allowed 276 hits over 240 career innings. His 10.4 hits allowed per nine innings is the highest rate among any pitcher currently on a club’s active roster. While he gives up a lot of hits, he is facing a club that ranks 29th in MLB with a .195 average — and racked up zero hits Wednesday night against Carlos Rodón.
José Ramírez: 1-for-21 (.048) over last six games after going 9-for-24 (.375) to start season.
Franmil Reyes: 0-for-13 with six strikeouts over last four games.
White Sox (Cease) at Red Sox (Pivetta), 7:10 p.m. ET
White Sox SP: Dylan Cease, RHP
Key stat(s): +9.9 inches of curveball drop above average
2020 stats: 5-4, 4.01 ERA, 17.3 K%
Breakdown: Our own David Adler picked Cease as his dark horse Cy Young Award canidate before the season, thanks to Cease’s impressive fastball/breaking ball mix. The young right-hander has a 97 mph fastball with high spin, while his curveball has dropped 9.9 inches more than an average curve this season (up even more from 8.4 inches last season). He still needs to improve his control (he walked an AL-high 34 batters last season with a 13.3 BB% — and that’s jumped to 14.6 BB% in 2021), but his stuff has some of the best upside in the big leagues.
J.D. Martinez: 0-for-9 in three games since three-homer performance Sunday; still hitting .378 with a 1.307 OPS this season.
Xander Bogaerts: Hitting .343 with five homers and a .533 SLG against pitches 95 mph or faster since 2019.
Rafael Devers: 5-for-31 (.161) with one homer and 15 K’s against pitches 95 mph or faster since start of last season.
Red Sox SP: Nick Pivetta, RHP
Key stat(s): 94.9 mph average four-seam fastball in 2021
2020 stats: 2-0, 6.89 ERA, 23.9 K%
Breakdown: Pivetta’s velocity has been up in the early part of 2021 (94.9 mph compared to 92.8 mph last season), an encouraging sign after his rocky ’20 campaign that saw the Phillies send him to the Minors before eventually trading him to the Red Sox. It’s incredibly early, but opposing batters are hitting just .222 with a .278 slugging percentage against that fastball after teeing off last year to the tune of a .306 average and .667 SLG. Walks are still an issue, but keeping hitters off his fastball will be key for Pivetta.
Notable White Sox hitters
José Abreu: One multi-hit game this season (April 2); hitting .184 with a .643 OPS.
Tim Anderson: Went 2-for-5 on Thursday in his return from a strained left hamstring.
Giants (DeSclafani) at Marlins (Castano), 7:10 p.m. ET
Giants SP: Anthony DeSclafani, RHP
Key stat(s): 3.67 xERA (0.82 actual ERA)
2020 stats: 1-2, 7.22 ERA, 15.8 K%
Breakdown: After posting a 7.22 ERA last season, DeSclafani is off to a much better start in 2021, allowing just one run over 11 innings (0.82 ERA) through two starts. That said, his xERA this season is 3.67, an indication that DeSclafani may not have completely turned the corner just yet. A closer look reveals that his average exit velocity allowed (91.9 mph) and hard-hit percentage (50%) are both higher than they were last season.
Starling Marte: 3-for-20 (all singels) with four K’s lifetime vs. DeSclafani.
Jesús Aguilar: Two extra-base hits (and zero home runs) through 12 games this season.
Marlins SP: Daniel Castano, LHP
Key stat(s): 9.5 K% last season
2020 stats: 1-2, 3.03 ERA, 9.5 K%
Breakdown: Castano pitched to a 3.30 ERA over 29 2/3 innings as a rookie last season despite racking up only 12 strikeouts over 29 2/3 innings. He also had nearly as many walks (11) as K’s (12), and allowed more than one hit per inning (30). All things considered, that explains his 5.24 xERA.
Mike Yastrzemski: Hitting .154 with a .616 OPS this season; the left-handed hitter actually has a higher OPS vs. LHP (.902) than RHP (.864).
Donovan Solano: 3-for-16 (.188) over last seven games after going 9-for-18 (.500) in first four games.
Orioles (López) at Rangers (Foltynewicz), 8:05 p.m. ET
Orioles SP: Jorge López, RHP
Key stat(s): Allowed a 91.9 mph average exit velocity since start of last season (highest in MLB)
2020 stats: 2-2, 6.69 ERA, 16.1 K%
Breakdown: López was hit hard last season, allowing 43 hits in just 38 1/3 innings en route to posting a 6.69 ERA in 10 outings (six starts). It’s been more of the same through two starts in 2020, with the right-hander serving up 11 runs on 11 hits (including three homers) in just 8 2/3 frames. No pitcher has allowed a higher average exit velocity since the start of last season than López, who relies primarily on his fastballs, throwing his sinker 38.5% of the time and four-seamer another 30.8%.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa: 19-for-54 (.352) with only two K’s vs. sinkers since start of last season.
Joey Gallo: Hasn’t homered in last 10 games; 92.1 mph exit velocity is up from last season (91.2 mph).
Rangers SP: Mike Foltynewicz, RHP
Key stat(s): 94.0 mph average four-seam fastball velocity this season
2020 stats: 0-1, 16.20 ERA, 18.8 K%
Breakdown: Foltynewicz is looking to prove himself this season after he was surprisingly designated for assignment by the Braves after just one start last season. A mainstay in Atlanta’s rotation from 2016-19, Foltynewicz was an All-Star in 2018 and even garnered a share of NL Cy Young Award votes. Yet last spring, his velocity was inexplicably low — and that carried into his first start of the regular season, with his four-seamer averaging just 90.9 mph. He was DFA’d and spent the rest of the season at the Braves’ alternate training site before signing with the Rangers this offseason. His velocity is back through two starts, as his four-seamer is sitting at 94.0 mph and opponents are just 1-for-13 against the pitch (and 0-for-8 against his slider).
Cedric Mullins: Went 0-for-6 in Thursday’s doubleheader after starting season on 11-game hitting streak.
Ryan Mountcastle: Hitting .269 with four extra-base hits over last seven games after starting season 4-for-24 (.167) with one extra-base hit in first six games.
Blue Jays (Matz) at Royals (Minor), 8:10 p.m. ET
Blue Jays SP: Steven Matz, LHP
Key stat(s): .107 opponents’ BA vs. sinker this season
2020 stats: 0-5, 9.68 ERA, 25.4 K%
Breakdown: Matz had a rocky 2020 season with the Mets, allowing 14 homers in just 30 2/3 innings on his way to finishing with a 9.68 ERA. A key reason for his struggles was his sinker — a pitch he throws more than 50% of the time — as opponents hit .322 with six home runs and a .678 SLG against the offering. It’s been a different story so far with the Blue Jays, with opposing batters going just 3-for-28 (all singles) with eight K’s against the pitch.
Whit Merrifield: .314/.362/.505 (.867 OPS) in career vs. LHP, compared to .290/.337/.428 (.765 OPS) vs. RHP.
Salvador Perez: 94.7 mph average exit velocity and 59.3 hard-hit percentage are both up from last season (91 mph, 47%) when he won a Silver Slugger Award.
Royals SP: Mike Minor, LHP
Key stat(s): 19 HR allowed off slider since 2018 (second-most in MLB)
2020 stats: 1-6, 5.56 ERA, 25.9 K%
Breakdown: Minor is throwing his slider more in the early going this season — and it’s been a solid offering for him so far. Opponents are just 1-for-11 against his slider, a pitch he’s throwing 31.5% of the time (up from 20.7% in 2020 and 19.4% in ’19). Minor used his slider for 35.8% of his pitches in ’17, but has slowly moved away from it in recent years after giving up a rash of homers off the pitch (six in ’18, seven in ’19 and six in the shortened ’20 campaign).
Notable Blue Jays hitters
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.: Hitting .341 with three homers and a .591 SLG vs. sliders since start of last season.
Bo Bichette: .348 hitter with a .977 career OPS vs. LHP (compared to .297 BA, .889 OPS vs. RHP).
Pirates (Brubaker) at Brewers (Houser), 8:10 p.m. ET
Pirates SP: JT Brubaker, RHP
Key stat(s): .200 career opponents’ BA vs. slider
2020 stats: 1-3, 4.94 ERA, 23.4 K%
Breakdown: Brubaker had some success with his slider as a rookie last season, and he’s embraced that in 2021. It’s been his most-used pitch through two starts and it’s accounted for six of his 10 strikeouts, while opposing batters are just 3-for-16 against the offering.
Keston Hiura: Has at least one strikeout in each game this season (41.5% whiff rate, 37.5 K%).
Omar Narváez: Hitting .414 with a 1.091 OPS this season.
Christian Yelich: Has not played since April 11 (sore lower back).
Brewers SP: Adrian Houser, RHP
Key stat(s): 5.26 xERA this season (1.80 actual ERA)
2020 stats: 1-6, 5.30 ERA, 17.9 K%
Breakdown: Houser has allowed just two earned runs over 10 innings this season, but things haven’t necessarily come easy. He’s allowed 10 hits, while racking up nearly as many walks (six) as strikeouts (seven). His average exit velocity allowed (90.8 mph) is actually up from last season (86.3 mph) when he finished with a 5.30 ERA. His hard-hit percentage (46.4%) has also jumped (32.8%), though he’s managed to limit the damage thus far.
Phillip Evans: Hitting .342 with a 1.076 OPS this season.
Mets (deGrom) at Rockies (González), 8:40 p.m. ET
Mets SP: Jacob deGrom, RHP
Key stat(s): 39.4 K% since start of last season (second in MLB)
2020 stats: 4-2, 2.38 ERA, 38.8 K%
Breakdown: deGrom won back-to-back NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and ’19, and finished third in balloting in ’20 — and it’s possible he might be getting even better. After averaging a career-best 98.6 mph with his fastball last season, the pitch is sitting at 99.1 mph this year — and he’s using it a whopping 73.8% of the time. deGrom, who entered the season having thrown just 35 pitches of at least 100 mph in his career, has already thrown 23 above the century mark this year — that’s 13.4% of his total pitches.
Rockies SP: Chi Chi González, RHP
Key stat(s): 13.8 career K%
2020 stats: 0-2, 6.86 ERA, 17.6 K%
Breakdown: After making his first two appearances out of the bullpen, González made his first start of 2021 in his last outing, allowing one run over five innings against the Giants. He threw 80 pitches, so he should be relatively stretched out for this one. He won’t miss many bats (13.8 career K%), and he ranked in the second percentile in opponents’ average exit velocity last season, but his average exit velocity is down a bit this season (87.2 mph compared to 92.1 mph last year).
Pete Alonso: 99.1 mph average exit velocity (second-best among players with at least 10 batted balls).
Francisco Lindor: 3-for-7 in last two games after starting season 3-for-20 with zero extra-base hits in first six games.
Twins (Thorpe) at Angels (Heaney), 9:38 p.m. ET
Twins SP: Lewis Thorpe
Key stat(s): 89.7 mph fastball velocity in 2020
2020 stats: 0-1, 6.06 ERA, 13 K%
Breakdown: Thorpe’s four-seam fastball velocity dipped from an average of 91.2 mph in 2019 to 89.7 mph last season. That led to the southpaw getting hit hard, as opposing batters hit .458 with an .833 slugging percentage against his fastball. He focused on adding strength this offseason — gaining more than 25 pounds — and his velocity had returned this spring. The Twins are hoping that leads to better results in his ’21 debut.
Mike Trout: 63.0 hard-hit percentage (third in MLB); has reached base safely in all 12 games this season, hitting .381 with a .509 OBP and .762 SLG (1.271 OPS).
Shohei Ohtani: 26.5 barrel percentage is best in MLB.
Jared Walsh: Hitting .324 with a 1.067 OPS in 11 games this season
Angels SP: Andrew Heaney, LHP
Key stat(s): 33.3 K% this season
2020 stats: 4-3, 4.46 ERA, 25.1 K%
Breakdown: After a forgettable season debut, Heaney’s potential was on full display in his second outing of the season. The southpaw struck out nine over six scoreless innings in an April 9 victory — and he did so against the Blue Jays’ potent lineup. At the same time, that came one week after he allowed seven runs on five hits and a pair of walks in just three innings. Consistency has always been the key for Heaney, who’s capable of racking up strikeouts and spinning a gem on any given night — but also prone to giving up crooked numbers.
Nelson Cruz: .963 career OPS vs. left-handers (.847 OPS vs. RHP).
Byron Buxton: Has missed last three games due to hamstring tightness (check status before game).
Tigers (Ureña) at Athletics (Montas), 9:40 p.m. ET
Tigers SP: José Ureña, RHP
Key stat(s): Nine walks in 7 2/3 IP this season
2020 stats: 0-3, 5.4 ERA, 14.4 K%
Breakdown: Ureña has struggled at times throughout his career with his command, particularly the last two seasons. After walking a career-high 12.5% of the batters he faced in 2020, Ureña has nearly doubled that mark to 24.3% through two starts this year. He has a plus slider and a fastball that reaches 97 mph, but the key has always been his ability to control it all.
Matt Chapman: 86.5 mph average exit velocity this season; ranked among league leaders in each of last three seasons (93.6 mph in 2020, 92.7 mph in ’19 and 93.1 mph in ’18).
Mark Canha: 10-for-22 (.455) against pitches 97 mph or faster since 2019.
Matt Olson: 3-for-24 (.125) with 13 K’s vs. pitches 97 mph or faster since 2019.
A’s SP: Frankie Montas, RHP
Key stat(s): 37.9% ground-ball rate
2020 stats: 3-5, 5.60 ERA, 25.3 K%
Breakdown: Montas has been unable to replicate his 2019 success since returning to the A’s rotation last season, but his velocity and strikeout numbers are relatively similar to when he went 9-2 with a 2.63 ERA in ’19. The difference is he’s getting a lot fewer ground balls — leading to a home run rate that’s nearly twice as high — and he’s walking too many batters. After inducing a 50% ground-ball rate and walking just 5.8% of the batters he faced in ’19, Montas has posted a 37% ground-ball rate and 9.6% walk rate since the start of last season. He’s still reaching 97 mph with his sinker — and it’s an encouraging sign that opponents are just 2-for-14 (.143) against it this season after hitting .346 with six homers against it last year.
Akil Baddoo: Has reached base safely in nine of 11 games this season; hitting .333 with a 1.210 OPS in 10 games.
Dodgers (Buehler) at Padres (Weathers), 10:10 p.m. ET
Dodgers SP: Walker Buehler, RHP
Key stat(s): .143 opponents’ BA (0 HR, 29 K’s) vs. four-seamer since start of last season
2020 stats: 1-0, 3.44 ERA, 28.6 K%
Breakdown: Buehler has only eight strikeouts over 10 innings — and a 17.8 K% — through two starts, but he’s yet to walk a batter and he’s allowed only two runs. He’s been fortunate in that sense, considering he’s allowing a 93.9 mph average exit velocity to go along with a .306 xBA and .529 xSLG, but his four-seamer is still in the mid-to-high 90s and his curveball has induced a 46.2% whiff rate — a good indication the strikeouts will come.
Eric Hosmer: 1-for-13 (.077) with four strikeouts in his career vs. Buehler.
Fernando Tatis Jr.: Could return to lineup for first time since April 5 (left shoulder).
Padres SP: Ryan Weathers, LHP
Key stat(s): 26.7 pitches per appearance this season
2020 stats: N/A
Breakdown: Weathers is making a spot start in what will likely be a bullpen day for the Padres. Each of the 21-year-old rookie’s three appearances this season have come out of the bullpen — and he hasn’t thrown more than 38 pitches in any of those. Though he’s been successful in his short stint, he likely won’t carry much fantasy value in this one considering he isn’t stretched out.
Mookie Betts: Has hit safely in all seven games he’s started this season.
Justin Turner: Hitting .432 with a 1.310 OPS this season.
Corey Seager: .779 career OPS vs. left-handers (.909 vs. RHP).
Will Smith: Though he’s a right-handed hitter, Smith has a 1.038 OPS vs. RHP and 22 of his 25 homers have come against righties (.763 OPS vs. LHP).
Astros (Urquidy) at Mariners (Kikuchi), 10:10 p.m. ET
Astros SP: José Urquidy, RHP
Key stat(s): 69% strike rate since start of last season (highest in MLB)
2020 stats: 1-1, 2.73 ERA, 14.7 K%
Breakdown: Urquidy is going to attack hitters early and often. He threw 69% of his pitches for strikes last year, and he’s done exactly the same through two starts this season. With a four-seamer that sits around 93 mph and a slider that has a 26.5% whiff rate, he’s not going to strike out a ton of batters (14.7 K% last season), but he won’t hand out many free passes either.
Mitch Haniger: Homered in both games of Thursday’s doubleheader; 6-for-12 with three extra-base hits in last three games.
Mariners SP: Yusei Kikuchi, LHP
Key stat(s): 56.7% hard-hit percentage this season
2020 stats: 2-4, 5.17 ERA, 24.2 K%
Breakdown: Kikuchi looked impressive while racking up 10 strikeouts in his season debut against the Giants, but he also served up a pair of home runs — and then allowed another in his second outing. Those three homers match his total from all of last season, when he allowed just three over 47 innings while seemingly put his home run troubles from 2019 behind him. Yet with a 6.1% home run rate through two starts, that could again become a concern for Kikuchi, who allowed 36 home runs as a rookie in ’19 (second-most in AL).
Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez: Placed on COVID-IL prior to Wednesday’s game; check status before Friday’s game.