The Sunday slate commences with nine games beginning in the 1 p.m. ET hour and closes with the Cardinals and Cubs in Wrigley Field in the prime-time ESPN affair.
Walker Buehler and Shane Bieber highlight the afternoon slate, as both look to embellish their case to start the 2021 All-Star Game. In general, the docket is mediocre for streaming. There are a handful of options, but a couple are risky. However, Sunday is the day to throw caution to the wind and do what it takes to secure the week in head-to-head formats. Batters are a bit easier to find.
Good luck as another fantasy week draws to an end. Here are Sunday's suggestions, all rostered in fewer than half of ESPN leagues.
Josh Fleming (L), rostered in 12% of ESPN leagues, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Baltimore Orioles: After surrendering a season-high five runs in seven innings last time out, Fleming's ERA sits at 3.44, the highest it's been all season. Sunday presents a good chance to send it in the other direction with a home date against the Orioles. Baltimore's offense isn't a pushover, but Fleming benefits from the pitching-friendly confines of Tropicana Field. Please note, Michael Wacha will serve as the opener, with Fleming the most likely bulk reliever, which increases the chance for a win since he won't be required to work five frames.
Logan Gilbert (R), 18%, Seattle Mariners at Cleveland Indians: Most rookie hurlers are wild when they first come up; Gilbert was the opposite. The 24-year-old right-hander's modus operandi is working the edges with his four-seam fastball, but was finding too much of the plate in his first few starts. He's beginning to trust his stuff. Even though his walks are increasing, he's also fanning more batters and is more effective overall. In his past two efforts, Gilbert has issued five walks in 11 frames, but he's also compiled 11 punchouts.
Patrick Sandoval (L), 4%, Los Angeles Angels at Arizona Diamondbacks: Sandoval has posted a 2.70 ERA since entering the Angels' rotation, though his WHIP over those four starts is 1.30, a bit high. The lefty has fanned 19 with six walks in this span, but a .333 BABIP has inflated his WHIP. On Sunday, Sandoval draws the 12th-lowest-scoring team, but using an unproven arm on the road is a risk.
Drew Smyly (L), 9%, Atlanta Braves at Miami Marlins: After teasing the Smyly of old last season, albeit in just 26 1/3 innings, the veteran lefty has been unable to maintain the success. Even so, he's recorded four quality starts, so consider Smyly in leagues you need to catch lightning in a bottle. In his favor is working in a great pitching venue against a lesser lineup.
Bullpen: It appears J.P. Feyereisen has relinquished ninth-inning duties to the erstwhile closer, as Diego Castillo has garnered the past two Tampa saves while Feyereisen collected holds. Castillo was released from several fantasy teams while he was out, so it's worth checking if you're in one of the 34% of ESPN leagues in which he's available.
For the latest team-by-team closer situations, please consult our Closer Chart.
Catcher -- Jorge Alfaro (R), 4%, Miami Marlins vs. Atlanta Braves (LHP Drew Smyly): Hopefully, Alfaro will be back in the lineup on Sunday after leaving Friday's game following getting hit on the elbow by a pitch. So far in June, Alfaro is slashing .290/.389/.452, even swiping a pair of bags.
First Base -- Josh Naylor (L), 6%, Cleveland Indians vs. Seattle Mariners (RHP Logan Gilbert): It has yet to manifest, but Naylor's underlying metrics portend developing power. He's already solid in the contact department and now he's displaying marked improvement with respect to fly ball exit velocity. This should eventually translate into more homers, especially if Naylor can continue to increase his fly ball rate.
Second Base -- Enrique Hernandez (R), 27%, Boston Red Sox vs. Toronto Blue Jays (LHP Robbie Ray): Hernandez went through a cold stretch that not only cost him the leadoff spot, but some playing time as well. He's not crushing the ball now, but he's hitting well enough to be reinserted at the top of one of the most productive lineups in MLB.
Third Base -- Maikel Franco (R), 9%, Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays (LHP Josh Fleming): Just as it appeared, Franco could be a candidate to be designated for assignment. He came alive with a .400/.400/.733 line in the four games heading into Saturday's action. Franco usually hits southpaws well, and even though this season's .735 OPS isn't special, it's suitable for streaming at a position without a lot of options.
Shortstop -- Brendan Rodgers (R), 8%, Colorado Rockies at Cincinnati Reds (RHP Tony Santillan): Sometimes, it isn't all about the upcoming game, but the impending schedule. The Rockies are home for seven games next week, so now is the time to grab C.J. Cron, Josh Fuentes and Rodgers. That said, it doesn't hurt that Sunday's tilt is against a 24-year-old rookie making his major-league debut.
Corner Infield -- Christian Walker (R), 32%, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Angels (LHP Patrick Sandoval): Admittedly, there isn't much in Walker's 2021 numbers to confidently expect a turnaround, as his skills have declined. However, he's been hurt, and water usually finds its level. His exit velocity in June is also on the rise, which could be a harbinger of better days.
Middle Infield -- Taylor Walls (S), 3%, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Baltimore Orioles (LHP Bruce Zimmermann): Perhaps it's just a one-game thing, but Wells hit third on Saturday, the most desirable lineup spot for fantasy production. As a switch-hitter, he always enjoys the platoon edge, but it really comes in handy when facing teams deploying a weak starting pitcher and a suspect bullpen.
Outfield -- Billy McKinney (L), 4%, New York Mets vs. San Diego Padres (RHP Chris Paddack): Be sure to check Sunday's lineup, as McKinney was scratched on Saturday with a sore knee. This would be a very inopportune time for the journeyman to be hurt, as he's slashing .302/.362/.744 since receiving regular playing time in late May.
Outfield -- Odubel Herrera (L), 24%, Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Yankees (RHP Domingo German): Center field for the Phillies was a revolving door until Herrera stepped up and claimed the job. Since May 7, he's posted a .315/.390/.528 line with four steals.
Outfield -- Myles Straw (R), 10%, Houston Astros at Minnesota Twins (RHP Michael Pineda): Speaking of stolen bases, Straw is Sunday's best bet to grab a bag if you need a pilfer in your head-to-head league. Granted, he bats ninth, but it's like a second leadoff hitter, as Straw has been getting on base at a 37% clip for the past three weeks, and it's been even higher lately.