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Note: This file will be updated with overnight pitching changes and weather-related game postponements, along with the addition of the latest MLB game odds as of the indicated time of publication.
What you need to know for Monday's MLB games
By Todd Zola
Congratulations to everyone advancing to Round 1 of the ESPN fantasy playoffs. For those in rotisserie formats, Monday marks the beginning of the stretch run. While most are focusing on gaining points in the counting categories, keep in mind batting average, ERA and WHIP are still volatile. It's a mistake to ignore ratios, assuming too many at-bats and innings pitched have accumulated to prohibit movement in the categories. It's all about the distribution within the categories and unlike the counting stats, your opponents' ratios can worsen and lose points, which is just as good as you gaining them.
There are only 11 games on the Labor Day schedule, beginning at 2:10 PM ET with the Kansas City Royals hosting the Chicago White Sox. Six more matinees follow, then there are four evening affairs. Only seven of the day's probable starters are rostered in more than half of ESPN leagues. Not is there a large quantity of options, there are a few quality selections.
Topping the list is Baltimore Orioles rookie Grayson Rodriguez (30.2%) for the opener of a three-game set in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels. Rodriguez had fared much better in his second foray in the majors. He was recalled and rejoined the rotation after the All-Star break. The Los Angeles Dodgers hit him hard in his first start after returning, but since Rodriguez posted a 2.32 ERA and 0.89 WHIP, with 37 strikeouts in 42 2/3 innings, walking just 12 with only two homers surrendered. Long term, Rodriguez needs to improve his strikeout rate to maintain ace status. His minor league track record indicates he can miss more bats. As for Monday night, Rodriguez is in a good spot to pad his strikeouts as he'll face the offense fanning at the eighth-highest rate versus right-handers for the past month.
Cole Ragans (33.9%) is coming off what could be the best month of any pitcher all season. In six August starts, Ragans registered a 1.72 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. It wasn't just a lucky run as the left-hander fanned an impressive 53 in 36 2/3 innings, while issuing just nine walks and one home run. Ragans' first September outing is a home date with the Chicago White Sox. The Kansas City Royals southpaw draws a lineup sporting the seventh-highest strikeout rate and 11th lowest wOBA with a lefty on the hill.
Even though they're on the road, we have Bryan Woo (14.5% and the Seattle Mariners favored over the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds recently fortified their lineup, but Woo still has the advantage. The 23-year-old righty has seemingly scaled the rookie wall with a 2.57 ERA and 1.10 WHIP spanning his last four starts, though he punched out only 14 in those 21 frames. However, even though the Great American Ballpark is a hitter's venue, the Reds offense at home is below average facing right-handers.
Spoiler alert: There are only five games on Thursday, so filling lineup holes on Monday can help prevent scrambling next weekend. Here are some batters with the platoon edge on a vulnerable pitcher. Chas McCormick (28.5%) and Yainer Diaz (24.5%) both have the power to take advantage of Andrew Heaney's proclivity for the long ball. Sal Frelick (9%) matches up well with Pirates starter Luis L. Ortiz while Dominic Canzone (.3%) enjoys a park upgrade as well as facing the Reds Brett Kennedy.
Starting pitcher rankings for Monday
Bullpen usage for Monday
By Todd Zola
The San Diego Padres were leading the San Francisco Giants 4-0, but they brought in Josh Hader in the top of the ninth since he hadn't pitched since last Wednesday. Hader preserved the shutout but needed 22 pitches to get it done. Hader has worked in back-to-back fashion after the same pitch count, so he's likely available for tonight's series opener with the Philadelphia Phillies in Petco Park.
Similarly, Kenley Jansen hadn't appeared since the previous Wednesday, so the Boston Red Sox brought him in yesterday with a six-run lead. The Kansas City Royals rallied to score twice, but the Red Sox held on to win 7-4. Jansen's pitch count ended at 21, but he too should be available on Labor Day when the Red Sox visit the Tampa Bay Rays.
Yesterday, picking up Yennier Cano, Adbert Alzolay and Carlos Hernandez was suggested to get a jump start on filling holes in Monday's pitchers. If you still need an arm for an open spot, the leaders in holds over the past two weeks in action today are Kirby Snead of the Oakland Athletics and Mark Leiter Jr. of the Chicago Cubs. Other options include the Philadelphia Phillies Jose Alvarado, the Minnesota Twins' Griffin Jax and the Rays Robert Stephenson.
Best sub-50% rostered hitters for Monday
Best and worst hitters from the day are generated by THE BAT X, a projection system created by Derek Carty using advanced methods like those used in MLB front offices, accounting for a variety of factors including player talent, ballparks, bullpens, weather, umpires, defense, catcher pitch-framing and lots more.
Carlos Santana (MIL, 1B -- 22%) at Ortiz
TJ Friedl (CIN, LF -- 19%) vs. Woo
J.P. Crawford (SEA, SS -- 20%) at Antone
Sal Frelick (MIL, CF -- 9%) at Ortiz
Worst over-50% rostered hitters for Monday
Randy Arozarena (TB, LF -- 98%) vs. Bello
Alec Bohm (PHI, 3B -- 80%) at Hill
Elly De La Cruz (CIN, SS -- 87%) vs. Woo
J.T. Realmuto (PHI, C -- 94%) at Hill
Steven Kwan (CLE, LF -- 92%) vs. Lopez
The BAT X's Best Stacks for Monday
Prop of the day
Cole Ragans, Kansas City Royals, 17.5 pitching outs (-150/+115)
THE BAT sees Ragans putting up 15.9 pitching outs for this matchup on average, while projecting him to exceed his player prop total 36.6% of the time.
THE BAT believes there is positive value on the UNDER with an expected value of $36.31.
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE OVER
The fourth-worst projected offense of all teams on the slate in terms of overall batting ability belongs to the White Sox.
Ragans' fastball velocity has spiked 4.4 mph this season (95.9 mph) over where it was last year (91.5 mph).
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE UNDER
It may be wise to expect better numbers for the White Sox offense going forward, considering that THE BAT X believes they are the unluckiest offense in MLB this year.
The No. 1 field in baseball for boosting walks, via THE BAT, is Kauffman Stadium.
According to the weather report, the temperature and humidity for this game will be the best for hitting on the schedule today.
The wind projects to be blowing out to LF at 13-mph in this contest, the best of the day for batters.