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Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, June 30 at 9:11 p.m. ET.
On tap: Fantasy aces are put to the test this week, as five members of my top 10 starting pitchers in this past Tuesday's "60 Feet 6 Inches" make road starts facing poor matchups. Here is the list:
• Clayton Kershaw (No. 1 SP; @COL, Tuesday): It's a Coors Field test for him against a Colorado Rockies team that ranks third in wOBA (.346) at home. Thankfully for Kershaw's owners, his second start is a more favorable matchup: at San Francisco's AT&T Park on Sunday.
• Adam Wainwright (No. 2 SP; @LAA, Thursday): The Los Angeles Angels have the majors' sixth-best wOBA in home games (.334).
• Felix Hernandez (No. 3 SP; @TEX, Wednesday): He's 5-8 with a 4.35 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in 16 career starts at Texas' Rangers Ballpark.
• Max Scherzer (No. 5 SP; @TOR, Wednesday): Toronto's Rogers Centre ranks as the game's fourth most hitter-friendly venue in both runs scored and home runs this season, per our MLB Park Factors page.
• Justin Verlander (No. 7 SP; @TOR, Thursday): He has experienced results at either extreme in three career starts at Toronto's Rogers Centre; he allowed eight earned runs in 3 2/3 innings in his first start there (April 6, 2009) and threw a no-hitter in his most recent start there (May 7, 2011).
It's also a week of reunions in Los Angeles this week, as the Los Angeles Angels host a pair of three-game series, first against the St. Louis Cardinals, then against the Boston Red Sox. That Angels-Cardinals series represents the first time Albert Pujols will face his former team since signing his 10-year, $240 million contract following the 2011 season. That Red Sox-Angels series, meanwhile, brings John Lackey back to Angel Stadium for only the third time since he bolted for Boston after the 2009 season. Lackey has won both of his previous two starts there, posting a 1.17 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, and he's making a third turn at a time he's on a particularly hot streak; he has three straight quality starts and seven in his past eight turns.
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Canada Day -- celebrated every July 1 in Canada -- results in an earlier-than-usual Monday deadline this week, as the Detroit Tigers at Toronto Blue Jays series opener has a 1:07 p.m. ET start time. Although that is only one of seven games scheduled on Monday, don't forget to set your lineups early, especially if you had gotten comfortable dealing with later start times the past four weeks.
Independence Day -- celebrated on Thursday this year -- gives us a rare full slate of baseball action on a Thursday, with 10 of the 15 games on the schedule taking place during the day. The first kicks off especially early: 11:05 a.m. ET, that the scheduled first pitch time for Milwaukee Brewers at Washington Nationals. Take note of the early start if you play in a league with daily transactions.
There are also slightly earlier-than-usual start times on Tuesday and Friday, worth keeping in mind in leagues with daily transactions. Tuesday's first game, Milwaukee Brewers at Washington Nationals, begins at 6:05 p.m. ET. Friday's first game, Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs, begins at 4:05 p.m. ET.
This week's interleague series:
• San Diego Padres at Boston Red Sox (3 games, Tuesday-Thursday)
• St. Louis Cardinals at Los Angeles Angels (3 games, Tuesday-Thursday)
• Chicago Cubs at Oakland Athletics (3 games, Tuesday-Thursday)
• Seattle Mariners at Cincinnati Reds (3 games, Friday-Sunday)
Temper your enthusiasm regarding red-hot Seattle Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak -- he's hitting .269/.345/.500 with two home runs in seven games since returning from the disabled list -- even with games at hitter-friendly Texas' Rangers Ballpark and Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park on the docket. Kendrys Morales has started three of the Mariners' four games at National League venues at first base ahead of Smoak thus far, and Morales' superior wins above replacement (1.3, to Smoak's 0.4) suggests that arrangement will continue.
The Cardinals' Matt Adams benefits for a second consecutive week, as he'll presumably start at first base, with Carlos Beltran, Allen Craig and Matt Holliday splitting the DH/corner-outfield duties during a three-game series at Los Angeles in which the Angels will throw nothing but right-handed starters. NL-only owners should know that Adams is a career .292/.338/.486 hitter against right-handers, meaning that even three starts should make him an option in those formats.
Expect the Cubs and Padres to use the addition of the DH to get an extra outfielder into their lineups. The Padres should slot Carlos Quentin at DH, freeing up an outfield spot for Mark Kotsay, Alexi Amarista or Jesus Guzman on any given night. The Cubs, meanwhile, haven't gone the obvious route of slotting Alfonso Soriano at DH in past games at American League parks this season, but all indications are that they will this week. That opens up an outfield spot for Brian Bogusevic, Julio Borbon and/or or Ryan Sweeney.
The chart below lists each of the 30 MLB teams' schedules and projected starting pitchers, and provides a matchup rating for each day's starter. Pitchers scheduled to start at least twice this week are in gold/beige boxes.
• Wei-Yin Chen (oblique) had a successful rehabilitation start for Double-A Bowie on June 29, and he is expected to rejoin the Baltimore Orioles' rotation on either Thursday or Friday.
• The Cleveland Indians pushed back Scott Kazmir (back spasms) to Wednesday for precautionary reasons, lining up Corey Kluber as Tuesday's starter and the team's two-start pitcher. The team's official website also reports that Carlos Carrasco, optioned to Triple-A Columbus following his June 28 start, is expected to be recalled to start on Friday.
• Anibal Sanchez (shoulder) is scheduled for a rehabilitation assignment with Class A Lakeland on Monday, keeping him in line with Jose Alvarez's turn in the Detroit Tigers' rotation. It's possible that Sanchez might be activated in time to replace Alvarez on Saturday.
• The Los Angeles Angels will need a replacement for Tommy Hanson (forearm) in the rotation this week, and they might push that spot back to Saturday before deciding. Garrett Richards is a top candidate for that assignment.
• The New York Yankees, scheduled for Games 7-13 of a 20-games-in-20-days stretch heading into the All-Star break, will give Ivan Nova a spot start in Minnesota this week. It is unclear which game he will pitch or whether the Yankees will use six starters this week, but Phil Hughes is likely to lose his second start this week.
• The Oakland Athletics will need a fifth starter for Saturday's game, with Dan Straily the most obvious candidate. However, it's possible that Sonny Gray, who has a 2.85 ERA for Triple-A Sacramento, will get that assignment instead. Jarrod Parker (hamstring) is also questionable for his scheduled Thursday start. His status should be known following a Tuesday bullpen session.
• David Price (triceps) made his second rehabilitation start for Class A Charlotte on June 26, and will rejoin the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday, replacing Alex Colome.
• Henderson Alvarez (shoulder) was scheduled for a rehabilitation assignment with Double-A Jacksonville on June 28, and his next start is expected to come with the Miami Marlins' big club. He could bump Tom Koehler, the scheduled Sunday starter, with everyone else moving back a day, or he could slide into Ricky Nolasco's spot on Wednesday if Nolasco is traded.
• The Philadelphia Phillies decided to push back Cole Hamels' next start to Thursday to give him extra rest, lining up Jonathan Pettibone as the team's two-start pitcher.
• The St. Louis Cardinals have named Joe Kelly their fifth starter the next time they need one, and that date appears to be Saturday. They could move him up, however, if they want to give their other starter some rest this week.
• Chad Gaudin (elbow) is on track to rejoin the San Francisco Giants' rotation beginning on Saturday, and he'll presumably reclaim his spot from Michael Kickham.
• The Washington Nationals recalled Taylor Jordan to replace the injured Dan Haren on June 29, setting the rookie up for a Thursday start. Ross Detwiler (back) is also questionable for his Wednesday start. He'll throw a bullpen session on Monday before more is known.
1. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Tue-@COL (Oswalt), Sun-@SF (Lincecum)
2. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Fri-ATL (Hudson)
3. Jordan Zimmermann (WSH) -- Mon-MIL (Gallardo), Sat-SD (Marquis)
4. Matt Harvey (NYM) -- Wed-ARI (Delgado)
5. Yu Darvish (TEX) -- Sat-HOU (Keuchel)
6. Stephen Strasburg (WSH) -- Tue-MIL (Peralta), Sun-SD (Erlin)
7. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Wed-@TOR (Johnson)
8. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Fri-LAD (Ryu)
9. Gio Gonzalez (WSH) -- Fri-SD (Cashner)
10. Mat Latos (CIN) -- Fri-SEA (Harang)
11. Jose Fernandez (MIA) -- Mon-SD (Marquis), Sat-@STL (Kelly)
12. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Thu-@LAA (Blanton)
13. Patrick Corbin (ARI) -- Tue-@NYM (Hefner), Sun-COL (Oswalt)
14. Chris Sale (CWS) -- Sat-@TB (Moore)
15. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Wed-@TEX (Holland)
16. Kris Medlen (ATL) -- Tue-MIA (Koehler), Sun-@PHI (Pettibone)
17. Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Tue-SF (Lincecum), Sun-SEA (Saunders)
18. Lance Lynn (STL) -- Tue-@LAA (Weaver), Sun-MIA (Koehler)
19. Jarrod Parker (OAK) -- Thu-CHC (Wood)
20. Mike Minor (ATL) -- Wed-MIA (Nolasco)
21. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Mon-@WSH (Zimmermann), Sat-NYM (Marcum)
22. Matt Cain (SF) -- Thu-@CIN (Leake)
23. Julio Teheran (ATL) -- Thu-MIA (Turner)
24. Ervin Santana (KC) -- Sat-OAK (TBD)
25. Doug Fister (DET) -- Tue-@TOR (Wang), Sun-@CLE (Kluber)
26. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Tue-STL (Lynn), Sun-BOS (Lackey)
27. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Thu-@MIN (Gibson)
28. Shelby Miller (STL) -- Wed-@LAA (Williams)
29. Hiroki Kuroda (NYY) -- Sat-BAL (Tillman)
30. Hisashi Iwakuma (SEA) -- Thu-@TEX (Perez)
31. David Price (TB) -- Tue-@HOU (Bedard), Sun-CWS (Danks)
32. Bartolo Colon (OAK) -- Wed-CHC (Garza)
33. Jeff Samardzija (CHC) -- Fri-PIT (Liriano)
34. Jeff Locke (PIT) -- Tue-PHI (Pettibone), Sun-@CHC (Feldman)
35. Matt Garza (CHC) -- Wed-@OAK (Colon)
36. Mike Leake (CIN) -- Thu-SF (Cain)
37. Zack Greinke (LAD) -- Wed-@COL (Chatwood)
38. Francisco Liriano (PIT) -- Fri-@CHC (Samardzija)
39. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Thu-@TOR (Rogers)
40. Derek Holland (TEX) -- Wed-SEA (Hernandez)
41. James Shields (KC) -- Thu-CLE (Jimenez)
42. Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD) -- Fri-@SF (Bumgarner)
43. Travis Wood (CHC) -- Thu-@OAK (Parker)
44. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Thu-@PIT (Cole)
45. A.J. Griffin (OAK) -- Tue-CHC (Feldman), Sun-@KC (Mendoza)
46. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Fri-@PHI (Lee)
47. Kyle Kendrick (PHI) -- Sat-ATL (Maholm)
48. John Lackey (BOS) -- Tue-SD (Erlin), Sun-@LAA (Weaver)
49. Eric Stults (SD) -- Thu-@BOS (Webster)
50. Gerrit Cole (PIT) -- Thu-PHI (Hamels)
51. R.A. Dickey (TOR) -- Mon-DET (Alvarez), Sat-MIN (Diamond)
52. Chris Tillman (BAL) -- Sat-@NYY (Kuroda)
53. C.J. Wilson (LAA) -- Fri-BOS (Doubront)
54. Matt Moore (TB) -- Mon-@HOU (Keuchel), Sat-CWS (Sale)
55. Kyle Lohse (MIL) -- Fri-NYM (Wheeler)
56. Miguel Gonzalez (BAL) -- Wed-@CWS (Santiago)
57. Rick Porcello (DET) -- Fri-@CLE (Carrasco)
58. Andrew Cashner (SD) -- Fri-@WSH (Gonzalez)
59. Jacob Turner (MIA) -- Thu-@ATL (Teheran)
60. Andy Pettitte (NYY) -- Mon-@MIN (Diamond), Sun-BAL (Hammel)
61. Josh Johnson (TOR) -- Wed-DET (Scherzer)
62. Corey Kluber (CLE) -- Tue-@KC (Mendoza), Sun-DET (Fister)
63. Samuel Deduno (MIN) -- Tue-NYY (Nova), Sun-@TOR (Wang)
64. Jeremy Hellickson (TB) -- Fri-CWS (Axelrod)
65. Ricky Nolasco (MIA) -- Wed-@ATL (Minor)
66. Scott Feldman (CHC) -- Tue-@OAK (Griffin), Sun-PIT (Locke)
67. Dillon Gee (NYM) -- Thu-ARI (Kennedy)
68. Joe Kelly (STL) -- Sat-MIA (Fernandez)
69. Shaun Marcum (NYM) -- Mon-ARI (Miley), Sat-@MIL (Gallardo)
70. Jorge De La Rosa (COL) -- Fri-@ARI (Cahill)
71. Bronson Arroyo (CIN) -- Mon-SF (Kickham), Sat-SEA (Bonderman)
72. John Danks (CWS) -- Tue-BAL (Hammel), Sun-@TB (Price)
73. Paul Maholm (ATL) -- Sat-@PHI (Kendrick)
74. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Wed-SD (Volquez)
75. Jhoulys Chacin (COL) -- Thu-LAD (Capuano)
Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Justin Grimm (TEX) -- Tue-SEA (Saunders), Sun-HOU (Bedard)
Jeremy Hefner (NYM) -- Tue-ARI (Corbin), Sun-@MIL (Peralta)
Dallas Keuchel (HOU) -- Mon-TB (Moore), Sat-@TEX (Darvish)
Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Tue-@CIN (Bailey), Sun-LAD (Kershaw)
Jason Marquis (SD) -- Mon-@MIA (Fernandez), Sat-@WSH (Zimmermann)
Luis Mendoza (KC) -- Tue-CLE (Kluber), Sun-OAK (Griffin)
Wade Miley (ARI) -- Mon-@NYM (Marcum), Sat-COL (Pomeranz)
Wily Peralta (MIL) -- Tue-@WSH (Strasburg), Sun-NYM (Hefner)
Jonathan Pettibone (PHI) -- Tue-@PIT (Locke), Sun-ATL (Medlen)
Chien-Ming Wang (TOR) -- Tue-DET (Fister), Sun-MIN (Deduno)
No-thank-yous, among two-start pitchers:
Jose Alvarez (DET) -- Mon-@TOR (Dickey), Sat-@CLE (Masterson)
Erik Bedard (HOU) -- Tue-TB (Price), Sun-@TEX (Grimm)
Scott Diamond (MIN) -- Mon-NYY (Pettitte), Sat-@TOR (Dickey)
Robbie Erlin (SD) -- Tue-@BOS (Lackey), Sun-@WSH (Strasburg)
Jason Hammel (BAL) -- Tue-@CWS (Danks), Sun-@NYY (Pettitte)
Tom Koehler (MIA) -- Tue-@ATL (Medlen), Sun-@STL (Lynn)
Roy Oswalt (COL) -- Tue-LAD (Kershaw), Sun-@ARI (Corbin)
Joe Saunders (SEA) -- Tue-@TEX (Grimm), Sun-@CIN (Bailey)
• The Tampa Bay Rays' rotation, which struggled through a difficult four-week span from May 20-June 16 during which David Price was on the disabled list and the team sported a 5.26 starters' ERA and 34.6 quality start percentage, appears to be on the upswing. Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore, two of their rotation mainstays who had struggled in early June, each had back-to-back quality starts. Moore is one of the team's two-start pitchers, and his schedule is especially favorable: He first has a road start against the majors' most strikeout-prone team, the Houston Astros (25.2 K%), then returns home to face a Chicago White Sox team that ranks last in the American League in weighted on-base average, or wOBA (.291).
Price also has it easier in his potential comeback week facing such weak lineups. Remember, he had the majors' 10th-best strikeout rate (24.5 percent, calculated as a percentage of total batters faced) last season, so a matchup with the game's most K-prone offense is indeed a favorable one.
The one Rays starter whose matchups might not be as attractive is Roberto Hernandez. Remember, he's a changeup specialist who also leans on a sinker; the Astros have slugged .434 against changeups and .595 against sinkers and rank among the three best teams at hitting home runs off those pitches. The White Sox, too, rank among the best at hitting homers off sinkers (5.3 HR%).
• In addition to the five pitchers discussed at the top, Detroit Tigers matchups represent challenges for three other notable fantasy names: R.A. Dickey (Monday), Josh Johnson (Wednesday) and Justin Masterson (Saturday). The difference: All three of those pitchers will be working at home. The Tigers are the visitors, and they have a .309 wOBA on the road, compared to .354 at home.
Dickey twice faced the Tigers as a member of the New York Mets, registering quality starts in 2010 and 2011. That said, current Tigers have .378/.410/.612 career rates against him, so temper your expectations. Do so as well with Johnson, who was hammered for six runs on seven hits in 1 1/3 innings by the Tigers on April 11, and Masterson, who is 2-5 with a 4.68 ERA and 1.70 WHIP in nine starts against the Tigers since the beginning of 2011.
• Load up on Texas Rangers pitching this week, despite all six of their games being played at Rangers Ballpark. They play three games apiece against the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros, two of the three worst-hitting teams in the American League going by wOBA. Two-start pitcher Justin Grimm is 2-0 with a 3.31 ERA in three starts versus the Mariners, and he had a quality start (6 IP, 3 ER, 7 K) in his only turn versus the Astros (June 16).
Derek Holland, fresh off his two-hit shutout of the New York Yankees, has a remarkable history against the Mariners. He has six wins, six quality starts, a 3.28 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 9.30 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio in eight starts against his division rival since the beginning of 2011.
• Here are this week's Streamer's Delight picks -- players need to be available in at least 75 percent of ESPN leagues as of our publishing time (Fridays):
1. Dillon Gee (ARI, Thursday): Home games suit Gee nicely. He has a 3.40 ERA and 1.24 WHIP (3.12 ERA in 2013) in 34 career games (32 starts) at Citi Field.
2. Bud Norris (TB, Wednesday): Home games are also the time to use Norris. He has a 2.83 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 37 starts at Minute Maid Park since 2011.
3. Samuel Deduno (NYY, Tuesday): He's a "good-stuff, questionable-control" type, and keep in mind the New York Yankees have the majors' worst wOBA in June (.268). They also have a higher swing rate (47%) than the major league average (46%) in the past two weeks (June 14-27).
4. Jacob Turner (@ATL, Thursday): The Atlanta Braves are scuffling a bit (fourth-worst wOBA in June), and Turner is 4-for-5 already in quality starts in 2013.
5. Joe Kelly (MIA, Saturday): He has a 3.62 ERA and 1.38 WHIP in his career as a starter, will face, at home, the majors' worst team in terms of wOBA (.274).
The chart below lists each of the 30 teams' total number of scheduled games, home games and games versus right- and left-handed pitchers, and provides a matchup rating for the week's games in terms of overall offense, offense for left- and right-handed hitters and base stealing. Matchup ratings for each individual game are listed under the corresponding date.
• Here are this week's "volume plays" -- defined as the teams that play the most home games, or games against right- or left-handed starters:
Home games: Toronto Blue Jays 7, Cincinnati Reds 7, Washington Nationals 7, Kansas City Royals 6, Los Angeles Angels 6, Texas Rangers 6
Versus RH: Detroit Tigers 7, Miami Marlins 6, Milwaukee Brewers 6, St. Louis Cardinals 6, Washington Nationals 6
Versus LH: Baltimore Orioles 4, Tampa Bay Rays 4, Colorado Rockies 4, Boston Red Sox 3, Chicago White Sox 3, Minnesota Twins 3, Texas Rangers 3, Cincinnati Reds 3, San Francisco Giants 3
• Wil Myers' arrival has strengthened the Tampa Bay Rays' lineup against left-handed pitching; they have .290/.349/.453 team rates against that side. That's why a week with four lefty starters is a plus for this squad, and it cements Myers' status as a must-start in all formats.
Desmond Jennings (.330/.392/.580 against lefties) and Yunel Escobar (.286/.318/.476) are two other right-handed Rays who warrant consideration -- assuming, naturally, that you knew Evan Longoria was an automatic any week -- but it's a left-handed Rays hitter whose success against his "weaker" side might surprise you: James Loney is a .380/.421/.549 hitter against lefties.
• The Cincinnati Reds play seven home games, at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park, and they're fortunate to miss the opposing San Francisco Giants and Seattle Mariners' best starters: Neither Madison Bumgarner nor Felix Hernandez is on their scheduled list of opponents. (Matt Cain, however, is.)
Jay Bruce (.273/.333/.553 rates in home games) and Shin-Soo Choo (.324/.469/.540) are automatic plays in any fantasy league, but the Reds hitter who benefits most from a full seven-game week at home is Todd Frazier. He's a .282/.368/.511 hitter at home this season, and he has an OPS at Great American Ball Park 57 points higher (.823) than at any other venue (.766) since the beginning of last season.
• Yasiel Puig will be making his first career trip to Colorado's Coors Field, not to mention his first visit to San Francisco's AT&T Park. Fantasy owners know that Puig is a no-brainer at this point, but what about the rest of the red-hot Dodgers?
Look at the career statistics of current Dodgers hitters at Coors: A.J. Ellis is a career .350/.438/.650 hitter in 12 games; Adrian Gonzalez has .321/.401/.580 rates in 53 games; Hanley Ramirez is a .357/.400/.607 hitter in 19 games; and Matt Kemp has .321/.400/.610 rates in 50 games. Even Andre Ethier could warrant a look, at least in daily leagues where you can use him for just the Coors contests, as the Rockies will throw three right-handed starters in that series.