- Tristan H. Cockcroft, Fantasy
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Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, July 7, at 12:57 p.m. ET.
On tap: Baseball's traditional "first half" draws to a close, as this is the final week of games before the All-Star break, scheduled for July 15-18. Historically, wacky things can happen with rotations during this week, specifically the weekend. One change in particular to the All-Star Game rules, which took effect in 2010, might have an impact: That rule states that any starting pitcher who competes for his team on the previous Sunday will not be allowed to pitch in the game. Take note of that, because the way rotations currently align, the Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander, the Oakland Athletics' Bartolo Colon, the Seattle Mariners' Hisashi Iwakuma, the Chicago Cubs' Travis Wood, the New York Mets' Matt Harvey, the Pittsburgh Pirates' Jeff Locke and the St. Louis Cardinals' Adam Wainwright, all of whom made their respective leagues' squads, would each start on Sunday and therefore be ineligible to pitch in the All-Star Game.
Cincinnati Reds right-hander Homer Bailey, fresh off his second no-hitter in the past nine months, is one of the week's more secure two-start candidates; his second turn is on Saturday, which wouldn't exclude him from All-Star Game consideration (though he's probably a long shot to make the team). Since and including that first no-hitter, on Sept. 28, 2012, he has had 12 quality starts, a 3.19 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 9.22 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio in 19 games, though he has only six wins to show for it. Bailey remains one of the most underrated pitchers in the game, and he'll make starts at Milwaukee's Miller Park and Atlanta's Turner Field.
New York Mets rookie Zack Wheeler, who has struggled in consecutive starts since his outstanding major league debut on June 18, returns to San Francisco Wednesday to face the team that drafted him; The No. 1 pick (sixth overall) by the San Francisco Giants in the 2009 amateur draft, and subsequently traded away for Carlos Beltran, Wheeler might have additional motivation against his former organization in career start No. 4.
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ESPN lineup deadlines | Interleague impact | Projected starting pitchers
Pitching scuttlebutt | Week 15 pitcher rankings | Pitching advantages
Hitting ratings | Hitting advantages
We're back to night games only this Monday, the first game scheduled for 7 p.m. ET, that ESPN's Monday Night Baseball broadcast of the Washington Nationals at the Philadelphia Phillies. You'll have additional time to set your lineups in leagues with weekly transactions, and you will on Tuesday in daily leagues as well, as the first games on that day begin at 7:05 p.m. ET.
There are early games on both Wednesday and Thursday, however. Wednesday's Atlanta Braves at Miami Marlins game has a scheduled first pitch at 12:40 p.m. ET, while Thursday's Toronto Blue Jays at Cleveland Indians game is scheduled to begin at 12:05 p.m. ET. Be sure to set your lineups early in daily leagues on those days.
This week's interleague series:
• Chicago Cubs at Chicago White Sox (1 game, Monday)
• Houston Astros at St. Louis Cardinals (2 games, Tuesday-Wednesday)
• Los Angeles Angels at Chicago Cubs (2 games, Tuesday-Wednesday)
• Oakland Athletics at Pittsburgh Pirates (3 games, Monday-Wednesday)
• Chicago White Sox at Philadelphia Phillies (3 games, Friday-Sunday)
Adam Dunn, the White Sox's usual designated hitter, is also the team's hottest hitter and arguably their most valuable bat. He has also started 14 of the White Sox's past 18 games at first base, and with Paul Konerko now on the disabled list, he's almost guaranteed to play all three games at the position in Philadelphia. Jeff Keppinger, who has been getting the bulk of the recent time at DH, will have to split third base with Conor Gillaspie during those contests.
With Peter Bourjos (wrist) on the disabled list, the Angels can conveniently shift Mark Trumbo to left field and Albert Pujols to first base, benching J.B. Shuck, during their two-game series in Wrigley Field. There is a risk, however, that Pujols, battling plantar fasciitis in his left foot, might not be able to handle both games at first base. It's possible he could be limited to as few as three games this week, being relegated to pinch-hitting duties versus the Cubs.
The Astros will one fewer spot in St. Louis for their first base/left field/DH collection of Chris Carter, Carlos Pena and Brett Wallace, and Carter's 79 starts, tops of the three, make it seem as if he'll be the least affected despite his being the right-handed bat of the three in a series in which two right-handers are the opposing starters. Wallace is on the hotter streak than Pena, so Pena's owners -- in AL-only and larger mixed -- are the ones who should most temper their expectations.
As for the Athletics, while three games without the DH means one fewer spot for their five outfielders -- Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, Seth Smith and Chris Young -- not one of the quintet is on the kind of streak Dunn is. Their series in Pittsburgh might play out as a straight platoon; Reddick and Smith might get starts in the two games against right-handed starters, Crisp and Young in the Sunday game against lefty Jeff Locke. Expect a slight decrease in at-bats all around.
Alfonso Soriano and Dioner Navarro have been alternating time at DH for the Cubs in American League parks this season, with Scott Hairston or Julio Borbon the ones getting starts in the outfield in Soriano's DH games. Borbon could be a handy one-week deep NL-only plug-in, thanks to his speed.
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) made his final rehabilitation start for Double-A Bowie on July 4, and he'll likely rejoin the Baltimore Orioles' rotation on Tuesday, replacing Zach Britton as the team's second two-start pitcher.
• The Cleveland Indians demoted Carlos Carrasco to Triple-A Columbus following his July 6 start, leaving them in need for a spot starter on Thursday. Trevor Bauer could be a candidate.
• The Houston Astros, with off days on both Monday and Thursday, could choose to skip a starter if they wish. Dallas Keuchel would be the most likely candidate, in which case Bud Norris would pick up a second start.
• The Toronto Blue Jays claim that Todd Redmond will assume their open rotation spot beginning on July 7, but it has been speculated that Marcus Stroman might soon be promoted from Double-A New Hampshire. Whomever gets the assignment would next be lined up for a Saturday start.
• The Los Angeles Dodgers' projected rotation above is a complete guess; the team has yet to announce when recent acquisition Ricky Nolasco will make his first start for them. He'll presumably bump either Chris Capuano or Stephen Fife from the rotation, and might start Tuesday with the other starters moving back in the order to accommodate him.
• The Miami Marlins announced that Kevin Slowey will take the traded Ricky Nolasco's spot in the rotation at least on Monday. It's unclear whether it'll be a one-and-done assignment, meaning Henderson Alvarez could get a second turn on Sunday if so.
• The New York Mets are practically guaranteed to move Matt Harvey, the projected National League All-Star Game starter at their own Citi Field, off his currently scheduled Sunday start. They could do this by having Dillon Gee pitch that game on four days' rest.
• A.J. Burnett (calf) was a candidate to be activated by the Pittsburgh Pirates in time for a July 7 start, which would set him up for another turn on Saturday.
• Dan Haren (shoulder) will rejoin the Washington Nationals' rotation on Monday, taking the place of the injured Ross Detwiler (back).
1. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Tue-HOU (Norris), Sun-@CHC (Wood)
2. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Mon-@CLE (Kazmir), Sat-TEX (Holland)
3. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Fri-COL (Oswalt)
4. Matt Harvey (NYM) -- Mon-@SF (Lincecum), Sun-@PIT (Locke)
5. Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Mon-@MIL (Lohse), Sat-@ATL (Minor)
6. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Thu-@SD (Marquis)
7. Stephen Strasburg (WSH) -- Fri-@MIA (Eovaldi)
8. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Wed-WSH (Gonzalez)
9. Gio Gonzalez (WSH) -- Wed-@PHI (Lee)
10. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Mon-BOS (Lester), Sat-LAA (Weaver)
11. Julio Teheran (ATL) -- Tue-@MIA (Alvarez), Sun-CIN (Cingrani)
12. Yu Darvish (TEX) -- Thu-@BAL (Tillman)
13. Matt Garza (CHC) -- Mon-@CWS (Santiago), Sat-STL (Lynn)
14. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Tue-CWS (Quintana), Sun-TEX (Perez)
15. Matt Cain (SF) -- Wed-NYM (Wheeler)
16. Jose Fernandez (MIA) -- Sat-WSH (Haren)
17. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Tue-KC (Shields), Sun-MIN (Gibson)
18. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Tue-WSH (Jordan), Sun-CWS (Quintana)
19. Mat Latos (CIN) -- Thu-@ATL (Hudson)
20. Bartolo Colon (OAK) -- Mon-@PIT (Locke), Sun-BOS (Webster)
21. Mike Minor (ATL) -- Mon-@MIA (Slowey), Sat-CIN (Bailey)
22. Jordan Zimmermann (WSH) -- Thu-@PHI (Kendrick)
23. David Price (TB) -- Fri-HOU (Harrell)
24. Hisashi Iwakuma (SEA) -- Tue-BOS (Webster), Sun-LAA (Blanton)
25. Kyle Lohse (MIL) -- Mon-CIN (Bailey), Sat-@ARI (Delgado)
26. Patrick Corbin (ARI) -- Fri-MIL (Hand)
27. C.J. Wilson (LAA) -- Wed-@CHC (Samardzija)
28. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Sat-@SEA (Hernandez)
29. Chris Sale (CWS) -- Thu-@DET (Sanchez)
30. Travis Wood (CHC) -- Tue-LAA (Blanton), Sun-STL (Wainwright)
31. Kris Medlen (ATL) -- Fri-CIN (Arroyo)
32. Ervin Santana (KC) -- Thu-@NYY (Pettitte)
33. Jeff Locke (PIT) -- Mon-OAK (Colon), Sun-NYM (Harvey)
34. Justin Masterson (CLE) -- Wed-TOR (Rogers)
35. Zack Greinke (LAD) -- Mon-@ARI (Delgado), Sat-COL (Chatwood)
36. John Lackey (BOS) -- Fri-@OAK (Parker)
37. Jarrod Parker (OAK) -- Fri-BOS (Lackey)
38. James Shields (KC) -- Tue-@NYY (Sabathia), Sun-@CLE (Jimenez)
39. Shelby Miller (STL) -- Wed-HOU (Lyles)
40. Hiroki Kuroda (NYY) -- Fri-MIN (Diamond)
41. Jhoulys Chacin (COL) -- Tue-@SD (Stults), Sun-@LAD (Nolasco)
42. R.A. Dickey (TOR) -- Fri-@BAL (Hammel)
43. Derek Holland (TEX) -- Mon-@BAL (Feldman), Sat-@DET (Scherzer)
44. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Thu-CIN (Latos)
45. Francisco Liriano (PIT) -- Wed-OAK (Milone)
46. Matt Moore (TB) -- Thu-MIN (Pelfrey)
47. Eric Stults (SD) -- Tue-COL (Chacin), Sun-SF (Zito)
48. Jeff Samardzija (CHC) -- Wed-LAA (Wilson)
49. Hector Santiago (CWS) -- Mon-CHC (Garza), Sat-@PHI (Lannan)
50. Doug Fister (DET) -- Fri-TEX (Grimm)
51. Tony Cingrani (CIN) -- Tue-@MIL (Peralta), Sun-@ATL (Teheran)
52. Josh Johnson (TOR) -- Tue-@CLE (Jimenez), Sun-@BAL (Chen)
53. Mike Leake (CIN) -- Wed-@MIL (Hellweg)
54. Lance Lynn (STL) -- Sat-@CHC (Garza)
55. Scott Feldman (BAL) -- Mon-TEX (Holland), Sat-TOR (Redmond)
56. Jeremy Hellickson (TB) -- Wed-MIN (Correia)
57. Jorge De La Rosa (COL) -- Wed-@SD (Cashner)
58. Ricky Nolasco (LAD) -- Tue-@ARI (Kennedy), Sun-COL (Chacin)
59. Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD) -- Thu-COL (Pomeranz)
60. A.J. Burnett (PIT) -- Sat-NYM (Hefner)
61. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Mon-@SEA (Hernandez), Sat-@OAK (Griffin)
62. Felix Doubront (BOS) -- Wed-@SEA (Harang)
63. Anibal Sanchez (DET) -- Thu-CWS (Sale)
64. Joe Blanton (LAA) -- Tue-@CHC (Wood), Sun-@SEA (Iwakuma)
65. Andrew Cashner (SD) -- Wed-COL (De La Rosa)
66. Jacob Turner (MIA) -- Wed-ATL (Maholm)
67. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Mon-NYM (Harvey), Sat-@SD (Volquez)
68. Dillon Gee (NYM) -- Tue-@SF (Zito)
69. Ryan Dempster (BOS) -- Thu-@SEA (Bonderman)
70. Chris Tillman (BAL) -- Thu-TEX (Darvish)
71. Martin Perez (TEX) -- Tue-@BAL (Chen), Sun-@DET (Verlander)
72. Miguel Gonzalez (BAL) -- Wed-TEX (Tepesch)
73. Dan Straily (OAK) -- Tue-@PIT (Cole)
74. Samuel Deduno (MIN) -- Mon-@TB (Hernandez), Sat-@NYY (Hughes)
75. A.J. Griffin (OAK) -- Sat-BOS (Lester)
Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Chris Archer (TB) -- Tue-MIN (Gibson), Sun-HOU (Bedard)
Wei-Yin Chen (BAL) -- Tue-TEX (Perez), Sun-TOR (Johnson)
Randall Delgado (ARI) -- Mon-LAD (Greinke), Sat-MIL (Lohse)
Roberto Hernandez (TB) -- Mon-MIN (Deduno), Sat-HOU (Keuchel)
Phil Hughes (NYY) -- Mon-KC (Guthrie), Sat-MIN (Deduno)
Scott Kazmir (CLE) -- Mon-DET (Scherzer), Sat-KC (Guthrie)
Ian Kennedy (ARI) -- Tue-LAD (Nolasco), Sun-MIL (Peralta)
Wily Peralta (MIL) -- Tue-CIN (Cingrani), Sun-@ARI (Kennedy)
Jose Quintana (CWS) -- Tue-@DET (Verlander), Sun-@PHI (Hamels)
Edinson Volquez (SD) -- Mon-COL (Chatwood), Sat-SF (Lincecum)
No-thank-yous, among two-start pitchers:
Tyler Chatwood (COL) -- Mon-@SD (Volquez), Sat-@LAD (Greinke)
Kyle Gibson (MIN) -- Tue-@TB (Archer), Sun-@NYY (Sabathia)
Jeremy Guthrie (KC) -- Mon-@NYY (Hughes), Sat-@CLE (Kazmir)
Dan Haren (WSH) -- Mon-@PHI (Lannan), Sat-@MIA (Fernandez)
Ubaldo Jimenez (CLE) -- Tue-TOR (Johnson), Sun-KC (Shields)
Taylor Jordan (WSH) -- Tue-@PHI (Hamels), Sun-@MIA (Slowey)
John Lannan (PHI) -- Mon-WSH (Haren), Sat-CWS (Santiago)
Kevin Slowey (MIA) -- Mon-ATL (Minor), Sun-WSH (Jordan)
Allen Webster (BOS) -- Tue-@SEA (Iwakuma), Sun-@OAK (Colon)
Barry Zito (SF) -- Tue-NYM (Gee), Sun-@SD (Stults)
• It's another week of favorable Tampa Bay Rays pitching matchups, and keep in mind that this staff has 11 quality starts, a 2.69 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in its past 15 starts, and a 2.61 ERA and four saves from its bullpen during that same time span. Now the Rays play an entire week at Tropicana Field, where they have a 3.22 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 62.9 quality start percentage since the beginning of 2011.
Most notably, closer Fernando Rodney has seven consecutive scoreless appearances, tallying five saves and one win during that span thanks to 60 percent ground ball and 41.4 percent strikeout rates; and coupled with the schedule, he might be one of the week's most productive closers.
But it's the rotation in a curious spot, because fourth and fifth starters Chris Archer and Roberto Hernandez are the ones lined up to pitch twice. Jeremy Hellickson (Wednesday's scheduled starter), who has three consecutive quality starts facing a treacherous schedule (@BOS, TOR, DET); Matt Moore (Thursday), who has three consecutive quality starts of his own and 20 K's in his past two turns; and David Price (Friday), who shut out the Houston Astros for seven innings with 10 K's in his return start from the disabled list and gets to face them again, are no-brainer starts in any format. Archer is the more interesting of the two-start pitchers, thanks to his lifetime 9.57 K's per nine innings ratio at the Triple-A level and 9.00 in the majors. The Astros, remember, are the game's most K-prone team (25.3% rate).
• Scott Feldman makes his second and third starts for the Baltimore Orioles on Monday and Saturday, but he has a pair of challenging matchups in home games against the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays. In his defense, Feldman has five quality starts in his past seven games as well as a 2.49 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in seven career games (three starts) at Camden Yards, and he'll also be facing his former team the Rangers in that first start. He's ranked among the "start-worthy" class this week, but understand he's a risky play if you face an innings/starts cap.
• Bud Norris, even with only one start, would be an intriguing fantasy play judging by his history of success against his former division rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals: He's 8-5 with a 2.74 ERA and 1.14 WHIP against them. Should he pick up a second start, however, it'd come on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays, a team he defeated on July 3 with seven innings of one-run, six-hit baseball.
• 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. Joe Blanton (@CHC, Tuesday): He has 47 K's compared to 6 walks in his past 6 starts, and a 2.93 ERA in 6 career starts versus the Chicago Cubs.
2. Jacob Turner (ATL, Wednesday): He's 5-for-6 in quality starts thus far, with a 53.3 percent ground-ball rate. Keep riding this hot streak.
3. Jonathan Pettibone (CWS, Friday): He has a 2.55 ERA in his seven home starts, and the Chicago White Sox have .249/.298/.363 road rates since June 1.
4. Hector Santiago (CHC, Monday): He's 3-for-5 in quality starts since rejoining the rotation, and the Chicago Cubs have .230/.292/.379 rates since June 1.
5. Barry Zito (NYM, Tuesday): He continues to thrive in home games, with a 4-1 record and 1.98 ERA in 10 starts at AT&T Park this season.
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: Baltimore Orioles 7, Cleveland Indians 7, New York Yankees 7, Seattle Mariners 7, Tampa Bay Rays 7, Arizona Diamondbacks 7, Philadelphia Phillies 7, San Diego Padres 7
Versus RH: Boston Red Sox 7, Cleveland Indians 6, New York Yankees 6, Texas Rangers 6, Arizona Diamondbacks 6, Atlanta Braves 6, Cincinnati Reds 6
Versus LH: Detroit Tigers 5, Philadelphia Phillies 4
• Right-handed Detroit Tigers enjoy a noticeable advantage this week, what with the team scheduled to face five left-handed starters. Johnny Peralta gets the most sizable boost as a .363/.433/.525 hitter against southpaws this season. Omar Infante is also a .291/.333/.512 hitter against lefties, and he's available in 11.9 percent in ESPN leagues.
If you play in an AL-only or deep mixed (think 18-plus teams) league, keep in mind that the Tigers use a straight platoon of Andy Dirks and Matt Tuiasosopo in left field. Dirks has started just one of the team's 17 games against a lefty starter all year and Tuiasosopo 15, and Tuiasosopo is a .341/.500/.477 hitter against left-handers this season.
• The Boston Red Sox, meanwhile, enjoy a similar advantage thanks to all seven of their games being against right-handed starters. This team, after all, leads the majors in all three triple-slash categories (.291/.360/.475) as well as wOBA (.359) against righties, and the reason is simple: Daniel Nava and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are underrated options against that side.
Saltalamacchia is a .282/.335/.503 hitter against righties this year, .258/.322/.460 in his career, and he has started 52 of the team's 59 games against a righty starter in 2013. Nava, meanwhile, is a .303/.397/.472 hitter against righties this season, .277/.380/.427 in his career, and he has 56 starts against that side in 2013.
• Carl Crawford (hamstring) is due back with the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 5, and that puts the team's outfield under the microscope. Rookie Yasiel Puig has performed too well to return to the minors, meaning that at-bats will be up for grabs among Crawford, Puig, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.
Even with the potential loss of at-bats, however, all four Dodgers outfielders warrant your attention in most leagues thanks to the team's favorable schedule. This team avoids the Arizona Diamondbacks' best starter, Patrick Corbin, during its three-game, week-opening series at Chase Field and faces Jhoulys Chacin but not Jorge De La Rosa during a four-game, week-ending series at home against the Colorado Rockies. Ethier might be the most obvious candidate to sit, but keep this in mind: He's a .338/.402/.459 hitter in his past 21 games (entering July 5's play), and the Dodgers face five right-handed starters this week.
9hEric D. Williams
16mChris Broussard and Marc Stein