-- Well that was fun, but now it's time to get back to the grind and go about helping you with all things fantasy baseball. The good news is since we're coming off the break, all the teams have their rotations set so we can plan accordingly. Oh wait, no they don't. We're awaiting word from the desert and the Arizona Diamondbacks as they've been mum on their plans. We even had our first post-break scratch as the Oakland Athletics are giving Rich Hill a couple of extra days for his blister to heal. Everyone else is raring to go and no doubt, so are you, so let's put the break behind us and get to it.
It's hard to believe Madison Bumgarner will turn just 27 years old on Aug. 1. Maybe in a few years the narrative will be how many miles the southpaw has on his priceless left arm, but for now he's one of the most reliable and durable hurlers in the league. Who cares if he worked an inning in the All-Star Game, the San Francisco Giants are giving him the ball against the San Diego Padres in Petco Field. Careful though, the Friars are perceived as a weak offensive unit but they own the fourth-best weighted on base average (wOBA) versus lefties in the league. However, they also whiff at an accelerated clip in those conditions, which gives Bumgarner and his 10.1 K/9 a great platform to have a big game. Some may be scared off by the Padres' prowess versus left-handers, but that's a mistake.
As expected, Stephen Strasburg will open the second half for the Washington Nationals, taking on the Pittsburgh Pirates in a home affair. Strasburg last worked on July 8, but with his recent back and rib woes, the club wanted to make sure he was good to go after his bullpen session on Tuesday. It won't be easy for the right-hander as the Bucs hit righties well, but they're also very punchout prone. Bumgarner looks better for cash with Strasburg having the edge in GPP play.
Despite the break, Carlos Carrasco will be working on standard rest, which is a good thing since he was sent to the showers early last time out. The New York Yankees knocked the Cleveland Indians righty out after he pitched just 3 2/3 innings, throwing only 81 pitches. That was one of the few blemishes on a solid first half that was interrupted by a stint on the disabled list with a hamstring issue. The catch is that in the spring, many expected Carrasco to be better than just solid. True, he opens the second half borderline elite but some of that is matchup driven. If you're in a seasonal league and need some pitching help down the stretch, Carrasco is a great arm to target. Friday's date with the Minnesota Twins in Target Field is a nice launching point. The home team is average versus right-handers though it is susceptible to a strikeout pitcher. Use Carrasco with confidence in all DFS formats.
If there's one pitcher who really needs to kick off the post-break action with a strong effort, it's Chris Archer. The problem is he's tasked with slowing down the high-flying Baltimore Orioles, albeit at home in Tropicana Field. Strikeouts have not been an issue for the Tampa Bay Rays right-hander; control and homers, however, have been major concerns. The visitors' wOBA versus righties is second best in the league, but they also whiff a lot, rendering Archer a prototypical GPP hurler.
Anthony DeSclafani hopes the long layoff won't slow the roll he was on. The Cincinnati Reds right-hander was in a groove after missing the first couple months of the season with a strained left oblique. In the four outings previous to the break, the last of which was nine days ago, DeSclafani fanned an impressive 25 to only three walks in those 27 2/3 innings. He's in a great spot to build on that as the Milwaukee Brewers and the league's poorest strikeout rate versus righties open a series in the Great American Ballpark. The punchout potential yields DeSclafani as a fine tournament option with a floor safe enough to use in DFS cash play as well.
Justin Verlander's walk and whiff rates are on a par with when he was one of the top hurlers in the league. However, he's serving up more homers and isn't going as deep into games. The Detroit Tigers righty is still capable of a dominating performance at any time; there's also more of a chance he turns in a clunker. The Kansas City Royals open the post-break festivities in Motown, toting a league-average offense into Comerica Park. There's nothing special giving Verlander a high DFS ceiling, but there's also nothing hurting his floor. If you're playing just one contest there are better options, but if you're a multi-lineup grinder, you'll want some exposure.
If you own Kyle Hendricks in seasonal leagues, beware, regression is impending. That said, the landing point is still quite useful assuming his actual 2.55 ERA adds just the run portended by his 3.46 FIP and 3.85 xFIP. The Chicago Cubs righty is better suited for DFS cash action since his floor is more bankable than hoping for a high strikeout effort. This is especially true with the Texas Rangers visiting Wrigley Field as the guests don't whiff much. However, keep in mind this is an afternoon contest so it won't be on the main DFS slates.
The fact Jaime Garcia is still healthy aside, there are some disappointed with his 4.01 ERA, after all he posted a 2.43 mark last season. Well, it appears 2015 is the outlier as the St. Louis Cardinals lefty's 2016 numbers are in line with the years previous to last season's stellar campaign. However, it wouldn't be shocking if nine days between starts serves to recharge the oft-injured veteran. The visiting Miami Marlins offer Garcia a nice platform to get things going as they're about average versus southpaws with an above-average strikeout rate. Garcia is a cheaper option for tournament play.
Bud Norris has absolutely stunk when facing the Arizona Diamondbacks, sporting a 13.93 ERA in 21 1/3 innings, covering eight appearances with three of those in relief. Guess how many occurred this year? One -- that's it, just one. Norris faced the Snakes twice in 2009 (one start), another start in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015 with a relief outing in 2013. But yet the prevailing analysis will be to fade Norris based on stuff that happened when the D-backs' lineup was completely different. This is not to say that Norris will exact revenge, only that previous outcomes should be categorically ignored. This is a road game in a hitters' park, that hurts Norris. But the hosts fan at an above-average clip and Norris has punched out 40 in his past 35 1/3 innings. Looks like the perfect chance to get low ownership on a GPP-worthy hurler.
Most head-to-head leagues roll the short week into next week, so there's not as much urgency as in a normal Friday, so we'll proceed with a little more caution than normal. If a pitcher is skipped and you want some quick analysis, please post in the comments or shoot me a Tweet to @ToddZola.
Obviously Lucas Harrell isn't a 1.32 ERA pitcher, but his strikeout and walk rates are decent enough to be in play for his date with the Colorado Rockies in Turner Field as he and the Atlanta Braves embark on the second half.
The Tampa Bay Rays are two different teams. There's the version that pounds lefties, then there's the one that will face Yovani Gallardo. The Baltimore Orioles right-hander is a viable streamer as he gets a nice park upgrade and faces a club with a 25 percent strikeout rate against righties.
Hector Santiago has had serious issues with the long ball, despite calling Angels Stadium home. The Chicago White Sox visit the homer-suppressing venue for a weekend set with the Los Angeles Angels. Aiding the Halos lefty is the Pale Hose will tote one of the lowest home run rates versus left-handers to Anaheim.
Toronto Blue Jays righty Marcus Stroman has pitched a full run better than his actual 4.89 ERA, at least according to his expected ERA. Look for the correction to begin with a road tilt against the Oakland Athletics.
The rumor is the Philadelphia Phillies are looking to move Jeremy Hellickson to a contender. The veteran right-hander auditions versus the New York Mets in Citizens Bank Park against a lineup checking in with a below-average wOBA versus righties along with an above-average strikeout rate in those conditions.
Not surprisingly, the list of hurlers to completely avid is short since teams get to reorder their rotations with the lesser arms at the back end. Only Miguel Gonzalez and Martin Perez have projected Game Scores in the avoid range. Perez is definitely too dangerous, though if you have a high tolerance for risk, using Gonzalez can be justified
DFS play is always more interesting when there's no clear-cut, obvious stack. The best locale is in the Queen's City as the Red will take aim against the right-handed slants of the Brewers' Matt Garza. Joey Votto and Jay Bruce make a perfect two-man stack with the platoon edge, while Adam Duvall and Eugenio Suarez have the pop desired for GPP action.
The Chicago Cubs entered the break on a tailspin, but it was from more their pitching than sticks. Expect the bats to pick right back up with Rangers southpaw Martin Perez on the Wrigley Field mound. Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras and Ben Zobrist are the primary targets, though adding Anthony Rizzo could work since many will fade due to the left-on-left matchup. Rizzo can handle southpaws, plus in all likelihood he'll see some bullpen arms. Addison Russell and Javier Baez are nice additions to a full tournament stack.
An under-the-radar stack is the San Francisco Giants in Petco Park against Andrew Cashner. Brandon is the centerpiece along with fellow lefties Denard Span and Brandon Crawford. Switch-hitter Angel Pagan is in play from the 2-hole with Buster Posey always an option.
Most likely to hit a homer: Miguel Cabrera
While it wasn't a true break as Cabrera made his annual trip to the All-Star Game, the four-day respite likely served him well. Look for the recharged slugger to take Ian Kennedy as the Royals righty ended the first half with an unsightly 1.9 HR/9.
Most likely to steal a base: Billy Hamilton
Chalk it is as the Milwaukee Brewers don't defend the running game well, giving Hamilton free run of the basepaths.