-- With Sunday being the natural "next start" day for pitchers working on Tuesday, many of the All-Star game hurlers, including both starters, are on the docket. All-in-all, it's a very strong set with only eight of the announced starters starting the second half with a losing record. Granted, wins and losses aren't the best measure but it does speak towards the above average quality of the slate. This should avail more streaming options that usual along with making it harder to find quality hitting. But have no fear, we're here to help with everything you need to end the first post-break weekend on a high note.
Max Scherzer entered the break leading the league in strikeouts, fueled by a career high K/9. However, he's already matched last season's walk total in 101 fewer innings along with sporting a career-worst 1.5 HR/9. Still, with all the injuries and disappointments among the perceived top starting pitchers this year, those who drafted Scherzer have nothing to complain about. The Washington Nationals' right-hander embarks on the second half with a home affair against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Bucs don't offer any additional strikeout upside, but the prolific strikeout artist doesn't need any help to be worth in all fantasy formats.
The 2016 version of Chris Sale, however, isn't nearly as dominant as previous campaigns, and his strikeout potential is more influenced by the opponent. Unfortunately, the Chicago White Sox lefty follows up his Midsummer Classic start with a date in Anaheim against the toughest club (by far) for left-handers to whiff. The Los Angeles Angels also sport an above average weighted on base average (wOBA) against lefties, meaning Sale is a risky DFS option.
Remember when everyone was worried about Jacob deGrom's drop in velocity? Take heed, the New York Mets' right-hander is back to where he was last season, increasing his average and maximum velocity significantly over his last eight games as compared to his first seven outings. The club delayed his post-break debut to give the 28-year old a little extra rest. The problem for DFS gamers is that there is nothing special about his matchup with the Philadelphia Phillies in Citizens Bank Park. If you have him in a season-long league, you can anticipate a strong stretch run from deGrom and there will be many chances to use him in daily, this just isn't one of them.
Johnny Cueto is almost always the ideal cash game pitcher. When he faces a lesser offense that is also generous with respect to strikeouts, the National League's All-Star starter is also a great GPP candidate. Such is the case this time as Cueto draws the light-hitting San Diego Padres in Petco Park. The hosts check in with a meek .294 wOBA against righties with a bloated 24 percent strikeout rate in that scenario. Cueto's strikeout rate is merely league average, but he goes very deep into ballgames, gaining DFS points in that manner.
David Price went into the break with three straight efforts featuring 10 whiffs to only one walk, the last over eight innings. In fact, five of the lefty's last eight outings have been eight frames. There was a lot of bad pitching contributing to Price's 4.34 ERA, but there are several signs he's in store for a typically elite second half. Price's rebound begins with a Sunday night affair against the rival New York Yankees in the Bronx. The veteran southpaw is a fine choice for DFS as well as a viable GPP option if you don't mind a Sunday evening sweat.
If the rumors are true, every game Rich Hill starts for the Oakland Athletics could be his last. Interested teams will no doubt be watching as the 36-year old is tested by the powerful Toronto Blue Jays, albeit in pitcher-friendly O.Co Coliseum. Hill's 10.7 K/9 puts him in play as a GPP option, though it does come with the risk of facing an offense toting a .340 wOBA against lefties.
Kenta Maeda entered the four-day respite on a high note as he twirled the best outing of his rookie campaign last Sunday, fanning a whopping 14 Padres with nary a free pass, working seven innings for the second time this season. Coming out of the break won't be so easy as the Los Angeles Dodgers wrap up a set in the desert against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Maeda is usually better suited for DFS cash play, but this time he's a better GPP option, as the Snakes are dangerous in hitter-friendly Chase Field but do fan at an elevated rate.
Jon Gray, Collin McHugh, Michael Fulmer, John Lackey and Julio Teheran are all solid starters, but none really stand out in terms of DFS potential so we'll open the floor for questions on this group and move onto the all-important streaming section. Please don't hesitate to ask about anything germane to today's notes in the comments or via Twitter to @ToddZola.
Zach Davies is owned in just 29 percent of ESPN leagues, which is fair based on his uneven first-half performance. Sunday's date with the Cincinnati Reds in the Great American Ballpark won't be easy, but keep in mind the venue actually depresses run-scoring despite being a homer haven. Davies' 1.3 HR/9 is a concern, but the Reds are merely average offensively, so he's in play if you can absorb a possible hit to your ratios.
Davies' mound foe will be Dan Straily, who is in a similar spot as his counterpart. Straily has recorded a similar ERA and WHIP compared to Davies, yet is owned in far fewer leagues, checking in at eight percent. The primary advantage Straily has is extra strikeout potential, as the Brewers lead the league in punch outs versus righties.
Adam Conley leads the Miami Marlins into Busch Stadium to face Michael Wacha and the St. Louis Cardinals in another matchup of viable streaming options. Wacha's previous exploits have him at 80 percent ownership despite a down campaign, while Conley -- with significantly better numbers -- is on a roster in just 32 percent of ESPN leagues. Conley also makes an under-the-radar GPP choice.
The Houston Astros have been the best team in baseball since late May, so recommending Seattle Mariners lefty Mike Montgomery comes with some risk. However, the eight percent owned southpaw has Safeco Field at his back while his mates have been doing some raking of their own.
Those taking a chance on J.A. Happ in seasonal formats, despite the move to hitter-friendly Rogers Centre, have been handsomely rewarded. However, brace yourself for an ERA correction as the left-hander out-pitched his peripherals, boasting a 3.36 ERA as compared to a more predictive 4.29 xFIP. That said, the regression may be delayed with Happ working in the cavernous O.Co Coliseum on Sunday.
Astute fantasy owners were aware that the Baltimore Orioles were using Dylan Bundy in multiple inning stints, ostensibly to stretch him out to start after the break. The club has not committed to using the former top prospect in the rotation going forward, but he's in a great spot if this is an audition. The 23-year old righty takes on the strikeout-happy Tampa Bay Rays in pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field. Hopefully you are one of the seven percent ahead of the curve, stashing Bundy in an ESPN league. If not, grab him.
Even though not every option falling in the streaming range was not highlighted, there isn't a single arm too risky to categorically avoid. As mentioned earlier, if you'd like a few words on one of these options, hit me up in the comments and I'll be glad to abide.
The projected team hitter rankings corroborate a better-than-average pitching slate, as only one squad comes in at eight, four more at six, with everyone else five or below. This makes checking lineups even more important than usual to find DFS bargains, since the way to attack this sort of slate is with a couple of mini-stacks with star hitters balanced with some punt plays. Keep in mind that even though most regulars just received a well-needed break, managers will want to keep their reserves sharp, so expect to see the usual complement of backups in the Sunday lineups.
The Milwaukee Brewers own the highest hitting ranking for their road affair against Straily. They're a predominantly right-handed squad, but that meshes with Straily, who doesn't exhibit significant splits. Jonathan Villar and Scooter Gennett will be the table setters for Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy and Chris Carter. Consider Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Ramon Flores for cheaper stacking options.
The White Sox are in play facing Jeff Weaver and his 1.9 HR/9. Adam Eaton may not have pop, but he could be on base to score on a mate's round-tripper. The most logical candidates are Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier and the newly activated Justin Morneau.
Robbie Ray has well above average strikeout potential, but he also struggles with control and the long ball. This leads to early exits and thus extra bullpen innings. The Dodgers will look to take advantage of the promising but still maturing southpaw with Howie Kendrick, Justin Turner, Yasiel Puig and Scott Van Slyke the primary beneficiaries enjoying the platoon edge.
Edwin Jackson slots into the Drew Pomeranz spot in the rotation for the Padres, at least for Sunday's Petco Field date with the San Francisco Giants. Jackson is a weak pitcher with only home-field advantage and a depleted Giants' lineup keeping him from the avoid section. Many will be using an all-in Giants stack, but quite frankly, the available sticks aren't that potent. It's best to get some exposure with Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford then seek more hitting elsewhere.
Most likely to go yard: For a guy with so much raw power, Harper hasn't made this space very much. That's about to change, beginning with taking Kuhl deep on Sunday.
Most likely to swipe a bag: Villar is off and running again in the second half and is in a great spot to keep on trucking against the Reds' battery.