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Baseball's mathematical midway point of the season passed during the past week, and its traditional midway point arrives at the conclusion of Week 14. The three-day All-Star break that follows it -- four days for the 28 teams that aren't the Houston Astros or Texas Rangers, the only teams to play on Thursday, July 11 -- affords teams the opportunity to provide tired players some rest, particularly starting pitchers, who are more subject to shifting assignments this week than under normal circumstances. Teams will often send younger starters with options to the minor leagues since the break eats into the 10-day minimum requirement for a demotion, meaning there's greater risk of projected two-start pitchers losing second assignments -- or Monday/Tuesday starters picking up second turns should teams skip those pitchers. The Astros have already demoted fifth starter Framber Valdez to Triple-A Round Rock, as one example, and Adbert Alzolay of the Cubs, Cincinnati's Tyler Mahle, Cleveland's Adam Plutko and San Diego's Logan Allen and Chris Paddack are all pitchers who seem particularly at risk of having their Week 14 schedules altered. Conversely, Yu Darvish (Cubs), Tanner Roark (Reds) and German Marquez (Rockies) all have decent odds of picking up either a second start or some weekend relief work. The Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees, meanwhile, have rotations that are entirely in flux entering Week 14 due to rotational announcements impacting the June 28-30 weekend.
In ESPN head-to-head leagues, "Week 14" spans both the next seven days as well as the four-day period that immediately follows the All-Star break, covering the July 1-14 time period. Unfortunately, due to the break providing teams the luxury of resetting rotations, we generally do not get any announcements regarding second-half rotations until very close to the break -- usually during the July 5-7 weekend (if not during the break itself) -- so we cannot project starters for those four days. This Forecaster edition covers only the upcoming seven days, but in terms of volume advantages during the July 1-14 scoring period, the Tampa Bay Rays and Rangers are the only teams to play as many as 11 games, while the Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels, Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres and Toronto Blue Jays each play 10. Conversely, the Arizona Diamondbacks, Indians, Colorado Rockies and New York Mets draw the short end of the stick, with only eight games apiece. The Rangers play eight of their 11 games at home, at hitting-friendly Globe Life Park, while the Reds are the team visiting Coors Field from July 12-14.
There is an early start to Week 14, due to Canada Day on Monday, with the Blue Jays hosting the Royals with a 1:07 p.m. ET scheduled first pitch. This is the finale of a four-game weekend wrap-around series. Don't forget to set your lineups earlier than usual! In two other scheduling quirks, Wednesday's first game has a 2:10 p.m. ET first pitch, as the first game of a doubleheader between the Tigers and Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field, the result of an April 27 postponement. Thursday -- which is Independence Day -- sees play begin at 11:05 a.m. ET, with the traditional morning game hosted by the Washington Nationals. The Miami Marlins are the visitors for that one. Eight of the day's 12 scheduled July 4 games will start during daylight hours.
The Boston Red Sox return from London only to immediately hit the road, making three-game stops at both Toronto's Rogers Centre and Detroit's Comerica Park following their Monday travel day. (Incidentally, the Yankees, their opponent during that two-game, June 29-30 overseas series, also technically "hit the road" with only road games during Week 14, though they start in New York for a pair at the Mets.) As the effects of travel caused by that series have no precedent, it's unclear whether the Red Sox will suffer any sort of statistically influenced fatigue, but at least they couldn't ask for much more favorable a first week back in the U.S. than to face pitching staffs that rank 28th (5.96) and 27th (5.52) in team ERA in June, as well as offenses that rank 17th (4.92) and 30th (3.43) in runs-per-game during the month. Jackie Bradley Jr. (63% available in ESPN leagues), Michael Chavis (58%) and Christian Vazquez (79%) remain widely available players who have turned in productive recent runs, while Brandon Workman (89%) has been one of the team's most effective relievers of late, posting a 0.71 ERA, four relief wins and a 33.3% strikeout rate in 13 June appearances.
It's not a bad idea, however, to hedge on the Red Sox endorsement, picking from their opponents' offenses -- those of the Blue Jays and Tigers -- especially since the Red Sox's bullpen has underperformed of late, with a major league-leading seven blown saves in June. The Blue Jays benefit from seven home games, one of only three teams that can claim that many, while the Tigers play seven games due to the aforementioned doubleheader -- and will miss Lucas Giolito in the White Sox rotation to begin their week. From the Blue Jays, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (48% available in ESPN leagues) is on a massive tear with the bat, and Cavan Biggio (90%) is well worth the weekly add. From the Tigers, Jeimer Candelario (96%), a .333/.364/.595 hitter during 10 games of a recent stint with Triple-A Toledo, is worth plug-and-play consideration in 14-team mixed and AL-only leagues.
Interleague play will be particularly problematic during Week 14 for three American League teams that visit National League parks: The Indians, who have been rotating Carlos Santana and Bobby Bradley between first base and designated hitter (and not to mention have only five games this week); the Astros, who have Yordan Alvarez at DH but previously had to choose between him and Michael Brantley in left field for such games (and also play only five games); and the Yankees, who typically shuffle Edwin Encarnacion and Luke Voit between first base and DH, not to mention have the aforementioned possible fatigue factor. All six hitters are fantasy-relevant but will suffer accordingly in terms of volume. The Indians and Yankees play the majority of Week 14 in pitching-friendly venues to boot. In addition to the Indians and Astros, the Diamondbacks, Rockies and Mets are the other three teams scheduled for only five games leading up to the break.
Joey Gallo's return to the Rangers came at an opportune time, what with the team playing a full seven-game Week 14 with four of those at hitting-friendly Globe Life Park -- plus three at Minnesota's Target Field, while missing Jose Berrios in the Twins rotation. Naturally, Gallo warrants immediate activation in all leagues, but as the Rangers are scheduled to face five (and possibly six) right-handed starters, their left handed-heavy lineup should bring a lot of fantasy value overall. Willie Calhoun (88% available in ESPN leagues) is a .391/.417/.674 hitter against right-handers, Shin-Soo Choo (32%) is a .307/.406/.555 hitter against righties and Ronald Guzman (99%) is a .252/.331/.478 hitter against righties. They all warrant places on your team this week.
Cubs left-handed bats should reap similar rewards in a week heavy on opposing right-handed starting pitching. The team is set to face nothing but right-handed starters in their six Week 14 games. Only the Saturday matchup against White Sox breakout righty Lucas Giolito is a truly scary matchup for these hitters. Kyle Schwarber (35% available in ESPN leagues) is a .229/.323/.477 hitter against right-handed pitchers, while Jason Heyward (66%) has slashed .291/.387/.488 against them.
If you're looking for righty/lefty matchup advantages among players more suited for deep-mixed (think 14-plus-team) or "only" leagues, consider: Matt Adams (99% available in ESPN leagues) and his .541 slugging percentage against righties, whose Nationals face six right-handed starters; Derek Dietrich (65%) and Jesse Winker (64%), .226/.361/.610 and .267/.347/.518 hitters against righties, whose Reds face six right-handed starters; Brian McCann (94%), a .293/.366/.520 hitter against righties, whose Atlanta Braves face six right-handed starters; Leury Garcia (93%) and James McCann (72%), .329/.376/.494 and .333/.419/.593 hitters against lefties, whose White Sox face five left-handed starters; Josh Phegley (76%) and Chad Pinder (95%), .333/.345/.627 and .286/.341/.481 hitters against lefties, whose Oakland Athletics face four left-handed starters; Bryan Reynolds (71%), a .353/.423/.532 hitter against righties, whose Pirates face six right-handed starters; Eric Thames (96%), a .258/.369/.497 hitter against righties, whose Brewers face six right-handed starters.