Welcome to the last slate before the break. This is always a touchy day to set lineups as clubs look to give regulars an extended rest and often change plans on a whim. At least the Texas Rangers have already announced Mike Minor's Sunday start will be skipped with Joe Palumbo stepping in, putting any available Minnesota Twins batter in play. Minor is an American League All Star, although there's no report on his availability for the Midsummer Classic.
The most intriguing matchup features a pair of right-handers with All-Star aspirations looking to continue their resurgence after a sluggish start to the campaign as Aaron Nola and the Philadelphia Phillies wrap up a weekend set in Queens, squaring off with Zack Wheeler and the New York Mets.
Enjoy the All-Star festivities, and we'll be back with you next Friday. However, there's still a little work to be done. Here are some recommendations so you can head into the break on a high note.
Ross Stripling (R), rostered in 49 percent of ESPN leagues, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Diego Padres: Stripling has yet to toss five frames since moving back into the rotation, however he worked 4 ⅔ innings last time, throwing 81 pitches, so he should be stretched out enough to go deeper and qualify for a win. Stripling fanned seven Diamondbacks in that effort and now draws a Padres lineup whiffing the most of any team with a righty on the hill.
Jeff Samardzija (R), 7 percent, San Francisco Giants vs. St. Louis Cardinals: It's never easy clicking Samardzija into your lineup. When the matchup appears favorable, he gets blown up, only to stifle a potent offense while he's on your bench or in the free-agent pool. That said, the numbers suggest this is a good spot for The Shark, taking the hill at pitcher-friendly Oracle Park against one of the league's weaker lineups facing right-handers.
Jose Urquidy (R), 6 percent, Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Angels: The silver lining after making your rookie debut in Coors Field is you're given a pass, essentially working with a clean slate next time out. Such is the case for Urquidy as he survived Colorado and now will make his inaugural start at home. Especially with Corbin Martin recently undergoing Tommy John surgery, Urquidy will be counted on to give the Astros rotation some innings over the second half. The 24-year-old right-hander's strikeout rate improved significantly this season. While it remains to be seen if he can maintain the growth at the MLB level, the Houston organization is at the forefront of using advanced metrics to hone their hurler's repertoire.
Tyler Mahle (R), 6 percent, Cincinnati Reds vs. Cleveland Indians: Mahle is the riskiest of the featured starters, but he's been racking up punchouts lately and faces an American League team devoid of their designated hitter. If you're concerned about ratios, look elsewhere, but if you're in a points league favoring strikeouts, Mahle is in play.
Bullpen: Even with Blake Treinen back, the Oakland Athletics announced Liam Hendriks will remain their closer. Obviously, things could change, but Hendriks is worthy of the gig, punching out at least one batter in 13 straight appearances, whiffing a robust 27 over those 15 ⅓ innings. With the impending break, several clubs are taking an "all hands on deck" approach. In the intro, Joe Palumbo was identified as replacing Mike Minor. He is, but in the bulk pitcher role with Jose Leclerc opening. Kyle Gibson is slated to take the hill for the Twins in that game but he's only going to throw a couple innings with Devin Smeltzer next out of the gate. the Mariners are deploying a pair that's enjoyed some success in this manner with Matt Carasiti opening for southpaw Wade LeBlanc.
Catcher -- Jorge Alfaro (R), 26%, Miami Marlins at Atlanta Braves (LHP Dallas Keuchel): The catcher position has been better than expected, however most of the added production comes from the Junior Circuit. Alfaro is one of the exceptions, with 10 homers already, matching his career high from last season. Alfaro has been dialed in since missing time in late June, slashing 318/.318/.545 since coming off the AL a week ago.
First Base -- Ryan Zimmerman (R), 5%, Washington Nationals vs. Kansas City Royals (RHP Jakob Junis): It's not a sure thing Zimmerman will be active, but if he isn't, Matt Adams is the plug-and-play pivot. Zimmerman recently returned from an IL visit beginning on April 27. He has a modest three-game hitting streak heading into the break.
Second Base -- Michael Chavis (R), 43 percent, Boston Red Sox at Detroit Tigers (LHP Gregory Soto): Chavis is back to torturing opposing pitching after going through a stretch where he fanned at close to a 40 percent clip. It's been half that for the past week, buoying a 1.053 OPS featuring three long balls.
Third Base -- Robel Garcia (S), 1%, Chicago Cubs at Chicago White Sox (RHP Ivan Nova): Garcia is an intriguing option heading into the break as Addison Russell is falling even further out of favor with the Cubs' brass. Garcia was in the Indians organization from 2010-2013. A Cubs scout saw him playing in Italy, resulting in Robles signing with the team and beginning the season with Double-A Tennessee before joining Triple-A Iowa. Robles hit a combined 21 homers in the high minors, playing all around the infield. Joe Maddon has always favored players able to play multiple positions, so if Daniel Descalso, David Bote and Russell don't get going, Garcia could see fairly regular playing time.
Shortstop -- Garrett Hampson (R), 6%, Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks (LHP Alex Young): Trevor Story is back, pushing Hampson back into a reserve role. However, there's a solid chance he'll play Sunday, enjoying the platoon edge on a raw lefty. While it's yet to manifest, Hampson still possesses the ability to bolster steals after the break.
Corner Infield -- Brandon Drury (R), 1 percent, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Baltimore Orioles (RHP Asher Wojciechowski): The Jays' corner outfield is a bit banged up heading into the break with Drury the beneficiary as far as playing time coming his way as a result. He's taking advantage, garnering hits in three consecutive contests, including a pair of doubles and two big flies.
Middle Infield -- Andrelton Simmons (R), 47%, Los Angeles Angels at Houston Astros (RHP Jose Urquidy): It's easy for Simmons' return from the IL to get lost in the shuffle with a whopping 23 shortstop-eligible players landing in the Top-100 fantasy batters according to the Player Rater. Still, he's worth a look for a post-break boost, contributing across the board in roto leagues and extra useful in points leagues penalizing strikeouts.
Outfield -- Corey Dickerson (L), 41%, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Milwaukee Brewers (RHP Chase Anderson): Dickerson has tailed off after starting out strong in his return from the IL, though it's encouraging he hasn't fanned in his last two games. That may seem like faint praise, but it's actually a good sign for a batter getting back on track.
Outfield -- Jorge Soler (R), 41%, Kansas City Royals at Washington Nationals (LHP Patrick Corbin): Corbin has done a better job keeping the ball in the yard lately, however 11 of the 13 homers (and 13 of 14 doubles) have come courtesy of a right-handed swinger. After hitting 23 homers from 2016-2018, Soler has already matched that total, also adding 17 two-baggers to his ledger.
Outfield -- Anthony Santander (S), 1%, Baltimore Orioles at Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Trent Thornton): Not a top prospect, Santander is being afforded a decent look by the rebuilding Orioles. After starting well, the 24-year old fly-chaser is in a tailspin. However, Thornton has been one of the worst starters in the league the Past month, so Santander is Sunday's deep-league special.