And we're back! Hopefully you enjoyed the All-Star week festivities while taking stock of your fantasy squads. However, the break is over and it's back to the grind.
Several MLB clubs haven't announced their plans coming out of the break, so be sure to check back as we'll refresh the notes and rankings as weekend rotations are crystalized.
Here are some names to get you started, all available in at least half of ESPN leagues and in a great spot to start the second half on a strong note.
Dylan Bundy (R), rostered in 25% of ESPN leagues, Baltimore Orioles vs. Tampa Bay Rays: Bundy's name has been bandied about as a target for contending teams seeking to fortify their rotations. Looking at the surface numbers, one might ask, "Why?" Digging deeper, Bundy is a fly ball pitcher in one of the worst parks for guys of that ilk, especially in the current landscape. His walks are a tad high, but still reasonable. Bundy's strikeout rate is above average with room to grow in a better scenario. In situations you can stash a player for the next three weeks, Bundy is a fine speculative pickup, hoping he gets dealt to a pitching venue. He's also in play Friday, facing the 20th-ranked team in terms of homers versus right-handed pitching.
Danny Duffy (L), 7%, Kansas City Royals vs. Detroit Tigers: Based on surface stats, Duffy is a league average pitcher. However, a low strikeout rate renders the southpaw below average for fantasy purposes. That said, below average can be useful in the right situation, such as starting against the 26th-ranked offense facing lefties, with the fifth-highest strikeout pace in that scenario.
Jason Vargas (L), 6%, New York Mets at Miami Marlins: Since April 19, Vargas has quietly spun a 2.76 ERA and 1.16 WHIP, supported by a reasonable 60 strikeouts in 65 1/3 innings. It should be noted, despite the overall strong number, Vargas threw fewer than five frames in five of those dozen outings. Not surprisingly, a 4.98 xFIP foreshadows an uptick in Vargas' actual 3.77 ERA. Despite the impending correction, Vargas is in play, facing the league's least productive lineup versus lefties.
Diego Castillo is on rehab but is expected to be activated in time for Friday's opener of a four-game set as the Rays visit the Orioles. Castillo and Emilio Pagan are widely available and earmarked to share closing duties for Tampa Bay. It could be busy this weekend, with a twin bill on the docket for Saturday.
The Angels begin the second half with Taylor Cole opening for Felix Pena in their weekend set with the Mariners. Half of Pena's six wins have come as "primary pitcher" when he worked fewer than five innings. He's certainly benefiting from the scoring quirk, along with pitching well, having fanned 58 over those 52 innings. On a night where spot starters are scant, Pena is in play facing a lineup striking out 25% of the time against right-handed pitching.
Catcher -- Danny Jansen (R), 36%, Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees (RHP Domingo German): Forget catchers, Jansen was one of the hottest hitters entering the break. Since June 25, Jansen has hit a robust .400 (16-for-40) with 11 extra-base hits.
First Base -- Miguel Cabrera (R), 50%, Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals (LHP Danny Duffy): Yes, friends, unless Cabrera demonstrates otherwise, he's now a situational play, best deployed with a lefty on the hill. Over the first half, Cabrera slashed .319/.411 /.532 with the platoon edge.
Second Base -- Kevin Newman (R), 21%, Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs (RHP Yu Darvish): Middle infield has been a productive position over the first half, so it's understandable how Newman remains available in about 80% of leagues. That said, his production warrants a closer look, especially in points leagues since he gets on base and doesn't fan much, two traits favored by most points-leagues scoring. Newman can also steal a base, which could come in handy as Darvish is lax when it comes to controlling the running game.
Third Base -- Joey Wendle (L), 14%, Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles (RHP Dylan Bundy): Wendle started the season late and has yet to get in a groove, though his track record portends a solid second half, particularly facing a righty.
Shortstop -- Andrelton Simmons (R), 47%, Los Angeles Angels vs. Seattle Mariners (RHP Mike Leake): Like with Newman, it's easy to see why Simmons is a bit lost in the shuffle. There are a whopping 20 shortstop-eligible batters in the top 80 hitters, according to the ESPN Player Rater. Granted, several are eligible at other position, but this is the golden game of shortstops. Don't hesitate to move your shortstop to another position while backfilling the spot with Simmons. When healthy, Simmons is easily one of the 20 best at the position.
Corner Infield -- Eric Thames (L), 6%, Milwaukee Brewers vs. San Francisco Giants (RHP Shaun Anderson): Jesus Aguilar falling short of expectations thrust Thames back into regular play against right-handed pitching, where he again thrived. For the past month, Thames has posted a .999 OPS featuring a half-dozen long balls.
Middle Infield -- Scooter Gennett (L), 44%, Cincinnati Reds at Colorado Rockies (RHP Jon Gray): Gennett was nursing a sore hamstring heading into the break, though he's expected to be ready to go on Friday. If he isn't, Derek Dietrich is the ideal pivot as both have the platoon edge and fly ball tendencies ideal for Coors field.
Outfield -- Jorge Soler (R), 41%, Kansas City Royals vs. Detroit Tigers (Undecided): Soler is in play regardless but is in an especially favorable spot if lefty Daniel Norris takes the hill for Detroit. It's not as much the platoon edge on his end as 19 of Soler's 23 homers have come courtesy of a right-hander. It's more that Norris entered the break in a rut and is vulnerable to righty swingers.
Outfield -- Jackie Bradley Jr. (L), 39%, Boston Red Sox vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (RHP Kenta Maeda): Bradley has cooled a bit in July after a scorching June. Even so, the landing point is that of a productive hitter, primed for a solid second half in a lineup that has been on the upswing.
Outfield -- Manuel Margot (R), 5%, San Diego Padres vs. Atlanta Braves (LHP Dallas Keuchel): The rise of homers has made front page news. However, the dearth of steals barely gets mentioned. Whenever you can float in a player in a great spot for a bag, it's worth considering. The Padres check in with a "10" in the steals department in Friday's ranking, with Margot a prime option to take advantage.