The time after the All-Star break may be referred to as the second half, but Sunday marks the true midpoint of the season. It's a balanced slate, featuring a marquee matchup between Carlos Martinez and Max Scherzer as well as an intriguing pairing with Luis Severino facing the surging Mike Fiers.
Here are some names to consider as we wrap up the real first half of the campaign.
Pitchers to stream
Alex Cobb (R), 41 percent ownership in ESPN leagues, Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles: After absorbing a shellacking from the Mariners to open June, Cobb reeled off four straight quality starts, allowing just five earned tallies in 27 2/3 innings. He only fanned 18, but didn't surrender a homer in that stretch. That's the key to this matchup as the Orioles rely on homers and the ball has been flying out of Camden Yards lately.
Nick Pivetta (R), 5 percent, Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets: As a rookie, Pivetta will have his ups and downs. He's coming off a poor effort in the desert, where walks helped the Diamondbacks knock him out in the third inning. Previous to that effort, the 24-year old righty fanned 19 in his previous 13 stanzas. Something in between will be just fine taking on a Mets squad that has been hitting right-handers well of late.
Trevor Williams (R), 4 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. San Francisco Giants: Williams is in a great spot to continue the roll he enjoyed closing out June, fanning seven in each of his past two starts last month. July opens with the offensively challenged Giants in pitcher-friendly PNC Park.
Hector Santiago (L), 3 percent, Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals: This is for those chasing a win needed to put them over the top as the fantasy week ends. Santiago has lost his last six decisions, including five straight. However, he draws Travis Wood, coming out of the bullpen after the clubs played a twin bill Saturday. The Royals don't hit lefties well, so hope for five frames and some yeoman work by the beleaguered Twins bullpen.
Pitchers to avoid
Both Martinez and Severino are tasked with slowing down prolific lineups as the Cardinals host the Nationals while the Yankees visit the Astros. However, both have earned the right to be in your lineup. There aren't any other upper-end pitchers to consider avoiding.
The Rangers finally pulled the plug on Matt Bush, lifting him from the closer role. The successor will be Keone Kela, but he's nursing biceps tendinitis. Until Kela is ready, which shouldn't be long, look for Jose Leclerc and Alex Claudio to be used as the situation dictates.
Projected game scores
GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. A "*" means that the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author's ratings.
Mike Zunino (R), 38 percent, Seattle Mariners at Los Angeles Angels (RHP Jesse Chavez): Pop quiz, courtesy of ESPN research assistant Kyle Soppe: Who led MLB in June RBIs? Yeah, it was Zunino, but would you have guessed that if he wasn't the subject of this blurb? Zunino slashed .304/.371/.722 last month, featuring 13 extra-base hits and 31 RBIs. Soppe further points out that Chavez demonstrates reverse splits, which can be real for a pitcher. Zunino is in a great spot to kick off July with a bang.
Mitch Moreland (L), 25 percent, Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Joe Biagini): After sitting out Saturday with a lefty on the hill for the Jays, Moreland will be back cleaning up for a Red Sox lineup showing signs of getting in gear.
Cory Spangenberg (L), 2 percent, San Diego Padres vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (RHP Kenta Maeda): Back in the rotation, Maeda is coming off a fine outing against the crosstown Angels. Spangenberg isn't in a great spot, but options at the hot corner are scant, and he does enjoy the platoon edge from the potentially productive five-hole.
Freddy Galvis (B), 11 percent, Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets (RHP Rafael Montero): Shortstop is another position with a paucity of possibilities, so let's turn to a switch hitter usually sitting in the two-hole who is facing a pitcher not likely to work deep into the contest. As such, Montero will enjoy the platoon bump regardless of the pitcher the Mets bring out of the bullpen.
Danny Valencia (R), 17 percent, Seattle Mariners at Los Angeles Angels (RHP Jesse Chavez): Let's take further advantage of Chavez's reverse splits with a guy hitting seven of his eight homers off a right-hander so far this season.
Alen Hanson (B), less than 1 percent, Chicago White Sox vs. Texas Rangers (RHP Tyson Ross): Hanson has assumed the leadoff spot for the White Sox. The Pale Hose have been crushing southpaws while struggling versus righties. Ross is still finding his stride after an extended stint on the disabled list, so look for Hanson to trigger a rare productive affair against a right-hander.
Jon Jay (L), 1 percent, Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati Reds (RHP Tim Adleman): Anthony Rizzo's days hitting leadoff didn't last long, with Jay now sitting atop the Cubs order. The defending world champs' offense has been sluggish but has a chance to recapture last season's effectiveness facing a middling righty in a homer-friendly park.
Nick Williams (L), 2 percent, Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets (RHP Rafael Montero): Williams was recently recalled, pushing Daniel Nava to a reserve role. Williams is a highly regarded prospect, earning a promotion with a .839 OPS at Triple-A Lehigh. He has been hitting from the productive five-hole, where he'll enjoy the platoon edge on Montero.
Hitter matchup ratings
Notes: Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's history (three years' worth, as well as the past 21 days) and ballpark factors. "LH" and "RH" ratings account only for left- and right-handed batters, respectively. Weighted on-base average (wOBA) is the primary statistic used in the calculation. Ratings range from 1 to 10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. So, for example, a 10 is a must-start rating, whereas a 1 should be avoided (if possible); a 1-2 is poor, 3-4 is fair, 5-6 is average, 7-8 is very good and 9-10 is excellent.