Fantasy baseball forecaster for Week 14: July 2-8

Eddie Rosario and the Twins are set up well with good hitting matchups in Week 14. AP

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'The Nine' for Week 14

  • Fourth of July week is one with a greater volume of interleague play than normal, with 32 interleague games out of 93 total on the schedule, and 23 of the 40 from Monday through Wednesday. One American League team spends the entirety of its Week 14 schedule on the road exclusively in National League venues, where it won't have a designated hitter: The Tampa Bay Rays, whose two best power hitters (using isolated power as the measure, as each has .200-plus) for the season are natural first basemen, Jake Bauers and C.J. Cron. Bauers does have outfield experience, so an occasional start in left field is possible, but neither player is quite as attractive a play with their playing time somewhat in question. The focus for the Rays this week, however, is their pitching, as they'll face Miami Marlins and New York Mets offenses that rank 29th (3.61) and 24th (3.97) in runs per game this season. Two-start pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, coming off his best start of the year (77 Game Score versus the Washington Nationals), is well worth an add and start in the more than 90 percent of ESPN leagues in which he's available. Sergio Romo, who has each of the team's past five saves and is available in roughly 85 percent of leagues, is also a good add.

  • Due to the greater number of interleague games, and therefore two-game series earlier in the week, four teams play five-game weeks: The Chicago Cubs, New York Mets, Oakland Athletics and Philadelphia Phillies. By comparison, 10 teams play a full seven-game week, meaning those four squads have substantial volume disadvantages. Fortunately for the Cubs, they face Detroit Tigers (2 games) and Cincinnati Reds (3 games) pitching staffs that rank among the game's 10 worst in terms of ERA, while the Phillies benefit greatly from starting their week hosting a Baltimore Orioles pitching staff with a third-worst-in-baseball 4.84 ERA. Both teams grade roughly league average, if not slightly above, which is fortunate with a short schedule.

  • The Minnesota Twins' hitting schedule is best in the league for Week 14, thanks to three games at hitting-friendly Milwaukee's Miller Park followed by four back home against the aforementioned Orioles pitching staff. The Twins are scheduled to face six right-handed starters in these seven games, which is great news for Eddie Rosario (.325/.373/.608 rates against righties this year) and Eduardo Escobar (.303/.351/.615). Escobar, incidentally, isn't at risk for lost playing time during Week 14 as a result of Jorge Polanco's impending return from an 80-day suspension -- Polanco is eligible to rejoin the roster on Thursday -- as Escobar has been logging most of his time at third base while Miguel Sano is retooling in Class A ball. Polanco, incidentally, began his minor league rehabilitation stint on June 24, a few days later than expected, due to an injured right index finger. He might be placed on the 10-day DL following his eligible return date, meaning that his return to the Twins might be delayed until as long as the end of Week 15.

  • Coors Field games are always desirable for hitters, and the San Francisco Giants are the lone road team to draw them during Week 14, beginning their week with a three-game series at Colorado. It's opportune timing for a team that has had some of its bigger-name fantasy options struggle of late: Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford have only been marginal mixed-league plays (using Player Rater) calculations in the past two weeks, and Andrew McCutchen entered play on June 29 riding a streak of 13 consecutive games without a home run. All four are worth starting in all formats facing such a favorable schedule, and Gorkys Hernandez (available in more than 90 percent of ESPN leagues) is worth a look on the pickups front thanks in large part to his .262/.344/.452 June slash rates.

  • Fresh off six shutout innings in his return to the Arizona Diamondbacks' rotation, Robbie Ray gets a two-start week with matchups at home against the St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres, offenses that have been below league average in terms of runs per game and strikeout rate this season. Ray might only be available in roughly 10 percent of ESPN leagues, but if you have him, you should be starting him with confidence. Teammate and fellow recent DL returnee Shelby Miller (available in just under 90 percent of leagues) gets only one start in Week 14, but it's at home against the Padres, the stronger matchup between the Diamondbacks' two weekly opponents, and if he pitches well on June 30 he could warrant a look in deep-mixed and NL-only.

  • The Seattle Mariners followed up their brutal Week 12 with a more encouraging Week 13, and after a Monday day off, their Week 14 features six favorable matchups at Safeco Field. It's great news for a team that has been getting mixed league-relevant fantasy production from seven lineup positions, with only catcher Mike Zunino struggling to the point that he's a shaky starter (and he probably should remain active in two-catcher leagues regardless) and center field a mix-and-match scenario. Ryon Healy (available in roughly 60 percent of ESPN leagues) is the fantasy add facing these matchups, as he's slugging .459 with seven home runs in June.

  • Having welcomed back Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler to their pitching staff within the past week, and Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda not much further back than that, the Los Angeles Dodgers now have an overabundance of candidates for their Week 14 rotation. Kershaw remained on a limited pitch count on June 28 but pitched effectively with what he was afforded, re-establishing himself as a top Week 14 play. Buehler didn't pitch as well in relief in that same game, so there's some question whether he'll even make a start during Week 14. There's a good chance the Dodgers will go with a six-man rotation for the week, but since they're as apt as any team to use the 10-day DL to shuffle things, stay tuned and don't assume multiple starts for any one of their arms.

  • If you're seeking lefty/righty matchups plays for the week: Harrison Bader (available in nearly 98 percent of ESPN leagues), whose Cardinals face four left-handed starters, is a .294/.368/.490 hitter against lefties this season. John Hicks (available in roughly 70 percent), whose Detroit Tigers face three left-handed starters, is a catcher-eligible, .348/.426/.522 hitter against lefties this season. Mitch Moreland (available in roughly 50 percent), whose Boston Red Sox face six right-handed starters, is a .291/.365/.570 hitter against righties this season.

  • As far as interleague play and its impact upon the DH -- the most fantasy-relevant stories, that is -- the Atlanta Braves play three at New York's Yankee Stadium, and they've often used the additional spot to squeeze both of their catchers, Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki, into the lineup. The Red Sox play three at Washington's Nationals Park, so usual DH J.D. Martinez will probably shift to left field, pushing Andrew Benintendi to center field and Jackie Bradley Jr. to the bench for 2-3 of those games. The Reds can get all four of their outfielders into the lineup with the addition of the DH for three games at Chicago's Guaranteed Rate Field, so Jesse Winker becomes a stronger fantasy play. Victor Martinez no longer plays in the field, so the Detroit Tigers will presumably limit him to pinch-hitting duty for their two-game series at Chicago's Wrigley Field.