"We'll take a break after this round."
The last time you likely heard that, you were drafting your fantasy baseball team. Well, after Sunday's slate, it's time for the All-Star break. If it seems like more games have been played than normal, it's because they have. Normally, the average games played per team heading into the Mid-Summer Classic is around 90. This year it's 96, with a few teams at 99.
Sunday features a typical slate, with the note that scheduled starters won't be pitching in the All-Star game, costing the American League Justin Verlander and Trevor Bauer, both obviously deserving. Jon Lester won't be able to participate for the Senior Circuit, but that may be a good thing as he's outpitched his peripherals by a good margin and is due for a second half correction.
As for the rest of Sunday's starters, there is a nice array of streamers to head into the break on a high note -- plus a solid selection of useful bats.
Pitchers to stream
Jhoulys Chacin (R), rostered in 45 percent of ESPN leagues, Milwaukee Brewers at Pittsburgh Pirates: While not an ace, Chacin has certainly provided the veteran rotation presence Milwaukee hoped for when the Brewers signed him. Chacin knows his role, which is to keep the Brewers in the game before passing the baton to one of the league's best relief corps. Chacin is in a good spot to continue the trend, facing a bottom-10 offense versus right-handers.
Andrew Suarez (L), 16 percent, San Francisco Giants vs. Oakland Athletics: In his past eight outings, Suarez has allowed more than two runs just once, boasting a 2.28 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in that span, covering 47.1 innings. While Oakland is one of the better teams facing righties, they're in the bottom tier with a southpaw on the hill. Plus, this is one of the rare times they face a park downgrade in terms of hitting when they go on the road.
Jeremy Hellickson (R), 16 percent, Washington Nationals at New York Mets: What would the final slate heading into the break be without a note from ESPN Research Associate Kyle Soppe who points out while Jeremy Hellickson's 3.47 ERA is already impressive, if you back out a nightmare frame against the Marlins (6 ER, 5 hits) his ERA drops to 2.57. Obviously, it happened, it can't be ignored. However, the chances of a blow-up against the Mets and their .309 weighted on base average (wOBA) versus righties is minimal.
Mike Minor (L), 12 percent, Texas Rangers at Baltimore Orioles: It took Minor a couple of months to get back in the starting groove after spending the 2017 campaign in the Royals' bullpen. However, since June 1, the lefty has pitched to a 2.65 ERA and .96 WHIP, albeit with a pedestrian 26 strikeouts in 37.1 innings. The Orioles' pitching was expected to be poor, but no one anticipated their bats to be so punchless, especially against lefties where they're third from the bottom in terms of wOBA.
Brian Johnson (L), fewer than 1 percent, Boston Red Sox vs. Toronto Blue Jays: Johnson is on target to be activated from the disabled list to start on Sunday. The lefty only missed one start with left hip inflammation. Especially with the game being "all hands on deck," save Chris Sale and Saturday's starter Eduardo Rodriguez, Johnson isn't likely to toss more than five innings, but that could suffice to garner a win for the club heading into the break with the league's best record. That said, beware, Toronto hits southpaws well so only deploy Johnson if you're desperate for one last victory to end the week.
Being the last game before the break, Tampa Bay is likely to use a parade of relievers, especially since Ryan Yarbrough -- the one most likely to be extended -- worked three innings on the July 11 along with another one Friday night.
On Friday night, Pat Neshek became the ninth Phillies reliever to register a save this season. Seranthony Dominguez is still the one to roster permanently, though Neshek and Victor Arano are viable on days you have an open roster spot -- you never know what Gabe Kapler might do.
Projected game scores
Tony Wolters (L), under 1 percent, Colorado Rockies vs. Seattle Mariners (RHP Mike Leake): Colorado could turn to one of their righty swinging options (Chris Iannetta or Tom Murphy) but Wolters has picked up the recent starts with a right-hander on the hill. Leake has already surrendered 16 homers and is in danger of seeing that total grow, with outfielders Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra also enjoying the platoon advantage.
Yonder Alonso (L), 33 percent, Cleveland Indians vs. New York Yankees (RHP Masahiro Tanaka): Alonso's elevated swing approach hasn't been as effective this season as it was in 2017, but he's still clearing the fences appreciably more than he did before last season. He's in a great spot to go deep against Tanaka, author of 17 long balls in just 77 innings.
Kolten Wong (L), 2 percent, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Cincinnati Reds (RHP Anthony DeSclafani): After a sluggish start to the season, Wong has turned it on, slashing .270/.337/.473 the past month, including a scorching 1.125 OPS the last week. He's also running a little, which will come in handy against DeSclafani, one of the easiest pitchers to steal on in the league.
Ryon Healy (R), 39 percent, Seattle Mariners at Colorado Rockies (LHP Tyler Anderson): Healy has hit right-handers better than southpaws this season, but with this being a Coors Field affair, short samples are even less relevant. Anderson has served up 10 homers at home in just 53.1 innings.
Adalberto Mondesi (B), 2 percent, Kansas City Royals at Chicago White Sox (RHP Lucas Giolito): This note is as much about looking at Mondesi as a fixture on your roster after the break as it is for Sunday. The Royals are inexplicably keeping Alcides Escobar's consecutive game played streak alive, but at least it's not at the expense of Mondesi, who has played almost every day since being promoted in mid-June. Mondesi might be hitting low in the order, but research demonstrates that doesn't curtail running in the American League. To that point, Mondesi has five bags already with an eye on more as the Royals are given a 10 rating for stolen bases in Tristan Cockcroft's Forecaster: Hitting Matchups.
Jake Bauers (L), 13 percent, Tampa Bay Rays at Minnesota Twins (RHP Fernando Romero): It's a little surprising Bauers is so widely available (especially in points leagues) sporting an impressive .383 on-base mark while slugging .520 in his freshman campaign. Further, he's on a heater, slashing .393/.485/.893 over the past week.
Rougned Odor (L), 42 percent, Texas Rangers at Baltimore Orioles (Bulllpen game): While he hasn't been featured lately, Odor has been one of the more frequent visitors to this space. The reason is simple as his underlying metrics portend a better second half. The breakout is underway as Odor has smacked five homers during the past month, including two the past week, fueling a .995 OPS the past seven days before Saturday's contest.
Matt Adams (L), 33 percent, Washington Nationals at New York Mets (RHP Corey Oswalt): We try to minimize highlighting the same player on consecutive days, but this matchup is too good to ignore, especially on a Sunday when you're scratching for every last point as the fantasy week concludes. You know about Adams power potential. He'll put it on display against a rookie who has allowed four homers in his first 17.1 frames.
Jackie Bradley Jr. (L), 15 percent, Boston Red Sox vs. Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Marcus Stroman): Like Odor, Bradley Jr.'s Statcast metrics suggested a reversal of fortune. While a .237/.305/.409 line the past 30 days is far from impressive, it's an improvement over his first couple of months. The Red Sox are dealing with a few injuries, pushing Bradley Jr. to fifth in the order for Saturday's tilt. There's a good chance he'll remain elevated on Sunday, putting him in a good spot to be productive against Stroman and his 5.90 ERA and 1.52 WHIP.
Daniel Palka (L), 1 percent, Chicago White Sox vs. Kansas City Royals (RHP Burch Smith): Palka is in a rut but continues to play as the White Sox battle the injury bug. Facing Smith could be what Palka needs to go into the break on a high note. As a reliever-turned spot starter going on three days rest, Smith will be on a pitch count, giving Palka cracks at a weak bullpen.
Hitter matchup ratings
Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's history (three years' worth) as well as 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. For example, a 10 is a must-start rating, while 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.