Twenty teams are in action on Monday with the San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies gracing is with bonus baseball as they'll play a split doubleheader to kick off the week. The rest of the schedule will be contested under the lights. The early week spotlight will be in the Bronx as the Tampa Bay Rays look to get back on track and make a dent in the New York Yankees AL East lead.
The abbreviated schedule leaves a paucity of spot starters, though hitting remains plentiful. Here are some suggestions to get off to a strong start, all available in at least half of ESPN leagues.
Joe Musgrove (R), rostered in 61% of ESPN leagues, Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals: Apologies for exceeding the 50% rule, but Monday's ledger is devoid of many streaming options. Musgrove had an uneven first half though he didn't beat himself with walks and limited homers. The Cardinals are somewhat surprisingly in the bottom third of the league with respect to production facing righthanders.
Jakob Junis (R), 10%, Kansas City Royals vs. Chicago White Sox: Junis has a tough draw with Lucas Giolito as his mound opponent, but he's facing one of the weakest lineups in the league against righthanded pitching. Junis could use a good outing to jumpstart his second half after disappointing first half. A look under the hood shows Junis' stuff isn't different than last season, he's just lacking some control. The White Sox are the least patient team in the league so on paper, this is the ideal scenario for Junis to turn things around.
Adam Plutko (R), 3%, Cleveland Indians vs. Detroit Tigers: The Indians entered the break as one of the league's hottest clubs though they dropped their first two coming out to the AL Central leading Minnesota Twins. They face the division doormat to begin the week so look for the Tribe to get back on track. Plutko is a below average starter, but he's only walked four in 36 1/3 innings.
Bullpen: Nathan Eovaldi is slated for a rehab assignment early in the week, with the hopes he comes off the IL later in the week. In the meantime, the Boston Red Sox will continue to mix and match, though Heath Hembree appears to be the desired choice for saves in the interim. The defending champs have a soft schedule this week, starting with the Toronto Blue Jays before traveling to Camden Yards so Hembree could be called upon for a save or two while Eovaldi gets ready on the farm.
With Brad Peacock incurring a return of shoulder soreness after a bullpen over the weekend, Houston will switch plans and begin Monday's tilt against the Angels with Josh James before handing the ball to Framber Valdez for the middle innings. Valdez is talented but has been hit hard early in games so it makes sense for the Astros to see if they can get six outs and let Valdez get established against the bottom of the Angels order. Even so, Valdez is a risk against an offense coming off an emotional weekend -- though if Mike Trout is out (calf), Valdez is in play for deeper formats.
Catcher -- Christian Vazquez (R), 44%, Boston Red Sox vs. Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Trent Thornton): Alex Cora thinks so much of Vazquez's bat he's slotted the backstop at first base and designated hitter lately, willing to incur the risk of injury to Sandy Leon and potentially losing the use of designated hitter. Vazquez continues to rake with five long balls since June 30.
First Base -- Rowdy Tellez (L), 2%, Toronto Blue Jays at Boston Red Sox (RHP Rick Porcello): Porcello entered the break in a tailspin, posting a 12.75 ERA and 2.33 WHIP in his last three outings to end the first half. Throughout his career, Porcello has been vulnerable to lefty power, putting Tellez in a good spot as 27 of the sophomore's 60 hits have gone for extra bases.
Second Base -- Tommy Edman (S), 9%, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Joe Musgrove): Edman was playing regularly with Matt Carpenter was on the shelf. With Carpenter back, it's unclear how the Redbirds will divide second base between Edman and Kolten Wong. Edman offers more pop while Wong is slicker with the leather and has more speed. Both are in play with Musgrove historically struggling against lefty swingers.
Third Base -- Michael Brosseau (R), 10%, Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees (LHP James Paxton): It's remarkable how the Rays keep dipping into their system for productive players, capable of playing all around the diamond. It's as if they value position flexibility. Brosseau has filled in at third base and second base, bopping three homers since July 3. As a fly ball pitcher, homers could be an issue for Paxton as summer has finally hit in the northeast.
Shortstop -- Leury Garcia (S), 9%, Chicago White Sox at Kansas City Royals (RHP Jakob Junis): Garcia has become the White Sox leadoff hitter by default. His .326 OBP isn't ideal, but the club likes his contact ability and he can run on occasion, chipping in with eight steals. If you're looking for some bags to begin the week, the White Sox score a "10" for steals in Monday's hitting rankings.
Corner Infield -- Colin Moran (L), 4%, Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals (RHP Miles Mikolas): After an early first half power binge, Moran has cooled off, last leaving the yard on June 14. Still, for his career, Moran is a threat against righty throwers and Mikolas has surrendered 20 of 32 homers since returning to MLB to lefthanded batters.
Middle Infield -- Niko Goodrum (S), 9%, Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Indians (RHP Adam Plutko): Runs is an overlooked category, obviously key to rotisserie scoring but also a stealth bonus in points leagues. Despite playing in a lesser lineup, Goodrum has a knack for crossing the dish, pacing to over 90 runs in full time play.
Outfield -- Kole Calhoun (L), 36%, Los Angeles Angels vs. Houston Astros (Bullpen game): With 20 homers, Calhoun has already eclipsed his seasonal total the past three seasons and is likely to surpass the 26 he bashed in 2015, setting a new personal best.
Outfield -- Brandon Belt (L), 10%, San Francisco Giants at Colorado Rockies (RHP German Marquez): With a pair in Coors, every available Giants and Rockies batter is in play, with Belt heading the list for the visitors. There may not be a player more hindered by his home venue than Belt. He's an extreme fly ball hitter which doesn't play well in the spacious Oracle Park but is ideal at altitude.
Outfield -- Jordan Luplow (R), 1%, Cleveland Indians vs. Detroit Tigers (LHP Daniel Norris): The Indians haven't faced a southpaw starter since early July, but when they did Luplow was batting cleanup. He was given a chance at regular play but settled back into a platoon role, propelled by a 1.108 OPS facing lefty pitching.