You gotta love it, afternoon baseball on the last Wednesday in July. Festivities begin in the 1:00 PM ET hour with a pair of tilts, to be followed by two more West Coast matinees. In terms of the playoffs, the spotlight remains in the AL East as the four primary combatants play Game 3 of a four-game set.
While there have been a lot of rumors, not much has transpired with impact trades, though activity is bound to pick up as we approach the Friday 4:00 PM ET deadline. Keep in mind we routinely post a morning update, so if anything occurs affecting the players soon to be discussed, we'll make the appropriate adjustments.
To that end, here are Wednesday's players to get you over the hump. By design, several new hitters are highlighted to get more players on your radar.
Andrew Heaney (L), rostered in 50% of ESPN leagues, Los Angeles Angels vs. Colorado Rockies: Heaney went into the break on a tailspin then continued to struggle in his first start of the second half. However, he turned things around last time out, limiting the Twins to a pair of runs in seven frames, scattering four hits with seven strikeouts. Heaney is set up for another solid effort, facing a Rockies offense with the second lowest wOBA in the league when facing a southpaw on the road.
Tylor Megill (R), 28%, New York Mets vs. Atlanta Braves: Despite allowing three or fewer runs over his first five outings in which he recorded a 2.63 ERA, Megill didn't earn his first win until last time out in his sixth appearance as he shut out the Blue Jays over six frames. Overall, Megill has 33 strikeouts to just 10 walks in 30 frames. If he keeps pitching like that, victories will ensue. His next chance comes at home in pitcher-friendly Citi Field against a Braves lineup scoring .23 fewer runs per since Ronald Acuna was lost for the season.
Adrian Houser (R), 14%, Milwaukee Brewers at Pittsburgh Pirates: Occasionally, Houser will piggyback with another Brewers starter as a means to control workload like he did last Friday with Freddy Peralta. Today, he's back in full starter capacity. Houser's K-BB% is rather low, but he should be boosted by facing the lowest scoring offense in the league.
Tanner Houck (R), 12%, Boston Red Sox vs. Toronto Blue Jays: Houck should only be considered in very deep leagues as he's yet to work five innings and the Toronto lineup is dangerous. That said, the young righthander pitched 4 2/3 frames last time out against the Yankees and has whiffed 23 in 18 stanzas, walking just four with only one homer.
It seems to be a foregone conclusion the Cubs will move Craig Kimbrel before the trade deadline. While it's fair to question the number of saves the Cubs will generate over the final two months, it's worth checking out what Ryan Tepera has done as Kimbrel's primary set-up man. The veteran righthander has punched out 50 in 43 1/3 innings, with nine of those coming in just 5 2/3 frames since Tepera came off the IL earlier this month.
For the latest team-by-team closer situations, please consult our Closer Chart.
Catcher -- Daulton Varsho (L), 29%, Arizona Diamondbacks at Texas Rangers (RHP Jordan Lyles): Something clicked for Varsho over the break as he's posted a .400/.500/.840 line with two steals. Of course he'll slow down, but recall heading into this season, he was a break out candidate with potential power and speed from the catcher unlike any other at the position. It's just taken longer to manifest than many hoped. The Diamondbacks should continue to give Varsho playing time behind the plate and in the outfield as they audition their roster for the 2022 campaign.
First Base -- Andrew Vaughn (R), 48%, Chicago White Sox at Kansas City Royals (LHP Kris Bubic): The White Sox will reportedly have Vaughn and Eloy Jimenez share left field and designated hitting duties, so Vaughn isn't expected to lose much, if any playing time. That said, he will definitely be in the lineup Wednesday as he enjoys the platoon bump on a homer-prone lefty, though Bubic has done a better job of keeping the ball in the yard lately. Speaking of which, Vaughn is on another heater as carried a six-game hitting streak into Tuesday's action, over which he's slashed .476/.476/.810.
Second Base -- Michael Chavis (R), 1%, Boston Red Sox vs. Toronto Blue Jays (LHP Steven Matz): With Christian Arroyo, Marwin Gonzalez and Danny Santana all on the IL, Chavis has been manning the keystone with a lefty on the hill. He has failed to take advantage of the added playing time but has displayed power against lefthanded pitching in his brief career. Matz has done a good job keeping the ball in the yard so far, but for his career he's been quite generous with the long ball.
Third base -- J.D. Davis (R), 35%, New York Mets vs. Atlanta Braves (LHP Max Fried): Davis began the season crushing the ball as he was slashing .390/.479/.610 when he was placed on the IL with a hand injury on May 2. Since returning, he's remained productive with a .290/.389/.548 since coming back after the break. Davis is especially effective with the platoon advantage.
Shortstop -- Ronald Torreyes (R), 5%, Philadelphia Phillies vs. Washington Nationals (LHP Patrick Corbin): Torreyes isn't assured of a lineup spot with Alec Bohn back for the Phillies. However, Didi Gregorius has sat the last couple of games with a lefty on the hill. If Torreyes is on the bench, Bohm and Gregorius are both in play as their rostership is just a shade over 50%. Torreyes has earned the playing time against a lefthander as he's excelled with the platoon edge while filling in for Bohm.
Corner Infield -- Miguel Cabrera (R), 4%, Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins (LHP J.A. Happ): Cabrera has been quiet most of the season, though he's still more productive with a lefty on the hill. On Wednesday, the future Hall-of-Famer draws Happ who has yielded the fourth most blasts in the league since 2016.
Middle Infield -- Andy Ibanez (R), under 1%, Texas Rangers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (LHP Madison Bumgarner): With Nick Solak struggling, and thus demoted to the minors, Ibanez has seen a lot of action at second base. He has not formally been anointed the regular, but he's doing his best to lock down the gig with a six-game hitting streak heading into Tuesday's slate, over which he's registered a .471/.550/.824 slash. With the platoon edge in tow, Ibanez should receive Wednesday's start.
Outfield - Brian Anderson (R), 22%, Miami Marlins at Baltimore Orioles (RHP Jorge Lopez): Sometimes holding the platoon edge is secondary to other factors. Matchup is important and Anderson will face the second lowest ranked hurler on Wednesday's docket. Further, he'll do it in Camden Yards, a huge hitting upgrade from loanDepot Park.
Outfield -- Rafael Ortega (L), under 1%, Chicago Cubs vs. Cincinnati Reds (RHP Tyler Mahle): With Ian Happ still unable to get untracked, Ortega's playing time increased in the second half. He's responded by slashing .385/.429/.538 with a steal in that span.
Outfield -- Oscar Mercado (R), 1%, Cleveland vs. St. Louis Cardinals (LHP Kwang Hyun Kim): Cleveland's outfield has been a game of musical chairs all season with Mercado currently seeing a lot of action, especially against lefthanded pitching. While he's currently over his head with a lefty on the hill, Mercado has posted a .316/.409/.421 line in that scenario this season.