Fantasy baseball pickups: Three players with prime opportunity in July

Aaron Hicks of the New York Yankees has a .500 on-base percentage in July. Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone loves a good rest period, and it's no different for fantasy baseball managers, who look forward to the upcoming, three-day All-Star break from July 18-20. Still, championship managers are the ones always keeping their focus on the task at hand, and the week leading into that rest period is a good time to try to maximize opportunities on the free-agency front. It's a busy week with three teams scheduled for eight games, as well as a full slate of Coors Field contests.

With that in mind, here are three players you should add and start everywhere:

Nolan Jones, 3B, Cleveland Guardians: Recalled by the Guardians on Friday, Jones started in right field and went 5-for-10 (.500 BA) with one double, one home run and four RBIs while batting sixth or seventh during the team's three-game series at Kansas City. All indications are that the team regards him a regular contributor from that corner-outfield spot, and with the Guardians facing a busy, league-high eight game schedule this week, he's well worth the add-and-start, even in leagues as shallow as ESPN's standard. The reason is that the team is expected to face seven right-handed starters with a possibility of eight, and Jones has shown good ability to hit that side, batting .351/.462/.500 in 91 trips to the plate against them between Triple-A Columbus and the big-league team. He's not the team's best prospect, but he's one of the better ones, a big-time power source whose minor league statistical track record has the look of a three-true-outcomes type.

Aaron Hicks, OF, New York Yankees: I watch this guy play baseball a lot -- it's just in my nature that I see more Yankees games than any other -- and can attest that he has been a huge disappointment on the season as a whole, with enough to his slumps that I'd say he's on the downslope of his career as a 32-year-old. That said, Hicks has been on quite a tear of late, batting .385/.500/.923 with three home runs, eight RBIs, two stolen bases and 10 runs scored in eight games in the month, not to mention he has nine multi-hit performances in his past 29 contests. Eight times he has delivered a batted ball at 100 mph or faster, six of them resulting in hits, a sign that he's regaining his stroke. Most importantly, it's coming at an opportune time, as Hicks' Yankees have an extremely favorable July schedule, with six home games this week, five from July 21-24 alone which include four against the surprising Baltimore Orioles, and an additional four at home against the Kansas City Royals to round out the month. He's an important cog in the team's offense because of the defense he can provide in center field, so that means continued playing time.

Josh Winder, SP, Minnesota Twins: I've already highlighted a few two-start pitchers for Week 14, but one of the more under-the-radar choices -- he's available in nearly 97% of ESPN leagues, after all -- is Winder, one of the more surprising breakthroughs on the 2022 Twins. Thanks in large part to his slider and changeup, he has done a good job minimizing hard contact, to the tune of a 3.12 ERA in his five starts and four relief appearances. With Chris Archer, Bailey Ober and Chris Paddack all sidelined, Winder is getting another long-term look in the Twins' rotation, aligning for a pair of home games, Tuesday against the Milwaukee Brewers and Sunday against the Chicago White Sox. He's a high-floor option with good odds of taking those two turns, which isn't something many youngsters can say in this particular week.

More Week 14 notes: Whit Merrifield's (toe) injury hasn't yet been deemed serious enough to rule him out for the upcoming week, but with the All-Star break presenting a 10-day stretch for the Royals to take a conservative approach to his recovery, he's much more likely than not to chip in enough playing time to be fantasy-worthy. I'd bench him in all but the deepest of AL-only leagues.

C.J. Cron (wrist) is probably the most critical injury-risk decision of the week, as his Colorado Rockies are scheduled to play the entire week at Coors Field, with a good amount of left-handed opposing pitching on the schedule. He has too strong a career history both against lefties and at Coors to sit, barring any word that he's injured-list bound. The good news is that his Rockies have an 8:40 p.m. ET start time on Monday, so if you can link him to another player whose team has an equal or later start time to its week, you'll buy a few additional hours to wait out news.