It's the first Wednesday of action following the All-Star break, and this schedule for streaming starting pitchers carries few entertaining options.
However, for bold -- OK, desperate fantasy owners looking to pile up statistics, they could pay off. After all, chasing strikeouts and wins becomes more urgent in the second half.
Pitchers to stream
Kenta Maeda (R), 57.8 percent ownership in ESPN leagues, Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago White Sox: We usually target options below 50 percent ownership, but on a light day like Wednesday, it reinforces how useful he can be. Maeda's 4.38 ERA and inability to go deep into starts has marred his sophomore year, but he's posted nearly the same strikeout (8.9) and walk (2.4) rates as his standout rookie effort. While his 6.25 road ERA makes many cringe, the selling South Siders remain one of the best targets for pitcher rentals.
Jon Gray (R), 49.3 percent, Colorado Rockies vs. San Diego Padres: Feel free to use Rockies and Padres bats, but Gray tamed Coors Field -- relatively, with a 4.39 ERA compared to 4.91 elsewhere -- last year. Though the setting for this turn stinks, so does the Padres offense, which holds the second-lowest hard contact rate (28.5 percent) and the highest strikeout rate (26.1 percent) against right-handers.
Charlie Morton (R), 39.9 percent, Houston Astros vs. Seattle Mariners: Welcome to 2017, when a 4.06 ERA makes you a coveted fantasy pitcher. Morton's 10.2 K/9 makes up for his flaws, though, and with his sparkling 3.45 home ERA in the generally pitcher-friendly Minute Maid Park, he should spin a useful start against a rising but still beatable Seattle lineup.
Pitchers to avoid
James Paxton (L), 91.8 percent, Seattle Mariners at Houston Astros: Do you believe in his 3.19 ERA more than Houston's league-best offense? It's not a favorable spot for head-to-head and points players, who should proceed with more caution.
The Athletics traded their top two setup men and still may deal closer Santiago Casilla before the July 31 deadline. If they do, watch out for sleeper Liam Hendriks, who held a three-run lead in the eighth inning Sunday. The former journeyman starter resurrected his career out of the bullpen in recent seasons, and his 5.17 ERA hides a tantalizing 11.7 K/9 and a four-seam fastball velocity sitting in the mid-90s.
Projected game scores
GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. The asterisk (*) means that the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author's ratings.
Welington Castillo (R), 19.6 percent, Baltimore Orioles vs. Texas Rangers (LHP Martin Perez): Though not the breakout performer he's teased previously, he remains a solid source of power and effective platoon piece against southpaws.
Josh Bell (B), 22.6 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Milwaukee Brewers (RHP Zach Davies): A speed bump in May (.198 average) obscured an otherwise solid season for the budding masher, who's 13-for-44 with two homers and 11 RBI to start July. The switch-hitter's splits aren't too drastic, but he's launched 12 big blasts versus righties this year. Lefty bats have gotten to Davies with a .367 wOBA and a .275/.364/.504 slash.
Logan Forsythe (R), 18.9 percent, Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago White Sox (LHP Carlos Rodon): The veteran has struggled to hold onto his place in an otherwise surging lineup but stakes a claim to face left-handers, considering he's .383/.500/.600 against them over 76 showdowns.
Yunel Escobar (R), 6.6 percent, Los Angeles Angels vs. Washington Nationals (LHP Gio Gonzalez): Batting average typically defines his value, though he's peppered left-handers to a .369/.411/.440 line with a .372 wOBA this year. Gonzalez (2.66 ERA, 4.06 FIP) keeps outperforming his metrics, but regression should hit hard soon. He's also allowed all 14 of his home runs to right-handed bats.
Wilmer Difo (B), 1.5 percent, Washington Nationals at Los Angeles Angels (RHP Alex Meyer): With a 13-for-26 stretch in his last nine games that includes eight walks, two stolen bases and nine runs, Difo is trying to pull away from Stephen Drew while they fill in for Trea Turner (wrist).
Joey Gallo (L), 24.1 percent, Texas Rangers at Baltimore Orioles (RHP Kevin Gausman): Even with Gausman's recent improvements, he's not completely fixed. Gallo's over his recent bout of hamstring woes, and he's still a useful deep-league play when Texas faces right-handers.
Brandon Phillips (R), 39 percent, Atlanta Braves vs. Chicago Cubs (LHP Mike Montgomery): The increased workload seems to be catching up to Montgomery as he's converted to a starter. His flat pitching should help the surprisingly still consistent 36-year-old, who's .294/.335/.475 with five homers, 19 RBI and 25 runs over 171 plate appearances since May ended.
David Peralta (L), 33.4 percent, Arizona Diamondbacks at Cincinnati Reds (RHP Tim Adleman): Righty on the hill? Use Peralta. It's not the first... err, fifth time I've written that here. Still, hard not to lean on someone with a career .312/.359/.505 against the majority handedness.
Bradley Zimmer (L), 12.6 percent, Cleveland Indians at San Francisco Giants (RHP Matt Cain): The .208 clip in July reflects the valleys of rookie development, but Zimmer's in a fine spot: Lefty bats have pelted Cain for a .371 wOBA and .314/.398/.481 line.
Kevin Pillar (R), 35.5 percent, Toronto Blue Jays at Boston Red Sox (LHP Drew Pomeranz): Despite being demoted to the bottom of the order last month, Pillar has hit .270 in 80 plate appearances since, and he has been more successful with a lefty on the hill.
Hitter matchup ratings
Notes: Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's history (three years' worth, as well as the past 21 days) and 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. So, for example, a 10 is a must-start rating, whereas 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.