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The traditional second half of the Major League Baseball season begins on Thursday, July 10, with just a single game: Houston Astros at Texas Rangers, which has an 8 p.m. ET scheduled first pitch and will be broadcast on ESPN. From there, all 15 teams play on Friday, with the first game scheduled for 2:20 p.m. ET between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs, kicking off the 11-day scoring period covered by this edition of the Forecaster. Three teams play as many as 11 games during this period: The Astros, San Francisco Giants and Tampa Bay Rays, with the latter two playing that many thanks to each having a double-header (the Giants at Colorado's Coors Field on July 15, the Rays at Baltimore's Camden Yards on July 13). Conversely, only the Seattle Mariners play as few as eight games during this period.
The 11-day scoring period affords pitchers from the Astros and Rangers the opportunity for three starts, with the Rangers' Lance Lynn aligned to take that many turns thanks to the team's current four-man rotation working around July 15 and 18 off days. The Astros' Framber Valdez could also enjoy a three-start "week," having started the July 11 game, should the team choose to keep him around following a poor outing Conversely, as many as 14 starting pitchers appear to be aligned for only one start during this period, those being fourth and/or fifth starters assigned to July 16-17 games whose teams have a day off either July 15 or 18 (or perhaps both). Marco Gonzales and Steven Matz are two such pitchers whose identities are currently known, with neither scheduled to pitch during the July 11-14 weekend series -- that's a separate "week" in some leagues -- and neither working twice between July 15-21 (also considered its own week in some leagues). Don't ignore the impact of the unusual schedule on your pitchers.
As of Friday's 9:20 a.m. ET update, all 30 teams had announced some sort of rotation plans to begin the second half, but not all of them announced starters beyond the July 11-14 weekend. Announcements cover only 222 of this period's 290 total pitching assignments. Check back here for the latest updates right up until the start of Friday's games.
The Los Angeles Dodgers will begin the second half of their season much healthier on the hitting side, as David Freese was activated from the injured list on July 8 and both A.J. Pollock (elbow, IL) and Corey Seager (hamstring, IL) are expected to join Freese on the active roster in advance of the team's July 12 second-half opener. That should give the team a bevy of righty/lefty lineup options, with the mixing and matching a potential headache for fantasy managers but a boon to the team's overall offensive production. The addition of the designated hitter during the Dodgers' three-game trip to Boston's Fenway Park from July 12-14 provides potentially 10-15 additional plate appearances for the team's hitters, however, and the team should face seven right-handed starters in their 10 games, giving Dodgers left-handed hitters the advantage. It's also a plus that four of the Dodgers' games will be played at homer-friendly Citizens Bank Park against a Philadelphia Phillies staff that has allowed the third-most home runs in baseball (153). Seager warrants immediate activation in all but the shallowest of formats, while both Joc Pederson and Alex Verdugo should remain in your lineups, despite the threat of platooning caused by Pollock's return.
The Minnesota Twins are another team getting healthy at the right time, as they're expected to get both Eddie Rosario (knee, IL) and Jake Odorizzi (blister, IL) back in time for their critical July 12-14 road series against the surging Cleveland Indians. The Twins' matchups for that series are specifically what drive down their overall hitting rating to average-to-below-average, but in their defense, they do then get a pair of home games against a New York Mets pitching staff that had baseball's worst ERA (5.97) during the three weeks that immediately preceded the All-Star break, followed by four more home games against an Oakland Athletics staff that has a road ERA nearly three-quarters of a run higher (4.45) than at home (3.71) and is now without its top-performing starter from the first half, Frankie Montas. The Twins, who have the majors' best team slugging percentage (.492) and isolated power (.228) against right-handers this season, should face seven right-handed starters during their nine-game scoring period. Lean on that left-handed hitter's rating rather than the overall number, meaning that Jason Castro (98% available in ESPN leagues), a .274/.344/.598 hitter against righties this season, is well worth the plug-and-play. Rosario needs to be immediately activated everywhere, and Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco should continue to be mainstays in your fantasy lineups.
Speaking of the Indians, they don't match up too poorly themselves, despite that second half-opening series against the team they're chasing in the American League Central race, the Twins. Fresh off their city being the host of the All-Star Game, the Indians will play all 10 of their games this period at Progressive Field, with the final seven coming against the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals, teams that rank 29th (3.62) and 27th (4.20) in runs per game, and 25th (4.98) and 27th (5.08) in team ERA for the season. It's those two series that drive the team's excellent hitting rating, not to mention a top-five matchup grade for their pitchers. The Indians should face a maximum of seven right-handed starters, making this a good week to add and start Jake Bauers (70% available in ESPN leagues), a .233/.335/.410 career hitter against righties, and Tyler Naquin (more than 99% available), a .282/.336/.458 career hitter against righties, in leagues of appropriate depth.
Coors Field games are the ones any fantasy manager wants on the hitting side -- not to mention to avoid wherever possible on the pitching side -- and this week's visitors are the Cincinnati Reds (July 12-14) and the Giants (July 15-17, but four games due to the aforementioned double-header). The Colorado Rockies themselves, though, should feel like it's an entire scoring period played at Coors, since their three road games which follow those seven at home will be played at New York's Yankee Stadium, where not only will the team reap the benefits of one of the majors' most homer-friendly environments, but the team will get a DH for those three games. The Rockies "hitter to get" right now is Ryan McMahon (95% available in ESPN leagues), who has started 18 of the team's past 20 games at second base while batting .292/.346/.417 with 13 RBI during that time span.
If you're digging deep for plug-ins, the Giants stand out as a sneaky-good source. They'll begin the second half with three games at hitting-friendly Milwaukee's Miller Park, continue with the aforementioned four at Coors, then conclude with four games back home at Oracle Park against the Mets. Those three opponents all have worse-than-average team ERAs, and the favorable park factors for seven of the team's league-most 11 games drive the Giants' great hitting rating. Among Giants hitters, only Buster Posey is rostered in more than 34% of ESPN leagues, and all but three of their bats are available in at least 90%. Sleeper Alex Dickerson (97% available) started 12 of the team's final 16 first-half contests and batted .362/.444/.787 in those contests. He'll benefit from facing anywhere from 8-10 right-handed starters. Evan Longoria (80%), meanwhile, enjoyed .246/.317/.544 triple-slash rates during the three-week period immediately preceding the break.
If you're looking for righty/lefty matchup advantages among players more suited for deep-mixed (think 14-plus-team) or "only" leagues, consider: Jorge Alfaro (74% available in ESPN leagues) and Starlin Castro (82% available), .305/.349/.508 and .348/.361/.478 hitters against lefties, whose Miami Marlins should face 3-5 left-handed starters; Yandy Diaz (59% available), a .322/.404/.563 hitter against lefties, whose Rays should face 2-5 left-handed starters; Dexter Fowler (98%), a .255/.353/.420 hitter against righties, whose St. Louis Cardinals face nine right-handed starters; Randal Grichuk (77%) and Danny Jansen (65%), .275/.339/.459 and .261/.338/.464 hitters against lefties, whose Toronto Blue Jays should face 3-6 left-handed starters; Christian Vazquez (61%), a .307/.354/.560 hitter against lefties, whose Boston Red Sox could face as many as five left-handed starters; and Jesse Winker (66%), a .264/.340/.509 hitter against righties, whose Reds should face between 8-9 right-handed starters.