Don't look now, but we have mid-week matinees in late July! Not only will the San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves play an early game as part of a doubleheader, but there are five more afternoon tilts on "getaway day" for much of the league. Please also note, however, that the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics do have Wednesday off after wrapping up a short two-game set on Tuesday.
Official announcements of pitching plans have been slower than usual since the break. One reason for this is that teams are beginning to monitor pitching workloads after last season's abbreviated campaign. While some delays are the result of teams still waiting to be sure that injured hurlers are truly ready to return from the IL, others are simply the result of multiple pitchers being required to step in unexpectedly in recent high-scoring affairs.
Luckily, Wednesday's schedule is pretty well set, and there are a handful of streaming candidates -- plus the usual bevy of bats -- for you to consider, all available in at least 50% of ESPN leagues.
Madison Bumgarner (L), rostered in 22% of ESPN leagues, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Pittsburgh Pirates: After convalescing on the IL for a month due to shoulder inflammation, Bumgarner kicked off the season's second half with a solid effort, limiting the Cubs to just one earned run over six frames while fanning six. The veteran left-hander draws another lesser lineup as the Pirates have the second-lowest wOBA versus lefties.
Erick Fedde (R), 3%, Washington Nationals vs. Miami Marlins: It may appear that we're cherry-picking selective endpoints here, but we really want to highlight Fedde's potential. Over nine starts from April 12 through June 18, the right-hander posted a 2.54 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP, punching out 48 batters in those 49 2/3 innings. Unfortunately, he was hit hard in his first 2021 start and has struggled in his last four outings -- including a shellacking by the Padres in his first start after the break. That said, the Marlins are a much easier lineup to navigate as they sport the fifth-poorest wOBA, plus an above-average K-rate against right-handers.
Eric Lauer (L), 21%, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Kansas City Royals: This will be Lauer's first start since the break as he's been dealing with a fingernail issue. In each of his prior three efforts, Lauer posted a quality, surrendering just two runs over 18 1/3 innings. That said, he only fanned 13 with 10 walks in that span, though he didn't yield any home runs. The visiting Royals sport the eighth-lowest wOBA versus left-handers and will be without the DH in this interleague affair.
Matt Manning (R), 4%, Detroit Tigers vs. Texas Rangers: Manning is in play largely due to a soft matchup. The Rangers are the sixth-least productive offense with a right-hander on the hill. Manning is expected to be recalled for this start. The Tigers didn't need a fifth starter until Wednesday, so they had sent Manning back to Triple-A Toledo. The rookie did not end up pitching for the Mudhens, meaning his last outing came back on July 9 against the Twins. His five-game MLB ledger is marred by a disastrous outing against Cleveland, where he allowed nine runs in just 3 2/3 innings. Manning's long-term future is still bright. However, for now, he's best deployed only by those needing an extra start or two this week in head-to-head formats.
Bullpen: As has been the approach all season, next-in-line relievers on teams playing a pair of games are excellent targets to "pitch and ditch." Mark Melancon is the Padres primary closer, with Drew Pomeranz and Emilio Pagan being the choices if San Diego skipper Jayce Tingler wants to look elsewhere in the second game. Pomeranz just came off the IL, but fanned two in his first inning back. Meanwhile, Pagan allowed two homers in his last appearance. This gives the edge to Pomeranz. The Braves will no doubt call upon Will Smith if needed in the first game, perhaps turning to Chris Martin or Tyler Matzek, if a second close-out situation comes to pass.
For the latest team-by-team closer situations, please consult our Closer Chart.
Catcher -- Jacob Stallings (R), 13%, Pittsburgh Pirates at Arizona Diamondbacks (LHP Madison Bumgarner): Stallings spent most of the first half in the four-hole against southpaws, but he's been batting sixth since the emergence of first baseman John Nogowski (who is also an option against Bumgarner). Stallings has already set new personal-bests with eight homers and 40 RBI. He now sits just four runs shy of a new career-high in that department.
First Base -- Pavin Smith (L), 29%, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Max Kranick): Smith has been hitting the ball hard since coming out of the break, though mostly on the ground. He's also coaxed three walks in the last four games, a nice trait for points leagues. Kranick will be making his third major-league start. After registering five hitless frames against the Cardinals in his debut, Kranick was hit hard by the Mets, serving up three runs in three innings on four hits and three walks.
Second Base -- Donovan Solano (R), 3%, San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers (LHP Julio Urias): In recent games, the platoon-happy Giants have been batting Solano second against left-handers. He's responded with a .323/.364/.355 line over the past eight games.
Third Base -- Hunter Dozier (R), 21%, Kansas City Royals at Milwaukee Brewers (LHP Eric Lauer): There are always a handful of hitters who get released by frustrated team managers, only to be picked up by a competitor just before the player rights the ship. Dozier is shaping up to be such an example. He entered July hitting .160/.227/.329 before posting a .348/.404/.522 line this month (through Monday's action).
Shortstop -- Paul DeJong (R), 39%, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Chicago Cubs (RHP Kyle Hendricks): Heading into the break, DeJong was highlighted a few times in this space, with the expectation that a power surge was forthcoming. That analysis proved to be prescient as the shortstop homered twice in the final weekend of the first half before going yard again last Sunday. Expect more of the same over the rest of the second half.
Corner Infield -- Gavin Sheets (L), 5%, Chicago White Sox vs. Minnesota Twins (RHP Michael Pineda): Sheets no doubt hears footsteps as Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez are both nearing a return. Perhaps it is this added incentive which is fueling his recent heroics, as Sheets has left the yard three times in his last seven games, including a walk-off three run shot on Monday. After not surrendering any homers in 26 2/3 frames last season, Pineda has already served up 11 blasts in 61 1/3 innings this year.
Middle Infield -- Enrique Hernandez (R), 38%, Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays (LHP Robbie Ray): Being reinstalled at the top of the order has agreed with Hernandez, as demonstrated by a .279/.410/.662 line since June 27. But wait, there's more! In old-school leadoff fashion, Hernandez has walked 14 times (with only 12 strikeouts) in his 83 plate appearances over this 18-game span.
Outfield -- Akil Baddoo (L), 35%, Detroit Tigers vs. Texas Rangers (RHP Jordan Lyles): The Tigers have been playing good ball after the break, in large part thanks to Baddoo's work at leadoff. He's hit safely in his three starts (5-for-13, .385) and, for the season, he has recorded a .956 OPS with the platoon edge -- including all seven of his homers.
Outfield -- Jackie Bradley Jr. (L), 8%, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Kansas City Royals (RHP Brad Keller): Bradley's formula is straightforward. When he's not striking out, he's productive. Heading into the break, Bradley had only whiffed three times in 22 plate appearances, but was not rewarded with many hits. Post break, he's fanned just twice in 13 trips to the dish, while recording a pair of multiple-hit games. Anticipating a streak is often a fool's errand, however doing so against a right-hander with a 5.97 ERA and a 1.76 WHIP? Well, that certainly increases the chance for success.
Outfield -- Bradley Zimmer (L), 2%, Cleveland at Houston Astros (RHP Lance McCullers Jr.): Zimmer has quietly posted a .360/.407/.600 line over the past week, also chipping in with a couple of steals. As is the case with most young left-handed batters, Zimmer is more productive with the platoon edge.