A shortened schedule (eight games) leaves pitching options inherently limited, but a number of productive but overlooked hurlers take the mound Monday. It's rare you see a pitcher with a 3.15 ERA widely available, but Jeremy Guthrie is still a free agent in more than 40 percent of ESPN standard leagues. Fantasy owners bailed on Mark Buehrle early in the season after a disappointing start, but even a 2.74 ERA in 14 starts since June hasn't been enough to get back in owners' good graces. Finally, Nick Blackburn has a sub-4.00 ERA as a rookie, but just 76 strikeouts in 144 2/3 innings have left him free in 90-plus percent of leagues. Astute owners should take note.
Matchups for Monday, Aug. 18
All times are ET.
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: In 120 at-bats versus southpaws, Melvin Mora is hitting .317 with 10 home runs, compared to .264 with eight home runs in 318 at-bats against righties. Chris Davis is just 5-for-35 in his past nine games, with 10 strikeouts and one walk. While his average was never likely to stay anywhere near .300, it seems pitchers have figured him out. Until Davis adjusts, you might want to bench or even drop him. Five of Marlon Byrd's eight home runs have occurred against southpaws even though he has 80 fewer at-bats against them. Also, he's hitting .320 in Rangers Ballpark, and hitting behind Josh Hamilton and Milton Bradley in the lineup, he's in a prime spot to contribute. The surging Mike Cameron is 8-for-19, with two homers, in his past five games, and he usually crushes left-handed pitching. Seattle's Jose Lopez is hitting .336 with four home runs in 128 at-bats against lefties. Adrian Beltre (.339 average) hits them well, too, but is just 2-for-15 off Mark Buehrle for his career.
Pitchers: Guthrie has allowed one earned run in each of his past four starts, and since June, nine of his 14 starts have resulted in exactly one earned run allowed, including a shutdown of the mighty Rangers offense two starts ago. With Guthrie pitching that well, you can feel comfortable starting him until he proves otherwise, even against the Red Sox (.801 team OPS, third in the majors).
John Maine allowed just one hit to the Nationals and didn't allow a run in his return start from the disabled list, although considering the opponent, success could have been expected. That said, Monday's opponent, the Pirates, shouldn't be a much tougher matchup; the team's .652 OPS this month is 29th in the majors.
Despite allowing a combined 10 runs to the Cubs and Diamondbacks his past two starts, Jorge Campillo is a great spot start for his outing versus the Giants. Campillo's peripherals are still OK -- he had 10 strikeouts, two walks and one home run allowed in those two starts -- and honestly, almost any decent pitcher is a feasible option against the Giants' weak lineup.
The Orioles' offense has the highest slugging percentage in the majors (by 15 points) since the All-Star break, and its .364 on-base percentage ranks second. The word "juggernaut" wouldn't normally be an adjective to describe the Orioles' offensive exploits -- their OPS ranked a respectable 12th before the All-Star break -- but until the bats cool down, protect your starters against them, Jon Lester included.
After averaging nearly seven innings over his first 17 starts, Justin Duchscherer is averaging just more than 5 2/3 innings in his past four starts. With a near nonexistent offense backing him, Duchscherer doesn't have much margin for error, and with his luck beginning to balance out, he's no longer a fantasy ace. Leave him reserved and see how he does against the Twins.
Hitters: Adam LaRoche was in the midst of a scorching hot streak (.390 average, seven home runs in July) before a rib injury forced him to the disabled list. LaRoche missed only the minimum 15 days, went 6-for-10 on a rehab assignment and has four hits and a walk in three games since returning, suggesting he hasn't had a problem refinding his stroke. He should be picked up in fantasy leagues in which he's still available. Since taking over as the everyday third baseman since Evan Longoria went down, Willy Aybar has three home runs, three multihit games and five walks to two strikeouts. He's even hitting fifth in the lineup, so he's a decent fill-in.
Pitchers: The A's are the only team in baseball with an OBP below .300 (the Mendoza Line equivalent of on-base percentage) since the All-Star break. That makes Nick Blackburn a pretty easy call for a spot start.
Mark Buehrle is on pace for his sixth season with a sub-4.00 ERA, and consistent inning-eaters with low ERAs deserve to be owned in more than half of fantasy leagues, especially with an elite offense backing him. He's more than just a spot start, although his matchup against the Mariners on Monday is favorable, too.
Showers will continue to plague any games in Arlington (Tigers-Rangers), with thunderstorms expected all day that could easily postpone, delay and/or shorten the game. Fortunately, that is the only concern of the day. Domes in Tampa Bay and Minnesota are weatherproof, of course, and otherwise the skies should be clear.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com