Forecaster: July 23-29

Updated: July 22, 2012, 10:12 AM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, July 22 at 10:12 a.m. ET.

On tap: Consider this "statement time" for the Boston Red Sox, who, after taking three of four against the American League Central-leading Chicago White Sox, now enter a portion of their schedule against some of the league's stiffest competition. The Red Sox take to the road this week to battle the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees for three games apiece; in 15 of their subsequent 30 games (after this scoring period), they'll also take on the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels as well as the Rangers and Yankees again. Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford and Dustin Pedroia, those three occupying the 1-2-3 spots in the lineup on July 19, Pedroia's first game back from the disabled list, are now healthy and should inject life into an offense that has batted .286, scored 36 runs and hit 10 homers in its first seven games since the All-Star break. Take note, as matchups for Red Sox pitching opponents should be tougher this week, and considering the team has a 2.47 ERA and 1.10 WHIP on the pitching side since the break, there's reason to think their starters aren't automatic "must-sits" facing those teams.

Fantasy Forecaster

Roy Halladay, who threw 80 pitches en route to a five-inning, five-hit, two-run, six-strikeout effort in his first start off the DL on July 17, is a two-start pitcher this week, making his second and third starts since activation versus the Milwaukee Brewers and at the Atlanta Braves. Though Halladay might again face a pitch count, at least during his Monday turn, he's a favorable enough fantasy option to activate for the week, and he could be back to his former ace status by week's end.

Zack Greinke, whose tumultuous July has included trade rumors, starts in three consecutive games and 10 days of rest to "recharge his batteries," returns to the Brewers' rotation in time for a two-start week, pitching first at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday, then at home versus the Washington Nationals. There might not be a more critical outing in terms of determining his rest-of-season value than the Tuesday game; on skill he's ranked as a strong fantasy option, but it'd be understandable if his owners are hesitant.

Remember that the closer we get to the July 31 deadline for trades that don't first require waivers, the more likely a prominent pitcher -- like Greinke -- is moved, shuffling teams' rotations. Among the late-in-the-week pitchers on the trade block, meaning heightened risk of them losing their second turns: The Minnesota Twins' Francisco Liriano is scheduled for start No. 2 of the week on Sunday; the Chicago Cubs' Ryan Dempster is scheduled once, on Wednesday; the Cubs' Matt Garza is also scheduled once, on Friday; the Houston Astros' Wandy Rodriguez is scheduled for his second start of the week on Sunday; and the Philadelphia Phillies' Cole Hamels is scheduled once, on Friday.

ESPN leagues: Week 15

Despite one wraparound series game, Monday's finale of the Baltimore Orioles at Cleveland Indians July 20-23 four-game weekend series, we've nevertheless got a late start time to the week, that game being one of three to kick off at 7:05 p.m. ET. Here are the scheduled start times of the first games each day:

Quick click by section, if you're seeking advice in a specific area:
Probable starting pitchers | Week 15 pitcher rankings | Pitching notes
Streamer's delight | Hitting ratings | Hitting notes

Projected starting pitchers

The chart below lists each of the 30 MLB teams' schedules and projected starting pitchers, and provides a matchup rating for each day's starter. Pitchers scheduled to start at least twice this week are in gold/beige boxes.

Tristan's Week 15 pitcher rankings: Top 75

1. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Tue-NYY (Garcia), Sun-KC (Smith)
2. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Tue-@STL (Wainwright), Sun-@SF (Vogelsong)
3. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Tue-LAD (Kershaw), Sun-@CHC (Samardzija)
4. Gio Gonzalez (WAS) -- Tue-@NYM (Dickey), Sun-@MIL (Greinke)
5. Jordan Zimmermann (WAS) -- Mon-@NYM (Young), Sat-@MIL (Wolf)
6. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Thu-@CLE (McAllister)
7. C.J. Wilson (LAA) -- Mon-KC (Chen), Sun-TB (Hellickson)
8. Matt Cain (SF) -- Fri-LAD (Eovaldi)
9. Ryan Vogelsong (SF) -- Mon-SD (Richard), Sun-LAD (Kershaw)
10. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Wed-KC (Hochevar)
11. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Tue-MIL (Greinke)
12. Roy Halladay (PHI) -- Mon-MIL (Wolf), Sun-@ATL (Minor)
13. Stephen Strasburg (WAS) -- Wed-@NYM (TBD)
14. David Price (TB) -- Wed-@BAL (Gonzalez)
15. Hiroki Kuroda (NYY) -- Mon-@SEA (Millwood), Sun-BOS (Doubront)
16. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Fri-@ATL (Sheets)
17. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Tue-SD (Volquez)
18. Josh Johnson (MIA) -- Mon-ATL (Minor), Sun-SD (Richard)
19. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Thu-WAS (Jackson)
20. Zack Greinke (MIL) -- Tue-@PHI (Lee), Sun-WAS (Gonzalez)
21. R.A. Dickey (NYM) -- Tue-WAS (Gonzalez), Sun-@ARI (Saunders)
22. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Sat-BOS (Lester)
23. Francisco Liriano (MIN) -- Mon-@CHW (Floyd), Sun-CLE (Jimenez)
24. Chris Sale (CHW) -- Fri-@TEX (Darvish)
25. Mat Latos (CIN) -- Mon-@HOU (Rodriguez), Sun-@COL (Pomeranz)
26. Doug Fister (DET) -- Tue-@CLE (Jimenez), Sun-@TOR (Cecil)
27. Lance Lynn (STL) -- Fri-@CHC (Garza)
28. Ian Kennedy (ARI) -- Mon-COL (Sanchez), Sat-NYM (Young)
29. Jake Peavy (CHW) -- Wed-MIN (Blackburn)
30. James McDonald (PIT) -- Tue-CHC (Maholm), Sun-@HOU (Harrell)
31. Matt Harrison (TEX) -- Sat-CHW (Humber)
32. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Sat-@COL (Sanchez)
33. Anibal Sanchez (MIA) -- Sat-SD (Ohlendorf)
34. Wandy Rodriguez (HOU) -- Mon-CIN (Latos), Sat-PIT (Bedard)
35. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Tue-@MIA (Buehrle)
36. Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- Wed-@MIA (Nolasco)
37. Ryan Dempster (CHC) -- Wed-@PIT (Correia)
38. Wei-Yin Chen (BAL) -- Tue-TB (Hellickson), Sun-OAK (Blackley)
39. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Wed-SD (Marquis)
40. Matt Garza (CHC) -- Fri-STL (Lynn)
41. Jeremy Hellickson (TB) -- Tue-@BAL (Chen), Sun-@LAA (Wilson)
42. Ivan Nova (NYY) -- Wed-@SEA (Iwakuma)
43. Kyle Lohse (STL) -- Wed-LAD (Harang)
44. Ubaldo Jimenez (CLE) -- Tue-DET (Fister), Sun-@MIN (Liriano)
45. Ben Sheets (ATL) -- Fri-PHI (Hamels)
46. Justin Masterson (CLE) -- Mon-BAL (Hunter), Sat-@MIN (Deduno)
47. Dan Haren (LAA) -- Sat-TB (Moore)
48. Colby Lewis (TEX) -- Tue-BOS (Buchholz)
49. Jarrod Parker (OAK) -- Fri-@BAL (Britton)
50. Mark Buehrle (MIA) -- Tue-ATL (Hudson)
51. Clayton Richard (SD) -- Mon-@SF (Vogelsong), Sun-@MIA (Johnson)
52. Michael Fiers (MIL) -- Fri-WAS (Detwiler)
53. Jeff Samardzija (CHC) -- Mon-@PIT (Bedard), Sun-STL (Wainwright)
54. Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Wed-@HOU (Norris)
55. Jonathon Niese (NYM) -- Fri-@ARI (Collmenter)
56. Yu Darvish (TEX) -- Fri-CHW (Sale)
57. Vance Worley (PHI) -- Wed-MIL (Estrada)
58. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Wed-@CLE (Lowe)
59. A.J. Burnett (PIT) -- Thu-@HOU (Keuchel)
60. Marco Estrada (MIL) -- Wed-@PHI (Worley)
61. Roy Oswalt (TEX) -- Mon-BOS (Doubront), Sun-CHW (Floyd)
62. Trevor Cahill (ARI) -- Wed-COL (Francis)
63. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Sat-@NYY (Sabathia)
64. Erik Bedard (PIT) -- Mon-CHC (Samardzija), Sat-@HOU (Rodriguez)
65. Chris Capuano (LAD) -- Thu-@STL (Westbrook)
66. Wade Miley (ARI) -- Thu-NYM (Batista)
67. Phil Hughes (NYY) -- Fri-BOS (Cook)
68. Carlos Villanueva (TOR) -- Fri-DET (Porcello)
69. Ricky Romero (TOR) -- Wed-OAK (Griffin)
70. Jeff Karstens (PIT) -- Fri-@HOU (Lyles)
71. Mike Minor (ATL) -- Mon-@MIA (Johnson), Sun-PHI (Halladay)
72. Derek Holland (TEX) -- Wed-BOS (Beckett)
73. Bartolo Colon (OAK) -- Sat-@BAL (Hunter)
74. Jose Quintana (CHW) -- Tue-MIN (De Vries)
75. Jason Vargas (SEA) -- Thu-KC (Mendoza)

Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Chad Billingsley (LAD) -- Mon-@STL (Kelly), Sat-@SF (Zito)
Travis Blackley (OAK) -- Tue-@TOR (Cecil), Sun-@BAL (Chen)
Felix Doubront (BOS) -- Mon-@TEX (Oswalt), Sun-@NYY (Kuroda)
Gavin Floyd (CHW) -- Mon-MIN (Liriano), Sun-@TEX (Oswalt)
Lucas Harrell (HOU) -- Tue-CIN (Leake), Sun-PIT (McDonald)
Joe Kelly (STL) -- Mon-LAD (Billingsley), Sat-@CHC (Wood)
Drew Pomeranz (COL) -- Tue-@ARI (Saunders), Sun-CIN (Latos)
Randy Wolf (MIL) -- Mon-@PHI (Halladay), Sat-WAS (Zimmermann)
Chris Young (NYM) -- Mon-WAS (Zimmermann), Sat-@ARI (Kennedy)

No-thank-yous, among two-start pitchers:
Brett Cecil (TOR) -- Tue-OAK (Blackley), Sun-DET (Fister)
Bruce Chen (KC) -- Mon-@LAA (Wilson), Sat-@SEA (Millwood)
Tommy Hunter (BAL) -- Mon-@CLE (Masterson), Sat-OAK (Colon)
Kevin Millwood (SEA) -- Mon-NYY (Kuroda), Sat-KC (Chen)
Jonathan Sanchez (COL) -- Mon-@ARI (Kennedy), Sat-CIN (Cueto)
Joe Saunders (ARI) -- Tue-COL (Pomeranz), Sun-NYM (Dickey)
Will Smith (KC) -- Tue-@LAA (Richards), Sun-@SEA (Hernandez)

Pitching notes

• Home games, weak-hitting foes. That is the formula that makes the San Francisco Giants my Baseball Challenge pitching staff of Week 15, despite the fact that they play only six games, whereas 12 other squads play seven. These Giants are the No. 1 team in baseball at home in ERA (2.31), WHIP (1.04), batting average allowed (.207), OPS allowed (.576) and both saves (19) and save percentage (86 percent), the latter encouraging from a staffwide perspective if you've become worried about Santiago Casilla's five blown saves in his past eight opportunities. Casilla has been rock solid at AT&T Park; he's 14-for-15 in save chances with a 1.83 ERA there, compared to 9-for-14 with a 5.28 ERA on the road. (Not to mention that if Sergio Romo were to take over at closer this week, the Giants might be better off besides.) And what of Tim Lincecum, the shakiest of the Giants' starters during the past month? He'll pitch once, on Wednesday, against the San Diego Padres, and he has a 10-4 record, 16 quality starts, a 2.02 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 10.13 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio in 20 career starts against them, including a 2.57 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in two meetings this season. Lincecum is an effective must-start, down year or not, for that matchup, and it provides an advantage that has the entire staff low-risk. Among other recommended BBC pitching staffs: Nationals (@NYM-3, @MIL-4), Pittsburgh Pirates (CHC-3, @HOU-4), St. Louis Cardinals (LAD-4, @CHC-3), Angels (KC-3, TB-3).

The following visiting pitchers are scheduled to pitch at Colorado's Coors Field, No. 1 in runs scored on our Park Factor page and home to the Colorado Rockies, baseball's No. 1 team in terms of runs scored and OPS in home games:
Bronson Arroyo (Friday): 4 career GS at Coors, 8.84 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, 7 HRs allowed. Sit, for obvious reasons.
• Johnny Cueto (Saturday): 2 career GS at Coors, 3.00 ERA, 1.33 WHIP. Start, especially as he has eight quality starts in his past nine games.
• Mat Latos (Sunday): 4 career GS at Coors, 3.51 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 1.40 HR/9. Sit; the Rockies hit five homers off him on May 27.

There are no games scheduled this upcoming week at San Diego's Petco Park, No. 26 in runs scored on our Park Factor page and home to the Padres, No. 29 in both runs scored and OPS in home games.

The following pitchers are scheduled to pitch at Seattle's Safeco Field, No. 29 in runs scored on our Park Factor page and home to the Seattle Mariners, baseball's worst team in terms of runs scored and OPS in home games:
• Hiroki Kuroda (Monday): Has never pitched at Safeco. Start.
Freddy Garcia (Tuesday): 78 career GS at Safeco, 3.65 ERA, 1.28 WHIP; 2 GS, 9.58 ERA, 2.03 WHIP there as a visiting pitcher. Start, except in the shallowest mixed leagues -- like ESPN's 10-team standard.
• Ivan Nova (Wednesday): 2 career GS at Safeco, 4.09 ERA, 1.55 WHIP. Start.
Luis Mendoza (Thursday): 2 career G and 3 1/3 shutout IP at Safeco. Start in AL-only, Sit in everything else.
Jeremy Guthrie (Friday): 5 career GS at Safeco, 2.45 ERA, 1.06 WHIP. Start, at least in AL-only leagues. Somehow a fresh start coupled with this matchup offers encouragement in what has been a terrible year for him.
• Bruce Chen (Saturday): 5 career G, 3 GS at Safeco, 3.42 ERA, 0.97 WHIP. Still a Sit, as he's in the midst of a streak of four consecutive poor outings, including one against these Mariners this past Wednesday.
• Will Smith (Sunday): Has never pitched at Safeco. Sit, as he allowed four runs in 6 1/3 innings to the Mariners in a home game this past Thursday.

• Hesitance with Red Sox opponents, as hinted above, makes sense accounting past histories for the six starting pitchers battling them: Roy Oswalt (Monday) has never faced them, but Derek Holland (Wednesday) is the only one of the other five to have an ERA beneath 4.00 in his career against the Red Sox. CC Sabathia (Saturday) and Hiroki Kuroda (Sunday), on sheer skill, are worth keeping active, but warrant conservative projections: They have a 4.27 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 22 career starts against the Red Sox. Phil Hughes (Friday) has a 6.49 ERA and 1.69 WHIP in 17 career games (nine starts) against the Red Sox and has fallen short of quality-start minimums in three straight starts against them. He should be avoided.

• The Astros have run ice cold, batting .197/.264/.285 as a team and averaging 2.40 runs per game in the month of July, creating excellent matchup opportunities for their opponents. All seven scheduled to face them warrant consideration -- and, for the most part, every Astros opponent is worth a look the remainder of the year -- but pay particular attention to Homer Bailey (Wednesday), 4-0 with a 1.60 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in five career starts against the Astros, and Jeff Karstens (Friday), 5-2 with a 2.83 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in nine career games (eight starts) against them.

• Could a Ricky Romero rebound be in order? His past history versus the Oakland Athletics might stack the deck in his favor. He's 6-for-6 in quality starts in his career against them, winning four times with a 1.70 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. That includes a quality start on May 8 during which he struck out seven in six innings.

Streamer's delight

Among streaming starter -- something I define as single-start options in daily leagues among pitchers owned in 25 percent of ESPN leagues or fewer -- options for Week 15, here are my picks by day:

Monday, July 23: Mike Minor at Miami Marlins
Tuesday, July 24: Paul Maholm at Pittsburgh Pirates
Wednesday, July 25: Homer Bailey at Houston Astros
Thursday, July 26: Jake Westbrook versus Los Angeles Dodgers
Friday, July 27: Carlos Zambrano versus San Diego Padres
Saturday, July 28: Barry Zito versus Los Angeles Dodgers
Sunday, July 29: Clayton Richard at Miami Marlins

Past picks
Friday, July 13: Chris Young -- 3 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 2 K
Saturday, July 14: Aaron Harang -- QS, 7 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K
Sunday, July 15: Carlos Villanueva -- W, QS, 6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 5 BB, 8 K
Monday, July 16: Alex Cobb -- 3 1/3 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 3 K
Tuesday, July 17: Jordan Lyles -- 6 IP, 11 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 3 K
Wednesday, July 18: Clayton Richard -- W, 8 1/3 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
Thursday, July 19: Lucas Harrell -- QS, 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K

Week's total: 7 GS, 2 W (28.6%), 3 QS (42.9%), 40 2/3 IP, 42 H, 20 ER, 17 BB, 29 K, 4.43 ERA, 1.45 WHIP
Season total: 94 GS, 38 W (40.4%), 49 QS (52.1%), 565 IP, 548 H, 247 ER, 197 BB, 427 K, 3.93 ERA, 1.32 WHIP

Hitting ratings

The chart below lists each of the 30 teams' total number of scheduled games, home games and games versus right- and left-handed pitchers, and provides a matchup rating for the week's games in terms of overall offense, offense for left- and right-handed hitters and base stealing. Matchup ratings for each individual game are listed under the corresponding date.

Hitting notes

• The Pirates are not a laughable offense anymore. As a team, they've got .279/.335/.477 triple-slash rates, 63 home runs and a 5.63 runs-per-game average since the beginning of June, rating among the better hitting teams in the game. That's why that perfect-10 rating should catch your eye; the matchups would only improve should the Cubs move Ryan Dempster, Wednesday's scheduled starter, before that game. Neil Walker is the Pirates' standout, as a lifetime .421/.476/.737 hitter (21 PAs) against Dempster, and 10-for-25 (.400 AVG) with two home runs in his career combined against the Astros' scheduled weekend opponents.

Garrett Jones, too, is well worth a look. He is a .276/.295/.533 hitter with all 13 of his homers against right-handers and has two home runs in five career at-bats versus Jordan Lyles (Friday), making him an excellent daily-league option for the Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday games against righties.

• The Braves might not have a great overall hitting rating, but two of their individuals, Chipper Jones and Brian McCann, stand out based upon historical performances against individual opposing starters. Jones is a lifetime .341/.375/.727 hitter against Ricky Nolasco (Wednesday's opponent), and he's 26-for-73 (.356 AVG) with five homers in his career against the Phillies' three weekend starters, Cole Hamels (Friday), Joe Blanton (Saturday) and Roy Halladay (Sunday). McCann, meanwhile, is a .347/.365/.796 hitter in his career against Nolasco, and he's 33-for-98 (.337 AVG) with six homers combined in his career against those same three Phillies starters.

• Could this be the week that Justin Upton finally gets his season together? A week chock full of home games -- all seven of them -- and against left-handed pitching -- four opposing starters -- is as good a time as any. After all, he has an OPS 89 points higher at Chase Field (.799) than on the road (.710) this season, and an OPS 119 points higher versus lefties (.834) than righties (.715). But this is as much about his history versus the individual starters as anything. He's a .353/.389/.706 lifetime hitter against Jeff Francis (Wednesday), and he's a combined 11-for-29 (.379 AVG) with one home run against the New York Mets' four scheduled starters. It's also another stellar week for righties such like Paul Goldschmidt and Aaron Hill, both of whom have better than .300 batting averages and .800 OPS in both home games and versus left-handers this season.

• He has already picked up his play, but might this be a breakthrough week for Adrian Gonzalez as well? A .442 hitter with two home runs in 13 games so far in July, Gonzalez is a .346/.404/.731 hitter with six homers and 12 RBIs in 13 career games as a visiting player at Rangers Ballpark, and he has two homers and 11 RBIs (though also a .206 batting average) in nine career games at Yankee Stadium.