Buchholz returns to Red Sox rotation
In contrast to Tuesday, Wednesday's projected starters look stacked, resulting in the rankings looking, from top to bottom, like one of the strongest all year. It's not the friendliest list to streamers, however, as most of the list is full of proven commodities likely not available on the waiver wire.
Speaking of proven commodities, Clay Buchholz has turned himself into one this season and is set to make his return from the disabled list against the Oakland Athletics. The month he missed may be a blessing in disguise considering his potential jump in innings compared to last year. For now just make sure the bookkeeping to activate him from your disabled list doesn't slip your mind.
Starting pitcher rankings for July 21
• This is the first tough decision Max Scherzer owners have had regarding whether or start him since he was recalled from the minors May 30. He's been great since that point but slipped somewhat against the Cleveland Indians, allowing 10 baserunners (five walks) in five innings. I'm still inclined to start him versus a quality offense team in the Texas Rangers, primarily because Scherzer is at home. The Rangers have just a .704 OPS on the road, 20th best in the majors.
• Ted Lilly has allowed eight home runs in his past four starts, coughing up 18 earned runs during that span. It's a testament to how good he's been most of the season that his ERA is still a solid 4.07, but his owners could use a little reassurance. Enter the Houston Astros, who have the majors' worst OPS against southpaws. A poor start from Lilly on Wednesday will be red-flag worthy, but chances are he has a strong bounce-back performance.
• Almost none of it looks pretty, but since May, Bronson Arroyo has a 3.24 ERA; oddly enough his best month, peripheral-wise, resulted in his worst performance (April's 6.37 ERA). You shouldn't suddenly believe Arroyo has turned into a consistent option, but for now you can make do, especially versus the Washington Nationals, one of the league's weaker offenses.
• Is Chad Billingsley ever going to get it together? He's often unpredictably terrible, although his middle-of-the-pack ranking for Wednesday is due to both the strong crop of starters and the necessary reality that Billingsley just isn't as good as we've assumed. The four pitchers that immediately follow him, Gio Gonzalez, Brett Myers, Jason Hammel and Ricky Nolasco, should be considered solid bets in mixed leagues. It's after we get to our next pitcher where it's time to exercise caution.
• Welcome back to our bad side, Barry Zito. Overall, Zito has still been a solid pitcher, well worth using in the future, but it's still a good idea to lean toward the conservative side with him. He's a definite risk against the Los Angeles Dodgers; his ERA is more than two runs higher on the road and the Dodgers have hit .286 off him.
Hitter matchup ratings for July 21
Carlos Pena, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays: With six hits -- four extra-base hits, including two home runs -- in his past 13 at-bats, Pena may be warming up for real. Don't be surprised to continue to see him go off versus Brad Bergesen, a right-hander he's gone 3-for-4 against with a pair of doubles and a dinger.
Bobby Abreu, OF, Los Angeles Angels: It says a lot that Abreu is still slugging .803 against Javier Vazquez, even after 76 at-bats, so this matchup may be the best hope his owners have at squeezing power out of the 36-year-old. Abreu is batting .316 with 10 homers off Vazquez, and even if he doesn't go deep, he is a threat to steal a base with the weak-armed Jorge Posada behind the plate.
Adam Jones, CF, Baltimore Orioles: A robust 9-for-19 in his career against James Shields, a whopping six of those hits have gone for extra bases: five doubles and one home run. That kind of dominance speaks for itself, and if anything, turns his lack of patience (zero walks) into a boon.
Lyle Overbay, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays: Overbay has reached base safely via a hit in 12 out of 14 games this month, batting .352 along the way. He's done quite well versus Zack Greinke in the past, going 7-for-18 (.389) with a pair of home runs and a double, so he should maintain his hot hitting for at least another game.
Vernon Wells, OF, Toronto Blue Jays: He's in the midst of a brutal July slump where he's homerless while batting a weak .163 through 49 at-bats. Don't expect Wells to get it going versus Zack Greinke. He's a career .182 hitter against the ace in 22 at-bats with zero walks and one extra-base hit.
Lance Berkman, 1B, Houston Astros: Batting .204 with just one home run against left-handers this season, Berkman admitted to feeling pain in his left knee while swinging from the right side, too. There's little reason not to bench him against Ted Lilly, a southpaw he's batting .115 against in 26 career at-bats.
Troy Glaus, 1B/3B, Atlanta Braves: Three of his four hits against Jon Garland have left the park, but it's still hard to recommend a guy hitting .174 against any pitcher. Unfortunately, Glaus enters Wednesday's contest slumping, slugging .297 in July, so err on the side of caution here.
Adam Dunn, 1B, Washington Nationals: Dunn is entering Wednesday's matchup versus Bronson Arroyo with six strikeouts in his past 12 at-bats, so he's not exactly operating at his peak. He's just 1-for-8 with four K's against Arroyo, so his struggles should continue in the short term.
Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day
Jim Thome, DH, Minnesota Twins: He may no longer be an everyday player, but Thome has been superb against right-handers nonetheless, slugging .658 with 10 home runs in 111 at-bats this season. It makes a whole lot of sense to play him versus Jake Westbrook, a rightie he's gone deep against three times in 26 career at-bats.
Injury list: Day-to-day
Russell Branyan, 1B, Seattle Mariners (back)
Chris Coghlan, OF, Florida Marlins (back)
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, Oakland Athletics (back)
Chipper Jones, 3B, Atlanta Braves (hamstring)
Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (shoulder)
Corey Patterson, OF, Baltimore Orioles (heel)
Carlos Quentin, OF, Chicago White Sox (hand)
Manny Ramirez, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (calf): Ramirez has an MRI scheduled for Tuesday, after which we'll know if his calf injury is serious enough to land him on the disabled list. Consider him doubtful for Tuesday.
Scott Rolen, 3B, Cincinnati Reds (hamstring)
Games between the Mets-Diamondbacks and White Sox-Mariners will be weatherproof. The mid-afternoon start for the Angels-Yankees does no favors, as storms are a good bet to cause at least some kind of rain delay. Meanwhile, crazy weather in Kansas City, Cincinnati and St. Louis will have the teams involved playing in up to 97-degree heat in the midst of thunderstorms.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.
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