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This Week In Streaming Strategy, July 16-22

After a week-long hiatus and a baseball-themed vacation in Washington D.C., This Week In Streaming Strategy is back.  The vacation by the numbers: five Nationals games, two Smithsonian Museums, one delicious giant slice at We The Pizza and 100 degrees-plus every single day as Washington suffered one of the hottest weeks in its history.  The only things hotter than the D.C. weather are these fantasy baseball recommendations!  (Clearly the time off didn't improve my pun-making or paragraph transition skills.)

* Travis Wood.  There haven't been many positives for the Cubs this seaso,n but Wood's return to the Majors and development into a solid member of the Chicago rotation has been a bright spot for the Northsiders. Wood has a 3.05 ERA in 10 starts and ... OK, well, I realize that I do the "oh, this guy has been putting up good numbers but STAY AWAY FROM HIM THIS WEEK OR ELSE!" reversal in pretty much every column, so let's just cut to the chase right now and say that Wood is a ticking time bomb. His BABIP is an unsustainably low .218, his FIP/xFIP/SIERA numbers are 4.69/4.55/4.65, he has an unimpressive 6.1 K/9 rate. Basically, when it comes to narrowly avoiding disaster, Wood is topped only by Buster Keaton.  Wood is set to face the Marlins and Cardinals this week, but I'd skip him as a two-start option since you never know when he'll start pitching to form.

* Scott Diamond.  Here's another southpaw whose advanced ERA estimators (3.85 FIP, 3.53 xFIP, 3.49 SIERA) are notably higher than his actual ERA (2.62), and yet just as in the organic material world, Diamond is more valuable than Wood. While Diamond has just 45 strikeouts in 79 innings pitched, he has shown good control with an impressive 3.75 K/BB rate and avoided home run danger thanks to a 59% ground-ball rate.  Diamond starts at Target Field against the Orioles and then on the road against the Royals this week, and while he's been better at home, I'd be comfortable putting Diamond in a fantasy roster against either opponent.  The word isn't quite yet out on Diamond, as he's owned in just 42% of Yahoo fantasy leagues and thus could be available for streaming purposes this week.

* Jason Vargas.  This could be a big week for the Mariners southpaw, as his Monday start in Kansas City has been considered by some (such as Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times) to be somewhat of an audition to prove to potential trade suitors that he can pitch away from Safeco Field.  I'd say the verdict is in: no, he can't.  Vargas has had drastic home-away splits in three of his four seasons as a Mariner, including this year's 2.84 ERA in eight home starts and 5.09 ERA in 11 away starts.  Another warning sign is Vargas' .248 BABIP this season, which indicates that he's been a bit lucky no matter where he's pitched.  Vargas will pitch on the road against the Royals and Rays this week, and while both clubs are in the bottom-third of team OPS against left-handed pitching, I'd still stay away from Vargas as a streaming option until he gets back to his home park.  If Vargas is traded to a team with a more hitter-friendly stadium, his fantasy value might drop off the board altogether.

* The Mariners lineup, en masse.  It's not news to say that the M's are having another brutal year at the plate, but their .715 team OPS on the road is actually respectable, ranking 15th in baseball.  Though the Mariners are on the road all this week, however, don't be fooled into starting any stray M's you may have on your bench since they're scheduled to face four left-handed starters this week, including three in a row from Monday through Wednesday in Kansas City.  Seattle is hitting a miserable .229/.279/.343 against southpaws this season, making many a garden-variety left-hander suddenly look like Warren Spahn.  But really folks, let's put the splits aside and just say that if you're still counting on a Mariner player to be a fantasy contributor for you here in the month of July, you're long overdue to make an upgrade for the stretch run.  (Note: the last time I dissed an entire lineup like this, the Pirates went on to lead the majors in runs scored over the next month. Maybe this entry should be taken with a grain of salt.)

* Chris Carter.  This is just a good old-fashioned "ride him until he cools off" recommendation.  Carter has four homers in eight games since being called up from Triple-A Sacramento so if you're looking for a cheap short-term 1B/utility type, he's your man.  The A's are at home this week and while it's worth noting that three of Carter's bombs have been hit away from the Coliseum, his yard-going might not be abated his opposition.  Of the six pitchers Carter and the A's are scheduled to face this week, three (Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and Colby Lewis) rank among the top 12 in the AL in HR/9 among qualified starters, Roy Oswalt has been inconsistent since returning to the Majors, and Freddy Garcia is Freddy Garcia.  There's definitely opportunity here for Carter to keep mashing.

* Lou Marson.  I cited the Indians catcher as a possible darkhorse fantasy candidate last winter with the logic that Marson would get significant at-bats due to the lack of right-handed hitting options on the Cleveland roster and the team's desire to use Carlos Santana both behind the plate and at first base or DH.  Marson has a very solid .293/.388/.394 line through 116 plate appearances, though his deployment as a lefty-killer hasn't exactly gone to plan --- Marson is actually hitting much better against righties (.835 OPS) than against southpaws (.723 OPS).  That being said, Marson is looking more and more like the top catching option when a left-hander is on the mound.  The Tribe are scheduled to face at least two lefties this week (Matt Moore on Tuesday and David Price on Thursday) and maybe more depending on how Baltimore's scattered rotation shapes up next weekend.  If you're in a league with two starting catcher spots and have been struggling to fill that second backstop position, you could do worse than a promising young hitter like Marson.

* Matt Moore.  I hardly need to tell you to start Moore at all times, but it just occurred to me that Moore might be the greatest two-start option in history this week.  He has two starts, at home, against two of the worst-hitting teams in the league against left-handers in the Indians and Mariners.  Forget about picking up fantasy wins, Moore might threaten Johnny Vander Meer's record this week.


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