Welcome back! Apologies for not having this piece ready to go right out of the All-Star Break: There just was not enough information even right up until the first slate of games to forecast these matchups. Truthfully, information has only been trickling out over the weekend, so everyone out there must be on top of their lineups today until the MOMENT they lock. Sigh, this is the life we chose.
The second half starting means one thing for fantasy managers: Now is the time to make your move. More than half the season is gone so time is running out to climb your standings. There is still time though, plenty of it, but you must be swift, decisive, and cunning to make up significant ground from this point on. This article will keep you one step ahead of your league and allow you find pitching value where others can not.
Here are my updated offensive tiers. There are a few minor changes since the last installment.
Despite their disappointing play and crowded Injured List, the Yankees offense has not been completely abysmal over the last few weeks, so I bumped them up a tier while still splitting them up for home and road games. The Cubs have been completely abysmal, so their split is gone as they sit firmly in my ‘Meh’ tier.
Name recognition be damned, I dropped the Cardinals down a rung. They have the third lowest wRC+ in baseball since June 1 and have shown little life. On the other hand, the Tigers have been surging and seem to have taken a step forward offensively. Akil Baddoo is a fantastic lead-off hitter, and Robbie Grossman, Jonathan Schoop, Jeimer Candelario and Eric Haase are capable run producers. Comerica remains one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in baseball, but this team is no longer a bottom-dweller.
Lastly, the loss of Ronald Acuña is a massive blow to the Braves and baseball in general. I will still give that lineup the benefit of the doubt, but a poor few weeks without their superstar could see them fall lower down these tiers. Honestly, every offense in the NL East is completely up in the air. The Phillies and Nationals’ lineups both fall off a cliff and there’s no telling what will happen to the Mets without Francisco Lindor. The next few weeks of results will provide more clarity.
Anyway, let’s dive in! Here are the schedules for ALL 30 teams with insight on every pitcher’s upcoming matchups!
Gallen and Bumgarner both looked very good last weekend in their respective returns. Of course, the paltry Diamondbacks squandered both opportunities to win those games, both should provide acceptable ratios moving forward. Gallen still offers legit top 25 type upside despite his haphazard season thus far.
There is a great chance Kelly and Smith both find their ways out of Arizona before the trade deadline. Until then, stream both against the Cubs and Pirates and fade once the NL West comes knocking.
Atlanta has a remarkably mild schedule coming up, with no matchups that stand out as particularly good or bad. That’s great news for Morton and Fried, who have each been inconsistent. Morton has almost entirely rounded into form, while Fried’s only tough start over the last month came in Pittsburgh. Weird. They are both ‘buys’ for me moving forward.
Smyly has been perfectly fine over the last month. His strikeout numbers are less than we expected, but he’s winning games and relatively limiting damage. He is a fringe 12-team play against the Phillies and Mets.
Toussaint makes his long-awaited return to the big leagues this week against the Padres. He’s started four games at AAA this season and, stop me if you have heard this before, struggled with control. He’s worth a speculative add in the deepest of leagues, but nothing more at this moment.
Muller will be recalled from AAA Gwinnett for a two-start week against the Padres and Phillies. The matchups scare me, but he showed some real promise during his first sting in the big leagues. This is a high risk-high reward play if you are chasing wins or strikeouts.
Welcome back John Means! The Orioles ace will make his triumphant return on Tuesday from his shoulder injury. His rehab outings have not been great though, and I’d hesitate using him this week unless you absolutely have to. Fingers crossed it’s all systems go for a two-start week against the Marlins and Tigers.
As usual, the rest of this rotation can be faded with ease. Those matchups with Marlins and Tigers look nice, but everyone else here can be blown up by any team in baseball.
Boston Red Sox
What a massive stretch here for the Red Sox. Including last weekend’s series with the Yankees, their second-half schedule starts out with 18 straight tough divisional games without an off-day. Then a quick trip to Detroit, back to Buffalo for a third series with the Blue Jays in as many weeks, and three more games against the Rays. Absolutely brutal. In a major adjustment, the Red Sox will attack this stretch with a six-man rotation.
Houck gets the call to fill that sixth spot. Owner of a premier fastball, devastating slider, and plus command, he should make an immediate impact and needs to be picked up in deeper leagues.
That being said, I’m steering clear of this lovable band of misfits for a little while. They have gotten the job done thus far, but the Blue Jays offense is really that good and the Yankees AAAA roster got to them over the weekend. Attack those matchups with the Tigers while avoiding this minefield.
Every time the Alzolay hype train gets ready to leave the station, there’s an unexpected delay. Well, back-to-back decent starts against the Reds and Phillies heading into the break followed by a lackluster outing against the Diamondbacks on Saturday. He gets another chance to right the ship this week in St. Louis.
I have had some unkind words for Davies this season, some of which I’m ready to take back. While there is almost no chance I would ever look his way in a 10- or 12-team league, he holds value. A 15% strikeout rate be damned, he has only allowed more than 3 ER twice since May 1. There’s something to that.
If you root for a contender, you should want your favorite team to trade for Hendricks. He is steady, reliable, and effective year in and year out! His susceptibility to the long ball scares me in Colorado, but not enough to sit him unless I had a clearly better option.
Mills is very interesting in a two-start week against the Diamondbacks and Cardinals. He has 25 K against 6 BB in 24.2 IP since returning to the Cubs’ rotation last month and is a fine streamer. Williams is too this week, just to a lesser degree.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox and Twins are playing a double-header today (Monday). Rather than create confusion with a temporary six-man rotation for a team that will certainly not be using one moving forward, those games are in one box for consistency’s sake.
Otherwise, the most reliable rotation in baseball will continue to race towards the postseason. There is no week link here and this fearsome fivesome should feast on a soft schedule. Remarkably, they exclusively play teams from the Central divisions over the next three plus weeks.
Another new member of the six-man rotation club emerges in Cincinnati. I don’t see the Reds being as committed to this as the Red Sox, Angles, or Mariners, but that’s how the schedule lines up, so that is how it will be presented to you. Just be aware this matchups will become less consistent with a change back to five.
Until then, this Reds rotation will enjoy a stretch of multiple weeks without facing a top tier offense. Mahle and Gray have not been at the top of their game, so this schedule will be a welcome sight for their fantasy managers.
On other hand, Castillo has returned to form with a 1.76 ERA and 24.8% strikeout rate since June 1. He continues to improve and I am ready to re-anoint him as a frontline starter. Kudos to everyone who successfully bought low!
The back three of this staff have a very different outlook. Each of Gutierrez, Miley, and Hoffman have flashed at times this season and all are competent major league arms. Pick and choose from their upcoming matchups to get yourself some much needed innings.
Cleveland has a tough road ahead with 10 of their next 20 games coming against three of the league’s best offenses. Moreover, this is far and away the least exciting group of starting pitchers they have put together in recent memory. Neither Mejía nor Morgan misses enough bats to be viable in most leagues and we are all pretty much aware of what Quantrill is at this point in his career.
Plesac’s return from aggressively getting undressed (yeah, you read that right) will add some much needed stability to this rotation. He was not particularly sharp in his first game back allowing three runs in four innings and should be treated carefully with the Rays, White Sox, and Blue Jays coming up.
The player to watch here is McKenzie. His return to the majors on July 9 went incredibly well with 9 K, 0 BB, 1 H, and 0 ER in 7 IP against the Royals. Most importantly, his fastball sat 93 mph. Its velocity has been known to oscillate, and his effectiveness with it does too, and while you’d like to see him sustain that velocity before buying in. He’s being thrown into the fire with matchups against the Astros, Rays, and White Sox, so keep a close eye. If someone cuts him loose after a rough start or two but the velocity holds, pick him up immediately.
Oh wow, the Rockies have some road games! Maybe I can get them in the lineup against checks notes the Dodgers, Angels, Padres, or Astros? Woof is the word here. It has to be some type of curse for the Rockies to have so many seemingly good matchups on the horizon and all come at home.
That being said, Gray shut the Dodgers down in Coors Field yesterday, so I guess anything is possible? He has been a revelation since returning from the IL on June 25 with 37 K in 30 IP against just 10 BB and 8 ER. His velocity has been climbing as well (he touched 98 mph against LA) and he is inching his way towards trustworthiness. A trade could send his fantasy value to the moon.
While much less likely, the same goes for Márquez. His only two upcoming matchups at home are very favorable and he has a two-start week in between that’s wholly on the road. Get him in your lineup.
Austin Gomber will be back soon and is worth a speculative add.
So Wily Peralta is going to be a thing again? A 0.34 ERA over his last five starts may fool you, but a strikeout rate barely half of league average and BABIP under .100 absolutely guarantees regression is coming quickly. Stay away.
Also stay away from Alexander and Ureña, who are each glorified openers at this point. Nothing to see there.
Mize and Skubal are the prized jewels of this rotation. They are both throwing the ball well and have glorious two-start weeks against the Rangers and Royals. Tigers fans have something to be excited about for the first time in years.
The Astros return to a five-man rotation in the wake of José Urquidy’s shoulder injury. There was chatter about Cristian Javier jumping back into the starting staff to maintain a six-man, but this will also do. The Astros’ starting pitching depth is remarkable.
This schedule changes in a hurry: Three series against bottom-tier offenses quickly fade into three against some good ones. Greinke enjoys a glorious two-start week against Cleveland and Texas in the meantime and should feast. Really, all five starters should be started against Cleveland, Texas, and Seattle.
Afterwards, roster construction will play a part in your decisions. García has been a revelation and McCullers incredibly steady, but I would hesitate before letting the other three in my lineup against the Giants, Dodgers, or Twins (barring a major deadline sell-off).
Kansas City Royals
This Royals team fell fast. The darlings of April are 21-46 since their surprising 16-9 start. Minor and Keller can be used in a pinch against the Brewers, while Duffy and Singer are middling streamers against the ascending Tigers. Do not go near anyone on this staff during their 10-game jaunt against the White Sox and Blue Jays.
Hernández is mildly intriguing. He missed plenty of bats in a relief role and struck out six Orioles in four innings on Sunday. Someone for the deeper league watchlists.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Ohtani, the face of baseball, and the rest of the Angels’ underrated staff get two soft weeks out of the break. The Dodgers and Blue Jays are looming, but that’s a different problem for a different day. Let Ohtani ride until that point.
The same goes for Sandoval, who’s sneakily become a strong play in just about every league. His what rate and strikeout rate sit in the 94th and 65th percentiles respectively, as he has transitioned to featuring his devastating changeup .
Somehow, Cobb has become the third most-trusted option on this staff. He had a blister issue and then a rough patch (that oddly coincided with the ’sticky stuff’ enforcement), but has mostly found his level after a few tough matchups. Continue to pick and choose your matchups with him.
The same goes for Heaney, who’s been his usual up and down self. His FIP is more than a full run lower than his ERA, so expect some regression. Just be prepared for blow-ups because they will likely continue.
Suárez is mildly interesting. His strikeout numbers do not jump off the page, but the curveball and changeup both jump off the page and he could likely maximize each within his repertoire like many other Angels have this season. He’s someone to watch.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The big news here is Josiah Gray’s impending promotion. He lines up to pitch Tuesday, the Dodgers hinted at such, and FanGraphs put him on the schedule. That is good enough for me. I am all in on the former shortstop-turned starting pitcher and expect him to have success immediately given his legit three-pitch mix and plus command. Grab him off your waiver wire this instant.
Price missed more bats than I expected in his return to the rotation on Sunday. He struck out four Rockies and generated 10 whiffs (30%) in just four innings of work. He will provide instant value in every type of league with another battle with these Rockies coming at home next weekend.
Up and down since his return, Gonsolin’s two-start week against the Giants and Rockies presents an interesting decision for his fantasy managers. The Dodgers have been extremely cautious with him, as he has only completed five innings once this season despite not allowing more than 1 ER in any start. It is going to click at some point.
Urias and Buehler are bonafide aces and have filled in admirably for Clayton Kershaw and the dirt-bag signed in the offseason. They should never leave your lineup.
The loss of Páblo López to a rotator cuff strain is devastating to the Marlins and fantasy managers alike. Each has dealt with their fair share of injuries and just needs someone reliable to send out there, tragic.
In the meantime, Rogers and Alcántara will hold down the fort for Miami. Both are extremely reliable and are nearly matchup proof with Rogers offering the ace upside many expected Alcántara t0 have heading into this season. Baseball!
Thompson’s shine has worn off a bit with injury, illness, and the All-Star Break limiting him to just three starts since his 11 K breakout performance against the Nationals on June 26. Scoop him off your waiver wire if he’s available with three consecutive starts in the spacious confines of loanDepot Park on the horizon.
Neidert and Detwiler offer us fantasy managers nothing, carry on.
Freddy Peralta is being skipped and will be slotted back in the rotation next time through. The Brewers wanted to give their budding ace an extended rest for the All-Star Break, which is fair yet annoying for those of us with weekly lineups. Keep an eye out. Lauer, his replacement, gets a cushy matchup with the Royals and could be streamed in deeper leagues. The same goes for Anderson. Again, I’m talking about deeper leagues.
Houser is not so lucky initially, drawing the White Sox, but will have the privilege of facing the Pirates, Pirates, and post-trade-deadline Cubs in successive starts. Those matchups make him a worthwhile speculative add in most formats.
Burnes and Woodruff continue to show why they are the best one-two punch in baseball. Two true aces.
The White Sox and Twins are playing a double-header today (Monday). Rather than create confusion with a temporary six-man rotation for a team that will probably not be using one moving forward, those games are in one box for consistency’s sake.
Rather than a six-man rotation, the Twins could very easily take Happ out to pasture and give Jax a multi-month audition for next season. Happ put together a very old-school on Sunday in Detroit allowing 7 ER and 11 H in 7 IP. The Twins just need someone to pitch and Happ can, well, do that.
Maeda seems to have finally put his disastrous start with 40 K in 30 IP since coming off the IL in mid June. His schedule is brutal though, so proceed with caution. The same goes for Berríos. While much more consistent, he will forever feel a step below his ceiling. Nevertheless, he is a solid option and a steady source of strikeouts and solid ratios.
Ober and Pineda are both useful when the matchups dictate. Circle those games against Detroit and St. Louis if you roster either.
New York Mets
Disaster has, once again, struck the Mets’ rotation with Jacob deGrom, once again, landing on the IL with forearm tightness. In the pantheon of pitcher injuries, forearm tightness is one of the scariest to hear. Praying this is just on deGrom’s path towards history in 2021.
Otherwise, this rotation leaves a lot to be desired. Walker and Stroman have both dramatically regressed to the mean. Walker struck out 12 Cubs on June 15 and has just 17 punchouts since then. Stroman completed six innings in 11 of his first 14 starts, has not done so since a hip injury knocked him out of a game on June 22. I am not confident in either against the Reds or Blue Jays.
Decimated by injuries, Megill has been a godsend for this team. His strikeout and whiff numbers have each dropped as the league gets to know him, but an adjustment to feature his slider and changeup could pay huge dividends as he is throwing his unspectacular fastball nearly 60% of the time and it.
Do not give Eickhoff the time of day. I am terrified to see what his line looks like in Cincinnati. The same goes for Tuesday’s starter who I don’t even think the Mets know yet. Vance Worley, anyone?
The wildcard here is Carlos Carrasco. He threw two solid innings for the Brooklyn Cyclones last Thursday and his staying in Brooklyn leads me to believe the Mets want him to keep him local. He may travel with the team and will pitch soon if he does. Get him off your waiver wire.
New York Yankees
The Yankees (might have) revived their season with an impressive series victory against the Red Sox over the weekend. This team needed a jolt and they finally got one. Cole has put forth consecutive Herculean outings and silenced all the ’sticky stuff’ nay-sayers in the process. He is still a clear top-five starting pitcher.
The other members of this rotation will hold value with a soft-schedule ahead. This weekend’s four-game set with the Red Sox aside, the Yankees do not play another premier offense for the foreseeable future. Taillon could finally hit a groove against the Marlins, Orioles, and Royals while Germán and Montgomery should provide mixed-league value.
The Yankees have yet to name a starter for Wednesday. They have been keen on bullpen days, but options are thin given their COVID outbreak. Keep an eye out for whoever takes that spot.
The most underappreciated, underrated, and understated rotation in baseball belongs to the Oakland Athletics. Six upcoming games against the Angels are not ideal, but Irvin is the only definite sit in those matchups. Kaprielian in shallower leagues, too.
Montas, Bassitt, and Manaea are becoming something of a force at the top and should run roughshod through the Mariners this weekend. Start all three with confidence. Worry about the Padres and Angels later.
Wheeler … looked … mortal for the first time in ages on Sunday. And it was against the Marlins! He wound up salvaging a rough start to allow 4 ER in 6 IP with 7 K and should be viewed as a fringe top-five pitcher moving forward.
I caught some (unwarranted) flack on Twitter over the weekend for calling Nola a top-ten pitcher in the National League. It may not seem so, but his FIP is more than a full run lower than his ERA, his K% is in the 81st percentile, and his BB% sits at a career-low. Make a trade if his price has dropped, this dude is still a stud.
The rest of this staff leaves something to be desired. Eflin is good-not-great and probably can’t be trusted at home against the Braves or Nationals. Velasquez nor Moore should be neither, but hopefully neither were on your radar.
Kuhl and Anderson will certainly find themselves at the center of numerous trade negotiations over the next week. While Kuhl more likely fits on a contending team as a reliever, Anderson would be capable of flirting with top 50 status if he could add some wins to his ratios. He is a definite in Arizona until then.
Brubaker has come all the way back to earth after a strong start to the season. His ERA is 5.67 since June 1 and he should be left on your bench against the Giants this weekend. The same goes for Crowe, who is a much more interesting piece in dynasty compared to redraft.
Do not pay any mind to de Jong.
San Diego Padres
The Padres may have the softest upcoming schedule in all of baseball with four of their next six series coming against the Marlins, Rockies, and Diamondbacks. Take advantage of this stretch, from a fantasy perspective.
Musgrove should be the primary beneficiary. His production has dipped dramatically since June 13, an arbitrary deadline, as he is striking out just 16.3% of hitters since then compared to 33.8% before. If there were ever a time to get back on track, this is it.
Snell and Paddack are in the same boat. The only difference is their downturn has come over a multi-year stretch. I favor Snell, but it is very difficult to see either as a potentially Top 30 for the rest of the season. Panic will be at an all-time high if either cannot capitalize over the next few weeks.
The only consistent Padre, Darvish is an ace and should continue to be treated as such. Reap the rewards of a soft schedule.
The Padres have yet to name a starter for Tuesday as of late Monday morning. Be on the lookout because whoever gets the call will wind up with three consecutive starts against the worst teams in baseball.
San Francisco Giants
Gausman was skipped over the weekend to tend to a family emergency and will be greeted by the Dodgers in Los Angeles as he returns. What a peculiar schedule for the Cy Young hopeful, as he lines up for four off-setting matchups against the best and worst offenses in baseball. The same goes for Wood, who is obviously not Gausman but very VERY stream-able against the Pirates and Diamondbacks.
Webb is not so lucky. While he has been pitching very well over the past month plus, he should not be considered against the Dodgers (2x) or Astros. There is a good chance an unsuspecting manager cuts him loose with likely bad results coming, so scoop him up if that’s the case.
Pretty straightforward run for Cueto and DeSclafani, sit against the Dodgers and start against everyone else. These two are the X-factors for the Giants playoff run.
Wow, could it be? Have my eyes deceived me? Have the (suddenly, playoff hopeful) Mariners shifted to a five-man rotation? Probably not, since they simply will not need a sixth starter until they head to the Bronx, but it’s a start.
Series in Coors and against the Astros do not paint the prettiest picture for most of this staff besides Gilbert. The rookie is fortunate to miss both teams and enters a relatively soft-stretch blazing hot. He has struck out 39 batters over his last 32.1 IP and looks every bit the top prospect he was billed to be.
Flexen, Gonzales, and Kikuchi each have difficult roads ahead. Flexen is throwing the best of the bunch and can possibly be trusted against the A’s and Rays. Just proceed with caution with all three, especially when pitching on the road.
Wednesday’s starter has not been named. It is unlikely they navigate back to back matchups against in Colorado and against Houston.
St. Louis Cardinals
Wainwright and Kim have both been keeping this staff afloat without Jack Flaherty, but wow does it look bad on paper. Woodford and LeBlanc are certainly not plausibly fantasy options, even in a two start week. Tuesday’s starter has not yet been named and they are also not a plausible fantasy option, whether it be Johan Oviedo, Tommy Parsons, or someone else.
Again, Wainwright and Kim are keeping this train moving as the Cardinals scratch and claw just to stay on the periphery of the playoffs. Kim has a 2.45 career ERA in 117.1 IP despite the fantasy community’s anticipated regression. Run prevention is a skill and he can be an unassuming source of good ratios with the Chicago, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh ahead. Wainwright is also worth a look with a similar schedule.
Tampa Bay Rays
Yarbrough and McClanahan are very enticing two-start options this week against Baltimore and Cleveland. They should each be in every lineup.
Still trying to piece this staff together in the wake of Tyler Glasnow’s injury, Wacha and Fleming have done a fine job as Shane Baz and Luis Patiño patiently wait for the call in Durham. Pinpoint matchups for them and Hill, just be aware the Rays rarely let any of these three finish five innings and thus not qualify for wins.
The Rangers will need a sixth start this week following Sunday’s double-header with Toronto and without an off-day until next Monday. They have shown no indication to stick with a six-man rotation all year, so I wanted to keep the table as a five-man. Just be aware those games against Detroit are NOT DOUBLE-HEADERS. Just combined to keep the rest of the table clean and intact.
What a cursed two-start week for Kyle ‘Ace’ Gibson. The trade target gets the privilege of a start in Detroit followed by a trip to Houston. Just awful, a true Sophie’s Choice for fantasy managers setting weekly lineups. You almost have no choice but to roll him out there and hold your breath.
This schedule lines up nicely for Dunning with starts against Detroit and Arizona over the next two weeks. He’s been unspectacular yet reliable all season long and that trend should continue. Allard is in the same boat, just with worse matchups. He’s worthy of a start against the Mariners.
Lyles nor Foltynewicz are worth your trouble. Leave each be.
Toronto Blue Jays
The emergence of Ray as a true ace elevates the Blue Jays’ ceiling tremendously. Three starts against Boston over his next four times out will be a true test to whether this breakout is as real as it seems.
All these series against the Red Sox will make for entertaining baseball, but I don’t expect to see many pitcher’s duels. Ryu is the only Blue Jay, other than Ray, you should be running out there against the Red Sox.
Stripling miraculously only catches Boston once and is very streamable against Cleveland and Kansas City.
Are the Nationals contenders? Are they even good? Who knows! Scherzer continues to be one of the best pitchers in baseball, but it’s anyones guess as to what happens after that.
I am not even sure if Lester should be started in a two-start week against the Marlins and Orioles. Baltimore crushes lefties and we all know how Camden Yards plays this time of year, be advised.
Fedde has come crashing back to earth after showing a modicum of promise earlier this season. He could still hold the Marlins ans Cubs at bay, though. Espino is in a similar boat, just with even less of an ability to miss bats. I would definitely seek out different options.
Corbin will be glad to face some familiar NL East foes after being touched up by the Dodgers and Padres (2x) in three straight starts. Do not fall for that trap in Baltimore beforehand.
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