It is officially the stretch run and I am here to help you navigate your way through the rest of the schedule! Whether you’re shooting for a championship, playoff spot, or just move up the standings in the name of pride, this article will help you get where you are trying to go.
The picture is very clear with the All-Star Break and Trade Deadline in the rearview mirror, clearer than it has been all season. Different from years past, all player movement is officially halted with the passing of the Deadline. No more of that passing through waivers nonsense (hello Justin Verlander) for teams to make trades into August. What we see right now is going to be what remains for the final two months.
With that, there is not much left to adjust my offensive tiers. Hopefully, this will be the last massive shakeup because boy, this was a massive shakeup.
The trade deadline has left the Nationals and Cubs bereft of offensive talent (Juan Soto notwithstanding) while the Rays, Braves, Giants, Yankees, and Brewers made enough additions to bump each up a notch.
The Mariners and Tigers each received respective bumps as well due to their continued success. The Tigers especially have been blazing hot and have one of the most potent offenses in baseball over the past month.
As far as deductions go, Mike Trout‘s setback, Anthony Rendon‘s uncertainty, and Jared Walsh‘s latest injury have knocked the Angels from the top tier. It is a marvel they held on so long and I predict they will fall another wrung before we speak next.
Nick Castellanos‘ continued absence knocks each of the Reds splits down as well. That lineup just doesn’t pack the same punch without the slugger. The Royals have also moved down. I probably should have done so sooner since that team just cannot hit a lick.
You may have noticed that there are far more teams in the top two tiers compared to the bottom two. Offense trends up as the season wear on the weather warms, which makes streaming pitchers all the more difficult once the dog days of August hit. But never fear! This schedule preview will help you to see through the danger and pick the RIGHT pitchers moving forward.
So, let’s dive into those previews!
NOTE: (OFF) means the team was off on the previous day and (DH) signifies a double-header
This Diamondbacks rotation has honestly turned a corner and that is exciting! Sadly, they have a rough road ahead. Gallen is coming off a gem against the Dodgers (6 IP, 2 ER, 8 K) and Bumgarner has handled the Rangers and Pirates back to back with less than stellar strikeout totals (5 K in 12 IP). Both are start-able against some tough NL West foes with Gallen being the much more appealing choice.
I was hoping Kelly or Smith would find their way onto a contender ahead of the Trade Deadline. Both have shown real promise and worthwhile skills while being stuck in this barren wasteland. Their upcoming schedule does each no favors.
Widener is one of the easiest fades on the board.
Once a weakness, this rotation has suddenly become a strength. Fried and Morton are cruising and should handle the new Nationals with relative ease. While the shine wears off this team, those two are prime trade candidates for the fantasy stretch run.
Muller and Toussaint have (momentarily) put past control issues behind them to enjoy some success at the major league level. Stuff has never been a concern with either and while Toussaint fell victim to the long-ball against Milwaukee last weekend, Muller continued his hot July with the best start of his young career (5 IP, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K). I am more bullish on him moving forward.
Smyly has been oddly consistent not giving up more than three ER since the calendar turned to June. Of course, he is walking nearly four batters per nine innings over that same stretch so tread lightly.
Means has been understandably rusty since returning from his six-week IL stint. That is fine. Give him some time, let him show you he is pitching like his old self before starting him, though.
That’s where the interest ends with this staff. This schedule is not particularly favorable and no Oriole is worth the risk. Not even Harvey and his 18-inning scoreless streak.
Boston Red Sox
Massive shoutout to Chaim Bloom and the rest of the Red Sox front office for sending Tanner Houck down and moving back to a five-man rotation after their table and write-up was done. Just love that. It is difficult to vouch for Houck going to the minors since he is arguably their third-best starter at the moment, so I won’t try to.
He will pitch during their double-header this weekend in Toronto, but nothing official past then. Chris Sale’s return also looms, further pushing him out of this rotation.
Again, that is peculiar since he is very clearly more effective than either Richards or Pérez at the moment. Neither should be on your radar.
Pivetta has regressed back to his mean with four consecutive not-so-great starts. He gets the Blue Jays for a third straight start this week and is someone to avoid. Eovaldi has been much better, but I am also staying away in Toronto.
Rodriguez has been tough to place this season. His 27.9 K% is a career-best and his FIP is more than two full runs lower than his bloated 5.60 ERA. He has the easiest schedule on this team by a wide margin and could be a sneaky buy-low/waiver wire option.
Surprisingly, Trevor Williams was the only starting pitcher included in the Cubs’ massive exodus this past week. So, Davies, Arrieta, and Hendricks will remain in Chicago to pitch in front of a once-great team’s skeleton. Hendricks is the only member of this bunch (including Alzolay and Mills) that can be trusted during a tough week against the Rockies and White Sox.
Otherwise, wait until those Marlins and Royals series to take a shot with these other four. Maybe Alzolay in Milwaukee if you are in a pinch, maybe.
Chicago White Sox
The most consistent rotation in baseball continues to hum right along. When I say consistent, I mean it, as only seven White Sox games this season have been started by someone other than these five stalwarts. And four of those games were part of double-headers! Mind-blowing levels of durability here.
They have a very easy week that fades into a run of moderately difficult opponents (unless the Twins trade everyone, writing this Friday morning). Nevertheless, Keuchel is the only member of this rotation who I would sit moving forward.
Cease has hit a nice stretch here with 27 K and 7 BB over his last 21.2 IP. Such a fickle pitcher, the White Sox opted to keep him on regular rest around the All-Star Break by starting their last game before the break and the first game after it. That plan seems to have worked.
One player to watch here is Rodón. He was shelled by the Royals last Thursday and took two innings to get up to the upper-90s velocity we have seen from him all year. That is concerning for someone who has had arm trouble.
Lynn and Giolito are horses. Those two are just the best.
Remember being worried about Luis Castillo? Me neither. Since June 1st, the right-hander has a 1.95 ERA and 26.2 K%. He hit 100 mph with his two-seam fastball last Thursday and looks to be every bit the ace we all drafted back in March. Let him make up for his malfeasance with a torrid second half.
Mahle and Gray have been a bit more fickle. Neither has been consistent, but will regularly flash their top-end. Their schedules are easy moving forward and this entire team will benefit from leaving Great American ‘Small’ Park for a little while. Both are great trade targets.
Miley does what he does, which is better than what I can say about Gutierrez. Both have plenty of streaming appeal against the Pirates, Cubs, and Marlins.
Plesac may be one of the most disappointing pitchers of this fantasy season. The strikeouts are completely gone (15.9 K%) and his stuff has legitimately taken a step back. His curveball is dropping less (v-move) and slider sliding less (h-move). It is hard to say he’s even a top-50 guy right now.
McKenzie back-tracked against the White Sox last time out allowing three HR, six ER, and walking more guys than he struck out. It does not get easier in Toronto next time out. Keep him on the bench for a while, but hold him there because I still think there is upside for the rest of the season.
I have given Mejia flack on this piece for not missing enough bats, but I may have only been half right. His K% is climbing towards league average while his Whiff% lags well behind. That means he is getting a higher than average amount of called strikes, which is good, and likely due to the fact that he mixes five pitches with regularity. However, 60% of those five pitches are either his sinker or 4S fastball. This system is unsustainable and I am staying far away in even the deepest leagues.
Quantrill is unexciting with an easy schedule and downright scary with a tough one. Morgan is in the same boat, albeit his schedule is a bit easier.
Ah yes. America’s favorite group of untouchables aka the Colorado Rockies rotation. Too good to pry away from Jeff Briddich and the rest of his ‘brain trust’.
What a sick joke that no Rockies pitchers are traded just before a string of impossible road opponents mixed with the worst teams in baseball (other than the Rockies) heading to Denver. We are living in a simulation, I am sure of it.
I hope no one reading this was burned by Peralta. I tried to warn you! His ERA has risen by two entire runs since we last spoke and a start against the Red Sox on Monday is certain to send it higher. DO NOT be drawn in by the double start.
Get the rest of my Tigers away from the Red Sox, too. If Mize and Skubal can hold it down against Boston, watch out. These two have made such serious strides this year, that would be a coronation of sorts.
Don’t look now, but Manning is quietly putting it together. Despite the towering rookie struggling in Minnesota last week, he has put together a string of starts that you can look at and be like ok, maybe he can do this after all. Cleveland and Baltimore make for soft landing spots where he can hopefully continue to build himself up.
Alexander is not a viable option in any matchup.
We have a potential World Series Preview on the docket this week as the Astros head to Los Angeles for a meeting with the Dodgers. McCullers will get the ball to kick that series off in a two-start week. Two months ago, I would have advised caution with McCullers pitching against the Dodgers and Twins, but he has come a long way this season and I am ready to trust him.
This whole staff besides Odorizzi can be trusted ahead of this difficult week. Valdez should be able to iron out some of his inconsistencies with Colorado, Kansas City, and Seattle on the horizon. Grab him off your waiver wire NOW if he’s out there.
There is not much else to be said about García’s breakout. The guy is a stud. The Astros seem to do this once a year and be grateful if you are able to reap the rewards.
Greinke still does what he does at 37-years-young. His 3.48 ERA is tied for 10th in the American League (as of Saturday morning).
Kansas City Royals
I am honestly shocked that Minor remained with the Royals after the Trade Deadline. He seemed like a perfect trade chip for any team that needed reliable innings with just a smattering of upside. Well, instead, he is stuck in Kansas City supported by a lackluster lineup, poor defense, and lack of shifts. He should handle the Cardinals and Cubs, but be wary of the Yankees and Astros in-between.
The up-and-down nature of the Royals’ schedule means you should treat all of their pitchers the same, even though this group of five looks more interesting than it has in years. Bubic is a dicey option ahead of a two-start week, especially being a contact-oriented pitcher going up against the White Sox. I would not use him in any shallow leagues.
Keller has turned a corner this month. He has thrown his slider more than any other pitch over his last four starts and the results (23.6 K%, 2.28 ERA) have been very positive. Lynch has returned to the rotation after struggling back in May and is still not missing enough bats to be fantasy-viable. Hernández is missing plenty of bats, but lacks the command to be a reliable starter.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Plenty of questions surround this rotation following Andrew Heaney’s trade to the Yankees, Alex Cobb’s placement on the IL, and questions regarding Ohtani’s sore thumb. One of those questions will be answered by Detmers joining the team. I still love the upside despite his shaky debut. Get him on your bench and wait it out for another week or two.
On a much lesser note, Barria made his triumphant return to the rotation last week and put together two strong starts against the Twins and A’s. I do not trust these early reports or stuff and expect him to get shelled by the Blue Jays and Astros.
Bundy has also returned to the rotation last week and was less than stellar, stay far away.
The ‘Irish Panda’ aka Sandoval has continued to carve up major league hitters on the back of his electric changeup. He is a borderline top-30 guy at this point for me. That start against the Blue Jays will act as a fantastic litmus test for the 24-year-old hurler.
Suarez has shown signs of life but is a bit too susceptible to the long-ball to be on fantasy’s radar yet. He has some streaming appeal in Texas this week, though.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Well, the Dodgers had a pretty average Trade Deadline (by their standards, at least). Scherzer lines up to join Buehler in the aforementioned World Series Previes against the Astros this week. Imagine starting a playoff series with those two?
Price and Tony Gonsolin follow in the rotation in what seems to be a competition as to who will retain their spot once Clayton Kershaw returns. Realistically, these two are perfect candidates to share one rotation spot as neither has looked entirely comfortable starting and cannot seem to give any length.
That will kill their fantasy value in most leagues, but whoever winds up being the second pitcher in their piggyback will siphon off plenty of wins. Keep an eye out once Gonsolin returns from the IL. The Dodgers have not named a replacement yet and they have the option to roll with a four-man rotation this week with two off-days.
Urías has ascended to a true top-15 guy. Start him indefinitely without fear.
Luzardo will make his triumphant return to a big-league starting rotation later today (Monday). In picking up all of Starling Marte’s remaining 2021 salary AND taking on the former super-prospect, the Marlins very clearly have a plan to get him back on track. I would not recommend jumping quite yet in fantasy, but be patient.
Garrett has an unappealing two-start in part because he heads to Coors and also because his stuff is not particularly exciting.
Thompson and Rogers will benefit from missing Colorado and are both appealing options until the Marlins head to Cincinnati. Alcantara might be able to navigate Coors with his 53.4 GB%.
The Brewers have an unbelievably easy stretch ahead besides a three-game set with the Giants. Trades by the Cubs and Nationals have ensured that. This schedule is so easy that Lauer and Anderson have indefinite streaming appeal moving forward.
Otherwise, enjoy this time for Peralta, Burnes, and Woodruff. There have been some inklings of the Brewers’ limiting the workloads of their big three (especially Peralta), so keep on the lookout for that.
Well, this rotation looks a lot different. The trades of José Berríos and J.A. Happ have likely secured the roles of Ober and Jax for the rest of the season as well as Barnes for the time being. Ober is my favorite of the three, as his blend of stuff and command make me think he is wildly underrated right now. The other two do not interest me as of now. Pray for Barnes in Houston.
How bittersweet that Maeda finally turns a corner and has a two-start week where he travels to Cincinnati and Houston. Absolutely brutal. I am still going to run him out there since he has been too good to sit (33.0 K% and 2.15 ERA in July), but am not convinced he isn’t immune to a blow-up.
I figured Pineda would be on the move last week. He has been a bright spot for the Twins this season and certainly could have helped a contender. That being said, three of his next four matchups are murder and he should be left on your bench for them.
New York Mets
The good news for the Mets is that they have five legitimate starters for the first time in what feels like months to fill out their rotation. The bad news is they failed to add a splashy starter at the Trade Deadline and Jacob deGrom has been shut down for two more weeks putting the rest of his season in jeopardy.
Carrasco made his season debut on Friday night and looked very good lessening that blow. His fastball sat 93 mph and he had a decent command of his changeup and slider en route to punching out four reds in four innings of work. Notably, he threw more sinkers and changeups than we are used to seeing. That is something to watch for when he takes the bump in Miami on Wednesday.
I expect Hill to be used similarly on the Mets as he was on the Rays: lots of four to five-inning outings with varied success. Use him if you must until the Mets head west.
Walker, Megill, and Stroman will continue to make up the meat of this staff. Walker has taken a significant step back after his early-season success. He has already thrown 100 innings this season after not reaching 70 over his last three seasons combined. That is worrisome and could definitely be playing into his struggles. On the other hand, Stroman has put a bad month behind him to return to form (2.74 ERA and 20.9 K%) over his last four starts.
Megill is the wild-card here. He had not thrown a pitch above A-ball before May and is suddenly tearing up the majors with a 2.04 ERA and 27.1 K% over his first seven starts. There will be some regression, but his fastball is decent and he has two legitimate off-speed pitches he mixed in. I am excited to see what he can do against the Giants and Dodgers.
New York Yankees
The Yankees are going for it and that’s great news for fantasy managers with any of these five on their roster. It is not official, but the newly acquired Heaney is lined up to start Monday and get a great two-start week against the Orioles and Mariners at home. I am confident the Yankees will be able to coax more out of his skill set than the Angels had.
Cole joins Heaney with a double start and is primed for a massive week. It seems like he underwent a bit of a learning curve re-learning how to pitch without sticky stuff and has returned to his place as one of the best pitchers in baseball.
Montgomery and Taillon have each been very effective over the past month and get a couple of soft matchups ahead. Stream each with confidence.
Domingo Germán hit the IL over the weekend and the Yankees are expected to fill his void with bullpen days headed by Cortes.
The A’s had a very A’s deadline picking up multiple players (Starling Marte, Yan Gomes, Josh Harrison, Andrew Chafin) who will contribute during the stretch run. They did not add a starting pitcher, though, and sent Jesús Luzardo to Miami for Marte signaling confidence in their staff. Well, James Kaprielian hit the IL Saturday afternoon immediately calling their depth into question.
Jeffries took his spot on Sunday and had a game filled with threes: three ER, three H, three BB, and three K. That does not instill much confidence moving forward. He will get the Rangers back to back, though.
Still, Irvin, Bassitt, Manaea, and Montas have all been very strong. If you have been following along with me all year, you know I am as big a Montas-guy that exists and I am THRILLED he has turned a corner. I am comfortable starting all four of these guys until the A’s head to Chicago to face the White Sox.
Heading to Washington sure is less daunting than it was a week ago, huh? I am sitting here believing Suárez has some streaming appeal in a two-start week against the Nationals and Mets as he enters the rotation for Matt Moore. He will reportedly be on a 40-50 pitch count so it is unlikely he qualifies for a win.
Obviously, Wheeler does too. He might also be in the catbird seat for National League Cy Young with the recent news about deGrom. He and Nola represent the best opportunity for anyone to catch the beleaguered Mets in the NL East.
Newcomer Kyle Gibson will add to their chances. I am a little skeptical about his fantasy value, though, moving from Globe Life Park to Citizen’s Bank. It will be interesting to see how the veteran response to the move. His 50.8 GB% should help though and he handled the Pirates in his Phillies debut, for whatever that’s worth.
Vince Velasquez has been replaced by Anderson in this rotation. He should not be on fantasy radars and I expect Bailey Falter to compete for this spot after he returns from the health and safety protocols.
This rotation will enjoy a middling stretch against NL Central opponents before heading to LA to face the Dodgers in a few weeks. Kranick and Kuhl probably should not be trusted in Milwaukee and Cincinnati, but you could do worse if you need to chase innings in deeper leagues.
Crowe has not showcased the strikeout stuff I expected to see given his deep repertoire. Leave him on the waiver wire along with Keller. His return from AAA Indianapolis was unspectacular (5 IP, 4 ER, 2 K).
Brubaker is a steady-yet-mediocre option that can provide value in deep leagues and is worth a stream in 12-teamers against the Cardinals at home.
San Diego Padres
What’s left to say about Snell? He had a decent start against the Marlins before being trounced by the A’s last week. It is impossible to trust him in fantasy right now. I would recommend dropping him, but the Marlins and Diamondbacks are right there. Give it two more weeks. Musgrove has returned to form and also has those teams on the horizon. Start him confidently. Same with Darvish, he should annihilate the Diamondbacks.
Weathers and Paddack are only in my good graces because of their upcoming matchups against the Diamondbacks and Marlins. Let them ride and enjoy the potential win, but really be on the lookout to see if they are missing bats.
San Francisco Giants
Gausman has come back to earth a bit after his historic first two months. He has not completed five innings in any of his three starts since the All-Star Break and has an 8.49 ERA in 11.2 IP. Not great, but three consecutive starts against the Diamondbacks, Diamondbacks, and Rockies should get him right again.
Wood also gets the benefit of back-back-starts against Arizona before the Mets come to town. I am comfortable starting him in each of those games. The same goes for DeSclafani who has really only struggled against the Dodgers this season.
Cueto and Webb have moderately more difficult schedules than the rest, but I am confident in them too. Webb especially, who has blossomed over the last month into a very trustworthy option.
America’s favorite six-man rotation has metamorphosized into the more traditional five-man. The Mariners must be committed to the change with no off-days this week. Imagine how many more wins they would have if this was the case all season.
The addition of Anderson and the return of Gonzales turns this into a very complete staff. All five pitchers are viable options in their soft matchups.
Gilbert is the only one I would ride with against the Yankees or Blue Jays at home. He has a 31.5 K% since the start of July and is blossoming into an ace before our eyes. Trust the rookie and get him in your lineups, just not against the Astros.
St. Louis Cardinals
Well, this is a rotation. Happ has the hardest average fastball velocity in this group. I will say that again, Happ has the HARDEST AVERAGE FASTBALL VELOCITY IN THIS GROUP. Does that make any type of sense at all?
Luckily, the Cardinals have a very easy schedule coming up and this batch of soft-tossers actually has some streaming appeal. Skip the Atlanta series, but everyone except Le Blanc can be used with varying levels of confidence running from Wainwright to Lester.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Tyler Glasnow news is a gut-punch for the postseason hopefuls. It was unlikely he would pitch this year anyway, but the news still hurts. Luckily, the Rays have another super-prospect with devastating stuff in Patiño to slot into the rotation. He has gone at least five innings in seven of his last eight starts between AAA and the Majors, so it seems as if the training wheels are finally off.
Wacha, Fleming, and Yarbrough will continue to unspectacularly eat moderate amounts of innings. The ratios will be good against the Mariners and Orioles, so play them there in deep leagues, just don’t expect many wins.
McClanahan is in the same boat, just with the potential for something spectacular, like what he did to the Red Sox on Sunday night. He will benefit from not seeing them again next week.
A middling schedule for the Rangers and not many skilled starters to take advantage of it. Dunning has a two-start week and is the only pitcher here who should be on fantasy radars.
Be on the lookout for Spencer Howard‘s inclusion here. Traded for Kyle Gibson at the deadline, I am sure the Rangers will try to get their new asset on the mound sooner rather than later.
Toronto Blue Jays
Berríos entered the Blue Jays rotation like a house on fire Sunday with six IP, seven K, and zero ER. The man is an ace and will join Ryu and Ray to make an extremely formidable front-line for the Jays. Start all three moving forward and be excited about their battles with the vaunted Red Sox lineup.
Manoah had an efficient return from his back injury against the Royals last week and has the luxury of missed the Red Sox, enjoy that matchup against Cleveland.
The same goes for Matz and Stripling, the two candidates to be bumped from this rotation. The Blue Jays are sticking with six starters with a double-header on the docket next weekend despite showing no indication to do so indefinitely. I am predicting Stripling gets the hook, but it’s a toss-up.
What a hilariously average schedule for Los Angeles’ favorite sellers. The big news here is Josiah Gray making his Nationals debut on Monday against the Phillies. I doubt Washington keeps the same types of work-load restrictions on Gray that the Dodgers had given their clear lack of concern with winning baseball games. The talent is there, the opportunity is there, let Gray ride in a two-start week.
You really have to look hard to find another redeeming starter here. These next three-plus years are going to feel like a lifetime for Corbin.
(Photos by Larry Radloff & Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire | Design by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter @ IG)