Welcome back to our Starting Pitcher Schedule Preview! For the first-timers, I break down all 30 team’s schedules below and let you know who has the best matchups. This can help you get ahead of your competitors for an under-the-radar waiver claim or drop a fringe pitcher who is set to face the Astros twice in three weeks. Every roster spot is paramount this time of year when production must be maximized.
In order to project who has the best matchups, we need to understand which opponents to target and which to avoid. Well, here are my carefully curated offensive tiers to help you figure that out!
There are a few changes since my last set of tiers. First, the Mets now have their own home and road split. I have had trouble ranking them all season as on-field production has consistently fallen below on-paper talent. Some of that is due to Citi Field’s brutal offensive environment, so the Mets have fallen a tier when playing at home.
Sticking with the National League East, the post-trade-deadline Nationals have proven to be listless and are a lineup you should be targeting when streaming pitchers. The Angels have also fallen down dramatically since my last installment. Anthony Rendon is not coming back, Mike Trout may not either, and Jared Walsh has cooled off considerably after a torrid start to the season. There is not much to fear in this lineup.
Alright, let’s dive in to the matchups!
This Diamondbacks season has been one to forget, but they had an all-time ‘we love baseball’ moment on Saturday night when Gilbert threw a no-hitter in his major league debut. He was the fourth pitcher ever to do so joining Theodore Breitenstein (1891), Bumpus Jones (1892), and Bobo Holloman (1953). I don’t think he is viable in Coors Field, though.
What a tough year it has been for Gallen. Right when he seems to be on track, something goes wrong. I do not think he is trustworthy enough to be started in Coors and I am fascinated to see how he is valued heading into next season.
Shockingly, Bumgarner has found more consistency than Gallen this season. He has not allowed more than two ER in a start since returning from the IL on July 16th. He does not offer many strikeouts (16.2% over that same stretch), but the matchups are favorable enough to plug and play him.
Merrill Kelly hit the Covid IL on Sunday night. He and Taylor Widener’s rotation spots are vacant. Smith will fill in for one and is fine. The other will wind up belonging to Luke Weaver who struck out six in a AAA rehab start on Saturday. Be on the lookout for his return.
Enjoy these series against the Marlins and Orioles, because Atlanta is about to head through a serious rough patch. Toussaint is the only starter fortunate enough to double up against those teams. He has been good enough to trust there, just be aware of the potential for (another) blow-up looms.
I hope someone out there listened to me when I said Fried and Morton were ideal trade targets way back when. These two are steady as can be and are the only starters here who can be trusted through this stretch.
Smyly blew all my confidence when he could not get through five innings against the Nationals on Sunday. That was all I needed to see.
Also of note, Ynoa’s right hand has finally healed after punching a wall in the dugout all the way back in mid-May. Maybe give him a game or two to let him get his sea-legs back.
Please continue to ignore everyone here besides Means. Watkins, Harvey, and López may fool you for a period of time, but none are worth a roster spot.
Means, on the other hand, had FINALLY gotten back on track until the vaunted Tigers offense (lol) got a hold of him. I am genuinely not sure what to expect from him for the rest of the season. He is one of my favorite buy-lows in dynasty, though.
Boston Red Sox
All eyes were on Sale this weekend. He made his first start in more than two calendar years and struck out eight Orioles in five innings of work. I could not believe how sharp he looked and he should cruise again this week against the Rangers. Be wary of some rust, though.
And now for his twin, Mr. Houck has turned into an absolute weapon. Over his last five appearances (four as a starter, once in relief) Houck has 32 K in 20.1 IP while only allowing 14 H, 5 ER, and 6 BB. He has all the makings of a league-winner down the stretch, as long as the Red Sox don’t have anything to say about it.
Eovaldi, Pivetta, and Rodriguez have all had their moments over the past month or so. They can be trusted against Cleveland and Texas and Eovaldi has enough potential to be used in Yankee Stadium ahead of a two-start week.
Jake Arrieta’s departure opens up a spot for Mills. He remains uninteresting. As is Steele. His stuff is not awful, I am just not ready to trust his 10.4% walk rate.
Adbert Alzolay is out for the season, leaving an open spot in this rotation on Wednesday. He did not take the step many (including myself) hoped for this season despite having plus stuff, decent command, and deep repertoire. Oh well, maybe next year.
Hendricks and Davies continue to be different versions of one another. Hendricks is obviously tiers above and both will provide good ratios without wins or strikeouts for the rest of the season. I don’t ever want to bench Hendricks, but games in Cincinnati and on the South Side make me nervous.
Thomspon does not warrant any attention.
Chicago White Sox
Well, it had to happen. One of the White Sox fearsome-fivesome has fallen. Carlos Rodón hit the IL with shoulder fatigue last week. Tony La Russa downplayed the issue, but this is terrifying news for someone with a history of arm trouble.
As for his replacement, López is yet to get his training wheels off and I would hold off until he does. That being said, the stuff is still great and he’s put forth the lowest BB% of his career this season in a bullpen role. He is watchlist-worthy.
Cease and Lynn have a nice run of opponents coming once they get through the Blue Jays. Both should handle the Cubs and Royals with ease. Lynn remains a must-start though, along with Giolito, matchups be damned.
Keuchel makes for an interesting case. Keep on the bench against the Blue Jays and A’s, but he will keep the ball on the ground in Tampa Bay. Personally, I would never roster someone with a 14.4 K%.
Everyone say hello to the best schedule on the board. The Reds are set to continue their hot streak with no red ink on the horizon. Miley will feel like an ace over the next month and Gutierrez could be a mainstay in a competitive lineup.
Mahle, Castillo, and Gray may single-handedly carry you up your standings. Full steam ahead with Reds pitchers. The only caution should be taken when Detroit comes to Cincinnati.
The big news here is Shane Bieber showing his first sign of life in MONTHS. He is set to throw a bullpen and if all goes well, begin a rehab assignment. That’s great news for Cleveland because this rotation is uninspiring and they have fallen behind the Tigers.
Quantrill has intrigued me over the last few weeks. He has sort of smushed his repertoire together, distributing his sinker, four-seam fastball, and slider evenly while mixing in his change-up and curveball. Cleveland has historically had success with pitchers of this ilk (deep repertoire, good control, less than elite velocity) and I’m confident enough the use him in a two-start week if push came to shove.
Morgan is far less exciting. He put together a few nice starts in a row and bumped up his change-up usage. Whiffs were increasing, but it was still never clean. It all fell apart last week against Oakland and I’m still staying away. The same goes for Plesac who looks completely lost.
McKenzie put it all together on Sunday in Detroit and showed off his massive potential. He took a perfect game into the eighth inning on the ninth anniversary of Felix Hernández’s perfect game, the last one we have seen in the major leagues. I’m not fully in on a breakout, but get him on your roster ASAP.
Hentges remains uninteresting.
The news of Gray missing out on the Cubs in Wrigley Field has me beside myself. Why can’t good things happen to good people? Sure, he gets the Rangers on the road right after, but Freeland gets both! Lucky him.
Shockingly, this rotation looks pretty OK right now. Better than it has looked in years. Márquez was in the midst of a great run before getting crushed by the Giants. Gomber has been tolerable since returning and just had his best start of the year (6 IP, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K) against the Marlins. You do worse than any of these four.
Probably not Senzatela, though. He has far and away the worst matchups ahead with his only start out of Coors coming in LA against the Dodgers.
Please everyone, a rousing round of applause for YOUR SECOND PLACE DETROIT TIGERS. The development of their bats and the continued existence of Comerica Park makes a lot of these matchups much more appealing.
Skubal falls victim to a brutal schedule here. There’s nothing easy here. You may still need him depending on your league size or roster, but look for other options against Toronto, at least on the road.
Mize also catches the Blue Jays twice, which is a shame. Leave him on the bench until the A’s come to town and smash that Pirates matchup.
Forget Alexander and Peralta, they are both nonfactors. Manning is too at this juncture (in redraft).
If the Reds have the easiest schedule, this one is the second easiest. Especially considering the rotation will make three full revolutions without facing even a league-average offense. Greinke, Garcia, McCullers, and Valdez are all must-starts for the next few weeks.
If Odorizzi is on your waiver wire, I would advise scooping him for this stretch. Four consecutive starts against the Royals, Mariners, and Rangers make him a viable option in even shallow mixed leagues.
Kansas City Royals
The newest member of the six-man rotation club! Kansas City has a few interesting options here despite two upcoming series against the Astros starting with Hernández in a two-start week. His stuff is fantastic and strikeouts are there (26.2 K%), but he is walking far too many batters to have viability in shallow leagues. He is still worth a speculative add.
Lynch, Singer, and Minor are catching the Astros back to back. That is enough to drop each in most mixed leagues.
Easy schedules make Keller and Bubic mildly intriguing. Keller more so, as a pitch mix change (more sliders and less sinkers) has his ERA under 4.00 since July 1st. Bubic can be used in a pinch, but he’s striking out less than 20% of batters and is outrunning his estimators by a full run.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
This rotation can be split into two parts right: Ohtani and everyone else. He has allowed more than four ER just once this year (on a strange, muggy, rainy night in the Bronx). Remove that start from his ledger (7 ER, 0.2 IP), and his ERA drops from 2.93 to 2.27. He has walked just four batters since July 1st and has ascended to every bit the ace we thought he could be. He is a must-start option.
Otherwise, this rotation leaves a lot to be desired. Detmers had struggled early on in the majors before impressing on Sunday with 6 K, 2 BB, and 1 ER in 6 IP. The talent is apparent and I would pounce if your league was scared off by a few bad games.
Sandoval has taken a step back over his last few starts. Two of them came against the Astros and Dodgers, but his 13:10 strikeout to walk ratio is a far cry from his 13 K gem against the Twins on July 24th. The command issues that have plagued him may still persist. Luckily, his next three starts are all against subpar opponents.
Bundy, Barria, and Suarez all need to show more to be on fantasy radars.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The reports of Price’s demise may have been exaggerated. He has a 3.62 ERA in 27.1 IP since joining the Dodgers rotation. He is not striking out many batters (17.1 K%) and is due for some regression (.238 BABIP), but his 53.0 GB% and support from the Dodgers defense will play with an easy upcoming schedule.
Julio Urías hitting the IL is a serious blow to an already thin rotation. He was hit by a pitch on Friday night, but this may be general maintenance as he approaches a career high in innings pitched. Keep an eye on his status. In the meantime, White makes for a mildly interesting streaming option against the Pirates. He had a 2.25 ERA in AAA with a 27.5 K%. My only question is whether he will pitch enough to earn a win.
Otherwise, the other two are aces and should be treated as such. Those series against the Padres and Giants should be a treat.
Luzardo’s return to starting has yielded mixed results. Oddly, command has been an issue for the first time in his professional career with 11 BB in 14.2 IP. There’s no reason he should be on your radar in redraft leagues as of right now.
Thompson should be, though. Fade in Cincinnati, but he will make two of his following three starts at home (and one at Citi Field). That’s great news for the flyball pitcher. Hernandez has a very similar schedule and I am very confident after a triumphant return to the rotation on Sunday. The only question here is durability.
I just can’t get excited about Garrett this year despite his flashes of competence. Sure, he has plus command and plenty of pitches which counts for something, I just need to see a lot more proof before riding with 90 mph velocity.
Alcantara is awesome. He shut the Padres down last week and I am so happy he has taken a step forward after a disjointed 2020 season.
The Brewers’ temporary lack of depth has soiled their plan to ease the workload of their top three, which is pretty great news for fantasy owners. Still, Woodruff did leave his start against the Cubs after three innings last week. This type of thing is impossible to predict, but will happen periodically for the rest of the season. You can never bench him, Burnes, or Peralta, so just ride with the punches.
Anderson and Lauer do not usually get my attention, but they are very streamable this week against the Nationals. Each represents a great option if you are chasing innings down the stretch.
Keep tabs on Aaron Ashby. The prospect features a 97 mph sinker, wipeout slider, and very passable changeup. He got two spot starts while Covid ravaged the Brewers rotation and will be viable if called upon again.
An AL East tour makes this rotation undesirable for the next few weeks. Ober and Jax have shown signs of relevance, but games in the Bronx against the revamped Yankees offense give me pause ahead of their two-start weeks.
Maeda has thankfully pulled the nose up on his crashing season. He is useful again while not being the top-20 pitcher he was drafted to be. Be careful against the Yankees and Red Sox.
Thorpe and Barnes do nothing for me.
New York Mets
This hard-line between red and green ink looks like a Christmas celebration if I ever saw one. None of the Mets pitchers besides Stroman inspires much confidence against the Giants or Dodgers yet they all inspire some against the Nationals and Marlins.
Carrasco is finding his groove and will pitch later into games as he continues to build up. Keep an eye on your waiver wire in case someone cuts bait during this brutal stretch. The same goes for Megill. The rookie has struggled for three consecutive starts (11 ER in 14.2 IP) but should cruise against the Nationals and Marlins.
Walker and Hill have taken dramatic steps back after scalding hot starts. I need to see signs of life before I put my trust back in either.
EDIT: Walker heard my call to action and worked the Dodgers on Saturday. He ditched his two-seam fastball for a four-seamer and got a season-high whiffs with his split-change. His next two matchups are still downright brutal.
New York Yankees
It is borderline impossible to predict the Yankees rotation right now. They have had somewhere between 15 and 20 players on the IL since their latest Covid outbreak, including most of their starting rotation.
Cole and Montgomery will apparently both be back this week to slot back into this rotation. That’s a good thing too with a MASSIVE series with the Red Sox coming up. Cole will miss Boston, though, and should carve up the Angels and Twins in a two-start week.
Montgomery, Heaney, and the upstart Gil should all be left alone against the Red Sox. There is a lot to be excited about with Gil, but I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop regarding his control (16.8 BB% in AAA).
The mainstay and saving grace in this rotation has been Taillon. His ERA is 1.68 and K% 23.4 since July 1st. I probably trust him a little more than I should at the moment.
This rotation has been reliable, consistent, and a driving force for the A’s on their playoff push. I don’t have much left to say about Montas. His K% is higher right now than it was at the end of his breakout 2019. His full-season ERA has sunk below 4.00. He will be tested against the White, Giants, and Yankees, but pressure makes diamonds.
Kaprielian put a shoulder injury behind him remarkably quickly. Continue to play matchups with him. Irvin too.
Owen McGrattan of Fangraphs wrote an awesome article about Bassitt last week. Give it a read, it’s fantastic. If you choose not to, just know Bassitt has refined his craft and seems to still be improving. He has four difficult starts ahead, but we have everyone reason to trust the talent. The same goes for Manaea at this point.
The Phillies are hitting a lax part of their schedule are the Mets contend with the Giants and Dodgers in immediate succession. if they are going to make a move, it has to be now and it HAS to be on the back of this rotation.
Gibson and Suárez have taken very different paths to this rotation, Gibson by way of Texas and Suárez by way of the closer role, and they have two of the easiest upcoming matchups in baseball with two against the Diamondbacks one in Miami. Get them ready to roll.
Nola and Wheeler continue to lead the way as two of the National League’s most consistent pitchers. Wheeler fell victim to the Reds’ powerful offense last Friday, but he is still a stalwart.
Just stay away from here. Brubaker has come all the way back to earth. No one else misses many bats while limiting base runners. Keller is not very good. You can run Brubaker out there against the Diamondbacks or Cubs if you are truly desperate, but that’s about it.
San Diego Padres
After all the moves that were made and a rough middle of the season, Musgrove has somehow assumed the ace role in San Diego. His schedule is mild besides a matchup with the Dodgers and he should be trusted.
Snell used consecutive starts against the Diamondbacks to get back on track. That’s all good and well until you see his next two matchups are with the Rockies at Coors Field and then home against the Dodgers. The one real positive to draw is that Snell has all but scrapped his ineffective changeup. Opposing hitters were slugging nearly .600 off it, so this is a step in the right direction.
Yu Darvish has fallen off the proverbial cliff as of late allowing 28 ER over his last seven starts (7.13 ERA). He left his last start with lower back tightness and has since been placed on the IL. Crismatt gets a rude welcome to the majors with a start in Denver followed by a visit from the Dodgers.
Weathers does not intrigue me in the slightest at this juncture. Neither does Reiss Knehr if he winds up sticking in this rotation.
San Francisco Giants
As mild as a schedule could be. The Giants don’t have a matchup that falls on either the top or bottom tier for more than two full weeks. That’s great news for a very strong rotation.
Back-to-back starts against the Diamondbacks have helped Gausman get back on track after he looked mortal for about a month. He should have no issues over his next few starts.
Webb, the new ace of this staff (not really, but also maybe), has not allowed more than two ER in a game since May 5th! And that game was at Coors Field! There is no reason to think this hot streak will end and Webb may wind up being one of those guys that winds up on a lot of championship rosters.
DeSclafani and Wood have both hit rough patches of late. Their schedules keep them rosterable for the forseeable future. Pick your spots with them and bank on the Giants offense getting you a win.
Cueto is expected to make his return this week. Add him if you need some innings and play the matchups, just let him show you something first.
A stark contrast from the Giants schedule above, the next few weeks for the Mariners comes with plenty of extremes. Three separate series against the Astros. That makes for a very interesting decision regarding Anderson this week. I decision I do not envy.
Kikuchi and Gilbert will have the pleasure of facing the Astros in three of their next four starts. That fact alone makes each droppable in the short term depending on your league’s replacement level. That kills me to say because both have been so reliable, you just can’t ignore these matchups.
Gonzales is the only Mariner who will miss the Astros entirely. I can’t understate how important that fact is. He should be owned everywhere while on this run. Moreover, he’s coming off a complete-game one-hitter against the Rangers with nine strikeouts. Add him.
Flexen continues to get the job done, sans flash. He is a deep-league mainstay.
St. Louis Cardinals
Flaherty’s return is a massive boon to this rotation. He was sharp in his return last week against the Royals (6 IP, 2 H, 5 K, 0 BB, 0 ER) and can be trusted moving forward.
I would not often vouch for Happ or Lester, but consecutive starts against the Pirates make them both viable in deep leagues. LeBlanc does not have the same good fortune sadly. Continue to fade him.
Wainwright continues to defy all the laws of nature with his magnificent season. He threw a two-hitter against the Pirates last time out gets them in consecutive starts after a date with the Brewers. He is a true marvel.
Tampa Bay Rays
This rag-tag Rays rotation has their work cut out for them with a tough stretch ahead. The most difficult matchups all come at home, which is good, but I am still shying from most of this staff. Besides McClanahan. He is the jewel of this staff and he’s the only Rays starter to trust indefinitely.
Fleming and Yarbrough scare me with their lack of velocity and propensity to get blown up. I am staying away. The same goes for Wacha, as he’s a full notch below those two.
Rasmussen impressed me in his first start with four strikeouts and seven whiffs (30%) in four innings against the Red Sox. He is not a bad bet in a two-start week if you are really in a pinch.
An unspectacular rotation gets a bump with an easy upcoming schedule. Dunning, the proverbial ace, is in line for four consecutive favorable matchups. Grab him now if he happens to be on your waiver wire.
Allard is not so lucky and will see the Red Sox and Astros in consecutive starts. Fade him along with Foltynewicz and Lyles, who should be fading in all situations.
I was hoping the trade to Texas would get Howard’s training wheels off, but he continues to throw just two or three innings at a time. He is not on the redraft radar.
Toronto Blue Jays
Once a weakness, this rotation has developed into a strength for the playoff-hopeful Blue Jays led by Ray. Mr. Tight-Pants is eighth among qualified starts in K-BB% (23.6) and has officially ascended to acehood. What a world.
It’s a good thing too because Berríos is coming off his worst start of the year and Ryu is looking to rebound off consecutive poor showings. I still trust both and expect soft landings against the Nationals and Tigers. I can’t say their matchups with the White Sox don’t scare me though.
On the other hand, Manoah is coming off the best start of his young career. I love the vivacious rookie heading into a two-start week hot. He’s worth a shot this week.
Matz is matchup dependent and gets a few toss-ups ahead with the Tigers. Play him if you need to, but always be aware that Matz is prone to a blow-up.
The move to DC has suited Gray so far with 16 punchouts in 11 innings pitched with his new club. He was so…damn…close to the first win of his young career last Friday against Atlanta, but those may be few and far between with his new club. Alas, his fastball-curveball combination is already lethal and he should provide great ratios for the rest of the season.
Joe Ross was the only other Nationals starter worth your time, but he may be headed for his second Tommy John surgery. That is a brutal blow for a guy who seemed to have finally put years of arm trouble behind him. This rotation may shuffle around a little bit with three off-days over the next week, so keep a lookout.
Fedde, Espino, nor Corbin should be used in the average league. Corbin maybe the next time he gets a shot at the Marlins.
Photos by Mark LoMoglio & Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire | Design by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter @ IG)