Welcome back to our Starting Pitcher Schedule Preview! For the first-timers, I break down all 30 teams’ 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.
Understanding and projecting matchups becomes increasingly important as we get closer to the end of the season. Who someone is pitching against is now MORE important than understanding true value or skill and The List will reflect this soon.
Certainly, we are ranking these matchups based on opponent’s offense and here are my offensive tiers to do so.
There have a been a slew of adjustments, per usual, since my last installment two weeks ago. First off, the Rays have become a legitimate juggernaut on offense since the Trade Deadline, turning in the fourth-highest team wOBA and second-highest wRC+. Nelson Cruz and, to a lesser degree, Jordan Luplow have helped with this run, but Wander Franco‘s dominance cements the Rays as an offense to fear.
I have also moved Atlanta back up a tier. Their flurry of deadline moves to acquire bopping corner OFs has born fruit and supplemented their talented infield perfectly. Be wary of them.
Sticking with the NL East, Rhys Hoskins being lost for the season had me split the Phillies up by their home and road matchups. Hoskins is a big loss and the Phillies’ lack of depth means their replacement level is worse than most teams vying for a playoff spot. J.T. Realmuto might even ditch the shin guards for a spot at first base. That is brutal.
The Mets are now getting the split treatment as well, just down a level. I am done waiting for them to start hitting, it just has not happened and Citi Field continues to repress runs.
Lastly, the Twins have been dropped a tier. They have been pedestrian since moving Cruz to Tampa Bay but are candidates to jump back up with the return of Byron Buxton and the consistency of Josh Donaldson.
Without further ado, let’s get into those matchups.
Note: (Off) means the team has an off-day before they play that team. For example, SEA (OFF) means they are off the previous day.
Use your few trustworthy Diamondbacks (Gallen and Bumgarner) soon because a road trip to Los Angeles and Houston looms. Those two have plenty of streaming value for the next week or so before they should both be relegated to your bench.
The wildcard here is Mejía. He’s a big fella (6’4″, 235 lbs) without the overpowering velocity to match his stature. That being said, his slider (which acts more like a slurve) is decent and he has a show-me changeup that he can mix in as well. The league will likely figure him out over the next few weeks, but that first matchup with the Mariners is very stream-able.
Widener does not catch my eye. Gilbert’s two-start week is serviceable, just be careful.
This schedule is a minefield: a mix of the easiest and most difficult matchups in the league. Morton, Fried, and Ynoa are probably trustworthy enough to run out there against in Los Angeles, Denver, and San Francisco. How crazy is it that they have not one but TWO west coast trips in September? This schedule is so wacky.
Anderson had a very strange return to the rotation on Sunday earning a win against the Giants without recording a strikeout. He certainly still has some rust to shake off after a nearly eight-week layoff and should be avoided in Denver.
Ignore Smyly until the Marlins and Rockies come to town.
I am not sure how to say fade any other way. The only player to start here is Means against the Royals. Stay FAR away otherwise.
Boston Red Sox
This schedule would look a lot different if the Rays were not suddenly an offensive juggernaut. Pivetta and Rodriguez have been a bit too fickle lately to trust against Tampa Bay or Chicago. Have at it afterward. Fun fact about Pivetta, he is top-ten in Eno Sarris and Max Bay’s Stuff+ metric since August 1st. Pick your spots with him.
Houck and Eovaldi have tons of streaming potential here, too. We are still waiting for the Red Sox to fully unleash Houck and let him go past four or five innings. In due time.
The magnitude of Sale’s return to this rotation cannot be understated. He has won all three of his starts, has struck out 34.4% of opposing hitters, and even mixed in an immaculate inning last week. He is still every bit an ace.
I have been in Hendricks camp all season as the only Cubs pitcher to trust, but he has allowed at least eight ER in two of his last four starts now. Maybe it is time to dock him a level and make sure the matchups are favorable. Namely, this next game with the Pirates.
This team is such a trainwreck I would not roster any of these other arms. The Cubs managed to lose back-to-back games when scoring at least 10 runs last week. Uncanny.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox Rotation is back at full strength with the return of Rodón. He was rather pedestrian in his return last week (5 IP, 2 ER, 3 K), but that came against the Blue Jays lineup. He is due for four soft matchups in a row and should be a major difference-maker over the next few weeks.
Every White Sox starter should really be a difference-maker, besides those matchups with the Red Sox. It’s not like you’re sitting Giolito or Lynn anyway though. And I would LOVE to see your roster if you can afford to put Cease on the bench right now. This staff is so solid.
Watch out for Reynaldo López. He was bounced to make room for Rodón after a decent run in the rotation and threw five perfect innings in his first relief appearance after Keuchal was chased by the CUBS after just one inning. I have a sneaking suspicion we will see him again.
Boy oh boy, these Reds have it made in the shade. The only things to be concerned with are the Dodgers and certain starts at the Great American Ball Park because this schedule is cake.
Namely, Mahle’s managers have to be wary of that home start against the Tigers. His ERA on the road is 1.90. At home, it is 6.00. I am not the biggest fan of pitcher splits, but this one is so significant it is hard to ignore.
Miley and Gutierrez (to a lesser degree) continue to enjoy tons of success despite not having the stuff prototypical of the best pitchers in the league. To look at Gutierrez specifically, he has a 2.81 ERA since allowing six ER to the Mets last month. However, I would not say this hot stretch changes his long-term outlook, since all but one of his starts (@ATL) came against bottom-tier offenses. Stream him carefully and enjoy this stretch.
Castillo and Gray have been rock solid recently, especially over the last couple of weeks. They are both top-end options for the near future.
The loss of Triston McKenzie to shoulder fatigue turns this rotation from unappealing to wholly uninteresting. It is difficult to trust anyone here, even with such a middling schedule ahead.
Many hoped Plesac’s nine-K performance against the Tigers was a sign of better things to come, but back-to-back lackluster games against the Twins and Rangers disproved that notion. Morgan similarly has two fantastic starts mixed in with his last five. Ironically, they were against the two best offenses he faced (Toronto and Oakland). This is not the time of year to rely on inconsistency.
Want to hear the craziest stat you are ever going to hear? The Rockies’ staff ERA is lower at home than on road—significantly lower! As of Friday evening, it sat at 4.36 in Coors Field and 5.22 away from home. That is not super important to this exercise because past ERA will not help in matchups against the Braves and Giants at Coors Field, but I still found that incredibly interesting.
Speaking of those matchups and those splits, Gray and Gomber are incredibly compelling options. Both have pitched better at Coors this year than away from it, and Gomber much better. I can’t put my finger on why that is but still would not want to start either during those two series.
Every pitcher here has streaming appeal in the Rockies road series, though. Márquez’s two-start week here is a decent risk and one I would be willing to take.
New members of the six-man-rotation club, this move actually makes perfect sense for the Tigers with multiple young pitchers whose workloads need to be managed.
Enjoy that Pirates series if you roster Skubal because he is stuck with the winning teams otherwise. Mize has a worse run ahead with plenty of red ink. This is that time of year when difficult schedules should affect the way you handle your roster moves and it may be time to move on him in shallower leagues.
Neither Manning, nor Alexander, nor Peralta has shown enough to be on redraft radars.
Boyd makes his triumphant return this week, but fair warning to all my ‘Boyd Boys’ out there: this is not the week to put him in your lineup. Long layoff, homerun happy Cincinnati, I do not like that combination.
Ring the bell because we have some possible league winners here with the Astros’ upcoming schedule. I specifically highlighted Odorizzi in my last writeup and the sentiment reigns true. Do not let this guy sit on your waiver wire.
McCullers won’t be on any wires (I hope), but he’s in the same boat as Odorizzi with nothing but green ink on the horizon. He may have such a good stretch here it could earn him tens of millions of dollars this winter.
Valdez, Garcia, and Greinke all have incredibly easy schedules too, just that one meeting with the Padres mixed in. These guys are all primed for a huge few weeks.
The caveat here is José Urquidy‘s impending return from the IL. The Astros could revert back to a six-man rotation or bump Garcia entirely to manage his workload. Hopefully we have clarity soon.
Kansas City Royals
There is not much clarity on this rotation right now. Certain websites have the Royals sticking with a six-man rotation despite Brad Keller being placed on the IL, but there is no telling who that spot goes to or if it actually will. So, we are standing pat with this alignment for now.
It is ironic that a rotation that came into the season with multiple highly regarded prospects and first-round picks ready to break through has found their most exciting piece to be the unheralded Hernández. I am incredibly bullish on the young right-hander and think he can make a major difference in every league with this schedule.
Everyone else here has been a disappointment. Minor is inconsistent, Bubic does not miss enough bats, Lynch needs more seasoning, and Singer has regressed dramatically. Leave each alone.
Los Angeles Angels on Anaheim
This schedule is a little wonky. Detmers hitting the IL for an unspecified reason (COVID) temporarily makes this rotation five deep, but three off days in two weeks can facilitate the change. It seemed like a vaccine/workload break anyway so I expect him to be back next time through. Still, he nor anyone else here besides Ohtani should be in fantasy lineups.
I am even a little fearful for Ohtani this week. The worst (and only poor) start of his season came against these Yankees and he is dealing with a banged-up right hand after being hit by a pitch last week. Proceed with caution.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The only question mark here is that last spot. Brusdar Graterol opened for Andre Jackson on Friday and the results (4.2 IP, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K) were not particularly encouraging. Mitch White looked better (3.1 IP, 6 K) on Sunday with worse results (3 ER). Whoever claims this floating rotation spot will not be given a long enough leash to be viable in fantasy.
Otherwise, the three kings continue to pitch as such. Buehler is a strong five weeks away from taking home the Cy Young award, Scherzer looks as sharp as ever, and Urías has a two-start week. Start them all indefinitely
Price has been missing bats but is meh otherwise. The Dodgers have not given him a long enough leash to be viable in fantasy, so leave him on your waiver wire.
Another member of the ‘Super Easy Schedule’ club, I will go out on a limb and call everyone here, besides Luzardo viable for the next three weeks. He dominated the Reds on Sunday though with 8 K in 6 IP. His command was much improved and he threw fewer fastballs in favor of more sliders and changeups. Keep an eye on Luzardo.
I would be lying if I told you Cabrera’s debut last Wednesday made me giddy. His fastball nor slider produced many whiffs (zero for the fastball) and he seemed to survive on weak contact. I am still in on the long-term outlook, but do not know if he is immediately ready to miss bats at this level.
Thompson has been mediocre over his last month (4.50 ERA, 11.1 K%), but is blessed with a dream schedule. He is worth a roster spot in most leagues for the next few weeks. Hernandez is too with three solid starts since being activated off the IL and three out of four great matchups.
The only caveat for these three is the impending returns of Trevor Rogers and Pablo López. Rogers should be back at some point in the next 10 days while López’s progress has stalled. Stay on the lookout for who gets bumped from this staff.
Alcantara is quietly having a wonderful season. Start him indefinitely.
Burnes and Woodruff have to contend with the Giants before a wonder stretch against three soft opponents. These two will be on plenty of championship rosters as long as the Brewers do not meddle with their workload too much.
There are much worse streamers out there than Anderson, Lauer, and Houser. Anderson’s FIP is a cool 3.43 since the start of July nearly matching his 3.76 ERA. Lauer has given up more than three ER just twice since June 1st and not since June 14th. Houser has not been as steady but gets the benefit of missing the Giants. All three of these guys have value for the next few weeks.
However, Aaron Ashby turned in an impressive performance on Sunday holding the Twins to two runs in five innings while striking out five. More than the stats, his stuff is simply electric. I cannot find many reasons for those last three to get innings that could be going to Ashby.
What a vaunted group the Twins have here. I kid, but many pegged this team as a World Series contender so it’s pretty shocking to see how obscure this rotation has become.
Ober is the one pitcher of interest here. He commands his fastball well in the top of the zone and mixes in a slider, changeup, and curveball. Both of those breaking balls have a whiff rate over 20% on the season and he has a 25.7 K% since the beginning of July. He also has not walked multiple batters in a game since July 10th. Fire him up for a two-start week and ride him in easy matchups afterward.
I have no desire to roster Gant, Dobnak, Jax, or Albers.
New York Mets
This rotation is in no part responsible for the Mets’ catastrophic collapse over the last month. In fact, all five pitchers here are viable during the next two weeks when the time alternates between series with the Marlins and Nationals.
Stroman has turned in the best K% of his career to this point and he has been throwing his sinker less and less as the season has wore on. Traditionally, that is an adjustment that can take pitchers to a new level, especially someone like Stroman who can command multiple off-speed pitches at a high level.
Walker has made a massive adjustment recently, discarding the two-seam fastball he relied on in the first half in favor of more four-seamers. While the change has yielded positive results over his last handful of starts, I am not very confident in him after this immediate stretch.
Carrasco has also been tinkering with his repertoire since returning from the IL. He threw more curveballs in his last start than all of his others combined and has had three different pitches (sinker, slider, four-seam fastball) be his most used in a start. He has also given up a first-inning HR in four of his six starts, so this still is not vintage Carrasco. He may still be a shrewd addition to any roster looking ahead.
Megill and Hill have both been up and down over the last month. It is difficult to expect length from either with both being basically two-pitch pitchers without a plus plus offering. I would still trust them against the Nationals and Marlins though.
New York Yankees
Wow, is this team hot or what? Many, including myself, wrongfully pronounced the Yankees dead way back in early July and the consistency of this staff is a big reason why they were able to keep their heads above water before turning the corner over the last few weeks.
Namely, the consistency of Taillon and Montgomery. Two massive question marks coming into the season have become a source of stability for the Yankees. I am not comfortable starting either against Toronto, but they can be used elsewhere.
Remember when everyone was terrified Cole had lost his touch after the ban on ‘sticky stuff’ and that horribly awkward press conference? He has a 36.6 K% since July 1st and looked every bit the ace we have all come to know.
Kluber is making his return on Monday from shoulder fatigue. He had begun to figure it out before getting placed on the IL and I would bet on him having a solid September. Two starts against Baltimore sandwiched around a trip to Citi Field should help get that ball rolling.
Cortes and Andrew Heaney seem to be in direct competition for the fifth spot here. Whoever is not starting will likely be backing up Kluber until he gets going, but I’m not very concerned with either from a fantasy perspective.
Losing Chris Bassitt was such a brutal blow to the playoff-hopeful A’s. Especially with the recent struggles of Manaea and Kaprielian. August has been far and away the worst month of Manaea’s season with an ERA of nearly 1o while Kaprielian cannot seem to miss bats like he was earlier in the season. I would stay away from both until they see the Rangers and Royals.
Luckily, Montas has ascended to the ace I always knew he was. His splitter usage jumped past 30% since the start of July after Montas threw it just 17% through April, May, and June. That adjustment has coincided with a dominant stretch (31.1 K%, 2.17 ERA) since the beginning of July. This is what an ace looks like.
Irvin and Blackburn have maintained relative effectiveness despite a lack of swing-and-miss stuff. Keep them on the bench unless you are in a pinch and can line up their starts against the Rangers or Royals.
Wow, what an easy schedule. Green ink as far as the eye can see! I would feel comfortable starting all five pitchers here indefinitely besides Moore in Milwaukee. He could be a very shrewd streamer in deeper league over the next few weeks.
Wheeler and Nola should dominate this stretch. I am excited for Nola to salvage his full-season stats after a rough first half had many write him off as one of the best pitchers in the National League.
Suárez is the wild-card here. He catches four great matchups and seems to have turned a corner with back-to-back strong starts. He is well worth a flier.
It is a shame that there is such an easy schedule that does not offer a great opportunity to stream against. Brault has a modicum of potential against the Cubs, but I would proceed with caution. JT Brubaker‘s injury took the only acceptable option out of this rotation.
San Diego Padres
I feel for Musgrove. The proverbial ace of the Padres floundering staff has the worst set of four games I could possibly imagine coming up. You can’t sit him, but get ready for a ride.
I spoke poorly of this rotation, but it has gotten a massive boon with the resurgence of Snell and the impending return of Darvish. Snell has FINALLY thrown out his changeup in favor of more curveballs and sliders. The result has been a 37.9 K% and 2.12 ERA over his last five starts. It will be fascinating to see where he is drafted next year if this keeps up.
Paddack is set to make his return from the IL on Tuesday. I know the matchup looks juicy, but let him show you something first.
Weathers is going to get smacked around by the Astros, Dodgers, and Giants. Avoid at all costs.
San Francisco Giants
Tough stretch ahead for the Giants. One of their most difficult I can remember all season. Cueto was good-not-great in his return from the IL against the Mets last week and I would not run him out there until that Cubs matchup. The same goes for Wood.
Gausman has continued to struggle relatively to his dominant first half. He seems to have lost command of his fastball, leaving too hittable many over the middle of the plate. That is the risk you run as a two-pitch pitcher: success is more delicate since it is difficult to adjust with fewer options. He remains a high-end option, just not the untouchable ace he appeared to be in April and May.
Luckily, Webb’s meteoric rice has coincided with Gausman’s struggles. He STILL has not allowed more than two ER since May 6th. That start came in Denver, where he will be returning next week. Let’s see if he can slay the dragon this time around.
I have DeSclafani’s name written here in pencil after he left his start Sunday with the trainer. If he is out, Sammy Long gets the privilege of facing this brutal schedule. Bench either one.
This is a prime example of how schedules can be more important than skill level this time of year. Gilbert has had a wonderful rookie season but has undergone some recent struggles. Conventional wisdom would tell you to wait out the storm and let the talent win out. However, you see his next three starts coming against Houston, Houston, and Boston. This is a situation where Gilbert can be dropped if it gets you an immediate upgrade.
Kikuchi and Anderson each have two tough matchups rather than three. This is another situation where I would check out my waiver wire and see if there were any better options.
On the other hand, Gonzales and Flexen each have a generally soft run ahead and should be owned everywhere. It’s funny how fickle these schedules can be.
St. Louis Cardinals
Here come the flame-throwing Cardinals. Mikolas will take over the highest-velocity throne from Happ with his, checks notes, 92 mph heater. He has been just fine in his first three starts off the IL, but those three games came against the Cubs, Pirates, and Pirates. Things will get a lot more difficult over the next few weeks and I would keep Mikolas on my bench.
In fact, this schedule has me fading every Cardinal starter besides Wainwright. His recent run of success has brought his full-season ERA below 3.00 and there is no reason to think the good performances will stop.
Tampa Bay Rays
The red-hot Rays have a tough schedule ahead. I have no doubt they will be able to navigate it because nothing can seem to knock this team off their roll. It is time to avoid the less apt pitchers here though. Yarbrough, Rasmussen, Wacha, and Archer should struggle to get any type of length over the next few weeks. I am especially disappointed for Rasmussen’s tough stretch since he has been throwing well.
On the other hand, the growth of both Patiño and McClanahan should have every Rays fan excited for the playoffs. Both young flamethrowers have matured more quickly than any fantasy manager could have dreamed. I would not call them must-starts yet, but I am not saying a prayer before they face off with the Red Sox or Blue Jays.
This rotation has some COVID issues, so the order here is likely to change. If everything stays as is, Otto makes for an interesting option. Acquired as part of the Joey Gallo trade, he debuted against the Astros last week and allowed 0 ER in 5 IP with 7 K. The fastball will not make you turn your head (93 mph), but he threw his sweeping slider more than 40% of the time and has a curveball and changeup too. Getting the Rockies next at home makes him worth a flier.
Allard is serviceable as well until Houston comes to town. The rest of this staff is undesirable. Keep a lookout for Dane Dunning‘s return.
Alexy, making his major league debut on Monday, is also interesting. He has a 1.66 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 76 K in 65 IP at AA and AAA this season. The Rockies at home may be a very soft landing spot for the youngster.
Toronto Blue Jays
Suddenly four deep, the Blue Jays are a Berríos hot streak away from making a serious run. I know it did not look great at first, but his 7 IP, 0 ER, 11 K outing against Detroit on Sunday should help quell any doubts about this guy’s ability. Just trust the talent.
The same goes for Ryu who has allowed 20 ER in 27.1 August innings. 14 of those came in two starts against the Red Sox and White Sox. Two starts against the Orioles should go much better.
Ray gets two starts against the Orioles as well in addition to catching the A’s rather than the Yankees. It’s not like you are ever taking him out of your lineup anyway, though.
Manoah had a stinker in Washington two weeks ago (3 IP, 6 ER), but has been incredibly consistent during the second half besides that start. He can be trusted in most situations.
I am so certain Matz is going to get blown up in Camden Yards. Put a pin in this.
Ah, oh boy, not great here. At least we have Gray who has really impressed me with a 25.0 K% since being traded to Washington. I am not ready to trust him in Atlanta still.
Espino, the Mets killer, faces them in the midst of a remarkably easy stretch. His stuff is unimpressive, but you could do worse in deeper leagues.
Then we have Corbin with a similarly easy run. He can be useful here as well. Fedde too, just because he’s facing three of the worst offenses in baseball. Not Nolin though, no schedule can save him.
Photos by Frank Jansky & Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire | Design by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter @ IG)
Do teams hit better or worse after an off day?
I’m not sure, Joe. Do not know if there has been any research done there
This would be super helpful before Sunday FAAB runs in many leagues that do weekly pickups/lineups. Thank you!
Definitely, but this is more about a multi-week plan and holding it until Monday morning ensures it can be as accurate as possible. We also have our Expected Pitchers article that forecasts the upcoming week which drops on Sunday afternoons to help everyone out during FAAB!