If you’re unfamiliar with this article series, each week Ben Palmer takes a look at some hitting matchups you should take advantage of and some hitting matchups you should avoid, based on who the hitters will likely be facing on the mound. Unfortunately for all of you, Ben is busy so you’re stuck with me and my takes. Apologies in advance.
So here’s who you should start and avoid in Week 18 (8/9-8/15) of the fantasy baseball season.
Notes: All pitching matchups mentioned here are based on projections as of this post’s publication. It is entirely possible that the actual matchups could change for any number of reasons. Keep in mind, this article is geared toward middle-of-the-road players, meaning you should be starting top-of-the-line bats regardless of the matchup. Always start your studs.
Milwaukee Brewers hitters – Sure, it’ll be a week-long road trip, but other than that this set of matchups has everything we want—weak opponents (Cubs and Pirates) and a full set of seven games. The lefties will have better matchups than the righties due to six of the seven opposing starters being right-handed, but quite frankly, all Brewers are in play for these two series as neither team will be using a proper ace nor do they have good bullpens. Kolten Wong, who is available in two-thirds of Yahoo leagues and over half of ESPN leagues, is more than good enough to fire up, especially with all the plate appearances I anticipate him seeing. Christian Yelich and Eduardo Escobar, who hit in the middle of the order, are also looking good for the week (even if things have been tough for Yelich this season). Avisaíl García is also an obvious start, as he’s slashing .309/.365/.500 since the All-Star Break with three home runs and two steals and leads this team in home runs and RBI. I’d even be considering Lorenzo Cain in deeper formats, as he’s hitting .342 in his 10 games since coming off the IL with three stolen bases as the everyday center fielder.
Rowdy Tellez – Of course, discussing the Brewers wouldn’t be complete without our featured player! Tellez is rostered in fewer than 20% of Yahoo or ESPN leagues, and while he isn’t quite playing every day, he’s sporting a 1.171 OPS in his last 13 appearances with five home runs and 24 combined runs and RBI during that stretch. Rowdy should see plenty of action against a slew of softer righties this week, and there’s a lot to like about what he’s been able to do lately as a Brewer. Perhaps the most impressive thing for Tellez right now is his Votto-like 10.9% walk rate and 10.9% strikeout rate, but he’s also been able to use all parts of the field and also keep the ball off the ground—all great things for a power hitter. While he hasn’t quite captured his 2020 mojo here in 2021, I think there will be more good times ahead for the 26-year-old southpaw slugger as he continues to have good at-bats, make consistent contact, and send the ball into the seats from time to time.
St. Louis Cardinals hitters – The Cardinals probably aren’t used to not having much to play for in August, but they’ll feel a little better about it this week facing a pair of teams in even worse shape than they are in the Pirates and Royals. While the Cardinals will catch the ace of the Pirates (JT Brubaker), the rest of the pitching they’ll see will be a slew of names most casual fans haven’t heard of. Both sides of the plate are in play from this lineup, as the pitching will be weak overall and they’ll be facing three right-handed and three left-handed starters throughout the two series. I’d probably be hesitant to use Tommy Edman this week, as he’s been demoted to the bottom of the lineup and isn’t bringing contact or power to the plate these days, plus the fact that both the Pirates and the Royals are quite adept at gunning down opposing base stealers. I’m also skeptical on the fantasy usefulness of Paul DeJong over the long term, especially now that he’s cooled off from that early July surge, but he’s an acceptable middle infielder in 12-teamers for this week. Dylan Carlson is probably a tier above that, and while he isn’t providing much batting average, he’s slugging .481 since the break with a 112 wRC+ while batting at the very top of the lineup. Hot-and-cold Harrison Bader is was more cold than hot this past week, but I’d probably keep him active in most formats with this soft schedule coming up.
Detroit Tigers hitters – I don’t miss opportunities to talk about Akil Baddoo. The Tigers will get to play three games in the hitter-friendly Camden Yards to start the week and then head home to Comerica Park for another series against Cleveland. While Detroit may run into trouble if they try to get cute on the base paths, they won’t face any particularly intimidating pitcher outside of John Means (unless they want to make 2021 Matt Harvey look like 2015 Matt Harvey again). Baddoo is probably my favorite pick here because he’s awesome and also because he’s slugging .487 since the All-Star Break, but Miguel Cabrera should have a shot to get to 500 home runs by the weekend, and the switch-hitting duo of Robbie Grossman and Jeimer Candelario should be able to continue their recent successes at the plate.
Jonathan Villar – Let’s be clear—this is not for normal circumstances. That said, the Mets have the softest schedule for steals this week as neither the Nationals nor the Dodgers have been very good at stopping the running game. The Mets are in a tight division race, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see Villar swipe his first bag since June 1 as the Mets do their best to manufacture runs against a fairly tough slate of pitching. In deeper roto formats, every stolen base counts and Villar is a guy who could, given the opportunity, steal two or three of them in very short order.
Colorado Rockies hitters – It’s a bit obvious, but the Rockies just ended a nice long home stretch and will now be hitting the road to face the Astros and Giants. Trevor Story remains an obvious start, of course, and I guess keeping Charlie Blackmon in your lineups might be fine, as he’ll face a right-handed starter in five of the six games this week and somehow sports a .293 batting average on the road (compared to .254 in Coors) this season. Ramiel Tapia is the toughest call here, as he’s on a 10-game hitting streak with multiple hits in five of those outings; however, he has a putrid .571 OPS in 107 combined career plate appearances in San Francisco and Houston. I suppose if you’re in need of steals, you can talk yourself into it, but the complete lack of power combined with a Coors hangover makes me less than enthusiastic about his prospects for the next week.
Arizona Diamondbacks hitters – This team is really, really bad. Over the last 14 days (not including today), they’re slashing .224/.302/.344 as a team. Unfortunately for Arizona fans, it’s unlikely to get much better this week as they’ll hit the road to face Kevin Gausman and Alex Wood in San Francisco and then head home to see Yu Darvish, Chris Paddack, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove. It’s not exactly a murderer’s row, but it’s more than enough talent to shut down this lineup.
Texas Rangers hitters – This probably doesn’t impact many of you, since there isn’t much to roster for fantasy managers on this team, but just keep in mind that these Rangers have a .532 OPS over the last 30 days. That’s a full 140 points lower than the next worst offense over that stretch (the Angels, in case you were curious). For what it’s worth, the lowest OPS of the 138 qualified hitters this season is .542 (Kevin Newman)—still 10 points better than the Rangers. Truly amazing.
Cleveland right-handed hitters – It’s an odd week for Cleveland, as they’ll face three different opponents in the Reds, A’s, and Tigers. While the matchup over the weekend against Detroit should be pretty appealing for all Cleveland hitters, the first four days of the week look brutal as they’ll see four strong right-handed starters in Luis Castillo, Frankie Montas, Chris Bassitt, and Cole Irvin. Since the All-Star Break, the worst ERA of these four belongs to Montas and his 2.88. Myles Straw, Amed Rosario, Oscar Mercado, and Harold Ramirez all should ride the pine until the weekend, and honestly, everyone who is not named José Ramírez or Franmil Reyes.
Philadelphia Phillies hitters – The Phillies will be at home, but unfortunately, they’ll see the top of the rotation from both the Dodgers and the Reds. Right-handed bats will get the brunt of it, making me hesitant to recommend Jean Segura in leagues shallower than 15-teams. I’d also be looking to see if I have a fill-in for Alec Bohm and his lack of power of late, and while it’s hard to think about benching Rhys Hoskins, his recent groin issues combined with the tough schedule might make it a very real consideration in 10-teamers or shallow 12-teamers.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)