Championships are won by making the right little decisions through the season and micromanaging your lineup well can be the difference maker. Each week, I’ll be taking a look at five hitting matchups you should take advantage of this week, and five hitting matchups you should avoid this week. Here are the batters you should start and avoid for Week 21 (8/21 – 8/27) of the fantasy baseball season.
Notes: All pitching matchups mentioned here are based off of projections as of this writing. It is entirely possible that the actual matchups could change either because of injury, weather, or anything else. 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.
Minnesota Twins hitters – The Twins get to play eight games this week thanks to a double-header at in Chicago against the White Sox on Monday. They’ll be spending the week in nothing but hitter’s parks, as they have four games at Guaranteed Rate Field, and then three games in Toronto at Rogers Centre against the Blue Jays, and even better, aside from a matchup against Marcus Stroman (and maybe the one against Carlos Rodon), they’ll be seeing nothing but mediocre-to-bad pitchers. You’re already starting Brian Dozier and I’d recommend starting Miguel Sano, despite his recent troubles, but there’s some value to be found on this team. First, there’s Byron Buxton, who’s finally catching fire and has been slashing .345/.393/.582 over the past month (and is available in around 85% of ESPN leagues), then there’s Eddie Rosario, who’s been slashing .351/.394/.660 over the past month (and is available in around 49.2% of ESPN leagues), and there’s Max Kepler, who’s slugging .579 with a .333 ISO in August (and is available in 84.6% of ESPN leagues). And finally, there’s Jorge Polanco, who’s slashing a ridiculous .429/.462/.612 in August so far and is available in 97% of ESPN leagues. Some of these guys are just on hot streaks that will eventually end, but they’re not going to end this week, ride them while they’re hot.
Chicago Cubs hitters – The Cubs get some real cushy matchups this week, as they have three games at hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark against the Reds and then three games in Citizens Bank Park against the Phillies, neither of which is a team that has a particularly frightening pitching staff. And lucky for the Cubs lefties, they’ll be seeing nothing but righties for all six games, which makes guys like Alex Avila, Kyle Schwarber and even potentially (in deep or NL-only leagues) Jon Jay and Ian Happ fairly interesting.
Austin Jackson – The Cleveland Indians will get to see five lefties this week, which is great news for Austin Jackson, as he’s slashing .342/.432/.618 against lefties this year. If you’re in a daily league, I’d say sit him during the games against righties, but for people in weekly leagues, go ahead and start him, because there’s only two games against righties, and I think you can extract some good value out of him this week. Yan Gomes also makes for an interesting play if you need some power, as he’s got a .244 ISO against lefties so far this year.
Chicago White Sox hitters – The White Sox have a nice set of matchups this week and gain an extra game with their doubleheader against the Twins. Aside from maybe their matchup against Justin Verlander, I’m not all that concerned about their pitching matchups this week. It’s especially an interesting week to look at Nicky Delmonico. Why? Because over the past month, he’s been slashing .382/.452/.691 and the White Sox will be facing five righties this week (maybe more once the Twins and Tigers announce their remaining starters), which is good news for Delmonico, who’s slashing .425/.452/.750 against righties this year. And even better, he’s available in 95.8% of ESPN leagues.
Los Angeles Dodgers hitters – The Dodgers will spend the first four games of the week on the road in Pittsburgh against the Pirates. While there, they’ll see Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, both of whom could be tricky matchups (though with Taillon, you never know). But aside from the two of them, they’ll have nothing but cake matchups the rest of the way, including in their three-game series at home against the Milwaukee Brewers. If you’re in a daily league, I’d probably avoid the Cole matchup, but aside from that, start all of your Dodgers hitters with confidence.
New York Mets hitters – It would make sense for you to look at the Mets’ schedule, see they’re playing a double-header, and decide to start all your Mets hitters, but I would recommend against it. First off, they start the week with a four-game series in Citi Field (where they don’t hit well) against the Arizon Diamondbacks. They’ll get to see Zack Godley and Zack Greinke, as well as Taijuan Walker (who’s off and on) and Patrick Corbin (who’s also off and on). Then they head to Washington for four games, one of which is a double-header, and they’ll get to see Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. Not only that, after their double-header, the Mets will have played 21 consecutive games, which means fatigue is likely to be a factor. You should start your studs, but I’d avoid your Mets in general.
Milwaukee Brewers hitters – It’s a bad week to own a Brewers hitter. They start of the week with a three-game series in San Francisco at perhaps the most pitcher-friendly park in baseball: AT&T Park. Then they’ll head to also-pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium for a three-game series against the Dodgers where they’ll get to see Alex Wood and Yu Darvish. I’d avoid every Brewers hitter not named Ryan Braun.
Pittsburgh Pirates hitters – The Pirates will be starting off their week at home in PNC Park (a pitcher’s park where they don’t hit particularly well) against the Dodgers, and they’ll get to see Alex Wood, Yu Darvish, and Rich Hill (and also Hyun Jin-Ryu, but I’m not all that worried about him). Then they’ll head to Great American Ballpark to face off against the Reds, and while there, they’ll get to see Luis Castillo. Now, I’m not particularly worried about the Ryu matchup, or the Robert Stephenson or Homer Bailey matchups, so if you’re in a daily league, I’d start my Pirates there, but in a weekly league, I’d bench my non-stud Pirates, because there’s going to be four games where they’ll be at a significant disadvantage, and I don’t think you’ll be able to extract enough value to warrant starting them.
Washington Nationals hitters – Similar to my previous recommendation, there’s a couple matchups that, if you’re in a daily league, I’d take advantage of, but there’s some tough matchups this week for the Nats as well. They start off with a three-game series in Houston where they’ll see Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel, and then they’ll see the New York Mets at home, and along with them will be a matchup against Jacob DeGrom. Now, the Morton, Keuchel, DeGrom matchups are going to be tough, but the Nats will also see Mike Fiers, Robert Gsellman, Steven Matz, and whomever the Mets toss out there for game two of the double header, so if you’re in a daily league, I’d start your Nats in those matchups, but in a weekly league, unless you don’t have a better option, I might lean away from my non-stud Nats.
Kansas City Royals hitters – The Royals start off the week with a three-game series at home against the Colorado Rockies and Jon Gray, who’s pitching to a 2.89 ERA over the past 15 days. They’ll also see Jeff Hoffman and German Marquez, who aren’t all that scary, though Hoffman has the skills to be great, he just hasn’t been lately. Then comes the hard stretch, a three-game series against the Indians where they’ll see the new-and-improved Danny Salazar, as well as Mike Clevinger and Carlos Carrasco, all of which are difficult matchups. I would be avoiding my non-stud Royals in weekly leagues and only starting them in daily leagues against Hoffman and Marquez.