Fantasy Forecaster: Week 3

Updated: April 14, 2013, 12:10 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, April 14 at 12:10 p.m. ET.

On tap: Expect a heightened level of intensity in Los Angeles this week, as the Los Angeles Dodgers host the San Diego Padres Monday through Wednesday, only four days after a Zack Greinke-Carlos Quentin hit by pitch spawned a bench-clearing brawl between the two teams that resulted in a fractured collarbone for Greinke and an eight-game suspension for Quentin (which he is currently appealing, though the San Diego Union-Tribune reports either his appeal might be heard, or he might drop it, before the series' start). Greinke's rotation spot was due up in the middle game (Tuesday), but the Dodgers will have their ace on the mound in the rubber match (Wednesday).

This is a surprisingly poor week for two-start pitchers. Only one of our preseason top 20 starting pitchers is scheduled to work twice -- Cliff Lee (@CIN, STL) -- and only seven of our top 50 get two assignments apiece. Even worse: On April 12, Forecaster's original publish date, eight of those top 50 were scheduled for two starts; rainouts and rotation shuffling dropped one of those top 50 out of two-start status. Many fourth and fifth starters are the ones making two turns, expanding the list of "no-thank-you options" and forcing fantasy owners to be pickier with their one-start pitchers. You've heard this before, but I'll say it again: This is a quality, not quantity, week.

Fantasy Forecaster

Lee's Great American Ball Park assignment (that's on Monday) leads a list of hot-starting pitchers facing challenging matchups; Justin Masterson (BOS, Wednesday) and Jeff Samardzija (TEX, Thursday) are the others. This might be a telling week for all three regarding their 2013 full-season outlooks, and as you'll see below, all are ranked within "start 'em" territory based solely on their talent. But Great American Ball Park is one of the most hitter-friendly venues in the game, Masterson will be facing his drafting team, which ranked eighth in runs scored in 2012, and Samardzija will be facing the still-potent Texas Rangers.

Quick click by section, if you're seeking advice in a specific area:
ESPN lineup deadlines | Interleague impact | Projected starting pitchers
Pitching scuttlebutt | Week 3 pitcher rankings | Pitching advantages
Hitting ratings | Hitting advantages

ESPN leagues: Lineup deadlines

The annual Boston Red Sox Patriots Day game -- that a traditional 11 a.m. ET start -- is scheduled for Monday, the finale of a four-game series versus the Tampa Bay Rays. That pushes up lineup deadlines in leagues with daily transactions, and it represents one of three weekdays in which there are day games -- Wednesday (Kansas City Royals at Atlanta Braves, at 12:10 p.m. ET) and Thursday (San Francisco Giants at Milwaukee Brewers, at 1:10 p.m. ET) are the others.

Interleague impact

This week's interleague series:
Arizona Diamondbacks at New York Yankees (3 games, Tuesday-Thursday)
• Kansas City Royals at Atlanta Braves (2 games, Tuesday-Wednesday)
Texas Rangers at Chicago Cubs (3 games, Tuesday-Thursday)
• Los Angeles Dodgers at Baltimore Orioles (3 games, Friday-Sunday)

Though there are four interleague series this week, the most nightmarish of the four (for fantasy planning purposes) is the Royals-Braves two-gamer. The Royals recently showed us their plans for games in National League parks, where they'll lack the designated hitter: They gave Billy Butler the two starts at first base in which a left-handed starter was on the mound, and Eric Hosmer the one against a righty starter. As the Braves will start one of each, we might be looking at both Butler and Hosmer getting four starts apiece, in a week where four other American League teams will play seven games and the remaining nine teams will play six games.

[+] EnlargeMitch Moreland
Jim Cowsert/US PresswireMitch Moreland will likely get the start at first when the Rangers hit the road for a three-game interleague series versus the Cubs.

The Rangers, meanwhile, will be forced into a choice between Mitch Moreland, their usual first baseman, and Lance Berkman, their DH, at first base during their three games at Wrigley Field. Considering Berkman's age, injury history, .176/.351/.270 triple-slash line in 24 games at Wrigley the past five seasons (2008-12) and the fact that a left-hander (Travis Wood) is scheduled to start Tuesday, he'll probably sit most of the series.

The Diamondbacks benefit from the addition of the DH at an American League park, as it grants them the opportunity to stash Jason Kubel, a mediocre defender, there. That could free up room for Eric Hinske, Alfredo Marte or Eric Chavez (with Martin Prado shifting to left field in that event). As for the Dodgers, the DH affords them the chance to give additional at-bats to Luis Cruz, Jerry Hairston Jr. and/or Nick Punto.

Among individual pitching matchups, keep in mind that Jason Hammel, the Orioles' scheduled Friday starter, was 3-0 with a 2.54 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in his four interleague starts in 2012, all of which came against teams that ranked among the upper half of the National League in runs scored.

Projected starting pitchers

The chart below lists each of the 30 MLB teams' schedules and projected starting pitchers, and provides a matchup rating for each day's starter. Pitchers scheduled to start at least twice this week are in gold/beige boxes.

Pitching scuttlebutt

Ubaldo Jimenez was skipped in the Cleveland Indians' rotation due to their April 10-11 rainouts, but he's scheduled to return to action Tuesday. With Corey Kluber recently demoted, the Indians' most likely Saturday starter appears to be rehabbing Scott Kazmir.

• Though he was not needed in relief on April 13 despite being made available for it, Rick Porcello is still scheduled to be skipped in the Detroit Tigers' rotation this time around, making him a one-start pitcher in Week 3 (@LAA, Saturday).

• The most recent report from the Kansas City Royals had them skipping fifth starter Luis Mendoza's turn in the rotation this week due to Monday and Thursday off days. If Mendoza does pitch Friday or Saturday, Jeremy Guthrie would get only one turn.

• The Los Angeles Angels could use Thursday's off day to skip fifth starter Garrett Richards, in which case Jason Vargas would get two starts in Week 3.

• The Minnesota Twins' and New York Mets' rotation changes were announced shortly after word of their April 14 postponement broke. The most notable development: Pedro Hernandez, the Twins' fifth starter, won't start again until April 22.

• The New York Yankees have shuffled their rotation multiple times in the past two days due to rainouts and an injury to Andy Pettitte (back spasms), and it is unclear whether Pettitte will now pitch Tuesday or Wednesday, an important distinction in the two-start schedule. Ivan Nova would replace Pettitte on Tuesday if the latter is unable to go.

Aaron Harang has replaced Blake Beavan in the Seattle Mariners' rotation and will start Tuesday's game.

Scott Feldman (back) will have his rotation spot skipped on Wednesday, and it is unclear whether he'll be ready to pitch on Saturday, the next time the Chicago Cubs need a fifth starter.

• It is unclear whether Johnny Cueto will be able to make his scheduled Thursday start. If he's unable to go, the Cincinnati Reds might call up Tony Cingrani for the assignment.

Tristan's Week 3 pitcher rankings: Top 75

1. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Mon-@CIN (Arroyo), Sat-STL (Lynn)
2. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Wed-SD (Ross)
3. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Thu-@SEA (Iwakuma)
4. Jordan Zimmermann (WSH) -- Mon-@MIA (LeBlanc), Sun-@NYM (Laffey)
5. Yu Darvish (TEX) -- Fri-SEA (Saunders)
6. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Wed-DET (Scherzer)
7. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Fri-SD (Volquez)
8. Gio Gonzalez (WSH) -- Sat-@NYM (Gee)
9. Stephen Strasburg (WSH) -- Fri-@NYM (Harvey)
10. Matt Harvey (NYM) -- Fri-WSH (Strasburg)
11. Kris Medlen (ATL) -- Tue-KC (Guthrie), Sun-@PIT (Sanchez)
12. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Thu-MIA (Fernandez)
13. Doug Fister (DET) -- Tue-@SEA (Harang), Sun-@LAA (Blanton)
14. Mat Latos (CIN) -- Fri-MIA (Slowey)
15. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Thu-@PHI (Hamels)
16. Lance Lynn (STL) -- Mon-@PIT (McDonald), Sat-@PHI (Lee)
17. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Thu-@CLE (McAllister)
18. Matt Moore (TB) -- Wed-@BAL (Tillman)
19. Chris Sale (CWS) -- Thu-@TOR (Dickey)
20. Derek Holland (TEX) -- Tue-@CHC (Wood), Sun-SEA (Harang)
21. Jeff Samardzija (CHC) -- Thu-TEX (Ogando)
22. Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Tue-PHI (Kendrick), Sun-MIA (Sanabia)
23. Matt Cain (SF) -- Thu-@MIL (Lohse)
24. Tommy Milone (OAK) -- Mon-HOU (Bedard), Sun-@TB (Hernandez)
25. David Price (TB) -- Thu-@BAL (Gonzalez)
26. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Thu-ARI (Corbin)
27. Chad Billingsley (LAD) -- Mon-SD (Stults), Sun-@BAL (Arrieta)
28. Alexi Ogando (TEX) -- Thu-@CHC (Samardzija)
29. James McDonald (PIT) -- Mon-STL (Lynn), Sat-ATL (Maholm)
30. Brett Anderson (OAK) -- Fri-@TB (Cobb)
31. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Thu-STL (Wainwright)
32. Alex Cobb (TB) -- Fri-OAK (Anderson)
33. Jake Peavy (CWS) -- Fri-MIN (Diamond)
34. Jeremy Hellickson (TB) -- Mon-@BOS (Dempster), Sat-OAK (Parker)
35. Clay Buchholz (BOS) -- Fri-KC (Shields)
36. Anibal Sanchez (DET) -- Fri-@LAA (Richards)
37. Jaime Garcia (STL) -- Fri-@PHI (Halladay)
38. Ryan Dempster (BOS) -- Mon-TB (Hellickson), Sat-KC (Santana)
39. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Wed-@SEA (Hernandez)
40. Andy Pettitte (NYY) -- Tue-ARI (McCarthy), Sun-@TOR (Johnson)
41. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Fri-@PIT (Rodriguez)
42. Paul Maholm (ATL) -- Sat-@PIT (McDonald)
43. Mike Minor (ATL) -- Wed-KC (Davis)
44. Josh Johnson (TOR) -- Tue-CWS (Axelrod), Sun-NYY (Pettitte)
45. James Shields (KC) -- Fri-@BOS (Buchholz)
46. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Fri-CHC (Jackson)
47. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Sat-SD (Richard)
48. Erik Bedard (HOU) -- Mon-@OAK (Milone), Sun-CLE (Jimenez)
49. Hisashi Iwakuma (SEA) -- Thu-DET (Verlander)
50. R.A. Dickey (TOR) -- Thu-CWS (Sale)
51. Ian Kennedy (ARI) -- Fri-@COL (De La Rosa)
52. Gavin Floyd (CWS) -- Mon-@TOR (Buehrle), Sat-MIN (Correia)
53. Marco Estrada (MIL) -- Sat-CHC (Feldman)
54. Shelby Miller (STL) -- Wed-@PIT (Burnett)
55. Jonathon Niese (NYM) -- Thu-@COL (Chacin)
56. C.J. Wilson (LAA) -- Sat-DET (Porcello)
57. Barry Zito (SF) -- Tue-@MIL (Peralta), Sun-SD (Stults)
58. Wandy Rodriguez (PIT) -- Fri-ATL (Hudson)
59. Wily Peralta (MIL) -- Tue-SF (Zito), Sun-CHC (Wood)
60. Hiroki Kuroda (NYY) -- Sat-@TOR (Buehrle)
61. Justin Masterson (CLE) -- Wed-BOS (Aceves)
62. A.J. Griffin (OAK) -- Tue-HOU (Peacock)
63. Brandon McCarthy (ARI) -- Tue-@NYY (Pettitte), Sun-@COL (Francis)
64. Miguel Gonzalez (BAL) -- Thu-TB (Price)
65. Brandon Morrow (TOR) -- Fri-NYY (Hughes)
66. Bronson Arroyo (CIN) -- Mon-PHI (Lee), Sat-MIA (LeBlanc)
67. Wade Miley (ARI) -- Wed-@NYY (Nova)
68. Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD) -- Fri-@BAL (Hammel)
69. Ross Detwiler (WSH) -- Wed-@MIA (Nolasco)
70. Kyle Lohse (MIL) -- Thu-SF (Cain)
71. Jake Westbrook (STL) -- Tue-@PIT (Sanchez), Sun-@PHI (Kendrick)
72. Jose Fernandez (MIA) -- Thu-@CIN (Cueto)
73. Jhoulys Chacin (COL) -- Thu-NYM (Niese)
74. A.J. Burnett (PIT) -- Wed-STL (Miller)
75. Jarrod Parker (OAK) -- Sat-@TB (Hellickson)

Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Jake Arrieta (BAL) -- Tue-TB (Hernandez), Sun-LAD (Billingsley)
Mark Buehrle (TOR) -- Mon-CWS (Floyd), Sat-NYY (Kuroda)
Felix Doubront (BOS) -- Tue-@CLE (Jimenez), Sun-KC (Guthrie)
Dillon Gee (NYM) -- Mon-@COL (Nicasio), Sat-WSH (Gonzalez)
Jeremy Guthrie (KC) -- Tue-@ATL (Medlen), Sun-@BOS (Doubront)
Eric Stults (SD) -- Mon-@LAD (Billingsley), Sun-@SF (Zito)
Travis Wood (CHC) -- Tue-TEX (Holland), Sun-@MIL (Peralta)

No-thank-yous, among two-start pitchers:
Dylan Axelrod (CWS) -- Tue-@TOR (Johnson), Sun-MIN (Pelfrey)
Joe Blanton (LAA) -- Mon-@MIN (Correia), Sun-DET (Fister)
Kevin Correia (MIN) -- Mon-LAA (Blanton), Sat-@CWS (Floyd)
Jeff Francis (COL) -- Tue-NYM (Laffey), Sun-ARI (McCarthy)
Roberto Hernandez (TB) -- Tue-@BAL (Arrieta), Sun-OAK (Milone)
Ubaldo Jimenez (CLE) -- Tue-BOS (Doubront), Sun-@HOU (Bedard)
Kyle Kendrick (PHI) -- Tue-@CIN (Bailey), Sun-STL (Westbrook)
Aaron Laffey (NYM) -- Tue-@COL (Francis), Sun-WSH (Zimmermann)
Wade LeBlanc (MIA) -- Mon-WSH (Zimmermann), Sat-@CIN (Arroyo)
Juan Nicasio (COL) -- Mon-NYM (Gee), Sat-ARI (Cahill)
Mike Pelfrey (MIN) -- Tue-LAA (Vargas), Sun-@CWS (Axelrod)
Alex Sanabia (MIA) -- Tue-WSH (Haren), Sun-@CIN (Bailey)
Jonathan Sanchez (PIT) -- Tue-STL (Westbrook), Sun-ATL (Medlen)

Pitching advantages

• Panicky David Price owners need look no further than his track record against the division-rival Baltimore Orioles for solace; he tossed a quality start against them just this month (April 2). In six career starts at Baltimore's Camden Yards, Price has three wins, four quality starts, a 2.54 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP, with current Orioles a combined .230/.276/.326 hitting against him with a 26 percent strikeout rate.

Paul Maholm
Kim Klement/US PresswirePaul Maholm (2-0, 13 Ks) looks to continue his hot start when the Braves square off against his former club, the Pirates.

Paul Maholm returns to PNC Park, where on Saturday he'll face his former Pittsburgh Pirates mates. He had two quality starts, a 2.25 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in his three games there as a visitor in 2012, and he's one of the hottest pickups in fantasy thanks to a strong spring and solid first two regular-season weeks.

• Of all the Coors Field visitors this week, have little fear of Ian Kennedy's matchup. As a member of the National League West, he's one of the visitors most familiar with Coors, and his three quality starts, 3.19 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in five career games in Denver show that he has been reasonably successful there historically.

Clayton Kershaw is a no-brainer fantasy play, but don't underestimate the strength of his matchup against the San Diego Padres. He has eight wins, 11 quality starts, a 2.28 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 17 career starts against them, and as stated earlier, the Dodgers will be plenty motivated to make a statement in this rematch. That also applies to Monday starter Chad Billingsley, who has eight wins, 10 quality starts, a 2.71 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 14 starts against the Padres the past four seasons combined. Make sure Billingsley is also in your active lineup.

Marco Estrada has already defeated the Chicago Cubs once this season (April 8), and between last season and this campaign, he's 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in five games (four starts) against them.

• Among deeper sleepers for Week 3: A.J. Griffin and Bartolo Colon (Tuesday and Wednesday, HOU) are 3-for-3 combined in quality starts and will face a weak Houston Astros lineup; Ross Detwiler (Wednesday, @MIA) had a 3.24 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in his three starts versus the Miami Marlins last season (2.89 ERA if you count his two-inning relief stint of May 30); Jhoulys Chacin (Thursday, NYM) has kicked off his 2013 with back-to-back quality starts and has limited current New York Mets to combined .212/.270/.212 lifetime rates; and Nick Tepesch (Saturday, SEA) had a strong big league debut and will face a Seattle Mariners team that isn't much more potent offensively than the Tampa Bay Rays.

• Incidentally, Ubaldo Jimenez (Sunday, @HOU) has limited current Houston Astros to combined .108/.233/.108 lifetime rates, and that's one matchup that might actually rest in his favor. That said, he's for only those owners who can pick and choose from his two starts in leagues with daily transactions; his Tuesday game against the Red Sox is a matchup to avoid.

Hitting ratings

The chart below lists each of the 30 teams' total number of scheduled games, home games and games versus right- and left-handed pitchers, and provides a matchup rating for the week's games in terms of overall offense, offense for left- and right-handed hitters and base stealing. Matchup ratings for each individual game are listed under the corresponding date.

Hitting advantages

• In addition to the Dodgers' pitchers matching up nicely this week, their hitters should also benefit from a week in which they won't face any fantasy aces. Carl Crawford is finally healthy and off to a good start, batting .424 in his first nine games, and he'll face a slate of pitchers against whom he has strong career histories. In particular, he's 4-for-7 with a home run against Sunday opponent Jake Arrieta, and 2-for-3 with a homer against Monday opponent Eric Stults.

• In a week of otherwise poor matchups for Baltimore Orioles hitters, Matt Wieters stands out thanks to his track record against the week's scheduled opposing starters. He is a combined 18-for-46 (.391 AVG) with three home runs in his career against the Tampa Bay Rays' three scheduled starters (Roberto Hernandez, Matt Moore and David Price), and he's 6-for-21 (.286 AVG) with one homer in his career against scheduled Saturday foe Josh Beckett.

• Though the rating and the scheduled opponents make the Pittsburgh Pirates' matchups appear unfavorable, this could be the week that Pedro Alvarez finally hits his stride. In particular, consider his track record against Tuesday starter Jake Westbrook (.579 AVG, 2 HR in 20 plate appearances) and Friday starter Tim Hudson (.375/.444/.500 triple-slash rates in nine PAs). The Pirates play seven games, six of them against right-handed starters, which suits Alvarez well.

• Speaking of left-handed power hitters who might start to hit their stride, Ike Davis' matchups this week present him with quite an opportunity. In addition to four games at Colorado's Coors Field, where he's 7-for-15 (.467 AVG) with one double in four career games, his weekend matchups against Washington Nationals starters Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann might not look so daunting if you consider his career history against them: He's 10-for-31 (.323 AVG) with three home runs against the trio.

• AL-only owners scrambling to fill infield spots might want to take a look at two Chicago White Sox: Jeff Keppinger and Conor Gillaspie. That the White Sox play three of their seven games against left-handed starters stacks the deck in favor of Keppinger, a career .333/.376/.487 hitter against that side. Keep in mind, as well, that one of the right-handers, Kevin Correia, has afforded .455/.500/.818 rates to Keppinger in 14 career PAs. As for Gillaspie, he's getting increased playing time with Gordon Beckham sidelined, and has three multihit games in his past five.