Fantasy Forecaster: Week 3

Updated: April 14, 2014, 12:58 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Fantasy Forecaster updated Monday, April 14, at 12:58 p.m. ET.

On tap: Fresh off back-to-back quality starts each with at least eight strikeouts to begin his major league career, Masahiro Tanaka highlights the list of two-start pitchers in Week 3. He is the first pitcher since Stephen Strasburg to strike out at least that many batters in his first two starts and the first since Johnny Cueto to post consecutive quality starts with at least eight K's; he is only the eighth player since World War I to have accomplished the latter. Tanaka will start the series opener against the Chicago Cubs -- that'll be the Cubs' first trip to the new Yankee Stadium and only their fourth regular-season road game against the New York Yankees in history -- then conclude the week with a Sunday start at the Tampa Bay Rays.

Fantasy Forecaster

Speaking of Strasburg, he returns to a place where he has inexplicably struggled in his career, Marlins Park, on Tuesday in what is a two-start week for him. After pitching a quality start in Miami's pitching-friendly venue on July 15, 2012, he has failed to qualify in three games there since, allowing 18 runs (16 earned) on 18 hits in 13 innings. With that in mind, as well as the knowledge that his second turn comes against the competitive St. Louis Cardinals, should fantasy owners trust him? My Week 3 rankings below have the answer.

Two other two-start pitchers take a turn apiece against teams they no-hit within the past two calendar years: Homer Bailey hosts the Pittsburgh Pirates, whom he held hitless on Sept. 28, 2012, on Monday before then pitching at Chicago's Wrigley Field on Sunday. Tim Lincecum pitches at San Diego's Petco Park, where he tossed a no-no on July 13, 2013, on Sunday after opening the week with a home game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Neither pitcher is off to a stellar start, but could memories of past glory help inspire each to his most effective performance of 2014 to date?

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

Fantasy owners have more time to set their lineups in Week 3; this is the first week of 2014 in which Monday's first game begins at night: The Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies game, on ESPN's "Monday Night Baseball," starts at 7 p.m. ET.

From there we have nothing but night games on Tuesday, but then day games on each of the final five days of the week, Wednesday-Sunday. Wednesday's action kicks off with a pair of 12:35 p.m. ET games; Thursday's first game is another Braves-Phillies contest at 1:05 p.m. ET; Friday's lone day game is the Cincinnati Reds at the Chicago Cubs at 2:20 p.m. ET; and both Saturday's and Sunday's first games begin at 1:05 p.m.

Interleague impact

This week's interleague series:
• Chicago Cubs at New York Yankees (two games, Tuesday, Wednesday)
Seattle Mariners at Miami Marlins (three games, Friday-Sunday)

Fantasy's Week 3 is one of the lightest weeks of the season in terms of interleague play, with only five total such games and only three in National League venues in which there will be no designated hitter. That's still a problem for the Mariners, however, as Corey Hart has made all six of his appearances (as of April 10) at DH, meaning he'd have to displace either Justin Smoak at first base or the right-field rotation of Logan Morrison, Stefen Romero and Michael Saunders if he's to avoid being limited to pinch-hit duty. Considering Hart's injury history -- he lost the entire 2013 campaign to separate surgeries on both knees -- and the fact that two of the Marlins' projected starters are right-handed, he's someone to sit in all but the deepest AL-only leagues. After all, he might even lose a DH game to Morrison during the week-opening, four-game Texas Rangers series, as the Rangers are scheduled to pitch three righties.

The Cubs gain the DH at Yankee Stadium, and, since the Yankees are scheduled to start two right-handers in a ballpark that plays exceptionally well for left-handed power -- while the Cubs have a bevy of left handed-hitting outfielders -- there might be an opportunity in NL-only leagues. Ryan Kalish, who has averaged seven home runs and 22 stolen bases per 162 games played in the majors and 17/37 numbers in those categories per 162 in the minors, is the obvious choice to score the extra at-bats, though Ryan Sweeney could also factor in. That it's a five-game week for the Cubs, however, limits any playing-time advantage to said NL-only formats.

Projected starting pitchers

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

Pitching scuttlebutt

Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus declared Wednesday as Drew Smyly's first start of the season, hoping to capitalize upon a Cleveland Indians lineup that has struggled thus far against left-handers. It is unclear how this impacts the rest of the week's rotation, though as the Indians are a division rival, it's a reasonable assumption that Justin Verlander will remain on usual rest and pitch Thursday, while Rick Porcello will move back to Friday or Saturday.
• With James Paxton landing on the disabled list this past week, the Seattle Mariners will recall Blake Beavan to occupy his rotation spot beginning on Tuesday. Taijuan Walker (shoulder) made a rehabilitation start on April 9 and isn't far off being ready to contend for that or another spot in the rotation, however.
• The Texas Rangers haven't formally announced a date for Colby Lewis' first start of 2014, but it's expected to be either Monday or Tuesday. What's projected above is the team moving him back as far as off days will allow.
• The Tampa Bay Rays need two fill-ins with Matt Moore and Alex Cobb both on the disabled list, and Cesar Ramos will get the first spot beginning on April 13, setting him up for a Friday start in Week 3. Erik Bedard has also been recalled and will most likely occupy Cobb's spot beginning on Thursday.
• The Arizona Diamondbacks will replace Randall Delgado with Josh Collmenter in their rotation beginning on Monday, and all indications are that it will not be a mere spot start.
• The Chicago Cubs could skip fifth starter Carlos Villanueva thanks to two off days this week; Jason Hammel would pick up a second start in that event.
Tyler Chatwood (hamstring) is expected to return to the Colorado Rockies' rotation on April 13, setting him up for a Friday start. Jordan Lyles and Franklin Morales will both remain in the rotation, however, after news that Brett Anderson will miss 4-6 weeks.
Jonathan Pettibone has been tabbed the Philadelphia Phillies' fifth starter, with his first turn set for April 12; he'd then be lined up for a Thursday start.

Tristan's Week 3 pitcher rankings: Top 75

1. Stephen Strasburg (WSH) -- Tue-@MIA (Koehler), Sun-STL (Miller)
2. Yu Darvish (TEX) -- Wed-SEA (Hernandez)
3. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Tue-ATL (Hale), Sun-@COL (Nicasio)
4. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Fri-LAA (Weaver)
5. Jose Fernandez (MIA) -- Wed-WSH (Roark)
6. Anibal Sanchez (DET) -- Tue-CLE (McAllister), Sun-LAA (Santiago)
7. Gerrit Cole (PIT) -- Tue-@CIN (Leake), Sun-MIL (Estrada)
8. Chris Sale (CWS) -- Thu-BOS (Lester)
9. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Wed-@TEX (Darvish)
10. Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) -- Tue-CHC (Hammel), Sun-@TB (Odorizzi)
11. Shelby Miller (STL) -- Tue-@MIL (Estrada), Sun-@WSH (Strasburg)
12. Marco Estrada (MIL) -- Tue-STL (Miller), Sun-@PIT (Cole)
13. Lance Lynn (STL) -- Mon-@MIL (Garza), Sat-@WSH (Zimmermann)
14. Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Mon-PIT (Rodriguez), Sun-@CHC (Jackson)
15. Jordan Zimmermann (WSH) -- Mon-@MIA (Hand), Sat-STL (Lynn)
16. Sonny Gray (OAK) -- Fri-HOU (Cosart)
17. Chris Archer (TB) -- Mon-@BAL (Chen), Sat-NYY (Nova)
18. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Thu-LAD (Greinke)
19. Jake Peavy (BOS) -- Tue-@CWS (Johnson), Sun-BAL (Chen)
20. Adam Wainwright (StL) -- Thu-@WSH (Jordan)
21. Matt Garza (MIL) -- Mon-STL (Lynn), Sat-@PIT (Rodriguez)
22. Tony Cingrani (CIN) -- Sat-@CHC (Villanueva)
23. David Price (TB) -- Wed-@BAL (Tillman)
24. Gio Gonzalez (WSH) -- Fri-STL (Wacha)
25. Francisco Liriano (PIT) -- Wed-@CIN (Cueto)
26. Jesse Chavez (OAK) -- Mon-@LAA (Santiago), Sun-HOU (Harrell)
27. Robbie Erlin (SD) -- Tue-COL (Nicasio), Sun-SF (Lincecum)
28. Yordano Ventura (KC) -- Tue-@HOU (Harrell), Sun-MIN (Hughes)
29. Scott Kazmir (OAK) -- Sat-HOU (Oberholtzer)
30. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Tue-LAD (Beckett), Sun-@SD (Erlin)
31. Brandon Morrow (TOR) -- Tue-@MIN (Hughes), Sun-@CLE (McAllister)
32. Jeff Samardzija (CHC) -- Fri-CIN (Simon)
33. A.J. Burnett (PHI) -- Wed-ATL (Teheran)
34. James Shields (KC) -- Fri-MIN (Nolasco)
35. Zack Greinke (LAD) -- Thu-@SF (Bumgarner)
36. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Wed-PIT (Liriano)
37. Colby Lewis (TEX) -- Mon-SEA (Elias), Sat-CWS (Quintana)
38. R.A. Dickey (TOR) -- Wed-@MIN (Pelfrey)
39. Zack Wheeler (NYM) -- Mon-@ARI (Collmenter), Sun-ATL (Hale)
40. Michael Wacha (STL) -- Fri-@WSH (Gonzalez)
41. Ervin Santana (ATL) -- Mon-@PHI (Hernandez), Sat-@NYM (Colon)
42. Matt Cain (SF) -- Fri-@SD (Ross)
43. Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD) -- Wed-@SF (Vogelsong)
44. Andrew Cashner (SD) -- Wed-COL (De La Rosa)
45. Phil Hughes (MIN) -- Tue-TOR (Morrow), Sun-@KC (Ventura)
46. John Lackey (BOS) -- Fri-BAL (Norris)
47. Hector Santiago (LAA) -- Mon-OAK (Chavez), Sun-@DET (Sanchez)
48. Tanner Roark (WSH) -- Wed-@MIA (Fernandez)
49. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Thu-@CWS (Sale)
50. Jake Odorizzi (TB) -- Tue-@BAL (Gonzalez), Sun-NYY (Tanaka)
51. Robbie Ross (TEX) -- Tue-SEA (Beavan), Sun-CWS (Johnson)
52. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Thu-CLE (Masterson)
53. Drew Smyly (DET) -- Wed-CLE (Salazar)
54. Hiroki Kuroda (NYY) -- Fri-@TB (Ramos)
55. Clay Buchholz (BOS) -- Wed-@CWS (Danks)
56. Josh Collmenter (ARI) -- Mon-NYM (Wheeler), Sun-@LAD (Beckett)
57. Wei-Yin Chen (BAL) -- Mon-TB (Archer), Sun-@BOS (Peavy)
58. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Thu-@PIT (Volquez)
59. Zach McAllister (CLE) -- Tue-@DET (Sanchez), Sun-TOR (Morrow)
60. Jenrry Mejia (NYM) -- Tue-@ARI (Arroyo)
61. Alex Wood (ATL) -- Thu-@PHI (Pettibone)
62. Danny Salazar (CLE) -- Wed-@DET (Smyly)
63. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Thu-@TB (Bedard)
64. Wandy Rodriguez (PIT) -- Mon-@CIN (Bailey), Sat-MIL (Garza)
65. Josh Beckett (LAD) -- Tue-@SF (Lincecum), Sun-ARI (Collmenter)
66. Justin Masterson (CLE) -- Thu-@DET (Verlander)
67. Drew Hutchison (TOR) -- Fri-@CLE (Kluber)
68. Felix Doubront (BOS) -- Sat-BAL (Jimenez)
69. Corey Kluber (CLE) -- Fri-TOR (Hutchison)
70. Ian Kennedy (SD) -- Thu-COL (Morales)
71. Julio Teheran (ATL) -- Wed-@PHI (Burnett)
72. Dan Haren (LAD) -- Fri-ARI (Miley)
73. Alfredo Simon (CIN) -- Fri-@CHC (Samardzija)
74. Jason Vargas (KC) -- Sat-MIN (Correia)
75. C.J. Wilson (LAA) -- Sat-@DET (Porcello)

Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Roenis Elias (SEA) -- Mon-@TEX (Lewis), Sat-@MIA (Alvarez)
David Hale (ATL) -- Tue-@PHI (Lee), Sun-@NYM (Wheeler)
Juan Nicasio (COL) -- Tue-@SD (Erlin), Sun-PHI (Lee)
Eric Stults (SD) -- Mon-COL (Lyles), Sat-SF (Hudson)

No-thank-yous, among two-start pitchers:
Blake Beavan (SEA) -- Tue-@TEX (Ross), Sun-@MIA (Hand)
Brad Hand (MIA) -- Mon-WSH (Zimmermann), Sun-SEA (Beavan)
Lucas Harrell (HOU) -- Tue-KC (Ventura), Sun-@OAK (Chavez)
Roberto Hernandez (PHI) -- Mon-ATL (Santana), Sat-@COL (Lyles)
Erik Johnson (CWS) -- Tue-BOS (Peavy), Sun-@TEX (Ross)
Jordan Lyles (COL) -- Mon-@SD (Stults), Sat-PHI (Hernandez)

Pitching advantages

• The Texas Rangers' rotation is in a current state of flux -- Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis and Joe Saunders are at varying stages of injury recovery -- and their closer, Joakim Soria, is off to an up-and-down start, but this is a week during which the team could get into a pitching groove. Though a seven-game week at Rangers Ballpark, one of the most hitting-friendly venues in baseball, might look like a poor set of matchups, it's not for the home team: The Rangers had a lower ERA at home (3.45) in 2013 than on the road (3.81) and a near-identical WHIP (1.28 both at home and on the road) and only one more quality start on the road (39) than at home (38).

Soria is the pitcher who most benefits: Besides the mere home-field advantage, the Rangers' reliance upon relievers-turned-starters almost guarantees heavy reliance upon the bullpen, so he'll have every opportunity to appear in the late frames. AL-only owners also shouldn't shy from said converted relievers: Robbie Ross and Tanner Scheppers have shown glimmers of hope, and both will face a Seattle Mariners team that can run hot and cold. Limit their -- and Lewis' -- usage to AL-only formats or 16-plus-team mixed if you can, but don't fear any of them in those leagues.

• The San Diego Padres, meanwhile, are the class of the National League from a matchups perspective. They enjoy a seven-game week at Petco Park, still one of the more pitcher-friendly environments in baseball despite the fence adjustments following the 2012 season and gain a particular advantage in the four contests against a Colorado Rockies team that historically performs poorly on the road. Ace Andrew Cashner is the only Padres starter owned in every ESPN league; the other four rotation members are available in more than 85 percent of them.

• Few teams have started 2014 as hot as the Milwaukee Brewers, who lead the majors in ERA (1.95) and rank among the leaders in both WHIP (1.06) and quality starts (six in nine games). The week-opening series versus the St. Louis Cardinals might challenge them, but it's advantageous timing in that it's a home series against a Cardinals team that sports the fourth-worst wOBA (weighted on-base average) in baseball (.279) through April 10. The Brewers then head to Pittsburgh for four games at pitcher-friendly PNC Park, where several of their starters have excellent histories.

Yovani Gallardo (Thursday at PNC) is riding a streak of four consecutive starts there, two of which happened in 2013. Kyle Lohse (Friday) is 5-1 with a 3.88 ERA in 13 career games (12 starts) there, though he did surrender seven runs in 12⅔ innings there in 2013. Matt Garza (Saturday) has a 2.45 ERA in three career starts there, including five shutout innings of one-hit baseball in his only game there in 2013 (May 21). And Marco Estrada (Sunday) is a perfect 3-for-3 in quality starts at PNC, with a 1.29 ERA.

• Here are this week's Streamer's Delight picks (pitchers must be available in at least 75 percent of ESPN leagues as of our publishing time on Friday):

1. Tyler Skaggs (OAK, Wednesday): He really shouldn't qualify for the under-25-percent-owned class; Skaggs has made the requisite adjustments to be rostered in a greater percentage of leagues. Keep enjoying the quality results.
2. Ian Kennedy (COL, Thursday): He has seven quality starts and a 2.61 ERA in 13 career turns at Petco Park and five quality starts and a 2.11 ERA in eight career games against the Colorado Rockies that weren't played at Coors Field.
3. Brandon Morrow (@MIN, Tuesday): His velocity kicked up markedly in start No. 2 (95.4 mph on average with his fastball) compared to his first turn (93.6 mph), and the Minnesota Twins have been one of the 10 most K-prone teams thus far.
4. Jesse Chavez (HOU, Sunday): Between spring training and his first two regular-season starts, Chavez has 38 K's in 41⅓ innings and a 23.8 percent strikeout rate. Now he'll go up against baseball's most whiff-prone team since the start of 2013.
5. Alfredo Simon (@CHC, Friday): This Chicago Cubs team has batted just .230/.311/.332 (.286 wOBA) against right-handers thus far, and Simon followed up a promising spring training with a standout 2014 regular-season debut.
6. Jason Vargas (MIN, Saturday): A changeup artist -- he has a .230 wOBA allowed with the pitch since the beginning of 2013 -- Vargas battles a Minnesota Twins team with the eighth-worst team wOBA against changeups since the 2013 All-Star break (.300).
7. Robbie Ross (SEA, Tuesday): The Seattle Mariners have a lefty-laden lineup, so he'll have the platoon advantage, but the other benefit here is Ross' greater success against righties historically (.266 wOBA allowed in his career).

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

• Here are this week's "volume plays," defined as the teams that play the most home games, or games against right- or left-handed starters:
Home games: Texas Rangers 7, San Diego Padres 7, Detroit Tigers 6, Miami Marlins 6. No other team has more than four home games.
Versus RH: Pittsburgh Pirates 7, Toronto Blue Jays 6, Milwaukee Brewers 6, New York Mets 6, Philadelphia Phillies 6, St. Louis Cardinals 6, Washington Nationals 6. Ten other teams face as many as five right-handed starters.
Versus LH: Boston Red Sox 3, Chicago White Sox 3, New York Yankees 3, Oakland Athletics 3, Colorado Rockies 3, San Francisco Giants 3. Eleven other teams face two left-handed starters.

• Despite their sluggish hitting start to 2014, especially in terms of power -- their .069 isolated power was more than 25 points lower than any other team's in baseball (through April 10) -- the Kansas City Royals gain the advantage of weak pitching competition. Of their six projected opponents, four rank among the 50 worst thus far on the Player Rater: Lucas Harrell (second worst, scheduled for Tuesday), Ricky Nolasco (third worst, Friday), Kevin Correia (46th worst, Saturday) and Phil Hughes (41st worst, Sunday). Most critically, five of their six projected opponents are right-handed, putting slow-starting Mike Moustakas under the microscope. If there's any week during which to expect him to break through, it's this one. This might also be the week for Eric Hosmer to realize his full potential.

• The Philadelphia Phillies certainly haven't impressed offensively to date -- either during spring training or the regular season -- but Week 3 might be a rare time their bats wake up. As a lefty-laden lineup, it's to their benefit that three of the opposing Atlanta Braves scheduled starters are right-handed, then they get three games at hitter-friendly Colorado's Coors Field to conclude the week. It's also worth mentioning that the Braves as a team have afforded 13 stolen bases in their first nine contests, primarily because of their reliance upon Evan Gattis and Ryan Doumit at catcher. It's good news if you're an owner of either Ben Revere or Jimmy Rollins.

Pointing to those Coors contests, Carlos Ruiz is a .351 hitter with two home runs and a .649 slugging percentage in 12 career games there; Ryan Howard is a .294/.376/.539 hitter in 26 games there, including 4-for-11 with two doubles and two RBIs in three games in 2013 alone; Chase Utley is a .360/.390/.632 hiter in 26 games there; and if he somehow sneaks in a start (or three) there -- important to those of you in daily leagues -- John Mayberry Jr. is a .263 hitter with two homers and a .632 slugging percentage in eight career games at Coors.

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