- Tristan H. Cockcroft, Fantasy
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Fantasy Forecaster updated Monday, April 28, at 1:01 p.m. ET.
On tap: Brace yourself for a light week. Six teams have a shortened five-game schedule in Week 5, while only four play a full seven games, resulting in a total of 89 scheduled contests. That, therefore, results in a week rife with quantitative rather than qualitative matchups advantages, and it means that those with fantasy aces enjoying two-start weeks will have quite the head start.
Pitcher injury comebacks are a theme for Week 5: The Atlanta Braves welcome Mike Minor back to their rotation, which has enjoyed surprising success in his absence and has a favorable set of matchups. Minor's first start likely will come late in the week. The Seattle Mariners likely will activate Hisashi Iwakuma during the weekend series at Houston's Minute Maid Park, granting him a favorable matchup against a strikeout-prone offense. Meanwhile, Cole Hamels and Matt Harrison will be making their second starts of 2014, with Hamels and his Philadelphia Phillies hosting the New York Mets on Tuesday and Harrison and the Texas Rangers visiting the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday.
Robinson Cano marks his return to Yankee Stadium, his first as a member of the Mariners, as they visit New York Tuesday through Thursday. A lifetime .312/.368/.537 hitter with an average of 32 home runs per 162 games played at Yankee Stadium, Cano has gotten off to a slow start with his new team. Might a return to his old stomping grounds finally get his season on track?
Quick click by section, if you're seeking advice in a specific area:
ESPN lineup deadlines | Interleague impact | Projected starting pitchers
Pitching scuttlebutt | Week 5 pitcher rankings | Pitching advantages
Hitting ratings | Hitting advantages
It's another late-start week, with all Monday's games beginning at 7:10 p.m. or later, and a light Monday at that, with only seven games on the schedule. Fantasy owners in leagues with weekly transactions will therefore have more time to prepare in Week 5.
In daily formats, owners will have until nighttime to set their lineups on Tuesday (7:05 p.m. ET is the start of the first three games), but then there is at least one day game on each of the remaining five days of the week: Wednesday's first game is at 1:45 p.m. ET (Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals), Thursday's is at 1:10 p.m. ET (Los Angeles Dodgers at Minnesota Twins, which is the only day game Thursday), Friday's is at 2:20 p.m. ET (St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs, again the only day game Friday), and both Saturday's and Sunday's are at 1:05 p.m. ET.
This week's interleague series:
• Pittsburgh Pirates at Baltimore Orioles (2 games, Tuesday-Wednesday)
• Washington Nationals at Houston Astros (2 games, Tuesday-Wednesday)
• Los Angeles Dodgers at Minnesota Twins (3 games, Tuesday-Thursday)
• Toronto Blue Jays at Pittsburgh Pirates (3 games, Friday-Sunday)
The most significant development here is the Dodgers gaining the DH. After all, the attention surrounding their four-man outfield dates back to Yasiel Puig's emergence last June. Now the team has a place to play all four outfielders, who are finally healthy in a series in an American League park; they weren't at any time in 2013. Best yet, they play two teams with entirely right-handed rotations in the Twins and the Marlins, so if there was ever a week to start Puig, Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier with confidence, it's this one, especially if you scroll to the "Hitting ratings" chart or "Hitter advantages" section to see how strong the matchups.
The Blue Jays, conversely, lose their DH, but with Adam Lind on the disabled list, they won't quite feel as much of the sting. Newly signed Juan Francisco presumably will serve as a pinch hitter during that weekend series at Pittsburgh if he can't sneak in a spot start in the infield against the two opposing right-handers, Gerrit Cole (scheduled for Friday) or Edinson Volquez (Sunday). Considering the Blue Jays will face two left-handed starters during their week-opening series at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium, this is a prime week to sit Francisco in the deeper leagues in which he might be owned.
Five-game weekly schedules, plus the fact that their interleague games will be two-game series, temper any advantage the Pirates or Nationals might get from adding a DH to the lineup. The Pirates gain an additional place to play right-handed first base platoon partner Gaby Sanchez or fourth outfielder Travis Snider; that the opposing Orioles are scheduled to pitch only right-handers suggests Snider will get both starts. The Nationals are more likely to rotate the spot, with anyone from Nate McLouth to Tyler Moore to Zach Walters picking up additional at-bats. The Astros, after all, will start a right- and left-hander, meaning we'll probably see different DHs in the two games.
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.
• The Chicago White Sox demoted Charlie Leesman to Triple-A Charlotte on April 23, and Erik Johnson to Charlotte on April 26, recalling Scott Carroll to start on April 27 but leaving them without a Wednesday starter. Chris Sale (elbow) is eligible to be activated from the disabled list on Saturday, so someone will probably be recalled for Wednesday's game, leaving much of the team's Week 5 rotation in question.
• The Detroit Tigers will give Drew Smyly a start on Saturday after placing Anibal Sanchez on the disabled list. The team will not need a fifth starter until Tuesday of Week 6.
• Collin McHugh is filling in as the Houston Astros' fifth starter, though the team could choose to skip him with two off days in Week 5.
• Michael Pineda was suspended for 10 games, beginning with the April 24 contest and concluding with Sunday's game this week. The New York Yankees will move David Phelps into his open spot and start him on Wednesday.
• Hisashi Iwakuma (finger) is scheduled to make a rehabilitation start for Triple-A Tacoma on April 27, putting him on track to return to the Seattle Mariners' rotation either Friday or in their open spot on Saturday. With Erasmo Ramirez having been demoted to Class A High Desert on April 24, Brandon Maurer will presumably take whichever of those two starts Iwakuma doesn't.
• Matt Harrison (back) is scheduled to rejoin the Texas Rangers on April 27, putting him on track to make his second start of 2014 on Saturday.
• The Atlanta Braves' Week 5 rotation is entirely unclear due to Mike Minor's (shoulder) impending return; Minor made a rehabilitation assignment for Double-A Mississippi on April 25, putting him on track to return as early as Wednesday. He could be pushed back as far back as Saturday, but all indications are that he'll probably be activated on Friday.
• Jake Arrieta (shoulder) has an outside chance at being ready to return late this week, but with his rotation spot currently occupied by Carlos Villanueva, who is due to pitch early in Week 5, it's more likely he'll return sometime during fantasy's Week 6.
• Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said that Brandon Cumpton, who made a spot start on April 24, would make another start. With the team facing a five-game schedule, it means there won't be a Pirates two-start pitcher.
• With only five games on their schedule, the Washington Nationals have the luxury of skipping either Tanner Roark or Taylor Jordan in their rotation. However, with Gio Gonzalez reporting some shoulder tightness during his April 23 start, it's smarter to assume they will keep everyone in turn.
1. Jose Fernandez (MIA) -- Tue-ATL (Wood), Sun-LAD (Greinke)
2. Yu Darvish (TEX) -- Mon-OAK (Gray), Sun-@LAA (Skaggs)
3. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Wed-@CWS (TBD)
4. Michael Wacha (STL) -- Mon-MIL (Gallardo), Sun-@CHC (Samardzija)
5. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Mon-SD (Ross), Sun-@ATL (Wood)
6. Tony Cingrani (CIN) -- Tue-CHC (Jackson), Sun-MIL (Lohse)
7. Alex Wood (ATL) -- Tue-@MIA (Fernandez), Sun-SF (Bumgarner)
8. Stephen Strasburg (WSH) -- Fri-@PHI (Lee)
9. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Tue-@CWS (Quintana), Sun-@KC (Vargas)
10. Sonny Gray (OAK) -- Mon-@TEX (Darvish), Sun-@BOS (Lackey)
11. Zack Greinke (LAD) -- Tue-@MIN (Gibson), Sun-@MIA (Fernandez)
12. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Fri-WSH (Strasburg)
13. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Thu-@NYY (Kuroda)
14. Jeff Samardzija (CHC) -- Mon-@CIN (Simon), Sun-STL (Wacha)
15. John Lackey (BOS) -- Tue-TB (Bedard), Sun-OAK (Gray)
16. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Tue-SEA (Young), Sun-TB (Bedard)
17. Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) -- Sat-TB (Odorizzi)
18. David Price (TB) -- Fri-@NYY (Nuno)
19. Adam Wainwright (StL) -- Sat-@CHC (Hammel)
20. Andrew Cashner (SD) -- Fri-ARI (Arroyo)
21. Justin Masterson (CLE) -- Mon-@LAA (Skaggs), Sun-CWS (Rienzo)
22. Tyson Ross (SD) -- Mon-@SF (Bumgarner), Sun-ARI (Miley)
23. Wade Miley (ARI) -- Mon-COL (Morales), Sun-@SD (Ross)
24. Alfredo Simon (CIN) -- Mon-CHC (Samardzija), Sat-MIL (Gallardo)
25. Drew Smyly (DET) -- Sat-@KC (Shields)
26. Martin Perez (TEX) -- Tue-OAK (Kazmir)
27. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Tue-NYM (Niese)
28. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Mon-@STL (Wacha), Sat-@CIN (Simon)
29. Gio Gonzalez (WSH) -- Tue-@HOU (Cosart)
30. Tyler Skaggs (LAA) -- Mon-CLE (Masterson), Sun-TEX (Darvish)
31. James Shields (KC) -- Sat-DET (Smyly)
32. Francisco Liriano (PIT) -- Sat-TOR (Dickey)
33. Jesse Chavez (OAK) -- Wed-@TEX (Ross)
34. Ervin Santana (ATL) -- Thu-@MIA (Alvarez)
35. Aaron Harang (ATL) -- Wed-@MIA (Eovaldi)
36. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Fri-MIL (Peralta)
37. Kyle Lohse (MIL) -- Tue-@STL (Lynn), Sun-@CIN (Cingrani)
38. R.A. Dickey (TOR) -- Sat-@PIT (Liriano)
39. Hisashi Iwakuma (SEA) -- Sat-@HOU (Keuchel)
40. A.J. Burnett (PHI) -- Sun-WSH (Jordan)
41. Scott Kazmir (OAK) -- Tue-@TEX (Perez)
42. Jonathon Niese (NYM) -- Tue-@PHI (Hamels), Sun-@COL (Chatwood)
43. Marco Estrada (MIL) -- Thu-@CIN (Leake)
44. Julio Teheran (ATL) -- Sat-SF (Vogelsong)
45. Lance Lynn (STL) -- Tue-MIL (Lohse)
46. Gerrit Cole (PIT) -- Fri-TOR (Morrow)
47. Hiroki Kuroda (NYY) -- Thu-SEA (Hernandez)
48. Ian Kennedy (SD) -- Sat-ARI (McCarthy)
49. C.J. Wilson (LAA) -- Wed-CLE (Carrasco)
50. Rick Porcello (DET) -- Fri-@KC (Guthrie)
51. Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Wed-CHC (Villanueva)
52. Shelby Miller (STL) -- Wed-MIL (Garza)
53. Matt Cain (SF) -- Tue-SD (Stults)
54. Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD) -- Sat-@MIA (Koehler)
55. Dan Haren (LAD) -- Wed-@MIN (Pelfrey)
56. Jake Peavy (BOS) -- Thu-TB (Ramos)
57. Jason Vargas (KC) -- Tue-TOR (McGowan), Sun-DET (Verlander)
58. Chris Archer (TB) -- Wed-@BOS (Doubront)
59. Mike Minor (ATL) -- Fri-SF (Lincecum)
60. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Fri-@ATL (Minor)
61. Robbie Erlin (SD) -- Wed-@SF (Hudson)
62. Chris Tillman (BAL) -- Tue-PIT (Morton)
63. Robbie Ross (TEX) -- Wed-OAK (Chavez)
64. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Sat-OAK (Milone)
65. Josh Beckett (LAD) -- Thu-@MIN (Nolasco)
66. Matt Garza (MIL) -- Wed-@STL (Miller)
67. Hector Santiago (LAA) -- Fri-TEX (Lewis)
68. Jordan Zimmermann (WSH) -- Wed-@HOU (Oberholtzer)
69. Drew Hutchison (TOR) -- Wed-@KC (Chen)
70. Mark Buehrle (TOR) -- Thu-@KC (Ventura)
71. Wily Peralta (MIL) -- Fri-@CIN (Cueto)
72. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Tue-CLE (Kluber)
73. Colby Lewis (TEX) -- Fri-@LAA (Santiago)
74. Corey Kluber (CLE) -- Tue-@LAA (Weaver)
75. Yordano Ventura (KC) -- Thu-TOR (Buehrle)
Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Franklin Morales (COL) -- Mon-@ARI (Miley), Sat-NYM (Gee)
Andre Rienzo (CWS) -- Mon-TB (Odorizzi), Sun-@CLE (Masterson)
Chris Young (SEA) -- Tue-@NYY (Sabathia), Sun-@HOU (McHugh)
No-thank-yous among two-start pitchers:
Erik Bedard (TB) -- Tue-@BOS (Lackey), Sun-@NYY (Sabathia)
Tyler Chatwood (COL) -- Tue-@ARI (Bolsinger), Sun-NYM (Niese)
Kyle Gibson (MIN) -- Tue-LAD (Greinke), Sun-BAL (Gonzalez)
Dustin McGowan (TOR) -- Tue-@KC (Vargas), Sun-@PIT (Volquez)
Jake Odorizzi (TB) -- Mon-@CWS (Rienzo), Sat-@NYY (Tanaka)
• Even with the Braves' rotation order somewhat unclear, no matter the order, all five of their starters are worth your while in a six-game week, including three at Miami's Marlins Park and three back home versus the San Francisco Giants. If Alex Wood and Aaron Harang start their first two games in Miami as expected, they'll be making their first career starts at Marlins Park, but probable Thursday starter -- or Wednesday if he remains on a straight four-days-rest schedule -- Mike Minor has a 2.40 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in his five career turns there.
Turner Field, meanwhile, is a pitching-friendly venue in which the Braves' scheduled starters have also enjoyed success: Ervin Santana tossed eight shutout innings of three-hit baseball in his first career game there; Julio Teheran has a 2.93 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 18 starts there since the beginning of 2013; and Alex Wood has a 2.91 ERA and 1.20 WHIP while striking out 30.5 percent of the batters he has faced in his eight games there that were starts (excluding relief work). Plus, the opposing Giants have batted .199/.275/.378 in their first six road games of 2014.
• Seven home games, even played at such a hitter-friendly park as Great American Ball Park, is a substantial advantage for the Cincinnati Reds. Consider this: As a team, the Reds have a 3.32 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 63.3 quality start percentage in home games since the beginning of 2013, those ranking them eighth, second and seventh in the majors accounting for only home games for all 30 teams. Already this season, Reds starters are 7-for-9 in quality starts at Great American.
The Chicago Cubs, the Reds' week-opening opponent (3 games, Monday-Wednesday) is an obviously favorable matchup, so let's examine those weekend Milwaukee Brewers games (4, Thursday-Sunday): Six of the Brewers' seven best hitters in terms of offensive WAR (Wins Above Replacement) thus far are right-handed, and the Reds will throw three righties in the series. The lone left-hander, Tony Cingrani, was 2-for-3 in quality starts with a 2.60 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 34.8 percent strikeout rate against the Brewers last season, which should alleviate much of your matchup concern.
• Things seem to be improving in the health department for the Texas Rangers, especially their pitching staff, who have recently welcomed both Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison to their rotation. Remarkably, despite the team shuffling two converted relievers into their starting five to patch holes this month, Rangers starters have a 3.45 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 22 games, meaning that even their lesser names aren't to be easily dismissed. That's good news in a pair of important series for the team against the Oakland Athletics (3 home games, Monday-Wednesday) and Los Angeles Angels (3 road games, Friday-Sunday).
In "pitching staff"-oriented games -- such as our Baseball Challenge -- the Rangers get a boost thanks to ace Yu Darvish being aligned their two-start pitcher. But also consider that Tuesday starter Martin Perez is coming off consecutive shutouts, one of them against these very Athletics (April 23), a team against which he has three consecutive quality starts dating back to last September. Meanwhile, in Start No. 2 of his 2014, Harrison works at Angel Stadium, where he's 2-for-3 in quality starts with a 3.86 ERA and 1.23 WHIP.
• 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. Wade Miley (@SD, Sunday): The San Diego Padres had a major league-low .269 weighted on-base average (through April 24), and Miley was 2-for-3 in quality starts with a 2.65 ERA at Petco Park last season.
2. Ian Kennedy (ARI, Saturday): Revenge! This is Kennedy's first start of 2014 against his former team, and his third overall against them. In his only one that occurred at Petco (Sept. 25, 2013), he recorded a win and a quality start (7 IP, 2 ER, 7 K's).
3. Nate Eovaldi (ATL, Wednesday): His career success against the Atlanta Braves is impossible to ignore; he is 6-for-7 in quality starts (including an active streak of five straight) with a 1.88 ERA and 1.12 WHIP against them.
4. Tyler Skaggs (CLE, Monday): It's my belief that the younger the pitcher, the more you want to lean on his home matchups. The hot-starting Skaggs gets a home game against a Cleveland Indians team that has a wOBA 38 points lower against left- (.287) than right-handers (.325).
5. Jonathon Niese (@PHI, Tuesday): On a day somewhat lighter in streaming candidates, Niese' recent history against the Philadelphia Phillies stands out; he has a 2.14 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in seven starts against them since the beginning of 2012.
6. Tyler Lyons (@CHC, Friday): It'll be Lyons' first career start versus the Cubs, but that's a favorable matchup, as they have the majors' sixth-worst wOBA (.289). He's also coming off a strong 2014 debut.
7. Josh Beckett (@MIN, Thursday): He has pitched well in three consecutive starts, and will be facing a Minnesota Twins team that ranks among the 10 most strikeout-prone in baseball.
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.
• 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: Cincinnati Reds 7, Boston Red Sox 6, Kansas City Royals 6, Los Angeles Angels 6, Minnesota Twins 6, New York Yankees 6, Miami Marlins 6
Versus RH: Cincinnati Reds 7, Chicago White Sox 6, Los Angeles Dodgers 6, Milwaukee Brewers 6. Eight teams face five right-handers.
Versus LH: San Francisco Giants 4, Boston Red Sox 3, Cleveland Indians 3, New York Yankees 3, Oakland Athletics 3, Tampa Bay Rays 3, Texas Rangers 3, Toronto Blue Jays 3, Miami Marlins 3, New York Mets 3. Seven teams face two left-handers.
• As hinted above, the Dodgers reap the reward of an additional lineup spot with which to play -- the DH -- for three games, all of them against a Twins pitching staff that ranks third-worst in baseball in team ERA (4.96). They then face the Marlins' Nos. 4-5 starters, with their only truly challenging matchup of Week 5 the Sunday game against Marlins ace Jose Fernandez. Andre Ethier couldn't be a more obvious matchups candidate this week: He has .285/.380/.445 triple-slash rates against right-handers since the beginning of last season, his wOBA 101 points higher against them than lefties (.357-.256), and his Dodgers face nothing but right-handers.
A week facing nothing but righties is also great news for Dee Gordon, who has batted .404/.444/.544 in 63 plate appearances against them this season. That the Dodgers will face the weak-armed Jarrod Saltalamacchia for a portion of the Marlins series also gives Gordon an advantage because of his speed.
• Could a trip to Colorado's Coors Field be the magic elixir for the slow-starting Mets offense? Perhaps, but the mere fact that they have four scheduled games there this week should be enough for fantasy owners to afford them that hope. (Well, for one week they should anyway.) With the exception of David Wright and Daniel Murphy, every Mets hitter is available in more than 30 percent of ESPN leagues.
Lucas Duda is enjoying an expanded opportunity following the trade of Ike Davis, and he is already 7-for-18 (.389 AVG) with one home run in five career games at Coors. Eric Young Jr. will be battling his old teammates, and it's worth pointing out that he is a lifetime .298/.358/.383 hitter in 177 games at Coors. And incredibly, light-hitting Ruben Tejada is 13-for-30 (.433 AVG) in six career games there.
2hAdam Rubin and Kieran Darcy