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Fantasy Forecaster: Week 8

5/18/2014

Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, May 18, at 9:58 a.m. ET.

On tap: Masahiro Tanaka continues his assault on the record books in a pair of starts in the city of Chicago; the first one will be at Wrigley Field against a Chicago Cubs team that was in the bidding for his services this past winter. Tanaka has 66 strikeouts and seven walks in his first eight major league starts, and according to Baseball-Reference.com's Play Index tool, no pitcher in history has managed at least that many K's with that many walks or fewer in his first eight games. In addition, his resulting 9.43:1 K-to-walk ratio trails only Bret Saberhagen's 1994 (11:1) and Cliff Lee's 2010 (10.28:1) among ERA qualifiers in modern history.

Tanaka isn't the only hot-starting pitcher scheduled to work twice in Week 8. St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, third among starting pitchers on our Player Rater (as of May 16), has a home start versus the Arizona Diamondbacks and a road start at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park.

Speaking of pitchers on the comeback trail from injuries, Alex Cobb (oblique) will return to the Tampa Bay Rays' rotation on Thursday, while Tony Cingrani on Saturday will make his second start since returning from the disabled list. The Chicago White Sox could also welcome Chris Sale back to their rotation during the team's weekend series versus the aforementioned New York Yankees. And among position players, the White Sox should also get outfielder Adam Eaton back in time for Week 8.

Quick click by section, if you're seeking advice in a specific area:

ESPN lineup deadlines | Interleague impact | Projected starting pitchers
Pitching scuttlebutt | Week 8 pitcher rankings | Pitching advantages
Hitting ratings | Hitting advantages

ESPN leagues: Lineup deadlines

Monday's schedule is one of the lighter ones to date, with only five games, but the first doesn't begin until 7 p.m. ET (Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Indians, on ESPN's "Monday Night Baseball"). Fantasy owners in leagues with weekly transactions will have more time to set their lineups as a result, though with only 10 teams playing on Monday, they might have less information on players with day-to-day injuries (particularly those on teams off Monday) to make their decisions regardless.

There are no day games on Tuesday or Friday in Week 8. The first scheduled games for the other four days are: 12:05 p.m. ET on Wednesday (Tigers at Indians); 12:40 p.m. ET on Thursday (Philadelphia Phillies at Miami Marlins); 12:35 p.m. ET on Saturday (Indians at Baltimore Orioles); and 1:07 p.m. ET on Sunday (Oakland Athletics at Toronto Blue Jays).

Interleague impact

This week's interleague series:
• Baltimore Orioles at Pittsburgh Pirates (2 games, Tuesday-Wednesday)
Minnesota Twins at San Diego Padres (2 games, Tuesday-Wednesday)
• New York Yankees at Chicago Cubs (2 games, Tuesday-Wednesday)
• Minnesota Twins at San Francisco Giants (3 games, Friday-Sunday)

Five games in National League parks, both of them pitching-friendly venues, is a poor schedule for the Twins. The loss of the designated hitter isn't a problem for one specific Twins hitter; rather, it's an issue in that the team has used that spot to stash a useful bat, like Josmil Pinto, Joe Mauer or Chris Colabello. Without it, Pinto's defensive struggles might result in far fewer at-bats than usual for catcher Kurt Suzuki, while Colabello will probably be relegated to pinch-hit duty, other than the distinct possibility that he might play first base ahead of Mauer against Madison Bumgarner on Sunday. Twins hitters as a whole are weaker plays than usual, with Brian Dozier and Mauer the only worthy choices in standard 10-team mixed leagues.

The Orioles and Yankees, meanwhile, will lose their DHs for a pair of Week 8 games, which is less damaging for them considering they both play six games in the week. The Orioles will presumably stash Nelson Cruz in left field for their two games in Pittsburgh, while the Yankees will probably play Alfonso Soriano in right field in Chicago (now that Carlos Beltran is on the disabled list). That means that the only player who might be significantly affected on either team is the Orioles' David Lough, who occasionally gets time in left field, and that's on more of the AL-only scale.

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

Miguel Gonzalez, who was skipped the previous time through the Orioles' rotation, is expected to rejoin their starting five on Tuesday.
• Chris Sale (arm) is on track to rejoin the White Sox's rotation sometime during their weekend series versus the Yankees (4 games, Thursday-Sunday). As their fifth-starter spot arrives on Thursday of this week, and Sale was scheduled for a rehabilitation start on May 16, that seems the most obvious day.
• The Cleveland Indians demoted Danny Salazar to Triple-A Columbus on Friday, and announced that Trevor Bauer will assume his rotation spot beginning on Tuesday.
Anibal Sanchez (finger) rejoined the Tigers' rotation on May 18, setting him up for a Friday start during Week 8.
Matt Shoemaker has been serving as the Angels' fifth starter, that spot arriving on Saturday of Week 8, though the team could choose to skip him following Thursday's off day.
• The Yankees have given no indication that Chase Whitley's May 15 start was a one-and-done, though they could push him back as far as Saturday if they wish.
• The Seattle Mariners will use Monday's off day to push Brandon Maurer to the back of their rotation.
Alex Cobb (oblique), who threw five shutout innings totaling nine strikeouts in a rehabilitation start for Class A Charlotte on May 17, is expected to rejoin the Tampa Bay Rays' rotation on Thursday. It is unclear whether the Rays will use a six-man rotation for Week 8, but a likely scenario has Chris Archer moving back a day to Friday and Cesar Ramos returning to the bullpen.
• The Rangers' rotation is in a state of day-to-day flux, with Yu Darvish the only pitcher absolutely guaranteed a start in Week 8.
• The Blue Jays have demoted Dustin McGowan to the bullpen, so they'll need a fifth starter either on Tuesday or as late as Saturday if they wish to push it back following Monday's off day. Todd Redmond and Marcus Stroman are the two most obvious candidates for the assignment, and Saturday seems the most likely date for it, in order to keep Mark Buehrle on schedule for a Thursday divisional game.
• The Chicago Cubs, in an effort to keep Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija on regular rest, pushed back Jake Arrieta's next start to Thursday. Hammel is now the Cubs' two-start pitcher for Week 8.
• Though the Marlins reportedly signed Randy Wolf to fill the injured Jose Fernandez' rotation spot, Anthony DeSclafani pitched well enough in a May 14 spot start to remain in the starting five, with Wolf working out of the bullpen. That spot arrives on Tuesday, though the Marlins could push DeSclafani back as far as Saturday, due to Monday's off day.
• The Phillies will next require a fifth starter, currently Roberto Hernandez, on Saturday.
Jaime Garcia (shoulder) rejoined the St. Louis Cardinals' rotation on May 18, setting him up for a Saturday start during Week 8.
• With Andrew Cashner (elbow) on the disabled list, the San Diego Padres turned to Donn Roach to make a May 18 spot start. Roach would be in line to pitch again on Saturday, or the Padres could select another option.
Gio Gonzalez was expected to undergo a precautionary MRI on his left arm on May 18, after he allowed 12 runs in 7 1/3 innings in his past two starts combined (May 11 and 17). The Washington Nationals didn't say whether his next scheduled start, Thursday in Pittsburgh, would be affected.

Tristan's Week 8 pitcher rankings: Top 75

1. Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) -- Tue-@CHC (Hammel), Sun-@CWS (Rienzo)
2. Stephen Strasburg (WSH) -- Mon-CIN (Leake), Sat-@PIT (Cole)
3. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Wed-@CLE (McAllister)
4. Yu Darvish (TEX) -- Thu-@DET (Porcello)
5. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Fri-@PHI (Lee)
6. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Tue-@COL (Morales), Sun-MIN (Nolasco)
7. Adam Wainwright (StL) -- Tue-ARI (McCarthy), Sun-@CIN (Leake)
8. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Tue-@CLE (Bauer), Sun-TEX (Lewis)
9. Michael Wacha (STL) -- Wed-ARI (Miley)
10. Francisco Liriano (PIT) -- Tue-BAL (Gonzalez), Sun-WSH (Fister)
11. Drew Smyly (DET) -- Mon-@CLE (Kluber), Sat-TEX (Martinez)
12. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Tue-@WSH (Fister)
13. Jeff Samardzija (CHC) -- Wed-NYY (Whitley)
14. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Fri-LAD (Kershaw)
15. Julio Teheran (ATL) -- Tue-MIL (Gallardo), Sun-COL (Morales)
16. Hisashi Iwakuma (SEA) -- Tue-@TEX (Lewis), Sun-HOU (Feldman)
17. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Fri-HOU (Peacock)
18. David Price (TB) -- Sat-BOS (Peavy)
19. A.J. Burnett (PHI) -- Tue-@MIA (DeSclafani), Sun-LAD (Beckett)
20. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Tue-@ATL (Teheran), Sun-@MIA (DeSclafani)
21. Zack Greinke (LAD) -- Thu-@NYM (Niese)
22. Corey Kluber (CLE) -- Mon-DET (Smyly), Sat-@BAL (Jimenez)
23. Sonny Gray (OAK) -- Thu-@TB (Cobb)
24. Marco Estrada (MIL) -- Fri-@MIA (Koehler)
25. Garrett Richards (LAA) -- Mon-HOU (Keuchel), Sun-KC (Vargas)
26. Mike Minor (ATL) -- Mon-MIL (Peralta), Sat-COL (Nicasio)
27. Doug Fister (WSH) -- Tue-CIN (Cueto), Sun-@PIT (Liriano)
28. Tyson Ross (SD) -- Wed-MIN (Hughes)
29. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Thu-TOR (Buehrle)
30. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Wed-HOU (McHugh)
31. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Thu-@MIA (Alvarez)
32. Josh Beckett (LAD) -- Tue-@NYM (Montero), Sun-@PHI (Burnett)
33. Wily Peralta (MIL) -- Mon-@ATL (Minor), Sat-@MIA (Turner)
34. Ian Kennedy (SD) -- Tue-MIN (Correia), Sun-CHC (Hammel)
35. Jason Hammel (CHC) -- Tue-NYY (Tanaka), Sun-@SD (Kennedy)
36. Yordano Ventura (KC) -- Tue-CWS (Rienzo)
37. James Shields (KC) -- Sat-@LAA (Shoemaker)
38. Chris Sale (CWS) -- Thu-NYY (Phelps)
39. John Lackey (BOS) -- Fri-@TB (Archer)
40. R.A. Dickey (TOR) -- Fri-OAK (Kazmir)
41. Anibal Sanchez (DET) -- Fri-TEX (Ross)
42. C.J. Wilson (LAA) -- Fri-KC (Duffy)
43. Ervin Santana (ATL) -- Wed-MIL (Lohse)
44. Jesse Chavez (OAK) -- Sat-@TOR (TBD)
45. Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Fri-STL (Miller)
46. Colby Lewis (TEX) -- Tue-SEA (Iwakuma), Sun-@DET (Verlander)
47. Rafael Montero (NYM) -- Tue-LAD (Beckett), Sun-ARI (McCarthy)
48. Dallas Keuchel (HOU) -- Mon-@LAA (Richards), Sat-@SEA (Maurer)
49. Gerrit Cole (PIT) -- Sat-WSH (Strasburg)
50. Kyle Lohse (MIL) -- Wed-@ATL (Santana)
51. Jake Odorizzi (TB) -- Tue-OAK (Pomeranz), Sun-BOS (Doubront)
52. Lance Lynn (STL) -- Thu-ARI (Anderson)
53. Dan Haren (LAD) -- Sat-@PHI (Hernandez)
54. Trevor Bauer (CLE) -- Tue-DET (Verlander), Sun-@BAL (Gonzalez)
55. Jake Peavy (BOS) -- Sat-@TB (Price)
56. Scott Kazmir (OAK) -- Fri-@TOR (Dickey)
57. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Fri-MIN (Gibson)
58. Alex Cobb (TB) -- Thu-OAK (Gray)
59. Jason Vargas (KC) -- Mon-CWS (Carroll), Sun-@LAA (Richards)
60. Tanner Roark (WSH) -- Wed-CIN (Simon)
61. Josh Collmenter (ARI) -- Fri-@NYM (Colon)
62. Jose Quintana (CWS) -- Wed-@KC (Guthrie)
63. Jordan Zimmermann (WSH) -- Fri-@PIT (Morton)
64. Felix Doubront (BOS) -- Tue-TOR (Happ), Sun-@TB (Odorizzi)
65. Miguel Gonzalez (BAL) -- Tue-@PIT (Liriano), Sun-CLE (Bauer)
66. Brandon McCarthy (ARI) -- Tue-@STL (Wainwright), Sun-@NYM (Montero)
67. David Phelps (NYY) -- Thu-@CWS (Sale)
68. Scott Feldman (HOU) -- Tue-@LAA (Skaggs), Sun-@SEA (Iwakuma)
69. Drew Pomeranz (OAK) -- Tue-@TB (Odorizzi), Sun-@TOR (Happ)
70. Matt Garza (MIL) -- Thu-@ATL (Harang)
71. Matt Cain (SF) -- Wed-@COL (Chacin)
72. Hiroki Kuroda (NYY) -- Fri-@CWS (Danks)
73. Gio Gonzalez (WSH) -- Thu-@PIT (Volquez)
74. Bronson Arroyo (ARI) -- Sat-@NYM (Wheeler)
75. Roenis Elias (SEA) -- Thu-HOU (Cosart)

Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Anthony DeSclafani (MIA) -- Tue-PHI (Burnett), Sun-MIL (Gallardo)
Mike Leake (CIN) -- Mon-@WSH (Strasburg), Sun-STL (Wainwright)
Andre Rienzo (CWS) -- Tue-@KC (Ventura), Sun-NYY (Tanaka)

No-thank-yous, among two-start pitchers:
Scott Carroll (CWS) -- Mon-@KC (Vargas), Sat-NYY (Nuno)
J.A. Happ (TOR) -- Tue-@BOS (Doubront), Sun-OAK (Pomeranz)
Franklin Morales (COL) -- Tue-SF (Bumgarner), Sun-@ATL (Teheran)

Pitching advantages

Mets rookie Rafael Montero will make career starts Nos. 2 and 3 during Week 8, serving as one of the week's two-start pitchers. Both games will be pitched at Citi Field, a significant plus for a fly-ball pitcher who generated just five swings and misses during his May 14 big league debut. Montero's control is better than he showed in that game or at the Triple-A level to begin the season, and the matchups on paper appear favorable enough to score his healthy ranking above. Keep him in there.

• Three pitchers who returned from the disabled list since the beginning of May, and who enjoyed successful performances in their most recent appearances, are lined up as two-start options: Hisashi Iwakuma, Mike Minor and Doug Fister. Use all three of them, as each managed a Game Score of 69 or greater with promising underlying statistics during Week 7 starts. Iwakuma recorded eight swings and misses and generated 12 ground balls on the heels of a 15 swing-and-miss, 14-grounder May 8 outing; Minor generated a healthy 14 swings and misses and surrendered only three hard-hit baseballs; and Fister induced 12 ground balls comparative to four flies while allowing only one hard-hit ball in what was a most remarkable turnaround from his 7-grounder, 12-fly, 5-hard-hit-balls outing on May 9.

• The Milwaukee Brewers are the spotlight staff of Week 8, thanks to four games at Atlanta's Turner Field and against the strikeout-prone Braves, then three at Miami's Marlins Park against a Marlins team that has scored just 42 runs with a .228/.298/.369 triple-slash rate in its past 11 games (that encompassing three series plus one game). Granted, eight of those Marlins games were played on the road -- the Marlins have a widely discussed 72-point home/road wOBA split and have averaged 1.4 more runs per game at home than on the road -- but we must entertain the possibility that their hot start at home was more fluke than reality. Hot-out-of-the-gate starters Wily Peralta and Yovani Gallardo are the Brewers' two-start pitchers, and team K-rate leader (among starters) Marco Estrada (23.7 percent of the hitters he has faced) gets the Friday series opener in Miami. All three warrant a place in your lineup, making this an attractive selection in team-based contests like our Baseball Challenge.

• 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. Ubaldo Jimenez (CLE, Saturday): There's a bit of a "revenge" factor going on with this matchup, but this pick is mostly about Jimenez's recent string of success, including 20 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings in his past three turns combined.
2. Phil Hughes (@SD, Wednesday): An extreme fly-baller in a spacious ballpark like Petco Park? Yes, please. It's especially opportune timing considering Hughes hasn't walked any of the past 119 batters he has faced.
3. Dallas Keuchel (@LAA, Monday): The Los Angeles Angels might be one of the game's most productive lineups against left-handed pitchers, but Keuchel's slider alleviates a good chunk of that on-paper concern.
4. Drew Pomeranz (@TB, Tuesday): Back-to-back scoreless appearances -- he totaled 13 K's in 10 shutout innings in them -- have him looking like a worthy streamer.
5. Robbie Erlin (CHC, Friday): After hitting left-handed pitchers effectively in April, the Chicago Cubs have struggled to the tune of .232/.294/.389 triple-slash rates and a .290 wOBA against them in the month of May.
6. Jake Arrieta (@SD, Thursday): His pitch count is the far greater concern than the matchup; he hasn't been afforded more than 82 pitches in any of his first three starts. Still, the opposing San Diego Padres have averaged just 3.4 runs per game at home.
7. Rafael Montero (ARI, Sunday): In his third big-league start, Montero faces an Arizona Diamondbacks team that has averaged just 4.0 runs per game with the majors' 19th-ranked wOBA (.299) in road games.

Best days to stream (accounting both quality and quantity of candidates): Saturday, Wednesday, Friday, Tuesday, Sunday, Thursday, Monday

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: Atlanta Braves 7, Los Angeles Angels 6, Tampa Bay Rays 6, Miami Marlins 6, New York Mets 6, Pittsburgh Pirates 6, San Diego Padres 6.
Versus RH: Cleveland Indians 6, Detroit Tigers 6, Arizona Diamondbacks 6, Atlanta Braves 6, Milwaukee Brewers 6, Washington Nationals 6. Nine teams face five right-handed starters.
Versus LH: Toronto Blue Jays 4, Boston Red Sox 3, Los Angeles Angels 3, Tampa Bay Rays 3. Twelve teams face two left-handed starters.

• The San Francisco Giants don't face a single starting pitcher with a seasonal WHIP below 1.35 (that belongs to Thursday opponent Jorge De La Rosa); they'll play three games at Colorado's Coors Field before returning home for three games against the Minnesota Twins, whose 5.34 starters' ERA is the worst in the majors. The obvious Giants have outrageous career statistics at Coors: Buster Posey is a .387/.456/.613 hitter with seven homers and 22 RBIs in 33 games there, Michael Morse is a .442/.453/.712 hitter with four homers and 15 RBIs in 12 games and Hunter Pence has batted .289/.330/.566 with four homers and 13 RBIs in 19 games there since he joined the Giants at the trade deadline in 2012.

But these matchups are as much about a potential pickup in Brandon Hicks, as well as a bounce-back opportunity for Pablo Sandoval. Hicks already homered at Coors earlier this season, and he has seven home runs overall while picking up the bulk of the at-bats at second base. Sandoval, meanwhile, is typically a good fastball hitter who will be facing two teams that rank among the 10 most fastball-reliant squads. In addition, he's a lifetime .500 hitter (9-for-18) with four doubles and two home runs against scheduled Sunday opponent Ricky Nolasco.

• The Cleveland Indians, who have averaged 5.1 runs per game with the majors' second-best team wOBA (.347) in the month of May, enjoy another schedule chock full of right-handed competition. Just as was the case in Week 6, that's a tremendous plus for them, as for the season this team is batting .265/.344/.420 with a .334 wOBA against righties (the third-best wOBA in the game). Lonnie Chisenhall, who has been effectively rotating between third base and designated hitter with Carlos Santana, is the team's most productive hitter against righties: He sports a .354/.411/.463 triple-slash rate.

David Murphy is another valuable off-the-waiver-wire scoop facing this kind of schedule: He's a .307/.398/.466 hitter against right-handers. Finally, catcher Yan Gomes has actually been more successful against righties than lefties this season, batting .293/.333/.585 against what you might assume is his weaker side.