Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, Aug. 17, at 11:31 p.m. ET.
On tap: The surging Kansas City Royals, winners of 18 of their past 22 games to build a half-game lead in first place in the American League Central (as of the games of Aug. 14), draw a dream schedule in Week 20, facing three last-place teams that have a combined winning percentage of .410, the Minnesota Twins (Monday, road game), Colorado Rockies (Tuesday-Wednesday, road) and Texas Rangers (Friday-Sunday, road). They have advanced in the standings largely upon the strength of their pitching -- they are 13-for-22 in quality starts with a 2.63 ERA and 1.16 WHIP during their streak -- which is a plus, considering they'll make stops at two of the game's most hitting-friendly environments, Colorado's Coors Field and Texas' Globe Life Park. But those road series will be a plus for their improving offense, too: They have batted a respectable .267/.308/.397 (12th-ranked .303 wOBA) during that 22-game hot streak.
You know what to do: Load up on Royals, because there might not be a better week all season to draw from their roster of readily available fantasy options.
David Price returns to Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field for the first time as a visiting player, starting Thursday's game for the Detroit Tigers. Price is 35-27 with 64 quality starts a 2.89 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 85 career games (84 starts) at "The Trop." He'll miss by just one day a potential head-to-head matchup with the pitcher for whom he was traded, Drew Smyly (he's scheduled to start Friday's game for the Tampa Bay Rays).
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ESPN lineup deadlines | Interleague impact | Projected starting pitchers
Pitching scuttlebutt | Week 20 pitcher rankings | Pitching advantages
Hitting ratings | Hitting advantages
For the third consecutive week, the New York Mets play a weekend wrap-around series finale day game on Monday, and for the fourth consecutive week, fantasy owners in weekly leagues will need to set their lineups early. Chicago Cubs at Mets has a 12:10 p.m. ET scheduled first pitch.
For daily-league owners, there are only night games on Tuesday (all beginning at 7:05 p.m. ET or later), but then there is at least one day game on each of the week's final five days: Wednesday's action begins at 12:40 p.m. ET (Texas Rangers at Miami Marlins); Thursday's starts at 1:05 p.m. ET (Houston Astros at New York Yankees); Friday's commences at 2:20 p.m. ET (Baltimore Orioles at Chicago Cubs); Saturday's gets underway at 12:10 p.m. ET (Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins); and Sunday's kicks off at 1:05 p.m. ET (Chicago White Sox at New York Yankees and Houston Astros at Cleveland Indians).
This week's interleague series:
• Seattle Mariners at Philadelphia Phillies (3 games, Monday-Wednesday)
• Kansas City Royals at Colorado Rockies (2 games, Tuesday-Wednesday)
• New York Mets at Oakland Athletics (2 games, Tuesday-Wednesday)
• Texas Rangers at Miami Marlins (2 games, Tuesday-Wednesday)
• Toronto Blue Jays at Milwaukee Brewers (2 games, Tuesday-Wednesday)
• Baltimore Orioles at Chicago Cubs (3 games, Friday-Sunday)
Three games at a National League venue, Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, forces the Mariners into a choice between usual designated hitter Kendrys Morales and usual first baseman Logan Morrison, and neither player has performed substantially better than the other to make it an easy decision. It's possible that Morrison could play right field with Morales at first base, but in all likelihood, the team will use three different arrangements during the series, costing Morales, Morrison and perhaps also Chris Denorfia and Endy Chavez some at-bats.
Josh Willingham, the Royals' designated hitter in his first two starts following his trade, is the one player on the roster who doesn't enjoy a sizable matchups bump this week, and it's mainly because the team views him as a DH rather than a corner outfielder (also keep in mind that he hasn't played right field since 2009). He might be limited to pinch-hitting duties during the series at Colorado's Coors Field, which is a big hit to his fantasy value, considering he's a lifetime .247/.367/.484 hitter against left-handed pitchers and the Rockies are scheduled to start two lefties in the series.
None of the other three American League teams visiting NL ballparks should suffer a significant fantasy-value loss, as they all regard the DH as a "half-day-off," rotational arrangement. Players like J.P. Arencibia and Mike Carp for the Rangers, Juan Francisco and Adam Lind for the Blue Jays, and David Lough and Delmon Young for the Orioles, could lose a small handful of at-bats apiece.
Eric Campbell and Kirk Nieuwenhuis are the two most logical Mets to score the extra starts as a result of the DH at Oakland's O.co Coliseum, as the opposing Athletics are scheduled to start one lefty (Scott Kazmir) and righty (Jeff Samardzija). Neither player warrants a look even in NL-only leagues.
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 Baltimore Orioles decided to hold back Miguel Gonzalez, who is eligible for recall as early as Tuesday, until the weekend series at Chicago's Wrigley Field. With the team also considering moving Ubaldo Jimenez to the bullpen, Gonzalez seems likely to slide into Jimenez's spot on Friday.
• Scott Carroll (blister), who had his Aug. 12 start skipped, was expected to rejoin the Chicago White Sox's rotation on Aug. 15, though he could be held back until as late as Tuesday. If Carroll needs to be pushed back, Chris Sale would move up to Aug. 15 and lose his two-start Week 20.
• The Cleveland Indians, seeking to get Corey Kluber an additional day of rest, will slot T.J. House back into their rotation on Wednesday.
• The Detroit Tigers' rotation is somewhat in flux due to Justin Verlander's (shoulder) uncertain status, but they can push his spot back as late as Saturday's doubleheader, at which time they'll need two fill-ins. Buck Farmer, who started on Aug. 13, could be a candidate to pitch one of those games.
• The Minnesota Twins, who demoted Yohan Pino to Triple-A Rochester on Aug. 15 to clear room on the roster for Ricky Nolasco, are expected to recall Pino as the 26th man to start one of the games of their Saturday doubleheader.
• Roenis Elias is scheduled to rejoin the Seattle Mariners' rotation on Monday, but it is unclear whether the team would then use its Thursday off day to push back his second start of Week 20. Hisashi Iwakuma would draw a second start if Elias' next turn is pushed back to Aug. 25 or 26.
• The Texas Rangers demoted Robbie Ross to Triple-A Round Rock on Aug. 15 and will go with only four starters this week, thanks to off days on Monday and Thursday.
• The Chicago Cubs recalled Dan Straily from Triple-A Iowa to start Aug. 16, but it is unclear whether it's a mere spot start, whether the team will go with a six-man rotation or whether Straily might replace one of the team's current starting five.
• Homer Bailey (elbow, neck) was placed on the DL by the Cincinnati Reds, and Dylan Axelrod is likely to start again in his place on Thursday.
• The Los Angeles Dodgers, who placed Hyun-Jin Ryu (gluteus) on the DL on Aug. 15, will slide Kevin Correia into his rotation spot beginning on Tuesday. That lines Correia up for two starts during Week 20.
• Miami Marlins manager Mike Redmond said that he will use Monday's and Thursday's off days to push back his fifth starter until Sunday, but Redmond didn't declare whether that pitcher will be Brad Hand or Brad Penny.
• Kyle Lohse (ankle) will be skipped this time through the Milwaukee Brewers' rotation, and while he could return for a weekend start, it's more likely he'll be held back into Week 21. Mike Fiers would lose his second start if the Brewers decide to pitch Lohse during the series versus the Pittsburgh Pirates.
• The New York Mets expect to get Jacob deGrom (shoulder) back from the disabled list in time for Saturday's game. If he suffers any setbacks in his recovery, however, Rafael Montero could receive another start in his place.
• The Pittsburgh Pirates placed Charlie Morton (hip) on the DL on Aug. 17, and will activate Gerrit Cole (lat) to assume his spot beginning on Wednesday.
1. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Tue-@TB (Archer), Sun-@MIN (Gibson)
2. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Fri-NYM (Niese)
3. Chris Sale (CWS) -- Mon-BAL (Norris), Sun-@NYY (Capuano)
4. Stephen Strasburg (WSH) -- Tue-ARI (Anderson), Sun-SF (Vogelsong)
5. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Fri-@BOS (Kelly)
6. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Wed-@STL (Lynn)
7. David Price (DET) -- Thu-@TB (Cobb)
8. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Sat-@PHI (Buchanan)
9. Zack Greinke (LAD) -- Thu-SD (Ross)
10. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Thu-@CHC (Wood)
11. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Wed-SEA (Paxton)
12. Corey Kluber (CLE) -- Thu-@MIN (Hughes)
13. Francisco Liriano (PIT) -- Tue-ATL (Harang)
14. Tyson Ross (SD) -- Thu-@LAD (Greinke)
15. Jordan Zimmermann (WSH) -- Mon-ARI (Nuno), Sat-SF (Lincecum)
16. Ervin Santana (ATL) -- Mon-@PIT (Worley), Sat-@CIN (Leake)
17. Alex Wood (ATL) -- Wed-@PIT (Cole)
18. Chris Archer (TB) -- Tue-DET (Scherzer), Sun-@TOR (Hutchison)
19. Hisashi Iwakuma (SEA) -- Tue-@PHI (Burnett)
20. Sonny Gray (OAK) -- Sat-LAA (Wilson)
21. Alex Cobb (TB) -- Thu-DET (Price)
22. Gio Gonzalez (WSH) -- Thu-ARI (Miley)
23. Julio Teheran (ATL) -- Thu-@CIN (Axelrod)
24. Tanner Roark (WSH) -- Wed-ARI (Cahill)
25. Garrett Richards (LAA) -- Wed-@BOS (Buchholz)
26. Jeff Samardzija (OAK) -- Wed-NYM (Wheeler)
27. Mike Fiers (MIL) -- Tue-TOR (Happ), Sun-PIT (Worley)
28. Jake Arrieta (CHC) -- Fri-BAL (Gonzalez)
29. Ian Kennedy (SD) -- Tue-@LAD (Correia), Sun-@ARI (Anderson)
30. Jon Lester (OAK) -- Sun-LAA (Weaver)
31. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Tue-@BOS (Webster), Sun-@OAK (Lester)
32. Kyle Hendricks (CHC) -- Mon-@NYM (Colon), Sat-BAL (Gausman)
33. Bartolo Colon (NYM) -- Mon-CHC (Hendricks), Sun-@LAD (Correia)
34. Tsuyoshi Wada (CHC) -- Tue-SF (Vogelsong), Sun-BAL (Norris)
35. James Shields (KC) -- Tue-@COL (Matzek)
36. Mat Latos (CIN) -- Fri-ATL (Minor)
37. Lance Lynn (STL) -- Wed-CIN (Cueto)
38. Gerrit Cole (PIT) -- Wed-ATL (Wood)
39. Scott Kazmir (OAK) -- Tue-NYM (Gee)
40. Jake Odorizzi (TB) -- Wed-DET (Porcello)
41. Jason Vargas (KC) -- Mon-@MIN (May), Sun-@TEX (Mikolas)
42. Roenis Elias (SEA) -- Mon-@PHI (Williams), Sun-@BOS (Webster)
43. Michael Pineda (NYY) -- Wed-HOU (Feldman)
44. Rick Porcello (DET) -- Wed-@TB (Odorizzi)
45. Marcus Stroman (TOR) -- Fri-TB (Smyly)
46. A.J. Burnett (PHI) -- Tue-SEA (Iwakuma)
47. John Lackey (STL) -- Tue-CIN (Simon)
48. Vance Worley (PIT) -- Mon-ATL (Santana), Sun-@MIL (Fiers)
49. Chase Anderson (ARI) -- Tue-@WSH (Strasburg), Sun-SD (Kennedy)
50. C.J. Wilson (LAA) -- Mon-@BOS (Workman), Sat-@OAK (Gray)
51. Drew Smyly (TB) -- Fri-@TOR (Stroman)
52. Justin Masterson (STL) -- Mon-CIN (Leake), Sun-@PHI (Williams)
53. Jesse Hahn (SD) -- Fri-@ARI (Collmenter)
54. Alfredo Simon (CIN) -- Tue-@STL (Lackey), Sun-ATL (Harang)
55. Doug Fister (WSH) -- Fri-SF (Hudson)
56. James Paxton (SEA) -- Wed-@PHI (Hamels)
57. Trevor Bauer (CLE) -- Tue-@MIN (Gibson), Sun-HOU (Oberholtzer)
58. Collin McHugh (HOU) -- Sat-@CLE (Salazar)
59. Brett Oberholtzer (HOU) -- Tue-@NYY (Capuano), Sun-@CLE (Bauer)
60. Zack Wheeler (NYM) -- Wed-@OAK (Samardzija)
61. Yordano Ventura (KC) -- Fri-@TEX (Lewis)
62. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Sat-@WSH (Zimmermann)
63. R.A. Dickey (TOR) -- Wed-@MIL (Nelson)
64. Jacob deGrom (NYM) -- Sat-@LAD (Haren)
65. Mike Leake (CIN) -- Mon-@STL (Masterson), Sat-ATL (Santana)
66. Danny Duffy (KC) -- Wed-@COL (De La Rosa)
67. Matt Shoemaker (LAA) -- Thu-@BOS (De La Rosa)
68. Kevin Gausman (BAL) -- Sat-@CHC (Hendricks)
69. Brandon McCarthy (NYY) -- Thu-HOU (Keuchel)
70. Jerome Williams (PHI) -- Mon-SEA (Elias), Sun-STL (Masterson)
71. Shelby Miller (STL) -- Fri-@PHI (Kendrick)
72. Chris Tillman (BAL) -- Tue-@CWS (Quintana)
73. Jose Quintana (CWS) -- Tue-BAL (Tillman)
74. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Fri-PIT (Locke)
75. Drew Hutchison (TOR) -- Sun-TB (Archer)
Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Kevin Correia (LAD) -- Tue-SD (Kennedy), Sun-NYM (Colon)
Kyle Gibson (MIN) -- Tue-CLE (Bauer), Sun-DET (Scherzer)
Aaron Harang (ATL) -- Tue-@PIT (Liriano), Sun-@CIN (Simon)
Vidal Nuno (ARI) -- Mon-@WSH (Zimmermann), Sat-SD (Despaigne)
Ryan Vogelsong (SF) -- Tue-@CHC (Wada), Sun-@WSH (Strasburg)
No-thank-yous, among two-start pitchers:
Chris Capuano (NYY) -- Tue-HOU (Oberholtzer), Sun-CWS (Sale)
Trevor May (MIN) -- Mon-KC (Vargas), Sat-DET, Gm. 1 (TBD)
Miles Mikolas (TEX) -- Tue-@MIA (Cosart), Sun-KC (Vargas)
Bud Norris (BAL) -- Mon-@CWS (Sale), Sun-@CHC (Wada)
Allen Webster (BOS) -- Tue-LAA (Weaver), Sun-SEA (Elias)
Brandon Workman (BOS) -- Mon-LAA (Wilson), Sat-SEA (Young)
• In pitching staff-oriented formats -- like our Baseball Challenge -- the Washington Nationals have far and away Week 20's most favorable set of weekly matchups. They play all seven of their games at home, where they have a second-best-in-the-majors 2.76 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, and host Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants offenses that rank 23rd (.289) and 27th (.272) in wOBA in the past three weeks (July 25-Aug. 14). Toss in the fact that the Nationals' two-start pitchers are among their best, Jordan Zimmermann (Monday and Saturday) and Stephen Strasburg (Tuesday and Sunday) and this staff is a no-brainer. Owners of Nationals starters -- and the closer, Rafael Soriano -- should activate them all in all formats, knowing that they might be the ones to lead the way in head-to-head matchups.
• Normally the Los Angeles Dodgers might claim that honor, in a six-games-at-home week including series against the San Diego Padres and New York Mets, but the injury to Hyun-Jin Ryu clouded their outlook for the week. Both Roberto Hernandez and Kevin Correia will make starts, though that's not necessarily a bad thing facing a schedule like this. In addition, Dan Haren, who has pitched back-to-back quality starts, is well worth consideration in a home game versus the Mets.
• Despite their playing the entire week on the road, and on the East Coast at that, the Seattle Mariners match up rather nicely with the Philadelphia Phillies (Monday-Wednesday) and Boston Red Sox (Friday-Sunday), particularly if they change course on Roenis Elias' projected return date to their rotation or decide to push back his second scheduled start of Week 20. Why? Simply put, the Red Sox have been one of baseball's least effective offenses against right-handed pitchers since the All-Star break, with .234/.283/.350 team rates, so a Felix Hernandez-Chris Young-Hisashi Iwakuma rotation for that series would give the team quite an advantage. That the Mariners also have both of their left-handers, Elias and James Paxton, lined up for the Phillies series is wise as well: The Phillies have the game's second-worst wOBA against lefties since July 1 (.274, behind .230/.289/.332 rates).
• 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. Kyle Hendricks (@NYM, Monday): He's riding a streak of five consecutive quality starts, and is a control specialist facing a New York Mets team that has batted just .223/.282/.321 (29th-ranked .267 wOBA) and struck out 3.3 times as often as it has walked (25th) since the All-Star break.
2. Tsuyoshi Wada (SF, Tuesday): Each of his past three starts at Wrigley Field was a quality start, and he has a 3.80 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 21.9 percent strikeout rate in four games there thus far. The San Francisco Giants, meanwhile, have the majors' fifth-worst wOBA since the All-Star break (.286, behind .244/.304/.340 rates).
3. Kevin Gausman (@CHC, Saturday): He has been productive in his road games thus far, going 3-for-5 in quality starts with a 3.21 ERA, and he's a command specialist facing a Chicago Cubs team that has struck out 3.5 times as often as it has walked since the All-Star break (26th).
4. Matt Shoemaker (@BOS, Thursday): The Boston Red Sox have batted just .224/.275/.341 against right-handed pitchers (29th-ranked .268 wOBA) since the All-Star break, which offers one explanation for his three perfect relief innings, including four strikeouts, against them on Aug. 9.
5. Josh Collmenter (SD, Friday): Five of his past seven starts at Chase Field have been quality starts, and he has a 3.20 ERA and 1.03 WHIP there overall this season. Collmenter has also already defeated the San Diego Padres this season, tossing 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball for a "W" on June 28.
6. Rubby De La Rosa (LAA, Thursday): On a relatively poor day for streaming choices, De La Rosa stands out in a rematch of his Aug. 10 game (7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 8 K's). At least the Los Angeles Angels are mere .225/.290/.345 hitters (28th-ranked .277 wOBA) against right-handed pitchers since the All-Star break.
7. Odrisamer Despaigne (@ARI, Saturday): He already has one win versus the Arizona Diamondbacks this season (6 2/3 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, for a win on June 29), and they as a team have struggled mightily against right-handed pitching since the All-Star break, batting .238/.287/.357 (25th-ranked .280 wOBA).
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: Minnesota Twins 8, Boston Red Sox 7, Washington Nationals 7, New York Yankees 6, Chicago Cubs 6, Los Angeles Dodgers 6, Philadelphia Phillies 6.
Versus RH: Detroit Tigers 6, Los Angeles Angels 6, Arizona Diamondbacks 6, Chicago Cubs 6, Cincinnati Reds 6, St. Louis Cardinals 6. Eight teams face five right-handed starters.
Versus LH: New York Yankees 4, Baltimore Orioles 3, Minnesota Twins 3. Twelve teams face two left-handed starters.
• As mentioned above, Josh Willingham is arguably the only Kansas City Royals hitter who might not reap the benefits of his favorable schedule, though he'll almost assuredly see some pinch-hitting chances at Coors Field and might do enough with those to warrant consideration in all but the shallowest mixed leagues. Remember, the Colorado Rockies have an extremely left-handed-heavy pitching staff -- six of their 13 pitchers and four of their five starters are lefty -- so Willingham should see some chances.
But it's the other Royals, especially those with experience at either Coors or Texas' Globe Life Park, who warrant your attention. Consider these track records:
Omar Infante: .379/.400/.586 in 8 G at Coors.
Alcides Escobar: .302/.348/.495 in 11 G at Coors.
Mike Moustakas: 5-for-12 (.417 AVG), 1 HR in 3 G at Coors; .267/.389/.467 in 5 G at Globe Life.
Alex Gordon: .360/.407/.560 in 6 G at Coors.
Billy Butler: .313/.405/.384 in 27 G at Globe Life.
Willingham: .264/.346/.472 in 19 G at Globe Life.
Small samples, yes, but couple that with the natural advantage all hitters experience at those parks and these six seem like automatics. Butler in particular has stood out recently: He's a .325/.350/.571 hitter during the team's past 22 games. Meanwhile, Salvador Perez will be making his debut at both venues, and the parks might be just what he needs to snap his recent funk.
• This week presents the rare instance of a five-game schedule worth exploiting on the hitting side: The Miami Marlins are the other team with the advantage of facing nothing but the Texas Rangers and Colorado Rockies, with the Rockies series also taking place at Coors. Marlins hitters also have good histories at Coors:
• Finally, it's not just Washington Nationals pitchers who reap the rewards of home games; their hitters also have good numbers at Nationals Park, their .314 wOBA as a team ranking ninth in the majors. Take a look at some of their individuals there:
Adam LaRoche: .309/.406/.489 in 51 games
Denard Span: .346/.382/.444 in 56 games
Anthony Rendon: .282/.339/.491 in 57 games
Wilson Ramos: .326/.360/.435 in 24 games
Jayson Werth: .271/.348/.409 in 58 games