In the following weekly preview, we have a game breakdown for all 30 MLB teams, pitching rankings and latest IL info to dominate Fantasy Baseball… PLUS TRADE DEADLINE ONGOINGS!!!
Jeff Mans and I were sitting around the metaphorical campfire, singing “Kumbaya” and talking about baseball, the future of the fantasy business and days of old. He reflected upon his Fantasy Alarm days and then, Eureka! Like a flash of lightning, the thought sprung from his mind… the MLB Weekly Preview. For those of you who have followed his work for years like myself, you know exactly the article of which I speak. A valuable preview that prepared us for our weekly conquests. A detailed dissection of the weekly matchups is a time-consuming undertaking and, with everything else on his plate as Elite Sports Network is booming, just not possible. But like all good leaders, he delegated the responsibility to me… and I don’t make it a habit of letting people down, Mans nor you, our loyal MLB subscriber.
In the following weekly preview, you will find a game breakdown for all 30 MLB teams (including Interleague play), two-start and overall pitching rankings and the latest IL information to help you dominate this week’s matchup and through the entirety of your seasonal league.
MLB Trade Deadline Looms
As you may already be aware, Major League Baseball passed a few new rules to begin this season. A glaring new rule and the topic of this preliminary section is a singular trade deadline of July 31st. In the past, if a deal was not orchestrated by this deadline, teams could still make post-deadline deals through waivers. This is no more! To be honest, I’m surprised there hasn’t been a flurry of deals already this week. Did teams forget? Hardly. Deals are not often easy to nail down, especially when lowbrow teams’ asking price is high, as is the case with one of the most notable names on the trade market, Noah Syndergaard. Furthermore, with so many teams in contention for Wild Card spots, hard to differentiate which teams are buyers and which are sellers. They may not even know themselves! These teams better get a clue with four days remaining.
Names on the Market: Syndergaard’s teammate Zack Wheeler, Trevor Bauer, Madison Bumgarner (although unlikely with the Giants back in postseason picture), Diamondback teammates Robbie Ray, David Peralta and Adam Jones, Ranger teammates Mike Minor, Hunter Pence and Danny Santana, Marcus Stroman, Ken Giles, Mychal Givens, Kirby Yates, Felipe Vazquez, Shane Greene, Alex Colome
All this conjecture is blah, blah, blah – I know – and you’re probably asking yourself, “Pov, what does this have to do with fantasy baseball?” The answer… PLENTY!
Not only can last-minute trade deadline deals seriously alter one’s weekly-lock lineups, but the value of players also can rise or fall with one fell swoop. For example, starting pitchers designated for a two-start week, if traded, may start only once if at all, depending on how their new team plans on sliding them into the rotation. Or imagine the boost Ray would get if he all-of-a-sudden wore a Yankee, Astro or Twin jersey! Wouldn’t it be ironic if, after just returning from IL, Peralta squared off against his former teammate in a Red Sox uni? I know his fantasy owners would be ecstatic! Most notably and often occurring, when a closer such as Colome is traded to set up for a contending team, his value goes to shit.
My best advice with closers is to roster a backup plan NOW, before the potential trade, whether it be incumbent on former team or stash a guy like Hunter Strickland, who will finish the year closing. In any scenario and with any of the aforementioned names on the market, if you have another viable option to start in their place, why not leave them on the bench till after July 31st? For those of us who love daily leagues, keep your MLB alerts on and be ready to change your lineup at a moment’s notice.
For more trade deadline based targets, I suggest you read Vlad’s FAAB Values!
Bottom line, it all depends on who you project to move, and who stands pat. Here are my projections:
*While writing this week’s article, in a surprise move by New York Mets, they ACQUIRED Stroman from Toronto. I did have *goes* originally there before news broke, scout’s honor! Although, I would have sworn it would be to the other New York team. Mets would give up top two pitching prospects in Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson if deal goes through after initial agreement. This deal also more than likely means a Syndergaard deal is imminent.
Weekly Report Card
- Christian Yelich (7/20, HR, 3 RBI this past week) and his Brewer teammates (31 R, 16 XBH, 8 HR, 78 TB, .233/.357/.404/.761)
- Francisco Lindor (13/31, 5 XBH, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 2 SB) & Paul Goldschmidt – Top BvP Hitters
- Gerrit Cole (14 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 4/18 BB/K, 2 Wins) – Top Arm
- Jacob Waguespack (5 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 3/2 BB/K, 9/9 GB/FB, Loss vs. TB) – Top SP Stream of the Week
Yelich and his Brewer teammates enjoyed home cooking. Lindor fucking crushed it this week! Goldy is finally getting hot for his new ballclub after a tepid (at best) first half. This is just the hitter he is now, as he had an equally hot & cold year last season. Very Jay Bruce like only more skilled and a year younger. No longer an automatic start, as we have learned this year to play the matchups a bit more, but you’re definitely starting Goldy now. I have him in four leagues, and I’m looking forward to his boost for the playoff push. Cole dominated as usual and furthered his CY Young candidacy, while Waguespack shit the bed. This is a *multi-point deduction* since he was my top SP stream.
Overall Letter Grade: C+ ::Insert your best Christmas Story impression::
MLB GAME BREAKDOWN GRID
Red Sox bats are primed for a very successful week, facing two pitching staffs who have been ravaged by injuries. Above in the grid, I was able to deduce (or at least give my best pre-deadline guesstimation) six of the seven SPs they will face, but two arms they most certainly won’t face is Blake Snell and CC Sabathia (more on them below in IL Report). Mookie Betts had a night for the ages on 7/26, going 4/5 with three long balls. Five times in his career has Betts hit three home runs in a game, moving him into a six-way tie for 2nd-most in MLB history. Sammy Sosa and Hall of Famer Johnny Mize are tied for 1st with six such games. It was also the fourth night in a row MLB had a hitter hit three home runs, but that is a topic for another day.
By the way, Betts is 26 years old. Wow! Most Red Sox bats are owned and being deployed this week, but you could scoop up and roll out Jackie Bradley Jr., especially against righties. The only arm to fear is Charlie Morton.
Despite facing both Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, I also like Indian bats at home all week. Verlander’s HR/9 is an uncharacteristically high 1.74 and his HR/FB is 17.7%. That is music to José Ramírez’ ears as well as the torrid Lindor discussed above. The real Ramírez has finally stood up, as discussed here. Other likely candidates to have a solid week are: Jason Kipnis (8/27, 2 XBH, HR, 6 RBI, 6/3 BB/K last seven days), Oscar Mercado (10/32, 4 XBH, HR, 5 RBI), Carlos Santana (5/20, 2 XBH, 4/2 BB/K, and even Greg Allen (5/24, 2 R, 2/3 BB/K, 2 SB).
Minnesota will lose Nelson Cruz for three games when they travel to Miami this week, however, I expect the good times to keep rolling for an offense that is finally getting the recognition they deserve. Just look at the slop Twins get to face this week:
- Zac Gallen (has been solid in rookie season & strong last start)
- Sandy Alcantara
- Jordan Yamamoto (last two have been baaaaaaad)
- Glenn Sparkman
- Danny Duffy
- Brad Keller
Besides the usual suspects, Luis Arraez makes for a sneaky start. Seeing regular time at third base while Miguel Sano shifts over to first to cover C.J. Cron (thumb), Arraez has posted a .379/.455/.484 slash line (155 wRC+).
A somewhat scuffling, yet, first-place Atlanta Braves team plays seven this week and may miss Max Scherzer (see IL Report below) as well as definitely missing Stephen Strasburg. They’ll still get Patrick Corbin and Aníbal Sánchez, but I’ll take that side of the coin any day. Let’s see how it’s scheduled to line up:
- Erick Fedde? (Max)
- Anthony DeSclafani
- Alex Wood
- Sonny Gray
- Tanner Roark
I’d say it’s all systems go for Freddie Freeman, Josh Donaldson and infused into the lineup due to Nick Markakis’ fractured wrist Ender Inciarte, who hit homers in back-to-back days over the weekend as well as multi-hit games. One name I didn’t mention was Ronald Acuña Jr. He obviously plays as well, but we’ll have to wait to see his prognosis (again see IL Report below).
I’m playing Goldschmidt this week for five games because I just don’t give a f*** – well, I do, but the pitching matchups are so tasty!
Cincinnati bats play well this week for seven games. I’d prefer lefties Joey Votto and Scooter Gennett, but Eugenio Suárez and even a flier in deep leagues on hot-hitting utilityman Josh VanMeter are worth a look; if Yasiel Puig or Gennett are moved, VanMeter stock rises.
Lastly, I love LA… Dodgers, and Rockies are in Coors all week!
WEEKLY INTERLEAGUE OUTLOOK
Lots of interleague action this week, but only one Rivalry Series, the Citrus Series, unless you count Cardinals vs. A’s as the Tony La Russa series. Maybe we should, as this series will carry far greater heat for real-life and fantasy purposes. The short series between Arizona and New York is a rematch of the 2001 World Series, but that is a distant memory. Most active players were mere tikes back then. In either event, with EIGHT interleague series this week, at-bats will be erratic and have an effect on our matchups. Use the table above to help guide your starting decisions, especially with Cruz.
White Sox will have a peculiar week, playing all interleague games vs. the Mets and Phillies. I guess get ‘em all in when you can! Lack of familiarity usually favors the pitcher, so not a good week to take a chance on recently surging Adam Engel and Jon Jay. Reed will also lose ABs in Philly (unless team opts to give José Abreu a rest). Miami Marlins are in the same interleague boat, only also finishing a four-game set with Arizona on 7/29. I would break this down too, but do we really care about this Marlins lineup minus maybe Brian Anderson? Same applies.
The Brewers/Athletics series intrigues me the most, as it allows Milwaukee to expand the roster into *AL-mode* and both teams are throwing substandard starters due to injury or suspension. Lots of offense should lie in this matchup, even with poor park factors in Oakland (0.921 R, 0.846 HR). Doubles and triples are a far more common occurrence in Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (2B: 1.054, 3B: 1.186).
TOP TWO-START PITCHERS
IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE
- Justin Verlander (@CLE, SEA)
- Patrick Corbin (ATL, @ARI)
- Noah Syndergaard (@CHW, @PIT)
- Shane Bieber (HOU, LAA)
- Caleb Smith (ARI, @TB)
- Chris Paddack (BAL, @LAD)
- Jake Odorizzi (@MIA, KC)
- Sonny Gray (PIT, @ATL)
- Dallas Keuchel (@WSH, CIN)
- David Price (TB, @NYY)
- Kenta Maeda (@COL, SD)
- Yu Darvish (@STL, MIL)
- Julio Teheran (@WSH, CIN)
- Jon Gray (LAD, SF)
- Griffin Canning (DET, @CLE)
- FADE: J.A. Happ (ARI, BOS) – Do you need me to tell you a reason? He may not even see the second start, which would be an improvement. So hit or miss this season, mostly miss.
- LAST STAND: Merrill Kelly (@MIA, WSH) – One week, he dominates the Brewers for seven masterful innings; then I stream him against Baltimore and he gets blown up. A microcosm of his season, but much to be expected from the 30-year-old rookie… is that the long-awaited sequel to The 40-year-old Virgin? In either event, this week should see Kelly’s upside. If not, he’s dead to me.
STARTING PITCHER RANKINGS FOR JULY 29 – AUG 4
Not a great amount of talent in the two-start realm, and certainly some guys who are risky propositions, but king of the jungle is Justin Verlander. I was hard on Verly’s HR-rate earlier, but his other peripheral numbers remain lock-solid. I know it’s cliché to choose another Houston pitcher as my top arm, but I’m doing it anyway. I’ve been high on David Price as of late, but the second matchup with the Yankees in the Bronx has him lower on my totem pole this week. Inversely, Jake Odorizzi is ranked #7 of my two-start pitchers, as his matchups couldn’t be much better.
Weather and challenging matchups exist for a plethora of our top 60, so you may see some names further down the list then you’ve grown accustomed. Mike Minor slots in at #35 overall, despite a nice matchup with Seattle. Pitching at home in Arlington spells doom to my Ranger pitchers come August. Plus, Minor was just hit up for eight hits and four runs against this same team in Seattle. Hard to predict weather patterns days in advance – just ask your local meteorologist or any grounds crew – but those daily folks should especially be checking forecasts regularly. Heat + Humidity = High ERAs… I learned it on Breaking Bad.
Steven Matz is coming off a 99-pitch complete game shutout – 1st CG of his career and 1st Met to do so in under 100 pitches since Johan Santana in 2012 – and faces Pittsburgh again this week. Albeit against the Bucs, Matz looked masterful working his fastball and slider against RHH while pitching the Maddux. I normally don’t go to the well twice in a row, but Pirates are playing such poor baseball, so Matz will be my Bold Strategy Cotton play this week.
*As discussed in the MLB Trade Deadline portion of this article, the above-mentioned pitching matchups are subject to change as the deals flood in before the clock strikes midnight on July 31st. We presented these matchups as late as possible on 7/28. Pay attention to breaking news, and again, sit guys who you highly suspect to be on the move in weekly leagues (if another viable option exists).
MLB INJURED LIST REPORT
Besides names that may already be listed, here is the latest injury news on a few of your fantasy studs. I will update early in the week.
- Blake Snell (elbow) will have his left elbow scoped to remove a loose body – hubba hubba, oh, not that kind of bodies, my bad – and is expected to miss four weeks. He should pitch again this season if this time frame holds so not all is lost. *Update: Surgery went well on 7/29, and Snell is expected back sometime in September.
- Dee Gordon (quad) took BP prior to the Mariner’s game on 7/28, which was a good sign to see after just being placed on IL 7/23. Running will be the final hurdle to recovery, especially since that’s his forte.
- Gary Sanchez (Grade 1 groin strain) dodged a bullet with the minor level stain diagnosis. He is eligible to return on 8/3.
- Joey Gallo (hamate bone surgery) is expected to miss at least four weeks after undergoing surgery on 7/25 to remove fractured hook of the hamate bone in his right hand. However, Delino DeShields received the same surgery last season, and he only missed three weeks.
- Max Scherzer (back) didn’t throw a bullpen this past weekend and is “very doubtful” to make his scheduled start 7/30. Shame, as he would have lined up for a two-start week coming off injury. Daily leagues can wait and see if he makes this start or his next, 8/4 @ARI. Fedde could be recalled from Double-A Harrisburg to fill in should Max be down and out. Joe Ross is not the answer, as he was blasted in a bulk relief role on 7/27. *Update: Nationals placed Scherzer on 10-day IL retro to 7/26, which means he is out for 8/4 start @ARI. Fedde was indeed called up and lines up for the two-start week (ATL, @ARI). Max is eligible to return 8/5, but manager Dave Martinez said that’s not a target date “by any means,” per Jesse Dougherty of The Washington Post. I would only stream Fedde for start against Arizona in point-based leagues or if you are seriously down in wins.
- Ross Stripling (right biceps tightness) may require more than the minimum of 10 days according to manager Dave Roberts, who also remarked, “we had to shut him down (due to the tightness) so he can rest and get right.” The bicep comes to the forefront while Stripling was also dealing with a neck issue.
- CC Sabathia (right knee inflammation) – Just placed on IL at the time of this writing. Second time this season he has been downed by this issue. Anyone would hate to see his career end like this, but CC is guaranteed to miss more than 10 days (required arthroscopic surgery in the offseason). This will undoubtedly force the hand of Brian Cashman to bring in a starter.
- Ronald Acuña Jr. left the game on 7/28 with neck stiffness from sliding in hard into Phillies shortstop Jean Segura, who also left the game with a right shin contusion. Acuña finished the inning after swiping the bag, so that tells me it was precautionary. We’ll see what reports come out, but so far, he’s downplaying the injury. *Update: Acuña is in the lineup 7/29.
- Ken Giles (elbow inflammation) was unavailable to pitch 7/29 due to the inflammation. Possibly Blue Jays were being cautious with trade deadline approaching, or a deal is imminent and they didn’t want to risk injury. Either way, this may throw a monkey wrench in their plans if they indeed want to move Giles.
POV SPECIAL – TOP SP STREAM OF THE WEEK
→ Reynaldo Lopez, RH CHW (NYM, @PHI) – Excuse me a second, I just puked in my mouth a little bit and need some Listerine. Ok, I’m good now. This stream is not for the faint of heart, as Lopez can erupt faster than a 1,000 dumpster fires when he’s off. Despite this being more the norm these days, Lopez is on one of his heaters, giving up only four runs over his last three starts while striking out 25 batters. This was against the likes of Oakland, Tampa Bay and Miami, however, only the Rays have been known to strike out a ton (1,004 – 4th in MLB). Marlins and A’s are actually 17th and 26th respectively. Who are #’s 15 & 16 you ask? Well, that would be the Mets and Phillies.
Working in his 84mph slider and change with his 96mph fastball, when Lopez has his rhythm down, he can quite easily keep these offenses off-balance. These teams may look different from now when these starts occur, but either way, it should be another successful week for Lopez… fingers crossed!
For more streaming options on the mound AND at the plate, visit Vlad’s FAAB Values!
Top Hitter BvP for the Week (minimum 20 ABs)
- Nolan Arenado vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu – 7/31 (14/23, 8 XBH, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 2/2 BB/K, .609/.640/1.304/1.944)
- Justin Turner vs. Kyle Freeland – 7/30 (12/23, 4 XBH, .522/.542/.739/1.281)
- Asdrubal Cabrera vs. Mike Leake – 7/30 (8/20, 5 XBH, 2 HR, .400/.400/.850/1.250)
- José Ramírez vs. Justin Verlander – 7/30 (11/27, 5 XBH, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 5/1 BB/K, .407/.500/.741/1.241)
- Hunter Pence vs. Jordan Zimmermann – 8/4 (8/20, 2 HR, .400/.455/.700/1.155)
- Ender Inciarte vs. Tanner Roark – 8/4 (13/31, 4 XBH, HR, 2/3 BB/K, .419/.455/.645/1.100)
- Avisail Garcia vs. Rick Porcello – 7/31 (11/27, 3 XBH, 2 HR, 7 RBI, .407/.414/.667/1.080)
- Melky Cabrera vs. Jason Vargas – 8/3 (10/28, 5 XBH, 2 HR, 9 RBI, .357/.357/.714/1.071)
Troy Tulowitzki announced his retirement from MLB this week. The Yankee shortstop – predominantly known as a Rockie and Blue Jay – finishes his career with 225 HR, five All-Star selections, two Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers. What could have been had health not betrayed him? He will always be a fantasy god to me for the championships he helped me win while in Colorado…