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 which 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. I was overwhelmed by all the positive feedback from my debut of this article last week. Thank you so much for putting up with my dribble-drabble, as we ultimately got to the point and CRUSHED IT.
Matt Strahm worked out as a great stream (6.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, BB, 7 K) and missed the W by ⅔ of an inning when he was relieved in top half of 7th before Padres took the game-winning lead in bottom half. Brett Gardner vs. Felix Hernandez (2/3, 3B, HR) and Edwin Encarnacion vs. Masahiro Tanaka (1/3, HR, BB) were great hits. My “Bold Strategy Cotton” Play of Caleb Smith had a tremendous start (6.2, 5, 2, 3, 11!) and is bound to pay off on Sunday in New York. As for a historical standpoint, Albert Pujols hit a solo home run on Thursday for his 2,000th career RBI, joining Hammerin’ Hank Aaron and Alex Rodriguez as the only players EVER to reach this milestone! Does anyone have the number for Cooperstown?
I’ve pretty much kept the format the same for this week, however, if there are any requests for information I can provide or a player/team you would like me cover, drop a line in our VIP Chat Room.
GAME BREAKDOWN GRID
The AL East features polar opposites, where New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox spend the week at home while Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays will be site-seeing all week. The importance here is both NY and Boston are free of negative park shifts while they enjoy some home cooking. If you are on the fence about B-level players such as Brett Gardner (.752 OPS home, .707 OPS away last three seasons), Clint Frazier (.784/.674), Mitch Moreland (.816/.682) or Jackie Bradley Jr. (.785/.742; 15-team leagues if desperate), allow this to be your “tie-breaker.” I hold OPS in high regard for how a batter handles himself at the plate, but I think I just committed blasphemy by writing both Yankees and Red Sox players in the same sentence. Oh well, the fantasy gods know no homerism.
Same can be said for the NL Central and NL East, which finds only Cincinnati Reds at home and New York Mets on the road all week. You can use similar analytics here as with the AL East, particularly with Philadelphia, who have seven games vs. two good lineups in Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado Rockies. Phils will rely on secondary characters such as Odúbel Herrera (.781/.747) as well as primary thespians Rhys Hoskins (1.263/.839) and Bryce Harper (.867 Citizens Bank Park OPS, last three seasons).
Tribe bats have folks in Ohio singing ‘Cleveland Rocks’ again, particularly Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor and Jake Bauers who have 33 total bases combined over the last seven days. This upcoming week, Indians face off against some mighty tasty pitchers:
- Reynaldo Lopez (6.38 ERA, 1.75 WHIP, 4.5 BB/9, 5.48 xFIP and gave up three runs on nine hits against this very same Indians team last time out)
- Manny Banuelos (6.67 ERA, 1.89 WHIP, 25% HR to Fly Ball ratio and gave up five runs on eight hits against this very same Indians team last time out… it’s like déjà vu all over again)
- Dylan Bundy (5.30 ERA, 5.80 FIP, 3.53 BB/9, .310 career BABIP and allows more home runs than a kid in Babe Ruth Baseball trying to throw a knuckler #JerseyReference)
- John Means (Continues to defy logic, but that 4.42 xFIP still remains)
- David Hess (5.50 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 6.48 FIP, 5.73 xFIP, 3.41 BB/9)
- Andrew Cashner (Remember when he was a highly touted prospect for the Cubs and Padres? Yeah, me neither.)
Rangers will SMASH this week… load up. Set to face five RHPs in six games, lefty bats Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, Shin-Soo Choo and Rugged Odor (misspelled on purpose cause I like the nickname and he’s a punk) are all salivating at the mouth. Gallo and Choo will look to keep the party rolling from the last 14 days, while Mazara and Odor are in a great position to right the ship.
I’m looking to get Michael Conforto back into my lineup this week. Like many streaky lefties before him, Conforto can have a pendulum effect on your team. He had been ice cold, seeing his BA drop from a season-high .375 to a season-low .248. It’s back up to .265 after a three-hit performance, including a 420-foot homer with an EV of 107.1 mph. He got his hips around and really turned on the pitch, hitting the ball out in front of the plate rather than deeper in the zone (typical of when Conforto struggles). I’m seeing this as a sign he’s warming up, and he homered again right as I was writing this sentence.
Arizona’s offense has expectedly cooled off from their hot start over the last seven days – team slash line: .223/.306/.386/.693. They could be in store for an uprising as they face off against the following hurlers:
- Nick Kingham (5.94 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, recently inserted in rotation from the bullpen)
- Joe Musgrove (21 R / 17 ER last four starts after strong beginning to season)
- Trevor Williams (4.32 xFIP, .250 BAA / .295 BABIP, 6.62 K/9 rate)
- Jeff Samardzija (3.16 ERA / 4.47 FIP / 4.97 xFIP; DBacks may be going shark hunting)
- Madison Bumgarner (Pitching well overall this season and flashing signs of MadBum days of old with a 25.1% strikeout percentage; 35% of runners to reach base come into score + .311 BABIP = inflation of runs allowed)
- Drew Pomeranz (5.93 ERA, 28.6% HR/FB, 1.62 WHIP, .293 BAA, .341 BABIP)
Ketel Marte is top of my list, being a switch hitter, and has great BvP numbers vs. MadBum, his stiffest competition. I also wanna piece of David Peralta, Eduardo Escobar, Wilmer Flores (.931 OPS last seven) and even catcher Carson Kelly (1.420 OPS last seven) as a flier in 15-teamers or two-catcher leagues.
Colorado will have a quick, two-game set in Beantown. Desmond most likely sees DH so talented OF Raimel Tapia can see more ABs. However, many ways to go. They can also choose to momentarily alleviate crowded infield by starting Ryan McMahon, Garrett Hampson or Mark Reynolds at DH. I feel it will be the prior. Meadows and Mini Miggy will likely swap a day of rest with a start in LF. Garcia has been hitting well, and Meadows was tearing the cover off the ball before his three-week IL stint with a thumb strain. Meadows picked up where he left off Friday (2/4, two-run HR, BB). This could be a way to ease Meadows back into action, yet again, could go either way. With five games on tap for both Rockies and Rays, it’s not worth the risk guessing wrong in weekly leagues. Use these insights in daily formats.
Rowdy Tellez will head to the bench in favor of Smoak Monster at first base with no DH. He will use the two days to clear his head from a rough week: 5/21, 2B, 11 K, 1 BB. The .238 week average is on par with who Tellez is, and he is prone to the strikeout as most young hitters are these days, but his power outage shows his battery life is at 15%. Lastly, Jose Martinez will finally be used as God intended… at DH.
TOP TWO-START PITCHERS
IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE
- Jose Berrios (LAA, @SEA)
- Aaron Nola (MIL, COL)
- Shane Bieber (@CHW, BAL)
- Robbie Ray (PIT, SF)
- Charlie Morton (@MIA, @NYY)
- Chris Sale (COL, HOU?) – Could pitch 5/19 on regular rest.
- Chris Paddack (@LAD, PIT)
- Matt Boyd (HOU, OAK)
- Kyle Hendricks (@CIN, @WSH)
- Yusei Kikuchi (OAK, MIN)
- Brandon Woodruff (@PHI, @ATL)
- Jack Flaherty (@ATL, @TEX) – Buyer Beware; prefer 1st matchup, as Bravos have been scuffling offensively last seven days.
- Brad Peacock (@DET, @BOS)
- Sonny Gray (CHC, LAD) – Brass Balls; that is what you need!
- Jerad Eickhoff (MIL, COL)
For a detailed breakdown of more two-start pitchers who may be available on your waiver wire, check out Vlad’s FAAB Values!
STARTING PITCHER RANKINGS
Do #RevengeGames exists in MLB? Sure, but coming up on two seasons worth of hardball heals all wounds. For now, it’s just a pleasure for Justin Verlander to go back to his old stomping grounds, tip his cap, get a huge ovation, and strike out 10+ batters. For the second week in a row, he tops my favorite single-start pitcher list and also comes in at #1 overall.
We most certainly see a downtick in two-start pitchers this week from last, both in quality and quantity. It appears we will need to win our fantasy matchups the old fashioned way… we earn it! Be diligent and rotate those SPs in your daily leagues. Stream some pitchers if down in categories; there’s a pretty darn good one below. Otherwise, in your weekly formats, be selective in who you choose to start. Use my rankings, or even better yet, create your own! It’s a fun process which really makes me feel like I have my shit together for the upcoming conquest.
One two-start pitcher I’m all geeked up about is Robbie Ray. After coughing up 3+ runs in four of his eight 2019 starts, Ray dominated Tampa Bay on 5/8. The matchups are juicy this week and offer the chance at another 11 K performance, as he had vs. Rays (Pittsburgh: 25% K/rate, SF: 26%). Last three seasons, Ray has a 2.83 ERA, has given up five fewer hits than IP, has allowed 5 HRs and struck out 75 batters in 10 starts, gaining four wins vs. San Fran. This upcoming week for Ray is the very definition of Fantasy Baseball Porn.
This week’s “Bold Strategy Cotton” Play is Griffin Canning. He has a fourseam fastball clocked in the mid-to-upper 90’s, which starts in the strike zone yet offers great late movement, generating an extremely high number of swings & misses. His slider is thrown extremely hard (pushing 90 mph) and causes its fair share of whiffs at the dish. His FB/GB ratios leave him susceptible to the HR, but so far in his professional career, he has avoided giving souvenirs to fans, or at least in the long ball variety. Definitely start him in 15’s, worth a strong look in 12’s, and I would keep an eye on him in 10’s. I may even have him ranked too low this week.
Steven Matz “should” come off IL in time to make his scheduled start Thursday against Washington. He had a bullpen session at the time of this writing, but reports on how he felt afterward haven’t come out as of yet. It would make sense to see how much, if any, discomfort he has the following 24-48 hours. He may need to pitch through some soreness for the time being. I don’t normally start a pitcher his first start back, and won’t be this week with Matz’ injury history, but I am tempted! As you can see from my rankings, I’ll be picking on a slumping Nationals squad (23 R, 75 TB, 20 RBI, .215/.276/.322/.598 last seven days).
INJURED LIST REPORT
Ok, I just have to get this off my chest. I worked in special education for a number of years and saw firsthand the stigma of the term disabled. So, I get it. That being said, to change a term that had been instilled in the game for 103 years may be a touch hypersensitive. This was purely a move to trip up broadcasters and sports analysts alike.
- Shohei Ohtani (TJS) is BACK, exclaimed his fantasy owners and Los Angeles Angels front office. The 24-year-old Japanese product returned on May 7th vs. Tigers to an inauspicious performance (0-4, BB, 2 K). One had to expect ring rust, and there has been with 7 Ks in five games played, but if you look deeper into his return, he drove in a run on a groundout in his second at-bat and exhausted 25 pitches across his five plate appearances. He is set to claim a prominent spot in Angels lineup (slotted third in the lineup on 5/7 between Mike Trout and Andrelton Simmons, even against a lefty in Daniel Norris), and GM Billy Eppler has stated Ohtani’s throwing program won’t impact his availability to serve as DH until around September or October, so Ohtani looks poised to fill a near-everyday role for the Angels and your fantasy rosters. Last season’s K-rate was 27.7%, so you will receive a fair share as indicated above, but matchups with the weaker, righty-heavy side of Minnesota & KC’s pitching staffs – well, let’s face it; the entire KC pitching staff is HOT GARBAGE – and steady ABs make him an instant insert back into your lineup. DH fantasy leagues, rejoice!
- Aaron Hicks (back) is slated to return from IL Monday, Lindsey Adler of The Athletic reports. According to Adler, “Hicks is reportedly symptom-free, though, the outfielder wants to get some more swings in before rejoining the big-league club.”
- Fernando Tatis Jr. (hamstring) did not travel with team to Colorado ahead of Friday’s series opener against the Rockies, despite thoughts he could be activated over the weekend. “He’s doing fine,” Andy Green said. “How close that means he is, I really don’t know.” Tatis has been doing light baseball activities and running at a reported 75% capacity. Manny Machado continues to man shortstop for San Diego, and Ty France will get a little more run to demonstrate his future skills (last seven days: 5/16, 2 XBH, HR, 5 RBI).
- Tyler Glasnow (right forearm) was pulled one out into the 6th inning on 5/10 vs. Yankees. He’ll be scanned and probed up the wazoo over the weekend so stay tuned to late-breaking news. I’ll do my best to update this section as soon as I hear anything, but this is no bueno, as often times forearm tightness can be a sign of UCL issues. *Update #1: Diagnosed with a mild forearm strain and is expected to miss four-to-six weeks. Ryan Yarbrough should be called right back up after being demoted to Triple-A Durham (rose goes on the front, big guy) to plug into Glasnow’s place.
- Dee Gordon (wrist) was struck by a pitch on the right wrist and had to exit the 5/9 contest against New York (are Yankees spreading the injury bug to other teams now, geez). After x-rays were inconclusive, Gordon will receive more testing over the weekend to determine if an IL stint is warranted. For now, Gordon will take a few days off from swinging a bat (maybe pitch run if team deems he just needs a small amount of rest from hitting); again, stay tuned. In the meantime, Tim Beckham will slide over to play at the keystone and long lost Philadelphia castoff J.P. Crawford may gain some dynasty league relevancy (both at 2B & SS) if Gordon does miss more time. *Update: Dee Gordon’s wrist injury will be re-evaluated today after not appearing in any capacity over the weekend, and a trip to the IL seems likely.
- Pedro Strop (hamstring) hitting IL leaves a big-time opening in the closer’s role for a suddenly surging Chicago Cubs team (10-2 last twelve). The good news is, save opportunities are up for grabs from the waiver wire since the club expects to be without their top reliever for at least a couple weeks. The bad news, you ask? Joe Maddon said, “it’s going to be a mix of everybody — Steve Cishek, Brad Brach, Brandon Kintzler, Kyle Ryan, Carl Edwards Jr. (who was just promoted from the minor leagues this week), Mike Montgomery (activated off the IL Wednesday).” GREAAAAAAAT! See who Vlad says to go with here!
POV SPECIAL – TOP SP STREAM OF THE WEEK
→ Lucas Giolito, RH CHW (TOR, 5/18) – Every time I hear this pitcher’s name, I think of Corey Haim… just can’t help it. In either event, this is not why he’s my top stream of the week. He has been pitching much more to the tune we all expected when he was the best RHP prospect in baseball, but as Ray researches exquisitely well in link below, the walks are still outta hand. I like the fact he has upped usage of his changeup, as many top pitchers have been having trouble with other off-speed pitches such as curveball and slider for some odd reason (hmmm). Toronto has a huuuuge swing and miss rate (29.3%), and Giolito can get them off balance with an impressive fourseam fastball (94 mph) / changeup (82 mph) disparity. Tommy likey… Tommy want wingy, at least for the short-term stream.
For a complete examination on Giolito, visit Ray Flowers’ 2019 Player Profile: Lucas Giolito!
Top Hitter BvP for the Week (minimum 20 ABs)
- Marwin Gonzalez vs. Felix Hernandez – 5/17 (9/21, 4 XBH, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 2 BB/2 K, .429/.500/.810/1.310)
- Starlin Castro vs. Charlie Morton – 5/14 (12/30, 4 XBH, 3 HR, 9 RBI, .400/.400/.733/1.133)
- Hunter Renfroe vs. Rich Hill – 5/15 (7/20, 3 XBH, 2 HR, .350/.381/.700/1.081)
- Daniel Murphy vs. Aaron Nola – 5/18 (9/27, 5 XBH, 2 HR, 1 BB/2 K, .333/.357/.704/1.061)
- Jason Heyward vs. Stephen Strasburg – 5/18 (15/37, 5 XBH, HR, .405/.463/.595/1.058)
- Trey Mancini vs. J.A. Happ – 5/14 (7/23, 3 XBH, 2 HR, .304/.360/.609/.969)
- Christian Yelich vs. Mike Foltynewicz – 5/19 (9/22, 1 XBH, .409/.458/.455/.913)
- Ryan Braun vs. Jake Arrieta – 5/15 (7/30, 3 HR, 10 RBI, .533 SLG)