Fantasy Baseball Weekly Planner: Week 4
As April comes to a close, fantasy managers are starting to get antsy. Sure it’s early, but that breakout batter is still hitting .180. Yes, small sample sizes are small, but what if this team stays stuck in seventh place for five more months?
Don’t panic just yet. One great week can turn everything around, or at least repair some of the early damage. Before automatically benching the ice-cold player and starting the flavor of the week, make sure the matchups validate that decision. Let’s guide that process with Week 4 notes with certain teams and players to target and avoid.
Matchup Notes For Hitters
Nationals @ Rockies (4), vs. Mets (3)
Four days at Coors Field makes the Washington Nationals an obvious inclusion on the list. In addition to the top-tier players, ride Ryan Zimmerman’s hot hand and see if this matchup is just what the doctor ordered for a slumping Anthony Rendon. The New York Mets don’t warrant the same excitement, but they are slated to avoid Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom in favor of the more manageable Robert Gsellman and Zack Wheeler. Daniel Murphy might be giddier about the week’s second series after torturing his former team (.413, 7 HR, 21 RBI in 19 games) last year.
The slate will cause Trea Turner owners to cross their fingers for a timely return. After starting a stint in extended Spring Training Wednesday, he could get activated in time for a trip to Colorado. If that’s the case, get him in the starting lineup immediately. A speedy, high-contact leadoff hitter can do too much damage in Coors to recommend a cautious approach.
Rockies vs. Nationals (4), @ Diamondbacks (3)
When they’re done hosting the Nationals, the Rockies will go to baseball’s next-best hitting park, Chase Field. Per ESPN’s Park Factors, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ home ranked second to Colorado in runs and second after Yankee Stadium in homers last year.
Even though they’re slated to face some strong pitchers—Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Roark, Zack Greinke and a resurgent Shelby Miller—the scenery is too salivating to sit streakers (Mark Reynolds and Gerardo Parra) or slumping stars (Trevor Story and Carlos Gonzalez). Despite his .268 wOBA, catcher Tony Walters has streamer appeal due to last year’s .408 wOBA at Coors.
Diamondbacks vs. Padres (4), vs. Rockies (3)
Let’s keep the pattern going by jumping to the Diamondbacks. Outside of their three-game set against the Rockies, they host the San Diego Padres, who have yielded 4.9 runs per game. Jhoulys Chacin, Clayton Richard, Trevor Cahill and Jered Weaver are bad enough at Petco Park, but now they have to combat an unforgiving atmosphere against a dangerous lineup.
They’re slated to face three southpaws (Richard, Kyle Freeland and Tyler Anderson), which is great news for Paul Goldschmidt and Yasmany Tomas. It’s an unfortunate hindrance for Jake Lamb and David Peralta, but four home games against vulnerable righties still justifies the price of admission.
Mets vs. ATL (3), vs. WAS (3)
The Mets scored 19 runs over their last six games against the Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies. Facing the likes of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Julio Teheran at Citi Field won’t prove a proper remedy.
Anyone setting weekly lineups must also juggle lineup uncertainty. Unless Lucas Duda remains sidelined after injuring his elbow Wednesday, Michael Conforto will settle for stealing a start or two—likely at Curtis Granderson’s expense—against an all-righty slate. Outside of Yoenis Cespedes and a red-hot Jay Bruce, no Mets hitters are must-starts in a standard mixed league.
Zach Britton (BAL)
Britton received a precautionary MRI on Friday and it came back clean. On Monday, he’ll visit with a hand specialist as a preventive measure for the future, according to The Baltimore Sun. The star closer, who has converted 54 straight save opportunities, is eligible to come off the disabled list Tuesday.
“He’s getting a little better each day,” manager Buck Showalter told MLB.com’s John Fay. “That’s good to see. We had some guys come in for treatment [Monday]. Zach’s making good progress.”
Playing him next week will be a dicey propositions if the Orioles don’t provide a clearer update of his status. Even if he comes back Tuesday, Showalter might not immediately throw him into the line of fire for a save opportunity. Playing it safe isn’t the worst idea for both Baltimore and fantasy investors.
Jason Vargas (KC)
All those tireless weeks/months of draft research would look far better if someone had just envisioned Vargas’ transformation into an ace. Over three magnificent starts, the 34-year-old southpaw has allowed one run and two walks while compiling 23 strikeouts.
Dating back to last year, he has a 1.10 ERA in six starts since returning from Tommy John surgery. Nothing more than a deep-league threat throughout his career, he’s now someone to add and play heading into a two-start week against the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox. This can’t last forever, but the schedule mitigates those sustainability concerns.
Tommy Joseph (PHI)
All the preseason Tommy Joseph buzz has quickly evaporated, as the trendy sleeper is hitting .208/.250/.313 in 52 plate appearances. Forget about benching him, some frustrated owners may have dropped him entirely.
Give the first baseman one more chance. This week the Philadelphia Phillies are scheduled to face four lefties—whom he made his mark against with a .383 wOBA last year. That includes Clayton Kershaw, but the others (Wei-Yen Chen, Adam Conley and Hyun-Jin Ryu) give him a golden opportunity to rediscover last summer’s seismic power stroke. If he ends April on a sour note, owners will then need to make a tough call on the high-upside power pick.
Joc Pederson (LAD)
After exciting drafters with an Opening Day grand slam, Joc Pederson has gone ice cold at the plate. The streaky outfielder has since recorded one extra-base hit and 14 strikeouts. He has also lost playing time with the Los Angeles Dodgers frequently facing lefties, but they’re schedule to play against five righties during their seven-game week.
While teeing off at AT&T Park and Dodger Stadium isn’t ideal, Matt Cain and Zach Eflin both mark exploitable adversaries. He has continued to make hard contact (36 %), so don’t risk missing a huge week from Pederson.
Hyun Soo Kim (BAL)
The Baltimore Orioles are slated to face five righties in a week Seth Smith will possibly miss due to an injured hamstring. Fellow left-handed outfielder Hyun Soo Kim led off in Smith’s place Thursday, so he could receive extended time in the beneficial slot.
He also, however, has yet to draw a walk or hit a home run this season. Yet Kim, who hit .321/.393/.446 against righties last year, still makes sense given the team’s lack of speed and contact hitters. Consider him a solid deep-league and daily play.
Chris Owings (ARI)
No team has attempted more steals than Arizona, who should generate plenty of baserunning opportunities against San Diego and Colorado’s subpar pitchers. A green light bodes well for Chris Owings, who has reached base in 12 of 14 starts.
He has carried over last year’s success against southpaws, so even those weary of his hot start can trust him to hit Richard and Freeland. Having swiped 25 bags over his last 134 games, it’s time to treat him as a valuable steals threat.
Given Francisco Cervelli‘s struggles throwing out runners, the Pittsburgh Pirates are rightfully a popular target for anyone chasing steals. Yet some of his teammates could join the fun next week against a pair of bat-first catchers.
Pittsburgh plays three games apiece against the Miami Marlins and Chicago Cubs. J.T. Realmuto has allowed 101 steals in 149 attempts since 2015, and he has already let seven runners snag an extra base in 11 games this year. Willson Contreras has failed to gun down seven of 10 base-poachers. Backup Miguel Montero is 0-for-4.
Josh Harrison may add a steal or two to his tally, especially if he somehow gets hit by a pitch in four consecutive plate appearances again. In light of Starling Marte‘s 80-game suspension, Adam Frazier figures to join Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco in the outfield. He has been gunned down in both attempts this season, but he submitted 17 steals in 68 Triple-A games last year.
Note: Advanced stats courtesy of FanGraphs.