Fantasy Baseball Weekly Planner: Week 26
This is it! It’s the final installment of the Fantasy Baseball Weekly Planner for 2017. Next week is the final week of the regular season. First, I’d like to thank those of you who’ve read the series all season. Second, I’ll assume if you’re reading at this point that you’re competing for a title or a cashing finish in money leagues, so best of luck. If you hope to earn more roto points or win your head-to-head league, you’ll need to continue to pull out all of the stops. Also, be sure to stay on top of probable pitching changes. As teams clinch divisions and seeds in their respective leagues, it’s likely they’ll shake things up if possible to position their best pitchers to open playoff series.
Braves @ Mets (4), @ Marlins (4)
The Braves close the season with a bonus game in the final week. They play a doubleheader on Monday at Citi Field. The pitching matchups are mostly favorable for the hitters.
Orioles @ Pirates (2), @ Rays (3)
Yuck. It’s only a five-game week to close out the season for the Orioles, all five games are on the road, and as an extra gut punch, they’ll be without the services of a designated hitter playing in a National League park for the first two games of the week.
Red Sox vs. Blue Jays (3), vs. Astros (4)
The Red Sox close the regular season with seven games at home, and with the division still in the balance, they might have to play things out in order to avoid the dreaded one-game playoff for the AL Wild Card.
Cubs @ Cardinals (4), vs. Reds (3)
The Cubs also close the season with seven games in the final week and their division up for grabs. According to ESPN’s probable pitching schedule, the Cubs are slated to face a right-handed starter in each of their games next week.
Rockies vs. Marlins (3), vs. Dodgers (3)
Fire up Colorado’s bats in your lineups for the final week. They close the regular season with a pair of 3-game series at Coors Field, and it seems highly unlikely they’ll face Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, and Alex Wood, as ESPN’s schedule currently shows.
Dodgers vs. Padres (3), @ Rockies (3)
Three games at Coors Field are enticing, but they might prove to be little more than a tease since the Dodgers could opt to rest their regulars.
Marlins @ Rockies (3), vs. Braves (4)
Giancarlo’s quest for 60 or more dingers will get a lift from a series at Coors Field to open next week. He and the rest of Miami’s bats get a lift from Coors Field’s outstanding park factors for hitting.
Brewers vs. Reds (3), @ Cardinals (3)
Eric Thames opened the season with an absurd April in which he hit .345/.466/.810 and launched 11 homers. He tormented Cincinnati’s pitchers, and he’ll have a chance to torment them one more time as he wraps up a productive September that sandwiches a mediocre or worse middle of the season. I also bring up Thames specifically because the Brewers are projected to face right-handed starting pitchers in all six games next week.
Athletics vs. Mariners (3), @ Rangers (4)
Do you know what offense has the highest wRC+ over the last 30 days and also over the last two weeks? I would hope you guessed the A’s since that’s the team in the headline. If you did guess them, you’re correct. They close the year with a full slate of games, and four are at hitter-friendly Globe Life Park in Arlington.
Cardinals vs. Cubs (4), vs. Brewers (3)
The Cardinals still have a chance to overtake the Cubs while also passing the Brewers for the NL Central crown, and they’re also in the mix for the second Wild Card berth, so they might have incentive to play their regulars right up until the finish line.
Rangers vs. Astros (3), vs. Athletics (4)
The Rangers have a huge home/road split for hitting that favors hitting at home, so it’s noteworthy they end the regular season with seven games in Texas. The Rangers have hit .267/.351/.467 at home this year, according to FanGraphs.
Yoan Moncada (CWS)
Since returning from the disabled list on September 5, Moncada has been in a nice groove hitting .328/.388/.557 with four homers, two stolen bases, and a high-yet-reason-for-him 26.9% K%. The pitching matchups open up favorably for him next week, and they could close that way, too, with Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber, and Mike Clevinger listed as the probable starters for the Indians on ESPN, but they have little incentive to use their top pitchers with the AL Central decided. Sure, the best record in the AL could be up for grabs, but Cleveland would be better served setting their rotation up for the postseason than worrying about that.
Ian Desmond (COL)
It’s all about the schedule at this point. Desmond has disappointed in his first season in Colorado, but he closes the year with six games at his home launching pad. As I noted discussing the Rockies above, it’s unlikely they’ll see the Dodgers’ top arms in their final series before the postseason. Desmond has been cast to the waiver wire in many leagues, and he could be a difference maker to close the year.
Jeimer Candelario (DET)
The Tigers acquired Candelario from the Cubs in return for reliever Justin Wilson and Alex Avila, and he’s been raking for his new club. He played 29 games at the Triple-A level after joining the Tigers organization and hit an underwhelming .264/.297/.430 with three homers in 128 plate appearances, but the switch-hitting third baseman has ripped the cover off the ball since joining the Tigers hitting 286/.381/.459 with three homers, an 11.5% BB%, and 18.6% K%. In 1,193 plate appearances in the upper minors (Double-A and Triple-A combined), he’s a .277/.364/.472 hitter with a 11.6% BB%, 18.8% K%, and .194 ISO, per FanGraphs. He’s conquered the minors, and if you need hitting help, it’s worth riding out his heater to the finish line.
Nick Castellanos (DET)
Candelario’s ascension to the Tigers has moved Castellanos off of the hot corner, and he’s picked up outfield eligibility at some fantasy providers. Like the aforementioned Candelario, Castellanos is swinging a hot bat. In the second half, he’s hitting .305/.335/.570 with 14 homers and a pair of stolen bases in 263 plate appearances. He’s much higher owned than Candelario, but I was surprised to see Castellanos is available in 35% or more of Yahoo! and ESPN leagues.
Seth Lugo (NYM)
Lugo’s not a two-start stream option for the faint of heart, but there’s some merit to rolling the dice on him. Since the beginning of August, he’s made seven starts that have spanned 33.2 innings and yielded a ghastly 5.88 ERA. However, the underlying stats aren’t nearly as terrifying as he owns a 3.60 FIP, 3.81 xFIP, 4.06 SIERA, 7.3% BB%, and 23.3% K% during that seven-start stretch. He was solid in his last start allowing only one earned run on four hits, one walk, and three strikeouts, and projected starts against the Braves and Phillies are favorable. The Braves start is on Monday when the Mets and Braves are scheduled to play a doubleheader, so it’s possible he gets a slightly watered down lineup. Regardless, the Braves rank 26th in wRC+ (89) against right-handed pitchers this year. He’s also projected to start the season finale at Philadelphia, and the Phillies rank tied for 22nd in wRC+ (91) against righties this year. Their lineup has gotten some reinforcement during the summer that includes Nick Williams and, most notably, Rhys Hoskins. However, over the last two weeks, they’ve only been a little above average offensively ranking tied for 11th in wRC+ (97) during that time frame.
Chad Kuhl (PIT)
Since adding a curve to his repertoire on May 31, Kuhl’s started 20 games that have spanned 108.0 innings and spun a 3.50 ERA (4.31 FIP, 4.42 xFIP, and 4.78 SIERA), 1.39 WHIP, 11.9% BB%, and 22.2% K%. His advanced metrics don’t support a mid-three ERA, but he’s been good and flashed some excellence in starts his control hasn’t betrayed him. Since then, he’s avoided being a total punching bags for lefties allowing a .333 wOBA — which isn’t good, but it’s not a train wreck, either — and continued to hold righties in check with a .310 wOBA. ESPN’s probable pitchers schedule pegs him for a start against the Orioles next Tuesday, and I’m comfortable streaming Kuhl for that turn. The Orioles will be without a designated hitter at PNC Park, and they feature a righty-heavy lineup that plays into the hands of Kuhl’s splits.
Scott Alexander (KC)
If you’re looking for some last-minute saves, Alexander is worth a look. Alexander is part of a closer-by-committee in the wake of Kelvin Herrera being removed from the role. The 28-year-old lefty has saved four games this year, and he’s a ground-ball machine with a 72.9% GB% this season. Unlike some ground-ball relievers, Alexander isn’t incapable of missing bats. The lefty has a 12.7% SwStr% this year that belies a less exciting 20.4% K%.
Mike Minor (KC)
Oh, hey, another Royals’ reliever! Yup, Minor is also part of the committee, and while he doesn’t induce grounders at the clip Alexander does, he’s a more elite strikeout pitcher with a 28.5% K% this year. The former starter has found new life in The Show as a reliever this year, and he’s recorded a 2.71 ERA (2.68 FIP, 3.59 xFIP, and 3.18 SIERA), 1.04 WHIP, 7.2% BB%, 28.5% K%, and 12.0% SwStr% in 60 appearances spanning 73.0 innings. I’d prefer Minor to Alexander if both are available and you only have room for one of the two.