Fantasy Baseball Weekly Planner: Week 4 (2020)
We have an absolutely packed Week 4 ahead of us, with many teams playing seven games and two teams — the Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins — on the schedule eight times. As always, the disclaimer must be added that anything can change at a moment’s notice. Still, we’re looking at a busy week.
This week also marks an important cutoff. Many teams will play their 20th game, meaning that we are already one-third through this sprint of a season. With that, we will not only look to the key fantasy storylines, but also to those that are turning into playoff races as well.
Toronto Blue Jays at Orioles (3), vs. Phillies (2), at Rays (3)
I mentioned the Toronto Blue Jays’ schedule in the introduction, so it’s no surprise that they lead off the “notable matchups” section. What makes Toronto’s schedule even more eye-popping is that they aren’t only playing eight games in seven days, but they’re also doing so in three different locations over that span. After wrapping up the first series in Baltimore, the team will then play in Buffalo — at “home” — and then travel to Tampa Bay.
Miami Marlins vs. Mets (4), at Nationals (4)
Obviously, if the Blue Jays were noteworthy because of their eight-game schedule, then so are the Miami Marlins. Miami also made this list in Week 3 for being one of the key teams to watch, but it has since backed off its furious pace. As of this writing, the Marlins followed their 7-1 start with a 1-3 series record, drifting back toward .500. Miami still technically has the best winning percentage in the National League East — something that might prove to be critically important in this short season — but eight games against two division opponents will probably go a long way in determining how the Marlins stack up with the rest of the division.
Tampa Bay Rays at Yankees (3), vs. Blue Jays (3)
Staying on the topic of division races, the Tampa Bay Rays find themselves right back in the middle of theirs. They are now within striking distance of the Yankees, and the two teams will meet in the first series of the week. Both the Yankees and Rays were largely considered the two most likely to compete for the American League East crown and, while it’s still early, the season will be nearly one-third complete by the middle of Week 4.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Mariners (2), at Mariners (2), vs. Rockies (3)
Last week, I wrote about the Padres taking their metaphorical swings at the Los Angeles Dodgers atop the National League West. This week, I’ll spotlight the Dodgers as they are now competing with two teams for divisional supremacy. Later in the week, Los Angeles will play host to the Rockies, who have held onto their early season momentum and are bunched with the Dodgers and Padres in the top-three positions of the division. Granted, Colorado had been playing well even into last week, but this is the Dodgers’ opportunity to create some space before the head-to-head meeting. If Los Angeles can take care of business against the Mariners — who are now seven games below .500 — then it can be in a much better position when the Rockies come to town.
Baltimore Orioles vs. Blue Jays (3), vs. Red Sox (4)
The Baltimore Orioles are still holding onto a winning record as we enter the fourth week of the season, and they actually have a nice setup in front of them if they want to make some noise. Baltimore is the only team playing a full seven-game schedule at home, and both of their matchups come against opponents with losing records. For fantasy purposes, this means seven games in a ballpark ranked third in the league in home runs.
Charlie Blackmon (OF – COL) and DJ LeMahieu (1B/2B/3B – NYY)
One of the topics before the 2020 season began was whether or not we might see a .400 hitter over a 60-game season. Nearly one-third of the way through the year, it looks like we have two legitimate candidates. Through 18 games, Charlie Blackmon leads Major League Baseball with a .472 batting average. DJ LeMahieu ranks third with a .431 average through 17 games. Donovan Solano sits between these two, but Blackmon and LeMahieu have history on their side. The former teammates in Colorado each won the batting title in consecutive seasons — LeMahieu in ’16 and Blackmon in ’17 — and will be the ones to watch in the immediate future.
Alec Bohm (3B – PHI)
On the topic of “future,” the “future” has arrived in Philadelphia. The Phillies have called up top prospect Alec Bohm, and he began his Major League career with a double in his first at-bat. Bohm is such an advanced hitter that he basically forced his way onto the roster despite a relatively full infield. It also helped that the Phillies entered Thursday with the fifth-lowest winning percentage in the league and needed a spark. Granted, the offense wasn’t the problem, but the expectation is that Bohm lengthens an already-powerful lineup.
Dylan Carlson (OF – STL)
Bohm isn’t the only top prospect debuting. Dylan Carlson is on his way to the St. Louis Cardinals as soon as the team resumes play. Carlson’s role is actually a little more defined than Bohm’s, but the reality is that we don’t know what to expect from St. Louis as a team. The Cardinals have only played five games. That’s seven fewer than the next team. Carlson should have plenty of opportunities to prove that he belongs at the highest level.
Jeff McNeil (2B/3B/OF – NYM)
One of the more versatile and consistent fantasy baseball players almost went down with an injury after crashing into the outfield wall — and still making the catch. Why does this matter? Because Jeff McNeil routinely produces such a high batting average that him missing time would be a devastating hit to a fantasy roster. As of this writing, McNeil is day-to-day, but owners need to watch out for further developments.
Luis Castillo (SP – CIN)
It’s always fun to find a player whose production does not perfectly align across all numbers. Enter Luis Castillo. To date, Castillo is tied for second in the league in WAR for pitchers. On the surface, however, he has a 3.91 ERA. That’s almost impossible. By comparison, FanGraphs currently lists 20 pitchers with a WAR of at least 0.7, and only two have an ERA greater than 2.90. Castillo is a full run above this threshold, yet he still produces at a key level. The problem is that his walk rate is astronomically high, so it will be interesting to watch and see in which direction Castillo’s numbers ultimately finish.
Yu Darvish (SP – CHC)
Yu Darvish was a hot topic in the preseason because of the wild differences from the first half of 2019 to the second half. He began 2020 with a less-than-stellar performance, but he has been virtually unhittable since then. In fact, he was almost unhittable in his last start. In seven innings, Darvish allowed only one hit — granted, a home run — and struck out eleven batters. That brought his season ERA to a ridiculous 1.88 through four starts. We’re basically one-third of the way through Darvish’s appearances for the year, and it looks like he’s proving that the second half of last year was the “real” Darvish.
Zack Britton (RP – NYY)
It’s not completely surprising given the team for which he pitches, but Zack Britton currently leads Major League Baseball with seven saves. Again, his team affords him plenty of opportunities to end games with the lead, but the point here is that the job shouldn’t have been Britton’s. Aroldis Chapman missed the start of the year due to a positive COVID-19 test, and it opened the door for Britton. Generally speaking, Chapman, Josh Hader, and Roberto Osuna were the first three closers drafted in most fantasy leagues. The three have fewer combined saves than Britton.
Matthew Boyd (SP – DET)
Even before the delay of the 2020 regular season, Matthew Boyd frequently appeared in two conversations: he was an undervalued strikeout machine and he was likely to be traded from the Detroit Tigers at one point during the year. Fast-forwarding to today, it’s hard to imagine either note is true. Boyd has been a complete disaster, and he now has the highest ERA among qualified pitchers at 10.24. The most concerning part is, not surprisingly, his strikeout rate. It has now dipped below its 2018 point, and it calls into question just how legitimate last year was.
Week 4 Hitter Matchup Ratings
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