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2021 Fantasy Baseball: Week 15 Hitting Planner

For the first time in 2 years, we have an All-Star Game. A location change and a short season later, Denver will play host to the mid-summer classic and a dinger party where the likes of Shohei Ohtani, Trey Mancini, Joey Gallo, Pete Alonso, and Juan Soto will compete to win the second Home Run Derby in Coors Field history. But most of you are here for a completely unrelated service: offense for your fantasy baseball team, specifically for a very short week of baseball that begins on Thursday with Red Sox vs. Yankees and Friday for all other teams. 

Welcome back to Hitting Planner, a matchup-focused look into the hitters and lineups you can Pick (start and trust given their schedule the upcoming week) or Fade (consider sitting, avoiding on the waiver wire due to a rough upcoming week of matchups). All players mentioned will generally be around the threshold of either ownership or starting/sitting for your fantasy team. 

As usual, I’ll point out the teams and corresponding players with noticeably poor matchups (the Fades) and noticeably great matchups (the Picks). Let’s get started with Week 15 (Thursday, July 15 — Sunday, July 18). For each team we evaluate, we will note their one opponent of the short week in italics, including the number of times they play. For this week, stats mentioned from the season until now will be up-to-date as of the end of Friday night games. 

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Week 15 Hitting Planner

Fades: Stay Away

Tampa Bay Rays

Opponent: Atlanta Braves (3)

Over the last 30 days, the Braves rank top 10 in ERA and strikeout rate and eleventh in MLB in WHIP as a pitching staff, largely thanks to the top 3 in their starting rotation—Charlie Morton, Max Fried, and Ian Anderson. The Rays will likely face all three out of the All-Star break and there is no reason to force-start any Rays for the short fantasy week. 

Cleveland Indians

Opponent: Oakland Athletics (3)

The Indians just took advantage of an embarrassing Royals pitching staff as they slammed 23 runs in the first three games of the series. However, coming out of the All-Star break, they have no easy path against the Athletics’ pitching staff that ranks top 10 in MLB in ERA and WHIP over the last 30 days. Other than the MVP-caliber talent of José Ramírez, there is no auto-start for your fantasy team out of the Cleveland offense. The Indians will be on the road for this three-game set; as a team, their offense ranks bottom 10 in MLB on the road per OPS and wRC+. 

Pittsburgh Pirates

Opponent: New York Mets (3)

There are two types of people that care about the Pirates offense—contending teams looking to buy at the trade deadline and fantasy baseball owners of the useful pieces. Whether it be Adam Frazier, Bryan Reynolds, or the deep-league steal Jacob Stallings, there isn’t much reason to be excited to start any Pirates’ offensive players in a 3-game Week 15. 

The Mets are one of the best pitching staffs in baseball and the Pirates will likely face NL MVP candidate Jacob deGrom and at least one of Marcus Stroman or Taijuan Walker, each of whom have ERAs below 2.61. With not much production coming out of the Pittsburgh lineup, fantasy production should be at rock-bottom in all formats for any roster-worthy Pirates hitters. 

Picks: Buy-In

Baltimore Orioles

Opponent: Kansas City Royals (3)

Speaking of the Indians taking advantage of a lackluster pitching staff, we’re targeting those exact Royals. Over the last 30 days, the Royals have the second-worst ERA, second-worst WHIP, third-worst xFIP, and fourth-worst SIERA in MLB. On top of that, both Danny Duffy and Mike Minor will likely get starts in Kansas City for the weekend set. The Orioles rank in the top 5 in OPS and wRC+ on the season as an offense against left-handed pitchers like Duffy and Minor. Start All-Star Cedric Mullins of course. Start the high-ceiling talent of Home Run Derby participant Trey Mancini. Start the versatile fantasy asset of Ryan Mountcastle. But take a stab at an under-the-radar outfielder like Austin Hays if you need one in a deeper league. 

Kansas City Royals

Opponent: Baltimore Orioles (3)

Wait… did I just turn the tables? This series is about to cash some overs on the betting market because this is just an abomination of a pitching display waiting to happen. That’s right, I’m targeting not just the Orioles’ offense but also the Orioles’ inability to throw pitches in a competent fashion. 

Over the last 30 days, the Orioles rank in the bottom 3 among MLB pitching staffs in ERA, xFIP, SIERA, and strikeout rate. There is absolutely no reason a major-league offense should struggle against the Orioles. Stack your Royals on offense—the hard-hitting Carlos Santana, the contact machine Whit Merrifield, the Home Run Derby catcher Salvador Perez, and even the power upside of Jorge Soler and the return of a streaky Andrew Benintendi and Michael A. Taylor

New York Mets

Opponent: Pittsburgh Pirates (3)

Moments after targeting the shallow Pirates offense against the powerhouse Mets pitching staff, I’m doubling down on the Mets’ superiority in the series for some additional offensive artillery. Over the last 30 days, the Pirates are a bottom 5 pitching staff per ERA, WHIP, xFIP, and SIERA. It’s simple—a well-rested target practice for the Mets offense is why you should lock in on star hitters Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso but also Dominic Smith, Jonathan Villar, James McCann, Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, and in deeper leagues, you can take a look at Kevin Pillar and Jose Peraza

Chicago Cubs

Opponents: Arizona Diamondbacks (3)

The Cubs might be one of the more untrustworthy offenses in the league outside of their familiar home confines but Arizona is often an exception to the road rule. Not only does Chase Field rank as one of the top 10 offensive ballparks in the big leagues but also the Arizona pitching is just pathetic enough for the Cubs to break out the bats big immediately after the All-Star break. Arguably the worst pitching staff in the big leagues over the last 30 days, every everyday Cubs hitter should be on your radar—trade candidates Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Anthony Rizzo for sure. But also the athletic catcher Willson Contreras, the streaky Joc Pederson, and in deep leagues, take a chance on Ian Happ, Jason Heyward, and the surprise storyline of Patrick Wisdom.

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