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2021 Fantasy Baseball: Week 17 Hitting Planner

Anybody know if anything important happened in the baseball world this week? In case you didn’t hear, over 50 (!) trades went down during a seemingly historic MLB Trade Deadline week. Several superstars changed teams and in a berserk seller’s market, many front office decisions shocked the world. Trevor Story is still a Colorado Rockie. The 2016 Cubs core is no more. The recent World Series champion Nationals are history. The list goes on. While my man Ryan is still grinding looking for newfound value in DFS, my work in this series continues as well with several new-look offensive lineups. 

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Week 17 Hitting Planner

Welcome to a peculiar edition of Hitting Planner, a matchup-focused look into the hitters and lineups you can Pick (start and trust given their schedule for 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 and several players are in brand new situations so make sure you are caught up and find the best matchups which may look a bit different entering August. 

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 17 (Monday, August 2 — Sunday, August 8). For each team we evaluate, we will note their opponents for the 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. 

Fades: Stay Away

Minnesota Twins

Opponents: CIN (2), HOU (4)

It’s no surprise that, after trading fine wine power hitter Nelson Cruz to the Rays, the run-scoring productivity of the Minnesota lineup has taken a punch in the gut. Still, they managed to hold on to a good bit of their offensive core and currently send out Jorge Polanco, Josh Donaldson, Max Kepler, Miguel Sano, Luis Arráez, Andrelton Simmons, Trevor Larnach, and Mitch Garver as healthy options for fantasy leagues.

The issue is that none of those bats should get you excited for the upcoming week of offense. Not only do they have to face some high-talent starting pitching in Tyler Mahle, Luis Castillo, Framber Valdez, Zack Greinke, Luis Garcia, and Lance McCullers Jr. but each of those games will also be away from the Twins’ home of Target Field. Since the beginning of July, the Twins offense has one of the most polarizing home-away splits in the league. While they are a top offense in Minnesota, they rank bottom 10 in MLB this month in both OPS and wRC+ on the road. That’s a red alert for the upcoming slate of six games. 

Kansas City Royals

Opponents: CHW (3), STL (3)

With the Royals completely out of the postseason picture in the American League, it was obvious that their front office will be on the selling side of the active market. Yet, they actually stayed put on much of their offensive core, keeping Whit Merrifield, Carlos Santana, Andrew Benintendi, Hunter Dozier, Nicky Lopez, Michael Taylor, Hanser Alberto, and franchise player Salvador Perez. But don’t be fooled—they aren’t likely to have a good time during the upcoming 6-game slate. 

The Royals start their week in Chicago facing a daunting White Sox starting rotation that sends out Dylan Cease, Lucas Giolito, and AL Cy Young candidate Carlos Rodón. They do have an easier task in their second series of the week against the Cardinals, but hold the phone. All six of their games this week are away from their home at Kauffman Stadium. 

Like the Twins, the Royals are a bottom 10 offense in MLB in the month of July per both OPS and wRC+ on the road. 

Oakland Athletics

Opponents: SDP (2), TEX (3)

The Texas Rangers have been a punching bag of the Hitting Planner for a good portion of the season. Surely I’ve made a mistake here? No, I know exactly what I’m doing. For starters, if you are in weekly formats where you must set your lineups before game time on Monday, there isn’t much of a reason to bother with any Athletics if you have any similar-caliber options elsewhere as they will only play five games on the week while the majority of the league will play at least six. 

To pile on the bad news, the first two of those games will be an interleague matchup against the World Series contender San Diego Padres that are scheduled to send former AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell to the mound on Tuesday and Joe Musgrove to the mound on Wednesday. The final kicker? I warned you about the Twins and Royals because of their scheduling on the road. Flipping the script here, the Athletics play all of their games this week against at home. RingCentral Coliseum continues to be a mediocre setting for offenses and their own team has fallen victim to that this season. In July, the Athletics hit at a .651 OPS and 87 wRC+ at home, both good for bottom 3 as a home offense in MLB.

Of course, you must start the premium bat of Matt Olson that cost you a fortune to acquire. But is it really worth starting anybody else in that lineup for a whole week? Regardless of the low floor of the Rangers’ pitching staff, the answer here is no—stay away from those high-risk Athletics. 

Arizona Diamondbacks

Opponents: SFG (4), SDP (3)

While the Diamondbacks have very little motivation to win baseball games at this point in the season, they still clearly have enough talent to create some offense and display relevance in the fantasy world. Even with Josh Rojas on the injured list, Pavin Smith on the COVID-19 list, and Eduardo Escobar traded, Arizona features bats such as David Peralta, Asdrubal Cabrera, Nick Ahmed, Christian Walker, Ketel Marte, Daulton Varsho, Josh VanMeter, and the return of Carson Kelly can help your fantasy team during the rest of the season, depending on the depth of your league. 

But not this week—despite having the benefit of a packed 7-game slate, the opponents are anything but easy to handle. Arizona’s week starts against the Giants for a four-game set. As a pitching staff, the Giants rank top 6 in MLB in ERA, xFIP, SIERA, and strikeout rate in July. The week finishes against the San Diego Padres, one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, and will be on the road for the Diamondbacks. Arizona’s offense ranks bottom 10 in both OPS and wRC+ in MLB this month

Picks: Buy In

New York Yankees

Opponents: BAL (3), SEA (4)

While this season has been anything but kind for the Bronx Bombers, most Yankee fans got what they wanted from their front office at the trade deadline—some aggressive action, including mega-deals for left-handed bats Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo, with the former already proving a fruitful addition to the Yankees’ immediate need to produce runs in clutch situations. 

For fantasy purposes, all we care about is whether the dudes on your team can continue to produce in future—doesn’t matter what they’ve done. The claim here is that things shouldn’t get much harder in the upcoming week, not just for Rizzo but for everybody else benefiting from an upgraded lineup and mediocrity on the opposing team’s mound.

The Orioles continue to rank as one of the worst statistical pitching staffs in baseball outside of John Means, who the Yankees will completely avoid in their three-game set. As for the Mariners, they do have a few bright spots in their pitching staff recently but one of them (rookie Logan Gilbert) is not scheduled to start against the Yankees. To further press the motivation to eyeball the Yankees lineup, each of their seven games this upcoming week will be played with the short porch in good ol’ Yankee Stadium, one of the best-advertised venues to mash in the sport. 

Obviously, start superstar hitters Aaron Judge and new acquisition Joey Gallo. But keep riding the hot start of Anthony Rizzo in a Yankee jersey. Trust in the veteran DJ LeMahieu if healthy. Start the high-power bat of Giancarlo Stanton—just don’t watch the games when he’s attempting to run down fly balls in the outfield! And trust in the gory duo of Gary Sánchez and Gleyber Torres. Golden opportunities to utilize their upside don’t come by every week. Take advantage. 

Cincinnati Reds

Opponents: MIN (2), PIT (4)

The Reds have been playing well as of late, partly because future Hall-of-Famer Joey Votto decided to put up a historic streak a month before turning 38 years old for old time’s sake. 

While Votto is certainly unlikely to continue swinging the bat at a level this prolific, the Reds offense is still an excellent one to target for fantasy upside this upcoming week. Cincinnati starts the week with a 2-game interleague set against Minnesota. Granted, Game 1 will be against the skillful 2020 AL Cy Young runner-up Kenta Maeda who pitched to the tune of a 2.15 ERA and .523 opponent OPS in July. But that’s about it when it comes to challenges for the Reds on the week.

The Minnesota bullpen has been one of the most unreliable in the sport all season long; on Wednesday, the Reds will likely face a bullpen day for the Twins. After the Reds hope to take care of business against Minnesota, they get a four-game slate against one of our favorite laughing stocks of MLB—the Pirates pitching staff that somehow got even weaker after trading Tyler Anderson to the Mariners. The Pirates are simply one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball, an easy target for our Hitting Planner.

It would be a crime to bench Joey Votto at the moment until further notice; obviously, start him. But make sure you keep an eye on the health of Nicholas Castellanos and start him if he’s playing. And if Castellanos starts, that’s just more reason to take advantage of a bolstered lineup and start ‘em all—Jesse Winker, Jonathan India, Eugenio Suárez, Tyler Naquin, and even underrated streaky bats like Kyle Farmer and Tyler Stephenson. Fire up those Reds for the week’s slate.

Thanks for checking out this week’s article. Be sure to check out Eric Cross’s updated Top Fantasy Baseball Prospects.

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