2021 Fantasy Baseball: Week 18 Hitting Planner
Now that the madness of the Trade Deadline has passed, fantasy baseball players should be fairly comfortable with new-look rosters and even more experienced with how to pick offensive players to start on a week-to-week basis. For many of you, Step No. 1 each week is to eyeball the juiciest or most appalling matchups for hitters on your team—via this series.
Welcome back to the 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.
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 18 (Monday, August 9 — Sunday, August 15). 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.
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Week 18 Hitting Planner
Fades: Stay Away
Opponents: CHW (3), TBR (3)
While the Twins do have a game on six of the upcoming seven days, all of which at home, the upside from their lineup sees a brutal hit given their opponents. The White Sox and Rays have both been among MLB’s top 10 pitching staffs all season long and have continued their impressive statistical showing after the All-Star break. Minnesota will have to face big-name starters such as Lucas Giolito and Lance Lynn as well as left-handed starters such as Dallas Keuchel, Shane McClanahan, and Josh Fleming.
Since the All-Star break, the Twins as an offense have a .592 OPS and 66 wRC+ against southpaw pitchers, both bottom 3 in MLB. With Nelson Cruz no longer on the squad to aid with run-producing opportunities, there just aren’t enough reasons to trust any Minnesota Twins for a full week with this slate.
Los Angeles Angels
Opponents: TOR (4), HOU (3)
Another busy week of baseball—this time it’s the Angels who play on each of the seven days in the upcoming week. The issue is that most of those days should be rough sledding in the batter’s box for them. The Angels open the week with a four-game set against Toronto where they will likely see Alek Manoah (2.58 ERA, 10.3 K/9 this season) and José Berríos (0.75 ERA, 9.75 K/9 in 2 starts as a Blue Jay). Then, they will face a Houston Astros team that will expect right-handers Zack Greinke, Luis García, and Lance McCullers Jr. to toe the rubber. All of this will happen at the Angels’ home stadium.
“Anthony Rendon will undergo season ending surgery to repair a right hip impingement. Additional information will be provided as appropriate.”
— Angels PR (@LAAngelsPR) August 4, 2021
Since the All-Star break, the Angels are a bottom 5 offense in MLB per OPS and wRC+ against right-handed pitchers and a bottom 10 offense in MLB per OPS and wRC+ at home. With Anthony Rendon now out for the year and Mike Trout still not ready for a return this week, the Angels’ run-production potential for fantasy owners tastes bitter and with the upcoming matchups, simply ugly for players not named Shohei Ohtani.
Opponents: TEX (3), TOR (3)
Normally, this is the part of the Hitting Planner I’m transitioning into my picks to click and I’m getting ready to target the Rangers’ pitching ineptitude. But hold the phone, this segment is about the Mariners’ week as a whole. Indeed, they face the inexperienced Spencer Howard and the homer-prone Mike Foltynewicz in a divisional series hosting Texas. But for fantasy purposes, you need run production and consistency for a week. Taking into account a three-game set against Toronto where Seattle has to face Robbie Ray, Hyun-jin Ryu, and Steven Matz, the upside is lacking for the Mariners offense.
As a team, the Mariners are a below-average team against southpaws like Ray, Ryu, Matz, and their first Texas opponent—Kolby Allard. Additionally, they are a below average offense at T-Mobile Park, their pitcher-friendly home. Start high-stock assets like Mitch Haniger and Kyle Seager. But be wary of all other Mariners, even big 2021 performers like Ty France, who has posted a mediocre 0.795 OPS against left-handed pitchers at home this season.
Picks: Buy In
Kansas City Royals
Opponents: NYY (3), STL (3)
The Royals are not a playoff-relevant team but offensive talent certainly hasn’t been their No. 1 issue. They still start Whit Merrifield, Carlos Santana, and Salvador Pérez, all fantasy-relevant bats. In deeper leagues, you might look into Andrew Benintendi when healthy or even Nicky Lopez, Michael A. Taylor, or Hunter Dozier. On first look, you might think this is a risky buy considering the talent in the Yankees’ pitching staff that has them as one of the best statistical pitching teams since the All-Star break.
But a closer look at the schedule shows that the Yankees might be scrambling for starters for this series after Jameson Taillon’s start on Monday. Is an opener day in line for them? Who knows? The Royals know that they’ll be at home for that series and another 3-game set against the Cardinals where they will face Kwang-hyun Kim, Jon Lester, and J.A. Happ, all highly volatile left-handed pitchers.
Since the All-Star break, the Royals have the fourth-best OPS and wRC+ as an offense against left-handed pitchers at home. Start all the Royals in weekly formats for the upside against a reeling Cardinals team.
Opponents: BAL (3), CLE (3)
The Tigers have been one of the pleasant surprises of the league since the All-Star break, heavily due to their offensive firepower. With the rise of fantasy studs like Eric Haase, the reliable bats of Jonathan Schoop, Robbie Grossman, and Jeimer Candelario, and in deeper leagues, Akil Baddoo and Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers should be a lineup to cherrypick from in the upcoming week. The Orioles and Indians both rank well below average in MLB as pitching staffs in ERA, xFIP, SIERA, and strikeout rate. Start those aforementioned Tigers.
St. Louis Cardinals
Opponents: PIT (3), KCR (3)
Back to the ol’ reliables—when all else fails, snigger at the pitching in Pittsburgh and Kansas City. The Pirates, as usual, rank among the league’s worst as a pitching staff in ERA, xFIP, SIERA, and strikeout rate. The Royals? They’ve been around middle-of-the-pack. Regardless, the Cardinals will get undaunting matchups to face for a 6-game slate next week. No doubt you’ll be doing the obvious and starting Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt. But keep riding the switch-hit bat of Dylan Carlson despite his worrisome July. Starting the versatile fantasy asset, Tommy Edman. Buy into the power upside of Tyler O’Neill. And in deep leagues, if you’re desperate at catcher or shortstop, take a chance on Yadier Molina or Paul DeJong, respectively.
Opponents: CLE (1), ATL (3), PHI (3)
A full seven-game slate with three different opponents? A rarity but a good one for us in this case. While Joey Votto has been on another planet over the last several days, Nicholas Castellanos has also made his way back to the lineup and facing some easier matchups has paid dividends for the Cincinnati offense.
While they might not continue beating up on teams like they did with the Pirates, the fantasy baseball value is there for multiple members of the lineup. Both the Braves and Phillies matchups prove to be unintimidating ones as both teams rank in the mediocre tier as pitching staffs in xFIP and SIERA. On top of that, all seven Reds games in the upcoming week will be on the road. Since the All-Star break, the Reds have hit at a .931 OPS and 145 wRC+ on the road; both numbers are by far #1 in baseball in that span.
Of course, you are starting All-Stars Jesse Winker and Nicholas Castellanos. Of course, you aren’t getting off the Joey Votto hype train at the moment. But of course, take advantage of the on-base machine Jonathan India. And in deeper leagues, take a chance on Eugenio Suárez, Tyler Naquin, and under-the-radar talent Kyle Farmer.
🧑🌾Since July 1 (w/ rank among #MLB qualifiers)⬇️
🐕 OPS: 1.085 (#6)
🐕 wRC+: 186 (#5)
🐕 WPA/LI: 1.19 (#10)
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) August 8, 2021
Opponents: CHC (4), PIT (3)
Another seven-game slate—another one we can take advantage of. The Brewers are primarily known for their elite pitching, rightfully so. But with the addition of Willy Adames and his breakout on the new team, their lineup is no joke either and definitely good enough to do some damage against these soft matchups. Both the Cubs and Pirates rank in the bottom 10 in MLB as pitching staffs in ERA, xFIP, SIERA, and strikeout rate. A full week facing off against that? Yes, please.
Start the latest addition to the team, Eduardo Escobar. Keep riding the MVP-caliber play of Willy Adames. Start Avisail Garcia and his power upside. But in the infield, take advantage of Luis Urías and at the tricky catcher position, start the All-Star Omar Narváez. And yes, of course, keep playing former MVP Christian Yelich now that he has been reinstated from the COVID-19 list.
San Francisco Giants
Opponents: ARI (2), COL (4)
Speaking of World Series contenders, how about arguably the biggest surprise of the season in the Giants, who just became the first team in 2021 to 70 wins? You can keep sleeping on the Giants and their exciting offense at your own peril—but you’re smart, you read the Hitting Planner. San Francisco continues to get opportunities to show off their talents against a 6-game slate where they face the Diamondbacks and the Rockies, both well below-average pitching staffs all season long. Sadly, they won’t be able to do so on the road in hitter-friendly havens. But with the Giants’ track record this season, who cares? San Francisco ranks in the top 10 in MLB as a home offense per both OPS and wRC+ since the All-Star Break.
Fire up the latest addition to the team, Kris Bryant. Keep riding the oldest everyday shortstop in baseball, Brandon Crawford. Start the consistent, powerful bat of Mike Yastrzemski. Utilize the versatility of Wilmer Flores. And of course, who can forget good ol’ Mr. Reliable Buster Posey? It’s 2021 but he’s still a great start and an even better one this upcoming week.
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