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2021 Fantasy Baseball: Week 23 Hitting Planner

The dog days of the fantasy baseball season; playoff stakes and big money in weekly formats on the line—it’s time to get your lineups right again. Step 0 for the upcoming week: back to matchup-hunting for offensive players.

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 23 (Monday, September 13 — Sunday, September 19). 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 23 Hitting Planner

Fades: Stay Away

Minnesota Twins

Opponents: NYY (1), CLE (3), TOR (3)

One of those strange seven-game weeks that includes a one-off makeup game and a double-header, the Twins are set to complete a sequence where they would have played 13 games in 12 days. They’re gassed and depleted as an offense post-Trade-Deadline. And the matchups are far from exciting. After their quick visit to Yankee Stadium, Minnesota will have to face an Indians pitching staff that has posted the seventh-best ERA in MLB over the last 3 weeks and will send out their rising ace Triston McKenzie (1.80 ERA, .369 OPS against, 30% CSW%, 9.23 K/9 since the beginning of August) to the mound in the series.

Then, after a quick off day on Thursday, they will find out the week on the road in the hostile environment of Rogers Centre to face a Blue Jays team that will send Hyun-Jin Ryu (left-handed), Steven Matz (left-handed), and Alek Manoah to the mound. Over the last 3 weeks, the Twins have posted a .643 OPS and 73 wRC+ against left-handed pitchers, both of which rank bottom 3 in MLB. 

Minnesota’s lineup sees a dreadful floor for the upcoming week—every member of that offense should be avoided in all formats with deeper options and benched in all weeklies.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Opponents: ​​LAD (3), HOU (3)

The Diamondbacks have often been a reliable source of sleeper value for fantasy owners—in an overall unimpressive attempt at a competitive team, their bats have remained fantasy-relevant in spurts, led by their young stud Ketel Marte, who you’re likely starting if you spent non-negligible draft capital on him. But the remaining core of the lineup all remain suspect options in all fantasy formats for the upcoming week.

Over the last 3 weeks, Arizona’s offense has posted a mere .695 OPS and 83 wRC+ on the road, both in the bottom echelon of MLB teams. They are set to face a full six-game set against two playoff teams that take pride in their pitching, including the Dodgers, who have the sole best ERA in the big leagues as a team over the last 3 weeks. 

Picks: Buy In

Boston Red Sox

Opponents: SEA (3), BAL (3)

The Red Sox are in a feisty battle for a Wild Card spot and they have an advantage—most of their very tough matchups are in the past. That’s fantasy relevance at its finest and it begins this week facing two teams that should bring smiles to the faces of fantasy managers of Red Sox hitters.

The Orioles have been bad on the mound all season long but the Mariners pitching has actually been better since the All-Star break; it’s one of the reasons they remain in the playoff hunt. The catch though—four of the six starting pitchers Boston faces this week (Tyler Anderson and Marco Gonzales from the Mariners, Keegan Akin, Zac Lowther) are left-handed. On the season, the Red Sox have posted a .754 OPS (#7 in MLB) and a 102 wRC+ (#11 in MLB) against southpaws

With COVID-19 hitting Boston hard, instead of complaining that the options have recently been slightly limited, grab the value that you can now and stay ahead of the game. I don’t have to tell you to start Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, or Kyle Schwarber in any league because you simply don’t bench your stars. But keep riding the astronomical ceiling of Hunter Renfroe, Alex Verdugo, Enrique Hernandez, the red-hot Bobby Dalbec, and in deeper leagues where you’re in need of a sleeper in a tough position, the catcher Christian Vazquez

Chicago White Sox

Opponents: LAA (3), TEX (3)

The White Sox are electric and their offense is dynamic even in the absence of their franchise shortstop and usual leadoff hitter, Tim Anderson. Things only get easier for them when the matchups are this soft. The Angels and Rangers have both consistently posted well-below statistical numbers on the mound throughout the year (ERA, xFIP, SIERA, K-BB%, etc.) but we’ve got another kicker on this one. Three of the six starters the White Sox face in the upcoming week are left-handed—Packy Naughton (Angels), Kolby Allard (Rangers), and Taylor Hearn (Rangers).

As a lineup, the White Sox have posted an .807 OPS (#10 in MLB) and 124 wRC+ (#5 in MLB) against southpaws over the last 3 weeks. This is a message to leave no stone unturned from the Southsiders’ lineup. Along with the reigning MVP Jose Abreu, you have to start drafted dudes like Cesar Hernandez, Yoan Moncada, Yasmani Grandal, Luis Robert, and Eloy Jimenez. But you have to also quickly pick up on the value of bottom-of-the-barrel guys like Andrew Vaughn if healthy, Leury Garcia as long as Anderson is ruled out and Brian Goodwin if you are able to work some daily platoons.

Miami Marlins

Opponents: WSH (3), PIT (3)

This is probably the easier addition to this week’s hitting planner. Don’t overcomplicate it. The Marlins lineup has fantasy potential despite multiple injuries to their core. Miguel Rojas is still a consistent performer in most leagues. Jazz Chisholm Jr. has an eye-popping ceiling in the power and stolen base departments. And in very deep leagues, you might even take a look at Jesus Sanchez and Bryan De La Cruz. All of them are viable fantasy options with matchups like these.

Over the last 3 weeks, the Nationals and Pirates both rank among the bottom 10 teams in MLB in ERA, xFIP, SIERA, and K-BB% as pitching staffs. If you own a Marlin, it’s probably in your best interest to start them. 

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