We are three full weeks into the 2021 fantasy baseball season and many of us are now warming up with pitching staffs and breakout seasons, and getting a sense of where you might stand early on in your league’s race for a championship. We are back with the 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.
Last week, we introduced a new format to the series where I gave you a series of teams and some borderline-starter-caliber players from those teams with noticeably poor matchups (the Fades) and noticeably great matchups the (Picks). We continue this format in Episode 2 today.
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Week 4 Hitting Planner
Let’s get started with Week 4 (April 26 — May 2). For each team we evaluate, we will note their opponents in italics, including the number of times they play in the week. Stats for the past week are as of the end of Saturday night games.
Fades: Stay Away
Opponents: MIN (3), CWS (3)
The Indians may have avoided the sweep at home against the New York Yankees thanks to a good offensive game, their lineup is far from reliable or matchup-immune. On the subject of matchups and opportunity, the upcoming week will be at loggerheads with the Indians offense. Not only will they have to face the Twins and White Sox, both above-average pitching staffs in terms of ERA and strikeout rate this season, but their week kicks off by facing the dynamic Minnesota 1-2 duo of Kenta Maeda and José Berríos.
Apart from the MVP-caliber talent of José Ramírez, no bat in the Indians lineup is a mandatory start throughout the week. If you can, pick your spots with the power potential of Eddie Rosario and Franmil Reyes and otherwise, look elsewhere to fill needs for your fantasy lineup.
Opponents: MIL (3), WSH (3)
The Marlins haven’t scored more than 5 runs in a game in over a week. They strike out a lot and confuse fantasy managers with production sprinkled around the top of the lineup between Jesús Aguilar, Jazz Chisholm, Miguel Rojas, and Adam Duvall. While some of these bats still provide value in deeper leagues even with Starling Marte still out due to injury, this week is the perfect opportunity to fade them all if you can.
First, Miami has to go on the road to face the electric pitching staff of the Milwaukee Brewers, who rank top 10 in the big leagues in ERA, xFIP, SIERA, and K%. The series will be played at American Family Field, far from a hitter’s paradise. Then, Miami plays a 3-game set on the road against the Washington Nationals, whose pitching staff has been inconsistent but on the rise recently. As an added kicker, the Nationals will likely send perennial Cy Young candidate Max Scherzer to the mound at some point in the series; Scherzer has posted a 1.80 ERA with a nasty 11.9 K/9 pace this season.
Opponents: MIA (3), LAD (4)
Speaking of the Brewers and not hitting, it’s quite realistic to expect another series involving the Brewers where runs are at a premium. That should be the case for their own lineup as well. The Marlins might be a below-average pitching staff as an overall group but the Brewers are going to get the worst end of the bargain in their upcoming series. On Monday, they are set to face sophomore breakout star Trevor Rogers (1.64 ERA, 12.7 K/9 this season). On Wednesday, they face Miami ace Sandy Alcántara (3.34 ERA, 9.7 K/9 this season).
After that brutal task, the Brewers might just start seeing nightmares as the uphill climb becomes monumental facing the superstar-studded Los Angeles Dodgers, owners of a top 5 ERA, xFIP, SIERA, and K% pitching staff. Regardless of who the Dodgers assign to start those games, the Brewers are in for a tough ride and you should fade every human with a Milwaukee jersey other than Christian Yelich, who currently remains out with an injury anyway.
Picks: Buy In
Tampa Bay Rays
Opponents: OAK (4), HOU (3)
The Tampa Bay Rays are hilariously electric for seemingly different reasons every season. So far this year, it has been highlighted by the superstar-caliber play of Joey Wendle for his fantasy owners. Wendle is posting a .343/.366/.582 slash this season and is putting a dimmer on his also-solid teammates Austin Meadows, Randy Arozarena, Manuel Margot, and Brandon Lowe. This week, the Rays might just hit as a team as well as they will all season long.
Facing a full 7-game slate of AL West baseball this week, the Rays face two pitching staffs that rank mediocre to below average in ERA, xFIP, SIERA, and K%. With as deep and healthy Tampa Bay is at the moment, ride their big bats and take some value fliers with deep-league options like Yandy Díaz and Mike Zunino if you need to.
New York Yankees
Opponents: BAL (4), DET (3)
So far this season, the Yankees have been an utter disappointment with their fanbase on what should be their bread and butter — offense. None of their bats have fully lived up to their potential in 2021 but if there’s any time for them to turn it around 180 degrees, it is the upcoming week.
The Bronx Bombers begin the week with a 4-game slate against their favorite punching bag over the last few years, the Baltimore Orioles, who are one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball by talent. Additionally, the Yankees will avoid facing their ace John Means, who pitched to a tune of major success on Sunday against Oakland.
Need something else to watch? In 2019, Gleyber Torres hit 13 HR vs the Orioles, tied for the 2nd-most HR by a player vs a single opponent in a season
He had 5 multi-HR games vs the O's, the most by a player in a season vs a single opp
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) March 23, 2020
The Yankees will then finish their week with a 3-game set at hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium against a hitter-friendly pitching staff known as the Detroit Tigers. Yet again, the Yankees get an added boost; they could completely avoid having to face someone in the staff with major success at the moment — Matthew Boyd. The Tigers, as a team, rank in the bottom 3 in ERA, xFIP, SIERA, and K% on the mound. Of course, you’re going to be starting Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and DJ LeMahieu in redraft leagues. But don’t shy away from any other everyday Yankee bat. Yes, show some faith in new acquisition Rougned Odor. Yes, ride Gio Urshela‘s home run bat from Sunday. Yes, go back to Oriole killer Gleyber Torres to kickstart the good part of his 2021 campaign. Yes, keep Gary Sánchez in the lineup. And if healthy, go back to good ol’ fantasy-reliable Aaron Hicks.
Kansas City Royals
Opponents: DET (1), PIT (2), MIN (3)
Detroit, we meet again. The Tigers will begin their week finishing off a strangely-scheduled series against the Kansas City Royals, whose path shouldn’t get all that much harder immediately afterward. The Pirates, also miserable as a pitching staff, will be the next opportunity for the Kansas City Royals’ inconsistent but high-ceiling offense.
To finish off the week, the Royals will have to face the very-capable Minnesota Twins but you should still trust the Royals, overall given their 6-game slate, especially in deep weekly leagues where you have options that pose versatility — not just the big bats of Whit Merrifield, Carlos Santana, and Salvador Perez. But also the streaky bats of Michael A. Taylor, Nicky Lopez, Andrew Benintendi, and the high-powered Jorge Soler and Hunter Dozier.
Opponents: HOU (4), LAA (3)
The Seattle Mariners continue to impress as a team and offense was clearly going to be their primary identity if they were to have any success. The beauty of it is that while they are led by the star offensive talent of Mitch Haniger, they are getting valuable fantasy seasons from Ty France and Kyle Seager and some streaky production from Taylor Trammell, Jose Marmolejos, J.P. Crawford, Sam Haggerty, Dylan Moore, and Evan White. That second tier of names with players that haven’t opened up the bag completely yet? That’s the group you might want to target this week and it’s all about matchups.
Seattle opens the week with a 4-game set against the Astros, a mediocre pitching staff in 2021 across most categories, and they get to avoid one of Houston’s better starters, Lance McCullers Jr. They close it out by coming back to the familiar confines of T-Mobile Park against an Angels pitching staff that will allow a high ceiling of fantasy production. Despite having the solid veteran Dylan Bundy and the electric Shohei Ohtani, the Angels have the worst pitching staff in Major League Baseball by ERA in 2021. Notably, they are much better as a team per xFIP and SIERA (top 10) but they can clearly be taken advantage of by some high-value Mariners bats in your fantasy lineup.
For more help in preparing for the coming week, check out Eric Cross’s latest fantasy baseball waiver wire.
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