Fantasy Forecaster updated Monday, April 26 at 9:28 a.m. ET.
On tap: It's a week of notable fantasy names hitting the comeback trail, as No. 51 pick overall (according to average draft position) Cliff Lee rejoins the Seattle Mariners' rotation, among others. Lee returns for a Friday start versus the division rival Texas Rangers. He's not the only big name returning: The Boston Red Sox will welcome Daisuke Matsuzaka back to their rotation late in the week, either on Saturday or Sunday, bumping Tim Wakefield to the bullpen. Dice-K will battle the Baltimore Orioles in a road start in his 2010 debut.
In other injury-related news, the Cleveland Indians and Philadelphia Phillies might get their 2009 closers back, as Kerry Wood and Brad Lidge are set to wrap up rehabilitation stints at some point during fantasy Week 4. Lidge isn't expected to close right away, however, so be cautious about rushing him back into your lineup. Finally, the Rangers might get Ian Kinsler back this week, right in time for a fantasy-friendly seven-game week including three-game series versus the Chicago White Sox and at the Seattle Mariners.
The chart below lists each of the 30 MLB teams' schedules and projected starting pitchers, and provides a matchup rating for each day's starter. Pitchers scheduled to start twice this week are in color-coded boxes.
P: The starting pitcher's matchup rating, which accounts for past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days), opponent and ballpark. Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst.
• The Chicago White Sox have the unenviable task of making stops at Texas' Rangers Ballpark and New York's Yankee Stadium, two comparably homer-friendly environments to the team's home ballpark, U.S. Cellular Field. The White Sox's rotation is off to a terrible start, with a 5.58 ERA that ranks 26th in the majors, and to date Gavin Floyd, Freddy Garcia and Jake Peavy -- three-fifths of the rotation -- has not been pitching well enough to help fantasy owners. Tread with caution if you own any of these guys, as John Danks is the only certain White Sox must-start in Week 4.
• Conversely, the Yankees and Rangers have favorable pitching matchups, as the White Sox rank 26th in terms of team OPS (.666) as an offense. The Yankees, meanwhile, play a three-game road series versus an ice-cold Baltimore Orioles offense, and the Rangers play a three-game road series versus the light-hitting Seattle Mariners (.668). Phil Hughes, coming off a near-no-hitter in his most recent start, is a standout two-start option in Week 4, while C.J. Wilson is worth a look in his two starts versus the White Sox and Mariners.
• Six home games for the St. Louis Cardinals might be the most favorable pitching schedule of them all, especially if you take into account the team's 3.85 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in games at Busch Stadium since its opening in 2006. Chris Carpenter (2.12), Adam Wainwright (2.61) and closer Ryan Franklin (2.97) all have sub-3 career ERAs at Busch, but it's Kyle Lohse who seems to get the most significant advantage there of any Cardinals pitcher. He's 13-7 with a 3.42 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 31 career starts at the venue.
• Load up on Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers, too, despite the fact that they have a 5.52 ERA, fourth-worst in the majors so far. Three games at New York's Citi Field followed by four back home versus the Pittsburgh Pirates, both of those opponents ranking among the 10 worst offenses in the majors, represents an extremely favorable pitching schedule.
For more insight into Week 4 pitching matchups, see my rankings for every scheduled starter at column's end.
The chart below lists each of the 30 teams' total number of scheduled games, home games and games versus right- and left-handed pitchers, and provides a matchup rating for the week's games in terms of overall offense, offense versus left- and right-handed pitchers and base stealing. Matchup ratings for each individual game are listed under the corresponding date.
H: Hitters' matchup rating, which accounts for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days) as well as ballpark factors. L: Hitters' matchup rating accounting only for left-handed hitters. R: Hitters' matchup rating accounting for only right-handed hitters. S: Base stealing matchup rating, which accounts for the opponent's catchers' ability to gun down opposing base stealers. Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst.
• It's a good week to own hitters who call the American League East their home, as you can see the Red Sox, Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays all rate a "6" or above in Week 4. The Rays' schedule, despite earning that group-low 6, might have the highest upside of the bunch, because it'll be played entirely at home. Consider that the Rays have averaged 5.1 runs per game with .273/.355/.450 (AVG/OBP/SLG) rates at Tropicana Field since the beginning of the 2008 season, with Jason Bartlett (.304/.363/.405) and Carlos Pena (.275/.410/.590) especially productive there during the course of their careers. But don't shortchange the Yankees, who make a three-game stop at Baltimore's Camden Yards, a familiar and welcomed vacationing spot of theirs, to begin the week. During the past five seasons, the Yankees have clubbed 69 home runs and scored 264 runs in 46 games there (averages of 1.5 and 5.7 per game), while managing .281/.363/.470 rates as a team. Robinson Cano absolutely loves hitting at Camden Yards, with .331/.363/.550 rates there since 2005.
• With the Pirates' rotation in such disarray, the Dodgers, who host them for four games to conclude Week 4, stand out as one of the week's top offensive picks. Don't fret about the three-game series at New York's Citi Field to open the week, because two of their three opponents will be Oliver Perez and John Maine, who have demonstrated in the past their unpredictable natures. Six Dodgers regulars had OPS greater than .800 entering Friday's game, so expect the hot hitting to continue.
• Like the Rays at Tropicana Field, the Chicago Cubs seem to step up their game as an offense when scheduled for an entire week at Wrigley Field. Since 2008, the Cubs have averaged 5.2 runs and 1.2 home runs per game at Wrigley, and as a team have .278/.356/.449 numbers. Derrek Lee (.301/.377/.553) and Aramis Ramirez (.341/.437/.591) have excelled in home games during that span, but what about Ryan Theriot, whose .303/.359/.384 home-game stats also make him a standout pick?
• The Florida Marlins also play a full week's worth of home games, and while Sun Life Stadium might lean more toward pitchers than hitters, matchups versus the San Diego Padres' and Washington Nationals' pitching staffs should play to their benefit. Cameron Maybin (.284/.342/.388) and Gaby Sanchez (.280/.379/.480) are off to hot starts and continue to be worthwhile fantasy choices.
Now, let's take a look at some Week 4 sleepers:
Ike Davis, 1B, New York Mets: If you've picked him up, surely you should be using him for so long as he can keep up the hot hitting. Davis, a left-handed hitter, has started all four games he has been on the roster so far, including one versus a fellow lefty, but this week there isn't much platoon worry anyway because the Mets face five right-handed starters in six games. Three games at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park certainly look tempting, too.
Casey McGehee, 2B/3B, Milwaukee Brewers: A few fantasy owners still aren't on the McGehee bandwagon, and if you're not, mark this down as a definite week to pick him up and start him. The Brewers are scheduled to face four left-handed starters this week, and he's a (.310/.394/.522) hitter against lefties.
Magglio Ordonez, OF, Detroit Tigers: Once an elite, no-doubt-about-it fantasy stud, Ordonez has looked a lot like his former All-Star self thus far, managing .292/.378/.523 numbers through his first 16 games. But the reason you want to pick him this week has even more to do with the Tigers battling three left-handed starters as it does his hot streak; since the beginning of last season, Ordonez has .353/.423/.538 numbers versus southpaws.
Colby Rasmus, OF, St. Louis Cardinals: He's 7-for-16 (.438 AVG) with three homers and seven RBIs in his past four games, and you definitely want to ride that hot streak. After all, the Cardinals play seven home games entirely against right-handed starters, and in his career, Rasmus is a .283/.348/.489 hitter against righties.
Justin Smoak, 1B, Texas Rangers: Like Davis, Smoak is the kind of player you don't pick up merely to plop on your bench. He's not up here to sit for the Rangers, and since he was already lighting up Triple-A to the tune of .300/.470/.540 numbers in 15 games, why can't he stay comparably hot in the majors? Four home games to begin the week should help ease him into life at this level.
Chris Snyder, C, Arizona Diamondbacks: It's all about the venues, because Snyder is a .300/.396/.433 hitter in 28 career games at Colorado's Coors Field, and a .282/.349/.538 hitter in 11 career games at Chicago's Wrigley Field, and those are the two ballparks the Diamondbacks will visit in Week 4 (three at Coors, four at Wrigley).
Mark Teahen, 3B/OF, Chicago White Sox: Small sample sizes, yes, but they bear noting, and that's that Teahen is a lifetime .313/.304/.478 hitter in 17 games at Rangers Ballpark and 4-for-9 (.444 AVG) with one home run in three games at Yankee Stadium. He's off to a moderately hot start, too, so continue using him in deeper leagues.
Chris Young, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks: Ditto Snyder, because Young has thrived at both Coors and Wrigley throughout his young career. He's a .323/.407/.606 hitter in 26 career games at the former, and a .250/.351/.656 hitter in nine career games at the latter.
Amazing weather we've been having so far, isn't it? So far not a single rainout, and only one game thus far -- an April 16 affair at Yankee Stadium -- has been shortened by the elements. Of course you know this means the skies are just itching to open up on us, and sure enough, there are six games scheduled in Baltimore, six in New York (three apiece for the Mets and Yankees) and three in Philadelphia, cities that routinely have to deal with rain in April. The Mets, in fact, face chances of rain at 60, 40 and 30 percent in their first three games of the week, and the Orioles have a 40 percent chance of rain Tuesday. Don't be surprised if there is a postponement or two early in the week.
Weatherproof games: Reds at Astros (3, Tue-Thu); Red Sox at Blue Jays (3, Mon-Wed); Athletics at Blue Jays (4, Thu-Sun); Pirates at Brewers (3, Mon-Wed); Rangers at Mariners (3, Fri-Sun); Athletics at Rays (2, Tue-Wed); Royals at Rays (4, Thu-Sun).
Rankings take into account several factors: The pitcher's raw talent, historical and recent performance; number of starts; strength of opponent(s); and ballpark factors. Be aware that different leagues might emphasize different pitching statistics that could change these rankings slightly. These are based upon a fairly standard rotisserie scoring system, like ESPN's.
1. Roy Halladay (PHI) -- Mon-@SF (Sanchez), Sat-NYM (Pelfrey)
2. Chris Carpenter (STL) -- Tue-ATL (Lowe), Sun-CIN (Harang)
3. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Mon-@KC (Davies), Sat-TEX (Harrison)
4. Dan Haren (ARI) -- Mon-@COL (Hammel), Sat-@CHC (Silva)
5. Zack Greinke (KC) -- Tue-SEA (Snell), Sun-@TB (Davis)
6. Phil Hughes (NYY) -- Tue-@BAL (Millwood), Sun-CHW (Buehrle)
7. Francisco Liriano (MIN) -- Tue-@DET (Verlander), Sun-@CLE (Huff)
8. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Mon-CLE (Huff), Sun-@DET (Verlander)
9. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Mon-PIT (Duke), Sat-@SD (Latos)
10. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Wed-PHI (Hamels)
11. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Thu-ATL (Jurrjens)
12. Josh Beckett (BOS) -- Mon-@TOR (Eveland), Sun-@BAL (Millwood)
13. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Tue-MIN (Liriano), Sun-LAA (Weaver)
14. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Wed-@BAL (Guthrie)
15. Ubaldo Jimenez (COL) -- Tue-ARI (Jackson)
16. Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- Fri-HOU (Rodriguez)
17. Jonathan Sanchez (SF) -- Mon-PHI (Halladay), Sun-COL (Hammel)
18. Randy Wolf (MIL) -- Tue-PIT (TBD), Sun-@SD (Garland)
19. Hiroki Kuroda (LAD) -- Mon-@NYM (Perez), Sat-PIT (Duke)
20. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Mon-@STL (Lohse), Sat-HOU (Myers)
21. Matt Garza (TB) -- Thu-KC (Hochevar)
22. Josh Johnson (FLA) -- Mon-SD (Latos)
23. Wade Davis (TB) -- Tue-OAK (Sheets), Sun-KC (Greinke)
24. Roy Oswalt (HOU) -- Thu-CIN (Arroyo)
25. Ricky Nolasco (FLA) -- Fri-WAS (Stammen)
26. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Thu-PIT (TBD)
27. Ben Sheets (OAK) -- Tue-@TB (Davis), Sun-@TOR (Marcum)
28. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Wed-@TOR (Cecil)
29. Johan Santana (NYM) -- Tue-LAD (Haeger)
30. Mark Buehrle (CHW) -- Tue-@TEX (Wilson), Sun-@NYY (Hughes)
31. C.J. Wilson (TEX) -- Tue-CHW (Buehrle), Sun-@SEA (Fister)
32. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Wed-@SF (Lincecum)
33. Brett Anderson (OAK) -- Fri-@TOR (Morrow)
34. David Price (TB) -- Sat-KC (Davies)
35. Matt Cain (SF) -- Sat-COL (De La Rosa)
36. Derek Lowe (ATL) -- Tue-@STL (Carpenter), Sun-HOU (Norris)
37. Ryan Dempster (CHC) -- Wed-WAS (Atilano)
38. A.J. Burnett (NYY) -- Thu-@BAL (Matusz)
39. James Shields (TB) -- Wed-OAK (Braden)
40. Ricky Romero (TOR) -- Thu-OAK (Duchscherer)
41. Randy Wells (CHC) -- Fri-ARI (Lopez)
42. John Danks (CHW) -- Sat-@NYY (Vazquez)
43. Mat Latos (SD) -- Mon-@FLA (Johnson), Sat-MIL (Gallardo)
44. Justin Duchscherer (OAK) -- Thu-@TOR (Romero)
45. Wandy Rodriguez (HOU) -- Fri-@ATL (Hanson)
46. John Lackey (BOS) -- Fri-@BAL (Hernandez)
47. Jorge De La Rosa (COL) -- Sat-@SF (Cain)
48. Scott Baker (MIN) -- Wed-@DET (Scherzer)
49. Jaime Garcia (STL) -- Wed-ATL (Kawakami)
50. Kevin Slowey (MIN) -- Sat-@CLE (Masterson)
51. Joel Pineiro (LAA) -- Fri-@DET (Porcello)
52. Shaun Marcum (TOR) -- Tue-BOS (Buchholz), Sun-OAK (Sheets)
53. Javier Vazquez (NYY) -- Sat-CHW (Danks)
54. Cliff Lee (SEA) -- Fri-TEX (Lewis)
55. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Wed-MIN (Baker)
56. Brad Penny (STL) -- Fri-CIN (Cueto)
57. Andy Pettitte (NYY) -- Fri-CHW (Garcia)
58. Tom Gorzelanny (CHC) -- Tue-WAS (Hernandez), Sun-ARI (Jackson)
59. Jake Peavy (CHW) -- Wed-@TEX (Harden)
60. Colby Lewis (TEX) -- Fri-@SEA (Lee)
61. Jeff Niemann (TB) -- Fri-KC (Bannister)
62. Ted Lilly (CHC) -- Thu-ARI (Kennedy)
63. Ervin Santana (LAA) -- Wed-CLE (Westbrook)
64. Clay Buchholz (BOS) -- Tue-@TOR (Marcum)
65. Brett Myers (HOU) -- Sat-@ATL (Hudson)
66. Edwin Jackson (ARI) -- Tue-@COL (Jimenez), Sun-@CHC (Gorzelanny)
67. Jair Jurrjens (ATL) -- Thu-@STL (Wainwright)
68. Barry Zito (SF) -- Fri-COL (Cook)
69. Brian Matusz (BAL) -- Thu-NYY (Burnett)
70. Kyle Lohse (STL) -- Mon-ATL (Hudson), Sat-CIN (Bailey)
71. Brandon Morrow (TOR) -- Fri-OAK (Anderson)
72. Dallas Braden (OAK) -- Wed-@TB (Shields)
73. Chad Billingsley (LAD) -- Fri-PIT (Morton)
74. Bronson Arroyo (CIN) -- Thu-@HOU (Oswalt)
75. Scott Feldman (TEX) -- Thu-CHW (Floyd)
Two-start pitchers for deep leagues:
Dana Eveland (TOR) -- Mon-BOS (Beckett), Sat-OAK (Gonzalez)
Jon Garland (SD) -- Tue-@FLA (Sanchez), Sun-MIL (Wolf)
Charlie Haeger (LAD) -- Tue-@NYM (Santana), Sun-PIT (TBD)
Jason Hammel (COL) -- Mon-ARI (Haren), Sun-@SF (Sanchez)
Jamie Moyer (PHI) -- Tue-@SF (Wellemeyer), Sun-NYM (Perez)
Carlos Silva (CHC) -- Mon-WAS (Lannan), Sat-ARI (Haren)
Dave Bush (MIL) -- Fri-@SD (Richard)
Mike Leake (CIN) -- Wed-@HOU (Paulino)
Wade LeBlanc (SD) -- Thu-MIL (Davis)
Clayton Richard (SD) -- Fri-MIL (Bush)
Nate Robertson (FLA) -- Sat-WAS (Olsen)
Anibal Sanchez (FLA) -- Tue-SD (Garland)
Chris Volstad (FLA) -- Sun-WAS (Lannan)
No-thank-yous, among two-start pitchers:
Jeremy Bonderman (DET) -- Mon-@TEX (Harrison), Sat-LAA (Kazmir)
Kyle Davies (KC) -- Mon-SEA (Hernandez), Sat-@TB (Price)
Zach Duke (PIT) -- Mon-@MIL (Gallardo), Sat-@LAD (Kuroda)
Aaron Harang (CIN) -- Tue-@HOU (Norris), Sun-@STL (Carpenter)
Matt Harrison (TEX) -- Mon-DET (Bonderman), Sat-@SEA (Hernandez)
David Huff (CLE) -- Mon-@LAA (Weaver), Sun-MIN (Liriano)
John Lannan (WAS) -- Mon-@CHC (Silva), Sun-@FLA (Volstad)
Kevin Millwood (BAL) -- Tue-NYY (Hughes), Sun-BOS (Beckett)
Bud Norris (HOU) -- Tue-CIN (Harang), Sun-@ATL (Lowe)
Oliver Perez (NYM) -- Mon-LAD (Kuroda), Sun-@PHI (Moyer)
Tristan H. Cockcroft is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com and a two-time champion of the League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) experts league. You can e-mail him here, or follow him on Twitter @SultanofStat.