Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, June 20 at 10:50 a.m. ET.
On tap: Interleague play concludes its final week by featuring appealing matchups like New York Yankees at Los Angeles Dodgers (a frequent World Series matchup throughout baseball history), Boston Red Sox at Colorado Rockies (a rematch of the 2007 World Series), Minnesota Twins at New York Mets (in which Johan Santana will face his former team) and "traditional rivalries" like Chicago Cubs at Chicago White Sox, Dodgers at Los Angeles Angels and Houston Astros at Texas Rangers. Of course, and as always, the schedulers give us such exciting series as Seattle Mariners at Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates at Oakland Athletics and Kansas City Royals at Washington Nationals. (Well, at least Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to pitch in that last one.)
Among individual matchups, Roy Halladay will face his former team for the first time since his winter trade, starting against the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday. And if you put heavy emphasis on year-to-date statistics, then perhaps you'll be comparably excited about Carlos Silva's visit to Seattle to face his former team on Thursday? It's a good matchup, that's for sure. A note about that Blue Jays series: While the Blue Jays will be the "home" team in those three games, they'll actually be played in Philadelphia; security concerns surrounding the G20 Summit, held in Ontario the same weekend, forced the series to be moved to Philadelphia and played under American League rules.
With interleague play, obviously, comes designated-hitter implications. American League teams won't have 'em in National League ballparks, and NL teams add 'em in AL venues. Before we start with the matchups, let's do a quick rundown of the hitters potentially affected. AL teams losing the DH are listed first, then NL teams gaining the DH, and the number of affected games are in parentheses.
AL teams losing their DH:
Red Sox (6 games): David Ortiz might sneak in a start at first base, especially since the Red Sox will face five right-handed starters, but for the most part he's probably going to be a pinch hitter this week.
Cleveland Indians (6): Travis Hafner hasn't played a game at first base since June 24, 2007. At best, he might get six pinch-hit appearances.
Detroit Tigers (6): Johnny Damon actually started ahead of Austin Jackson in center field twice during the Tigers' road interleague series from May 21-23, and with Brennan Boesch red-hot, that might be the arrangement again.
Royals (3): Usual DH Jose Guillen played right field with David DeJesus shifting to center field from June 11-13 at Cincinnati, and that could be the arrangement again, with Mitch Maier the one losing out.
Twins (6): With Delmon Young red-hot, the Twins' outfielders, plus usual DH Jason Kubel, might have to rotate their days off.
Yankees (6): Jorge Posada might miss a game or two more than usual, but now that he can catch, the Yankees won't be that affected.
Mariners (3): Milton Bradley, their usual DH, has been getting most of the starts in left field at Michael Saunders' expense.
NL teams gaining a DH:
Arizona Diamondbacks (3 games): They'll shuffle bench bats in at DH, but it's the catchers, Chris Snyder and Miguel Montero, who might benefit the most.
Atlanta Braves (3): They'll also shuffle their bench bats, but Eric Hinske could get the largest increase in additional at-bats of the bunch.
Cubs (6): Tyler Colvin will finally have an opportunity to play regularly, opening up right field (or DH) for Xavier Nady and Kosuke Fukudome.
Cincinnati Reds (3): Jonny Gomes has been the DH in each of their past 12 interleague road games. It'll be interesting to see how they handle left field, given that they'll face three left-handers; might Chris Heisey split time with Laynce Nix?
Rockies (3): Jason Giambi has been their DH in five of their six interleague games thus far, so why expect a change now?
Florida Marlins (3): Each of their six interleague contests to date has had Jorge Cantu at DH and Wes Helms at third base.
Astros (3): Carlos Lee should DH, with Jason Michaels getting the bulk of the at-bats in left field over Cory Sullivan.
Dodgers (3): Not that he deserves it, but Garret Anderson will probably get one last chance to find his name regularly listed in the lineup.
Philadelphia Phillies (3): Surprisingly, Raul Ibanez is still manning left field during interleague play, with Ben Francisco getting most of the DH at-bats.
Pirates (6): Expect a rotation at DH, but this is an opportunity for Ryan Church, Lastings Milledge and Jose Tabata to play simultaneously.
St. Louis Cardinals (6): Nick Stavinoha and Randy Winn should each pick up some additional at-bats, perhaps with Matt Holliday shifting to DH.
San Diego Padres (3): Extra at-bats can be had for the outfielders, including Aaron Cunningham, Chris Denorfia, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Will Venable.
Nationals (3): Another rotation situation, though Mike Morse appears to be the Nationals hitter getting the biggest playing-time boost so far.
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 Tampa Bay Rays arguably have the week's best set of pitching matchups, primarily because they'll play all six of their games at home against National League West squads that have a sub-.700 team OPS on the road: The Padres (.660) and Diamondbacks (.679). Tropicana Field, despite helping the Rays to only 18 wins in their first 33 games there so far this season, remains one of the tougher places for visiting teams to play, especially teams as unfamiliar with the venue as the Padres and D-backs. Two-start pitcher Wade Davis is probably the weakest fantasy choice of the bunch, but he does have a 3.97 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in 11 career starts at "The Trop," including quality starts in four of his past five turns. Check out the other Rays starters' career numbers there: Matt Garza, 3.30 and 1.23 in 38 starts; Jeff Niemann, 3.08 and 1.21 in 22 games (21 starts); David Price, 2.55 and 1.14 in 19 games (18 starts); and James Shields, 3.61 and 1.20 in 67 starts.
• Buck the trend of avoiding Rangers pitchers despite pitching entirely at home, because their opponents -- the Pirates and Astros -- present little offensive challenge. To point out some important stats, the Rangers are 23-11 with a 3.67 ERA and 1.32 ERA in 34 home games as a team, both of the ratios ranking among the upper half in the game. Still worried about the ballpark factor?
• The Nationals have been feasting upon soft pitching matchups ever since Strasburg made his big-league debut, and that'll remain the same this week, as the team hosts the Royals, who rank 15th in runs per game (4.58), and then visits the Baltimore Orioles, who rank dead last (3.24). Strasburg is an obvious play in every format, and while none of the other Nationals' starters rates an elite play -- meaning streamers and NL-only owners should be the ones looking closely at them -- it's their bullpen that might rack you up some sneaky stats.
• The Marlins also benefit by facing some of the aforementioned weak offensive teams, their assignments including three games at Baltimore followed by three at home versus the Padres. Josh Johnson (4-1, 0.43 ERA in six starts) and Anibal Sanchez (4-2, 2.56 ERA in six starts) are in the midst of stunning hot streaks and are therefore obvious plays, while Chris Volstad's 2.77 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in six home starts this season shouldn't be overlooked when evaluating his Friday home assignment.
• You want absolutely no part of the Diamondbacks this week, not only because they face the game's first (Yankees, 5.56) and third (Rays, 5.24) teams in terms of runs per game, but also because their bullpen is a mess, not to mention that not one of their five current rotation members has an ERA beneath 3.47 in the past month. A stat that speaks volumes: Dontrelle Willis has a lower ERA (3.92) during that span than Dan Haren (4.54), and do you really trust Willis as a fantasy option?
For more insight into Week 12 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.
• One thing you might notice about this week is that it's actually the bad offenses that have the most favorable matchups; three of the five teams with hitting ratings of 8 or better rank among the bottom 10 in the majors in terms of runs per game: Orioles (9 rating, tied for last in runs per game, 3.24), Indians (9, 23rd, 4.25) and Athletics (10, 26th, 4.03), plus the Pirates (8, tied for last, 3.24) rate a 7. But it's of no help if we pick favorable pitching matchups and favorable hitting matchups that face each other, right? In that case, those Pirates and Orioles matchups should be met with skepticism, because the Pirates face the Rangers, whose pitching matchups were highlighted this week, while the Orioles face the Marlins and Nationals, both of whom were picked for favorable pitching matchups.
• First, that leaves the Indians, who benefit by playing all six of their games at hitter-friendly venues: Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park and Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park. This offense hasn't performed as poorly as people think in the past few weeks; since May 29 the Indians have scored double-digit runs three times, have averaged 5.32 runs per game and have 18 home runs in 19 contests. Don't let Armando Galarraga's perfect game-that-wasn't -- which also occurred during that time span -- fool you into dismissing Indians hitters outright; Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Santana, Russell Branyan and Austin Kearns are all appealing this week.
• Second, that leaves the Athletics, whose advantage is that they'll face two staffs that have performed horribly since Memorial Day. The opposing Reds have a 5.31 ERA and 1.78 WHIP in 16 games since that date, while the Pirates have 4.61/1.47 numbers in 17 contests (not to mention 5.23/1.55 numbers for the season). You might think that six home games is a disadvantage to the Athletics, because Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum leans pitching-friendly, but it's not; they have a .713 team OPS there, compared to .701 on the road. Daric Barton (.316/.430/.439 AVG/OBP/SLG rates), Kevin Kouzmanoff (.312/.341/.424), Kurt Suzuki (.319/.385/.521) and Ryan Sweeney (.354/.404/.457) all have performed superbly there this season, and home games means that there's also the DH spot to offer everyday at-bats to Jack Cust, a .314 hitter with two homers in 14 games in June.
• Just because the Athletics' hitting matchups are favorable doesn't mean that their pitching matchups also lean in their favor; why can't their week-opening series versus the Reds be high-scoring? The Reds join the Athletics and Rangers as the week's only perfect-10 squads, and it's because in addition to those games they'll also face the Indians, whose team ERA in the past month is 5.42, for three games. The Reds as a team have .302/.365/.495 rates in the past month, with shortstop Orlando Cabrera (.231/.283/.316) as the only one of their hitters to be in a funk. You could easily make the case that their entire lineup deserves to be active across the board.
Now, let's take a look at some Week 12 sleepers:
Julio Borbon, OF, Rangers: Returning home helps the Rangers, because getting the DH role back to stash Vladimir Guerrero means their other outfielders' at-bats are once again secure. Borbon, who started oh-so-cold, has heated up in June, batting .417/.442/.583 in 15 games, the only knock on his performance that he has been caught stealing three times in four chances.
Ike Davis, 1B, Mets: So long as he keeps up his recent performance, why not ride the streak? Davis is a .283/.306/.500 hitter in 14 games in June, but more importantly, he's a .305/.407/.505 hitter in 28 games at Citi Field this season. So much for that being a pitcher-friendly ballpark sure to rein in his offensive numbers. The Mets play entirely at home versus right-handed pitchers this week, which plays in Davis' favor.
David DeJesus, OF, Royals: Good to see that the Royals prefer to play both him and Jose Guillen even in games without the DH, which assures them both regular at-bats even in games at NL parks. DeJesus' monstrous hot streak rolls on; he has 15 multi-hit efforts in his past 31 contests and is batting .400 (48-for-120) during that span.
Luke Scott, OF, Orioles: The Orioles play all six of their games at home, and four of them will be against right-handed starters. That plays to Scott's strengths; he's a .318/.390/.625 hitter in his home games and .291/.373/.539 against righties this season.
Neil Walker, 2B/3B, Pirates: What does he need to do to get some attention in ESPN leagues? Walker is hitting .289 in his first 21 games of the season, and while I'm shying somewhat from the Pirates while endorsing their opponents' pitchers, there are still some matchups to pick and choose from this team. The hot-starting Walker is worth a look; so are Ryan Doumit and Garrett Jones.
Rickie Weeks, 2B, Brewers: He's owned in 100 percent of ESPN leagues, so "sleeper" might not be the perfect word, but the Brewers' schedule, at least in terms of how it favors their right-handed hitters, deserves discussion. They'll face three left-handed starters, a huge advantage considering they have an .813 team OPS versus lefties, compared to .748 against righties. Weeks in particular is a .290/.413/.532 hitter against southpaws; he's a proverbial All-Star against them.
Remember, interleague games rank among the most difficult to reschedule, so even if there are postponements, in this final week of interleague play most teams will do their best to immediately reschedule games as doubleheaders the following day. That leaves series finales -- Thursday contests in particular -- as the ones at greatest risk, meaning those Tigers at Mets, and Indians at Phillies games with 40 percent chances of rain should be watched closely. The cities of Baltimore, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia are the ones at most risk of rain overall.
Weatherproof games: Giants at Astros (3, Tue-Thu); Cardinals at Blue Jays (3, Tue-Thu); Twins at Brewers (3, Tue-Thu); Mariners at Brewers (3, Fri-Sun); Yankees at Diamondbacks (3, Mon-Wed); Cubs at Mariners (3, Tue-Thu); Padres at Rays (3, Tue-Thu); Diamondbacks at Rays (3, Fri-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. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Tue-@COL (Chacin), Sun-@SF (Lincecum)
2. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Tue-@HOU (Oswalt), Sun-BOS (Lester)
3. Jaime Garcia (STL) -- Tue-@TOR (Cecil), Sun-@KC (Chen)
4. Josh Johnson (FLA) -- Sat-SD (Garland)
5. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Tue-@LAA (Santana), Sun-NYY (Burnett)
6. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Tue-@NYM (Niese), Sun-@ATL (Hanson)
7. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Thu-@TOR (Morrow)
8. Cliff Lee (SEA) -- Wed-CHC (Wells)
9. David Price (TB) -- Sat-ARI (Kennedy)
10. Stephen Strasburg (WAS) -- Wed-KC (Bannister)
11. Ubaldo Jimenez (COL) -- Wed-BOS (Lackey)
12. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Fri-SEA (Rowland-Smith)
13. Roy Halladay (PHI) -- Sat-@TOR (Marcum)
14. Chris Carpenter (STL) -- Wed-@TOR (Romero)
15. Matt Cain (SF) -- Thu-@HOU (Rodriguez)
16. Ryan Dempster (CHC) -- Tue-@SEA (Vargas), Sun-@CHW (Danks)
17. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Thu-CHC (Silva)
18. Colby Lewis (TEX) -- Fri-HOU (Moehler)
19. Johan Santana (NYM) -- Sat-MIN (Pavano)
20. James Shields (TB) -- Wed-SD (Correia)
21. Matt Garza (TB) -- Thu-SD (LeBlanc)
22. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Sat-@LAD (TBD)
23. Anibal Sanchez (FLA) -- Tue-@BAL (Guthrie), Sun-SD (Latos)
24. Barry Zito (SF) -- Wed-@HOU (Myers)
25. C.J. Wilson (TEX) -- Sat-HOU (Paulino)
26. Ben Sheets (OAK) -- Fri-PIT (Lincoln)
27. Clay Buchholz (BOS) -- Sat-@SF (Martinez)
28. Andy Pettitte (NYY) -- Tue-@ARI (Haren)
29. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Wed-@CHW (Buehrle)
30. John Danks (CHW) -- Tue-ATL (Hanson), Sun-CHC (Dempster)
31. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Fri-COL (Francis)
32. Ted Lilly (CHC) -- Fri-@CHW (Peavy)
33. Trevor Cahill (OAK) -- Sat-PIT (Duke)
34. Phil Hughes (NYY) -- Fri-@LAD (Kuroda)
35. Ervin Santana (LAA) -- Tue-LAD (Kershaw), Sun-COL (Chacin)
36. Mike Pelfrey (NYM) -- Fri-MIN (Slowey)
37. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Fri-@TOR (Litsch)
38. Mat Latos (SD) -- Tue-@TB (Davis), Sun-@FLA (Sanchez)
39. Brett Myers (HOU) -- Wed-SF (Zito)
40. Gio Gonzalez (OAK) -- Mon-CIN (Leake), Sun-PIT (Ohlendorf)
41. Brandon Morrow (TOR) -- Thu-STL (Wainwright)
42. Aaron Harang (CIN) -- Sat-CLE (Masterson)
43. Zack Greinke (KC) -- Fri-STL (Suppan)
44. Roy Oswalt (HOU) -- Tue-SF (Lincecum), Sun-@TEX (Hunter)
45. Chris Volstad (FLA) -- Fri-SD (Richard)
46. Bronson Arroyo (CIN) -- Tue-@OAK (Braden)
47. Javier Vazquez (NYY) -- Wed-@ARI (Willis)
48. Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- Tue-@CHW (Danks), Sun-DET (Verlander)
49. Scott Baker (MIN) -- Tue-@MIL (Bush), Sun-@NYM (Niese)
50. Brett Cecil (TOR) -- Tue-STL (Garcia), Sun-PHI (Moyer)
51. Randy Wolf (MIL) -- Sat-SEA (Fister)
52. Dan Haren (ARI) -- Tue-NYY (Pettitte)
53. Jonathon Niese (NYM) -- Tue-DET (Verlander), Sun-MIN (Baker)
54. Clayton Richard (SD) -- Fri-@FLA (Volstad)
55. Mike Leake (CIN) -- Mon-@OAK (Gonzalez), Sun-CLE (Talbot)
56. Jake Arrieta (BAL) -- Fri-WAS (Martin)
57. Wade Davis (TB) -- Tue-SD (Latos), Sun-ARI (Lopez)
58. Carlos Silva (CHC) -- Thu-@SEA (Hernandez)
59. Gavin Floyd (CHW) -- Thu-ATL (Lowe)
60. Carlos Zambrano (CHC) -- Sat-@CHW (Garcia)
61. Armando Galarraga (DET) -- Thu-@NYM (Takahashi)
62. Hiroki Kuroda (LAD) -- Fri-NYY (Hughes)
63. Francisco Liriano (MIN) -- Wed-@MIL (Narveson)
64. Jason Vargas (SEA) -- Tue-CHC (Dempster), Sun-@MIL (Bush)
65. Jeff Niemann (TB) -- Fri-ARI (Jackson)
66. Ricky Nolasco (FLA) -- Wed-@BAL (Matusz)
67. Jonathan Sanchez (SF) -- Fri-BOS (Wakefield)
68. Ricky Romero (TOR) -- Wed-STL (Carpenter)
69. Jake Peavy (CHW) -- Fri-CHC (Lilly)
70. Jhoulys Chacin (COL) -- Tue-BOS (Lester), Sun-@LAA (Santana)
71. Derek Lowe (ATL) -- Thu-@CHW (Floyd)
72. Aaron Cook (COL) -- Sat-@LAA (Saunders)
73. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Wed-@OAK (Mazzaro)
74. Jamie Moyer (PHI) -- Tue-CLE (Talbot), Sun-@TOR (Cecil)
75. Kevin Slowey (MIN) -- Fri-@NYM (Pelfrey)
Two-start pitchers for deep leagues:
A.J. Burnett (NYY) -- Mon-@ARI (Lopez), Sun-@LAD (Kershaw)
Dave Bush (MIL) -- Tue-MIN (Baker), Sun-SEA (Vargas)
Jeremy Guthrie (BAL) -- Tue-FLA (Sanchez), Sun-WAS (Hernandez)
Livan Hernandez (WAS) -- Mon-KC (Chen), Sun-@BAL (Guthrie)
Tommy Hunter (TEX) -- Tue-PIT (Ohlendorf), Sun-HOU (Oswalt)
Mark Buehrle (CHW) -- Wed-ATL (Hudson)
Jeff Francis (COL) -- Fri-@LAA (Weaver)
Kyle Kendrick (PHI) -- Wed-CLE (Westbrook)
John Lannan (WAS) -- Sat-@BAL (TBD)
Brad Lincoln (PIT) -- Fri-@OAK (Sheets)
Brian Matusz (BAL) -- Wed-FLA (Nolasco)
Kris Medlen (ATL) -- Fri-DET (Porcello)
Randy Wells (CHC) -- Wed-@SEA (Lee)
No-thank-yous, among two-starts:
Bruce Chen (KC) -- Mon-@WAS (Hernandez), Sun-STL (Garcia)
Rodrigo Lopez (ARI) -- Mon-NYY (Burnett), Sun-@TB (Davis)
Ross Ohlendorf (PIT) -- Tue-@TEX (Hunter), Sun-@OAK (Gonzalez)
Mitch Talbot (CLE) -- Tue-@PHI (Moyer), Sun-@CIN (Leake)
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.