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'The Nine' for Week 4
Thanks to a Saturday doubleheader at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium, that the product of an April 1 snow-out, the Chicago White Sox draw the unusual eight-game Week 4 schedule. In the process, they'll avoid Seattle Mariners ace James Paxton while drawing a doubleheader game against a Royals spot starter (perhaps the hittable Clay Buchholz), so there's quite a bit of volume appeal on the strikeout-prone White Sox's hitting side. Between the extra game and the likelihood of three of eight games being against left-handed starters, lefty-crushing Tim Anderson (available in roughly one-third of ESPN leagues, and a .322/.337/.485 career hitter against lefties) stands way out. This would also be a good week to scoop back up Welington Castillo (available in roughly 45 percent of ESPN leagues, and a .291/.352/.496 career hitter against lefties), if he was dropped in your league.
If you're an "only" fantasy leaguer, always consider teams' volume of games in the singular leagues. In Week 4, the Atlanta Braves gain an advantage from being one of only four National League teams scheduled for as many as seven games, with six of them coming against right-handed starters and all of them in homer-friendly environments (four at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park and three at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park). As noted a little further down, rain could threaten one or more of those games, but the realistic chance of a seven-game week facing this schedule is great news for Freddie Freeman, Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis. Digging deeper, did you realize that the Braves boast the majors' sixth-best team wOBA against right-handed pitchers (.338, those through April 19)? Two of the reasons are players who warrant your attention facing this schedule: Preston Tucker, the NL's RBI leader (18, tied with Bryce Harper); and Ryan Flaherty, a .347/.448/.490 hitter against righties who doesn't appear to be sitting yet despite Johan Camargo's healthy return.
Three of the visiting teams in this week's four interleague series are National League teams with cluttered lineups (and therefore deeper-than-usual benches), so the addition of the designated hitter is a boon to the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers, even despite the latter two squads' early offensive struggles. The matchups-oriented Cubs have a tailor-made DH in Kyle Schwarber, likely granting the top-50-so-far outfielder a minimum of five starts while missing Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Chase Anderson, while freeing up two additional lineup spots for the team to plug in players from the likes of Albert Almora Jr., Tommy La Stella and Ben Zobrist (the latter being the most intriguing from a fantasy perspective). The spotlight will be on the Reds' decision regarding blue-chip prospect Nick Senzel's promotion, as he has an outside chance of a trip to the big leagues to fill out the lineup (with Scooter Gennett a likely candidate to DH). The Brewers, meanwhile, for two days have space to play all of Ryan Braun, Lorenzo Cain, Domingo Santana, Eric Thames and Christian Yelich in the same lineup, strengthening each of their weekly appeal.
Going in the opposite direction, the one American League team that travels to a National League park, the Detroit Tigers, has a designated hitter in Victor Martinez who is destined to sit for all three of the team's games at Pittsburgh's PNC Park. It's poor timing for the Tigers and Martinez, who had seemingly been getting into a groove with the bat (9-for-22 in a 5-game span April 12-19), as his absence depletes their thus-far-league-average offense. Pittsburgh Pirates ace Jameson Taillon would've been an all-leagues starter regardless, but it strengthens the matchups of fellow Pirates starters Chad Kuhl (Tuesday) and Ivan Nova (Thursday).
The Royals have one of the week's best hitting schedules, in large part because the only opposing starter they're scheduled to face who has a career strikeout rate better than 20 percent is the Brewers' Chase Anderson (20.6). This is a contact-oriented offense and especially so against right-handed pitching (17.6 percent strikeout and 10.2 percent swinging-strike rates), with the team potentially facing nothing but right-handed starting pitching during the week. Lucas Duda, a .236/.348/.526 hitter against righties in 2016-17, is the Royals' standout matchups play of Week 4. Manager Ned Yost has said Salvador Perez should return sometime during the week, and if we get word that the catcher will be back early in the week, Perez would warrant immediate activation in all formats.
For those seeking platoon-advantage matchups candidates for Week 4, here are a few who stand out: Ben Gamel (.272/.328/.412 hitter against righties in 2017-18) and Daniel Vogelbach (.301/.407/.487 against righties between the majors and minors in 2017-18), despite their likely status as Nos. 7 and 8 hitters, benefit from a Mariners schedule facing seven right-handed starters. Enrique Hernandez (.267/.362/.506 career versus lefties), who has started all six Los Angeles Dodgers games against a left-handed pitcher, batting second (once), third (once) and cleanup (four times) in them, draws a scheduled three (and possibly four) lefty starters this week. Steve Pearce (.250 isolated power against lefties in 2017-18), who has led off all six Toronto Blue Jays games against a lefty starter, faces a schedule of four left-handed starters.
Though temperatures are expected to be on the rise during Week 4, coinciding with a larger number of games in the northeastern part of the country, rain is still a concern in that region. Early-week interleague series in Cleveland, Kansas City and Pittsburgh will probably get played, either working through the elements or with doubleheaders on Wednesday/Thursday as teams tend to try to get those difficult-to-reschedule games in, but it's the intradivision games that most bear watching since they're easier to reschedule as doubleheaders later in the season. Specifically, Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., are at the greatest risk for postponements, with the Baltimore Orioles scheduled for seven home games and the Philadelphia Phillies for six. Temperatures will be at their lowest in those cities early in the week, with Tampa Bay Rays-Orioles at greatest risk of postponement (mainly on Tuesday), but Braves-Phillies during the weekend could be as well (mainly on Friday/Saturday). Judging by the forecast as of April 20, the four teams at greatest risk of losing at least one game to postponement are the Arizona Diamondbacks (six road games, at Philadelphia and Washington), Braves (seven road, at Cincinnati and Philadelphia), Orioles (seven at home) and Rays (six road, at Baltimore and Boston). The Boston Red Sox, Reds, Minnesota Twins, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics, Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals also bear watching. Conversely, the Houston Astros and Blue Jays (six games apiece) play all of their games in weather-controlled environments.
The San Diego Padres activated both Manuel Margot (bruised ribs) and Wil Myers (arm) from the disabled list in advance of Week 4, which is fortuitous timing considering the team's schedule for the week. It begins at Colorado's Coors Field, and includes three of six games against scheduled left-handed starters, two of them pitch-to-contact types (Kyle Freeland and Jason Vargas). Between the Coors games and Margot's greater success against left-handers to this point in his career, both players should be immediately activated in all formats.
The Dodgers have one of the more maddening rotations to sort out as far as fantasy planning in weekly leagues, especially with Rich Hill currently sidelined but eligible to return on Wednesday. Still, that presents a spot-start opportunity on Monday for top prospect Walker Buehler, and considering the team's two opponents ranked 25th (Miami Marlins, 3.44) and 30th (San Francisco Giants, 2.83) in runs per game this season through April 19, Buehler warrants a pickup even in shallow mixed leagues. It's more guesswork on fantasy managers' parts to predict the team's starters more than a day or two ahead, but this is an outstanding set of weekly matchups, whatever the team's plan. There's even a chance that Buehler could make two starts this week, thanks in large part to the team's weekend doubleheader. It's also great news for closer Kenley Jansen, whose diminished velocity is of concern, but who should have enough in the tank to be able to handle these two opponents.