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'The Nine' for Week 6
Here are my observations for the week ahead, with scheduling and matchup notes that will help you set your lineups:
The Baltimore Orioles have gotten off to a terrible start this season, in large part due to their inability to find enough reliable options to fill the top two spots in their lineup and the final three spots in their rotation. In Week 6, however, they draw a seven-game schedule of winnable games played entirely at home: three against the Kansas City Royals and four against the Tampa Bay Rays, teams with similarly poor seasonal hitting and pitching numbers (and, in the case of the Royals, their win-loss record). Besides the park factor -- Oriole Park at Camden Yards earns the majors' 11th most-favorable overall ballpark rating using the Forecaster formula -- the Orioles' other advantage this week is three games against scheduled left-handed starting pitchers, as the team has a much higher wOBA against lefties (.323) than righties (.284). Trey Mancini (available in 28 percent of ESPN leagues), the team's current leadoff hitter and only reliable-to-date bat out of the Nos. 1-2 spots, is a must in all formats. It's also a good week to consider Danny Valencia (more than 99 percent available), a .258/.359/.457 hitter against left-handers between 2017 and 2018, in 15-plus-team mixed and AL-only leagues, and in the event that Jonathan Schoop (DL: oblique) returns on Tuesday as he projects, he's worth immediate activation as well.
Anytime the Colorado Rockies play an entire week at Coors Field, you want their hitters active. (To a lesser extent, you want their opponents' hitters active in those weeks, too, but in this case, the Milwaukee Brewers do have matchups with the Cleveland Indians' Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco to begin their week.) The Rockies recently completed their worst April in terms of runs per game (3.83) in franchise history, but things should pick up for them in this, their first full fantasy scoring period of the season played entirely at home. In particular, the weekend series against the pitch-to-contact Brewers staff, as well as their weak-armed catching duo, could be what kick-starts Ian Desmond's sluggish-to-date season. David Dahl (roughly 85 percent available) also continues to get heart-of-the-lineup starts against right-handers, and the Rockies are scheduled to face four of them.
The Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres play seven games apiece, with all of them played at home. The Phillies have a sneaky-good schedule despite what's not a league-leading overall hitting rating, as their advantage, besides the homer-friendly home circumstances, is facing a pair of pitching staffs in the San Francisco Giants and New York Mets that enter with some injury questions. Johnny Cueto (DL: elbow) is sidelined for the Giants and Jacob deGrom (DL: elbow) and Steven Matz (back) have been dealing with minor ailments, and while deGrom is scheduled to return on Sunday, any setback could send the Mets scrambling for another spot starter. As the Phillies are scheduled to face three left-handed starters, Maikel Franco (available in roughly two-thirds of leagues) and Jorge Alfaro (97 percent available) are worth activating for Week 6.
It's notable that the Tampa Bay Rays entered play on May 4 ranked ninth in stolen bases as a team (18), because to date they've scarcely faced any favorable matchups in terms of the opponent's battery. This week they do: They play two games against the Atlanta Braves' below-average tandem of Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki, then four against the Orioles' similarly below-average duo of Caleb Joseph and Chance Sisco (though Sisco's caught-stealing percentage is a healthy 53.3 percent, opponents have run wild against him thus far, with 15 total attempts in his 19 games). This is an ideal week for Carlos Gomez (95 percent available) and Mallex Smith (nearly 80 percent available) to take an aggressive approach on the basepaths.
Lean on National League East pitching where you can in Week 6, as the Braves, Phillies and Washington Nationals all have extremely favorable matchups on that side of the ball. The Braves stand way out, with a pair of games at Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field followed by a quartet at Miami's Marlins Park, both venues that rank extremely high on the pitching-friendly side of the scale. That the Rays and Miami Marlins have below-the-league-average offenses in terms of runs per game, wOBA, strikeout rate and hard-contact rate only supports the causes of two-start pitcher Sean Newcomb, Julio Teheran and Mike Foltynewicz. Even Brandon McCarthy (roughly 75 percent available) warrants streaming for his Friday start at Miami. Rookie Mike Soroka (roughly 75 percent available), now a locked-in member of the rotation, gets his next turn on Saturday at the same venue and is a solid starter in all formats. Incidentally, success for these starters means probable leads to protect, making this a strong week as well for Braves closer Arodys Vizcaino, who has converted three consecutive save chances.
If you're looking for hitters with strong lefty/righty platoon matchups for Week 6: Kevin Pillar is a .320/.363/.551 hitter against left-handed pitchers since the beginning of last season, and Teoscar Hernandez (available in roughly one-third of leagues) has .240 career isolated power against lefties, and the Toronto Blue Jays are scheduled to face five lefty starters. James McCann (nearly 90 percent available) is a .320/.394/.598 hitter against left-handers since the beginning of last season, and the Detroit Tigers are scheduled to face four lefty starters. Brandon Belt is a .261/.385/.545 hitter against right-handers since the beginning of last season, and the San Francisco Giants face nothing but righty starters and he's inexplicably still available in more than one-third of ESPN leagues. Lucas Duda (91 percent available) is a .234/.341/.499 hitter against right-handers since the beginning of last season, and the Royals are scheduled to face six righty starters.
Due to early-week interleague series -- two games apiece, played Tuesday and Wednesday, with off days for each on Monday and Thursday -- the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians and Pittsburgh Pirates all play only five games. The Sox and Indians will lose their designated hitter for their series at National League ballparks, which has the most adverse effect on Matt Davidson and Yonder Alonso. Davidson, the White Sox's usual DH, could make a start ahead of Yolmer Sanchez at third base, but he's a weak play in mixed leagues because the team also faces four right-handed starters during the week. Alonso, meanwhile, will probably sit the Tuesday game against Brewers lefty Wade Miley, with Edwin Encarnacion manning first base, and it's possible that Encarnacion will get both starts at the position at Milwaukee's Miller Park.
There are two other notable interleague developments at play in Week 6: The Los Angeles Angels play their first games at an NL venue, and they're at Coors Field on Tuesday and Wednesday. Shohei Ohtani currently aligns for a Sunday, May 6 start, which unfortunately means that he won't get an assignment at Coors Field and, therefore, will only have the DH available to him for the four week-ending games against the Minnesota Twins. As a result, he's still a wiser option as a pitcher in an ESPN league. Had his lone turn been scheduled for Coors, he'd have been a wiser hitting play. The Braves also promoted Jose Bautista from the minors on Friday, May 4, perhaps looking ahead to their two-game trip (Tuesday and Wednesday) to Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field, where they can DH him on both days. It's difficult to envision Bautista contributing much to a fantasy team over the course of the full season, but this is one week where he's actually worth a look in a 15-plus-team mixed or NL-only league. After all, the Braves do face four left-handed starting pitchers in Week 6.
The Oakland Athletics grade poorly on the hitting side despite three of their six games being played at hitting-friendly Yankee Stadium, and here's why: The opposing Houston Astros and New York Yankees boast the majors' two best strikeout-oriented pitching staffs (they're No. 1 and 2 in terms of K and swinging-strike rates). This is an offense with a lot of swing-and-miss in it, and that's a factor to consider, particularly when evaluating the hitters in points leagues. Slumping Matt Chapman and Jonathan Lucroy are hitters best left on the bench this week.