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'The Nine' for Week 8
A "6" hitting grade in a five-game week? Believe it, as the Chicago Cubs reap the benefits of avoiding Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco in the Cleveland Indians' rotation, as well as facing a below-average San Francisco Giants pitching staff missing its two best starters. The drawback is the Cubs' split between left- and right-handed opposing starting pitchers, as this is a matchups-driven team that will probably rotate starts from amongst Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ, Kyle Schwarber and Ben Zobrist between the three outfield spots, severely limiting any of their individual value in leagues with weekly transactions. The team's regulars -- Javier Baez (2B), Kris Bryant (3B), Willson Contreras (C), Anthony Rizzo (1B) and Addison Russell (SS) -- are the ones who should capitalize despite the limited volume, with Russell the most interesting add in shallow mixed. He's available in nearly two-thirds of ESPN leagues and has batted .306/.386/.510 in his past 15 games.
The slow-starting Baltimore Orioles have finally started hitting, scoring at least five runs in six of their past nine games (entering play on May 18), and capitalizing on what has been a soft portion of their schedule, matchups-wise. Week 8 presents the team with some of its strongest weekly matchups yet, with the biggest drawback being Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field's pitching-friendly leaning (three road games, Friday-Sunday). The four week-opening games at Chicago's Guaranteed Rate Field more than make up for it, boosting Mark Trumbo (available in roughly 70 percent of ESPN leagues) into the worthy-starter's class. For those hurting at catcher, also consider rookie Chance Sisco (more than 98 percent available), who should get the bulk of the week's starts and seems to be picking up the pace with the bat.
The Orioles' week-opening opponent, the Chicago White Sox, have an even more favorable schedule, as the Orioles (5.09) and Detroit Tigers (4.26) both have below-the-league-average team ERAs. The White Sox are a team with more widely available players, most of whom play fairly regularly, so consider adding Welington Castillo (available in more than two-thirds of ESPN leagues), a .257/.307/.414 hitter in his past 20 games; Leury Garcia (more than 98 percent available), who has started 10 of the team's past 11 games and has seven stolen bases for the season; and Yolmer Sanchez (more than 75 percent available), a .327 hitter (17-for-52) in 13 games in May. Naturally, Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada, Matt Davidson and Tim Anderson should remain active for you as well.
Edwin Encarnacion's back issues have surfaced at a terrible time in the Indians' schedule, as the team is one of three from the American League to make a trip to a National League ballpark and therefore lose its designated hitter for a portion of the week. Though the Indians make only a two-game trip to Chicago's Wrigley Field, they'll probably be less apt to use Encarnacion ahead of Yonder Alonso at first base, with Encarnacion's best odds coming in Wednesday's game against left-hander Jon Lester. Still, with Lester, Charlie Morton, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr. and Gerrit Cole rounding out the Indians' week of pitching opponents, temper your expectations for the Indians' offense as a whole and Encarnacion in particular.
The loss of the DH shouldn't be as much of an issue for the Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays as it is for the Indians, as the Royals have been using the DH as a "partial day off" for their other regulars and Kendrys Morales hasn't hit well enough to be much of a factor in fantasy. Three NL squads visit AL parks, gaining the DH: The Arizona Diamondbacks (3 games at Oakland, Friday-Sunday) have an additional place to squeeze Daniel Descalso into the lineup, keeping him a viable 14-plus-team mixed/NL-only option despite the healthy return of Jake Lamb. Amongst the other NL teams to visit AL parks, the Atlanta Braves (3 games at Boston, Friday-Sunday) will likely split the additional starts between Johan Camargo, Ryan Flaherty and Preston Tucker, with Camargo/Flaherty also sharing third base, while the San Francisco Giants (2 games at Houston, Tuesday-Wednesday) will probably give Pablo Sandoval a pair of starts at DH.
As a result of their short interleague series, the Giants join the Cubs as the only teams to play a five-game Week 8, and their matchups couldn't reside much further on either side of the spectrum, as the Giants have one of the week's worst schedules. They'll have to tangle with the Houston Astros and Cubs on the road, with the former leading the majors in ERA (2.44) and the latter ranked fifth (3.46). It's difficult to make a case to use any Giants hitter besides Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria.
For those seeking righty/lefty matchups to exploit in weekly leagues, consider Christian Villanueva (available in nearly 60 percent of ESPN leagues), a .372/.413/1.023 hitter against left-handers whose San Diego Padres are scheduled to face a pair of lefty starters (and possibly three); Jurickson Profar (available in nearly 95 percent), a .344/.447/.688 hitter against left-handers whose Texas Rangers are scheduled to face three lefty starters; Daniel Robertson (available in nearly 90 percent), a .242/.444/.545 hitter against left-handers whose Tampa Bay Rays are scheduled to face three lefty starters; David Dahl (nearly 90 percent available), a .359/.432/.590 hitter against right-handers whose Colorado Rockies are scheduled to face five (and possibly six) righty starters; and Adrian Gonzalez (roughly 95 percent available), a .267/.343/.456 hitter against right-handers whose New York Mets are scheduled to face five (and possibly six) righty starters.
The Cincinnati Reds are the lone visiting team to make a trip to Colorado's Coors Field this week, making a stop there during the weekend after opening Week 8 against the middling Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff. As the Reds are scheduled to face five right-handed starters in their six games, Scott Schebler (roughly 85 percent available), who has a .484 slugging percentage and .267 isolated power against right-handers between this and last season, is well worth a pickup.
The Detroit Tigers grade a perfect "10" on the hitting side, and that's good timing considering the team has Leonys Martin back in action and might also get Jeimer Candelario (DL: wrist) back into the lineup. Activate Martin for the favorable week, and in the event Candelario is activated before weekly lineups lock, he also warrants immediate installation into your lineups facing this favorable a schedule.