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'The Nine' for Week 9
Week 9 is the busiest on the baseball calendar to date, thanks in large part to a full Monday Memorial Day holiday slate, a Thursday slate in which only eight teams are off, and not a single two-game interleague series -- there are two interleague series, and both are three-gamers. In fact, there is a Monday doubleheader between the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets at Atlanta's SunTrust Park, thanks to the rescheduling of their April 22 postponement. The Braves and Mets each play eight games as a result, though the volume advantage isn't as great for either in a week where 20 other teams play as many as seven and the other eight play six times.
Both the Braves and Mets face tricky hitting schedules despite the additional game, as the former will have to face Jacob deGrom (Monday), Noah Syndergaard (Wednesday), Stephen Strasburg (Friday) and Gio Gonzalez (Saturday), while the latter draws Braves and Chicago Cubs pitching staffs that rank eighth (3.47) and fourth (3.37) in the majors in ERA. The Braves' offense is the one of the two in better shape thanks to the additional game, as the team has an above-average 4.52 runs-per-game average in the month of May (4.26 major league average), as well as their schedule including five (and possibly six) right-handed opposing starting pitchers. Ozzie Albies (.255 isolated power and nine of his 14 home runs) and Nick Markakis (.339/.418/.504 rates against righties this year) remain automatics in your lineup, and Johan Camargo (available in more than 97 percent of ESPN leagues), who has started 17 of the Braves' past 19 games and has recaptured the starting third base job, is well worth a pickup.
Coming off an astounding minor league rehabilitation stint during which he struck out at least 12 batters in each of his past three starts, threw 90-plus pitches in each of his past two and had a combined 23 shutout innings, .096 batting average and 44 K's, Alex Reyes is set to rejoin the St. Louis Cardinals' rotation on Wednesday in Milwaukee. Reyes' minor league performance and pitch counts suggest an ability to make an instant impact in fantasy. His stuff drives his favorable -- and clearly start-worthy -- rating.
Reyes isn't the only starting pitcher on the mend, but he's the one who stands out in terms of the combination of potential Week 9 workload, matchup and raw stuff (accounting for rehab performances and game reports) as start-worthy. There are others at least worth tracking through the week, for potential spot starts if the news surrounding them improves before lineups lock, or for utlity in future weeks: Nathan Eovaldi (DL: elbow) is expected to rejoin the Tampa Bay Rays' rotation on Wednesday, but his 9.90 ERA and .348 batting average allowed in a four-start minor league rehab stint makes him a wiser pitcher to keep benched for evaluation through this week. Madison Bumgarner (DL: finger) could rejoin the San Francisco Giants' rotation as soon as Friday after he threw 3 2/3 hitless innings with eight strikeouts in a May 26 rehab start for Triple-A Sacramento. Anthony DeSclafani (DL: oblique) made his third minor league rehab start on May 25, that one for Triple-A Louisville, but he's expected to make one more start in the minors before rejoining the Cincinnati Reds' rotation. Carlos Rodon (DL: shoulder) had his May 24 rehab start cut short when he was hit in the head by a line drive, which could push his return to the Chicago White Sox's rotation into Week 10. He has 12 K's in 7 2/3 innings in two rehab starts.
Any time the Colorado Rockies play an entire week at home, their hitters get a predictable matchups boost. It's opportune timing, considering their offense has been below-average for scoring in May (4.05, major league average is 4.26), a month during which they have played just six of their first 20 games at home. It's the team's left-handed hitters who get the biggest boost, as the ratings indicate, making David Dahl (available in more than 90 percent of ESPN leagues, .314/.375/.490 hitter against righties this season) and Gerardo Parra (available in nearly 95 percent, .290/.336/.410 hitter against righties) especially appealing weekly pickups.
A pair of National League teams with cluttered first base/outfield pictures benefit from visiting American League ballparks during their interleague series, granting them the benefit of the designated hitter, as the Washington Nationals open their week with three games at Baltimore's Camden Yards and the Milwaukee Brewers close theirs with a three-game series at Chicago's Guaranteed Rate Field. Those are both hitting-friendly venues, which is good news for Nationals players Matt Adams and Mark Reynolds, who typically share the first-base duties but should both find a place to play, and Brewers players Ryan Braun and Domingo Santana, who should both play all three games at Chicago. Consider all four much stronger weekly starts in Week 9.
The Cleveland Indians match up as favorably as any offense in Week 9, facing the two weakest links in the White Sox's rotation (Lucas Giolito and fifth starter Dylan Covey) and the slow-starting Lance Lynn during the weekend series against the Minnesota Twins. That the Indians will also face seven right-handed starters makes planning around their team much easier, as the team is traditionally platoon-oriented, meaning that this is a week that favors their left-handed (or switch-hitting) partners, Yonder Alonso (first base), Greg Allen (center field) and Melky Cabrera (right field). Alonso is a remarkably good play in fantasy, thanks to .274/.366/.499 rates against righties in 2017-18 combined, and he's available in nearly two-thirds of ESPN leagues. Cabrera (available in more than 98 percent) batted at least .280 with a .400 slugging percentage against righties in each season from 2014-17.
For those seeking righty/lefty matchup plays in weekly leagues, consider these hitters: Mitch Moreland (available in roughly 80 percent of ESPN leagues), a .333/.411/.679 hitter against right-handers this season, is now the Boston Red Sox's clear first baseman and his team faces seven righty starters. Austin Meadows (available in roughly two-thirds of leagues) is hitting .290/.343/.420 against right-handers between the majors and minors this season, and his Pirates face five righty starters. John Hicks (available in more than 90 percent) has started 21 consecutive Detroit Tigers games at first base and batted .247/.321/.454 against left-handed hitters in his career, and the Tigers face four lefty starters. James McCann (available in nearly 75 percent) is a .314/.400/.543 hitter against left-handers this season.
Few in fantasy seem to trust the San Diego Padres' offense, but it does have some useful plug-in parts, especially with the team set to face two of the game's five weakest pitching staffs in the Miami Marlins and Reds. Travis Jankowski (available in roughly two-thirds of ESPN leagues) has five stolen bases in his past 10 games and Franchy Cordero (available in roughly 85 percent) continues to get a good number of looks as the team's cleanup hitter.