Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, Aug. 7, at 2:22 p.m. ET.
On tap: It's a key week for the Miami Marlins -- buyers at the July 31 trade deadline and a team tied for the second wild-card spot entering play on Aug. 7, but also a team that was swept by the Chicago Cubs, owners of the National League's best record -- on the road from Aug. 1-3, and one that has lost four of five so far in August. The Marlins now return home to Marlins Park to play a pair of three-game series, one against the NL West-leading San Francisco Giants and the other against the Chicago White Sox, with Jose Fernandez as their two-start pitcher for Week 18 (and the entirety of their home stand). As the Giants are only 6-14 since the All-Star break, this might be an ideal time for the Marlins to draw them as opponents.
Zack Greinke, who since the beginning of 2014 has the majors' second-most wins (46), third-best ERA (2.46) and fourth-best WHIP (1.03) among pitchers with at least 20 starts during that time span, is expected to rejoin the Arizona Diamondbacks' rotation during the team's week-opening series at the New York Mets. Greinke is scheduled to return Aug. 9, in time for a two-start week, with his second turn on Aug. 14 at Boston's Fenway Park. Strangely, it'll be only Greinke's second career start at Fenway; that's the fewest he has made in any venue that has been open for the entirety of his career (he also has only one career start at New York's Yankee Stadium).
We'll have two possible World Series previews -- at least if you consider battles of interleague division leaders that -- as the Cleveland Indians, tops in the American League Central, will visit the Washington Nationals, leaders in the NL East, for two games from Aug. 9-10, while the Baltimore Orioles, tied for first in the AL East, play three road contests against the Giants from Aug. 12-14. Though the projected pitching matchups in either series are lopsided, favoring the NL squads, we'll see two of the top contenders for the NL Cy Young work in them: The Nationals' Max Scherzer faces the Indians on Aug. 9, while the Giants' Madison Bumgarner faces the Orioles on Aug. 13.
Amongst the week's schedule oddities: The Nationals are the only team to play as few as five games in Week 18, mostly as a result of that week-opening interleague series.
Quickly jump to any section, if you want specific intel
For the third consecutive week, Monday's schedule is comprised entirely of night games. Week 18 begins at 7:07 p.m. ET with Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays, so fantasy owners in weekly leagues have a little extra time to set their lineups.
Remember that game times have tremendous influence upon daily planning, so be aware of every day's first scheduled pitch. This week, they are:
Monday, Aug. 8: 7:07 p.m. ET (Rays at Blue Jays)
Tuesday, Aug. 9: 3:10 p.m. ET (Texas Rangers at Colorado Rockies, the Tuesday's only day game)
Wednesday, Aug. 10: 12:10 p.m. ET (Giants at Marlins, one of three day games)
Thursday, Aug. 11: 12:10 p.m. ET (Diamondbacks at Mets, one of six day games)
Friday, Aug. 12: 2:20 p.m. ET (St. Louis Cardinals at Cubs, the day's only day game)
Saturday, Aug. 13: 1:05 p.m. ET (Rays at New York Yankees, one of four day games)
Sunday, Aug. 14: 1:05 p.m. ET (Rays at Yankees, one of 14 day games)
This week's interleague series:
Rangers at Rockies (2 games, Aug. 8-9)
Indians at Nationals (2 games, Aug. 9-10)
Los Angeles Angels at Cubs (2 games, Aug. 9-10)
Rockies at Rangers (2 games, Aug. 10-11)
Orioles at Giants (3 games, Aug. 12-14)
Diamondbacks at Boston Red Sox (3 games, Aug. 12-14)
White Sox at Marlins (3 games, Aug. 12-14)
Orioles' traditional DH, 3 games in NL ballparks: Pedro Alvarez, who has 17 of the Orioles' past 23 starts at DH, though Mark Trumbo has five of the other six. Trumbo will simply shift to right field, as he often does (and in fact did for all three games during the team's last series at an NL ballpark), July 4-6 at Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium. Alvarez, however, began on the bench in all three of those games in L.A., two of which were against right-handed starters, and he's likely to do so again in San Francisco. He'll probably also begin on the bench Aug. 10 against lefty Dillon Overton, meaning Alvarez will likely get three starts in Week 18 and be at best an AL-only option.
Diamondbacks probable DH(s), 3 games in AL ballparks: Rickie Weeks has all four of the Diamondbacks' DH starts this season, two apiece against right- and left-handed starters, and with lefties Eduardo Rodriguez and David Price on the schedule in the series at Boston, Weeks is likely to start at least those two and probably all three. Expect 3-4 starts for Weeks, making him an NL-only plug-in.
White Sox's traditional DH, 3 games in NL ballparks: Justin Morneau, who has 14 of the team's 20 starts at DH since he joined the team on July 15. He didn't start either of the team's July 27-28 games at Chicago's Wrigley Field, however, despite the opposing Cubs starting a pair of right-handers, so Morneau will presumably make only the three starts at Kansas City. He's a weak AL-only choice as a result.
Rangers' traditional DH, 2 games in NL ballparks: Carlos Beltran and Shin-Soo Choo are expected to rotate between right field and DH going forward, with Beltran probably getting more of the time at DH, so this series at Colorado's Coors Field comes at a particularly inopportune time from a roster maneuvering perspective. The team might well play the matchups game, as the opposing Rockies will start both a right- and left-hander, which will potentially chip away at the playing time of Nomar Mazara, Choo, Mitch Moreland and Jurickson Profar. There's that key word, though, chip: Profar is the only one whose value might dip into the deep-mixed/AL-only bin, where you'll also find platoon types Ryan Rua and Delino DeShields.
Indians' traditional DH, 2 games in NL ballparks: Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana have rotated between first base and DH for the Indians' past 45 games at American League ballparks, with Napoli getting the greater number of starts at first base and Santana at DH (28-17 split). Napoli also started at first base in two of the Indians' three games at Atlanta's Turner Field June 28-30, despite the opposing Atlanta Braves starting only right-handers. Still, it seems probable that Santana will start the Aug. 9 game and Napoli Aug. 10, meaning each player will lose one start and be somewhat less attractive in standard leagues.
Angels' traditional DH, 2 games in NL ballparks: Albert Pujols, who has started each of the Angels' past 17 games in NL ballparks. That'll likely be the same arrangement at Chicago's Wrigley Field, meaning Jefry Marte's usage in fantasy should be limited to AL-only leagues.
Rockies' probable DH(s), 2 games in AL ballparks: Gerardo Parra (DL: ankle) is on a rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Albuquerque and might be ready to rejoin the Rockies in time for their series in Texas, in which case he and Ryan Raburn might split the two DH starts, as the Rangers will start a right- and left-hander. Daniel Descalso might pick up the Aug. 11 start against Lucas Harrell otherwise. None of the three, however, has a clear enough path to regular playing time to warrant activating for Week 18.
The chart below lists each of the 30 MLB teams' schedules and projected starting pitchers, and provides a projected Bill James Game Score for each day's starter.
Projected starting pitchers, Aug. 8-14
P: The starting pitcher's projected Bill James Game Score, accounting for past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days), opponent and ballpark. A 50 is typically deemed a "quality start" by this measure, while a 70 is considered a dominant start.
Indians: Mike Clevinger has been serving as the Indians' fifth starter, but the team could either replace him during Week 18 or use the Aug. 8 off day to push him back as far as Aug. 13.
Los Angeles Angels: After the Angels designated Tim Lincecum for assignment on Aug. 6, they'll need a fifth starter no later than Aug. 13. Jhoulys Chacin and Nate Smith are the leading candidates to assume that spot.
Oakland Athletics: After the Athletics placed Jesse Hahn (DL: shoulder) on the DL Aug. 5 and demoted Dillon Overton to Triple-A Nashville on Aug. 6, the team will need fill-ins for both Aug. 9 and 10, and they might for Aug. 11 as well should Sonny Gray (forearm) be unable to make his next start. Jharel Cotton and Ross Detwiler are the team's Nashville starters on schedule for Aug. 9 and 10, making them candidates, and the team could also consider Zach Neal, currently a member of the big-league bullpen, or Daniel Mengden, who pitched Aug. 6 for Nashville, on three or four days' rest Aug. 10-11.
Seattle Mariners: Taijuan Walker (DL: foot) rejoined the Mariners' rotation on Aug. 6, lining him up for an Aug. 12 start during Week 18. Meanwhile, Wade LeBlanc, who has been serving as the team's fifth starter recently, is the leading candidate to fill in the next time the team needs one on Aug. 9.
Braves: With Julio Teheran (DL: back) sidelined, Roberto Hernandez made a spot start for the Braves on Aug. 6. That spot in the rotation next arrives on Aug. 11, but it's unclear whether Hernandez will make that start or the team will replace him with Matt Wisler, Ryan Weber, Chris Ellis or Sean Newcomb.
Nationals: The Nationals are expected to use only four starters during Week 18 due to Aug. 8 and 11 off days, meaning that Joe Ross (DL: shoulder), who is expected to make one more minor league rehabilitation start for Triple-A Syracuse, will likely rejoin the rotation during Week 19.
Diamondbacks: Greinke (DL: oblique) made a rehabilitation start for Triple-A Reno on Aug. 3 and will rejoin the Diamondbacks' rotation on Aug. 9.
Los Angeles Dodgers: With Bud Norris' (back) questionable, the Dodgers likely need a fill-in for Aug. 6, with Jose De Leon and Ross Stripling the two most obvious choices. It is unclear whether either would then pitch the next time that spot in the rotation arrives on Aug. 12, whether the team would use the Aug. 11 off day to skip it, or whether Norris or Julio Urias could be a candidate to fill in. Rich Hill (DL: blister), meanwhile, is expected to join the Dodgers' rotation on Aug. 7, setting him up for an Aug. 13 start during Week 18.
1. Jose Fernandez (MIA) -- Mon-SF (Cueto), Sun-CWS (Sale)
2. Chris Sale (CWS) -- Tue-@KC (Volquez), Sun-@MIA (Fernandez)
3. Max Scherzer (WSH) -- Tue-CLE (Bauer), Sun-ATL (Jenkins)
4. Noah Syndergaard (NYM) -- Thu-ARI (Shipley)
5. Jacob deGrom (NYM) -- Sat-SD (Cosart)
6. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Sat-BAL (Gausman)
7. Stephen Strasburg (WSH) -- Fri-ATL (Foltynewicz)
8. Kenta Maeda (LAD) -- Tue-PHI (Velasquez), Sun-PIT (Kuhl)
9. Jake Arrieta (CHC) -- Fri-STL (Wainwright)
10. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Wed-@SEA (Hernandez)
11. Steven Matz (NYM) -- Tue-ARI (Greinke), Sun-SD (Perdomo)
12. Johnny Cueto (SF) -- Mon-@MIA (Fernandez), Sun-BAL (Miley)
13. Chris Archer (TB) -- Fri-@NYY (Sabathia)
14. Brandon McCarthy (LAD) -- Fri-PIT (Nova)
15. David Price (BOS) -- Sat-ARI (Bradley)
16. Zack Greinke (ARI) -- Tue-@NYM (Matz), Sun-@BOS (Porcello): It's the second matchup that's the doozy. Greinke recently admitted that he struggles in minor league rehabilitation stints and his initial big-league starts fresh off the DL, but he's also being awfully hard on himself for what's an especially small sample. He had only two starts fresh off lengthy DL stints in the past five seasons, posting Game Scores of 39 (5/4/11) and 58 (5/15/13), and since 2010, he made only six minor league rehab starts, averaging a Game Score of 46. Don't sweat it; start him with confidence.
17. Jon Lester (CHC) -- Thu-STL (Martinez)
18. Danny Duffy (KC) -- Thu-CWS (Gonzalez)
19. Drew Pomeranz (BOS) -- Wed-NYY (Eovaldi): The rebuilding Yankees aren't a threatening team against left-handed pitching, with the majors' worst well-hit average against them since July 1 (.098). They do make contact, which lowers Pomeranz's ceiling, but this matchup's a "go."
20. Gerrit Cole (PIT) -- Sat-@LAD (TBD)
21. Jon Gray (COL) -- Fri-@PHI (Thompson): Ignore the Phillies' recent uptick offensively, at least when it comes to their right-handed opponents. The Phillies have .192/.267/.317 triple-slash rates, a 24.1 percent strikeout rate and a major league-worst .263 well-hit average against righties since the All-Star break.
22. Jose Quintana (CWS) -- Wed-@KC (Kennedy)
23. Corey Kluber (CLE) -- Fri-LAA (Shoemaker)
24. Jameson Taillon (PIT) -- Thu-SD (Friedrich)
25. Scott Kazmir (LAD) -- Wed-PHI (Hellickson)
26. Vince Velasquez (PHI) -- Tue-@LAD (Maeda)
27. Carlos Carrasco (CLE) -- Sat-LAA (TBD)
28. Michael Fulmer (DET) -- Mon-@SEA (Iwakuma), Sun-@TEX (Griffin)
29. Sean Manaea (OAK) -- Fri-SEA (Walker)
30. Dallas Keuchel (HOU) -- Wed-@MIN (Santana): Just ... be careful. The Twins, since July 1, rank among the top five in the majors against lefties in wOBA, isolated power and well-hit average. That's in a sizable sample, too, of 19 percent more than the league's average plate appearances versus lefties.
31. Jake Odorizzi (TB) -- Mon-@TOR (Dickey), Sun-@NYY (Severino)
32. Kevin Gausman (BAL) -- Mon-@OAK (Graveman), Sat-@SF (Bumgarner)
33. Robbie Ray (ARI) -- Wed-@NYM (Colon)
34. Junior Guerra (MIL) -- Tue-ATL (Jenkins), Sun-CIN (Reed)
35. Carlos Martinez (STL) -- Thu-@CHC (Lester)
36. Kyle Hendricks (CHC) -- Sat-STL (Wacha)
37. Sonny Gray (OAK) -- Thu-BAL (Tillman)
38. Cole Hamels (TEX) -- Mon-@COL (Anderson), Sat-DET (Sanchez)
39. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Wed-DET (Verlander)
40. Matt Andriese (TB) -- Sat-@NYY (Tanaka)
41. Collin McHugh (HOU) -- Mon-@MIN (Duffey), Sat-@TOR (Sanchez)
42. Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) -- Sat-TB (Andriese)
43. Matt Shoemaker (LAA) -- Fri-@CLE (Kluber)
44. Ian Kennedy (KC) -- Wed-CWS (Quintana)
45. Mike Fiers (HOU) -- Tue-@MIN (Santiago), Sun-@TOR (Stroman)
46. Hector Santiago (MIN) -- Tue-HOU (Fiers), Sun-KC (Volquez)
47. Marcus Stroman (TOR) -- Sun-HOU (Fiers)
48. Aaron Sanchez (TOR) -- Sat-HOU (McHugh)
49. Yu Darvish (TEX) -- Fri-DET (Boyd)
50. Steven Wright (BOS) -- Thu-NYY (Pineda)
51. Michael Pineda (NYY) -- Thu-@BOS (Wright)
52. Zach Davies (MIL) -- Mon-ATL (Whalen), Sat-CIN (Straily)
53. Blake Snell (TB) -- Wed-@TOR (Happ)
54. Hisashi Iwakuma (SEA) -- Mon-DET (Fulmer), Sun-@OAK (TBD)
55. Carlos Rodon (CWS) -- Fri-@MIA (Cashner)
56. Marco Estrada (TOR) -- Tue-TB (Smyly)
57. Taijuan Walker (SEA) -- Fri-@OAK (Manaea)
58. Dylan Bundy (BAL) -- Fri-@SF (Cain): He has looked very, very good since the move to the rotation, with a 3.00 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 30.0 percent strikeout rate in four starts. The big question is pitch count: He has thrown 87, 89 and 88 in his past three turns.
59. John Lackey (CHC) -- Tue-LAA (Weaver), Sun-STL (Leake)
60. Bartolo Colon (NYM) -- Wed-ARI (Ray)
61. Adam Conley (MIA) -- Sat-CWS (Shields)
62. Tyler Anderson (COL) -- Mon-TEX (Hamels), Sat-@PHI (Eickhoff)
63. Miguel Gonzalez (CWS) -- Thu-@KC (Duffy): Feeling bold? Gonzalez has six consecutive quality starts, and the Royals have averaged a major league-worst 3.00 runs per game since the All-Star break. Incidentally, Gonzalez is 2-for-2 in quality starts versus the Royals this season.
64. Jerad Eickhoff (PHI) -- Sat-COL (Anderson)
65. Rick Porcello (BOS) -- Tue-NYY (Severino), Sun-ARI (Greinke)
66. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Fri-@CHC (Arrieta)
67. Joe Musgrove (HOU) -- Fri-@TOR (Liriano)
68. Ryan Vogelsong (PIT) -- Wed-SD (Jackson)
69. Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Fri-@MIL (Nelson)
70. J.A. Happ (TOR) -- Wed-TB (Snell): Toss the "small sample" caveat if you wish, but the Rays' trades of Brandon Guyer and Steve Pearce significantly weakened them against left-handed pitching. Besides, since the All-Star break, the Rays have batted .183/.277/.260 as a team with a major league-worst 28.2 percent strikeout rate against lefties.
71. Drew Smyly (TB) -- Tue-@TOR (Estrada): He hasn't done enough yet to elevate himself from the "matchups" to "every-start" class, at least not in my book, and this is an awful matchup. It's the significantly worse ballpark of these teams' homes, and the Blue Jays have a .233 well-hit average against lefties as a team since July 1, 33 points better than anyone else.
72. Eduardo Rodriguez (BOS) -- Fri-ARI (Corbin)
73. Tyler Skaggs (LAA) -- Thu-@CLE (Tomlin)
74. Andrew Cashner (MIA) -- Fri-CWS (Rodon)
75. Logan Verrett (NYM) -- Fri-SD (Clemens)
76. Kyle Gibson (MIN) -- Fri-KC (Ventura)
77. Jose Berrios (MIN) -- Thu-HOU (Fister)
78. Braden Shipley (ARI) -- Thu-@NYM (Syndergaard)
79. Jeff Samardzija (SF) -- Wed-@MIA (Phelps)
80. Anthony DeSclafani (CIN) -- Wed-@STL (Garcia)
81. Jaime Garcia (STL) -- Wed-CIN (DeSclafani)
82. David Phelps (MIA) -- Wed-SF (Samardzija)
83. Luis Severino (NYY) -- Tue-@BOS (Porcello), Sun-TB (Odorizzi): What an awful first matchup in his return to the lineup, and it's what ruins his weekly rating. Severino's slider has looked much improved since his recall, but be aware that the Red Sox have the fifth-best team wOBA and fourth-lowest strikeout rate against sliders this season.
84. Gio Gonzalez (WSH) -- Wed-CLE (Clevinger)
85. Matt Moore (SF) -- Tue-@MIA (Koehler)
86. Jake Thompson (PHI) -- Fri-COL (Gray)
87. James Shields (CWS) -- Sat-@MIA (Conley)
88. Francisco Liriano (TOR) -- Fri-HOU (Musgrove): Altuve, Springer, Correa, Gattis, Bregman, and as a team, the majors' fourth-best walk rate (9.3 percent of PAs)? No thanks.
89. Tanner Roark (WSH) -- Sat-ATL (Whalen)
90. Paul Clemens (SD) -- Fri-@NYM (Verrett)
91. Ervin Santana (MIN) -- Wed-HOU (Keuchel)
92. Chad Kuhl (PIT) -- Tue-SD (Perdomo), Sun-@LAD (Maeda)
93. Wade LeBlanc (SEA) -- Tue-DET (Norris)
94. Jeremy Hellickson (PHI) -- Wed-@LAD (Kazmir)
95. Rob Whalen (ATL) -- Mon-@MIL (Davis), Sat-@WSH (Roark)
96. Dan Straily (CIN) -- Sat-@MIL (Davis)
97. Yordano Ventura (KC) -- Fri-@MIN (Gibson)
98. Brandon Finnegan (CIN) -- Tue-@STL (Leake)
99. Joel De La Cruz (ATL) -- Wed-@MIL (Anderson)
100. Michael Wacha (STL) -- Mon-CIN (Reed), Sat-@CHC (Hendricks)
101. Anibal Sanchez (DET) -- Sat-@TEX (Hamels)
102. James Paxton (SEA) -- Sat-@OAK (Graveman)
103. Jason Hammel (CHC) -- Wed-LAA (Nolasco)
104. Trevor Bauer (CLE) -- Tue-@WSH (Scherzer), Sun-LAA (Weaver)
105. Tyler Duffey (MIN) -- Mon-HOU (McHugh), Sat-KC (TBD)
106. Christian Friedrich (SD) -- Thu-@PIT (Taillon)
107. Edinson Volquez (KC) -- Tue-CWS (Sale), Sun-@MIN (Santiago)
108. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Fri-TB (Archer)
109. Chris Tillman (BAL) -- Thu-@OAK (Gray)
110. Luis Perdomo (SD) -- Tue-@PIT (Kuhl), Sun-@NYM (Matz)
111. Edwin Jackson (SD) -- Wed-@PIT (Vogelsong)
112. Lucas Harrell (TEX) -- Thu-COL (Bettis)
113. Wade Miley (BAL) -- Tue-@OAK (TBD), Sun-@SF (Cueto)
114. Chad Bettis (COL) -- Thu-@TEX (Harrell)
115. Cody Reed (CIN) -- Mon-@STL (Wacha), Sun-@MIL (Guerra)
116. Josh Tomlin (CLE) -- Thu-LAA (Skaggs)
117. Mike Clevinger (CLE) -- Wed-@WSH (Gonzalez)
118. Matt Boyd (DET) -- Fri-@TEX (Darvish)
119. Jorge De La Rosa (COL) -- Wed-@TEX (Perez)
120. Tom Koehler (MIA) -- Tue-SF (Moore)
121. Matt Cain (SF) -- Fri-BAL (Bundy)
122. Mike Leake (STL) -- Tue-CIN (Finnegan), Sun-@CHC (Lackey)
123. Ricky Nolasco (LAA) -- Wed-@CHC (Hammel)
124. Jarred Cosart (SD) -- Sat-@NYM (deGrom)
125. Mike Foltynewicz (ATL) -- Fri-@WSH (Strasburg)
126. Ivan Nova (PIT) -- Fri-@LAD (McCarthy)
127. Chase Anderson (MIL) -- Wed-ATL (De La Cruz)
128. Jimmy Nelson (MIL) -- Fri-CIN (Bailey)
129. Kendall Graveman (OAK) -- Mon-BAL (Gausman), Sat-SEA (Paxton)
130. Doug Fister (HOU) -- Thu-@MIN (Berrios)
131. Zach Eflin (PHI) -- Mon-@LAD (TBD), Sun-COL (Chatwood)
132. R.A. Dickey (TOR) -- Mon-TB (Odorizzi)
133. Nathan Eovaldi (NYY) -- Wed-@BOS (Pomeranz)
134. A.J. Griffin (TEX) -- Tue-@COL (Chatwood), Sun-DET (Fulmer)
135. Tyler Chatwood (COL) -- Tue-TEX (Griffin), Sun-@PHI (Eflin)
136. Patrick Corbin (ARI) -- Fri-@BOS (Rodriguez)
137. Yovani Gallardo (BAL) -- Wed-@OAK (TBD)
138. Tyrell Jenkins (ATL) -- Tue-@MIL (Guerra), Sun-@WSH (Scherzer)
139. Matt Garza (MIL) -- Thu-ATL (TBD)
140. Archie Bradley (ARI) -- Sat-@BOS (Price)
141. Martin Perez (TEX) -- Wed-COL (De La Rosa)
142. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Tue-@CHC (Lackey), Sun-@CLE (Bauer)
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 for left- and right-handed hitters and base stealing. Matchup ratings for each individual game are listed under the corresponding date.
Hitting matchup chart, Aug. 8-14
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.
Here are this week's "volume plays," defined as the teams that play the most home games, or games against right- or left-handed starters:
Home games: Twins 7, Athletics 7, Brewers 7, Red Sox 6, Blue Jays 6, Marlins 6, Mets 6, Cubs 6, Dodgers 6.
Versus LH: Kansas City Royals 3, Athletics 3, Rangers 3, Marlins 3, Cardinals 3, Diamondbacks 3. Ten teams face two left-handed starters.
Versus RH: Braves 7, Angels 6, Cubs 6, Brewers 6. Ten teams face five right-handed starters.
Though the Rangers have some tricky lineup decisions to make these days, complicated by the loss of the designated hitter during their two-game, week-opening series at Colorado's Coors Field, their Week 18 schedule is so favorable that all of their regulars and quasi-regulars warrant slotting into your lineup. Jonathan Lucroy, Moreland, Rougned Odor, Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Mazara, Ian Desmond, Choo and Beltran are all worth your while, thanks to this team getting a chance to fatten up against the pitching staffs of the Rockies and Tigers, which rank 27th (4.74) and 20th (4.33), respectively, in ERA this season. Only one note of caution: Despite three games against left-handed starters, this is no slam-dunk schedule for platoon mates Rua and DeShields, as one of those games will be at Coors with no DH (as noted in the "Interleague impact" section. They're good daily, not weekly, plays.
The Nationals have a surprisingly good hitting schedule for a team playing only five games, and it's mostly because they'll get to avoid Kluber and Carrasco during their week-opening series versus the Indians. In fact, injuries have depleted both the Indians' and Braves' rotations to the extent that the Nationals will draw a fifth-starter Indians fill-in (Clevinger, most likely), as well as a trio of Braves starters who total 34 starts worth of big-league experience. This is not a week to bench Wilson Ramos, Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon simply because of the minimal volume.
The Brewers' hitting schedule is every bit as favorable as their pitching schedule in Week 18. Home games are always a plus; Miller Park is 12th in run scoring and third in home runs, per our Park Factor page in 2016, and the venue has historically been known for boosting power numbers. That the Brewers will also benefit from games against the beleaguered Braves -- four of them, in this case -- as well as three against the portion of the Reds' rotation that doesn't include DeSclafani only helps their cause. These are great stolen base matchups in particular, so Jonathan Villar and Orlando Arcia should be standouts. For those looking for lesser-owned plug-ins, lefty-hitting Scooter Gennett (.269/.321/.403 triple-slash rates against righties) and Kirk Nieuwenhuis (.226/.336/.424) warrant a look in a week against six righty starters.