The Fantasy Baseball Forecaster has been updated as of Monday, May 15, at 10:55 a.m. ET.
Welcome to the new and improved version of the Fantasy Baseball Forecaster! This year, we've reorganized the story into four parts; it's the same great intel, but you get right where you need to go as quickly as possible. Good luck this season!
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On tap: Monday's action gets underway at 6:10 p.m. ET, and Houston Astros at Miami Marlins is on ESPN's Monday Night Baseball at 7 p.m. ET. ESPN has two other prime-time games on the Week 7 schedule: Boston Red Sox at St. Louis Cardinals, 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday Night Baseball, and Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers, 8 p.m. ET on Sunday Night Baseball.
Two-game swings through National League cities, where they'll be without the designated hitter, couldn't come at much worse times for the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays, whose usual DHs are dealing with day-to-day ailments. The Red Sox's Hanley Ramirez, who was questionable to play first base due to off-and-on shoulder issues early in the year yet logged his first 1B start of the season May 10 at Milwaukee, suffered a trapezius injury in that game and is now uncertain to play in the field (if at all) May 16-17 at St. Louis' Busch Stadium. The Blue Jays' Kendrys Morales, who had made five starts and played 45 innings at first base earlier in the year, suffered a hamstring injury on May 9 that could leave him questionable to play first base May 17-18 at Atlanta's SunTrust Park. The threat to their playing time forces both into the "monitor their status closely" class of Week 7 options and could make them sits if you're deep in alternatives in a shallow mixed league. Matchup-wise, be aware that Morales' matchups are far superior to Ramirez's: He's the one with the additional game (seven to Ramirez's six), he's the switch-hitter to Ramirez's one game against a lefty starter, and his Blue Jays have a much higher hitter rating. Morales also has the significant advantage of having returned to the DH position on May 13, giving him an excellent chance of starting at least five games during Week 7.
Morales' mixed-league appeal gets a boost thanks to the Blue Jays' schedule being favorable enough (barring any May 14 setback), but his injury creates an even greater opportunity for regular first baseman Justin Smoak, who probably will handle first base for both games in Atlanta. One of the team's hottest hitters, Smoak is a worthwhile mixed-league corner infield plug-in, and usual No. 2 hitter against righties Ezeqiuel Carrera, a .329/.377/.476 hitter against righties this season, warrants a look.
The Houston Astros are in for a challenging week on offense, as they are one of the lower-graded teams making a three-game trip to pitching-friendly Miami's Marlins Park before returning home to face a Cleveland Indians team that could end up throwing Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco in their three-game series. Although losing the DH for those three games in Miami isn't entirely devastating, as usual, DH Carlos Beltran isn't one of the higher-profile fantasy options, it's a small knock on the lineup as a whole from a volume perspective, and the Kluber-Carrasco possibility severely lowers the team's statistical floor during Week 7 (they'd rate a "2" with Kluber in there over Mike Clevinger). Expect the most significant impact to be upon the supporting cast: Norichika Aoki, Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez, who along with Beltran are the ones most likely to suffer lost at-bats in the Miami games, and Alex Bregman, who has batted a disappointing .269/.349/.355 without a home run against a righty thus far.
No team has a better set of hitting matchups than the Chicago Cubs, who might finally be able to jump-start their offense while facing nothing but below-average, right-handed members of the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers rotations. It's another week in which Kyle Schwarber, who has a career big-league wOBA 118 points higher against right-handers (.370) than left-handers (.252), might heat up, but between Schwarber's early struggles and Jason Heyward's injury, Jon Jay, a .286 hitter with a .397 on-base percentage against righties in 2017, warrants a look in larger mixed and NL-only leagues, thanks to additional at-bats as well as possible looks in the leadoff spot. If you play in a two-catcher league, Miguel Montero, a .326/.348/.558 hitter against righties who often catches two-start pitcher John Lackey as well as Jake Arrieta, is worth slotting into your lineup.
The Philadelphia Phillies' offense gets a significant boost from three week-opening games at Texas' Globe Life Park, where they'll enjoy the venue's hitting-friendly confines while benefiting from the addition of the DH. With Ryan Howard, their DH for nine of their 10 games in American League parks in 2016, retired, the team will likely rotate DH assignments, providing a boost in value to Aaron Altherr, Michael Saunders and Daniel Nava. (As an aside, there's also the remote possibility that the Phillies could promote Rhys Hoskins from Triple-A Lehigh Valley for the week, using either him or typical first baseman Tommy Joseph at DH, in which case Hoskins would be an instant add-and-start in all formats for at least those three games at Texas.) Altherr is an across-the-board start facing matchups such as these -- and, yes, I'm aware of the quick turnaround from last week's low volume-driven recommendation to bench him for his subsequently huge Week 6, and the recommendation to start him now facing this high-volume schedule. All we're tasked to do as fantasy owners is play the best matchups, and his are outstanding this time around.
Fantasy owners often mistake Minnesota's Target Field for a pitching-friendly environment, but it's an above-average venue for right-handed power, which is good news for Brian Dozier, Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and their Minnesota Twins mates facing a schedule such as theirs. As the Twins' lefty bats are the ones available in greater numbers in ESPN leagues, Max Kepler (a .286/.393/.443 hitter against righties this season), Eddie Rosario (.286/.315/.457) and Kennys Vargas (.360/.385/.880) are three to consider plugging in for Week 7.
Cody Bellinger might be the Los Angeles Dodgers' left-handed hitter stealing the headlines, but don't overlook Joc Pederson and (switch-hitting) Yasmani Grandal, whose Week 7 matchups are every bit as tantalizing. With Andrew Toles (DL: knee) sidelined, Pederson again appears the team's preferred leadoff man against right-handers -- and the Dodgers are scheduled to face five such starters -- and Grandal is hitting .333/.395/.556 against righties while typically slotting in fifth or sixth in the order against that side.
Speaking of the Dodgers, their creative use of the disabled list has made it next-to-impossible to get a read on their weekly matchups. Still, this is a week in which a case can be made for all seven of their typical rotation candidates -- yes, this includes Kenta Maeda, who is eligible to pitch only one of Week 7's seven days, May 21 -- as the team is beyond its Coors Field portion of the schedule and instead gets three games at San Francisco's AT&T Park and four back home against the Miami Marlins. Every Dodgers starter projects for a better-than-league-average Game Score, which means that, yes, you should activate even Rich Hill for his May 16 start, despite the risk of an early, blister-influenced exit. Maeda is the one exception, if only because it's difficult to chance a player eligible for only 14 percent of a week's schedule without an ironclad promise he'll return.
Just one team suffers the disadvantage of a five-game week: The St. Louis Cardinals, who play their first two against red-hot Eduardo Rodriguez and defending American League Cy Young award winner Rick Porcello, both of the Red Sox. Aledmys Diaz, Randal Grichuk and Kolten Wong aren't hitting enough to warrant use in shallow-mixed leagues if you have viable alternatives, and if Dexter Fowler (shoulder) can't get healthy enough to make a start before the week begins, he'd be too risky to keep active for a shortened schedule.