Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, April 28, at 12:04 p.m. ET.
On tap: There's a burgeoning "Stephen Strasburg is overrated" movement among fantasy baseball owners, puzzling considering he has three consecutive quality starts. It's presumably directed at his strikeout rate, which, at 8.04 per nine innings (21.4 percent of batters faced), represents a more than 25 percent reduction from his 2010-12 number; if that keeps up, then perhaps he is somewhat overrated -- at least as a clear-cut top-five fantasy starter. Still, Strasburg gets two chances to recapture his K's this week. He makes road starts at the Atlanta Braves (Monday) and Pittsburgh Pirates (Saturday), teams that through April 25 ranked the fourth- and sixth-most strikeout-prone.
Beyond that Strasburg game, however, the Braves might have the edge during their four-game series at Turner Field to begin the week. The Braves swept the Washington Nationals in D.C. from April 12-14 and have beaten them in seven straight dating back to last season. The Nationals' bats have struggled during those seven games. More importantly, however, the Nationals have slumped in the past two weeks of this season (April 13-26), with .220/.273/.357 team rates and an average of 3.25 runs per game during that span.
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Fantasy's Week 5 kicks off with that Strasburg start -- Nationals at Braves is on ESPN's "Monday Night Baseball" at 7 p.m. ET. That means fantasy owners in weekly leagues have a later deadline, which is also the case for those in daily leagues on Tuesday (7:05 p.m. ET first game). There is an especially early game Wednesday, however: New York Mets at Miami Marlins has a 12:40 p.m. ET scheduled first pitch.
Well, well, well. Cliff Lee, winner of the American League's 2008 Cy Young award while with the Indians, returns to Cleveland for the first time since his July 2009 trade, starting Wednesday's game. Incredible, isn't it? Despite spending the entire 2010 season with AL teams, Lee hasn't made a start at Progressive Field since July 16, 2009. He had a 2.96 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 19 starts there between 2008-09.
The Phillies gain a designated hitter in an AL park, which could result in a couple things: It could be a place for Delmon Young to play should he be activated in time; or it might mean an extra lineup spot for Laynce Nix (Tuesday's Indians starter is right-hander Zach McAllister) or Kevin Frandsen. In a two-game series with perhaps different DHs in each contest, it means few player-specific advantages.
As for the Rays, they'll not only lose the DH, but they'll also have their pitchers tested by the most hitter-friendly venue in the National League. Shelley Duncan, half of their DH platoon, should return to the bench, and Kelly Johnson, the other half, might have to split second-base at-bats with Ryan Roberts. If you thought the Rays already used a lot of platoons, just wait until they have only eight lineup spots.
Before you panic over Matt Moore's and David Price's Coors assignments, however, be aware that the Rockies have hit right-handed pitching more effectively than left-handed. Their OPS against righties was 139 points higher through the games of April 25.
The chart below lists each of the 30 MLB teams' schedules and projected starting pitchers and provides a matchup rating for each day's starter. Pitchers scheduled to start at least twice this week are in gold/beige boxes.
P: The starting pitcher's matchup rating, which accounts for past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days), opponent and ballpark. Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst.
• The Baltimore Orioles, who demoted former No. 5 starter Jake Arrieta on April 22, will need a replacement beginning Monday, meaning a possible two starts, with the second on Saturday. Freddy Garcia, currently in Triple-A, and Zach Britton, recently recalled for bullpen depth, are the top candidates. We should get clarity by late Sunday (April 28); Garcia is scheduled to start in Triple-A that day.
• The Cleveland Indians need a spot starter for Wednesday's game, and Trevor Bauer is reportedly the top candidate.
• Though he must be activated from the bereavement list by Monday, Tommy Hanson hasn't been officially promised his rotation spot. He's likely to rejoin the Los Angeles Angels' starting five Monday, but Michael Roth could fill in if not.
• As the Minnesota Twins have been skipping Pedro Hernandez as off days allow, he might be skipped again this week due to Thursday's off day. Either Vance Worley could pick up a second start, or Cole De Vries might be activated.
• The Toronto Blue Jays tentatively expect Josh Johnson, who missed his April 26 start with triceps tightness, to make his next scheduled start Thursday.
• Jhoulys Chacin (back) remains on schedule to return from the disabled list on the first day he is eligible, May 5. He was scheduled for a bullpen session April 27, however, so if he suffers a setback, Tyler Chatwood would get another turn.
• The Los Angeles Dodgers might consider skipping Matt Magill's turn in the rotation thanks to Thursday's off day, in which case Hyun-Jin Ryu would pick up a second start.
• The Philadelphia Phillies haven't yet promised Jonathan Pettibone any future starts. Though Friday is the next time his turn in the rotation comes up, he'll need to officially earn the assignment with a strong April 27 outing.
1. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Tue-MIN (Worley), Sun-@HOU (Humber)
2. Yu Darvish (TEX) -- Tue-CWS (Quintana), Sun-BOS (Lester)
3. Stephen Strasburg (WSH) -- Mon-@ATL (Teheran), Sat-@PIT (Locke)
4. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Mon-CIN (Latos), Sat-@MIL (Gallardo)
5. Matt Harvey (NYM) -- Mon-@MIA (Fernandez), Sun-@ATL (Hudson)
6. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Sat-@SF (Vogelsong)
7. Mat Latos (CIN) -- Mon-@STL (Wainwright), Sun-@CHC (Jackson)
8. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Fri-@TOR (Happ)
9. Gio Gonzalez (WSH) -- Tue-@ATL (Hudson), Sun-@PIT (Rodriguez)
10. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Wed-@CLE (TBD)
11. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Mon-MIN (Pelfrey), Sat-@HOU (Harrell)
12. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Sat-MIA (Fernandez)
13. Jeff Samardzija (CHC) -- Mon-SD (Richard), Sat-CIN (Cingrani)
14. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Tue-@ARI (Cahill)
15. Jordan Zimmermann (WSH) -- Wed-@ATL (Maholm)
16. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Tue-@TOR (Morrow), Sun-@TEX (Darvish)
17. Hiroki Kuroda (NYY) -- Tue-HOU (Humber)
18. Matt Cain (SF) -- Mon-@ARI (Kennedy), Sun-LAD (Lilly)
19. Alex Cobb (TB) -- Tue-@KC (Mendoza), Sun-@COL (Chacin)
20. Matt Moore (TB) -- Fri-@COL (Francis)
21. Roy Halladay (PHI) -- Tue-@CLE (McAllister), Sun-MIA (Slowey)
22. Ian Kennedy (ARI) -- Mon-SF (Cain), Sun-@SD (Volquez)
23. Doug Fister (DET) -- Fri-@HOU (Norris)
24. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Fri-OAK (Griffin)
25. Brandon Morrow (TOR) -- Tue-BOS (Lester), Sun-SEA (Saunders)
26. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Tue-WSH (Gonzalez), Sun-NYM (Harvey)
27. R.A. Dickey (TOR) -- Sat-SEA (Iwakuma)
28. Jaime Garcia (STL) -- Tue-CIN (Arroyo), Sun-@MIL (Estrada)
29. Anibal Sanchez (DET) -- Wed-MIN (Diamond)
30. Wandy Rodriguez (PIT) -- Mon-@MIL (Gallardo), Sun-WSH (Gonzalez)
31. Mike Minor (ATL) -- Fri-NYM (Marcum)
32. Clay Buchholz (BOS) -- Wed-@TOR (Buehrle)
33. James Shields (KC) -- Wed-TB (Hellickson)
34. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Mon-PIT (Rodriguez), Sat-STL (Wainwright)
35. Shelby Miller (STL) -- Fri-@MIL (Lohse)
36. Lance Lynn (STL) -- Wed-CIN (Bailey)
37. Kris Medlen (ATL) -- Thu-WSH (Haren)
38. Paul Maholm (ATL) -- Wed-WSH (Zimmermann)
39. Marco Estrada (MIL) -- Tue-PIT (McDonald), Sun-STL (Garcia)
40. Andy Pettitte (NYY) -- Mon-HOU (Harrell), Sun-OAK (Anderson)
41. Chris Sale (CWS) -- Wed-@TEX (Tepesch)
42. Wade Miley (ARI) -- Fri-@SD (Marquis)
43. Hisashi Iwakuma (SEA) -- Sat-@TOR (Dickey)
44. Derek Holland (TEX) -- Fri-BOS (Doubront)
45. Alexi Ogando (TEX) -- Sat-BOS (Lackey)
46. Jeremy Hellickson (TB) -- Wed-@KC (Shields)
47. David Price (TB) -- Sat-@COL (Garland)
48. Josh Johnson (TOR) -- Thu-BOS (Dempster)
49. Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Wed-@STL (Lynn)
50. Jason Hammel (BAL) -- Tue-@SEA (Maurer), Sun-@LAA (Richards)
51. Justin Masterson (CLE) -- Sat-MIN (Correia)
52. Jake Peavy (CWS) -- Thu-@TEX (Grimm)
53. Wade Davis (KC) -- Mon-CLE (Jimenez), Sat-CWS (Axelrod)
54. Patrick Corbin (ARI) -- Sat-@SD (Richard)
55. Edwin Jackson (CHC) -- Tue-SD (Volquez), Sun-CIN (Latos)
56. Ross Detwiler (WSH) -- Fri-@PIT (Burnett)
57. Wei-Yin Chen (BAL) -- Wed-@SEA (Harang)
58. A.J. Burnett (PIT) -- Fri-WSH (Detwiler)
59. Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD) -- Tue-COL (De La Rosa)
60. Kyle Lohse (MIL) -- Fri-STL (Miller)
61. Ryan Dempster (BOS) -- Thu-@TOR (Johnson)
62. Tony Cingrani (CIN) -- Sat-@CHC (Samardzija)
63. Trevor Cahill (ARI) -- Tue-SF (Bumgarner)
64. Ryan Vogelsong (SF) -- Sat-LAD (Kershaw)
65. Ervin Santana (KC) -- Thu-TB (Hernandez)
66. Garrett Richards (LAA) -- Tue-@OAK (Parker), Sun-BAL (Hammel)
67. C.J. Wilson (LAA) -- Wed-@OAK (Milone)
68. Jose Fernandez (MIA) -- Mon-NYM (Harvey), Sat-@PHI (Hamels)
69. Jonathon Niese (NYM) -- Sat-@ATL (Teheran)
70. Jose Quintana (CWS) -- Tue-@TEX (Darvish), Sun-@KC (Mendoza)
71. Tommy Milone (OAK) -- Wed-LAA (Wilson)
72. Jorge De La Rosa (COL) -- Tue-@LAD (Ryu)
73. Carlos Villanueva (CHC) -- Fri-CIN (Leake)
74. David Phelps (NYY) -- Wed-HOU (Bedard)
75. Kyle Kendrick (PHI) -- Thu-MIA (Sanabia)
Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Brett Anderson (OAK) -- Mon-LAA (Hanson), Sun-@NYY (Pettitte)
Ted Lilly (LAD) -- Mon-COL (Chatwood), Sun-@SF (Cain)
Julio Teheran (ATL) -- Mon-WSH (Strasburg), Sat-NYM (Niese)
Edinson Volquez (SD) -- Tue-@CHC (Jackson), Sun-ARI (Kennedy)
No-thank-yous among two-start pitchers:
Tommy Hanson (LAA) -- Mon-@OAK (Anderson), Sat-BAL (TBD)
Lucas Harrell (HOU) -- Mon-@NYY (Pettitte), Sat-DET (Scherzer)
Philip Humber (HOU) -- Tue-@NYY (Kuroda), Sun-DET (Verlander)
Luis Mendoza (KC) -- Tue-TB (Cobb), Sun-CWS (Quintana)
Mike Pelfrey (MIN) -- Mon-@DET (Scherzer), Sun-@CLE (Kluber)
Clayton Richard (SD) -- Mon-@CHC (Samardzija), Sat-ARI (Corbin)
Joe Saunders (SEA) -- Mon-BAL (Britton), Sun-@TOR (Morrow)
Kevin Slowey (MIA) -- Tue-NYM (Hefner), Sun-@PHI (Halladay)
• It's another week of treacherous matchups for pitchers who face the St. Louis Cardinals, just as was the case in Week 2, when the six starting pitchers who battled them combined for a 5.60 ERA. All six of those starters -- plus rookie Wily Peralta (Thursday) -- represent the Cardinals' opponents this week, so don't expect much better from your Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers.
The Brewers' Yovani Gallardo is at particular risk of a bad outing. He's 1-10 with a 6.84 ERA and 1.49 WHIP in 15 career starts against the Cardinals, including a loss April 13. So are the Reds' Mat Latos (Monday), Bronson Arroyo (Tuesday) and Homer Bailey (Wednesday): The three combined are 4-14 with a 6.46 ERA and 1.54 WHIP in 26 career starts at St. Louis' Busch Stadium.
That said, here's something for Latos' owners in particular to consider: The Cardinals' offense currrently has an OPS 15 points beneath the major league average (.698, compared to .713), generating a high rate of runs thanks to a .340 batting average with runners in scoring position. As hot as he has started the year, Latos is one pitcher worth the risk; it is reflected in my rankings above.
• In Gallardo's defense, he has as outstanding a track record against his other opponent, the Pittsburgh Pirates, as a poor one against the Cardinals. In 15 career meetings (14 starts), he has 10 quality starts, a 9-2 record, 2.59 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 10.34 strikeouts per nine innings against the Pirates. He's a much higher-risk option in leagues that allow weekly transactions than daily, but it might be worth using him in both considering the strength of matchup No. 2.
• Roy Halladay's 2013 resurgence began with an eight-inning, five-hit, one-run outing against the Miami Marlins on April 14, and his second of two starts in Week 5 comes against those very Marlins. He has a history against this team; remember that he tossed a perfect game against them on May 29, 2010, and he has an 8-3 record, 10 quality starts, a 2.73 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 13 starts against them as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. For this week, at least, trust him once more.
• Two notable fantasy names might warrant a place on your bench this week due to their poor histories working at hitter-friendly ballparks: Brett Anderson (@NYY, Sunday) has never won in three starts at Yankee Stadium, his ERA there 5.00 and WHIP 1.72, and Jake Peavy (@TEX, Thursday) is winless in three starts at Rangers Ballpark, with a 6.46 ERA and 1.70 WHIP there.
• Here are this week's Streamer's Delight picks -- players need to be available in at least 75 percent of ESPN leagues as of our publishing time (Fridays):
1. Kyle Kendrick (MIA, Thursday): He has won eight of his past nine starts versus the Marlins, with a 2.03 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in them.
2. Garrett Richards (BAL, Sunday): He has an underrated slider and sports a 3.60 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in his nine career starts at Angel Stadium.
3. Andrew Cashner (@CHC, Wednesday): The Chicago Cubs have struck out in 23.1 percent of their plate appearances, third most in baseball.
4. Wei-Yin Chen (@SEA, Wednesday): He has a 2.84 ERA and 0.79 WHIP in his two career starts at Seattle's Safeco Field.
5. David Phelps (HOU, Wednesday): The Houston Astros have the highest strikeout rate against curveballs in the game (52.8 percent).
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.
Some of the data used to generate this chart is derived from Baseball Musings' Day-by-day database.
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:
7 home games: Kansas City Royals, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers
Versus RH: St. Louis Cardinals (7), Chicago White Sox (6), Detroit Tigers (6), Houston Astros (6), Kansas City Royals (6), Miami Marlins (6)
Versus LH: Texas Rangers (4), Colorado Rockies (4)
• Though the Cardinals might be off to a mediocre start against right-handed pitching -- .245/.298/.384 triple-slash rates against them -- this week of seven games entirely against right-handers, four of which will be played at hitter-friendly Miller Park in Milwaukee, creates some opportunities. Slumping Matt Carpenter, a .305/.359/.525 hitter against right-handers, should benefit. And Jon Jay, though only a .230/.254/.377 hitter versus righties, has a strong track record against some of his individual opponents: He's 26-for-65 (.400 AVG) with two home runs against the Reds' three scheduled starters, and he's 9-for-26 (.346 AVG) with one home run in his career against the Brewers' Yovani Gallardo.
• We'll get the classic Paul Goldschmidt-Tim Lincecum matchup once more, as Lincecum is scheduled to face the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday. Goldschmidt is a lifetime .571 hitter (8-for-14) against Lincecum, with five of those eight hits home runs. There are rare instances where specific hitter-versus-pitcher matchups are must-starts; this is one of the few (assuming you play in a shallow league where you're able to be especially picky.)
• Is this Matt Kemp's breakout week? If you consider his track record against his Los Angeles Dodgers' scheduled opponents, it might be. He's a career .425 hitter (17-for-40) with six home runs against the Rockies' three scheduled starters (Tyler Chatwood, Jorge De La Rosa and Juan Nicasio), and he's a .436/.508/.655 hitter against San Francisco Giants starter Barry Zito (Friday).
• Three games at Colorado's Coors Field can make even the worst offenses look good, and the Tampa Bay Rays have a few beneath-the-radar hitters you might be able to exploit right off the free-agent list. James Loney, an ex-Dodger, is a lifetime .326/.374/.558 hitter in 52 games at Coors. Kelly Johnson, meanwhile, is a .259/.378/.481 hitter in 22 games at Coors, numbers that might grab the team's attention enough to squeeze him in at second base. And Matt Joyce, a .262/.351/.490 career hitter against right-handers, benefits from the team's five games against righty starters.