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Fantasy Forecaster: Week 21

Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, Aug. 25 at 11:01 a.m. ET.

On tap: As we enter the season's final calendar month on the concluding day of fantasy's Week 21, Sunday, Sept. 1 brings with it the expansion of major league rosters, from 25 to 40 players. That makes this week another critical one from a transactions standpoint; teams need have their postseason rosters set by Aug. 31, meaning that this is the probable last chance we'll see any significant waiver trades. Expect to see some, though not necessarily in volume equal to that of the July 31 non-waiver deadline, which could put fantasy owners' plans -- and major league teams' rotation plans -- in flux.

One way in which that might manifest itself is in teams' management of "innings cap" candidates, and Gerrit Cole of the Pittsburgh Pirates (MIL, Thursday) is an excellent such example, as he was on turn to start twice this week, but the Pirates pushed him back by two days as a method of workload maintenance. Zack Wheeler of the New York Mets (PHI, Monday; and @WSH, Saturday), is a two-start pitcher who could have his starts altered. Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins (@ATL, Friday) and Shelby Miller of the St. Louis Cardinals (@PIT, Friday) also fit in that mix and, no, none of the four appears in serious jeopardy of being skipped over entirely this week … but it's possible. In Miller's case, would the Cardinals be so bold as to skip him for a less talented starter, knowing full well the importance of that three-game series in Pittsburgh?

Speaking of that series, the tightening National League Central race reaches a showdown stage this week, with those Cardinals battling both the division-leading Pittsburgh Pirates (3 games at PNC Park, Friday-Sunday) and third-place-but-surging Cincinnati Reds (3 games at Busch Stadium, Monday-Tuesday). But it's those Reds who are under the microscope; they've narrowed the gap between themselves and the Cardinals by three games in the past 15 days, and they take their starters to St. Louis, where they have a mediocre track record of success, then to Colorado's Coors Field, the worst environment in baseball for a pitcher.

Week 21 is also one of the weaker ones for two-start pitchers. There are plenty of them -- 37, to be exact -- but only four ranked among my top 25 starting pitchers in this week's "60 Feet 6 Inches," and only three rank among the top 25 starting pitchers on our Player Rater. This is not a week to exploit volume of starts, except in daily leagues where you can more freely streak pitchers.

Quick click by section, if you're seeking advice in a specific area:
ESPN lineup deadlines | Interleague impact | Projected starting pitchers
Pitching scuttlebutt | Week 21 pitcher rankings | Pitching advantages
Hitting ratings | Hitting advantages

ESPN leagues: Lineup deadlines

This is a key week in ESPN standard games: It is the final week of the regular season in head-to-head formats. Playoffs begin in Week 22, on Monday, Sept. 2.

A rescheduled game, Tampa Bay Rays at Kansas City Royals, which is a makeup of their May 25 postponement, gives us another earlier start to the week. Fantasy owners in weekly leagues (and daily owners preparing for Monday) need set their lineups by 2:10 p.m. ET; that is the scheduled first pitch for that game.

There are also day games on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week, though none of them starting as early as usual. Wednesday's first game, oddly enough, begins at 3:10 p.m. ET (Chicago Cubs at Los Angeles Dodgers). Thursday has four games with start times between 1:08 and 1:10 p.m. ET. And Friday has the traditional 2:20 p.m. ET start time for Wrigley Field day games; that's the opener of the Philadelphia Phillies at Chicago Cubs weekend series.

Those Aug. 30-Sept. 1 series, incidentally, kick off the Labor Day weekend; Labor Day comes early this year, on Monday, Sept. 2, so don't forget your lineups, especially in such a critical week for head-to-head play.

Interleague impact

This week's interleague series:
Cleveland Indians at Atlanta Braves (3 games, Tuesday-Thursday)
Los Angeles Angels at Milwaukee Brewers (3 games, Friday-Sunday)

Interleague play will be at a minimum the remainder of the year, as there is never more than one interleague game scheduled per day until season's end. That's generally good news for owners of designated hitters, who lose at-bats when their teams visit National League parks.

This week, however, both interleague series involve American League teams visiting NL cities, so both the Indians and Angels lose the DH. For the Indians, this means no place to play Jason Giambi, their DH in 45 of their 120 AL-rules games thus far, including most of their recent ones against right-handed starters. It also means Carlos Santana, their DH against lefties, most likely shifts back behind the plate for an extra game, at the expense of Yan Gomes. This is a week to sit Giambi and Gomes, except in the deepest of AL-only leagues.

The Angels, meanwhile, lose the spot in which they've most commonly used Josh Hamilton of late, and should Mike Trout be ready to return from his hamstring injury, it means fewer places for their backup outfielders to play. Peter Bourjos, Kole Calhoun and J.B. Shuck will be left fighting for only one spot, making this a poor week to use any outside of AL-only leagues. Incidentally, should Trout remain sidelined into that series, Shuck is a stronger bet to get the bulk of the at-bats ahead of Calhoun, due to a better performance thus far in August.

Projected starting pitchers

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.

Pitching scuttlebutt

• The Baltimore Orioles haven't formally announced their weekend rotation plans, but they have listed their starters through Friday. Scott Feldman is the most logical starter for Saturday's game in New York.
Ryan Dempster becomes eligible to return from his five-game suspension on Tuesday, but the Boston Red Sox have elected to merely skip his turn and bring him back on schedule on Friday.
• The Houston Astros demoted Erik Bedard to the bullpen, but announced that they will stick with a six-man rotation and insert his replacement either Tuesday or Wednesday, with Jarred Cosart pitching the other game. David Martinez is a leading candidate.
Brett Anderson (foot) is a candidate to be activated from the disabled list to rejoin the Oakland Athletics' rotation on Tuesday. He'd presumably bump Tommy Milone, but Dan Straily is also a candidate to be removed.
• It is unclear whether Trevor Cahill, who was needed for 53 pitches and four innings of relief between starts on Aug. 24, will need his Tuesday start for the Arizona Diamondbacks pushed back.
• With Tony Cingrani (back) now on the DL, Greg Reynolds is likely to make another start in his place for the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday. The team could use Thursday's off day to skip his turn, however, meaning that Mat Latos would pick up a second start at Coors.
Daisuke Matsuzaka was signed by the New York Mets to start on Aug. 23, and it's not entirely clear whether he'll make another start for them after that.
Roy Halladay (shoulder) was to be activated by the Philadelphia Phillies on Aug. 25, after the team needed Tyler Cloyd for 91 pitches and five innings on relief the day before. It's unclear how Halladay and Cloyd fit into the weekly rotation; he's might assume Cloyd's spot outright.
• The Pittsburgh Pirates pushed back Gerrit Cole's next turn by two days, to Thursday, in order to keep his innings in check.
Jake Westbrook (back) was placed on the disabled list on Aug. 23, and the St. Louis Cardinals announced Tyler Lyons as his replacement beginning on Monday.
Edinson Volquez was designated for assignment by the San Diego Padres, who haven't yet announced his Wednesday replacement. Robbie Erlin, Burch Smith and Tim Stauffer are the most likely candidates.
Matt Cain (forearm) was placed on the disabled list on Aug. 23, and the San Francisco Giants announced Yusmeiro Petit as his replacement beginning on Tuesday.

Tristan's Week 21 pitcher rankings: Top 75

1. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Tue-CHC (Wood)
2. Zack Greinke (LAD) -- Mon-CHC (Arrieta), Sun-SD (Ross)
3. Yu Darvish (TEX) -- Fri-MIN (Hendriks)
4. Anibal Sanchez (DET) -- Mon-OAK (Griffin), Sat-CLE (Kazmir)
5. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Thu-OAK (Parker)
6. Stephen Strasburg (WSH) -- Wed-MIA (Alvarez)
7. Matt Harvey (NYM) -- Thu-PHI (Martin)
8. David Price (TB) -- Thu-LAA (Richards)
9. Jose Fernandez (MIA) -- Fri-@ATL (Teheran)
10. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Wed-CIN (Bailey)
11. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Wed-@NYM (Matsuzaka)
12. Julio Teheran (ATL) -- Fri-MIA (Fernandez)
13. Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD) -- Fri-SD (Stults)
14. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Tue-OAK (Milone), Sun-CLE (Salazar)
15. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Mon-@NYM (Wheeler), Sat-@CHC (Rusin)
16. Mat Latos (CIN) -- Tue-@STL (Kelly)
17. Chris Sale (CWS) -- Wed-HOU (TBD)
18. Hisashi Iwakuma (SEA) -- Tue-TEX (Holland), Sun-@HOU (Oberholtzer)
19. Francisco Liriano (PIT) -- Fri-STL (Miller)
20. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Wed-TEX (Perez)
21. Mike Minor (ATL) -- Sat-MIA (Turner)
22. Derek Holland (TEX) -- Tue-@SEA (Iwakuma)
23. Kyle Lohse (MIL) -- Tue-@PIT (Locke), Sun-LAA (Wilson)
24. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Wed-@COL (Chacin)
25. Hiroki Kuroda (NYY) -- Wed-@TOR (Redmond)
26. Patrick Corbin (ARI) -- Sat-SF (Vogelsong)
27. James Shields (KC) -- Tue-@MIN (Correia), Sun-@TOR (Dickey)
28. Zack Wheeler (NYM) -- Mon-PHI (Lee), Sat-@WSH (Haren)
29. Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Wed-@STL (Wainwright)
30. A.J. Burnett (PIT) -- Sat-STL (Lynn)
31. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Sat-@MIL (Estrada)
32. Dan Haren (WSH) -- Sat-NYM (Wheeler)
33. Matt Garza (TEX) -- Sat-MIN (Pelfrey)
34. R.A. Dickey (TOR) -- Mon-NYY (Hughes), Sun-KC (Shields)
35. Lance Lynn (STL) -- Sat-@PIT (Burnett)
36. Alex Wood (ATL) -- Tue-CLE (Salazar), Sun-MIA (Eovaldi)
37. Wade Miley (ARI) -- Wed-SD (TBD)
38. Doug Fister (DET) -- Wed-OAK (Straily)
39. C.J. Wilson (LAA) -- Tue-@TB (Hernandez), Sun-@MIL (Lohse)
40. Kris Medlen (ATL) -- Thu-CLE (Jimenez)
41. Alex Cobb (TB) -- Fri-@OAK (Gray)
42. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Thu-BAL (Tillman)
43. Gerrit Cole (PIT) -- Thu-MIL (Gallardo)
44. Tyson Ross (SD) -- Mon-@ARI (McCarthy), Sun-@LAD (Greinke)
45. Justin Masterson (CLE) -- Wed-@ATL (Maholm)
46. Gio Gonzalez (WSH) -- Thu-MIA (Koehler)
47. Jhoulys Chacin (COL) -- Wed-SF (Bumgarner)
48. Jonathon Niese (NYM) -- Tue-PHI (Kendrick), Sun-@WSH (Ohlendorf)
49. Ricky Nolasco (LAD) -- Wed-CHC (Jackson)
50. Jake Peavy (BOS) -- Sat-CWS (Danks)
51. Jarrod Parker (OAK) -- Thu-@DET (Scherzer)
52. Ivan Nova (NYY) -- Sat-BAL (Feldman)
53. Ervin Santana (KC) -- Fri-@TOR (Rogers)
54. Dillon Gee (NYM) -- Fri-@WSH (Zimmermann)
55. Bruce Chen (KC) -- Wed-@MIN (Albers)
56. Sonny Gray (OAK) -- Fri-TB (Cobb)
57. Jeff Samardzija (CHC) -- Fri-PHI (Halladay)
58. A.J. Griffin (OAK) -- Mon-@DET (Sanchez), Sat-TB (Hellickson)
59. Travis Wood (CHC) -- Tue-@LAD (Kershaw)
60. Shelby Miller (STL) -- Fri-@PIT (Liriano)
61. Chris Archer (TB) -- Wed-LAA (Williams)
62. Chris Tillman (BAL) -- Thu-@BOS (Lester)
63. Jordan Zimmermann (WSH) -- Fri-NYM (Gee)
64. Jarred Cosart (HOU) -- Tue-@CWS (Quintana)
65. Felix Doubront (BOS) -- Tue-BAL (Chen), Sun-CWS (Rienzo)
66. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Fri-@ARI (Delgado)
67. Mark Buehrle (TOR) -- Sat-KC (Guthrie)
68. Ian Kennedy (SD) -- Tue-@ARI (Cahill)
69. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Fri-BAL (Gonzalez)
70. Nate Eovaldi (MIA) -- Tue-@WSH (Ohlendorf), Sun-@ATL (Wood)
71. Martin Perez (TEX) -- Wed-@SEA (Hernandez)
72. Erasmo Ramirez (SEA) -- Thu-@HOU (Lyles)
73. Marco Estrada (MIL) -- Sat-LAA (Weaver)
74. John Lackey (BOS) -- Wed-BAL (Norris)
75. Jose Quintana (CWS) -- Tue-HOU (Cosart)

Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Wei-Yin Chen (BAL) -- Tue-@BOS (Doubront), Sun-@NYY (Hughes)
Jeremy Guthrie (KC) -- Mon-TB (Hellickson), Sat-@TOR (Buehrle)
Jeremy Hellickson (TB) -- Mon-@KC (Guthrie), Sat-@OAK (Griffin)
Kyle Kendrick (PHI) -- Tue-@NYM (Niese), Sun-@CHC (Arrieta)
Mike Leake (CIN) -- Mon-@STL (Lyons), Sun-@COL (Nicasio)
Jeff Locke (PIT) -- Tue-MIL (Lohse), Sun-STL (Lyons)
Brandon McCarthy (ARI) -- Mon-SD (Ross), Sun-SF (Zito)
Brett Oberholtzer (HOU) -- Mon-@CWS (Rienzo), Sun-SEA (Iwakuma)
Ross Ohlendorf (WSH) -- Tue-MIA (Eovaldi), Sun-NYM (Niese)
Andre Rienzo (CWS) -- Mon-HOU (Oberholtzer), Sun-@BOS (Doubront)

No-thank-yous, among two-start pitchers:
Jake Arrieta (CHC) -- Mon-@LAD (Greinke), Sun-PHI (Kendrick)
Travis Blackley (TEX) -- Mon-@SEA (Saunders), Sun-MIN (Correia)
Kevin Correia (MIN) -- Tue-KC (Shields), Sun-@TEX (Blackley)
Roberto Hernandez (TB) -- Tue-LAA (Wilson), Sun-@OAK (Milone)
Phil Hughes (NYY) -- Mon-@TOR (Dickey), Sun-BAL (Chen)
Tyler Lyons (STL) -- Mon-CIN (Leake), Sun-@PIT (Locke)
Tommy Milone (OAK) -- Tue-@DET (Verlander), Sun-TB (Hernandez)
Juan Nicasio (COL) -- Mon-SF (Zito), Sun-CIN (Leake)
Danny Salazar (CLE) -- Tue-@ATL (Wood), Sun-@DET (Verlander)
Joe Saunders (SEA) -- Mon-TEX (Blackley), Sat-@HOU (Keuchel)
Barry Zito (SF) -- Mon-@COL (Nicasio), Sun-@ARI (McCarthy)

Pitching advantages

• Revenge is a pitching theme this week, as two of the prominent pitchers to change team at this July's trade deadline face their former mates: Ian Kennedy returns to Arizona's Chase Field on Tuesday, while Jake Peavy faces the Chicago White Sox at Fenway Park on Saturday. Neither pitcher has faced his former teammates much in the past; Peavy has faced only Adam Dunn and Jeff Keppinger, while Arizona Diamondbacks hitters combined have 22 career plate appearances against Kennedy. As he's the one pitching at home, not to mention the one who has pitched better this season, Peavy is the smarter choice of the two. He's 2-for-2 in career starts at Fenway Park. Kennedy, though, could warrant a look in larger leagues, being that he has a 3.59 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 56 career games at Chase Field.

Matt Garza, incidentally, could qualify as a "revenge" candidate, in that he'll face his drafting team on Saturday. It'll be only his second career start against the Minnesota Twins; he tossed seven innings of three-run baseball against them on May 31, 2009. But his rank -- higher than either Peavy or Kennedy -- is less about revenge than it merely being a great matchup, as the Twins have the majors' eighth-worst wOBA since the All-Star break (.300).

• Temper your expectations for all Cincinnati Reds pitchers, especially if you consider the team's history at either Busch Stadium or Coors Field. Take a look at their projected starters' track records there:

Mike Leake (@STL, Monday): Will be making his first appearance at Busch
Mat Latos (@STL, Tuesday): 2-for-4 in QS, 3.97 ERA, 1.32 WHIP
Homer Bailey (@STL, Wednesday): 1-for-7 in QS, 0 W, 6.90 ERA, 1.73 WHIP
Bronson Arroyo (@COL, Friday): 2-for-4 in QS, 7.11 ERA, 1.63 WHIP
Greg Reynolds (@COL, Saturday): 4-for-10 in QS, 8.68 ERA, 1.79 WHIP
Mike Leake (@COL, Sunday): Will be making his first appearance at Coors

Leake, the team's two-start pitcher, is unfortunately the one of the five who has performed most poorly since the All-Star break, going 3-for-7 in quality starts with a 4.32 ERA and 1.54 WHIP. Latos is the most difficult call, as he is 6-for-7 in quality starts with a 1.47 ERA and 1.06 WHIP since the All-Star break, a performance that eases some of the worry surrounding his history at Busch.

• Don't get suckered in by CC Sabathia's "favorable track record" against the Baltimore Orioles, specifically, his 12 wins, 12 quality starts, 3.59 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 19 career starts against them. Whittling down that sample to only games since the beginning of 2012, Sabathia has one win, one quality start, a 4.99 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in his past six starts against them. In addition, he has a 7.86 ERA and 1.83 WHIP in six starts overall since the All-Star break.

Ivan Nova could be the sneaky New York Yankees play of the week. He tossed a complete-game, two-run, 11-K game against the Orioles on July 5, and has limited Orioles hitters to .176/.208/.314 triple-slash rates this season.

• 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. Jose Quintana (HOU, Tuesday): He has a 3.23 ERA and 3.94 K-to-walk ration in 10 starts since July 1, and will be facing the majors' most K-prone team.
2. Randall Delgado (SF, Friday): He's 5-for-7 in quality starts with a 3.60 ERA at home, and current San Francisco Giants have .120/.233/.160 career rates against him.
3. Jarred Cosart (@CWS, Tuesday): His is a hot streak to ride; he's 6-for-7 in quality starts with a 1.60 ERA to begin his big league career.
4. Chris Rusin (PHI, Saturday): He has a 3.18 ERA in August, despite facing a challenging schedule (LAD, @STL, CIN, WSH), and now faces a Philadelphia Phillies offense that has the majors' third-worst wOBA against left-handers (.287).
5. Erasmo Ramirez (@HOU, Thursday): He has 22 K's compared to four walks in his past five games, and like Quintana, will be facing the K-happy Astros.

Hitting ratings

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 advantages

• Here are this week's "volume plays" -- defined as the teams that play the most home games, or games against left- or right-handed starters:
Home games: Detroit Tigers 7, Boston Red Sox 6, Toronto Blue Jays 6, Arizona Diamondbacks 6, Atlanta Braves 6, Colorado Rockies 6, Los Angeles Dodgers 6, Pittsburgh Pirates 6, Washington Nationals 6
Versus LH: Seattle Mariners 6, Baltimore Orioles 3, Boston Red Sox 3, Houston Astros 3, Miami Marlins 3, Milwaukee Brewers 3, San Diego Padres 3.
Versus RH: Oakland Athletics 7, Atlanta Braves 6.

• Five games against left-handed starters. Five! That's how many the Seattle Mariners face this week, and consider for a moment what that means: Of the 150 current members of big league rotations, only 47 -- or 31.3 percent of them -- are left-handed; this means that the Mariners are facing 10.6 percent of the majors' left-handed starting pitching and six of the 25 American League lefty starters.

Unfortunately, this is bad news for two of the team's most productive hitters in August, Michael Saunders (.280/.403/.500 rates in the month) and Justin Smoak (.282/.354/.535). Both players have performed poorly against lefties this season, Saunders sporting .194/.282/.330 triple-slash rates against them, Smoak .188/.274/.288. About the only Mariners hitter who gains a noticeable advantage is Michael Morse, whose wOBA against lefties (.341) is 51 points higher than against right-handers (.290).

• Few hitters have a more impressive career stat line against an individual pitcher than Paul Goldschmidt does against Tim Lincecum. The breakout slugger is 9-for-17 (.529 AVG) with five home runs and two walks in his career against Lincecum, his scheduled Friday opponent. Goldschmidt has actually homered off the San Francisco Giants right-hander in five of the seven games in which they've previously battled, never going more than five trips to the plate between home runs.