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'The Nine' for Week 13
Can you believe we're already near the midpoint of the fantasy baseball season? Barring any postponements between now and then, exactly 50 percent of the scheduled 2018 regular-season games will have been played once nine games are in the books on June 29 (Friday of Week 13). Every quarter of the season tends to be a good time to reassess your fantasy team's standing and roster needs, so this is a good time to do that as you set your weekly lineups.
The Seattle Mariners conclude their 10-game, East Coast road swing that began on a terrible note in New York with their softest portion: a four-game series at Baltimore's Camden Yards, against the team that is second-worst in baseball in runs per game (3.56) and has the fourth-worst in ERA (4.86). Couple that with a weekend three-game series back home against the Kansas City Royals, who rank 28th (3.62) and last (5.32) in those same categories and the Mariners have baseball's most favorable set of weekly matchups on both sides of the ball. James Paxton is an obvious play, and two-start pitcher Felix Hernandez (available in roughly 65 percent of ESPN leagues) has picked up his performance of late, with a 3.13 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 5.25 strikeout-to-walk ratio in four starts in June. On offense, a schedule featuring seven scheduled right-handed starting pitchers could be what gets Kyle Seager's season going, and it also makes Denard Span (available in roughly 70 percent) and Ben Gamel (available in more than 98 percent) worthwhile adds in larger-than-standard leagues.
The Los Angeles Angels benefit from missing Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez, two of the majors' 10 best pitchers in terms of WAR and two of the 30 best starters on the Player Rater, in the Boston Red Sox's rotation during their week-opening series. And like the Mariners, the Angels benefit greatly on the hitting side by facing the weak Royals (one game) and Orioles (three) pitching staffs in their other four games. It's opportune timing for this offense, which recently got Kole Calhoun and Andrelton Simmons back from the disabled list, and both players warrant consideration facing a schedule like this. Calhoun (available in roughly 95 percent of ESPN leagues), who struggled mightily in the season's early weeks, is 4-for-10 with two home runs since his return.
Shelby Miller's (DL: elbow) return from May 2017 Tommy John surgery is scheduled for Monday at Miami's Marlins Park, a favorable matchup that also aligns him for a two-start week, with the second turn coming back home against the San Francisco Giants. The Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander's four-start minor league rehabilitation stint was a mixed bag, as he dominated high-A ball with a 43 percent strikeout rate and no walks in his two turns for Visalia, but struggled to the tune of a 10.57 ERA and 10 K's and to six walks in his two starts for Double-A Jackson. Miller's pitch count did reach 78 in his most recent turn (June 16, in high-A), and the Miami Marlins' worst-in-baseball 3.55 runs-per-game average and pitching-friendly home ballpark make him an appealing option in deep-mixed (think at least 12 teams) and NL-only leagues. He's not as appealing as another two-start pitcher who recently returned from the disabled list, Joey Lucchesi (@TEX, PIT), but he's also available in a much larger percentage of ESPN leagues, roughly 95 percent to Soroka's 65 percent and Lucchesi's 80 percent.
Clayton Kershaw (DL: back) rejoined the Los Angeles Dodgers' rotation on Saturday, and he'll make his next start Thursday at home against the Chicago Cubs. While his name value will propel him into the vast majority of fantasy lineups, these are among the worst circumstances for him for our purposes, especially as his June 23 outing wasn't exactly stellar. Besides it being a one-start week, the Cubs represent one of the 10 toughest matchups for an opposing pitcher -- productivity, patience and above-average contact -- and Kershaw's pitch count seems likely to be limited after he threw 55 in his most recent outing.
The Detroit Tigers have one of the wider team platoon splits in baseball, 37 points of wOBA (.342 versus lefties, .305 versus righties), so a week like this in which they're scheduled to face at least two left-handed starters, plus some very hittable righties, is a big plus for them. You already know plenty about Nicholas Castellanos' and Jeimer Candelario's prowess against left-handed pitching, but the ones whom you might not be aware of are catcher-eligible John Hicks (available in roughly 70 percent of ESPN leagues), a .272/.345/.466 hitter against lefties since the beginning of last season, and Jose Iglesias (available in nearly 90 percent), a .286/.322/.421 hitter against lefties during the same time span.
Four of the five interleague series in Week 13 involve American League teams visiting National League parks, where they won't have the luxury of the designated hitter, and two of those teams, the Cleveland Indians (Edwin Encarnacion) and New York Yankees (Giancarlo Stanton), have extremely fantasy-relevant primary DHs and play three of their six games without a DH. The Indians can always shift Encarnacion to first base and relegate Yonder Alonso to pinch-hitting duty at St. Louis' Busch Stadium, even though they've gone with a straight platoon in their four previous games at an NL venue, limiting Alonso's usefulness for the week. The Yankees, meanwhile, face Red Sox lefties Eduardo Rodriguez, Chris Sale and David Price in their weekend series following their visit to Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, making Brett Gardner, a .235/.304/.235 hitter against left-handers this season, a weaker play in weekly formats due to the possible loss of playing time.
For those seeking righty/lefty weekly matchups candidates, consider: Nick Ahmed (available in nearly 95 percent of ESPN leagues) and Ketel Marte (available in roughly two-thirds of leagues), whose Diamondbacks face at least three left-handed starters, are .286/.337/.558 and .299/.352/.515 hitters against lefties this season. Jed Lowrie (available in roughly 20 percent), whose Oakland Athletics face six right-handed starters, is a .283/.355/.513 hitter against righties this season. Enrique Hernandez (available in roughly 95 percent), whose Dodgers face four left-handed starters, has .225 isolated power against left-handers while starting every game against a lefty starter this season. Jurickson Profar (available in roughly 45 percent), whose Texas Rangers face three left-handed starters, has started 24 consecutive games and is a .254/.333/.537 hitter against lefties this season.
Billy Hamilton has picked up the pace recently, with multihit performances in three of his past four games (through June 21), and he's lined up for one of the more favorable schedules for his skill set. In addition to facing Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers catchers who grade below-average to poor at throwing out opposing base stealers, the only scheduled opponent the Cincinnati Reds will face who is better-than-average against left-handed hitters is the pitch-to-contact Chase Anderson. Six of the seven starters the Reds face, in addition, are right-handed. Hamilton, available in more than 50 percent of ESPN leagues, is in fact entering a great 10-day portion of his schedule and is well worth the Week 13 start.