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Coming off one of the lighter weeks of the season, the Week 6 schedule (by comparison) is far more jam-packed. A full 16 of the 30 teams play seven games, no team suffers the misfortune of a five-game week, and there's a Detroit Tigers-Minnesota Twins doubleheader on Saturday, May 11, that grants fantasy managers an opportunity to load up on volume in daily leagues. As is always the case in weeks like these, quality matters so much more than quantity. It's also a week with an unusually early start, as the San Francisco Giants-Cincinnati Reds weekend wrap-around series concludes on Monday with the first pitch scheduled for 12:35 p.m. ET.
The Houston Astros play seven home games against two of the five worst pitching staffs in baseball (judged by staff ERA), hosting the Kansas City Royals (5.10 ERA, 26th) for three and the Texas Rangers (5.49, 29th) for four. The advantage here is that the Astros offense is one that relies more heavily on "regulars" than your average team, with only the center field spot -- effectively Jake Marisnick rotating with Tyler White with the team looping in the other two outfield spots and designated hitter to make the positions work on the lineup card -- up for grabs on any given night. How the team handles Josh Reddick's role is key this week: He has started only two of the team's eight games against left-handed starters (through May 2) despite hitting .270/.316/.514 against lefties since the beginning of last season, and the Astros do face three left-handed starters in their seven games. Reddick, available in more than 75 percent of ESPN leagues, is still well worth the add facing this schedule even if he draws only four starts (though one can expect five or six starts). Primary catcher Robinson Chirinos (available in nearly 90 percent of ESPN leagues) is a .275/.371/.490 hitter over his past 16 games, and also one of Week 6's most attractive plug-and-play catchers.
Though it's open to debate -- there isn't a National League team that stands head and shoulders ahead of the pack -- the Chicago Cubs probably have Week 6's best all-around schedule for fantasy (both favorable hitting and pitching matchups). Yes, they'll host the potent Milwaukee Brewers offense for three weekend games, but those at least come at the more favorable park for pitchers of the team's two home venues (Chicago's Wrigley Field). Plus, the four week-opening games against a Miami Marlins team that has averaged more than a quarter of a run per game less than any other team in baseball thus far more than balances things in weekly leagues. Jon Lester, who joins Cole Hamels as the team's two-start pitchers, has been "lights out" in his two starts since returning from the injured list, and is a must-start considering his two turns. David Bote (available in more than 95 percent of ESPN leagues), who has started 10 of the Cubs' past 15 games as Kris Bryant has increasingly been shifted off of third base due to shoulder woes, is worth a plug-and-play in mixed/NL-only leagues of 14-plus teams against this pair of below-average pitching staffs.
The Twins offense has been one of the best this season, sporting the league's best team wOBA (.358) and home run rate (4.8 percent of their trips to the plate) and the fourth-best runs per game (5.34). Expect that continue as the team makes a three-game stop at Toronto's Rogers Centre -- an above-average hitters' park -- then returns home to host the Tigers for four games (including the aforementioned doubleheader). Byron Buxton, who has been dropped in a handful of ESPN leagues and is now available in roughly one-third, remains one of the stronger sources of stolen bases and gets a hitting bump as well in Week 6. In leagues deeper than 15-team mixed or AL-only, the team's catcher combination of Jason Castro and Mitch Garver should provide enough value considering their near 50/50 split of the duties.
Both the San Diego Padres and the Giants make trips to Colorado's Coors Field in Week 6. The Giants visit first, for three games from Tuesday through Thursday, then the Padres stop by for three from Friday through Sunday. The ballpark bump is enough to make both teams good sources of weekly plug-ins, despite both being among the six teams averaging fewer than 3.75 runs per game thus far. Giants lefties are in the best spot, thanks to a projected six opposing right-handed starters, so Brandon Belt (available in more than 90 percent of ESPN leagues) is well worth the pickup, especially considering he's a lifetime .319/.379/.562 hitter in 54 games at Coors. Steven Duggar (available in more than 98 percent) is a .271/.323/.407 hitter in his past 15 games and therefore also warrants a look. From the Padres, Franmil Reyes (available in more than 85 percent) is a .324 hitter (11-for-34) with four home runs in his past 10 games. He should be added and started in all leagues.
The Colorado Rockies, of course, benefit on the hitting side from all six of their Week 6 games taking place at home. Five of those contests are projected to come against left-handed starters, and while many Rockies hitters are obvious plays, Ian Desmond (available in more than 40 percent of ESPN leagues) is apparently not. He is, however, a .274/.324/.510 hitter against lefties since the beginning of last season. Digging deeper, Mark Reynolds (available in more than 99 percent) has started seven of the Rockies' 10 games against a lefty starter this season and has batted .264/.378/.407 against lefties since the beginning of last season.
A pair of NL East left-handers hit the road with their teams to make two-start weeks, with their particular assignments being "statement games." In other words, they could both establish themselves as every-start options and potentially top-30 fantasy starting pitchers with success this week. The Marlins' Caleb Smith, whose career ERA on the road (5.55) is nearly two and three-quarters runs higher than it is at home (2.82), makes starts at Chicago's Wrigley Field and New York's Citi Field. The Braves' Max Fried, who has five quality starts in six tries since his recall, will be the visiting starter at Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium and Arizona's Chase Field. Both grade as must-starts, with Smith weighing in as a top-10 choice despite his road track record.
Keep riding the Michael Chavis bandwagon -- and get him right now if you're in any of the 82 percent of ESPN leagues in which he's still available -- as his Boston Red Sox draw another week of outstanding hitting matchups. Chavis, thanks to his .289/.426/.553 rates thus far, has pushed himself into the fifth/sixth spots in the lineup and, entering play on May 3, is only one game away from second base eligibility. As for the rest of the Red Sox, they should face four right-handed starters. Mitch Moreland (available in more than 85 percent) is well worth the add.
If you're looking for righty/lefty matchup advantages amongst players more suited for deep-mixed (think 14-plus-team) or "only" leagues, consider: Carlos Gonzalez (available in more than 97 percent of ESPN leagues), a .283/.343/.482 hitter against righties in 2018-19, and Leonys Martin (available in nearly 95 percent), a .271/.346/.458 hitter against righties, whose Cleveland Indians face six right-handed starters; Jose Iglesias (available in nearly 99 percent), a .333/.377/.495 hitter against lefties in 2018-19 whose Reds face four left-handed starters; Gregory Polanco (available in roughly 75 percent), a .258/.346/.514 hitter against righties in 2018-19 whose Pittsburgh Pirates face nothing but right-handed starters; and Nick Williams (available in more than 99 percent), a lifetime .267/.328/.461 hitter against righties whose Philadelphia Phillies face nothing but right-handed starters.