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Week 9 begins on Memorial Day, with an ESPN tripleheader of games: Miami Marlins at Washington Nationals at 1 p.m. ET, Cleveland Indians at Boston Red Sox at 4 p.m. ET and New York Mets at Los Angeles Dodgers at 8 p.m. ET, with the latter featuring a great pitchers' duel between Jacob deGrom and Clayton Kershaw. It means an earlier start to the week, so make sure to set your lineups!
Thanks to a Memorial Day doubleheader at Great American Ball Park against the Cincinnati Reds, the Pittsburgh Pirates enjoy a rare eight-game week. Unfortunately, the Pirates' weekly hitting grade doesn't rank among the league's elite, with four of their scheduled opposing starting pitchers -- Luis Castillo, Anthony DeSclafani, Jhoulys Chacin and Brandon Woodruff -- ranking among the league's 25 best from 2017 to '19 in terms of wOBA afforded to right-handed hitters (out of 208 pitchers with a minimum 20 starts). Switch-hitting/left-handed hitting Josh Bell and Gregory Polanco should be mainstays in your fantasy lineups, and Starling Marte provides enough speed to stick as well, but beware of counting on other Pirates bats.
Conversely, the Atlanta Braves are baseball's only team to play just five games, which is a disadvantage only in that in addition to the Pirates' eight-game week, 15 other teams play as many as seven times. Still, the Braves have an unusually favorable schedule despite the short week: While they'll have to tangle with Stephen Strasburg on Tuesday, they'll get a bottom-10 Nationals pitching staff (plus the Nationals' league-worst bullpen potentially following Strasburg) on Wednesday and a three-game series against a Detroit Tigers staff that also ranks among the 10 worst in ERA. Austin Riley (47 percent available in ESPN leagues, top-20 player per our Player Rater's "Last 15" split) needs to be locked into all lineups despite the short week, the team's five more-rostered hitters need join him as active players.
The Colorado Rockies play a seven-game week entirely at home at hitters' heaven Coors Field, with three of them against a Toronto Blue Jays staff that has struggled in May while battered by injuries. In fact, the toughest starting-pitcher assignments the Rockies will face are Zack Greinke (Monday) and Robbie Ray (Wednesday), who combined are 4-for-13 in quality starts with a 4.26 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and 5.8 innings-per-start average at Coors since the beginning of 2015 -- and be aware that the Diamondbacks' bullpen behind them ranks only 21st in ERA (4.42) this season. Brendan Rodgers (83 percent available in ESPN leagues), who has started four of the team's six games at second base since his recall, should be locked into your lineups during this homestand. Also consider adding and starting Raimel Tapia (95 percent available), a lifetime .287/.328/.465 hitter against right-handed pitchers, since the Rockies are scheduled to face six right-handed starters during Week 9.
The Texas Rangers, who entered play on May 24 ranked second in baseball in runs per game (5.77) and third in team wOBA (.356), face Seattle Mariners (5.13 ERA, 28th) and Kansas City Royals (5.23, 29th) pitching staffs that rank among the three worst in the majors. The Rangers should get a boost with the return of Elvis Andrus (hamstring, activated from IL May 25), their usual No. 2/3 hitter, and Andrus' 21-point career wOBA split with better numbers against lefties (.329, compared to .308 against righties) should play well in a week during which the team is scheduled to face four left-handed starters. That lefty-heavy schedule should also benefit Hunter Pence (62 percent available in ESPN leagues, .395 wOBA versus lefties in 2019) and Logan Forsythe (93 percent available, .373 wOBA against lefties), with the latter more of a deep-mixed/AL-only option due to his likelihood of platoon starts with Ronald Guzman at first base. Incidentally, while the Rangers' offense has only a .322 team wOBA against left-handers, four points beneath the league's average, Joey Gallo (.464 wOBA against lefties) and Nomar Mazara (.397) have hit them rather well in 2019.
The Royals' offense might be better known for its speed than its hitting, but a seven-game week including three-game trips to Chicago's Guaranteed Rate Field and Texas' Globe Life Park gives the team a fighting chance at some big numbers with the bat. Those venues represent significant park upgrades for the Royals, whose 2.7 percent home run rate ranks 26th and .323 wOBA ranks .323, and the opposing Chicago White Sox (4.91 ERA, 22nd) and Rangers (5.11, 27th) sport bottom-10 pitching staffs. No. 6 hitter Jorge Soler (76 percent available in ESPN leagues) has a road wOBA (.350) 34 points higher than at home (.316), while Nicky Lopez (92 percent available) is well worth the add, considering the team's matchups as well as his No. 2 spot in the lineup in his first eight big-league games.
Both the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies face brutal Week 9 schedules, in large part because each has to face an elite pitching staff for three road games during the week: The Cubs visit the Houston Astros (Monday-Wednesday), while the Phillies visit the Dodgers (Friday-Sunday). Each team also battles the St. Louis Cardinals for three games. This is a week to avoid borderline mixed-league starters like Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez.
Among Week 9 comeback candidates (from either the IL or minors), James Paxton (knee, IL) could rejoin the Yankees' rotation on May 29, with his specific return date important because his matchup would be much more favorable against the San Diego Padres on that date rather than during the team's May 30-June 2 weekend series against the Red Sox -- he'd be a top-15 starter if he faces the Padres, but only a top-60 starter if he faces the Red Sox. Travis Shaw (wrist, IL) is on a rehab assignment with Triple-A San Antonio and could rejoin the Milwaukee Brewers sometime during Week 9, casting some doubt upon his own and rookie Keston Hiura's weekly playing time. The Phillies, meanwhile, will recall Nick Pivetta to fill their open May 28 rotation spot, which could line him up for a two-start week, albeit with unfavorable matchups (versus Cardinals, at Dodgers).
If you're looking for righty/lefty matchup advantages among players more suited for deep-mixed (think 14-plus-team) or "only" leagues, consider: Starlin Castro (79 percent available in ESPN leagues), a .312/.362/.439 hitter against lefties in 2018-19 whose Marlins face four left-handed starters; Willy Adames (90 percent available), a .287/.358/.446 hitter against righties in 2018-19, Ji-Man Choi (98 percent), a .281/.365/.504 hitter against righties in 2018-19, and Brandon Lowe (59 percent), a .275/.350/.514 hitter against righties in 2018-19, whose Tampa Bay Rays face six right-handed starters; Ramon Laureano (82 percent available), a .278/.331/.452 hitter against righties in 2018-19, and Matt Olson (41 percent), a .245/.339/.491 hitter against righties in 2018-19, whose Oakland Athletics face five (and possibly six) right-handed starters; Renato Nunez (95 percent available), a .259/.320/.444 hitter against lefties in 2018-19 whose Baltimore Orioles face two (and possibly as many as four) left-handed starters; Brandon Belt (92 percent available), a .265/.359/.481 hitter against righties in 2018-19, and Pablo Sandoval (98 percent), a .293/.344/.550 hitter against righties in 2018-19, whose San Francisco Giants face five (and possibly six) right-handed starters; Gio Urshela (91 percent available), a .306/.359/.472 hitter against lefties in 2018-19 whose New York Yankees face four left-handed starters.