Although both teams have underperformed thus far, the Cleveland Guardians and New York Mets -- who collaborated on the Francisco Lindor trade in January 2021 but haven't faced each other in a game since -- meet in New York for a three-game series this weekend. The key players on either side of that deal remain on their respective teams, as Lindor has been the Mets' best in wins above replacement since (9.9), though the Guardians' Andres Gimenez has been nearly as valuable on his own (9.5 WAR), and between him and Amed Rosario (6.3), it's an easy case to make that the Guardians are the current leaders in the deal.
Carlos Carrasco, the other current major leaguer involved, is expected to start the series opener on Friday, so it's quite a "revenge factor" series. Better still, the pitchers responsible for three of the past four American League Cy Young Awards square off on ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball." I'm talking about Shane Bieber (2020) and Justin Verlander (2019, 2022).
The Guardians and the Mets, however, are definitely not the only teams on the minds of fantasy managers. Read on, as fantasy analysts Tristan H. Cockcroft and Eric Karabell offer their lineup advice for the upcoming weekend.
Cockcroft: Sticking to the theme of underperforming teams, this seems like a critical weekend for the Chicago White Sox, who have three home games against a Kansas City Royals team that whiffs a lot, hits for minimal power and has one of the game's weakest rotations. Luis Robert Jr. has been baseball's best point-scoring hitter over the past two weeks, but I think this is as much about their starting pitching -- Michael Kopech was pushed back to the opener of this series, boosting his matchup, and he'll be followed by Lucas Giolito and Lance Lynn -- all of whom I'm universally activating.
And to think, should the White Sox mount some weekend momentum, it would be on the heels of the feel-good news that Liam Hendriks will likely return during Week 8! We're all rooting for him, and I'm sure his presence will be a welcome boost to the team.
Karabell: I look at the talent the White Sox have and can't figure out how their record is so poor. It's like the Cardinals in the National League. Injuries and rotten starting pitching seem to be the biggest issues, but it's only mid-May. Chicago -- and St. Louis -- can still get into the playoff race. Fantasy managers might be surprised to see that 3B Jake Burger leads all White Sox bats in fantasy points per game, and is already into double-digit home runs, but remains available in 95% of standard leagues. Go get him! Yoan Moncada is also readily available and hitting well since returning to the lineup.
I'll get a close look at the other Chicago team when the Cubs visit Philadelphia, and neither team has won a game this week. 2B/SS Nico Hoerner is one of the most underrated players in fantasy. He's the No. 19 hitter on the full-season Player Rater, and he should come off the IL from his hamstring injury when the weekend begins. I want to see how that affects OF/2B Christopher Morel, currently the most-added hitter in ESPN leagues. It's hard to believe but, yeah, when one hits .371 with five home runs over their first eight games of a season, people notice. The Cubs must make room for the bat.
Cockcroft: Morel needs to be the Cubs' Tony Phillips, bumping the regulars across the seven different positions he can play to the DH spot in "half-day off" arrangements. The youngsters in playing-time conundrums for me are the Mets' Brett Baty, who frankly should just be handed third base every day, considering he's a better defender there than Mark Vientos, and San Francisco's Casey Schmitt, who needs to keep an everyday spot in this lineup without it coming at the expense of J.D. Davis. Fortunately, both players align perfectly for this weekend, with the Mets facing nothing but right-handed Guardians pitching and the Giants drawing two left-handed Miami Marlins starters. Both youngsters need to capitalize.
Speaking of youngsters, the Seattle Mariners align their youthful trio of Bryce Miller, Logan Gilbert and George Kirby for their three-game road series against the Atlanta Braves, graded the top offense in baseball by the Forecaster. All three are way too good to bench, and their projections are start-worthy besides, but I can't say I feel great about it from a fantasy team-building perspective -- especially not if I'm facing a tight head-to-head matchup going into this weekend. Time to stream my other spots!
Karabell: There are myriad young hitters to watch this weekend, too, and I am starting with Cincinnati Reds SS Matt McLain, who gets to face Yankees pitching other than Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes. McLain hit .348 and slugged .710 at Triple-A Louisville with double-digits home runs and stolen bases in only 23 games. He's good and he's still available in 90% of ESPN leagues. I bet things change quite a bit there by the end of the weekend. Most Reds hitters are readily available, but OF Jake Fraley, OF/3B Nick Senzel and 3B/1B Spencer Steer are all hitting nicely in May.
You wanna talk about veterans? Check out the Phillies, who are dealing with a four-game losing streak and hosting the Cubs this weekend. These are small decreases, but SS Trea Turner, C J.T. Realmuto and OF Kyle Schwarber are rostered in fewer ESPN leagues than they were a week ago (which is silly and impatient), while many more investors are giving up on 2B/SS Bryson Stott and OF Brandon Marsh. The Phillies are also short a starting pitcher for Sunday and their top relief pitcher in the injured Jose Alvarado. This team will hit, so I think now is a good time to add Phillies players, or to trade for them.
Cockcroft: My "add them now" team is the Texas Rangers, especially their pitching. Would you believe that the Rangers' rotation has baseball's fourth-best ERA (3.28) and the most quality starts (11) since April 29, a date specifically chosen because it was the day after Jacob deGrom's most recent appearance? This staff excelled against the Oakland Athletics last weekend, and I anticipate it will do so again this weekend against the away-from-Coors Colorado Rockies.
Plus, look what follows: @PIT, @BAL, @DET. Jon Gray is nearly 40% available, Andrew Heaney 65% and Dane Dunning 95%. Closer Will Smith is out there in more than 80% of leagues. Oh, and on offense, Corey Seager is back. You know I'm a fan, especially when his next game comes against a starter who had a 7.78 ERA in Triple-A! What could go wrong?
You mentioned that Reds-Yankees series, and Luis Severino makes his 2023 debut in it! Yay! Well, not really, considering he isn't ready to pitch deep into games just yet, it's in a hitter-friendly environment, and he might only be working then because of Domingo German's suspension. Severino is out there in nearly 30% of ESPN leagues, though, and you can stash him until Monday in any open IL spot you have. I'd try to do that and see how he fares initially.
Karabell: Tristan, one final question. Do you bench Padres 3B Manny Machado this weekend? As of now, we don't know if he's playing this weekend through a hand fracture, but I wouldn't be surprised either way. Maybe he plays and plays great, or maybe he simply goes on the IL.
Cockcroft: Yes, as much as I hate to do it when his next two games are against lefty starters at home, it's time for a benching. You and I have always urged teams to take conservative approaches with injuries, and the math supports an IL stint making sense, especially with three days already spent absent for backdating purposes, Friday is Day 5 and it's only a 10-day IL visit nowadays. If I'm making a call on Friday, say, in an NFBC-style league, I'll probably get more news from the Padres before the game before I'm forced to make that decision, but if I'm making the call today? I think he's spending 10 days on the sidelines.