Fantasy Forecaster: May 16-22

Andrew McCutchen and his Pittsburgh Pirates teammates will spend all of Week 7 at home. Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Note: The Forecaster was last updated Monday, May 16, at 10:46 a.m. ET.

On tap: The one-quarter point of the 2015 Major League Baseball season arrives on May 19, Thursday of Week 7 -- once nine games on that date are officially in the books, presuming no postponements between now and then. Quarter points are good times to take a step back to re-evaluate your team's categorical and roster needs, and in this case, it's a good time to begin taking your standings more seriously.

The American League Central-leading Chicago White Sox get their first crack at the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals, hosting them for three games at U.S. Cellular Field from May 20-22. Entering play on May 13, these two teams were separated by 6.5 games in the standings, and the matchups skew pretty heavily in the White Sox's favor, not only because of home-field advantage but also because the Royals will have their Nos. 4 and 5 starters lined up to pitch. The Royals, in fact, have it pretty tough in Week 7; they begin the week with a May 16-18 series at Kauffman Stadium against the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox.

We'll get a slight increase in interleague play during Week 7, including the Ohio Series (Cincinnati Reds-Cleveland Indians) and the Freeway Series (Los Angeles Angels-Los Angeles Dodgers), as well as a rematch of the 2001 World Series (New York Yankees at Arizona Diamondbacks) and one that should be fondly called the "Sweet Lou Series" -- Seattle Mariners at Cincinnati -- after Lou Piniella, who managed both teams to division titles and the Reds to a 1990 World Series championship.

Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer follows up his record-tying 20-strikeout masterpiece with the week's most exciting pitching matchup, as he visits New York's Citi Field to battle the New York Mets and right-hander Noah Syndergaard. By the way, the last time Scherzer pitched there, on Oct. 3 of last season, he tossed a no-hitter and the best individual performance of his career going by game score (104). That opens a three-game series from May 17-19 between these two National League powerhouses -- they entered play Friday tied for the NL East lead. It will also be the first trip back to Citi Field for former Met Daniel Murphy.

Quickly jump to any section, if you want specific intel

ESPN leagues: Lineup deadlines

For the fourth consecutive week, Monday features nothing but night games, but there's a 6:10 p.m. ET game, roughly one hour earlier than the games on the previous three Mondays. Fantasy owners in weekly leagues have additional time to set their lineups, but don't forget the slightly earlier start time.

Remember that game times have tremendous influence upon daily planning, so be aware of every day's first scheduled pitch. This week, they are:

Monday, May 16: 6:10 p.m. ET (Cincinnati Reds at Cleveland Indians)
Tuesday, May 17: 6:10 p.m. ET (Reds at Indians)
Wednesday, May 18: 1:05 p.m. ET (Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies, one of four day games)
Thursday, May 19: 12:35 p.m. ET (Seattle Mariners at Baltimore Orioles, one of two day games)
Friday, May 20: 7:05 p.m. ET (Atlanta Braves at Phillies and Colorado Rockies at Pittsburgh Pirates)
Saturday, May 21: 2:10 p.m. ET (Kansas City Royals at Chicago White Sox and Toronto Blue Jays at Minnesota Twins, two of 10 day games)
Sunday, May 22: 1:08 p.m. ET (Tampa Bay Rays at Detroit Tigers, one of 14 day games)

Interleague impact

This week's interleague series:

Reds' probable DH(s): Jay Bruce has been the Reds' worst defensive player thus far, so he might shift to DH so that Tyler Holt can pick up two starts. It's also possible that Jordan Pacheco could pick up a start. With only two games, Holt is the only relevant player to benefit, and he's just a fringe option in NL-only leagues.

Angels' traditional DH: Albert Pujols, who will almost assuredly shift to first base in place of C.J. Cron for both games in Los Angeles, just as he did for all three games at Milwaukee from May 2-4. Cron's two games' worth of lost at-bats decreases his Week 7 value in mixed leagues.

Yankees' traditional DH: With Alex Rodriguez (DL; hamstring) sidelined, it's usually Carlos Beltran, and he can return to right field for the three games at Arizona, meaning that Aaron Hicks and Dustin Ackley will be the players most adversely affected. Rodriguez, incidentally, is eligible to be activated on May 19, meaning that Hicks might not have a place to start during any of Week 7.

Indians' traditional DH: Carlos Santana, who will presumably split the first-base starts with Mike Napoli in Cincinnati, as the Reds are scheduled to start a left-hander (Brandon Finnegan) and right-hander (Tim Adleman). One lost game's worth of plate appearances shouldn't diminish either Santana's or Napoli's value much. Either could also start in the outfield.

Dodgers' probable DH(s): The Dodgers have already used five different DHs in American League parks this season and should continue to do so against the Angels. Most likely, Howie Kendrick will reap almost the entire benefit of the additional plate appearances, as he has been losing playing time against right-handers but made three straight starts against righties, thanks to the DH in Toronto from May 6-8.

Mariners' traditional DH: Nelson Cruz has 19 of the team's 34 starts at DH, but 14 starts in right field, where he'll probably start at least two of the three games at Cincinnati. Seth Smith will probably suffer the most significant amount of lost time as a result, making him a weaker option than in a usual week against five righty starters.

Projected starting pitchers

The chart below lists each of the 30 MLB teams' schedules and projected starting pitchers, and provides a projected Bill James game score for each day's starter.

Projected starting pitchers, May 16-22
P: The starting pitcher's projected Bill James game score, accounting for past history (three years' worth, as well as past 21 days), opponent and ballpark. A 50 is typically deemed a "quality start" by this measure, while a 70 is considered a dominant start.

Pitching scuttlebutt

  • Baltimore Orioles: Due to the May 16 off day, the Orioles will push Tyler Wilson back to May 19.

  • Boston Red Sox: Joe Kelly (DL; shoulder) will make another rehabilitation start for Triple-A Pawtucket on May 16, after which point he might be ready to rejoin the Red Sox's rotation, perhaps on May 21 or 22. Eduardo Rodriguez (DL; knee), however, will make another rehab start for Pawtucket on May 20, precluding him from rejoining the team during Week 7. If Kelly returns, David Price would lose his second start.

  • New York Yankees: With Luis Severino (DL; triceps) sidelined, the Yankees will give Chad Green a spot start on May 16, pushing their other starters back. CC Sabathia (DL; groin) will rejoin the rotation on May 20 to assume Green's spot during the weekend.

  • Tampa Bay Rays: After another successful start on May 14, Matt Andriese will likely remain in the Rays' regular rotation, with his next start scheduled on May 14.

  • Kansas City Royals: Dillon Gee and Danny Duffy joined the Royals' rotation on May 14 and 15, replacing Chris Young (DL; forearm) and Kris Medlen (DL; shoulder). The team seems likely to skip Duffy during Week 7 following their May 19 off day, however.

  • Houston Astros: The Astros are using a "hybrid" six-man rotation, in which Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh stay on regular rest. Chris Devenski is apparently the pitcher who will be skipped in the Astros' rotation during Week 7.

  • Oakland Athletics: The Athletics have listed Eric Surkamp as their May 17 starter, but he will likely be replaced during the May 20-22 series by Henderson Alvarez (DL; shoulder), who is scheduled make his final rehabilitation start for Nashville on May 15.

  • New York Mets: Logan Verrett filled in for Steven Matz (elbow) on May 14, and it is unclear whether Matz will be ready the next time his turn in the rotation arrives on May 20.

  • San Diego Padres: Christian Friedrich filled in for Andrew Cashner (DL, hamstring) on May 13, and it seems likely that Friedrich would pitch again the next time that spot in the rotation arrives, on May 20.

Tristan's Week 7 pitcher rankings

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 matchup chart, May 16-22
H: Hitters' matchup rating, which accounts for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth, as well as past 21 days) and ballpark factors.
L: Hitters' matchup rating accounting only for left-handed hitters.
R: Hitters' matchup rating accounting for only right-handed hitters.
S: Base-stealing matchup rating, which accounts for the opponent's catchers' ability to gun down opposing base stealers.
Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst.

Hitting advantages

Here are this week's "volume plays," defined as the teams that play the most home games, or games against right- or left-handed starters:

The Pirates play seven home games, four against the Braves and three against the Colorado Rockies, and the only better-than-league-average-grade starting pitcher they'll face is Julio Teheran (54 game score projection on May 18). Since this is a week during which the Pirates will face six right-handed starters, John Jaso -- a .287/.350/.454 hitter against righties this season who traditionally leads off against them -- is a strong play.

The Dodgers have a great set of hitting matchups, thanks in large part to their four games against the beleaguered Angels pitching staff. Since May 1, the date of Garrett Richards' (DL; Tommy John surgery) last start of the season, the Angels have a 5.42 ERA and 1.66 WHIP, both of which rank among the game's bottom five. The Dodgers won't have to face Drew Pomeranz and James Shields during the weekend series at San Diego's Petco Park, which works to L.A.'s advantage.

Since the Dodgers face six right-handed starters this week, plus fall into a Christian Friedrich matchup, two of their lefties stand out as premium plays: Chase Utley, a .326/.426/.500 hitter against righties who has started all 25 team games against a right-handed starter as the team's leadoff man, and Yasmani Grandal, a .255/.364/.473 hitter against righties who has started 10 of the team's past 11 against a righty as either a No. 4, 5 or 6 hitter. Naturally, Adrian Gonzalez, Corey Seager and Joc Pederson are all automatics.

I'll just leave this stat right here: The six opposing starting pitchers the Padres are scheduled to face, combined, are 22-11 with a 2.82 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 71.1 percent quality-start rate. In addition, the Padres hit lefties better than righties, and two of the three lefties they'll face are Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw.

The Seattle Mariners boast the AL's top hitting schedule, thanks to a pair of three-game stops at hitting-friendly ballparks, Baltimore's Camden Yards and Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park. It also helps that five of the six starters the Mariners will face are right-handed, as nine of the team's 13 active hitters are lefties or switch-hitters. Leonys Martin benefits most; while he has been playing virtually every day for the team, he is a substantially better hitter against righties than lefties. Ketel Marte, a .305 hitter with a .359 on-base percentage in his career against righties, is also a strong play against this schedule.