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'The Nine' for Week 16
As of publishing time, all 30 teams had announced their rotation plans through the July 20-22 weekend, though many of them had not formally declared their fourth and fifth starters coming out of the All-Star break. I've provided a reasonable projection for many of the teams that would have these two pitching the Monday-Tuesday and Saturday-Sunday games, meaning both would be two-start pitchers facing identical matchups -- including the Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals -- but their actual orders are subject to change.
It's a big week for the Oakland Athletics to make up some ground in the American League wild-card race, with seven road games at hitting-friendly ballparks, four at Texas' Globe Life Park and three at Colorado's Coors Field. That's largely behind the team's best-in-the-majors hitting ratings for the week, though it helps that the Athletics will also miss Cole Hamels in the Rangers' rotation to open the week. Matt Chapman (available in roughly 65 percent of ESPN leagues) hasn't quite found his power stroke since returning from the DL, but these are two parks that could help him in that department, and his Athletics do face three left-handed starters in Week 16. One drawback for the Athletics, though, is that they won't have the designated hitter for their three weekend games at Coors, and Khris Davis has generally been alternating with Chad Pinder in left field in National League parks this year. Davis' matchups are too good to sit him, but be aware of the potential loss of at-bats.
The Houston Astros face the same opponents as the Athletics, just in fewer games, as they begin the week with two games at Colorado's Coors Field before returning home to host the Rangers for three. It's the rare five-game schedule that's attractive enough for fantasy, though much of that has to do with the team's richness in talent. Usual DH Evan Gattis won't have a place to play for the team's two games at Coors, but two of the team's three games at Texas are against left-handed starters (Cole Hamels on Friday, Mike Minor on Sunday), and considering the dearth of quality catchers in fantasy, he's probably still worth starting in all but the shallowest of leagues. Catcher Max Stassi (available in more than 95 percent), meanwhile, is a .294/.351/.515 hitter against left-handed pitchers, making him a strong pickup at the position considering the Astros also face a lefty starter at Coors.
The Colorado Rockies, who spend the entirety of Week 16 at home facing the above two opponents, play just five games there this week, and two of them are against the Astros' best-in-the-majors-in-ERA (2.94) pitching staff. Weekend matchups against the Athletics' fourth and fifth starters -- Brett Anderson and Frankie Montas -- however, keep the offense worthwhile in fantasy despite the short schedule. Rockies pitchers should be entirely avoided, however, considering these two opponents rank in the top 10 in baseball in runs per game for the season, with each averaging at least 5.1 runs per game since June 1.
Major League Baseball's trade deadline arrives on July 31 at 4 p.m. ET, which is Tuesday of Week 17, the week after this one. That's still close enough to the conclusion of Week 16 for significant trades to happen that might alter teams' roster planning. Starting pitchers are at greatest risk of a change in schedule and matchup, especially those assigned to starts late in the week. This group includes: Chris Archer (Friday, @BAL), Jacob deGrom (Friday, @PIT), Michael Fulmer (Saturday, CLE), Cole Hamels (Friday, @HOU), J.A. Happ (Saturday, @CWS) and Tyson Ross (Saturday, ARI).
I've written about how I believe Greg Bird should be due for a big second half, considering how unusually hitter-friendly the New York Yankees' remaining schedule is, and said schedule begins with some of the softest matchups of Week 16. The four weekend home games against the Kansas City Royals alone drive the ratings, as since June 1, the Royals have allowed the majors' highest wOBA (.368, behind .295/.381/.458 rates) to left-handed hitters. Bird remains available in roughly two-thirds of ESPN leagues, but he should be in everyone's starting lineup this week.
The Seattle Mariners are the third of three teams facing five-game schedules during Week 16 -- the aforementioned Astros and Rockies are the others -- and theirs is the least appealing of the three. The team could wind up facing as many as three left-handed starters, in which case Nelson Cruz, Mitch Haniger and Jean Segura would each get a significant boost, but the rest of the offense wouldn't be as useful.
For those seeking lefty/righty matchups advantages for Week 16, consider: Ketel Marte (available in roughly 75 percent), whose Arizona Diamondbacks face three left-handed starters, is a .298/.361/.579 hitter against lefties this season. Joc Pederson (available in nearly 80 percent), whose Los Angeles Dodgers face six right-handed starters, is a .270/.366/.577 hitter against righties this season and has started nine straight Dodgers games against a righty starter. Steven Souza Jr. (available in more than 90 percent), another member of the Diamondbacks, is a .308/.400/.423 hitter against left-handers since the beginning of 2017. Jesse Winker (available in more than 60 percent), whose Cincinnati Reds will likely face seven right-handed starters, is a .313/.414/.450 hitter against righties this season.