Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, April 20, at 9:32 a.m. ET.
On tap: Cole Hamels is on track to rejoin the Philadelphia Phillies' rotation, starting Wednesday's game at Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium. As Hamels had a 2.12 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and 12 strikeouts compared to one walk -- those resulting in a healthy, 20.3 percent K rate (calculated as a percentage of total batters faced) -- in his three rehab appearances for Class A Clearwater, he makes a compelling case for immediate activation in all but leagues with strict weekly or seasonal start caps.
An April 15 postponement cost hot-starting Masahiro Tanaka a two-start opportunity in fantasy's Week 3, but all that meant was delaying it until Week 4. The first Yankee to strike out as many as 28 batters in his first three big league starts, Tanaka faces a pair of challenging matchups, beginning with a start at Boston's Fenway Park, and concluding at home versus the Los Angeles Angels. Also in that series in Boston, Michael Pineda gets a rematch with a division rival, against whom in their most recent battle "Dirt-gate" became a national story. With his hand clean, Pineda pitched well in his most recent start, shutting out the Chicago Cubs for six innings April 16.
Mike Minor has an outside chance at returning to the Atlanta Braves' rotation, as he was on track for an April 18 rehabilitation start for Double-A Mississippi, putting him in line to start for the major league club on either Wednesday or Friday. Speaking of injury recoveries, this week also could mark the returns of Boston Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino and New York Yankees closer David Robertson.
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ESPN lineup deadlines | Interleague impact | Projected starting pitchers
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Hitting ratings | Hitting advantages
Monday is Patriots' Day in Massachusetts, and that means the annual Monday-morning Boston Red Sox game: They host the Baltimore Orioles in the finale of a four-game, weekend-wraparound series, at 11:05 a.m. ET. It's puzzling timing, considering the two teams play on "Sunday Night Baseball" the night before, granting them a mere 16 hours, five minutes between scheduled first pitches. It also means that fantasy owners have their earliest Monday lineup deadline all season, though if you play in a league with daily transactions, know that all other Monday games begin at 7 p.m. ET or later.
There are nothing but night games on both Tuesday and Friday, but all other days have at least one day game: Wednesday's first game begins at 12:10 p.m. ET (Miami Marlins at Atlanta Braves), Thursday's starts at 12:05 p.m. ET (Kansas City Royals at Cleveland Indians), Saturday's kicks off at 1:05 p.m. (both Los Angeles Angels at New York Yankees and San Diego Padres at Washington Nationals) and Sunday's commences at 1:07 p.m. ET (Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays).
This week's interleague series:
• Los Angeles Angels at Washington Nationals (3 games, Monday-Wednesday)
• Cleveland Indians at San Francisco Giants (3 games, Friday-Sunday)
The loss of the designated hitter impacts the Angels more than the Indians, as Raul Ibanez has started 10 of his 12 games to date at DH and is a defensive liability when used in the outfield. Still, with the Angels missing two starting outfielders, Kole Calhoun and Josh Hamilton, Ibanez might indeed get a start (or two) against the Nationals right-handers scheduled for Monday (Tanner Roark) and Tuesday (Taylor Jordan). Ultimately, losing the DH at Nationals Park merely means fewer at-bats for the Angels' outfielders/DH, so AL-only owners should be less apt to use a Brennan Boesch, Collin Cowgill or J.B. Shuck this week. Ibanez is also more AL-only than mixed-league play.
As for the Indians, losing the DH at AT&T Park forces Carlos Santana, who has started all 13 team games thus far, into a field position: Third base (six starts thus far) or catcher (three). Though third base is a more realistic spot considering the competition, that the Giants are scheduled to throw three right-handed starters hints that Santana might get some time at catcher, granting left-handed Lonnie Chisenhall time at the hot corner at the expense of right-handed Yan Gomes at catcher. Ultimately, both Gomes and Santana are too valuable to bench whether either sits one or more games; Chisenhall is the player to bench based upon his lackluster career production.
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. Pitchers scheduled to start at least twice this week are in gold/beige boxes.
• Andre Rienzo is expected to join the Chicago White Sox's rotation on Wednesday, replacing the injured Felipe Paulino.
• Brad Peacock was expected to join the Houston Astros' rotation in place of Lucas Harrell beginning April 20, lining him up for a Week 4 start Friday.
• The New York Yankees have announced their rotation through Thursday's game, and Ivan Nova might not be able to pitch during the weekend series due to an elbow injury. Vidal Nuno, set for an April 20 spot start, might take the Saturday assignment if Nova can't go.
• With Blake Beavan joining James Paxton and Taijuan Walker on the disabled list, the Seattle Mariners have two options this week: Selecting a fill-in -- if it's not Paxton or Walker -- for Saturday's game, or skipping the open spot and granting Erasmo Ramirez a second start in Week 4.
• The Tampa Bay Rays have shuffled their rotation to keep David Price on regular rest, meaning he'll be their two-start pitcher while Jake Odorizzi will move back to Wednesday and make only one start in Week 4.
• The Texas Rangers placed Tanner Scheppers (elbow) on the DL, and are expected to give Nick Martinez their open Tuesday start. • The Arizona Diamondbacks have given no indication of how long Mike Bolsinger will remain in their rotation, but he's lined up for a Thursday start.
• Until it becomes clear on what date Mike Minor will return to the Atlanta Braves' rotation -- and there might not be clarity on that before his April 18 rehabilitation start -- it's difficult to pencil him into what's projected above. A good guess would be him slotting in Wednesday or Friday, with Aaron Harang and/or Ervin Santana moving back by a day, with David Hale losing his Saturday start.
• The Miami Marlins will presumably skip Brad Hand's turn in the rotation thanks to Thursday's off day, resulting in the order listed above. If they don't, then Jose Fernandez would lose his second start in Week 4.
• The Philadelphia Phillies announced Cole Hamels' return date as Wednesday in order to split up their left-handers, meaning A.J. Burnett picked up a second start.
• The St. Louis Cardinals have not officially announced who will fill in for Joe Kelly, whose rotation spot next arrives Monday, but Tyler Lyons is widely expected to get the assignment.
1. Jose Fernandez (MIA) -- Tue-@ATL (Wood), Sun-@NYM (Gee)
2. Yu Darvish (TEX) -- Mon-@OAK (Straily), Sun-@SEA (Hernandez)
3. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Mon-HOU (Keuchel), Sun-TEX (Darvish)
4. Chris Sale (CWS) -- Tue-@DET (Verlander), Sun-TB (Price)
5. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Mon-@LAD (Maholm), Sat-@ARI (Arroyo)
6. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Thu-CWS (Quintana)
7. Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) -- Tue-@BOS (Lester), Sun-LAA (Richards)
8. Stephen Strasburg (WSH) -- Fri-SD (Erlin)
9. David Price (TB) -- Tue-MIN (Pelfrey), Sun-@CWS (Sale)
10. Adam Wainwright (StL) -- Tue-@NYM (Gee), Sun-PIT (Volquez)
11. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Tue-CWS (Sale), Sun-@MIN (Pelfrey)
12. Anibal Sanchez (DET) -- Mon-CWS (Danks), Sat-@MIN (Hughes)
13. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Tue-@PIT (Volquez), Sun-@ATL (Teheran)
14. Francisco Liriano (PIT) -- Mon-CIN (Leake), Sat-@STL (Lyons)
15. James Shields (KC) -- Tue-@CLE (Salazar), Sun-@BAL (Gonzalez)
16. A.J. Burnett (PHI) -- Tue-@LAD (Ryu), Sun-@ARI (McCarthy)
17. Andrew Cashner (SD) -- Mon-@MIL (Peralta), Sat-@WSH (Roark)
18. Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD) -- Tue-PHI (Burnett), Sun-COL (De La Rosa)
19. R.A. Dickey (TOR) -- Tue-BAL (Gonzalez), Sun-BOS (Lester)
20. Tony Cingrani (CIN) -- Thu-@PIT (Rodriguez)
21. Julio Teheran (ATL) -- Mon-MIA (Koehler), Sun-CIN (Cueto)
22. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Tue-@COL (Morales)
23. Michael Wacha (STL) -- Wed-@NYM (Niese)
24. Scott Kazmir (OAK) -- Thu-@HOU (Oberholtzer)
25. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Wed-@LAD (Greinke)
26. Gio Gonzalez (WSH) -- Wed-LAA (Weaver)
27. Sonny Gray (OAK) -- Wed-TEX (Perez)
28. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Tue-NYY (Tanaka), Sun-@TOR (Dickey)
29. Jason Hammel (CHC) -- Tue-ARI (McCarthy), Sun-@MIL (Peralta)
30. Dan Straily (OAK) -- Mon-TEX (Darvish), Sat-@HOU (Keuchel)
31. Zack Greinke (LAD) -- Wed-PHI (Hamels)
32. Marco Estrada (MIL) -- Sat-CHC (Wood)
33. Drew Smyly (DET) -- Wed-CWS (Rienzo)
34. Jesse Chavez (OAK) -- Fri-@HOU (Peacock)
35. Dillon Gee (NYM) -- Tue-STL (Wainwright), Sun-MIA (Fernandez)
36. Gerrit Cole (PIT) -- Fri-@STL (Miller)
37. Alex Wood (ATL) -- Tue-MIA (Fernandez)
38. Clay Buchholz (BOS) -- Mon-BAL (Chen), Sat-@TOR (Morrow)
39. Travis Wood (CHC) -- Mon-ARI (Arroyo), Sat-@MIL (Estrada)
40. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Thu-@BOS (Doubront)
41. Jeff Samardzija (CHC) -- Wed-ARI (Miley)
42. Shelby Miller (STL) -- Fri-PIT (Cole)
43. Lance Lynn (STL) -- Thu-@NYM (Colon)
44. Tanner Roark (WSH) -- Mon-LAA (Richards), Sat-SD (Cashner)
45. Jake Peavy (BOS) -- Fri-@TOR (Buehrle)
46. Ian Kennedy (SD) -- Tue-@MIL (Gallardo), Sun-@WSH (Jordan)
47. Danny Salazar (CLE) -- Tue-KC (Shields), Sun-@SF (Vogelsong)
48. Scott Feldman (HOU) -- Tue-@SEA (Ramirez), Sun-OAK (Milone)
49. Matt Garza (MIL) -- Fri-CHC (Villanueva)
50. Tommy Milone (OAK) -- Tue-TEX (Martinez), Sun-@HOU (Feldman)
51. Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Fri-@ATL (Santana)
52. Jenrry Mejia (NYM) -- Mon-STL (Lyons), Sat-MIA (Koehler)
53. Corey Kluber (CLE) -- Thu-KC (Chen)
54. Cesar Ramos (TB) -- Sat-@CWS (Danks)
55. Tyler Lyons (STL) -- Mon-@NYM (Mejia), Sat-PIT (Liriano)
56. John Lackey (BOS) -- Wed-NYY (Pineda)
57. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Tue-SD (Kennedy)
58. Yordano Ventura (KC) -- Fri-@BAL (Jimenez)
59. Dan Haren (LAD) -- Thu-PHI (Kendrick)
60. Tim Hudson (SF) -- Fri-CLE (Carrasco)
61. Wei-Yin Chen (BAL) -- Mon-@BOS (Buchholz), Sat-KC (Guthrie)
62. Wily Peralta (MIL) -- Mon-SD (Cashner), Sun-CHC (Hammel)
63. Matt Cain (SF) -- Wed-@COL (Chatwood)
64. Jordan Zimmermann (WSH) -- Thu-SD (Stults)
65. Alfredo Simon (CIN) -- Wed-@PIT (Morton)
66. Josh Collmenter (ARI) -- Fri-PHI (Hernandez)
67. Hiroki Kuroda (NYY) -- Fri-LAA (Wilson)
68. Zack Wheeler (NYM) -- Fri-MIA (Alvarez)
69. Martin Perez (TEX) -- Wed-@OAK (Gray)
69. Jake Odorizzi (TB) -- Wed-MIN (Gibson)
70. Chris Tillman (BAL) -- Wed-@TOR (McGowan)
71. Colby Lewis (TEX) -- Fri-@SEA (Elias)
72. Mike Leake (CIN) -- Mon-@PIT (Liriano), Sat-@ATL (Hale)
73. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Wed-@WSH (Gonzalez)
74. Robbie Ross (TEX) -- Sat-@SEA (TBD)
75. Chris Archer (TB) -- Fri-@CWS (Johnson)
Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Bronson Arroyo (ARI) -- Mon-@CHC (Wood), Sat-PHI (Lee)
Miguel Gonzalez (BAL) -- Tue-@TOR (Dickey), Sun-KC (Shields)
Taylor Jordan (WSH) -- Tue-LAA (Skaggs), Sun-SD (Kennedy)
Dallas Keuchel (HOU) -- Mon-@SEA (Hernandez), Sat-OAK (Straily)
Zach McAllister (CLE) -- Mon-KC (Guthrie), Sat-@SF (Lincecum)
Brandon McCarthy (ARI) -- Tue-@CHC (Hammel), Sun-PHI (Burnett)
Garrett Richards (LAA) -- Mon-@WSH (Roark), Sun-@NYY (Tanaka)
Edinson Volquez (PIT) -- Tue-CIN (Cueto), Sun-@STL (Wainwright)
No-thank-yous, among two-start pitchers:
John Danks (CWS) -- Mon-@DET (Sanchez), Sat-TB (Ramos)
Jorge De La Rosa (COL) -- Mon-SF (Vogelsong), Sun-@LAD (Ryu)
Jeremy Guthrie (KC) -- Mon-@CLE (McAllister), Sat-@BAL (Chen)
Tom Koehler (MIA) -- Mon-@ATL (Teheran), Sat-@NYM (Mejia)
Paul Maholm (LAD) -- Mon-PHI (Lee), Sat-COL (Nicasio)
Mike Pelfrey (MIN) -- Tue-@TB (Price), Sun-DET (Verlander)
Ryan Vogelsong (SF) -- Mon-@COL (De La Rosa), Sun-CLE (Salazar)
• A seven-game week's full of divisional contests is an advantage for the Detroit Tigers, who have American League Central-leading numbers in terms of quality-start percentage (68.8; none of the four other teams has greater than 59.5), ERA (3.23; none has better than 3.30) and WHIP (1.25; though that leads by just 0.003) in divisional games since the beginning of 2013. Granted, the Tigers also possess the best pitching of those five teams, but compare those stats to theirs against the other two American League divisions -- they have 60.0-4.52-1.33 numbers against the East and 58.8-4.32-1.33 against the West during that same time span -- and it's clear that matchups hosting the Chicago White Sox and at the Minnesota Twins are a plus. Keep that in mind if you play a weekly contest that favors a team-based approach, such as our Baseball Challenge.
Though the White Sox are off to a hot start offensively, leading the majors in runs scored (87) and ranking third in weighted on-base average (.331), that those four games won't be played in homer-friendly U.S. Cellular Field shifts the advantage back to the Tigers. After all, the White Sox have noticeably better power numbers -- a 2.9 home run rate (percentage of plate appearances that were homers), .130 isolated power and 9.7 home run/fly ball percentage -- at The Cell than on the road -- 2.3, .125 and 8.5 in those same categories -- since the 2013 All-Star break. This bodes well for fantasy owners of slow-starting closer Joe Nathan, lightly used starter Drew Smyly or mixed-league-streamer Rick Porcello, as their matchups are much more attractive.
• The St. Louis Cardinals, another supremely talented pitching staff, enjoy a seven-game week of outstanding matchups of their own. Interestingly, they'll employ polar-opposite two-start pitchers in Week 4, at least in terms of fantasy appeal: Ace and fantasy lineup mainstay Adam Wainwright visits the New York Mets before hosting the hot-and-cold Pittsburgh Pirates, but so will the fill-in for injured Joe Kelly, which will presumably be Tyler Lyons. Though not a trustworthy option in shallow mixed leagues, Lyons could warrant fill-in status in mixed leagues of 16 teams or deeper or NL-only formats; last season he posted two of his three quality starts overall in the three most favorable matchups (out of eight total starts). The Mets, after all, are a strikeout-prone team, and Lyons has enjoyed a healthy 22.9 percent K rate in his Triple-A career.
• Speaking of two-start pitchers, owners of Washington Nationals hurlers suffer the misfortune of the team's Nos. 4-5 starters falling into that alignment, in a week where their matchups would otherwise be outstanding. Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan, who are a combined 3-for-6 in quality starts with a 5.61 ERA, each gets a pair of home assignments versus the Los Angeles Angels and San Diego Padres. In a game like the Baseball Challenge, having Roark and Jordan in those spots instead of a Stephen Strasburg or Jordan Zimmermann is a negative; in NL-only and deep mixed leagues it's an opportunity.
Both opponents, after all, are traveling across the country without a day off preceding their respective series, and the Angels -- the tougher matchup of the two -- have been forced recently to shuffle their lineup to account for injuries.
• Those Angels, as well as the San Francisco Giants, suffer the most challenging matchups of any teams in Week 4. After playing three games in Washington's Nationals Park, the Angels head to the Bronx for a three-game set at homer-friendly Yankee Stadium. In case you hadn't noticed yet, the Angels have the majors' highest fly-ball rate (36.5 percent, through April 17), resulting in the game's second-highest home run per nine inning ratio (1.25). Jered Weaver's owners should consider themselves fortunate that he's scheduled to pitch in Washington rather than New York; he has a 48.5 percent fly ball rate since the beginning of last season. However, Hector Santiago, who owns a 46.0 percent fly ball rate, suffers the misfortune of a Saturday assignment in New York.
Giants starting pitchers are off to a lackluster start -- their 4.22 starters' ERA is eighth-worst -- and Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain will take their only turns of Week 4 at Coors Field. Bumgarner has five quality starts, a 4.27 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in nine career starts there, while Cain has eight quality starts, a 4.16 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 13 career starts at Coors. Their histories don't necessarily declare them must-sits, but those stats help explain their poor fantasy rankings above, because in leagues with tight starts/innings caps, you might be better off avoiding those matchups.
• Here are this week's Streamer's Delight picks (pitchers must be available in at least 75 percent of ESPN leagues as of our publishing time Friday):
1. Alfredo Simon (@PIT, Wednesday): Pittsburgh's PNC Park is a pitching-friendly venue, and due to a lack of left-handed punch (besides Pedro Alvarez), the Pittsburgh Pirates have a wOBA against righties (.297) 74 points lower than against lefties (.371).
2. Wily Peralta (SD, Monday): Both of his matchups this week are outstanding, but Peralta's strength is his slider (.170 career BAA, 35.9 K%), and the San Diego Padres have batted just .167 with 41 K's (fourth-most) against sliders in 2014.
3. Corey Kluber (KC, Thursday): The Kansas City Royals are off to a slow offensive start, and Kluber was 2-0 with a 3.28 ERA and 1.14 WHIP against them in four games in 2013.
4. Robbie Ross (@SEA, Saturday): He already tossed 7 2/3 shutout frames against the Seattle Mariners on April 15, and this rematch takes place in the considerably more pitching-friendly Safeco Field.
5. Jake Odorizzi (MIN, Wednesday): He has added a changeup/splitter to his arsenal this season, and since the 2013 All-Star break, the Minnesota Twins have struck out the second-most often against changeups (101 K's, 27.4 K%).
6. Josh Beckett (COL, Friday): Predictably, the Colorado Rockies have a wOBA more than 100 points lower on the road (.289) than at Coors Field (.416); that's a trend evident for years. Beckett's velocity has been comparable or better in 2014 than 2012-13, and he's coming off an encouraging second outing.
7. Tommy Milone (@HOU, Sunday): Though right-handers have enjoyed greater success than left-handers against the Houston Astros thus far, it's a fantastic matchup for either; the Astros rank dead last in wOBA (.265) and strikeout percentage (26.0).
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.
• 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:
Home games: Los Angeles Dodgers 7, New York Mets 7, Washington Nationals 7, Seattle Mariners 6, Toronto Blue Jays 6, Atlanta Braves 6, Milwaukee Brewers 6.
Versus RH: Baltimore Orioles 7, San Diego Padres 7, Kansas City Royals 6, Atlanta Braves 6, Chicago Cubs 6, New York Mets 6. Ten teams face 5 RHP.
Versus LH: New York Yankees 4, Boston Red Sox 3, Chicago White Sox 3, Detroit Tigers 3, Oakland Athletics 3, Arizona Diamondbacks 3, Colorado Rockies 3, Los Angeles Dodgers 3, Washington Nationals 3. Twelve teams face 2 LHP.
• The San Francisco Giants' Week 4 matchups couldn't look any more attractive, considering they'll begin the week with three games at hitters' heaven Colorado's Coors Field, then play three home games against a Cleveland Indians team that will use fifth starter Carlos Carrasco and struggling Danny Salazar in two of those three. Add in this team's recent domination of Colorado Rockies left-hander Jorge De La Rosa, their scheduled Monday opponent, and it's all the better: De La Rosa is just 2-for-6 in quality starts against the Giants since the beginning of 2012, his ERA 8.00 and WHIP 1.67 during that time. Current Giants have batted .273/.345/.477 lifetime against him.
This could be a good week, at least in NL-only and deep-mixed leagues, to add the Giants' middle-infield combination of Brandon Hicks and Brandon Crawford. Both have on-base percentages greater than .400 thus far and should enjoy a boost to their slugging numbers in the Coors games. And if you were one of the fortunate owners to have nabbed hot-starting Michael Morse, keep in mind that he's 20-for-40 in his career at Coors.
• Is this the week that the Kansas City Royals offense, which ranks fourth-worst in runs scored (47) and fifth-worst in wOBA (.286), awakens? Extract the Corey Kluber matchup -- that's among my Streamer's Delight picks above -- and the Cleveland Indians series looks like opportune timing for the Royals; Danny Salazar (Tuesday) and Justin Masterson (Wednesday), two of the projected starters, are off to terribly disappointing starts. A series at Baltimore's Camden Yards, too, is a hitting-friendly one, especially if you consider that Friday opponent Ubaldo Jimenez has exhibited decreased velocity through three starts.
Something to think about: Salvador Perez (2 HR, .579 SLG in 5 games), Mike Moustakas (3 HR, .500 SLG in 10 games) and Omar Infante (2 HR, .500 SLG in 14 games) have exhibited good power at Camden Yards in their careers, albeit in limited action there, and Alex Gordon has been an outstanding hitter in that venue, batting .295/.346/.611 in 23 career games. As the Royals have yet to play a game in 2014 at a clearly hitter-friendly ballpark, perhaps it's that Orioles series that will jump-start their season.