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A pair of makeup games that caused doubleheaders -- Miami Marlins at New York Mets on Monday, rescheduled from May 12, and Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers on Tuesday, rescheduled from April 20 -- lead to earlier-than-usual start times on the week's opening two days. Game 1 of the Marlins-Mets Monday doubleheader has a 4:10 p.m. ET scheduled start time, getting the week off to an earlier start, while Game 1 of the White Sox-Tigers Tuesday doubleheader has a 1:10 p.m. ET scheduled start time. Thursday is the only day of Week 18 with only night games, as all eight games are scheduled to begin at 7:07 p.m. ET or later.
Those doubleheaders result in packed, eight-game weeks for both the Tigers and Marlins, two afterthoughts in fantasy baseball who will get a volume-driven benefit. While the Marlins have middling hitting matchup grades due to their facing Jacob deGrom (Monday) and Mike Soroka (Saturday), the Tigers' grades rank tops in the game for Week 18 -- and to repeat how those work, the grades assume a league-average offense facing the matchups in question; they take the team's talent out of the equation. The Tigers have only one household name in fantasy terms in Miguel Cabrera (46% rostered in ESPN leagues), who isn't even the team's top option facing these matchups. If you're in a league deep enough, there are a few plug-and-play options: No. 2 hitter Niko Goodrum (88% available), a .297/.348/.500 hitter in 16 games since the All-Star break; cleanup hitter Brandon Dixon (99%), a .304/.350/.482 hitter in 18 such games; rookie catcher Jake Rogers (more than 99%), a .250/.361/.484 hitter combined between Double- and Triple-A ball; and recently acquired prospect Travis Demeritte (more than 99%), a .286/.387/.558 hitter for Triple-A Gwinnett before his trade. This is also the kind of week when it's worth diving into the speculative-saves market drawing from the Tigers, with Joe Jimenez and Buck Farmer the top options, in that order.
Conversely, the two teams that play only five times during Week 18 are significantly disadvantaged in such a week, the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners being those squads. The Mariners' schedule makes them a team to flat-out avoid, but the Astros do grade rather well on both sides of the ball, due to their facing an ice-cold Colorado Rockies team at home and a bottom-six-in-the-game-on-both-sides-of-the-ball Baltimore Orioles team. The Astros have been one of the five best hitting teams in the game since the All-Star break, with all seven of their hitters rostered in at least 80% of ESPN leagues well worth keeping active, while Wade Miley (rostered in only 72%) is well worth keeping active for his assignment at Baltimore's Camden Yards. The "roll-of-the-dice" play of the week is Aaron Sanchez (available in 93%), who would also pitch at Baltimore if the team keeps him on turn.
Speaking of Sanchez, he's one of seven starting pitchers traded since July 28, but not the only one who warrants more of a roll of the dice than what his Forecaster grade suggests. Marcus Stroman, now a member of the Mets, will make his first start for them at Citi Field on Aug. 9 against the Washington Nationals. Stroman's projected game score for that assignment is only 49, but remember that as a pitch-to-contact ground-baller, he'll typically get more conservative game projections. I'd roll the dice on him as well, in addition to Tanner Roark, now a member of the Oakland Athletics, who will pitch Saturday's game at the White Sox.
The Boston Red Sox join the aforementioned Tigers as one of five teams to play seven or more games -- all of them scheduled at home -- with the Red Sox set for seven (three versus the Kansas City Royals, four versus the Los Angeles Angels). While the Royals' and Angels' pitching staffs have middling team ERAs since the All-Star break, the Red Sox benefit here by facing only one of the Royals' better starters during that span (Jakob Junis on Tuesday), and the Angels' precariously thin rotation setting them up poorly in the "bullpen fatigue" department in the short term. Michael Chavis (63% available in ESPN leagues) continues to provide enough offensive punch to warrant starting this week, and Sam Travis (more than 99% available) has started four of the team's past six games while batting .500 (9-for-18).
The team the Red Sox are chasing in the American League East, the New York Yankees, also match up extremely favorably despite playing all seven of their games away from homer-friendly Yankee Stadium. Three games at Camden Yards followed by four at Toronto's Rogers Centre, the latter series pitting them against a Stroman-less Toronto Blue Jays pitching staff, grades as one of the week's best overall schedules. Brett Gardner (77% available in ESPN leagues), who is scheduled to return from the injured list on Aug. 2, Austin Romine (98%) and Gio Urshela (86%) are all worth adding, but it's the Yankees' rotation that will be most under the microscope. J.A. Happ, James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka have an 8.08 ERA and 16 homers allowed combined in their 11 starts since the All-Star break, making each of them an extremely risky fantasy play, but their Week 18 scheduled assignments -- Happ at Toronto (Friday), Paxton at Baltimore (Wednesday) and Tanaka a two-start pitcher at each venue (Monday, Saturday) -- make them good rebound bets.
The St. Louis Cardinals are getting healthier on the hitting side, as Marcell Ozuna (finger, IL) could be activated on Aug. 2, Yadier Molina (thumb, IL) should return sometime early in Week 18, following an Aug. 2-4 weekend rehab stint at Triple-A Memphis, and Matt Carpenter (foot, IL) continues to rehab in Memphis with a possibility he'll return during the week. The problem is that the team faces one of the worst Week 18 hitting schedules, with Clayton Kershaw (Tuesday) among the opposing starters. It's best to steer clear of the team's catchers, as well as Tommy Edman, Yairo Munoz and Tyler O'Neill, since in addition to the tough schedule their playing time for the week is unclear.
Interleague play has greater designated hitter-driven ramifications in Week 18 than usual, with Angels DH Shohei Ohtani in the toughest spot. His Angels play two games in Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park, then will face a pair of lefties in Chris Sale (Thursday) and David Price (Friday) during their weekend series at Boston's Fenway Park. The Texas Rangers play three games at Milwaukee's Miller Park, a good hitting venue but resulting in their having to sit one from Willie Calhoun, Shin-Soo Choo, Nomar Mazara or Hunter Pence for each. The Athletics, meanwhile, might not be willing to play Khris Davis in the field for all three games at Chicago's Wrigley Field. As for National League teams visiting American League parks, gaining the DH, the Atlanta Braves will now have a place to play both Adam Duvall and Austin Riley during their three-game series at Minnesota's Target Field. The Rockies can open up some at-bats for Yonder Alonso in their two games at Houston's Minute Maid Park, and the San Diego Padres can grant some at-bats to either Ian Kinsler or Josh Naylor during their two-game trip to Seattle's Safeco Field.
If you're looking for righty/lefty matchup advantages among players more suited for deep-mixed (think 14-plus-team) or "only" leagues, consider: Cheslor Cuthbert (99%), a .287/.325/.448 lifetime hitter against lefties, whose Kansas City Royals face three left-handed starters; Travis d'Arnaud (63%), a .279/.340/.628 hitter against lefties this season, whose Tampa Bay Rays face three left-handed starters; Phillip Ervin (99%), a .344/.403/.592 lifetime hitter against lefties, whose Cincinnati Reds face four left-handed starters; Trent Grisham (97%), a .295/.404/.602 hitter against righties combined between Double- and Triple-A this season, whose Brewers face four right-handed starters; Manuel Margot (92%), a .390/.478/.542 hitter against lefties this season, whose Padres face three left-handed starters; and Mike Yastrzemski (91%), a .397/.466/.795 hitter against righties this season, whose San Francisco Giants face six right-handed starters.