Quickly jump to any page for specific intel
The Texas Rangers reap the benefits of the rare eight-game week, as a Tuesday doubleheader against the Los Angeles Angels grants them an additional game in a week when four other teams play only five times and another 15 play only six times. While the Rangers have been struggling on offense in August (their 3.54 runs-per-game average as a team ranks 29th out of 30), they'll significantly benefit from facing two of the weak links in the Angels' rotation (Tuesday's doubleheader spot starter and Patrick Sandoval on Wednesday), as well as two of the Chicago White Sox's weak links in their road series at Guaranteed Rate Field (a spot starter on Thursday and Dylan Cease on Friday). Three of the Rangers' eight scheduled opposing starters are left-handed and an additional two are TBD, which is great news for Hunter Pence (63 percent available in ESPN leagues), a .316/.362/.663 hitter against lefties. For those seeking cheap speed, Delino DeShields Jr. (98 percent available) is also worth the plug-and-play, considering he typically leads off for the team against lefties due to his owning a career wOBA 24 points higher against left- (.316) than right-handed pitchers (.292).
The Rangers' division rivals, the Houston Astros, also stand out on the hitting side, in a seven-game week played entirely at home hosting the Detroit Tigers (four games) and Angels (three). Combining those opponents' numbers, the Tigers and Angels have a mere 11 quality starts and a 6.03 starters' ERA in 65 games since the All-Star break, and both squads have relief ERAs greater than five during that same time span. While the Astros' seven most fantasy-relevant hitters are all rostered in at least 89.6 percent of ESPN leagues -- Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel and George Springer -- all seven of them couldn't be more favorably aligned in the matchups department for Week 20. It's possible that their production leading the lineup could trickle down to some of the mix-and-match struggling hitters who occupy the bottom two spots: Robinson Chirinos, Jake Marisnick and Josh Reddick, most commonly.
Corey Kluber's (arm, IL) setback during an Aug. 18 rehabilitation start for Triple-A Charlotte probably takes him out of the equation for the Cleveland Indians in Week 20, but the team's current starting five will enjoy a great week of pitching matchups nevertheless. By the way, this staff has the majors' best ERA (3.09) and most quality starts (21) in baseball since the All-Star break. Amongst rehabbing starters, Max Scherzer's (back, IL) return to the Washington Nationals' rotation is also imminent. Scherzer threw a simulated game on Aug. 17 with that being treated by the team as a regular "turn," so he'll be activated in time for a Thursday start at the Pittsburgh Pirates during Week 20.
As mentioned above, four teams draw the short end of the stick in terms of scheduled games: The Boston Red Sox, Oakland Athletics, Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants each play only five times during Week 20. None of the four enjoys favorable weekly hitting ratings as a result, and the Red Sox in particular will have to deal with the frustration of losing their designated hitter for three of their five games, which is a problem considering the team usually includes DH J.D. Martinez in a four-men-for-three-spots outfield rotation in National League parks. Incidentally, among other DH-related interleague implications, the Indians play three of their six games at New York's Citi Field, where they'll lack the DH. That's a problem for them only in that their usual DH, Franmil Reyes, has never played a defensive position other than right field in the majors, while their usual right fielder, Yasiel Puig, hasn't played a position other than right field since 2016.
The St. Louis Cardinals have been ice cold on offense in August (their 3.67 runs-per-game average ranked 28th out of 30 teams and their .284 team wOBA and 2.1 home run rate both ranking last), but their seven-home-game Week 20 schedule provides them a good share of rebound potential. Remember, this team now has Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina and Marcell Ozuna all back healthy and in the same lineup, and that trio has played only one game so far with all three in the lineup since June 26, meaning that this team has hardly had any time to recapture its groove at the plate. Dexter Fowler (98 percent available in ESPN leagues) is a .242/.329/.470 hitter in 19 games since being moved into the top two lineup spots -- and he's currently serving as the team's leadoff man -- on July 21, and is a strong plug-and-play option. And while Carpenter hasn't been hitting, neither has his fill-in Tommy Edman, so it's possible this is the week the team re-installs Carpenter into the No. 2 spot in the lineup as well as at third base. It's a risky move to activate Carpenter, but it's also not an unthinkable move.
The Tampa Bay Rays face a pair of thin pitching staffs in the Seattle Mariners (three games at home) and Baltimore Orioles (four on the road) during Week 20, and in the Orioles' case, their 6.80 team ERA since the All-Star break is second-highest in baseball. Meanwhile, two of the Mariners' three scheduled "starters" -- or at least "bulk" pitchers since Wade LeBlanc and Tommy Milone should at least handle a majority of innings on Tuesday and Wednesday -- have 6.23 and 6.75 ERAs in six appearances apiece since the All-Star break. As the Rays should face at least as much left- as right-handed pitching during Week 20 -- it's possible they'll see as many as five lefty starters -- Jesus Aguilar (52 percent available in ESPN leagues) is a strong play thanks to his .264/.349/.455 lifetime rates versus left-handed pitchers. Travis d'Arnaud (67 percent available), a .248/.319/.533 hitter against lefties this year, is also a good option.
Whether it's at Coors Field or elsewhere, facing Colorado Rockies pitching is an extremely good thing for opposing hitters, considering they have a major league-worst 6.89 ERA since the All-Star break. The Arizona Diamondbacks enjoy that benefit to open Week 20, and they finish with three games at Milwaukee's Miller Park, which drops them into one of baseball's best offensive environments. Nick Ahmed (80 percent available in ESPN leagues), who has a history of crushing left-handed pitching, is actually a .324/.402/.554 hitter in 87 trips to the plate against right-handed pitchers since the All-Star break, establishing himself a much stronger choice regardless of the handedness of the opponent. Ahmed has started all but two of 31 of their games during that time at shortstop, so make sure to get him into your lineup as well.
While the Minnesota Twins' pitching staff has struggled of late -- their 5.20 team ERA in August ranking 20th out of 30 teams, and four of their five current starters sporting ERAs above four during the past 30 days (through Aug. 15) -- they get by far the week's most favorable set of pitching matchups that should inspire a rebound. The opposing Tigers and White Sox rank 29th and 30th in terms of runs per game since the All-Star break, which is great news for two-start pitcher Kyle Gibson (40 percent available in ESPN leagues). Gibson, incidentally, is 2-for-2 in quality starts against the White Sox this season, and he had eight strikeouts, albeit a 37 Game Score at Detroit on June 8. With the Twins' pitching also matching up so well from a weekly angle, they should generate a good number of save chances, which is a big help, considering they're currently employing a committee including Taylor Rogers (52 percent available), Sergio Romo (79 percent) and Sam Dyson (98 percent).
If you're looking for righty/lefty matchup advantages amongst players more suited for deep-mixed (think 14-plus-team) or "only" leagues, consider: Hanser Alberto (93 percent available in ESPN leagues) and Renato Nunez (74 percent), .404/.418/.528 and .272/.319/.530 hitters against lefties, whose Orioles face four left-handed starters; Jason Heyward (57 percent), a .289/.374/.500 hitter against righties, whose Cubs face nothing but right-handed starters; Jason Kipnis (79 percent), a .269/.342/.475 hitter against righties, whose Indians face five right-handed starters; and Jesse Winker (66 percent), a .285/.366/.519 hitter against righties, whose Cincinnati Reds face five right-handed starters.