Fantasy baseball forecaster for Week 21: Aug. 26-Sept. 1

Using Hunter Dozier and Jorge Soler, right, of the Kansas City Royals this week in fantasy should be a no-brainer. Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports

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  • Week 21 gets off to a slightly earlier start due to the rescheduled Atlanta Braves at Colorado Rockies game on Monday -- it's a makeup of their April 10 postponement -- scheduled for 3:10 p.m. ET. That game gives the Rockies a full, seven-game week played entirely at Coors Field, and it pushes them to the top of the hitting matchups scale for the week (unsurprisingly). While the Rockies have struggled as a team since the All-Star break, their record at Coors is only 9-10 during that time, they still rank ninth in runs per game (5.47) and fifth in team wOBA (.361) at home in that span, and, hey, Coors is Coors. Ryan McMahon (available in 72% of ESPN leagues) has a team-leading .397 wOBA since the break, and is a .305/.371/.568 hitter in 56 home games for the season, while Raimel Tapia (96%) is a .345/.381/.437 hitter since the break and .330/.376/.505 hitter in 57 home games for the season. Both are plug-and-play options in all formats.

  • We've got another eight-game week, this one belonging to the Cincinnati Reds, and it's the result of the Saturday makeup of their June 5 postponement against the St. Louis Cardinals, to be played at Busch Stadium. The Reds play all eight games on the road, and while they'll experience a ballpark downgrade from their own Great American Ball Park while visiting Miami's Marlins Park (four games) as well as Busch (four), they'll at least benefit from missing Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty in their rotation. Six (and possibly seven) of the Reds' scheduled opposing starters are right-handed, which is great news for Josh VanMeter (78% available in ESPN leagues), a .314/.390/.488 hitter against righties who has started four of the team's past five games against a right-handed starter as either a leadoff or No. 2 hitter. Aristides Aquino, incidentally, has hit eight of his 11 career homers against right-handed pitchers.

  • Five teams draw the short end of the stick as far as games played, each playing only five times during Week 21. Three of them -- the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox and Washington Nationals -- draw reasonably good hitting matchups nevertheless, keeping their players viable fantasy options despite the lesser volume. The Orioles benefit from playing three road games against the Kansas City Royals and their 23rd-ranked-ERA-in-August (5.24) pitching staff, the Red Sox play two of their five at Coors Field and the Nationals face nothing but Orioles and Miami Marlins pitching, with those teams ranking 30th (7.71) and 29th in ERA (6.31) in the month. The Red Sox's primary drawback here is that they'll have no designated hitter for those Coors games, so one among J.D. Martinez, Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts or Jackie Bradley Jr. will have to begin each of those games on the bench. The Orioles will also have to shift usual DH Renato Nunez to one of their infield corners, meaning Hanser Alberto could lose a start or two in the team's two games at Washington's Nationals Park. Incidentally, the Los Angeles Angels and Toronto Blue Jays are the other two squads to play only five times, with their schedules grading the worst of this quintet.

  • The Oakland Athletics draw one of the week's most favorable hitting schedules, despite playing all seven of their games on the road, as well as facing a near-even split of left- (three) and right-handed (four) scheduled opposing starters. Four games at the opposing Royals grants them a benefit, as does the power-driven ballpark boost of playing three weekend games at New York's Yankee Stadium -- and remember, the A's just swept said New York Yankees at Oakland during Week 20. Mark Canha (92% available in ESPN leagues) has been one of the team's hottest hitters, batting .354/.432/.508 in 17 games in August, including an impressive .446 wOBA against right-handers that eases any worry about his previous platoon status. It's also possible that Ramon Laureano (leg, injured list) could be ready to return to the lineup sometime during the week, and if the news on him is good leading into Monday, he'd warrant immediate activation.

  • Only three teams have averaged fewer runs per game (3.84) and four have a worse team wOBA (.291) than the Pittsburgh Pirates since the All-Star break, but if there's a week where they might break out on offense as a team, Week 21 is it. The Pirates visit homer-friendly Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park for three games to begin the week, then play their final four games at the aforementioned Coors Field. Those represent huge park-factor boosts for this offense, and it's another plus that the team will miss Aaron Nola in the Phillies' rotation to open its week. Bryan Reynolds, who, incredibly, remains available in 55% of ESPN leagues, is a must-have for all fantasy managers, thanks to his .296/.366/.479 slash rates since the All-Star break. Among the less-obvious Pirates hitters, though, Colin Moran (96% available) and Kevin Newman (89%) have hit far better on the road -- .320/.386/.440 and .313/.343/.388 in 16 road games apiece since July 1 -- of late and warrant your lineup spots this week.

  • The Royals' lineup does match up favorably this week, even if their pitching doesn't quite as much, as three games against the Orioles' worst-in-baseball pitching staff (5.89 ERA) does quite a bit to boost a team's weekly hitting ratings. Kauffman Stadium does suppress power, but this is a speed-oriented offense, beside, even if the team's stolen-base ratings for the week aren't especially great. Hunter Dozier and Jorge Soler remain automatics in your lineup for Week 21. It's also worth activating Nicky Lopez (more than 99% available in ESPN leagues), who has started each of the team's past eight games at either middle-infield spot, and Alex Gordon (37%), the team's typical cleanup man who has struggled of late.

  • The Rays' schedule is one of the most brutal any team will face all season, though in their defense, their performance during Week 21 will say a lot toward their postseason chances. They play three games at Houston's Minute Maid Park, followed by three back home versus the Cleveland Indians, but now look at the starting pitchers they're scheduled to face: Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Zack Greinke, Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber and Adam Plutko. That's four of the majors' 17 best pitchers in terms of Wins Above Replacement. The Rays' mix-and-match approach to lineup-building makes them a difficult offense from which to draw in fantasy for Week 21, with Tommy Pham, Austin Meadows and Kevin Kiermaier effectively their only truly trustworthy options in shallow mixed leagues, the latter two mainly because they're left-handed hitters in a week where the Rays face nothing but righty starters.

  • The Braves' offense benefits from the rescheduled game at Coors on Monday, as well as their two-game trip to Toronto's Rogers Centre during which they'll gain the designated hitter. While most of the Braves' hitters are obvious yes-or-no plays, bear in mind that Dansby Swanson (foot, IL) could be activated in advance of Week 21, and the team's schedule makes him worthy of immediate activation in all fantasy formats. It's also worth adding and starting Tyler Flowers (98% available in ESPN leagues), who should earn the majority of the starts behind the plate while Brian McCann (knee, IL) is sidelined.

  • If you're looking for righty/lefty matchup advantages among players more suited for deep-mixed (think 14-plus-team) or "only" leagues, consider: Garrett Cooper (93% available in ESPN leagues), a .303/.381/.454 hitter against righties, whose Marlins face six right-handed starters; Tom Murphy (97%) and Austin Nola (88%), .348/.381/.772 and .347/.429/.755 hitters against lefties, whose Seattle Mariners face five left-handed starters; Hunter Pence (59%) and Nick Solak (98%), .327/.378/.636 and .314/.377/.506 hitters against lefties combined between the majors and minors, whose Texas Rangers face five left-handed starters; and Chris Taylor (68%), a .274/.361/.547 hitter against lefties, whose Los Angeles Dodgers face three left-handed starters.