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Week 23 of the fantasy baseball season, which is also Week 2 of the four-week ESPN standard head-to-head playoffs (the back end of the two-week semifinal matchups), is another quality-over-quantity week. Twelve teams play seven games, and no team plays as few as five games, despite there being four interleague series on the schedule. It's also a week heavy on night baseball, with Monday games beginning at 7:05 p.m. ET, and only eight weekday games in total beginning before 6:40 p.m. ET.
When the Colorado Rockies play a six-game week at Coors Field, we know big offensive numbers should be in order, but this is a week where the Coors visitors are the teams with the superior weekly matchups. The St. Louis Cardinals, whose 5.84 runs-per-game average since Aug. 11 ranks fourth best in baseball, are the first of the two visiting teams to Coors. They top the Week 23 matchups list. That the Rockies pitching staff has a major league-worst 6.63 ERA since the All-Star break -- nearly three-quarters of a run worse than the next-closest team -- coupled with Coors' offensive advantages almost exclusively drives the Cardinals' weekly matchups grade. All six of the Cardinals' scheduled opposing starters are right-handed, which means that switch-hitter Dexter Fowler (92% available in ESPN leagues) and left-handed-hitting Kolten Wong (61%), who have served the team's Nos. 1 and 2 hitters for the past week-plus, should both be in your lineup. Fowler is a .255/.350/.433 hitter and Wong .282/.372/.427 against right-handers this season.
The San Diego Padres are the other Week 23 Coors guests, their three games there more than making up for what might be challenging hitting matchups earlier in the week against Chicago Cubs starters Jose Quintana (Tuesday) and Yu Darvish (Thursday). While the Padres aren't a typical source of team-wide fantasy production -- their 4.20 runs-per-game average since the All-Star break ranks 25th out of 30 teams -- this is the week to roll the dice on their hitters. Hunter Renfroe (37% available in ESPN leagues) has nine home runs in 16 career games at Coors, Manuel Margot (92%) is a .238/.335/.430 hitter with six homers and eight stolen bases while starting 41-of-49 Padres games since the All-Star break, and Austin Hedges (82%) has been getting regular at-bats with Francisco Mejia (oblique, IL) sidelined.
Similarly, the Detroit Tigers don't have many household fantasy names -- and they might be as close to the opposite as teams come -- but their Week 23 schedule makes them a team you shouldn't overlook. During their three-game, week-opening series versus the New York Yankees, they'll face an opener (Tuesday) as well as the Yankees' weakest starter in J.A. Happ (Thursday), then they'll conclude their week with three against a Baltimore Orioles pitching staff that has a 5.89 ERA since the All-Star break. Victor Reyes (96% available in ESPN leagues) is a .383/.396/.533 hitter with 11 RBIs, 11 runs scored and three stolen bases in 25 games since taking over as the team's leadoff man. Cleanup man Ronny Rodriguez (98%) has six home runs and 16 RBIs in his past 16 games. Even Harold Castro (more than 99%) and Travis Demeritte (more than 99%) can be of help in AL-only leagues thanks to their regular roles.
Returning to the topic of Coors, the Rockies (as mentioned above) stand out in weeks where they play exclusively at home. They also have a hitter who has worked his way into a regular role and is available in a wide amount of ESPN leagues: Ryan McMahon (72% available), a .248/.346/.540 hitter who has started 30 of 32 Rockies games since Aug. 1. Meanwhile, rookie Sam Hilliard (99%), who slashed .262/.335/.558 with 35 home runs in 126 games for Triple-A Albuquerque before his recall on Aug. 27, has five starts in the Rockies' past nine games -- and two homers in 20 at-bats in those contests.
The San Francisco Giants might have slipped out of the pennant race, but they have a chance to do some damage on both sides of the ball in Week 23 thanks to a full seven-game week at home. They face the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins, teams that are each 17-34 since the All-Star break. Mauricio Dubon (more than 99% available in ESPN leagues) is a .302/.345/.477 hitter with 20 homers and 10 steals in 123 games in Triple-A ball this season. He has six starts in eight games since his promotion and is worth a look facing this schedule. It's also worth picking up and starting left-handed-hitting Mike Yastrzemski (81% available), a .251/.304/.519 hitter against righties, and Stephen Vogt (more than 99%), a .272/.335/.509 hitter against righties, considering the Giants are scheduled to face six right-handed starters. Among pitching pickups, Jeff Samardzija (57%) and Dereck Rodriguez (96%) match up favorably against the Pirates (Wednesday) and Marlins (Friday).
Rotations are always in flux in September, so be cautious assuming two-start pitchers won't have their second turns bumped and pushed back into Week 24. Among the individuals who are at most risk of that happening sometime during the week: Ryan Yarbrough, as his Tampa Bay Rays have already done much rotation shuffling during the first few days of September; Justus Sheffield, whose workload has already come under the microscope; and Zac Gallen, who could be nearing his innings limit with 26 1/3 more frames thrown this year compared to last. Gallen's Tuesday matchup at the New York Mets, though, is plenty favorable enough to start him even if he loses his second turn versus the Cincinnati Reds, as is Yarbrough's visit to Texas' Globe Life Park on Tuesday.
Ramon Laureano (shin) rejoined the Oakland Athletics on Sept. 6, which is perfect timing considering the team's Week 23 schedule facing four left-handed starters, plus making a three-game visit to hitting-friendly Texas' Globe Life Park. He's well worth immediately slotting back into your lineup, as are other right-handed Athletics hitters, considering the team has the seventh-best wOBA against left-handers (.338) -- 13 points better than their rates against righties. Don't worry about the impact on Mark Canha (58% available in ESPN leagues), who should shift to left field and still play fairly regularly, and consider adding and starting Josh Phegley (91%), a .289/.322/.530 hitter against lefties this season.
If you're looking for righty/lefty matchup advantages among players more suited for deep-mixed (think 14-plus-team) or "only" leagues, consider: Hanser Alberto (77% available in ESPN leagues), a .417/.434/.568 hitter against lefties, whose Orioles face two (and possibly three) left-handed starters; Travis d'Arnaud (76%), a .276/.338/.569 hitter against lefties, whose Rays face three left-handed starters; J.D. Davis (66%), a .305/.379/.517 hitter against lefties, whose Mets face four left-handed starters; Scott Kingery (64%), a .314/.336/.569 hitter against lefties, whose Philadelphia Phillies face three left-handed starters; Nick Solak (97%), a .305/.379/.511 hitter against lefties combined between the majors and minors, whose Texas Rangers face three (and possibly four) left-handed starters; Eric Thames (95%), a .272/.366/.551 hitter against righties, whose Milwaukee Brewers face six right-handed starters; and Daniel Vogelbach (54%), a .234/.372/.515 hitter against righties, whose Seattle Mariners face nothing but right-handed starters.