Week Ahead: Seeing Red

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It’s fantasy football draft season, so let’s talk strength of schedule.

We hear “strength of schedule” thrown around so often in a fantasy football context, with only 17 regular season games and each week being so meaningful. However, it’s often a fool’s errand in baseball with 162 games, even with the unbalanced divisional schedule.

The difficulty of finding extreme schedule advantages changes with roughly 45 games remaining as MLB teams enter mid-August. One team, in particular, has a clear advantage down the stretch that fantasy managers should keep in mind.

The Reds head into a week in which they face the lowly Cubs and Marlins, and the light schedule doesn’t end at that point. Beginning Monday, Cincinnati’s remaining schedule includes nine games vs. Pittsburgh, seven vs. Miami, six vs. Cubs, six vs. St. Louis, four vs. Washington, three vs. Detroit. TeamRankings.com cites Cincy’s remaining schedule as the easiest in MLB.

With the easy remaining schedule, it’s no wonder that Cincinnati has a viable 26% chance of making the playoffs, according to FanGraphs, despite being 3.5 games behind San Diego in the Wild Card race.

The easy matchups create plenty of opportunity for players who have otherwise been fringy fantasy plays recently like Wade Miley and Vladimir Gutierrez. Both pitchers have slowed after hot starts to their MLB campaigns, but they could be set to surge against sub-par competition over the final seven weeks of the season. They can get that momentum rolling with an upcoming two-start slate against the Cubs and Marlins at home next week.

-Few organizations have been better at producing pitchers in recent seasons than Cleveland, and Cal Quantrill is pitching like the next star in line following surprise success from the likes of Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, and Aaron Civale. Quantrill’s cumulative ERA is down to 3.13 after the six-start tear that he’s been on since the All-Star Break. Over that time, he has an elite 1.25 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 33/13 K/BB in 36 innings. He now has a 3.65 ERA for the season in 14 starts, showing improved control with a 2.57 K/BB ratio. One of the big concerns during Quantrill’s career has been his inability to miss bats at an elite level, as shown by his mediocre 7.0 K/9 this season, and his BABIP (.276) and ERA metrics (3.91 FIP, 4.61 SIERA) point to possible regression. Still, it’s hard to find a reason to drop Quantrill in the immediate future, with a two-start week upcoming against the Twins and Angels.

-Few MLB debuts in recent memory were as good as Luis Gil. The Yankees right-hander has yet to allow a run in two starts over 11 innings, albeit against lower tier lineups in the Orioles and Mariners. Still, he’s shown an elite fastball-slider combo, with the former averaging 96 mph and a resulting outstanding track record as a strikeout pitcher in the minors. The concern has always been his lack of control, including a terrible 5.3 BB/9 between Double- and Triple-A this season, and he was particularly wild in eight starts at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (6.8 BB/9). That should come as a word of warning if you are counting on Gil to continue his success through the rest of the season, but there’s little doubt he has upside. Scheduled for a two-start week in an exhausting stretch of games for the Yankees, Gil remains a plug-and-play for now.

-There are seven weeks remaining in the regular season, but the Rockies have only two full home weeks at Coors Field left. The first one is next week, when they will face the Padres and Diamondbacks in in a six-game week. That stretch will be followed by a long nine-game road trip, so fantasy managers should enjoy having their Rockies hitters in the lineup for this favorable stretch while it lasts.

Going Twice…

Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, August 13, and are subject to change.

American League

Strong Plays

Lance Lynn: OAK, @TB

Gerrit Cole: BOS, MIN

Framber Valdez: @KC, SEA

Decent Plays

John Means: @TB, ATL

Chris Bassitt: @CHW, SF

Frankie Montas: @CHW, SF

Nathan Eovaldi: @NYY, TEX

Luis Gil: LAA, MIN

Jake Odorizzi: @KC, SEA

Cal Quantrill: @MIN, LAA

Tarik Skubal: LAA, @TOR

Tyler Anderson: @TEX, @HOU

Cesar Hernandez: HOU, @CHC

Jose Suarez: @NYY, @CLE

Josh Fleming: BAL, CHW

At Your Own Risk

Dallas Keuchel: OAK, @TB

Bailey Ober: CLE, @NYY

Griffin Jax: CLE, @NYY

Spencer Howard: SEA, @BOS

Matt Harvey: @TB, ATL

National League

Strong Plays

Kevin Gausman: NYM, @OAK

Sandy Alcantara: ATL, @CIN

Wade Miley: CHC, MIA

Decent Plays

Yu Darvish: @COL, PHI

Adam Wainwright: MIL, PIT

Marcus Stroman: @SF, @LAD

Kyle Gibson: @ARI, @SD

Merrill Kelly: PHI, @COL

Vladimir Gutierrez: CHC, MIA

David Price: PIT, NYM

At Your Own Risk

Rich Hill: @SF, @LAD

Mitch White: PIT, NYM

Wil Crowe: @LAD, @STL

Braxton Garrett: ATL, @CIN

Ryan Weathers: @COL, PHI

Justin Steele: @CIN, KC

Antonio Senzatela: SD, ARI

Streamer City

The following pitchers are generally available in over 50 percent of fantasy leagues and have favorable match-ups this week:

American League

Tuesday, August 17: Dylan Bundy @ DET

Bundy’s return to the starting rotation has been uneven, but he can still find success when he avoids the long ball. Roomy Comerica gives him that opportunity, as does a Tigers lineup in the bottom half of the league.

Friday, August 20: Brad Keller @ CHC

The Cubs lineup arguably has the least talent in MLB after their deadline firesale and are sinking fast in the league rankings. Despite a poor start last week, Keller has a 3.79 ERA since the start of July.

Saturday, August 21: Reid Detmers @ CLE

The transition to the majors hasn’t gone smoothly for the Angels top pitching prospect, but Detmers has an enticing matching at Cleveland. The Indians rank sixth worst in OPS against lefties.

National League

Wednesday, August 18: Ranger Suarez @ ARI

Suarez was dropped in many leagues after he was shifted from the closer role to the starting rotation, but he pitched into the fifth inning vs. the Dodgers and is nearly built up to a full workload. Arizona’s lineup is in the middle of the pack vs. lefties, providing another decent opportunity.

Friday, August 20: Bryse Wilson @ STL

Wilson has an excellent minor league track record, and has been a regular part of the Pirates rotation since he was acquired at the deadline. He’s allowed only four runs in 11 innings with Pittsburgh and faces a Cards lineup ranking 10th worst in OPS against right-handers.

Saturday, August 21: J.A. Happ vs. PIT

Why roll the dice on a pitcher with an ERA above 6.00? Happ has found himself again with St. Louis, allowing three runs in 11 innings with 9/3 K/BB. One of those matchups was against the Pirates, and he gets a redo on Saturday.

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Total Games

American League

5: TOR

6: BOS, CLE, DET, SEA, TEX

7: BAL, CHW, HOU, KC, LAA, MIN, OAK, TB

8: NYY

National League

5: WAS

6: ARI, ATL, CHC, COL, MIL, PHI, PIT, SD, SF, STL

7: CIN, LAD, MIA, NYM

The Infirmary

Here’s some injuries to prominent players from the last week, and other players to watch for in the coming week. You can get a full listing of injured players at NBCSports Edge’s Injury Page.

Chase Anderson: Placed on IL (triceps)

Javier Baez: Day-to-day (back)

Akil Baddoo: Placed on IL (concussion)

Mookie Betts: Placed on IL (hip)

Bobby Bradley: Placed on IL (knee)

Kole Calhoun: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Dylan Carlson: Status uncertain (wrist)

Nick Castellanos: Day-to-day (foot)

Aroldis Chapman: Placed on IL (elbow)

Jazz Chisholm: Day-to-day (illness)

Willson Contreras: Placed on IL (knee)

Johnny Cueto: Placed on IL (elbow)

Yu Darvish: Status unknown (back)

Corey Dickerson: Day-to-day (back)

Adam Engel: Day-to-day (groin)

Avisail Garcia: Day-to-day (hand)

Niko Goodrum: Placed on IL (groin)

Josh Harrison: Day-to-day (hand)

Derek Hill: Placed on IL (ribs)

Rhys Hoskins: Placed on IL (groin)

Ramon Laureano: Suspended 80 games (PEDs)

Wade LeBlanc: Status uncertain (elbow)

Drew Pomeranz: Placed on IL (forearm)

Harold Ramirez: Day-to-day (knee)

J.T. Realmuto: Day-to-day (head)

Anthony Rizzo: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Brendan Rodgers: Day-to-day (hand)

Carlos Rodon: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Ross Stripling: Placed on IL (oblique)

Raimel Tapia: Placed on IL (toe)

Rowdy Tellez: Day-to-day (knee)

Gleyber Torres: Out 10-20 days (thumb)

Justin Turner: Day-to-day (groin)

Ramon Urias: Day-to-day (groin)

Taylor Widener: Placed on IL