Fantasy Baseball Forecaster for Week 22

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  • Let’s call fantasy’s Week 22 “Catch-up Week,” both in ESPN head-to-head leagues, where it is the second week of two-week semifinals matchups, and on the diamond, where eight make-up games, the most to date in a single scoring period (among those announced at the week’s onset), are scheduled. Six of these eight are make-ups of games previously postponed in early April due to the lockout, also the most to date, and the second-most in any scoring period all year outside of the 49 that will be made up during the season-ending “Week 24,” which spans 10 days and includes 47 games originally slated for March 31-April 3 but rescheduled for Oct. 3-5.

  • Despite all the make-ups, the week features an entirely reasonable 91 total contests, but the effect is perhaps the largest imbalance in team’ total games in decades. One team, the Cincinnati Reds, has a whopping nine games, while an additional five are scheduled to play eight times. On the opposite end, a whopping seven teams are set to play only five times, putting them at a significant disadvantage.

  • These make-up games begin with the first of a Texas Rangers at Miami Marlins doubleheader on Monday at 1:10 p.m. ET, which means an earlier-than-usual start to the fantasy week. Be sure to set your lineups earlier, as this is the only day game among nine total for the day.

  • For the remainder of your daily lineup planning, Tuesday begins with the first game of a Pittsburgh Pirates at Reds doubleheader, the double-dip caused by yet another of those make-ups, with Game 1 scheduled for 12:35 p.m. ET and broadcast on ESPN+. It is one of two day games and 17 total on Tuesday. Wednesday has six day games, the earliest again being Pirates at Reds at 12:35 p.m. ET (but a single game this time), among 15 total. Thursday has two day games, the first being Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Guardians at 1:10 p.m. ET, among eight total. Friday has one day game, Colorado Rockies at Chicago Cubs at 2:20 p.m. ET, among 15 total. Saturday has six day games and begins with the first game of a Minnesota Twins at Guardians doubleheader, with Game 1 scheduled for 1:10 p.m. ET, among 17 total. Sunday’s games begin with White Sox at Detroit Tigers at 12:10 p.m. ET, one of 14 day games and 15 overall, the day’s slate concluding with Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball at 7 p.m. ET.

  • Additional ESPN+ games for Week 22 include Dodgers at Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday at 9:40 p.m. ET, Atlanta Braves at Giants on Wednesday at 3:45 p.m. ET, Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday at 3:07 p.m. ET, Pirates at New York Mets on Friday at 7:10 p.m. ET, Reds at St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday at 1:15 p.m. ET, and Kansas City Royals at Boston Red Sox on Sunday at 1:35 p.m. ET.

  • The nine-game week will probably have a polarizing effect on the Reds. On one hand, their hitters will benefit from the four games at their hitting-friendly home, Great American Ball Park, by playing those four against a Pirates pitching staff that has the fourth-worst ERA since the trade deadline (4.91), and by getting 1-of-5 weekend games against a Cardinals spot starter. On the other, Reds pitchers, who have an eighth-worst 4.40 ERA since the trade deadline, might be exhausted from all the work, especially their league-worst bullpen (4.75 relief ERA for the season). It’s generally wise to use the closer of a team that plays this often, and Alexis Diaz (89.1% available in ESPN leagues) has the skills to adhere to that advice, but Nick Lodolo (83.7% available) is otherwise the only other recommended fantasy play, thanks to his home start against the Pirates. Hunter Greene (76.1%) could be activated in time for a Friday or Saturday start, but he threw 28 and 48 pitches in his first two minor league rehabilitation outings and probably wouldn’t carry a big enough pitch count to be worth using him in an unfavorable road start at St. Louis.

  • Among the five teams scheduled for eight games in Week 22, the Marlins’ matchups stand out as among the league’s most advantageous. They will play 5-of-8 at their pitching-friendly home ballpark, including hosting a Philadelphia Phillies team dealing with a recent slump (3-7 in their past 10 games) and key injuries (Zack Wheeler, Nick Castellanos), then visit a Washington Nationals team that is 20-40 since the beginning of July. Marlins hitters have limited relevance in mixed fantasy leagues, with usual top-four-in-the-order men Jon Berti (79.3% available), Avisail Garcia (62.1%) and Joey Wendle (90.9%) worth mentions primarily due to their prominent roles and the schedule volume, but two-start pitcher Trevor Rogers (45.8%) stands out in a big way. He was excellent in his final minor league rehabilitation start (6 no-hit IP, 12 K for Triple-A Jacksonville on Aug. 25) and has back-to-back quality starts with a 28.3% strikeout rate in two starts since activation.

  • The Houston Astros have the most favorable schedule, a seven-gamer that begins with three at the Tigers and ends with four back home against the Oakland Athletics, both of those opponents last-place teams with records at least 36 games worse than that of the Astros. Though injuries and innings limits have become discussion points for Astros pitchers of late, the team nevertheless has a major league-leading 2.63 ERA since the trade deadline, and it seems like every pitcher they toss into a prominent spot becomes an immediate fantasy star. Rookie Hunter Brown (89.3% available), who tossed six shutout innings and flashed a 95.7 mph slider (one of six thrown at least that fast by and pitcher this season) in his Sept. 5 big-league debut, slots into a prospective two-start week, but he’d warrant an add-and-start even if he started against only one of these opponents. It’s also worth monitoring Ryan Pressly‘s (neck, 15-day IL) status, as while he’s expected to be ready to close for the entirety of Week 22, setbacks during his rehabilitation process could allow Rafael Montero (74.8%) to continue on as a must-have fantasy save-getter. However the Astros strategize to fill their pitching innings this week, however, load up on arms from this stacked roster.

  • The Giants might have enjoyed a brief, perhaps-short-lived resurgence by sweeping the Phillies from Sept. 2-4, but Week 22 clearly represents their last-gasp opportunity to make a push towards a wild card. They’ll play six home games, three apiece against the Braves and Dodgers, teams with records at least 22 games better than theirs, giving the team one of the week’s least favorable schedules. Injuries have depleted the Giants’ pitching depth, but Alex Cobb (72.2% available) fortunately aligns for a two-start week, albeit with those challenging matchups. He struggled most recently on the road against the Dodgers (4 1/3 IP, 7 H, 3 ER on Sept. 7), but before that had quality starts in eight of his past 11 turns. On offense, the bright spot as far as matchups is that three of the Giants’ projected opposing starters are left-handed, which helps more of a matchup candidate like Evan Longoria (98.1%), a .287/.343/.521 hitter against lefties.

  • Besides the aforementioned Greene, a trio of high-profile, must-activate-when-healthy pitchers have an outside chance at a return during Week 22. Shane McClanahan (shoulder, 15-day IL) has thrown one successful bullpen session, is set to throw another during the Sept. 9-11 weekend, and is reportedly on track to rejoin the Rays’ rotation on Wednesday or Thursday at Toronto or Friday versus the Rangers. Max Scherzer (oblique, 15-day IL), who was only deactivated on Sept. 7, was expected to have a minimum stay on the injured list, meaning he’d be eligible to return as early as Wednesday against the Cubs. That would be his usual turn in the Mets’ rotation. Wheeler (forearm, 15-day IL), who at one point looked on track to return on Sept. 6 before a setback, is the long shot to return during Week 22 of this trio, though he has resumed playing catch and could return late in the week without a minor league rehabilitation start. In leagues with weekly transactions, it’s wisest to wait for word of these pitchers’ projected return dates, so stay tuned for updates.

  • Outside of Week 24, when they’ll play 6-of-9 games against the White Sox, the Twins’ schedule this week is critical to their American League Central title chances. The Twins will be coming off a Sept. 9-11, three-game home series against the first-place Guardians, with their performance in those games perhaps relevant to how they perform heading into a Week 22 featuring three home games against the Royals, followed by four road games against those same Guardians. During the former (Sept. 9-11) series, the Twins will face the Guardians’ three regular, healthy starters, but in the rematch, the Guardians will need to piece together two starters plus Cody Morris due to injuries, which skews things in favor of Twins hitters. Jose Miranda (68.6% available) has batted .298/.363/.447 while starting all 42 Twins games since the All-Star break, moving into the 3-4 lineup spots of late, making him a must-have in fantasy. Meanwhile, rookie Joe Ryan (17.3%), 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA in seven career starts combined against these two opponents, is aligned as the team’s two-start pitcher.

  • Among the five-game teams, the Brewers’ schedule is the least attractive, as it includes two road games against the Cardinals followed by three back home against the New York Yankees. Yes, due to the Yankees’ injuries and past-month funk, it’s a good time to draw them as an opponent, but on paper, they’re still a below-average matchup for Brewers hitters and slightly above-average for Brewers pitchers, with the advantage on that side mitigated by American Family Field’s hitting-friendly confines. The Brewers’ platoon-oriented approach limits their mixed-league appeal to Christian Yelich, Willy Adames and Hunter Renfroe on offense, considering their projected rotational opponents are split nearly evenly between lefty and righty, and Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and closer Devin Williams are their only truly trustworthy pitchers for Week 22.

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