Tyler Glasnow, who struck out 8-of-19 Los Angeles Dodgers in his 2023 debut this past Saturday, makes his second start of the season during his Tampa Bay Rays‘ four-game road series against the Boston Red Sox. That series, incidentally, brings us our first planned (not postponement-created) doubleheader of the year, and it gives both teams four games to everyone else’s three from Friday through Sunday.
Meanwhile, Chris Bassitt of the Toronto Blue Jays makes his first start back in New York, against his former Mets team, in the opener of a three-game series beginning Friday. That series involves two teams widely predicted to be playoff-bound, but both have struggled thus far in 2023. On that same Friday, we’ll get a great pitchers’ duel between Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels versus Cristian Javier of the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park, in the second game of a four-game series.
What do our analysts see as the big advantages for fantasy baseball for the weekend ahead? Tristan H. Cockcroft and Eric Karabell offer their advice.
Karabell: I’m feeling all nostalgic about the World Series matchups of my youth as the Yankees and Dodgers meet on the West Coast this weekend, including the ESPN Sunday Night telecast. While Aaron Judge and Freddie Freeman are always headliners, watch the starting pitching assignments on the L.A. side. Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw starts Friday, and his last three outings have been a struggle. Fantasy managers can’t count on Kershaw making 30 starts — he last did so in 2015 — but he always pitches well. Now he is not. Time to worry?
RHPs Michael Grove and Bobby Miller, both touted rookies, start on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Miller looks special, having beaten Atlanta and Washington to start his career, and he is the most-added pitcher in ESPN leagues over the past seven days.
I watch your Yankees offense and occasionally wonder how it scores runs on the days Judge fails to hit. It didn’t score any runs in Seattle over 10 innings on Wednesday. Luckily, help is on the way. 1B Anthony Rizzo (neck) hasn’t played all week but, according to manager Aaron Boone, that should change on Friday. 3B Josh Donaldson (hamstring) and OF Giancarlo Stanton (hamstring) are both ready to return from their IL stints, too. What will this lineup look like and do you see the offense about to take off, starting this weekend?
Cockcroft: I watch my Yankees offense and know it doesn’t score on the days Judge fails to play! He has missed 11 games, and the Yankees averaged 3.55 runs in them. The league’s average in 2023 is 4.57. I mean, c’mon, Willie Calhoun, a guy twice DFA’ed in the past year, has been the No. 3 hitter for three straight games!
This lineup has struggled to keep anyone healthy, and while Rizzo, Stanton and Donaldson will provide an eventual boost, I’ve got concerns about rust for each — Stanton especially because of his all-or-nothing nature. Friday is the Yankees’ first game against a left-handed starter since May 10. They might go easy on Rizzo because of the Kershaw matchup and go Torres-Judge-LeMahieu-Stanton-Donaldson, but there’s no more obvious “bench and evaluate first” game for Rizzo-Stanton-Donaldson than that one.
I’m starting Kershaw and, depending upon the Friday results, could see Grove and Miller having advantages as well due to Yankees hitters’ unfamiliarity with them. The Forecaster does like the pitching in this series, too, outside of Grove (78th out of 92 projected Friday-Sunday starters) and Domingo German (52nd).
Wow, the Forecaster does not like the pitching in that Rays-Red Sox series, an important one for both teams, as the Rays seek to extend their four-game lead in the loaded AL East, while the Red Sox aim to both move up from their current last-place standing as well as extend the division’s 34-day streak of every team being .500 or better. It makes sense, considering the Rays rank second in runs per game (5.86) and the Red Sox fourth (5.18) for the season. Plus, the Rays appear to have pushed back Shane McClanahan into their June 6-8 series against the Minnesota Twins, meaning that both teams are generally leaning on the back ends of their pitching staffs with that doubleheader fatiguing the bullpens.
The Forecaster grades of course heavily weigh the extra game for each team, but I’d load up on the offenses accordingly, expecting many runs to be scored. Josh Lowe (22% available in ESPN leagues) and Justin Turner (38% available) continue to be underrated, the former benefitting from facing a righty-heavy Red Sox rotation. Brandon Lowe, who also benefits from that platoon leaning, seems to have shown some signs of life with the bat recently.
Karabell: We need to discuss the Miami Marlins, too, because they host the embarrassing Oakland Athletics this weekend, which means everyone is going to hit. Jorge Soler is the most-added hitter in ESPN standard leagues, tracking perhaps to another 40-plus HR season, just like he did in 2019 with the Royals. Bryan De La Cruz has also become popular, hitting .368 with five home runs over the last three weeks, showing plate discipline we never knew he had. I admit that I check the schedule for which teams are playing the Athletics and make some decisions based on that.
Cockcroft: Soler is a natural, annual power source good for 35-plus homers, but why is it that he only seems to get there when the fewest of us are paying any attention to him? He’s the epitome of the time-tested, “I want that guy always when you don’t” strategy.
I’m with you on exploiting the Athletics as a matchup, two wins out of three against the Atlanta Braves be damned. Geeky Stats: The Athletics’ 6.63 staff ERA is the highest in a season by any team in 93 years, and their starters have six total wins!
I’m also automatically going with hitters (so long as I trust the individual’s talent) against the Kansas City Royals, righty pitchers against the Detroit Tigers and lefty pitchers against the Milwaukee Brewers, which means it’s a Ryan McMahon, Michael Kopech and Ben Lively weekend for me! I know, I know, the latter seems absurd, and in shallow-mixed, I probably wouldn’t use him unless I’m in a matchup-scenario pinch (think: blowing past the starts cap while facing a deficit entering Sunday), but he has actually pitched decently in his three starts.
Sunday looks like a big day for streaming, actually, and it also brings us start No. 2 for Michael Soroka! Got a guy you’re planning to sub in?
Karabell: I do like Soroka, who didn’t exactly struggle in Oakland during his first outing, but may need a bit of time to refine his stuff. Philadelphia LHP Ranger Suarez looked good in his most-recent start, and he should match up nicely in Washington. We keep waiting for Reds RHP Ben Lively (a former Phillie) to falter, but he hasn’t been lit up yet and keeps missing bats.
And, to circle back to the beginning, I’m guessing that plenty of people outside of New York will be paying attention to the Yusei Kikuchi/Kodai Senga matchup as well. Kikuchi has been a walker recently and oh, so many home runs, but I’m betting he steps up for this one.