Fantasy baseball forecaster for Week 8 — Sept. 14-20

MLB
  • The 2020 season’s penultimate week includes 11 rescheduled games, 10 of which make up games postponed for COVID-19 reasons and one for protests for racial justice, and that leads to an even busier week than the one that preceded it: 101 total contests. The full list of makeup games:

    1. Pittsburgh Pirates at Cincinnati Reds, Monday doubleheader (one game makes up Aug. 16 postponement)
    2. Philadelphia Phillies at Miami Marlins, Monday (makes up Aug. 6 postponement)
    3. St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers, Monday doubleheader (one game makes up Aug. 1 postponement)
    4 and 5. Oakland Athletics at Seattle Mariners, Monday doubleheader (makes up Sept. 1-2 postponements)
    6. Cardinals at Brewers, Wednesday doubleheader (one game makes up July 31 postponement)
    7. Tampa Bay RaysBaltimore Orioles at Baltimore’s Camden Yards, Thursday doubleheader (one game makes up Aug. 27 postponement, each team will play as home team once)
    8. Washington Nationals at Marlins, Friday doubleheader (one game makes up Aug. 1 postponement)
    9. Toronto Blue Jays-Phillies at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, Friday doubleheader (one game makes up Aug. 2 postponement, each team will play as home team once)
    10. Cardinals-Pirates at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, Friday doubleheader (one game makes up Aug. 12 postponement, each team will play as home team once)
    11. Nationals at Marlins, Sunday doubleheader (one game makes up Aug. 2 postponement)

  • All in all, there are nine doubleheaders on the Week 8 schedule, and remember, all doubleheaders are seven regulation innings in length. In addition to these rescheduled games, the Boston Red Sox at Marlins week-starting series opener on Monday has been moved to Thursday to accommodate the Phillies-Marlins makeup game.

  • The Cardinals’ three scheduled doubleheaders give them a prospective 10-game week — yes, you read that right, that’s 10 games. The additional volume is a huge boon in fantasy leagues and the Forecaster ratings reflect that, but be aware that these represent days 31-37 and games 36-45 of a season-ending, 53-games-in-44-days stretch, during which the Cardinals will play 23 times in the final 18 days without a day off. Exhaustion could rapidly become a factor for the Cardinals, especially on the pitching side, where starter Kwang-Hyun Kim is currently sidelined with a kidney issue, closer Giovanny Gallegos exited the Sept. 10 game with a groin injury and starter Johan Oviedo is now quarantined after coming into contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19. The Cardinals have gone 5-5 since Sept. 2, have middling runs-per-game (hitting) and ERA (pitching) numbers during that 10-game stretch, and have shown inconsistent play in settling at those roughly league-average numbers. Still, here are a few key individuals who haven’t appeared fatigued and might shine for you accordingly: Tommy Edman (36% available in ESPN leagues), who has played every inning of the team’s past 14 games and batted .273/.317/.491; Kolten Wong (68% available), a .400 hitter (14-for-35) while playing all 11 September games (10 as a starter) whose .277 batting average and .389 on-base percentage against right-handers this season should prove beneficial with the Cardinals facing mostly right-handed starters and bullpen pieces; two-start pitcher and ace Jack Flaherty, who will probably be asked to step up his workload; and swingman Austin Gomber (98% available), who should make at least one start but whose career 3.38 relief ERA and 26.8% strikeout rate in 2020 alone make him an intriguing plug-and-play.

  • The Marlins and Pirates enjoy nine-game weeks — I told you there was a hefty number of games in Week 8! Neither, however, grades as high as you might expect in terms of weekly matchups, with the Marlins earning a 7 and the Pirates 5. Still, both teams should face a minimum of six right-handed starters, not to mention a pair of doubleheader spot starters, and that’s good news for the teams’ lefty-hitting regulars: Corey Dickerson (74% available in ESPN leagues), a .267/.340/.411 hitter against right-handers this year; Matt Joyce (99% available), a .282/.402/.423 hitter against righties; and Colin Moran (83%), a .253/.354/.506 hitter against righties. Additionally, monitor Jazz Chisholm’s (98%) role through the Sept. 11-13 weekend, as he has picked up five consecutive starts and would match up nicely for this schedule should the Marlins decide to keep Isan Diaz at the alternate camp for a lengthier period.

  • The Orioles, Brewers and Phillies each play eight-game weeks, which while fewer than those the above three teams will enjoy, still represents a sizable advantage in a week when 15 other teams will play either five or six times. This is great news for Corbin Burnes (11% available in ESPN leagues), the No. 14 pitcher on the Player Rater, who will make his first scheduled two-start week — his Week 4 pair wasn’t initially in the Brewers’ plans — and is a near-lock to take both turns thanks to his Monday schedule and the team’s loaded schedule.

  • On the short end of the schedule stick are the Chicago Cubs, Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants, each of whom will play only five times in this otherwise busy Week 8. The Cubs have a miserable schedule, having to face Carlos Carrasco, Aaron Civale, Michael Pineda, Jose Berrios and Randy Dobnak, at a time when the top half of their lineup is ice cold: The Cubs’ Nos. 1-5 hitters combined batted .184/.268/.288 with three home runs and 10 RBIs in the team’s nine games from Sept. 3-10. If you want to bench one of their “name” players for a matchups-driven Week 8 sleeper, you’re within reason to.

  • The Athletics’ schedule got a noticeable boost with the rescheduling of their Sept. 1-2 postponements as a Monday doubleheader, because what was initially a five-game week is now a seven-game week, and two of those seven games will be played at Colorado’s Coors Field. New leadoff man Tommy La Stella (31% available in ESPN leagues) is in prime position to shine, but as the Athletics haven’t faced a left-handed starter since his acquisition, might they move him down or sit him altogether in either/both of the two games against Mariners lefties on Monday? Start him nevertheless, as Rockies lefty Kyle Freeland is scheduled to miss the Athletics series.

  • Absorbing portions of the previous two topics, the Los Angeles Dodgers have a miserable schedule on the pitching side, and it’s largely because they’ll play four weekend games at Coors. Note: It doesn’t help that they begin Week 8 with three road games against a San Diego Padres offense that ranks second in baseball in runs per game (5.73), with that rate almost identical if split between home/road. The Dodgers are currently without Walker Buehler (blister), are awaiting CT scan results on Dustin May’s left foot and haven’t made it clear where Tony Gonsolin fits in the Week 8 rotation. Clayton Kershaw (4.60 ERA in 22 career starts) and Julio Urias (7.71 ERA in three starts and two relief appearances) are the only current Dodgers starters with any sort of extensive experience at Coors. Two-start pitcher Kershaw, naturally, still warrants your lineup spot, as does closer Kenley Jansen, but that’s about where you should draw the line in shallow mixed leagues.

  • Among the teams scheduled to face a greater-than-usual number of left- or right-handed starting pitchers are the Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Colorado Rockies, Royals, Los Angeles Angels, Padres and Mariners, who are scheduled to face three left-handers; Pirates, who are scheduled to face eight right-handers; Blue Jays, who are scheduled to face seven right-handers; and Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros, Marlins, Brewers and Cardinals, who are scheduled to face six right-handers. Among the hitters you should activate accordingly: Maikel Franco (72% available in ESPN leagues), a .271/.345/.465 hitter against lefties between 2019-20; Matt Kemp (97% available), a .324/.405/.486 hitter against lefties this season; Brad Miller (80%), a .280/.394/.512 hitter against righties this season; Kevin Pillar (62%), a .288/.344/.559 hitter against lefties this season; Pat Valaika (97%), a .242/.303/.493 career hitter against lefties; and Daniel Vogelbach (97%), a .217/.345/.435 career hitter against righties.

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