This is the last “Pick Your Spots” of 2017. As such I want to thank my editor Brad McKenney for keeping me straight all season. I also want to give him a shout out as he was recently hired by the Minnesota Twins and starts his “Big League Career this Spring. Thanks and Congrats Brad.
Our prayers @ Major League Fantasy Sports go out to the people of Southeast Texas as they continue to deal with Hurricane Harvey.
Welcome to Week 21 (Monday 8/28 to Sunday 9/03). I’m going to assume this coming week you’ll either already be in your first round of your playoffs or this is the week that determines whether you will be or not. If you are in Roto, good luck and hopefully, you know what you need for stats to move the needle enough to get you in. As I said in last week’s article, I tend to lean on the veterans over the more flashy rookies this time of year when there is no room for error. If on the other hand, you are a long shot and need to jump pretty far, then all bets are off and you should go for the HR. Keep innings limits top of mind while scanning the wire.
This week, don’t take my word for it, check every analysis you can get your hands on. If you pick the wrong starter this week and it ends your season, remember the final choice was yours. Blame me, or ESPN, or Fantrax, or whatever fantasy website you use, but either way you are out. Hey, like some presidents, I hate taking the blame for anything, so this is a pre-emptive strike in case I need to deny or deflect. Seriously though, use as many sources as you can. You worked pretty hard for six months now to get this far. Good luck and be sure to pick your spots before your opponent picks his or hers.
And be sure to check out my DFS analysis at the bottom. I found some very interesting matchups on both sides of the dial.
WEEK TWENTY ONE: 8/28 to 9/03: This will be the last “Pick Your Spots” of 2017. I went light this week as your waiver wire should be alive with the also ran teams not fishing in those waters now. That being said, a quick look at the scheduled rotations around the MLB for Week 21 shows a lot of spots filled by guys who would be considered “organizational depth”. Good luck in your playoffs, consolation rounds or Roto stretch run. I’m still in it in three of my five leagues mathematically, though only 1 is realistic. Plenty to play for still. Even if not, I hope you agree to keep your lineups legal and competitive the rest of the way anyway. Your league mates are counting on you. Thanks to all of you who have been reading and commenting on “Pick Your Spots” the past two seasons. Hopefully, I helped you win a week or two or at least provided some Sunday afternoon entertainment. I’ll see you around on Reddit and look forward to my third season of “Pick Your Spots” in April. Hopefully, the Groundhog will have good news for us and Spring will be here sooner than we think. Go win your league first though, time to concentrate on football.
A couple of important injury notes: Mostly good news this week as several big-name pitchers are eligible to come back in Week 21 and are apparently ready. Timing/scheduling is still up in the air, so if you own these pitchers or are counting on their replacements in Week 21, you better check your lineups religiously.
Due to return in Week 21: Max Scherzer, John Lester, Mike Tomlin, Derek Norris, Reynaldo Lopez, Jacob Faria, Trevor Bauer, and YES, even Matt (Hurricane) Harvey. I have Harvey on my DL in several leagues, but if I didn’t I would not even be looking at him. It appears he took offense to that and me calling him “Hurricane”. Apologies to any SE Texans, but the moniker was too good to pass up. Finally, the LA Dodgers, who could fill two entire MLB rotations if all their SP were healthy, which they seldom are, are getting back Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, and Brandon MacCarthy. James Paxton is playing catch and hopes to be back soon.
Some bad news: David Price, Aaron Sanchez, & Adam Wainwright still have no timetable to return but Price & Sanchez are throwing. Also going down this week are Danny Salazar, Anibal Sanchez, and Alex Wood.
Spotters from the <50% owned crowd:
***TWO START PITCHER***Luke Weaver, RHSP, LAA (32% owned ESPN, 62% owned Fantrax) @ MIL, TUE, 8/29 & @ SF, SUN, 9/3: If you are in one of the 38% of Fantrax Leagues, or 68% of ESPN leagues where Weaver is still available, get him on your roster already. He is legit and has a couple of good match ups this week. Weaver has pitched very well since being placed in the Cardinals rotation. Over the last month, he owns a 1.17 ERA and 0.91 WHIP while striking out 19 batters in 15 1/3 IP. He has two nice matchups for this week, despite both contests coming on the road. Weaver has already pitched a great game in Milwaukee this season, and AT&T Park is so spacious, I might even be able to pitch there. The St. Louis offense has the second highest OPS in the league over the last week, so expect plenty of run support to ensure two W’s. Weaver just needs to remain focused, unlike the photographer who took this picture, focusing on the wrong Weaver.
AJ Griffin, RHSP, TEX ( owned ESPN, 39% Owned in Fantrax) vs LAA, SAT 9/2: I am surprised that Griffin actually went down in Fantrax ownership this week from 39% to 35% but better for us if we still need a SP. Griffin is pitching pretty well for the past month or so. Overall, in his 55 innings, he’s 6-3 and pitching to a 46/18 K/BB leading to a 1.280 WHIP, although his ERA is 5.07 during that stretch due to his opponents launching 15 HR off him during that time. He also owns a complete game shutout. In his last three starts, all QS, he is 2-1 over 16 IP with 6 R on 11 H and 3 HR and an 11/6 K/BB lowering his ERA by a full run over that stretch. In one of his last starts out against the Tigers, he gave up no homers, two walks, and five hits in five innings, with four strikeouts and one run for a W. So far this past week he was an inning shy of a quality start giving up three runs on six hits, three walks and three K’s but ended up with a loss against the Chisox. This week he’ll get the Angels in Texas on Saturday. The Angels have a wOBA away from LA vs righties of .307, which is 23rd in the MLB.
***TWO START PITCHER***Matt Moore, LHSP, SFG (20.5% owned in ESPN, 58% owned Fantrax) @ SDP, TUE 8/28 & vs STL, SUN 9/3: This guy has not been pitching well enough to make my article since the first month of the season, but when he is on he is an ace, and lately he has been on. I also mentioned I lean on veterans this time of year, so Moore is on my radar. I’m not too surprised he is unowned in more than 40% of all leagues as he was brutally inconsistent for several months. Over his last three starts, Moore owns a 2.21 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 19 K in 20 1/3 IP. The Padres and Cardinals rank 30th and 24th, respectively, in runs scored against LHP this season, so Moore should be able to limit the damage this week. He has always been a 2nd half pitcher so this could be another good reason to get him on your radar too.
***TWO START PITCHER***Mike Montgomery, RHSP, CHC (6.5% owned in ESPN, 47% owned Fantrax) vs PIT, MON 8/28 & vs ATL, SAT, 9/2: Out of all starting pitchers with at least 100 IP this season, Mike Montgomery owns the fifth lowest HR/9 of all qualified starters, a low 0.68. He is especially stingy with HR, three so far in 2017, at the friendly confines. This week he gets two match-ups at Wrigley Field, Considering this ability to keep the ball in the park, and his 1.89 ERA through 19 innings in August, I would consider him quite a safe option for your team’s ERA category in Week 21, although not so much in the way of strikeouts. He hurled six innings of shutout baseball in Cincinnati right after a DL stint, so he should be pretty stretched out. Check ahead of Saturday’s start against Atlanta as John Lester is due back next week and my bump Monty a day or altogether.
Not for the faint of heart. Pitchers from the abyss:
Jake Junis, RHSP, KC (7.7% owned ESPN & 28% owned Fantrax) vs TB, TUE, 8/29: Junis should stay in the Royals rotation for the foreseeable future, at least until Trevor Cahill is healthy. In his last two starts, vs the A’s & Mariners he’s gone 2-0 giving up 3 R, 8 H, no BB or HR and logging 9 K’s. Overall he is 4-2, 4.70 ERA & 1.386 WHIP in his brief MLB career. He has a decent 42/17 K/BB in 52 IP. The bulk of the problem has been HR’s, however of his 10 HR, all but one have come in just three games, and that one was in the relief stint. He is a 24-year-old rookie learning on the job and has been improving every week. Tampa is 26th in the MLB in wOBA away with a .292 mark. If he keeps the ball in the park he should be ok, especially in KC.
DFS PLAYERS: You may want to re-think starting these guys: NO, these are not misprints!!
Max Scherzer, RHSP, WAS @ MIL, FRI, 9/01: The Suds are hitting at a .349 wOBA over the month of August vs Righties @ Home
Madison Bumgarner, LHSP, SFG vs STL, THU, 8/31: The Cards have the best wOBA vs Lefties away in the MLB at .454 for the month of August. No thanks.
Chris Sale, LHSP, BOS @ TOR, TUE, 8/29: In the past month, the Jays are hitting at a .401 wOBA vs lefties at home. .401!! Don’t be the one holding that bag.
Arizona starters vs LAD and @ COL, all of Week 21: In August, the Dodgers are hitting a .323 wOBA vs Righties away and .351 vs Lefties. The Rockies at home have a wOBA of .372 vs righties & .378 vs Lefties, also in August.
DFS CONTRARIAN MOVE: Scary Contrary. Don’t let your kids try this at home:
Matt Moore, LHSP, SFG @ SD, TUE, 8/29: Are you a gambler? Then don’t push your luck unless you can handle the stress. The Padres are 29th in the MLB in August in wOBA vs Lefties at home at .215. For more on Moore read my spotters above. Wow your league mates!
Jeff Samardzija, RHSP, SFG, @ SD, MON, 8/28: In the month of August, the Padres are dead last in the MLB at home vs righties in wOBA at .271. Wow your league mates twice this week!
DFS PLAYERS: Match-ups of the week:
Gio Gonzalez, LHSP, WAS @ MIL, THU, 8/31: The Brewers are only managing a wOBA vs Lefties at home of .260.
The Dodgers starters @ SD, FRI 9/1 through Sunday 9/3. Clayton Kershaw & Rich Hill LHSP & Yu Darvish RHSP: In August, The Padres are 29th in the MLB against lefties at home in August at a .215 wOBA, and dead last in the MLB at home vs righties in wOBA at .271, again in the month of August.
Chris Archer, RHSP, TB @ CHW, SAT 9/02: The SOX are hitting a .308 wOBA in August against righties at home, good for 21st in the MLB.
Thanks for reading and good luck in week twenty-one, especially with your pitching. If you have a question about these or any other SP match-ups next week don’t hesitate to leave a message in the comments, write me, or check out my “Pick Your Spots” thread every Sunday on the /r/fantasybaseball Sub-Reddit where I’ll talk starting pitching all day.
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What to expect in 2017: (If you read this part in last week’s article, skip the next few paragraphs.
Criteria Used: Platoon splits, LH/RH, Day/Night, Month, Half, stadium splits, team batting against splits, metrics like GB/FB rate, K & BB rates, Babip, wOBA, FIP, Trends, etc. Sources are Fan Graphs, Baseball-Reference, Fantrax, ESPN and more.
Pitchers from the under 50% ownership group – I’ll list three or four pitchers, less than 50% owned who I believe are primed for a good start the following week, or better yet two good starts. I’ll list two or so pitchers that are less than 20% owned and look like a good choice based on the above criterion.
DFS Suggestions – I’ll pick out a few aces to avoid in DFS and a couple who should be in your lineup, especially if I see a great contrarian start.
My crusade for 2017/2018: Pitchers and other players seem to be getting injured so fast that most leagues don’t have enough DL spots to accommodate them all. Roster limits force tough decisions which are a good thing for competitive league balance and showcasing owner skills, but this season’s overcrowded Disabled-Lists have proven to test traditional capacity at times. I think it is a combination of pitchers being more injury prone, but also the abundant use of the new in 2016 7 day concussion DL, and the new in 2017 10 day DL rule that has MLB teams easing their own roster limitations at the expense of our fantasy limitations and resources. In light of the 7-day & 10-day DL rules, I recommend any owners who have 2 to 4 DL spots to petition the League Manager to increase the number of DL spots to whatever is appropriate for that format. Most good LM’s won’t change rules or settings once the season starts, and rightly so, but at least it will be in place for 2018. Don’t feel victimized by the new rule. Adjust to it.