More scheduling changes impact the fantasy baseball calendar, as there are three rescheduled games (at publishing time) in Week 5. The Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals plan a doubleheader for Thursday at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium, making up for their Aug. 10 and 11 postponements, and the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds plan a doubleheader for Saturday at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park, the extra game a makeup for their July 30 rainout. Remember, all doubleheaders this season are scheduled for seven innings. In addition, the New York Mets’ (and their opponents’) schedules are in flux after the Mets had two positive COVID-19 tests that postponed their games on Aug. 21 and 22.
These rescheduled games grant the Reds and Cardinals the advantage of eight-game weeks, which stands out in a week where three other teams — the Atlanta Braves, Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees — are scheduled to play only five times apiece. Interestingly enough, because of the opposing starting pitchers the Reds and Cardinals are projected to face, neither team enjoys as large a weekly matchups advantage as is typical of an eight-game week. It’s those teams on the short end who suffer more from a matchups perspective, since 17 other teams are set to play at least two more games than they will during Week 5. In a league that allows daily transactions, you should capitalize on that Cardinals Thursday doubleheader, which comes against the Pirates’ thin pitching staff (probably Chad Kuhl and Derek Holland), but the weekly schedule upshot is that Braves and Yankees hitters are less appealing this week than in any other in 2020. After all, the Braves are scheduled to face Yankees ace Gerrit Cole in one of their five games, and the Yankees could wind up facing New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom during their weekend series.
Those Braves and Yankees have a pair of big names who could return from the injured list during Week 5: Ronald Acuna Jr. (wrist) and Aaron Judge (calf). Judge is considered closer to activation on his eligible date, which is Aug. 22 (Saturday of Week 4) for each of them, but the short week makes them shakier fantasy plays if we receive no clarity in advance of the week’s lineup deadline. In Acuna’s defense, his toughest starting pitching matchup comes earlier in the week.
Here’s how quickly a 60-game season goes: The mathematical midpoint of the 2020 season, assuming that there isn’t a large number of postponements between now and then, will arrive on Thursday of Week 5, once two games on that date are in the books. In a typical 162-game season, we’d be only 18.5% — not even one-quarter! — of the way through, which shows how much we as fantasy managers must react to smaller sample sizes in 2020. Typically, I wouldn’t recommend placing much importance on your fantasy league’s standings at this point in the season, other than to protect against severe roster shortcomings (such as way too much/too little of a specific category or player type), but this short season prevents taking a patient approach. After Thursday, you’ll have as much remaining season as what is already in the books, so maintain that perspective if you’ve dug yourself an early standings hole.
The Washington Nationals have the week’s most favorable hitting matchups, and the race for the honor isn’t close. Other than a Monday game against Pablo Lopez (2.42 ERA in four starts) and a Thursday game against Philadelphia Phillies ace Aaron Nola (2.05 ERA in four), the Nationals aren’t scheduled to face a single starting pitcher with better than a 4.07 ERA during Week 5. From a full-staff perspective, the Phillies, who visit Washington Tuesday-Thursday, and the Boston Red Sox, who host the Nationals Friday-Sunday, rank 27th (5.58) and 29th (6.01) in team ERA. This Nationals offense, which heated up during its recent nine-game road trip (Aug. 10-18) by averaging 7.1 runs per contest, has a pair of widely available regulars to add and start: Asdrubal Cabrera (35% available in ESPN leagues) is off to a great start and has been slotting in at cleanup, and rookie Luis Garcia (92% available) has hit well in his first week in the majors and has been slotting sixth in the order.
It’s not often that a visitor to Colorado’s Coors Field ends up with a better weekly matchups grade than the Colorado Rockies themselves, especially not in a week where those Rockies play an additional game compared to the team they’re hosting. Such is the case for the San Diego Padres during Week 5, however, and it’s a result of their beginning the week with a three-game home series against a Seattle Mariners team that ranks 28th in ERA (5.67). The Padres’ decision to have Trent Grisham (26% available in ESPN leagues) lead off bolsters his value heading into such a week, and Jake Cronenworth (80% available), who has started 15 of the team’s past 17 games, ranging from fifth through seventh in the lineup, is well worth the add and start.
After rookie rotation mate Tarik Skubal enjoyed a two-start week as he began his own major league career, Detroit Tigers right-hander Casey Mize is aligned for two turns during Week 5. While the matchups themselves aren’t great — the opposing Cubs and Minnesota Twins sport upper-half offenses — that both will come at Detroit’s Comerica Park is beneficial. Mize also showed plenty of poise in his Aug. 19 big league debut, becoming only the 28th pitcher in the modern era to strike out at least seven batters without issuing a walk in his first career appearance, with all four of his pitches looking immediately of major league quality. His Forecaster projection isn’t gaudy, but I’m happy to universally start him considering his upside.
A few rotations are in flux as Week 5 approaches. Madison Bumgarner (back) threw a simulated game on Aug. 17 and might be a candidate to assume the open spot in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ rotation on Tuesday and Sunday, but he’d be a tough pitcher to activate right away unless you’re desperate for two-start volume. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who along with the Seattle Mariners are the only teams that haven’t had a starting pitcher work on fewer than five days’ rest in 2020, seem likely to promote Tony Gonsolin to make a spot start during Week 5. It’ll probably happen on Saturday or Sunday, after his 10-day minimum alternate training site stay expires, and that means an appealing assignment at the more pitching-oriented Texas’ Globe Life Field.
Among the teams scheduled to face a greater-than-usual number of left- or right-handed starting pitchers are the Houston Astros, who are scheduled to face five lefty starters; Mets, who are scheduled to face four lefty starters; Los Angeles Angels, Pirates and Toronto Blue Jays, who are scheduled to face three lefty starters; and Red Sox, Cubs, Reds, Miami Marlins and Cardinals, who are scheduled to face six righty starters. Among the hitters you should activate accordingly: Ian Happ (44% available in ESPN leagues), a .340/.459/.780 hitter against righties this season; Jason Heyward (91% available), a .317/.404/.561 hitter against righties; Martin Maldonado (73%), a .375/.464/.708 hitter against lefties; Kevin Newman (65%), a .429/.467/.643 hitter against lefties; Jacob Stallings (99%), a .444/.615/.556 hitter against lefties; and Jesse Winker (34%), a .354/.483/.708 hitter against righties.