Welcome to the newest edition of the Weekly MLB Preview!

GAME BREAKDOWN GRID FOR WEEK 16 (7/25 to 7/31)

TEAM # GAMES HOME AWAY VS LEFT VS RIGHT
Orioles 7 3 4 2 5
Yankees 6 0 6 3 3
Red Sox 7 3 4 1 6
Blue Jays 6 6 0 0 6
Rays 5 3 2 0 5
Tigers 6 3 3 3 3
Royals 7 3 4 3 4
White Sox 7 2 5 0 7
Indians 5 5 0 0 5
Twins 6 6 0 1 5
Angels 7 4 3 2 5
Mariners 5 0 5 3 2
Athletics 6 0 6 1 5
Rangers 7 7 0 1 6
Astros 6 3 3 2 4
Nationals 6 0 6 0 6
Marlins 7 7 0 1 6
Mets 7 7 0 3 4
Braves 6 4 2 0 6
Phillies 7 0 7 2 5
Cardinals 7 0 7 1 6
Pirates 5 2 3 1 4
Brewers 7 7 0 2 5
Reds 6 0 6 2 4
Cubs 7 5 2 3 4
Dodgers 5 5 0 2 3
Giants 7 7 0 2 5
Padres 6 3 3 1 5
Rockies 7 0 7 1 6
Diamondbacks 7 0 7 1 6

Analysis: Looking for statistics which will influence your upcoming lineup? Check out these tidbits:

  • Fun fact: The Milwaukee Brewers have struck out 330 more times than the Los Angeles Angels this season. Yes, you read that right. 330. And oddly enough, six of the seven teams in MLB who have struck out the least are in the AL. 
  • While NL staffs get the majority of attention around the fantasy world, the Toronto Blue Jays have quietly been on fire since the beginning of July. Since the calendar page has flipped the team is second to only the Washington Nationals in staff ERA at 2.77, while leading the majors with an absurd 0.99 WHIP.
  • Don’t look now, but the Miami Marlins are slowly catching up to the Washington Nationals in the NL East. Now just five games behind in the division, the team has gone 7-3 over their past 10 games, and leads the majors in save opportunities during the month of July with 11. They might be cutting things close, but their bullpen has converted when called upon and kept them in the thick of the wildcard race.
  • When one thinks of the New York Mets and San Diego Padres, the term “offensive juggernaut” doesn’t come into the equation, and rightly so considering the team’s standings. That aside, the Mets (30) and Padres (27) are first and second in home runs hit during the month of July. Both teams are squarely in the middle of the pack in their divisional races, but have been coming on strong of late.

INTERLEAGUE OUTLOOK

AWAY TEAM HOME TEAM # GAMES DH? PLAYER(S) IMPACTED
Cubs White Sox 4 Yes (2), No (2) Wilson Contreras, Javier Baez, Pedro Alvarez
Rockies Orioles 3 Yes (3) Ryan Raburn, Daniel Descalso
Padres Blue Jays 3 Yes (3) Adam Rosales, Christian Bethancourt
Braves Twins 2 Yes (2) Anthony Recker, Jeff Francoeur
Mariners Pirates 2 No (2) Nelson Cruz
Nationals Indians 2 Yes (2) Jose Lobaton, Michael Taylor
Rays Dodgers 2 No (2) Corey Dickerson
Mariners Cubs 3 Yes (3) Nelson Cruz

Analysis: Fantasy owners are greeted with a more robust Interleague schedule in Week 17, following the toe in the water which was last week. The Chicago Cubs gaining a DH is one of the more notable matchups – this should ensure additional at-bats for Willson Contreras and Javier Baez. Nelson Cruz owners will face a challenging week, as the Mariners are the road team to both the aforementioned Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates. While the team may opt to keep his bat in the lineup and push him into the outfield, he’s a defensive liability. The Tampa Rays will also lose the DH as they take on the Los Angeles Dodgers, which means that slugger Corey Dickerson will sit. Owners looking to take a flier on an NL player who will come into additional at-bats should consider Ryan Raburn, providing he gets the call from the Colorado Rockies.

STARTING PITCHER RANKINGS

PITCHER MATCHUP 1 MATCHUP 2
Jake Arrieta @White Sox (Gonzalez) Mariners (Iwakuma)
Carlos Martinez @Mets (Syndergaard) @Marlins (Chen)
Noah Syndergaard Cardinals (Martinez) Rockies (De La Rosa)
Anthony DeSclafani @Giants (Peavy) @Padres (Rea)
Jeremy Hellickson @Marlins (Chen) @Braves (Jenkins)
Ervin Santana Braves (Harrell) White Sox (Shields)
Aaron Sanchez Padres (Rea) Orioles (Tillman)
Kyle Hendricks @White Sox (Shields) Mariners (LeBlanc)
Chris Tillman Rockies (Bettis) @Blue Jays (Sanchez)
Drew Pomeranz Tigers (Verlander) @Angels (Undecided)
Justin Verlander @Red Sox (Pomeranz) Astros (Keuchel)
Dallas Keuchel Yankees (Eovaldi) @Tigers (Verlander)
Steven Wright Tigers (Pelfrey) @Angels (Santiago)
Jaime Garcia @Mets (Colon) @Marlins (Koehler)
Wei-Yin Chen Phillies (Hellickson) Cardinals (Martinez)
Bartolo Colon Cardinals (Garcia) Rockies (Bettis)
Ian Kennedy Angels (Santiago) @Rangers (Perez)
Patrick Corbin @Brewers (Anderson) @Dodgers (Kazmir)
Gio Gonzalez @Indians (Salazar) @Giants (Cain)
Jerad Eickhoff @Marlins (Koehler) @Braves (Harrell)
Hector Santiago @Royals (Kennedy) Red Sox (Wright)

Analysis: This is a rather light week for two-start pitchers, as I’ve only included my top 21 options, rather than the normal 25 for owners. Simply put, the talent at the bottom end of the player pool is becoming streamer worthy and interchangeable, with one easier start and one more difficult.

Jake Arrieta, Carlos Martinez and Noah Syndergaard top the list, and are followed by three rather unlikely candidates in Anthony DeSclafani, Jeremy Hellickson and Ervin Santana. All three pitchers are owned in less leagues than you think, and present great pickups in shallower leagues as well as cheaper DFS plays.

Since joining the Cincinnati Reds rotation in early June, DeSclafani has posted an eye-opening 2.50 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, while striking out 40 batters over 50 innings. The WHIP is inflated due to one poor outing against the Atlanta Braves, but if owners can look past that one start, DeSclafani has allowed three earned runs or less in each outing, while lasting into the sixth inning in all contests.

Hellickson has generated more buzz, especially over the past few days when rumors have swirled that the Miami Marlins are looking to acquire him. While his 3.84 ERA isn’t spectacular, he has been remarkably consistent, and has been fantastic since the beginning of July. Hellickson takes on two weaker opponents in the Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves – don’t be surprised to see this string of success continue.

I intentionally boosted Santana’s ranking this week, as he squares off against his former team in the Atlanta Braves. The combination of a “revenge” factor coupled with the Braves minor league-esque lineup make for an enticing matchup. His second start comes against the Chicago White Sox, and while that is certainly more difficult, he did experience some success against them earlier this year. Coupled with his string of quality starts, Santana is also quickly becoming a trade candidate, much like Hellickson.

PITCHER MATCHUP 1
Madison Bumgarner Reds (Straily)
Jose Fernandez Cardinals (Wacha)
Max Scherzer @Giants (Cueto)
Stephen Strasburg @Indians (Carrasco)
Julio Teheran Phillies (Nola)
Vince Velasquez @Braves (Wisler)
Gerrit Cole @Brewers (Guerra)
Jon Lester Mariners (Paxton)
Johnny Cueto Nationals (Scherzer)
Corey Kluber Athletics (Mengden)
Danny Salazar Nationals (Gonzalez)
Carlos Carrasco Nationals (Strasburg)
Chris Sale @Cubs (Lackey)
Trevor Bauer Athletics (Manaea)
Masahiro Tanaka @Rays (Odorizzi)
Adam Wainwright @Mets (Verrett)
Lance McCullers Yankees (Sabathia)
Jacob deGrom Rockies (Anderson)
Cole Hamels Royals (Ventura)
Marco Estrada Padres (Perdomo)
Felix Hernandez @Pirates (Liriano)
Jason Hammel White Sox (Undecided)
Matt Shoemaker @Royals (Duffy)
Danny Duffy Angels (Shoemaker)
Michael Wacha @Marlins (Fernandez)
Tanner Roark @Giants (Samardzija)
Jose Quintana @Twins (Nolasco)
Adam Conley Phillies (Eflin)
Blake Snell Yankees (Eovaldi)
Yu Darvish Athletics (Hill)
David Price @Angels (Weaver)
Jake Odorizzi Yankees (Tanaka)
Jameson Taillon @Brewers (Garza)
Michael Fulmer @Red Sox (Rodriguez)
Jon Gray @Orioles (Bundy)
Archie Bradley @Brewers (Nelson)
Kevin Gausman @Twins (Gibson)
Aaron Nola @Braves (Teheran)
John Lackey White Sox (Sale)
Kenta Maeda Diamondbacks (Godley)

Analysis: Of the top 10 pitchers that I have ranked under the one-start table this week, nine are from the NL. Guess it helps picking on the NL East, eh?

I’ve spoken ad nauseam about the majority of the top pitchers on this list, so I’d like to focus on the middle to latter portion here, starting with the New York Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka. While he still isn’t in my SP1 category, Tanaka (for the most part) has been quite consistent in 2016. His 3.15 ERA and 1.09 WHIP aren’t jaw-dropping numbers by any stretch of the imagination compared to his NL counterparts, but he currently has a lower ERA than Chris Sale, and a lower WHIP than Danny Salazar. In both categories he ranks inside the top seven in the AL. He’s been better than you think.

Speaking of another top-tier pitcher who has flown under the radar, how about Cole Hamels? In his most recent start against the Chicago Cubs (at Wrigley, no less), he out-dueled John Lackey, allowing zero earned runs over eight innings while striking out seven batters. He inexplicably struggled in back-to-back outings against the Minnesota Twins, but has been tremendous otherwise since the end of May. Some may argue that as the weather warms up his ERA will climb in the hitter-friendly confines of Arlington, but I’m of the opposite opinion, and think that he can maintain this level of success.