Weekend preview June 13-16

MLB

Dads who are baseball fans are in for quite a Father’s Day.

This weekend’s schedule brings us several compelling series, not the least of which are the historic rivalries between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, who will play their first games of 2024 against one another, and the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals. Additionally, a pair of local rivals and high-probability playoff teams, the Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies, also square off.

However, it’s Sunday — Father’s Day — that brings us fantastic TV (or live and in-person!) watching. The Phillies-Orioles series, at Camden Yards, features a matchup of staff aces Zack Wheeler and Corbin Burnes, on ESPN+ at 1:35 p.m. ET. Then, on “Sunday Night Baseball” at 7 p.m. ET, it’s the finale of the Yankees-Red Sox series at Fenway Park, with Marcus Stroman facing Kutter Crawford.

From a fantasy standpoint, however, Sunday’s game to watch might well be the one featuring Pittsburgh Pirates phenom Paul Skenes, making his first career start at Colorado’s Coors Field. Skenes, ninth in fantasy points (102) among pitchers from the date of his May 11 big league debut forward, is aligned for that Coors start, although it would come on four days rest. That would be significant in that it would be his first MLB outing working on fewer than five days rest — and only his fourth as a professional. (He made a pair of starts for Class A Bradenton on four days rest last season, although he was on a pitch count of 30 in each, and his final start for Triple-A Indianapolis last month was a 66-pitch outing on four days rest).

Skenes did throw a professional-high 103 pitches in his most recent gem — 6⅓ shutout innings on the road against the Cardinals — and the Pirates have signaled a preference for a six-man rotation to ease the workload strain on both Skenes and fellow rookie standout Jared Jones. It’s entirely possible the team will slide a sixth starter into the mix (Daulton Jefferies, who would be on four days rest, but at least is on the 40-man roster so as to ease any roster-related promotion difficulties), pushing Skenes back to a much more fantasy-friendly Monday matchup back home against the Cincinnati Reds.

My guess is Skenes does get pushed back, and those of us who prefer the highest ceilings from our pitching matchups will be pleased. Those of us in weekly formats or who seek the most talented arms while fighting close Sunday matchups will not. The difference between the two days is a projected 5.5 fantasy points, which is a very big deal, but Skenes’ mere 4.4-point Coors projection isn’t going to stop me from starting him with confidence if he indeed works there.

Either way, we’re certain to see Jones make his first career Coors start, likely on five days rest on Saturday against the Rockies’ Ty Blach. Jones has cooled somewhat since his scorching-hot start, and Skenes’ arrival contributed to his being overshadowed, but Jones does have three quality starts in five turns since gaining his more-ballyhooed teammate. The projection for Jones is 3.5 points (not a far cry from Skenes’ number), but I have more concerns that his first Coors assignment will prove to be far more challenging.

Pirates hitters are the ones who stand out for their weekend Coors series, as they’ll face the three worst current members of the Rockies’ rotation in Ryan Feltner, Blach and Dakota Hudson. Statcast darling Oneil Cruz, now available in more than 50% of ESPN leagues, seems to be picking up the pace offensively, with four multi-hit games and two home runs already in June and a .521 slugging percentage and six homers in the 30 games since the beginning of May. His is a fun skill set to see play at Coors, and he’s well worth the universal add for these games.

AL West showdown?

The disappointing, but defending champion, Texas Rangers get their chance to make up ground on the division-leading Seattle Mariners with a three-game series at T-Mobile Park. Considering the state of the Rangers’ rotation — it’s at least inching closer to healthy, with Max Scherzer‘s potential return roughly a week away — it’s Seattle that appears to have the advantage.

The Rangers’ Andrew Heaney (Friday’s probable pitcher) and Dane Dunning (Sunday’s) are plenty hittable, and Saturday starter Nathan Eovaldi will be making only his fourth start since returning from injury. The Mariners, while a strikeout-prone offense, are hitting better of late, with 5.00 runs per game so far in June (eighth best in the majors). Leadoff man J.P. Crawford, available in more than half of leagues, should be a mainstay in points-league lineups, and catcher-eligible DH Mitch Garver, who has two home runs already this month, is worth slotting back into lineups.

Rangers hitters will have more of a fighting chance this weekend, however, depending upon the status of the Mariners’ projected Sunday starter, Bryan Woo. Woo, who was scratched from his scheduled Tuesday start due to a forearm injury, appears unlikely to pitch then, especially after the team added Emerson Hancock to its taxi squad as a potential fill-in. If you’ve got Woo (one of the hottest pitchers in fantasy) on your roster, be prepared to bench him on Sunday — and Hancock is not one of the stronger streaming alternatives due to his generally hittable repertoire.

A 1983 World Series rematch

This weekend’s Phillies-Orioles series, which pits the top two scoring teams (Orioles 5.13 runs per game, Phillies 5.10) against each other, might be a more pitcher-leaning matchup than advertised.

Besides the aforementioned Wheeler-Burnes Sunday matchup, the Orioles will start Kyle Bradish, who tossed a brilliant 1-hit, 9-K gem over 6 IP last Saturday after some questions about his workload, and Grayson Rodriguez, who has been sneaky-elite (2.76 ERA, 28.3% K rate over five starts) since his return from the IL. The Phillies will start the No. 3 scoring pitcher (242 fantasy points) Ranger Suarez on Friday, leaving Saturday starter Taijuan Walker‘s game as the only “punching bag”-type fantasy hitting matchup.

Remember, the Phillies are currently without two key members of their lineup in Trea Turner and J.T. Realmuto, so there’s less reason to fret if you’re a fantasy manager of Bradish or Rodriguez. Those absences have lowered the Phillies’ offense in our projections from a top-10 unit to one that’s merely above league average.

Quick hits

  • Jordan Montgomery and his Arizona Diamondbacks draw baseball’s all-around softest matchup in the Chicago White Sox, who through 69 games have a 17-52 record that is tied for the worst this century and whose 3.06 runs scored average is fourth worst over that same time frame. The best thing that can be said for the White Sox this weekend is that their three starters are right-handed, which matters only in that the Diamondbacks have baseball’s widest wOBA splits featuring greater success against lefties (41 points in that direction). This weekend could be perfectly teed up to be Corbin Carroll‘s 2024 big-time, bounce-back moment.

  • Among the widely available starting pitchers who are worth streaming are San Diego Padres knuckleballer Matt Waldron, who brings a streak of three quality starts into a favorable road matchup against the New York Mets, Reds left-hander Andrew Abbott, who has a 3.19 ERA over his past five starts and will be facing a Milwaukee Brewers offense that is significantly more potent against right- (.329 team wOBA) than left-handed starters (.297), and Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Gavin Stone, who has a 3.00 ERA in his seven Dodger Stadium starts and should benefit from a matchup against a suddenly cold Kansas City Royals team.

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