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'The Nine' for Week 19
The Atlanta Braves have a busy week, eight games in seven days, as they play a 22-games-in-20-days stretch in August. They'll begin with a doubleheader against the Miami Marlins at SunTrust Park on Monday, that resulting from the teams' Aug. 1 postponement, the second time in a span of seven days that the team will play a doubleheader. Could fatigue come into play? Perhaps, though the Braves picked up a road series split against the Washington Nationals Aug. 7-9, the Braves will spend the entirety of the week at home and their opponents are the Miami Marlins, who have a 20-36 road record, and Colorado Rockies, who have averaged roughly three-quarters of a run fewer per game on the road (4.28) than at home (5.05). It's the team's pitching staff that warrants the fantasy spotlight, with closer A.J. Minter (available in more than 50 percent of ESPN leagues), one of the 15 best at his position on the Player Rater in the past month, one of their strongest plays. Resurgent Mike Foltynewicz (one of their two-start pitchers) and Sean Newcomb should also be kept active, and keep an eye on the status of Anibal Sanchez (available in nearly 50 percent), who would be the team's other two-start pitcher and a strong start if his calf injury heals in time. Touki Toussaint is expected to get a spot start during the team's Monday doubleheader, and is worth an NL-only look.
The New York Mets are the other team with an eight-game week, in a week where only 10 other teams play seven times and four -- the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros and Milwaukee Brewers -- play only five games. Quality fantasy choices are few and far between on the Mets' roster, but three in particular stand out for Week 19: Zack Wheeler (available in more than 40 percent of ESPN leagues), who has begun his second half with three straight quality starts; Michael Conforto (available in roughly 50 percent), who despite his struggles this season still regularly starts as the No. 3 or 4 hitter and might benefit from the Mets facing at least seven right-handed starters; and Jeff McNeil (available in more than 95 percent), a .297/.409/.514 hitter against righties since his July 24 big-league debut.
Coming off a short Week 18, the Oakland Athletics' Week 19 schedule doesn't look all that much more favorable for their hitters: Six games, yes, but three apiece against the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros, including games against Marco Gonzales, James Paxton, Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander. This matchups-oriented team is also scheduled to face exactly three left- and three right-handed starters. The team might be excelling, but just as last week, Khris Davis and Matt Chapman are their only sure things in fantasy, and Matt Olson and Stephen Piscotty are their next two most-viable plays.
The Cleveland Indians are one of three American League teams to visit National League parks for interleague play during Week 19, and their hitting matchups for left-handed hitters are outstanding (a perfect 10). Yonder Alonso, a lefty, is their usual first baseman who has batted .272/.361/.499 against righties since the beginning of last season, and he's available in roughly 50 percent of ESPN leagues. Normally he'd have to duke it out with usual designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion for first-base at-bats, but Encarnacion is likely headed to the DL, meaning Alonso should be in the lineup for the entirety of the three-game, week-opening series at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park. Alonso is a standout play for Week 19 as a result.
Sticking in the American League Central, the Kansas City Royals have one of the most favorable hitting schedules of any team in Week 19, thanks to facing a Toronto Blue Jays pitching staff that has the second-worst team ERA since the All-Star break (5.88), as well as a Chicago White Sox staff with the second-worst ERA for the season (4.96). Whit Merrifield and Salvador Perez are the two most well-known Royals hitters, and both should obviously remain active for you, but there are three others with positive earnings per the Player Rater's Last 30 split: Adalberto Mondesi (available in more than 90 percent of ESPN leagues), a .273 hitter with seven stolen bases since the All-Star break who should capitalize upon the team's excellent ratings in the steals department; Lucas Duda (available in more than 97 percent), a .241 hitter with .185 isolated power since the break; and Alex Gordon (available in roughly 97 percent), a .277 hitter with a .338 on-base percentage since the break. Hunter Dozier (available in more than 99 percent) is also worth a look in deep mixed and AL-only leagues.
The Detroit Tigers, too, get to fatten up against the White Sox's pitching staff, as well as a Minnesota Twins staff that doesn't have ace Jose Berrios scheduled to pitch during the series. Tigers hitters have run extremely cold of late, with only Jose Iglesias and Jeimer Candelario returning positive value in the past 30 days, but this could represent a rebound week for the team. Nicholas Castellanos' slump could finally draw for the close -- certainly he's worth starting in the hopes these matchups help -- and Victor Martinez, a .288/.339/.442 hitter since the All-Star break, is well worth activating in all formats.
The Astros' abbreviated, five-game schedule is one of the worst for hitters in Week 19, and that's bad news for a team that has been below-average in terms of runs per game since the All-Star break (4.41). The healthy return of Carlos Correa should help the offense, but Jose Altuve (DL: knee) and George Springer (DL: thumb) are likely to be sidelined for at least half (if not all) of Week 19, and the fill-ins aren't productive enough to trust in a short schedule. Limit your Astros exposure to Correa, Alex Bregman, Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez in shallow mixed.
Among other DH implications due to the 20 interleague games scheduled during Week 19: Shohei Ohtani won't have the DH spot in which to bat for three of the Los Angeles Angels' six games, making him a poor choice considering two of the four scheduled opposing starters during the team's weekend series at Texas' Globe Life Park are left-handed. NL West hitters David Dahl (available in nearly 95 percent of ESPN leagues), Ketel Marte (available in more than 60 percent) and Chris Taylor (available in more than 15 percent) should be the biggest benefactors of their teams' trips to AL venues, making each a worthwhile pickup/start in all but the shallowest leagues. There should also be additional at-bats available for Jose Bautista and the Pittsburgh Pirates' third-base platoon of David Freese and Colin Moran.
For those seeking righty/lefty matchups candidates for Week 19: Jose Briceno (available in more than 99 percent of ESPN leagues), a .370/.396/.674 hitter against left-handed pitchers between the majors and minors this season, could be a worthwhile No. 2 fantasy catcher plug-in with his Los Angeles Angels scheduled to face four left-handed starters. Cameron Maybin (available in more than 95 percent), a .272 hitter with a .343 on-base percentage against left-handed pitchers since the beginning of 2016, might get some looks in the top two spots of the Seattle Mariners' lineup as they are scheduled to face four lefty starters. Ben Zobrist (available in roughly 45 percent), a .319/.414/.507 hitter against right-handers this season, should capitalize upon a Chicago Cubs schedule facing six righty starters.