Fantasy Week 11 sets up difficulties in maximizing hitter matchups, but some teams will provide under-the-radar players. Before delving into them, here are some team schedules to keep in mind. Miami, Arizona and Toronto will only play five games each. There’s not too much interleague play, but Kansas City will lose its designated hitter during a two-game set in San Francisco as will Oakland in Miami. Arizona gains the extra hitter for two games in Detroit; the Dodgers will have the designated hitter in Cleveland three times as will St. Louis while visiting Camden Yards over the weekend.
The volatility of pitching changes, either because of injuries or effectiveness, means the probable pitcher grid needs to be done in pencil. For example, Dallas Keuchel landed on the disabled list Thursday night so Houston’s starter on Monday against Texas is to be announced. Pitcher matchups do get studied to make this happen, so here are next weeks bats of interest, or to avoid, according to the schedule.
- Phillies slated to face four left-handed starters
Recommended starts: Howie Kendrick, 2B/OF; Cameron Rupp, C; Odubel Herrera, OF
Recommended sit: Maikel Franco, 3B
During a two-game home and home with the Red Sox, the Phillies will face three straight southpaws along with Robbie Ray at home on Sunday to end Week 11. It’s not ideal, but they do have players of interest. Starting with Kendrick, his small sample size this season has yielded a .533/.632/.800 slash line against left-handed pitching with a .593 wOBA, 21.1 walk percentage and 5.3 strikeout rate. Though the numbers jump off the page, keep in mind Kendrick only has 15 at-bats against lefties. But ignoring a .267 ISO or his 276 wRC+ will be tough to do.
Catcher Cameron Rupp has disappointed for fantasy this year with Andrew Knapp cutting into his at-bats of late, but with the heavy slate of lefties, Rupp could show signs of life. His .225 ISO and .411 wOBA against left-handed pitchers accompany a .325 average this season. Odubel Herrera’s white hot in Week 10 should keep it going in the days ahead. Versus southpaws, Herrera’s slashing .293/.328/.534 with a .241 ISO which could allow him to stay with Nolan Arenado in their battle to lead the league in doubles.
Many feel Tommy Joseph’s a must play against left-handed pitching but he’s very boom or bust. Joseph does have five home runs against them this year but a .180 average and .236 OBP. His .320 ISO will be tempting but be sure to plan on a home run or two, but the potential for a low average as well. Maikel Franco cannot turn around his slow start and Week 11 might not be the time either. Franco’s hitting .196 against left-handed pitching this season with only two home runs in 51 at-bats.
- Angels face four left-handed pitchers as well
Recommended starts: C.J. Cron, 1B; Eric Young Jr., OF
Recommended sits: Albert Pujols, 1B; Andrelton Simmons, SS
During a season in which C.J. Cron hit a grand slam against a left-handed pitcher then was demoted the same night, it has been difficult for him to find traction with the Angels and in fantasy. But Week 11’s matchups set up nicely for him. Cron’s two home runs in 12 at-bats against southpaws with six RBIs should play well with four on tap along with a beleaguered Royals pitching staff in town for a four-game set. Like Kendrick above, Cron’s sample size this year (12 at-bats) is small but impressive. His .480 wOBA and 214 wRC+ against left-handed pitching makes Cron a player to target at corner infield in Week 11.
Those looking for speed can take a look at Eric Young Jr. He has been reaching base since his most recent promotion and his OBP jumps to .600 against left-handed pitching. As for Albert Pujols, the upcoming schedule does not set up as well. Through 51 plate appearances this year, he’s hitting .170/.235/.277 against southpaws. He does not look healthy and his swing-for-the-fence mentality could produce power but at an expense to a team’s batting average. Andrelton Simmons’ resurgence this season been encouraging. However, versus left-handed pitchers, his wOBA drops to .257 with a .304 OBP over 55 plate appearances. Less than ideal.
- Indians face four southpaws, fire up A-Jax
Recommended starts: Austin Jackson, OF; Yan Gomes, C
Recommended sits: Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/DH; Bradley Zimmer
Due to timing, another heavy week against southpaws lies ahead for Cleveland. This column’s addressed Edwin Encarnacion’s struggles with left-handed pitching, so if a team owns a better matchup, feel free to exploit it. For the rookie, Zimmer, it’s about playing time. He has done well this year with four home runs and three stolen bases in only 19 games, but lineup construction might keep him out four times in Week 11. Be patient with him.
When the Indians face lefties, Austin Jackson immediately comes to mind. His 12 hits in 38 at-bats (.316) against them this season with six runs, six doubles and a home run should raise an eyebrow. Jackson also walks 11.6 percent of the time against southpaws while striking out 14 percent of the time. Catcher Yan Gomes finds himself in a good spot as well with his .306 ISO and .942 OPS versus left-handed pitchers over 45 plate appearances this year.
- Brewers to face six right-handed pitchers
Recommended start: Eric Sogard, 2B
Recommended sit: Keon Broxton, OF
With Jonathan Villar struggling to reach base and Eric Sogard off to a hot start, things atop the Brewers’ lineup seem to be changing. Add in the shift of Domingo Santana to second in the order for signs of the team focusing on contending. Villar could have been a sit as well — but he met with his mom and her advise to focus on the future could kickstart his season. Hold on tight, but teams need those steals.
Keon Broxton has been in a deep slump, going 4-for-47 in a recent stretch to lower his average to .225 on the season. His 39 percent strikeout rate in 2017 along with a .229/.294/.400 line against right-handed pitchers do not provide much hope for a turnaround in Week 11. Keep him on the bench if he’s still on the roster.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Eric Sogard should be a boon to fantasy owners in the days ahead. His .429/.571/.643 line against right-handed pitchers with a 23.2 walk percentage, an 8.9 percent strikeout rate and a .515 wOBA means Sogard could be on base often. Plus, during his 42 at-bats this year versus right-handed pitching, Sogard’s 221 wRC+ and .214 ISO at lead-off could provide runs and RBI for fantasy. Of players with at least 70 plate appearances this year, Sogard’s 94.1 contact rate leads the majors. Factor in three games against the Cardinals then three at home versus the Padres for some fantasy upside.
One more bonus play will be Patrick Kivlehan of the Reds. They will face three southpaws in Week 11 and his .250 ISO, 139 wRC+ and two home runs in 24 at-bats this year with a .370 OBP could make him a sneaky play in deep leagues or for daily fantasy versus left-handed pitching.
Be sure to check back this weekend for Al Melchior’s Sunday stream column along with Jim Finch’s two-start pitcher report.
Statistical Credits: Fangraphs.com, MLB.com, ESPN.go.com