Fantasy baseball forecaster for Week 7: May 13-19

Savvy fantasy managers will want to add Kolten Wong as a plug-and-play option this week. AP Photo/Morry Gash

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  • The Minnesota Twins rank among baseball's five best offenses in runs per game (5.3, fifth), batting average (.261, third), isolated power (.235, first), strikeout rate (19.8 percent of their trips to the plate, fourth), home run rate (4.9 percent of plate appearances, first) and wOBA (.359, second), and they're highly likely to remain so after a Week 7 of outstanding matchups. While the Twins haven't been aggressive on the basepaths -- their eight stolen bases are tied for second-fewest and 13 attempts are third-fewest -- limiting the chances that they'll exploit their 10-grade matchups in that department, a week of nearly evenly balanced lefty/righty splits (three and four opposing starters, respectively) provides a good opportunity for their mostly consistent batting order. Load up on Twins, with the primary questions being Miguel Sano's (heel) and Willians Astudillo's (hamstring) roles, as Sano is likely to return from the injured list sometime during the week and Astudillo was activated May 12. Both could factor as utility men initially, but if you're in a league of the depth that warrants their activation, this schedule supports it even if neither gets more than four or five starts out of the seven games.

  • Speaking of injury returns, the New York Yankees have been getting gradually healthier on the hitting side, and Aaron Hicks' (back) projected Monday return from the injured list will restore their strongest leadoff option against right-handed pitching to the lineup. Hicks and Miguel Andujar, who was 2-for-22 (.091 batting average) without an extra-base hit in his first six games since returning from a shoulder injury, might both come with performance-related questions as they work back to full strength, but a six-game week played entirely at homer-friendly Yankee Stadium, with three against the Orioles' major league-worst pitching staff (5.52 ERA), more than supports their activation in all fantasy formats.

  • A three-game, weekend interleague trip to Texas' Globe Life Park benefits the Cardinals' offense on several fronts: It drops them into the more hitting-friendly ballpark between the two teams, it pits them against a Texas Rangers pitching staff with a 28th-ranked 5.16 ERA, it gives them a designated hitter spot to which to shift Jose Martinez in order to get their better defender in Harrison Bader into center field, and they might even miss Mike Minor during that Rangers series. This Cardinals offense has been one of the National League's better ones, having scored 10-plus runs in three of St. Louis' past 19 games (through Thursday), so load up, considering their weekly matchups. Kolten Wong (roughly 44 percent available in ESPN leagues) and Dexter Fowler (roughly 97 percent) are plug-and-play options out there in many leagues.

  • Just as the offense has seemingly begun to heat up -- Pittsburgh scored at least five runs in seven of its past nine games (through Thursday) -- the Pirates draw one of the week's toughest hitting schedules, with not a single one of their seven games a "plus" matchup. All seven of their games will be played on the road in the Southwest, the first three at an Arizona Diamondbacks team that limited them to seven runs combined in their April 22-25 four-game series, and the final four at pitching-friendly Petco Park against a San Diego Padres staff with the majors' third-best ERA (3.59). The Pirates are set to face four left-handed starters, a problem for a team that ranks last in baseball in wOBA against lefties (.264) and fourth-worst in strikeout rate against them (28.3 percent of their trips to the plate). Josh Bell (35 points), Starling Marte (18 points) and Gregory Polanco (54 points) all have career wOBAs at least 18 points lower against left-handers than right-handers, which leaves the team in a tight spot as far as "leading men" helping them pile up runs, hurting the team's overall counting numbers and cycles through the lineup. Of the three, Polanco is the closest to being a "sit" in fantasy, since the team has Bryan Reynolds to potentially use as a platoon partner, though this is more a matter of avoiding the team's supporting cast.

  • The Pirates are the only one of the six teams with a full seven-game week to have below-average weekly hitting matchups, but on the other side, every one of the six teams that plays a five-game week has a decidedly below-average set of matchups. There's a clear volume-driven advantage for seven-game teams in Week 7, while two of the American League teams limited to only five games -- the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays -- suffer the loss of the designated hitter for two of theirs. The Rays utilize a DH rotation, meaning that Ji-Man Choi, Yandy Diaz, Brandon Lowe and Daniel Robertson are all at risk of a lost start (on top of the five-game week) due to lineup shuffling, while the Blue Jays might split their first-base starts between their typical first base/DH rotation of Justin Smoak and Rowdy Tellez.

  • Matt Olson's healthy return to the Athletics' lineup came at an opportune time, as he chipped in multihit efforts both Wednesday and Thursday while Khris Davis (hip) remained nicked up. Olson's Athletics now benefit from a strong overall week of hitting matchups that concludes with a four-game series at Detroit's Comerica Park, the better hitters' venue of the two teams, against a Detroit Tigers staff that has been pummeled to the tune of a 6.71 ERA in May. The Athletics are scheduled to face four left-handed starters, which is great news for Chad Pinder (roughly 88 percent available), a lifetime .281/.349/.460 hitter against lefties. While those lefties don't mean great news for Olson specifically, he should still factor as a near-everyday player for them, and he's not completely inept against lefties (.139 isolated power, 73.4 percent contact rate against them in his big-league career).

  • Arizona's Chase Field has had a pitching-friendly leaning since the introduction of a humidor at the start of last season, and the Diamondbacks' runs-per-game average has been only slightly greater there (4.46) than on the road (4.44) during that time span, but this is the kind of week where the team could put up the kind of offense it was known for pre-humidor. The visiting Pirates and San Francisco Giants both have ERAs greater than 7 in May, with the former's rotation depleted by injuries, so the only truly scary matchup for the Diamondbacks this week is Madison Bumgarner next Saturday. Ketel Marte has one of the widest home/road wOBA splits favoring Chase Field games on the team (.386 home, .311 road), and Wilmer Flores (roughly 87 percent available) has started nine of the team's past 12 games (through Thursday) and is a lifetime .317/.378/.524 hitter at Chase.

  • It's a week rich in quality two-start pitchers, but be aware of the implications of some of the potential rotation changes upcoming: David Price (elbow, injured list, eligible to return Monday) could be a candidate to rejoin the Red Sox rotation during the weekend series against the Houston Astros, possibly pushing Chris Sale's second turn into Week 8. The Cleveland Indians will probably use their Wednesday off day to skip either Cody Anderson or Jefry Rodriguez in the rotation, granting Carlos Carrasco a second start that would push him into the top eight in the pitcher rankings for the week. Chris Archer (thumb, IL, already eligible to return) will rejoin the Pirates' rotation on Wednesday, and if the team sticks with six starters for Week 7, that'd push Joe Musgrove's second turn into Week 8. The Padres could again summon a sixth starter, knowing they'll need to manage Chris Paddack's, Nick Margevicius' and Matt Strahm's workloads, in which case Paddack's second turn would move back into Week 8.

  • If you're looking for righty/lefty matchup advantages among players more suited for deep mixed (think 14-plus-team) or "only" leagues, consider: Yan Gomes (roughly 92 percent available), a .301/.394/.496 hitter against lefties in 2018-19, and Howie Kendrick (92 percent), a .288/.309/.470 hitter against lefties in 2018-19, whose Washington Nationals face two left-handed starters; Yuli Gurriel (37 percent), a .326/.379/.519 hitter against lefties in 2018-19, whose Astros face three left-handed starters; Hunter Renfroe (50 percent), a .250/.308/.506 hitter against lefties in 2018-19, and Franmil Reyes (74 percent), a .330/.391/.544 hitter against lefties in 2018-19, whose Padres face three left-handed starters; Dwight Smith Jr. (43 percent), a .286/.348/.510 hitter against righties in 2018-19, whose Orioles face six right-handed starters; and Eric Thames (95 percent), a .225/.323/.481 hitter against righties in 2018-19, whose Milwaukee Brewers face six right-handed starters.