Fantasy baseball forecaster for Week 3: April 15-21

It looks like the table may be set for Yonder Alonso of the Chicago White Sox to get his hitting on track this week. Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

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  • Patriots Day in Boston, Mass., results in an early start to Week 3, as the Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox finale of a four-game weekend wraparound series begins on Monday at 11:05 a.m. ET. Set your lineups early! While the week begins earlier than usual, there's less day baseball in Week 3 than in the two before it, as Monday's second game doesn't start until 7:05 p.m. ET and only nine of the 64 weekday games have start times earlier than 6:35 p.m. ET. It's a good week to begin getting into the daily-fantasy groove, with deeper night-game slates: Nine games on Monday, 15 on Tuesday, 10 on Wednesday, six on Thursday and 14 on Friday.

  • Clayton Kershaw (shoulder) will make his return from the injured list on Monday at Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium against the Cincinnati Reds in a game televised on ESPN beginning at 10 p.m. ET. That'll align him for a probable two-start week, with his second turn projected for Saturday at Miller Park against the Milwaukee Brewers. While Kershaw did throw 59 of 81 pitches for strikes in a quality-start effort in his most recent rehabilitation start for Double-A Tulsa on April 9, putting him on track for his own expectation of a 100-pitch workload on Monday, there are concerns for fantasy: One is that the Los Angeles Times clocked Kershaw's fastball typically between 88-90 mph and topping out at 92 mph, and the other is that the Reds (.423 wOBA, third in the majors) and Brewers (.450, second) have clobbered left-handed pitching so far in the young season. Granted, both opponents have faced a limited amount of lefty pitching -- the Reds have only 49 plate appearances against them, third fewest in the league -- but these concerns have been baked into Kershaw's projections and rankings.

  • The Chicago White Sox enjoy by far the week's most favorable hitting matchups, thanks to their being one of 11 teams to play seven games while facing only one pitcher with a sub-4.20 starters' ERA since the beginning of 2018: Brad Keller (3.22 in 23 starts) on Wednesday. It's great news for scorching-hot Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncado, but the more important takeaway for fantasy managers is that this schedule presents a "wake-up" opportunity for some of the team's struggling bats -- most notably rookie Eloy Jimenez (.279/.326/.302, available in roughly 14 percent of ESPN leagues), Yonder Alonso (.121/.326/.212, available in roughly 90 percent) and catcher steaming candidate Welington Castillo (.095/.367/.095, available in 91 percent).

  • The Seattle Mariners entered play on April 12 as the majors' leading team in terms of runs per game (7.8), batting average (.295), slugging percentage (.565) and wOBA (.403), right in time for them to face the first truly challenging stretch of their schedule, which includes a three-game series against the Cleveland Indians' tough righty trio of Trevor Bauer (Monday), Shane Bieber (Tuesday) and Carlos Carrasco (Wednesday). That's largely behind the Mariners' mediocre weekly hitting rating (3), but in the team's defense, it should have an easier go of it during a four-game weekend road swing through Los Angeles' Angel Stadium, not to mention they should face six right-handed starters throughout the week. That Indians' part-time catcher Kevin Plawecki -- who should draw at least one start during the series, perhaps the Bieber game considering early potential personal-catcher trends -- and Angels catchers Jonathan Lucroy and Kevan Smith all rank among the game's weakest at reining in the running game only helps this aggressive team on the base paths. The only Mariners hitters who warrant a seat on your bench (in mixed leagues) accounting for the matchups are Tim Beckham, Ryon Healy and Omar Narvaez, but lefty bats like Jay Bruce, Mallex Smith and Daniel Vogelbach all still warrant a place in your lineup.

  • What team doesn't love a four-game road trip through Colorado's Coors Field? Sure, the Philadelphia Phillies have to begin Week 3 facing New York Mets flamethrower Noah Syndergaard, but outside of that, there's little to dislike about the Phillies' schedule. Mets opponents Jason Vargas (Tuesday) and Zack Wheeler (Wednesday) are off to miserable starts, and that those games will take place at Citizens Bank Park rather than New York's Citi Field is a huge plus from a park factors perspective, but what really pushes the Phillies' matchup grades near the top is the Coors series, which includes projected games against Chad Bettis (Thursday) and possibly a spot starter (Sunday). Note that the Phillies righty bats have the stronger matchups grade for Week 3, but this is still an excellent week to start Odubel Herrera (.317/.370/.463, available in roughly 40 percent of ESPN leagues).

  • Two of the three teams that play only five games this week don't have an especially tough time of it in Week 3, which is unusual, considering the typical hit that low-volume teams take in the projections. The Houston Astros benefit from three of their five games taking place at Texas' Globe Life Park, one of the best hitting environments in baseball, not to mention they are off to a great start to 2019. The Pittsburgh Pirates play two of their five games at Comerica Park against the Detroit Tigers, gaining the designated hitter for those contests and therefore opening up 7-9 plate appearances for a hitter who might not typically have played. That three of the Pirates' five projected opposing starters are left-handed is also good news for Francisco Cervelli (available in roughly 50 percent of ESPN leagues), a .291/.389/.405 lifetime hitter against lefties who has started all but one of the team's first 11 games behind the plate. It's the Oakland Athletics who grade the worst during their five-game week, thanks in part to their facing five starters all off to hot starts: Collin McHugh (Tuesday), Wade Miley (Wednesday), Marcus Stroman (Friday), Matt Shoemaker (Saturday) and Aaron Sanchez (Sunday).

  • Consider the Minnesota Twins your under-the-radar hitting pick for Week 3. Besides it being a seven-game week, the team draws a pair of starts against the back end of the Blue Jays' rotation as well as three at hitting-friendly Camden Yards against a poor Baltimore Orioles pitching staff. That neither the Blue Jays nor Orioles is stocked with top-shelf left-handed pitching also means a hefty volume of plus-matchups for Twins lefty bats; Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco should be automatics in every lineup, and this might well be the breakout week for the former. Willians Astudillo, available in roughly 70 percent of ESPN leagues and catcher-eligible, has started five of the team's 10 games despite half of them coming in National League parks without the DH and is a great plug-in for Week 3.

  • For those seeking favorable righty/lefty plug-ins considering their Week 3 matchups -- in addition to the ones mentioned above -- take a look at: Matt Kemp (available in roughly 90 percent of ESPN leagues), a .274/.320/.522 hitter against lefties between 2018-19 whose Reds face four left-handed starters; Jeff McNeil (available in roughly 70 percent) and Brandon Nimmo (available in nearly 35 percent), .342/.397/.464 and .262/.410/.500 hitters against righty starters between 2018-19 whose Mets face nothing but right-handed starters; Joc Pederson (available in nearly 30 percent) and Alex Verdugo (available in more than 90 percent), .262/.347/.569 and .275/.341/.425 hitters against righties between 2018-19 whose Los Angeles Dodgers face nothing but right-handed starters; and Hanley Ramirez (available in more than 95 percent), a .283/.345/.415 hitter against lefties between 2018-19 whose Indians face at least two (and possibly three) left-handed starters.

  • The New York Yankees could have a bit of an advantage as they open their first series of 2019 against the division-rival Red Sox on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, which begins a six-game week played entirely at home in the team's homer-friendly park. The Red Sox are off to a miserable start to 2019, will be coming off the aforementioned Patriots Day late-morning game without a day off between, and have gotten nothing out of their rotation to date. Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi might typically represent awful matchups for any opposing hitter, and the Tuesday Forecaster grades against Sale reflect that (though remember that the Red Sox's bullpen, which might be asked to work more than usual in that game, is accounted for in the projection), but they have 9.00 and 8.40 ERAs, respectively, through three starts. The only part of the Yankees' Week 3 schedule that grades poorly is their base stealing, but they have only four stolen bases for the season besides. Keep Clint Frazier, DJ LeMahieu and Luke Voit in your lineup for at least another week.