Weekend preview: June 6-9

Baseball returns to London this weekend with National League East rivals, the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies, playing games at London Stadium on Saturday and Sunday. Each team will serve as the designated “home” team for one game.

Still, this puts each team at a disadvantage in terms of volume, as the other 28 teams are scheduled to play three times during the weekend, though as London Stadium’s park factor leans noticeably hitter-friendly, there’s a chance that both Mets and Phillies hitters can deliver competitive levels of production for their fantasy managers. Last year, in the two games played in London Stadium in June, the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals combined for 22 runs and three home runs.

What can we expect from this installment of the MLB World Tour, as well as from al the other series back in the States? Our analysts, Tristan H. Cockcroft and Eric Karabell, have the scoop on the weekend.

cockcroft tristan m Cockcroft: The park factor is the hook, isn’t it? That Cubs-Cardinals series, played in adjusted conditions compared to the 2019 two-gamer between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, wasn’t quite the hitters’ heaven that it was four years prior, when the Red Sox and Yankees combined for 50 runs and 10 homers. At a now-335 feet down the foul lines, the park settles in at near the MLB average and, at a now-392 feet to center field, it’s roughly 10 feet shorter than average. That skews the venue toward hitters, but not to the extent that they’ll put up numbers comparable to an average-or-better team playing back in the States in even a neutral environment.

From a hitting standpoint, what matters here is that the Phillies are a very good offense (as I spare Eric the need for any claims of homerism), ranking third in runs per game (5.08), fifth in wOBA (.320), third in walk rate (9.7%) and sixth in Statcast hard-hit rate (41.0%). Good hitters should stay good in a good park for hitting.

I’m not even worried about the fact that many of the Phillies’ most prominent star hitters are left-handed, with the Mets scheduled to start lefties Sean Manaea and Jose Quintana, because — gasp — the Phillies have actually hit lefties (.328 wOBA) better than righties (.316), though they do strike out more often against them (+3.3%). I’d load up on Phillies, especially in our standard (daily) format, including their most successful guy against lefties, Edmundo Sosa (.326/.408/.721).

Here’s where I’m struggling, though, just as I do when seeking a good fish and chips on this side of the Atlantic: Is Ranger Suarez, fantasy’s top-scoring pitcher, still a must-start for these games? I lean yes, but I’m torn.

karabell eric m Karabell: Yes, I think Suarez is a fantasy start for Saturday, assuming he makes the start. Suarez left his most-recent outing when a line drive struck his pitching hand, but the Phillies seem confident he will pitch. The Mets are hardly an offensive juggernaut, but Suarez is a play against any team. The Phillies bullpen will be rested (off days Thursday/Friday), and long-man (for now) Spencer Turnbull can go multiple innings. Of course, four Phillies starters rank among the top six in the NL in ERA. RHP Taijuan Walker surely does not. Load up on Mets for Sunday. Walker has a 1.59 WHIP. Putting him in a hitter’s ballpark seems like a bad idea.

The other big series of the weekend is one close to your heart, as the Yankees host the Los Angeles Dodgers. These are presumed to be the best teams in baseball (along with the Phillies), and it will be a good test for several starting pitchers, including Gavin Stone versus Nestor Cortes on Saturday, and aces Tyler Glasnow against Luis Gil in the Sunday night ESPN tilt. Yes, Gil is an ace. He has won seven consecutive starts and permitted only three earned runs in those 44⅔ innings (an 0.60 ERA!). I presume that even against the Dodgers, you have confidence this weekend in Gil, as well as in Cortes, with his flashy 1.12 ERA at home!

cockcroft tristan m Cockcroft: It’s heck of a TV day on Sunday, eh? ESPN games bookend the schedule, beginning with the 10 a.m. ET game in London, and ending with that great pitchers’ duel at 7 p.m. ET. Agreed, I am not at all worried about Gil, who is exceedingly reliant on a 95-plus-mph fastball with high spin — a pitch type against which the Dodgers haven’t had great results. Oh, and they’ve never previously faced him, which should help his cause.

Cortes’ home/road splits are a head-scratcher to me and are as significant as I can recall since perhaps Wandy Rodriguez’s prime (drop, drop, drop beneath the Wandy Line!). Yes, he’s above the line for this one.

The Boston Red Sox — yes, believe it or not, I’m talking Red Sox! — catch my eye for their four-game visit to Guaranteed Rate Field, what with the hosting Chicago White Sox running ice cold again (13 consecutive losses, entering their series opener on Thursday). The Red Sox have had a ton of bad luck when it comes to injuries, from Trevor Story to Triston Casas to Garrett Whitlock to now Wilyer Abreu (among others). Plus, pushing Kutter Crawford off that soft Sunday matchup is a signal that they’re already worried about rotation fatigue. It makes sense, considering they ended April with a (by far) MLB best 2.59 team ERA, but have only a 19th-ranked 4.09 number since.

Friday’s matchup against Garrett Crochet will prove a tough one for the Red Sox, but they otherwise face three amazing matchups out of four, meaning it’s a key time for guys like Jarren Duran, Kenley Jansen, Tyler O’Neill and Connor Wong, all of whom have seen their roster rates plummet in recent days. Brayan Bello, available in more than 70% of ESPN leagues, is a standout streamer on Saturday.

karabell eric m Karabell: Yes, Red Sox hitters should enjoy facing the likes of RHPs Jake Woodford and Chris Flexen, so definitely invest there. I do have my eye on one White Sox hitter, though, because OF Luis Robert Jr. is a proven fantasy star, but also hardly proven to be on the field enough to make fantasy managers happy. Robert just returned from a hip injury. He comes off a 38-HR/20-SB season, but otherwise, has been known for myriad missed games. If I was rostering Robert anywhere, I would root for a big weekend at the plate and then try to trade him. It just makes sense. Look at that offense! Who is Robert going to knock in? Corey Julks? Nicky Lopez?

Other hitters to watch this weekend include Giants OF Heliot Ramos, who reached base six times in Wednesday’s game and faces the Rangers, Athletics OF Miguel Andujar (against the Blue Jays), who feels like a trap pickup because he is “all or nothing” at the plate. Also, there’s Orioles rookie 2B/OF Connor Norby, who may not make the lineup as the team faces three Rays right-handers. That would be a shame. Norby can hit right-handed pitching, but he may not be in the majors for long. By the way, how is Cardinals 2B Nolan Gorman (14 homers!) still rostered in under 30% of ESPN standard leagues?

cockcroft tristan m Cockcroft: Let me add two more hitters to that excellent list. First, Adam Duvall is a .251/.311/.535 hitter against lefties since the beginning of 2022. He should feast against a lefty-heavy slate of Washington Nationals pitching. Then there is Davis Schneider, who has seen the majority of the starts out of the leadoff spot for the Toronto Blue Jays of late. He should capitalize upon his team’s favorable matchups against Oakland Athletics pitching.

On the pitching side, I’ll also recommend Lance Lynn, who has pitched effectively enough this year for streaming purposes and now gets the Colorado Rockies, one of the game’s most strikeout-prone offenses, at Busch Stadium.

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