Fantasy Forecaster: Previewing Week 22


On tap: The deadline for major league teams to set their playoff rosters arrives on Sunday, Aug. 31, so expect a little creative shuffling by the weekend, and potentially a sneaky waiver trade or two, la the Adam Dunn and Greg Maddux deals. The 40-man roster expansion, though, will have to wait for Monday of Week 23, so no worries that your current regular might have his playing time threatened by a rookie. At least not yet, anyway.

That roster-deadline weekend also features a trio of interesting playoff-related matchups: Dodgers-Diamondbacks in Arizona, a battle for National League West supremacy; White Sox-Red Sox in Boston, a potential American League playoff series preview; and Phillies-Cubs in Chicago, conceivably an NL playoff series preview.

On the health front, we could see the return of two preseason fantasy studs, both Indians -- Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez. Remember them? Both are reportedly doing well on rehabilitation stints with Triple-A Buffalo, and they might be of help to fantasy owners down the stretch. Meanwhile, the Rays might get Troy Percival back as their closer Saturday, the first day he's eligible to be activated, while the Red Sox could slot Tim Wakefield back into the rotation the next time they need a fifth starter, which is Saturday.

Quick click by section:

Game breakdowns | Hitters' matchups | Comfort Zone: Hitter value plays

Base stealers' matchups | Pitchers' matchups | Two-start pitchers

They got chili dogs over there? Game breakdowns

Note: Weather reports are based on upcoming weather forecasts (through Friday), as well as historical trends in those cities. "Poor weather" doesn't guarantee rainouts; those are merely the teams with the highest probability of one or more.

Hit like Mays: Hitters' matchups

Note: Hitter-friendly ballparks are based primarily on recent statistical data (2005-08) comparing home/road performance, much the same method as our Park Factor page. Some personal opinion does go into making ballpark selections.

Comfort Zone: Hitter value plays

Looking for a decent hitter value pick for this week? Here are 10 strong matchup choices, among the beneath-the-elite crop:

Run like Hayes: Base stealers' matchups

Note: Matchups are determined by examining both an opponent's catcher and pitching staff. Obviously, teams like the Cardinals (catcher: Yadier Molina) and Rays (Dioner Navarro) rate as tough teams to run on, while teams like the Braves (Brian McCann) and White Sox (A.J. Pierzynski) rate as easy teams to run on.

Give 'em the heater: Pitchers' matchups

Note: As with the hitter-friendly ballparks, pitcher-friendly ballparks are based mostly on 2005-08 data, with some personal opinion involved.

Two-start notes: It's a pretty strong week as two-start pitchers go; I could make a case to use anyone through No. 26 (Mike Pelfrey) in a mixed league, depending on the depth of the league, of course. Conservatively, let's set the cut-off at No. 19 (Armando Galarraga), if only because the matchups get tougher around there. The Blue Jays could push David Purcey back in the rotation to allow Roy Halladay to work twice, once at Tampa Bay and once at New York (he dominates the Yankees). Rank him fourth, ahead of John Lackey, if they announce that switch. Since the Brewers didn't skip any starters this past week, I'm not expecting them to in this five-game week. Dave Bush might be a candidate to be skipped because the team plays exclusively on the road and he's a much better pitcher at home, in which case Ben Sheets would earn two starts and rank eighth, ahead of Matt Cain. With such a critical weekend series against the Dodgers on the horizon, I can't see how Yusmeiro Petit wouldn't be skipped thanks to Thursday's off day, allowing both Dan Haren and Brandon Webb to have two-start weeks. Webb would lose his second turn if Petit does pitch against the Dodgers. Rumor has it the Mariners are considering activating Carlos Silva on Aug. 31, which would eliminate R.A. Dickey's second start. No matter: You don't want either active. The Greg Maddux trade greatly increases the chances the Padres will use off days to skip their fifth starter, so both Jake Peavy and Chad Reineke should start twice in Week 22. What a contrast in talent: You absolutely want Peavy active, and you don't in any way want Reineke. The Orioles' rotation is a mess right now. Since it's the back end of their rotation lined up for two starts, Chris Waters is the favorite for the honor, but it's no guarantee it'll be him (or that anyone will start twice). Josh Beckett would rank higher than 10th if health was not a concern. He is experiencing "tingling" in his pitching hand, so be conservative with him. Thanks to Thursday's off day, expect the Royals to skip one of the two pitchers who worked this weekend. That would allow both Gil Meche and Zack Greinke to start twice in Week 22. Greinke would be skipped if the team sticks with a straight five-man rotation. Clayton Richard is actually the one on schedule for the two-start week for the White Sox, but I can't see how they wouldn't shuffle things so Gavin Floyd pitches twice, knowing the weekend series is at Boston.

Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.