Here's what you need to know for Week 8 (May 22-28) of the Fantasy baseball season, along with some of the more interesting questions and other things you may miss as you prepare for the week.
Tigers play eight games
The Tigers better hope Miguel Cabrera is ready to play come Monday, because this is an especially bad week for him to potentially miss time. The Tigers not only play every day of the week, but they have an extra one Friday when they take on the White Sox in a doubleheader.
This is eight games in seven days on the road, so don't be surprised to see Cabrera and Victor Martinez get at least one day off, if not more. They do get to play their games in Houston and against the White Sox in Chicago, giving them two good places to hit. That could be great news for J.D. Martinez and Nicholas Castellanos, both of whom I like for Week 8 and in the long run as big-time breakout candidates. Castellanos' numbers don't necessarily reflect it, but he has been hitting the ball well all season, sporting the third-highest hard-hit rate in the majors, while ranking sixth in rate of batted balls above 95 mph.
On the other side of the ledger, the Athletics, Blue Jays and Marlins play just five games this week. That's good news for the injury-ravaged rotations in Toronto and Miami, but makes it hard to justify starting more marginal players. Among those three teams, I would only consider Khris Davis, Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton must-start players this week, with Dee Gordon, Yonder Alonso, Christian Yelich, Kendrys Morales and Jose Bautista at least worth a look in Roto or deeper leagues.
5 games: MIA, OAK, TOR
6 games: BAL, BOS, LAD, MIL, MIN, NYM, SD, SEA, STL, TEX, WAS
7 games: ARI, ATL, CHC, CHW, CIN, CLE, COL, HOU, KC, LAA, NYY, PHI, PIT, SF, TB
8 games: DET
Big names coming back
Injuries to big names have dominated this season, and we just had another one to deal with Thursday when Freddie Freeman went down for the next two months with a fractured wrist. Big injuries like those to Freeman, Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner have made the biggest impact, but nagging, smaller injuries have arguably been the bigger headache. Blame the new 10-day DL, or just plain bad luck, but I'll just celebrate whenever the injury wave seems to be cresting. Week 8 could see a slew of big names returning from their injuries, so keep a close eye on how the following players recover this weekend before deciding to lock your lineups.
*Tulowitzki and Donaldson may not be worth starting this week, as already mentioned, due to the Blue Jays' schedule. Donaldson is more likely to make you regret sitting him out, but he also is no guarantee to even play the full week.
Best Week 8 strikeout matchups
Tampa Bay (26.9 K%), Miami (20.0)
Matt Shoemaker wasn't throwing his splitter much early in the season, using it less than 30 percent of the time in five of his first seven starts. He struck out 34 batters and walked 18 in 38 innings, with just a 10.4 percent swinging strike rate. Over the past two, he has racked up 16 strikeouts with only two walks, with a whopping 15.7 percent whiff rate. That's no coincidence. When Shoemaker's splitter is on and he's trusting it, he's a must-start guy, especially against these matchups.
Kansas City (20.9), Oakland (23.3)
I find myself continuously intrigued by Jordan Montgomery, while acknowledging his flaws. He's a flyball pitcher with shaky control in Yankee Stadium, a bad combination unless you can rack up strikeouts like Luis Severino or Michael Pineda -- and even then it's iffy. Montgomery has two starts at home, but luckily they are against the punchless Royals and A's. He should be a nice target for strikeouts and overall production this week.
Chicago White Sox (21.6), Milwaukee (24.8)
Patrick Corbin has been a disappointment yet again, and there aren't a ton of great signs to go on here. Milwaukee also isn't actually a great matchup; sure, they'll strike out -- after hitting a couple of bombs.
Toronto (21.4), Arizona (23.5)
Speaking of teams that might hurt you while still striking out, a full-health Toronto team and these Diamondbacks certainly can, especially in a tough park for pitchers. Garza isn't a great two-start target, but I would probably prefer taking a chance on him here over Corbin.
Seattle (20.4), San Diego (24.3)
I wouldn't bet on Jacob Turner taking advantage of this matchup, but we've seen some out-of-character strikeout performances against this Padres team. A "break-glass-in-case-of-emergency" option only.
Are you crazy enough to start Matt Harvey?
There might not be a worse pitcher in baseball than Harvey, who has been a source of great disagreement among our staff. Harvey's velocity has been mostly fine over the last few starts, but he is still getting hit hard, and hasn't had much in the way of control or command. He ranks dead last among qualified starters in FIP at 6.41, so it's hard to argue Harvey's 5.56 ERA is somehow the result of bad luck. He has really been this bad.
But I can't bring myself to drop him. I know how good Harvey can be when he's right, and I want to hold on just to see how long it might take him to get right. If he's ever going to do it, Week 8 would be the best opportunity with the Padres and Pirates on the schedule. The two teams rank 28th and 27th in wOBA, and the Padres are also the third-most strikeout-prone team in baseball. If Harvey can't figure out his issues this week, it might be time to write him off entirely.
Are the Braves the worst offense now?
Even with Freeman emerging as one of the most dangerous bats in baseball, the Braves still rank just 16th in the majors in OPS and 15th in runs per game. Take away what Freeman has done, and their collective OPS drops to .679, which would be 27th in baseball, just ahead of the lowly Padres. He has accounted for 19.5 percent of the team's total bases this season, and 16.5 percent of their total times on base.
With Freeman officially out at least the next two months -- and who knows how long it will take him to get back to full strength following the kind of wrist injury that pretty naturally saps power from swings -- this is going to be one of the majors' most punchless offenses. The Braves started Jace Peterson -- of the career .649 OPS -- at first base in the first game without Freeman, and their answer in free agency to replace Freeman so far is James Loney, who is 33 and hasn't posted an OPS north of league average since 2014.
The Braves probably won't strike out much, as Loney has always been a decent contact hitter and they rank just 11th in strikeout rate as well. However, they aren't likely to make opposing pitchers pay for the balls they do put in play, so expect the Braves to be the kind of team you target moving forward.
David Phelps moving to rotation?
This isn't the biggest news in the world, but the Marlins may have been hiding their best pitcher in the bullpen this whole time. Phelps never really impressed as a starter/long reliever when he was with the Yankees, but something changed for him last season when his average fastball velocity jumped more than 3 mph. His strikeouts jumped with it, and he was able to sustain those gains when he made the move from the bullpen to the rotation, as he struck out 32 batters in 24 1/3 innings over five starts.
Of course, Phelps also suffered an injury during his fifth start and had to move back to the bullpen, so there's some concern about whether he can hold up as a starter. However, based on what we saw last season, signs that the Marlins are considering moving Phelps to the rotation should put him on Fantasy radars, even if you don't need to run out and add him right now.