Memorial Day weekend fantasy baseball: Orioles aim to rebound

Surging Jordan Westburg is still available in almost 15% of ESPN fantasy baseball leagues. Getty Images

Hitters might well take center stage during the Memorial Day weekend.

The Philadelphia Phillies, both baseball's winningest and highest-scoring team, makes its trip to Colorado's Coors Field, garnering the additional advantage of facing the majors' worst pitching staff (in terms of ERA) in the Colorado Rockies.

The Baltimore Orioles play a road series against the Chicago White Sox, one of baseball's worst teams and pitching staffs, which means they also reap the benefits of games played at the more hitter-friendly venue between these teams' homes.

Also, the Arizona Diamondbacks host the reeling -- and now rebuilding -- Miami Marlins, meaning that again, they're a team playing games in the more hitter-friendly environment of the two teams.

What can fantasy managers expect from these series and around the league as a whole? Our analysts, Tristan H. Cockcroft and Eric Karabell, have the scoop on the holiday weekend.

Cockcroft: I'll leave those slam-dunk Phillies to you, Eric. After all, how good can a team be when, after 50 games to begin a season, it's still one game behind those 1998 New York Yankees? Be better, Phillies!

But seriously, it's those Orioles who catch my eye this weekend, getting a soft landing spot after having been unexpectedly swept in St. Louis to begin the week. Adley Rutschman was 1-for-11 in that series and is 1-for-16 over his last four games. Horrors! While I sometimes worry about teams playing down to lesser opponents, that's not so much here, even with the White Sox throwing their best two, Erick Fedde and Garrett Crochet, in the final two games of the series.

In other words, I'm "all in" on Orioles, especially Jordan Westburg, who has 41 fantasy points in May (third-best on Baltimore) and has been getting more starts higher up in the lineup of late.

Karabell: The Orioles are hitting .218/.280/.402 in May, and it sure isn't Gunnar Henderson's fault, so we have to wonder if reinforcements are -- again -- on the way. I know we've discussed this before. Triple-A Norfolk remains loaded. (We should go see the Tides!) Meanwhile, Orioles CF Cedric Mullins has a .326 OPS this month. That 30/30 is not happening again. 1B Ryan Mountcastle is at .585. OF Colton Cowser has slowed down. I no longer expect SS/2B Jackson Holliday back with the big club before the All-Star break, but it can't be much longer before we see 2B/OF Connor Norby and 3B/1B Coby Mayo (currently out with a fractured rib).

Baltimore's pitching is underrated, and it is surprising to see that RHP Kyle Bradish is still available in more than 40% of ESPN standard leagues. RHP Dean Kremer (28%) is useful. They both pitch this weekend and, obviously, a White Sox lineup missing Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert Jr. and Yoan Moncada is underwhelming. I've already moved on from 1B Andrew Vaughn in a dynasty format. Perhaps we see SS prospect Colson Montgomery this summer. Watch the Orioles bullpen, too. I am starting to wonder if someone other than RHPs Craig Kimbrel and Yennier Cano will get the saves (Keegan Akin, perhaps?).

You mentioned the Rockies and their awful pitching, and I am hopeful the Phillies will take advantage of it, but this is also quite a test for Philadelphia pitching. We won't see OF Nolan Jones (back) this weekend, but hey, OF Kris Bryant is back. No Rockies are rostered in 60% of ESPN standard leagues, but 3B/2B Ryan McMahon and SS Ezequiel Tovar deserve it, and OF Brenton Doyle has clearly made offensive strides. I would like to see if either OF Jordan Beck or OF/1B Hunter Goodman are good enough to become fantasy relevant. They're not Soto and Judge, but they intrigue me.

Cockcroft: I'm not sure I'm with you on the Rockies' offense this season. OK, I'll just be blunt and say that I'm not. Get this: in the franchise's 32 years of play, the 2024 edition has the worst runs-per-game average (4.29), the worst wOBA (.319) and the worst HR rate (just 2.3% of their trips to the plate) in their high-altitude home games, with only the latter stat particularly close. Over the history of the franchise, those home numbers sit at 6.07, .370 and 3.4%.

This has been the unusual "start your starting pitchers at Coors" kind of year, and I won't hesitate to do so with Cristopher Sanchez, Aaron Nola and Ranger Suarez this weekend. But if I have to "say something kind"? I guess McMahon and Elias Diaz are kinda good!

The other against-the-grain rotation I'm using is (gasp) the San Diego Padres against the Yankees. Yu Darvish, Friday's starter, has been phenomenal of late with four consecutive scoreless starts. Darvish, Dylan Cease and Joe Musgrove all bring plenty of strikeout potential. Musgrove didn't go deep into his first start back from the IL, but he had decent velocity and missed bats. That these are Petco Park games certainly helps.

Let me pose you a question, since I'm pondering it for my own lineups. Ronel Blanco's 10-game suspension expires after Saturday's game, and he's tentatively aligned for Sunday at Oakland Coliseum, against an Oakland Athletics offense that has run cold once again (only 25 runs over their last 10 games) after a hot start to May. Would you start Blanco, ignoring any concerns about whether the sticky stuff had anything to do with his early success? I lean towards starting him -- and the projections concur -- but I'm definitely awaiting his inevitable regression in the near future.

Karabell: We should expect that regression awaits Blanco because any pitcher carrying a .205 BABIP two months into a season has been fortunate and these things tend to even out. Blanco is not alone here, but oddly enough, I can't include him with top pitchers enjoying a ridiculous BABIP (like Ranger Suarez, Dylan Cease, Bryce Miller) or low-strikeout options I would not go near (Triston McKenzie, Tyler Anderson, Bailey Falter). Maybe Blanco is OK? Definitely somewhere in between. I do start him against Oakland because it is Oakland and Blanco is well rested and motivated. Still, when he pitches to a 3.75 ERA the rest of the season, people will assume his cheating ways caught up to him. Nah, that had nothing to do with it.

Memorial Day weekend is a popular time for fantasy managers to overreact to the standings and make silly trade offers. We should advise managers of thriving fantasy rosters to take advantage. Just be careful who you invest in. The St. Louis Cardinals host the Chicago Cubs this weekend.

The Cardinals are playing better, having won eight of their last 10, but I don't know if it is a good time to invest in any of their hitters, especially 1B Paul Goldschmidt and 3B Nolan Arenado. Yeah, I was investing in March. Now, not so much. No Cardinals hitter is among the top 100 on our full-season Player Rater. OF Alec Burleson is No. 117. Alec Burleson!

Good for the Cardinals in sweeping the Orioles, but it feels like a trick. Shota Imanaga will dominate Friday, and Christopher Morel should enjoy a homer-happy pitching staff.

Cockcroft: Indeed. Arenado and Goldschmidt played at least a little better from this point forward than at its start last year, so I'm hopeful there -- though not this weekend, no, and not to the degree we believed in them in the past.

Francisco Lindor is one who immediately comes to mind as a guy who heats up right around Memorial Day, not that I see the coming weekend (or series immediately following it) as the precise time it'll happen. The New York Mets' schedule gets softer beginning in June, so he's a worthwhile weekend trade target, having hit .263/.347/.489 with 24 homers and 27 steals from this date forward last year, and .281/.340/.471 with 20 homers and 11 steals from the same date forward in 2023.

Speaking of that Mets-San Francisco Giants series, it's the best-graded for stolen bases, being that the Mets have allowed an MLB-leading 59 total steals and 90.8% success rate and the Giants are a close second and fourth with 50 and 84.7%. Maybe it's a weekend of category filling for Lindor, Starling Marte and ... Matt Chapman?! Believe it or not, he's the Giants' leader in both total steals (5) and Statcast sprint speed (28.6 feet-per-second, counting only those with 25-plus times measured).

The Arizona Diamondbacks are the weekend's sneaky-elite offense, thanks to three home games against the Miami Marlins, scheduled to start a pair of lefties and limited-workload righty Sixto Sanchez. The Diamondbacks remain one of the game's widest-split teams, crushing lefties, so Lourdes Gurriel Jr. should be in all of your lineups and Randal Grichuk, who is widely available, is worth streaming.

I'll leave fantasy managers with one last important reminder: Monday, Memorial Day, has day games. Don't forget to set your Week 10 lineups in advance!