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So it's come to this: Seven more days with which to decide your league championship. Yes, Week 25 is the final one of the 2019 fantasy baseball season, and it ends with the annual smorgasbord of Sunday mid-afternoon baseball, with all 30 teams scheduled to play and every one of the day's 15 games scheduled to begin between 3:05 and 3:15 p.m. ET, in order to heighten the real-game playoff drama. For those in ESPN leagues, be aware that Sunday, Sept. 29, is the final day that counts in your fantasy baseball league, regardless of whether Major League Baseball requires any "Game 163"-style tiebreaker games to decide playoff spots.
As mentioned last week, playoff-clinching scenarios are paramount this time of year, especially in the final week. Teams whose fates are decided in the final days tend to be the likeliest to rest regulars, especially playoff-bound teams, who neither want to risk injuries to nor fatigue their key performers. Remember this: It's all about motivation -- motivation to play hard and win ballgames -- in Week 25. Considering the standings, the weekly matchups and the likelihood of playoff races going down to the final pitch, these teams should be the most reliant upon their "A" teams all week: The Washington Nationals, currently up one game in the National League wild card race with a magic number of four to clinch but set to face fellow wild card contenders the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Indians. The Chicago Cubs, currently four games back in the NL wild card race and set to finish their season with a critical three-game series at St. Louis' Busch Stadium. The Tampa Bay Rays, currently tied for the American League's second wild card but set to play a game against the Boston Red Sox and two against the New York Yankees to begin the week. The aforementioned Indians, tied for the AL's second wild card and set to finish their season with three games at Washington's Nationals Park. In addition, the Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, Cardinals and possibly the Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Mets and/or Phillies could also all be playing playoff-relevant baseball into the Sept. 27-29 weekend.
Conversely, the following teams rank among the more fantasy-relevant, yet are the least likely to push their regulars during Week 25: The Los Angeles Dodgers, already NL West champions and with a magic number of two to clinch the NL's top playoff seed. The Atlanta Braves, already NL East champions and at least the league's No. 2 playoff seed. The Houston Astros, already AL West champions and with a magic number of five to clinch home-field advantage throughout the postseason. The New York Yankees, already AL East champions and with a magic number of one to clinch the league's No. 2 playoff seed. The Minnesota Twins, too, could wrap up the AL Central as well as the league's No. 3 seed by mid-week.
As with last week, rotations will be in flux during Week 25, especially during the Sept. 27-29 final weekend. Two-start pitchers are the least likely to make their second turns in this season-wrapping week, except for the teams that most desperately need them to pitch to stay alive in the playoff race. Blake Snell, Mike Clevinger, Gerrit Cole, Aaron Nola, Max Scherzer and Noah Syndergaard are all scheduled to make a second start on Sunday, but none of them seems likely to do so -- or they'd be on extremely limited pitch counts -- if their teams lock in playoff positioning beforehand.
Returning to the Nationals, along with the Phillies, they are one of the two teams that plays eight games during Week 25, that the result of the team's Tuesday doubleheader which makes up for their June 18 postponement. Between the extra game and pitching matchups -- Shane Bieber isn't lined up for the Indians for their weekend series, and Phillies ace Aaron Nola might only pitch Sunday if the game is relevant to the playoff race -- the Nationals have the week's most favorable hitting matchups. Howie Kendrick (77% available in ESPN leagues), who has started six of the team's past nine games as the No. 5 hitter, is a .436/.476/.692 hitter in 14 games in September. Yan Gomes (94%), who has started 11 of the team's past 12 games at catcher, is a .267/.313/.578 hitter in 13 September games.
Even without Christian Yelich, the Brewers continue to fight in the NL Central and wild card races, and they've got a great set of hitting matchups ahead of them in Week 25, with trips scheduled to Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park (three games) and Colorado's Coors Field (three). Trent Grisham (97% available in ESPN leagues), who has been leading off for the Brewers against right-handers and is a .284/.384/.557 hitter against righties between the majors and minors this season, is well worth the add-and-start considering the Brewers are scheduled to face nothing but right-handed starters. Eric Thames (95%), a .255/.351/.513 hitter against righties, is also worth a look despite his recent funk at the plate.
Whether the Twins wrap up the AL Central in advance of the weekend or not, their Week 25 hitting matchups are so favorable that, for the most part, their regulars still warrant your starts in all formats. Miguel Sano (60% available in ESPN leagues), a .245/.354/.553 hitter with 18 home runs and 47 RBIs in 58 games since the All-Star break, is well worth the add and start. Mitch Garver (34%), a .311/.422/.770 hitter with 10 home runs and 20 RBIs in his past 23 games, remains one of the top catching choices for the season's final weeks.
The Braves, Kansas City Royals and Yankees draw the short end of the stick in Week 25, each playing only five times. As mentioned above, neither the Braves nor Yankees have much reason to push their regulars, so be cautious expecting too much from their individuals. Amongst interleague series, the Indians' three-game visit to Washington's Nationals Park means they won't have the designated hitter available, meaning usual DH Franmil Reyes' playing time could come into question.
If you're looking for righty/lefty matchup advantages amongst players more suited for deep-mixed (think 14-plus-team) or "only" leagues, consider: Robinson Chirinos (82%), a .286/.453/.494 hitter against lefties, whose Houston Astros face four left-handed starters; Todd Frazier (95%), a .293/.369/.560 hitter against lefties, whose New York Mets face three left-handed starters; Manuel Margot (93%), a .355/.444/.505 hitter against lefties, whose San Diego Padres face four left-handed starters; Josh Phegley (91%), a .284/.323/.545 hitter against lefties, whose Oakland Athletics face four left-handed starters; and Nick Solak (90%), a .333/.455/.639 hitter against lefties, whose Texas Rangers face three left-handed starters.