Throw your bracket in the garbage – it’s been busted for a week anyway – and rejoice. It’s almost BASEBALL SEASON!
The World Baseball Classic was an excellent primer for the season, but it came at a cost. A handful of fantasy-relevant players suffered injuries, ranging from minor (Freddie Freeman) to the most severe (Edwin Diaz), forcing fantasy managers into some precarious situations. The good news is that all is not lost. The first FAAB run of the year fires off on Sunday, March 26 allowing fantasy managers the opportunity to spend a little FAAB money, replace those pieces, and kick off the year with a complete, healthy starting lineup for Opening Day!
This article will run every week, focusing on players who are between 20-25% rostered in most 12-team leagues and/or 25-50% rostered in 15-teamers.
There are 10 teams with four games during the first week of the season (3/30 – 4/2) while every team plays at least three. With squads finally announcing their rotations, fantasy managers have the opportunity to pounce on some solid streaming options for week one and week two with several undrafted starters in plus matchups. There’s also a handful of non-roster invite bats that made their respective teams and should have ample opportunity to contribute at the plate in the first week. Let’s dive in!
FOUR GAMES: COL@SD, ARZ@LAD, NYM@MIA, CLE@SEA, and CWS@HOU
Investment Rating System
Jurickson Profar ($$$): On March 19, Jurickson Profar finally joined an MLB team, signing with the Colorado Rockies on a one-year prove-it deal. It makes perfect sense for the 30-year-old utility man to try and boost his numbers by playing half his games in the league’s best hitter’s park. Profar projects to start in left field and lead off for the Rockies.
If Profar reaches 500 plate appearances for the second-straight season, he could be a great fantasy accumulator in four categories that won’t tank batting average while hitting in the spacious Coors Field. Currently eligible in the outfield, Profar has played every position but catcher throughout his career and could potentially gain infield eligibility with the Rockies’ questionable depth at second base and third base. NOTE: Sources report that Profar is still waiting to secure a Visa and has not reported to the Rockies camp yet. Once he does, he will likely be ramped up in extended spring training for a short time before becoming an everyday option for the club.
Will Benson ($$): Benson projects as the starting center fielder for the Cincinnati Reds, who host the lowly Pirates for a three-game stretch to begin the season. A streaming option for the early season, he could be a pleasant surprise for fantasy managers bold enough to grab him. Benson has flashed his 70-grade raw power and good speed with a home run and five stolen bases in less than 40 Cactus League plate appearances. He has batted .324 (12-for-37) this spring but has also been rung up on strikeouts 10 times. There’s a risk here, but the power-speed potential is enticing.
Kyle Isbel ($$): Isbel is most likely to get the starting nod for the Kansas City Royals in center field to begin the season. Projected to bat sixth in the Royals’ lineup, Isbel could benefit greatly from the new rules benefitting base stealers. In just under 300 plate appearances in 2022, he attempted 15 stolen bases but was only successful on nine of them. Isbel certainly isn’t afraid of running, and the increased base sizes and pick-off rules could increase his success rate.
Robbie Grossman ($$): Rangers’ manager Bruce Bochy declared Grossman the team’s primary left-fielder to begin the year. Grossman has been on fire this spring, batting 13-for-32 (.406) with two home runs and three stolen bases to earn the starting nod. With eight walks to just four strikeouts in his spring appearances, Grossman could be a solid addition to OBP leagues.
Sal Frelick ($$): The Brewers finally gave up on Keston Hiura (and Tyler Naquin), making room for at least one, possibly two, top-tier prospects to make their debut on Opening Day. Frelick is the most likely candidate to get the call after batting 14-for-42 (.333) in Spring Training and the World Baseball Classic combined. Frelick moved from High-A through to AAA last season, posting a 120 wRC+ or better every step of the way. He projects to steal some bases, score some runs, and hit for a good average with the potential for 10-15 home runs given a full season of plate appearances.
Joey Wiemer ($): Competing alongside Frelick for the Brewers’ Opening Day outfield position is another vaunted prospect, Joey Wiemer. Wiemer grades out with 70-grade raw power and 70-grade speed, and converted those into 21 home runs and 31 stolen bases across two minor league levels in 2022. Wiemer does not quite have the same plate skills as Frelick, striking out at a higher clip, but he is a stronger candidate for a 20-20 season if he gets the call.
Jack Suwinski ($): Suwinski swatted 19 home runs in just 372 MLB plate appearances a season ago. With three matchups against the Reds in Great American Ballpark, the Pirates outfielder could provide cheap power as a streaming option in week one.
Jesús Sánchez ($): With 27 home runs in 584 plate appearances across the 2021 and 2022 MLB seasons, Sánchez could provide cheap power numbers for fantasy managers. The Marlins face off against the top-heavy rotation of the Mets, but Sánchez will take on four righties. He’s hit 23 of his 27 home runs off of right-handed pitching in his career and has enough power to clear the fences at any park, including the vacuous LoanDepot Park in Miami.
Anthony Volpe (SS – $$$): A no-brainer pickup if your league drafted early enough that he was not picked. Volpe is penciled into the leadoff spot for one of the most productive lineups in the league. With all the hype he has received this preseason, it will be interesting to see what kind of lofty price tag he commands in week one FAAB.
Michael Massey (2B – $$$): The projected starting second baseman in Kansas City, Massey hit 20 home runs in just under 600 plate appearances between three levels, including four home runs in 194 MLB plate appearances a year ago. He could provide decent pop at a shallow position for a relative bargain. Second base was arguably the thinnest position in the game a few weeks ago, now with Jose Altuve and Jorge Polanco both likely to miss time, the keystone becomes even more scarce. If Massey gets everyday playing time, he could be a waiver-wire steal at a challenging position to fill.
Carlos Santana (1B – $): Three games in Great American Ball Park with good plate skills and contact rates against a Cincinnati pitching staff that leaves a lot to be desired. He’s a fine streaming option for managers who need to fill CI or UT slots.
Orlando Arcia (SS – $): Named the starting shortstop to begin the season for Atlanta, Arcia popped nine home runs with respectable runs and RBI numbers in 234 plate appearances for Atlanta in 2022. He projects to hit ninth and could help set the table for the dangerous bats at the top of the reigning NL East Champions’ lineup. Arcia likely won’t run much but he should produce enough to be a deep-league target as long as he stays in the lineup.
Bobby Dalbec (1B – $): Dalbec has batted 11-for-36 (.306) with a home run and a 1.001 OPS this spring. He’s also started four consecutive Spring Training games at shortstop for the Red Sox. He’s an interesting cheap add despite his career 34.9% strikeout percentage.
Mike Moustakas (3B – $): It looks like Moustakas will be the starting third baseman for the Colorado Rockies, which could lead to a hitting resurgence for the three-time All-Star. The Rockies are on the road to begin the season but play four games in week one while the majority of teams play only three.
Rodolfo Castro (2B – $): Castro is penciled into the Pirates’ starting second baseman role to begin the season and showed pop a year ago with 11 home runs in 278 MLB plate appearances. He could be in a timeshare at the position though, so keep an eye on the news out of Pittsburgh.
Nick Gordon (2B – $): With the Twins missing Jorge Polanco at the beginning of the season, Nick Gordon figures to slide into the keystone position. Also eligible in the outfield, Gordon brings some decent speed and pop to the table with nine home runs and six stolen bases in 443 plate appearances a season ago.
Masyn Winn (SS – $): A purely speculative prospect stash, Masyn Winn has shown off his bat skills in the Cardinals’ Spring Training. Winn has batted 14-for-45 with two home runs and three stolen bases in 15 games. The Cardinals are in dire need of starting pitching and have an embarrassment of riches at their middle infield and corner outfield positions. If the team decides to deal Nolan Gorman or Tommy Edman – or if either struggles to begin the season – St. Louis could give Winn an opportunity at the major league level.
Darick Hall (UT – $$$): Hall is a late add to this list after Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins suffered what has been reported as a torn ACL on Thursday afternoon. Hall mashed five home runs in just under 50 at-bats this spring while posting a .319 batting average and a 1.065 OPS. With Hoskins’ injury and the Phillies already missing Bryce Harper to begin the year, Hall steps into 500+ plate appearances without much competition at first base. He’s only UT eligible in NFBC leagues, at least for now, but will gain 1B eligibility very quickly.
In 2022, Hall ranked fifth among all MLB players in barrels per plate appearance and seventh in barrels per batted ball event as he swatted nine home runs in just 142 plate appearances. Assuming the Phillies don’t make a blockbuster trade and Hall gets a full season of at-bats, the big lefty has the potential to reach 25+ home runs, not something one finds on the waiver wire every week.
David Hensley (UT – $$): Eligible only at the utility slot in most leagues, Hensley projects to take over as the everyday second baseman in Houston while Jose Altuve heals from his WBC injury and will likely gain eligibility at the keystone position before long. Hensley batted .298 with ten home runs and 20 stolen bases in 464 plate appearances at the AAA level in 2022 and if he plays well enough, could stick on the roster even after Altuve returns in 6-to-8 weeks. Mauricio Dubón could also be called upon at second base in Altuve’s absence but has struggled at the dish this spring with just five hits in 32 at-bats (.156).
Nelson Cruz (UT – $): The ageless wonder faces one of MLB’s weakest rotations in week one with the opportunity to tee off against the Colorado Rockies. As a platoon bat, he’ll likely face left-hand arms(Kyle Freeland and Austin Gomber) and could stay in the lineup against right-hander Germán Márquez who ranked fifth among qualified pitchers with an 11.3% HR/FB ratio in 2022.
Omar Narváez (C – $): The Mets optioned Francisco Álvarez back to AAA on March 22, meaning that Narvaez should catch at least two, maybe three of the Mets’ four-week one contests against the Marlins.
Blake Sabol (C – $): A Rule Five draft pick from the Pirates this offseason, Sabol is catcher-eligible on most sites (including NFBC) but could see time in the Giants’ outfield to begin the year as long as Mitch Haniger remains sidelined with an oblique injury. Sabol posted solid numbers across two minor-league levels in 2022, batting .284 with 19 home runs and ten stolen bases in 513 plate appearances in AA and AAA combined.
David Peterson ($$): Peterson looks like the prime candidate for the Mets’ fifth starting spot in the rotation. The Mets face the Marlins seven times in the first two weeks of the season and then get the Oakland Athletics in week three. Peterson should be in line to make a start in at least two, potentially all three of those series. Backed by one of the league’s best offenses, Peterson should have plenty of opportunity to record wins if he can pitch deep enough into games.
Graham Ashcraft ($$): Likely the third starter out of the gate for the Cincinnati Reds, Ashcraft is slated to face the Pirates on a getaway day. His high ground-ball rate (54.4%) mitigates the damage done by his home ballpark and his Spring Training performance has been stellar with 25 strikeouts over 17 innings pitched, including 10 strikeouts his last time out against the Padres. In the shadows of popular breakout candidates Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo, Ashcraft could be a sneaky add early in the season that helps in four pitching categories.
Nick Pivetta ($$): Pivetta is an excellent streaming option for week two with projected matchups against the Pirates and Tigers as the Red Sox’s fourth starter. Keep an eye on the Red Sox rotation because the team could slot Pivetta as the third starter, moving Tanner Houck to the fourth starter position and giving him the favorable two-start in week two instead.
Ryan Pepiot ($$): Pepiot figures to be in the Dodgers’ Opening Day rotation replacing Tony Gonsolin at least in the short term. Pepiot has posted solid strikeout numbers in Spring Training with 19 Ks in 13.2 innings of work but has allowed 14 hits and five walks for a concerning 1.39 WHIP. If Pepiot can reign in the control and lower his walk rate from 2022 (16.9%) while keeping up his solid strikeout numbers, he should be a solid target for wins and strikeouts while not damaging ratios much.
Michael Soroka ($$): Though he didn’t crack the Opening Day rotation for Atlanta, Soroka has been shooting up draft boards late this spring due to speculation that he may join the big league rotation sooner than later. Battling with hamstring soreness, Soroka was unable to build up his pitch counts this spring and was optioned to AAA Gwinnett to build himself up. Once he’s ready to go, Soroka will likely jump back in as a regular starter for the squad after an All-Star and Rookie of the Year season in 2019. Soroka makes a great bench stash for the first month of the season and could pay serious dividends later in the year.
Matt Strahm ($): Strahm looks to be the long man out of the Philadelphia Phillies‘ bullpen to begin the season. The Phillies appear to be stretching Strahm out to about 50-60 pitches in the hopes of using him to piggyback off of Ranger Suárez, who will reportedly have workload limitations to begin the year but will not be placed on the IL. Strahm could potentially vulture a win or two out of the bullpen, should provide decent ratios, and averages around one strikeout per inning. He could even snatch an old-fashioned three-inning save if the Phillies blow out an opponent.
Zach Plesac ($): A streaming option for week two, Plesac is projected to be Cleveland’s fifth starter and is penciled in for the Guardians’ Monday game at Oakland against what should be a mostly punchless Athletics lineup. He will face Seattle at home in what should be his second start of the week.
A.J. Minter ($$): With Atlanta’s big trade acquisition from last season, Raisel Iglesias, going down with shoulder inflammation, Minter steps in as the ninth-inning heir apparent in Atlanta. Though he may be spelled by right-hander Joe Jiménez, Minter has been with the organization longer and may have earned the trust of manager Brian Snitker enough to get the first save opportunity. Minter has closing experience, gaining a career-high 15 saves in 2018 and grabbing five in 2022. Minter has always been good at limiting home runs, with a career 0.54 HR/9, and took steps to boost his strikeouts last season, posting a 12.09 K/9 in 2022, his best mark since a 15.0 IP cameo appearance in 2017.
David Robertson ($$): If you drafted Edwin Diaz before the injury, start praying to the omnipotent fantasy injury powers that your team’s injury bad luck is out of the way early. After you’ve made peace with the baseball gods, place a bid on the most likely candidate to grab the Mets’ early save opportunities. Of the Mets’ current closer options, Robertson makes the most sense to get ninth-inning duties after he saved a combined 20 games with the Cubs and Phillies last season while carrying a 2.37 ERA and an 11.45 K/9. If he receives the majority of save opportunities in the Big Apple, Robertson could reach the second tier of closers and accumulate between 25-35 saves over the year.
Brooks Raley ($): The same report naming Robertson as one of the Mets’ primary closing options also named Brooks Raley as a potential fill-in for the ninth inning. As it stands, Raley is the only left-handed arm in the Mets’ bullpen and could be used more as a matchup for left-handed bats instead. Raley posted career-best numbers in 2022, allowing just 2.52 BB/9 and 0.50 HR/9 while posting a career-high strand rate of 72.5%. According to reports, the Mets were in attendance at Zach Britton’s showcase last week and could bolster their bullpen by signing the lefty sinker specialist, freeing up Raley for a potential late-inning role.
Chris Martin & John Schreiber ($): The Boston Red Sox‘ setup tandem have both struggled in Spring Training, but both could see opportunities for saves if closer Kenley Jansen misses time. Jansen was pulled from his appearance on Friday night with what the team has reported as light-headedness from the heat, but he has a history of medical conditions that have previously caused him to miss time. Martin has signed for a sizable amount this offseason as the Red Sox flipped their bullpen; so he may be next in line. For Boston, Schreiber earned eight saves in 2022 and could see opportunities.
Michael Fulmer ($): It would appear the Cubs are leaning towards Fulmer as their closer to begin the season. The Cubbies open the year at home against Milwaukee for a three-game series. Fulmer finished the 2021 season as the Tigers’ closer, earning 14 saves while posting a career-high 9.43 K/9 but was moved to a setup role in 2022.
Scott McGough ($): With incumbent closer, Mark Melancon sidelined with a shoulder strain, the Diamondbacks will need to turn elsewhere in the ninth inning. McGough could be that guy. After spending four seasons in Japan, McGough signed with Arizona this offseason. While in the Nippon League, McGough developed a splitter to pair with his four-seamer and slider that has translated nicely in Spring Training. In seven spring appearances, McGough has allowed just one earned run on three hits with nine strikeouts and a walk. Despite the small sample, McGough is worth a speculative add for those in need of saves.
Collin McHugh ($): With three of Atlanta’s projected five starters pitching early in their careers, Atlanta will likely limit their pitch counts the first time through the rotation. If any of the starters don’t get through a full five innings, McHugh could be the long reliever the squad turns to in hopes of bridging the gap to an elite backend bullpen. McHugh pitched to a 2.60 ERA a season ago and a 1.55 ERA in 2021 and has been a reliable bullpen option for Manager Brian Snitker.