April SP Schedules – Who Has The Best Early Matchups? UPDATED 3/28

Your late fantasy baseball SP picks should be decided by schedule.

I originally published this article back on January 25th and with many schedules now in place, I went back and updated all of the tables on March 28th.

Please forgive me as I did not have time to update the analysis after each table, it was either update the tables or not at all. It’s a busy week!

We really don’t do this enough. At least, I certainly haven’t stressed it enough in my yearly February rankings in the past, often resorting to shifts in March when, in many cases, it’s too late.

Starting pitcher rankings should be influenced by expected April matchups.

Think of your traditional April season as a fantasy manager. In a standard 12-team league, you’re sending multiple players you drafted to the wire within the first few weeks of the season, let alone some before opening day, in favor of other hot-hands in hopes their pitch changes or swing patterns stick through the year.

And here you are, on April 1st, with Matthew Boyd on your roster, excited to see what he can do with his new changeup and a slider that hopefully returns to its 2019 self. Then you look at the schedule. Cleveland. Twins. Astros. Athletics. You’re taking a gamble on opening day, not knowing which Boyd will show up, and even if he performs well, do you take the chance against the strong Minnesota offense? Astros? Athletics? That’s a whole lot of Aspirin to take before April 20th.

Another quick note that deserves plenty more words: A top 50 starter with a rough April schedule will likely make you sweat in May. You expect a specific season across six months, but will you be able to keep the faith on May 1st after they struggle against tough opponents in April? Internalize that thought when creating your draft board in the coming weeks.

The good news is we have transparency for team schedules in April before our drafts and we can put them to good use. Sure, we don’t know the exact order of rotations, not to mention the stampede of team signings, injuries, and trades that are sure to come between now and April 1st, but even a general sense like the example above with Boyd can do wonders gaining an advantage out of the gate. (Yes, this means that I likely won’t be a Boyd Boy in my 12-teamers at the start of the season. I’ll still be one from the sidelines, of course.)

Before we begin, I figured it would be helpful to have a baseline for what is and isn’t a good opponent. I’m about to present to you a highly subjective and very questionable table, showcasing how I’m loosely grading matchups. Inside each tier, it’s not a ranking, just a list. Adjust accordingly to your own preference, of course.

I have also slightly updated the expected offense tiers here.

 

Nick’s Questionable Preseason Matchup Tiers

 

With that in mind, let’s go team-by-team, breaking down the expected series for each team, then at the end aggregating which pitchers should gain and lose value in your drafts. I’m listing the first four full turns of the rotation, while noting their off-days in-between, which could showcase a potential rotation reset

 

 

Arizona Diamondbacks

 

Arizona Diamondbacks Expected Schedule

 

Update: Once again, please forgive me as I did not have time to update the analysis after each table, it was either update the tables or not at all. It’s a busy week!

Ooof, that’s not a pleasant April schedule for Arizona pitchers. The order of the rotation is still a bit murky – will the Diamondbacks start Zac Gallen, their best and youngest pitcher on Opening Day over the veteran and massively paid Madison Bumgarner? – but the important hits don’t interrupt their tough matchups. With an off day after their fourth game, it’s possible to reset the rotation instead of giving Merril Kelly (maybe Smith? Even Weaver?) a pass in the rotation and kick off the series in Coors with Gallen and it does create a touch of pushback to the helium I’ve pressed into Gallen. Still, I think I’m starting Gallen against the Padres and even in Coors as well.

For the rest of the staff, it pains me to see Luke Weaver and Caleb Smith get stuck with San Diego out of the gate. I’ve considered them as intriguing arms that could be valuable in 2021 despite their undrafted ADP, but I’m inclined to wait-and-see until potentially the end of April with this rough Diamondback schedule as they would face the Reds, Athletics, and a possible Coors matchup for Smith or Weaver. You’re better off chasing others to start your season.

 

Atlanta Braves

 

Atlanta Braves Expected Schedule

 

The Braves have an off day during their opening Phillies’ series, which opens the door for them to roll with their four-man rotation for at least the first pass, but they’ll need their #5 for the final game against Washington. I’m not certain that will still be Kyle Wright when the season starts with many veterans and capable arms still available on the market, which could push Drew Smyly from the #4 spot to #5 and possibly miss that first start. On the other hand, Mike Soroka is expected to return at some point after opening day – maybe early enough that Wright gets ousted before he makes a start.

The overall early schedule is a welcome one for Atlanta starters. None of the Phillies, Marlins, Nationals, or Diamondbacks pose a dramatic threat to consider an early bench, and the two-game series in New York shouldn’t hold back managers considering Charlie Morton or Ian AndersonLooks like Smyly is sticking around as a solid late-round flyer as long as he keeps his September velocity during spring training.

 

Baltimore Orioles

 

Baltimore Orioles Expected Schedule

 

The Orioles have an off day during their opening Red Sox series, which opens the door for them to roll with their four-man rotation for at least the first pass, but they’ll need their #5 for the final game against New York.

It doesn’t look great here. I’ve made my embrace of John Means clear, though it may be tough to lean into him for his first two starts against Boston and New York. Be ready as a fantasy manager to likely sit him for both if you’re drafting him at the tail-end of your drafts.

There has been an interest in both Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer as well after their impressive debuts in September, but like Means, the early schedule isn’t pleasant if they are the #3 and #4, making them contenders to be snatched off the wire two weeks into the season for potential Seattle, Texas, and Miami starts.

 

Boston Red Sox

 

Boston Red Sox Expected Schedule

 

The opening series against the Orioles does seem favorable for Nathan Eovaldi out of the gate, but it gets messy quickly against the Rays, Twins, and White Sox after. If he gets the opening day nod, are you willing to take the chance on Eovaldi from Day 1? I think I’d personally pass.

With the recent signings of Martin Perez and Garrett Richards, the impact comes in Tanner Houck’s expected matchups, as he moves from the #3 to #5 and turns his pair of Orioles matchups into an opening date with the Rays followed by the Twins. It’s often risky trusting younger arms early in the season over veterans and a switch to the stronger Tampa Bay offense may the excuse we needed to hold off on drafting Houck and hoping we can bring him back for a date against Seattle in the middle of April. Not to mention, there’s a chance Nick Pivetta or Matt Andriese steal the #5 spot in the spring. Just a thought.

As for Perez and Richards, it’s unclear who is the #3/4 at the moment and I’d keep an eye on it as we gear up for the year. Richards could be a major benefactor if he gets the Orioles twice to begin 2021, though if he gets the Rays/@BAL/CWS/TOR matchups, I’d likely toss him back to the wire. I’m a fan, but that’s too risky. If Perez gets the nod, he may be of consideration in Quality Start leagues.

 

Chicago Cubs

 

Chicago Cubs Expected Schedule

 

Obviously you’re starting Kyle Hendricksbut both Zach Davies and Alec Mills are getting some stares from me as they’re both slated to face the weak Pirates lineup for their first two outings followed by a Brewers offense that could still be stagnating. I wouldn’t call myself a major Davies fan for the full season, but he’s now on my list for a late-round snag to let him fly for the start of April.

With Mills, it’s a little riskier but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better early stream. It’s definitely something to consider – even if the Cubs sign a proper #3 starter, MIL + @PIT still works in Mills’ favor as the #4.

I’ve seen some hype around Adbert Alzolay and he may be able to pull it off against Milwaukee and/or Pittsburgh, but I have to express caution. Alzolay’s slider is turning into a valuable weapon, but his fastball command is erratic and he’s far from an efficient pitcher. It’s a low chance for a deep start with too much volatility early, even with the solid matchups.

As for the final Cubs’ starter, I have no idea. One of our prospect experts Trevor Hooth told me to keep an eye out for Cory Abbottbut I’d be shocked if the 25-year-old made his debut on the fifth game of the year.

 

Chicago White Sox

 

Chicago White Sox Expected Schedule

 

What a lovely schedule the White Sox have in April, even with the average Angels squad and strong Red Sox along the way. I’d have no hesitation letting Dallas Keuchel loose along with the obvious Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito starts, and while I’m very much in “wait-and-see” mode for Dylan CeaseI’m still interested in drafting Michael Kopech and possibly taking the chance in his first turn of the rotation against the Mariners.

In short, you should still draft Kopech – especially if all signs point to full health and a #5 spot during spring training.

 

Cincinnati Reds

 

Cincinnati Reds Expected Schedule

 

The Reds may have the single best April schedule, making for a few tantalizing options. Save for the obvious Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo picks—at least they won’t make you sweat early—Tyler Mahle’s middle-to-late round appeal is still lively as he should be able to take advantage of a trio of below-average offenses in the Cardinals, Diamondbacks, and Cleveland.

Michael Lorenzen has received plenty of attention during the long winter and I’ll be monitor February and March to see if I’m comfortable keeping him off the bench for his first outing – even against the Pirates. If he does capitalize early, you’ll want to keep him rostered for San Francisco, Cleveland, and St. Louis, though. I guess you’re back on my list, Lorenzen.

Don’t forget about Wade Miley as well. Despite a lost 2020 season and horrific September of ’19, Miley’s cutter makes him a strong Toby play, one that could return a quality start in all of his first four games. Sneaky, sneaky.

 

Cleveland

 

Cleveland Expected Schedule

 

Despite losing Carlos Carrasco and Mike Clevingerit’s still an incredible rotation in Cleveland and the major three arms—Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, and Aaron Civale—are all easy plays against the Tigers twice in a row…or maybe not? There’s a chance they pull a four-man the first pass as they have an off-day before their fifth game of the year against Kansas City.

If that day is skipped, it doesn’t do much for those three, but Triston McKenzie will certainly benefit, turning a date with the White Sox into a day off at the zoo with the Tigers.  Regardless, McKenzie’s first matchup against the Royals makes him a safe pick at the end of drafts, just be cautious not to blindly start him the next couple turns.

As for the #5 spot, I wouldn’t spend time contemplating if it’ll be Logan Allen, Adam Plutkoor Cal Quantrillyou’re better off considering those arms as streamers when the schedule clears up, or it’s not their debut start of 2021.

 

Colorado Rockies

 

Colorado Rockies Expected Schedule

 

Oh Colorado, do we really want to dance with home/road splits? You likely will for German Marquezbut drafting him may result in waiting until late April for his first start, as he opens with two games in Coors (ouch, even if it’s the Diamondbacks for start #2), then the tough Dodgers + Mets on the road. There’s a chance Colorado goes four-man on the first pass and grants Marquez a start in San Francisco instead of in LA, but that’s still just 1/4 starts to begin the year in the best case. Life isn’t fair as a Colorado pitcher.

If you can’t comfortably start Marquez, there isn’t much hope for the rest of the gang. Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela, Jon Grayand even Ryan Castellani are options on the road and against a weak opponent, but with two series at home to kick off the year, you’re better off just waiting for those opportunities to arise mid-season.

 

Detroit Tigers

 

Detroit Tigers Expected Schedule

 

You know me, I really want to be a Boyd Boy again for 2021, but the early Detroit schedule isn’t doing Matthew Boyd any favors as mentioned in the opening section. I’d love to see what Boyd we’re getting in his debut start before putting faith in him, and sadly, that’s the best matchup he has in his first four outings. Rough.

Spencer Turnbull is another case of “wait-one-start-and-see”, but at least for him, it’s a repeat duel against Cleveland that I’d feel safer trusting if his premier start goes smoothly.

As for the rest of them, Detroit has expressed they are considering a six-man rotation, which makes sense given their plethora of young arms they’d love to ease in slowly. The early Detroit schedule isn’t generous enough to consider recruiting them for your squad – even Casey Mize or Tarik Skubal if they get that early shot. Sorry Michael FulmerI need to see you do it for a good while before we’re back to 2017.

Oh, and I guess there’s Jose Urena too. You know, if he somehow gets a PIT start, it wouldn’t be the craziest thing for it to work out in his favor. Just saying.

 

Houston Astros

 

Houston Astros Expected Schedule

 

It’s not the prettiest schedule for the Astros, but I think if you drafted Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr., or Framber Valdezyou’re starting them against the Athletics. As for Cristian Javier and Jose Urquidytheir early matchups are a little harder to lean into, even if Javier gets the benefit of avoiding Oakland entirely for the Angels + Tigers.

Keep that in mind when you’re considering Urquidy or Javier. I think they can become solid upside plays, but you may not get a good feeling rostering them until a few starts in. Know yourself and what you normally do in April before drafting them.

 

Kansas City Royals

 

Kansas City Royals Expected Schedule

 

Soooo this is interesting. When you thought of late pitchers to grab, you likely weren’t considering Danny Duffy, Brad Kelleror Mike MinorBUT HERE WE ARE. When it comes to early streamers, you should be favoring veterans > younglings for the first pass simply because they’ll more likely than not get more innings. (Sidenote: If you’re streaming for the sake of trying to find a guy that sticks through the entire year and the longterm impact is more important than short term, then I favor the younglings.) 

With that in mind, I can see each of these three older arms excelling against a tumultuous Rangers lineup, especially Minor. If you think you’re going to need that start on opening weekend, the Royals have your back.

And that doesn’t mean their #4 or #5 can’t help either. Brady Singer and Kris Bubic have the potential to carve out quality innings against Cleveland, though I’d take a rest on Bubic as he’s proven less consistent than Singer. Not my favorite late-round grabs, but I won’t rule out the possibility of production early from Singer or Bubic.

Overall, keep an eye on this entire staff through the season as they will get their share of weak matchups via Detroit and Cleveland + a decent share of NL Central opponents, too.

 

Los Angeles Angels

 

Los Angeles Angels Expected Schedule

 

I’m guessing a six-man rotation is in order for the Angels, with Shohei Ohtani landing on Sunday as was the previous plan to work around consistent Monday off-days. In other words, this is the messiest of the bunch. The early target here is the fourth series of the year against the Royals as the White Sox and Astros to kick things off could likely spell pain for fantasy managers. That means Griffin Canning, Patrick Sandoval (maybe Jamie Barria takes his spot?), and Jose Quintana are off my targets list. Just don’t overlook them when their schedules ease up, especially Quintana who could be a Quality Start asset later in the year.

Andrew Heaney and Dylan BundyI’m undecided about. I’d personally sit out Heaney’s first outing against the White Sox, the Blue Jays are a growing offense, and we’re crossing our fingers he gets the Royals and Rangers after. I can see a situation where Heaney blows up the first two starts and he’s suddenly able to be scooped up off the wire.

Bundy managers will endure any early hardship if it comes their way. Still, it’s not a pleasant schedule with Heaney’s Royals & Rangers replaced by strong offenses in Minnesota and Houston. I think it’s wise to lower Bundy on your draft board because of this.

As for Ohtani, well if he’s starting, I think he’s still worth your time. I’d likely just play it safe for his first start of the year, though.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

 

Los Angeles Dodgers Expected Schedule

 

I may be a bit controversial here, but I’m anticipating the Dodgers to execute a six-man rotation this season. They have the depth and with innings concerns across the majors, the Dodgers have showcased their affinity to manipulate their rotation in the past to limit overall workload. A six-man rotation makes too much sense in my mind.

In that case, I’m planning for both Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May to get starts out of the gate. They’ll be facing the Athletics + “Rocky Road” + Seattle and that may spell a beneficial roster spot for both players. I’m leaning Gonsolin over May at this point given Gonsolin’s whiff rates and slightly better IPS, but I think both can help you in April and possibly through the full year.

For the rest of the crew, it’s cruel for the team to head to Colorado to begin the year. It won’t stop us from drafting and starting Clayton Kershaw or Walker Buehlerbut it’s frustrating to see it for David Priceespecially with the loaded Padres offense following in two of his next three starts. The same goes for Julio Urias and I can’t help but wonder if I should be pushing them slightly down my ranks to accommodate for it.

 

Miami Marlins

 

Miami Marlins Expected Schedule

 

There’s plenty of discourse surrounding the top three arms in Miami and if you’re still not aligning with Sandy Alcantara as your first choice, maybe a favorable outing against St. Louis instead of the Mets could be the tie-breaker you needed over Pablo Lopez and Sixto SanchezI know, you’d be in for the long haul and not for just one game, but it could swing your early confidence in the direction you need come May 1st.

Still, you’re drafting all three and don’t need this table to stop you. As for the rest of the crew, Elieser Hernandez and Trevor Rogers are currently going in the late rounds (if Rogers is drafted at all) and I personally wouldn’t howl when they’re snatched before me. Elieser will likely benefit from 3/4 decent matchups to kick off the year (seriously, the Mets offense is legit), I still worry about his two-pitch mix that doesn’t do quite enough to justify its lack of variety. He’s one to consider, but far from the safest early in the season.

Rogers gets nearly the same schedule as Hernandez and could excel against the Giants, but I’d be patient and make sure he’s executing up-to-par against the Cardinals and Braves first.

 

Milwaukee Brewers

 

Milwaukee Brewers Expected Schedule

 

The NL Central is expected to be a lovely division to pitch in, though the Brewers aren’t major benefactors at the top half of their rotation. Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes are equipped to take the brunt of it with 2/4 early matchups coming against the Twins and Padres, but the question remains for Josh Lindblom who will suffer the same fate. You’re likely better off seeing that slider come into form against the Cardinals are considering him against the Pirates after.

The #4 starter will likely be Adrian Houserwho could be an early add for many managers. Houser had a strong end to the 2019 season but struggled in 2020. A 2021 recovery may be in order and don’t be shocked if he returns value against the Cubs, Cardinals, and Pirates.

Eric Lauer is a Toby at best and fortunately could be what you’re looking for on his date hosting Pittsburgh. Otherwise, I think you’re better off with other options.

 

Minnesota Twins

 

Minnesota Twins Expected Schedule

 

The Twins have only one offense to fear in their division – the White Sox – and they don’t see them for weeks. Your Kenta Maeda and Jose Berrios draft picks should return value early, though Boston and Los Angeles/Oakland may give them a harder time. I’m not shifting anything here.

You should take note with the rest of their squad, though. Newly added JA Happ could return a pair of early wins against the Brewers and Mariners, while Michael Pineda and Randy Dobnak are lined up for early production against the Tigers (and Pineda gets the Mariners after!). I’d heavily consider all three of these options deep in drafts, even if it’s just for one or two starts.

 

New York Mets

 

New York Mets Expected Schedule

 

You’re drafting Jacob deGrom regardless of his schedule and I’d say that both Carlos Carrasco and Marcus Stroman shouldn’t shift on your draft boards based on his April matchups – possibly rise if anything.

The bottom pair look to be Taijuan Walker and David Peterson with Joey Lucchesi likely sitting in long relief. It’s hard to make out how to feel about the Phillies’ offense at this stage, but Walker’s second start against Miami should be circled as a possible early stream for those in need. As for Peterson, I think it’s a little too risky to consider him against Philadelphia at this point, but I can see a world where it works out in at least one of those games.

 

New York Yankees

 

New York Yankees Expected Schedule

 

The Yankee rotation will continually adjust around Gerrit Cole in 2021 with injury questions entangled with a quartet of young arms. The schedule is tough for newcomers Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillonbut their abilities—when healthy—justify a draft pick. Don’t forget, Kluber has a long history of April struggles while Taillon will be getting his first healthy starts since 2018 (assuming his few 2019 innings were with a damaged arm prior to TJS).

It gets tricky after that. We aren’t sure how the #4 and #5 spots will shape up, but let’s assume the table above for now. Jordan Montgomery gets the benefit of the Orioles early and I’m in favor of letting him fly, then assessing his next pair of outings against the Rays after. Domingo German gets a similar treatment, facing the improved Jays offense early—I have more hesitation letting German loose there save for an astounding opener against Baltimore.

Don’t forget, Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt are also in the wings, waiting for their chances. We could be seeing one or even both before April ends.

 

Oakland Athletics

 

Oakland Athletics Expected Schedule

 

I originally considered the Athletics as contenders for a six-man rotation, but without a clear FA add in SP, their current slotted #5 is Daulton Jeffries and they need more depth in their staff to pull it off – even if AJ Puk gets turned into a starter.

As for the schedule ahead, their first two passes will be difficult, sandwiching a rough homestead against the Dodgers with the strong Astros lineup. Those eager to draft Chris Bassitt and Sean Manaea may find themselves regretting it as they bench both to start the season. Jesus Luzardo and Frankie Montas are worth the starts, even if it comes with a dose of anxiety.

It does get plenty easier after and I’d keep an eye out in my 12-teamers. You never know, a manager could have a quick trigger finger the first two weeks of the season and you could benefit greatly from Bassitt’s evenings against Arizona and Detroit.

 

Philadelphia Phillies

 

Philadelphia Phillies Expected Schedule

 

Still draft Aaron Nola because duh. Zack Wheeler may be a tougher pill to swallow early with Atlanta + the Mets in his first three starts, but I think the full season will be worth it even if he stumbles early.

Zach Eflin is a harder sell as he gets the same set as Wheeler. Eflin was a volatile arm last season and it’s compounded by these three land mines. Good luck dodging them, I’ll be there for you.

The final two arms both come with their share of intrigue, but are best to be considered as possible waiver wire arms over being treated as bench stashes early. Vince Velasquez has magic in him every so often, but these starts make for a small margin for error, while Spencer Howard should be a highly rostered arm in a 12-teamer at some point, just likely not in April or even May 2021.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates

 

Pittsburgh Pirates Expected Schedule

 

After losing Joe Musgrove and Jameson Taillon to trades, it means more playing time for some interesting players, but not necessarily players you want to trust the first few weeks of the season. Both Steve Brault and Chad Kuhl could be streaming candidates in their fourth starts of the year, while Mitch Keller may make an impact from Day 1 against the Cubs. I won’t blame you for taking that one slow, though.

While I’m not sure who the #5 starter will be, don’t ignore JT Brubaker getting consistent time as their #4. He showed solid value as a groundballer with a great slider in 2020 and a pair of starts against the Brewers and Tigers may provide dividends.

 

San Diego Padres

 

San Diego Padres Expected Schedule

 

What a stupidly stacked rotation. You don’t need me to tell you to start Blake Snell, Yu Darvishand Dinelson Lamet whenever you can, and it seems unfair for Lamet to get one of the easiest early schedules out there.

The Padres haven’t made it clear who their official #4 starter is, but it does make a sizeable difference for the player, shifting ARI + @PIT to SFG + LAD. Either way, I’m starting both Joe Musgrove and Chris Paddack for their first starts, only hesitating if Musgrove faces the Dodgers.

Don’t forget about Adrian Morejonwho may step in as the #6 man in the rotation. If so, he’d get the Giants + Pirates early and could provide some value as well, especially against Pittsburgh. Just let him go at least five innings, okay Jayce?

 

San Francisco Giants

 

San Francisco Giants Expected Schedule

 

Save for an early matchup against the Padres, the San Francisco schedule should attract fantasy managers. Kevin Gausman can handle the Mariners, Reds, and Phillies, while Johnny Cueto could flex their muscles in Seattle while hosting the Rockies in spacious Oracle Park. Not the worst early streams for Quality Start leagues.

Meanwhile, Anthony DeSclafani matches Cueto with an added start against the Marlins and you may like what you see. DeSclafani has a strong ceiling when his slider is working and we may be talking about him early in the year.

Alex Wood should be on your radar as well but wait until after his outing against the Padres. The Rockies on the road + two starts against Miami could be fruitful.

As for Logan Webbhis ceiling doesn’t bring enough to consider as an early target but monitor his production. There’s a solid Toby in there.

 

Seattle Mariners

 

Seattle Mariners Expected Schedule

 

It’s going to be another six-man rotation in Seattle, which means bad news for more starters. Across the expected eight different teams they face in their first four turns, the Mariners only have two expected favorable matchups—the Giants and Orioles. Marco Gonzales, Yusei Kikuchi, and Justus Sheffield could look pretty out of the gate, but their following outings may make it hard for fantasy managers to keep them rostered (save for Marco, who fortunately gets paired with the Orioles).

The bottom half is easily avoidable (sorry Nick Margevicius and Chris Flexen), with only Justin Dunn in consideration for his sole matchup against the Orioles. I have hesitations even with the matchup, but there will be worse streams to consider on that day.

 

St. Louis Cardinals

 

St. Louis Cardinals Expected Schedule

 

Jack Flaherty was a must-start regardless of schedule, but it’s even easier now without any tough matchups ahead for the Cardinals. It’s unclear how the Redbirds will craft their rotation for 2021 – it’s often shrouded until the first few days of the year—but with their generally lax schedule, Kwang Hyun Kim could be a serviceable Quality Start arm out of the gate—maybe beginning on start #2 if you want to be conservative against the Reds.

We’ve wondered what to make of Carlos Martinez as well, who has bounced between the pen, rotation, and injured list for the past three seasons. If he’s firmly in the rotation, his early schedule gives him ample opportunity to showcase his worth.

Miles Mikolas makes for an interesting arm early, though it’s unclear how healthy he is at the moment, let alone able to go at least five frames in a start. I’d wait-and-see there, but be quick to react to a potential start against Milwaukee.

Finally, the fifth spot is up for grabs, though I’d favor Daniel Ponce de Leon as the favorite over Austin Gomber after his impressive September 2020 performance. If he seizes the job, you may want to snatch him deep in drafts for his strikeout upside alone.

 

Tampa Bay Rays

 

Tampa Bay Rays Expected Schedule

 

It’s a thin Tampa bay rotation and leading the way is Tyler Glasnow, who should feel fortunate he has the Marlins and Rangers to ease into the traditional AL East gauntlet. Ryan Yarbrough also gets a gift in 3/4 pleasant matchups to start the year and could be a major asset against the Rangers and Royals. Consider The Fratty Pirate in your drafts if he’s coming at the cost of a 22/23rd round pick.

The rest is…hazy. The Rays have showcased their affinity for an opener, reducing the innings of their starters dramatically and making it tough to give an endorsement. Michael Wacha, Josh Flemingand Trevor Richards may each be opened for, reducing Wacha’s favorable schedule impact drastically. Meanwhile, Fleming gets the Red Sox + Yankees in his first three games and, well, you don’t want that.

 

Texas Rangers

 

Texas Rangers Expected Schedule

 

There’s not much to look at in the Rangers rotation and the schedule doesn’t do a whole lot to continue your gaze. Kyle Gibson may be of value for an early Royals start or his matchup against the Orioles, but it’s a debatable stream at best in early April. The same goes for Jordan Lyles‘ early Royals start as well, while Kohei Arihara is too risky to start in his MLB debut. I’d consider him after the fact, but the Padres, Rays, and Angels make for a questionable investment.

Dane Dunning is a popular name, but his early pair of starts against the Jays and Padres will likely frustrate his acolytes. If you’re willing to treat him as a stash for Baltimore, Los Angeles, and beyond, by all means. I think I prefer to chase others during the first few weeks.

Lastly, there’s Kolby Allard and sadly he’s not in a position to be on your targets list, especially not when he gets the Jays and Rays to kick off the new season.

 

Toronto Blue Jays

 

Toronto Blue Jays Expected Schedule

 

The Jays are weird to me. They have a ton of questionable talent waiting for more opportunities (cough Sean Reid-Foley and Trent Thornton cough) and as I anticipate a six-man rotation, they could get more MLB exposure soon.

In the meantime, Tyler Chatwood should claim the #6 spot and has displayed his mischievousness enough for us to deny a lovely matchup against Texas. Unfortunately, the Yankees and Red Sox follow, outlining a clear waiver-wire spot for the time being.

Hyun jin Ryu sits at the top of the rotation and should still be started despite an onslaught of Boston + New York matchups. The same can’t be said for Robbie Ray or Nate PearsonRay showcased his volatility last year and I’m not willing to draft him on the hopes his start against the Royals pans out. The same goes for Pearson, as I’d have concerns trusting success against the Yankees and Rays early – maybe Angels. Maybe. It’s just too early to get a sense of where he’s at.

Ross Stripling is another intriguing option and he may be a sneaky play against the Rangers and Royals. Just sit him for the Yankees, please.

And don’t forget about Tanner Roarkdespite his sub-par numbers in the past. He’ll get the freedom to extend into the sixth as long as he’s cooking and that could return Quality Starts in at least one of the Rangers or Royals starts.

 

Washington Nationals

 

Washington Nationals Expected Schedule

 

You should clearly be starting Max Scherzerthough I completely understand managers who want to play it safe with Stephen Strasburg against the Mets and Dodgers in his return from Carpal Tunnel surgery. I think I’d be fine starting him as long as he’s been healthy in the spring, personally.

I’m not quite sure about Patrick Corbin’s first two starts, either. Do I believe he’ll be much better than his 2020 self across the full year? Absolutely. Will he possibly need a start or two to help rev the engine again? Maybe, and the Mets + Dodgers leave very little room for error. No judgments there for playing it safe.

Jon Lester has joined the crew in D.C. and there may be some value to be had as he faces the Diamondbacks. Before then? Not for me.

And finally, the #5 spot will be fought for in the spring between Austin Voth, Erick Feddeand Joe RossI’m leaning that Voth will win the spot out of camp, but regardless, this would be a possible waiver add for the Diamondbacks. Take note of it when the day arrives, I’m leaning you’ll still want to avoid it.

 

Photos by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire, Ian D’Andrea, Erik Drost | Design by Quincey Dong (@threerundong on Twitter)

Nick Pollack

Founder of Pitcher List. Creator of CSW, The List, and SP Roundup. Worked with MSG, FanGraphs, CBS Sports, and Washington Post. Former pitching coach and Brandeis alum. Wants every pitcher to be dope.

  • Avatar Dave says:

    Great stuff Nick, thanks. FYI, that blue font over green highlight is a real eye strain (at least on my computer).

  • Avatar Uncle Salty says:

    Have always factored in NL pitchers (sans DH) as having a bit of an edge and particularly NL Central. Similarly, AL East with it’s plethora of hitter’s parks have typically scared me off a bit pitcher wise.

    But this piece was obviously a heckuva lot of work and very beneficial. It may change a keeper decision for me in one of my H2H leagues (Kopech) and a couple other draft choices. Thanks for doing all this work!

  • Avatar Ron says:

    Think this is one of the best draft tools but probably needs a refresh given some of the signings over the last month and a half and anything you’ve seen so far in Spring with fringe pitchers. Would love a mid-March update – this is my go-to source for fringe $1 end-game picks

  • Avatar rainmaker says:

    What does (OFF) mean?

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