Welcome back to baseball, everyone! It’s opening week and I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am to be doing this column again for the fourth (!) year.
If you’re unfamiliar with this article series, each week I take a look at some hitting matchups you should take advantage of and some hitting matchups you should avoid, based on who the hitters will likely be facing on the mound.
If you’d like to learn more about when it becomes less risky to stream hitters (and pitchers) and when certain team stats start to stabilize during the year, check out this article.
So here’s who you should start and avoid in Week 1 (4/11-4/17) of the fantasy baseball season.
Notes: All pitching matchups mentioned here are based on projections as of this post’s publication. It is entirely possible that the actual matchups could change for any number of reasons. Keep in mind, this article is geared toward middle-of-the-road players, meaning you should be starting top-of-the-line bats regardless of the matchup. Always start your studs.
Chicago Cubs hitters – The Cubs get six games this week and are slated to have some pretty sweet matchups. They start the week with two games against the Pirates, where they’ll see Jose Quintana and J.T. Brubaker, neither of whom are especially frightening for hitters. Then, they’ll get four games in Coors Field, which is always great. It could be a decent week to get some power out of someone like Frank Schwindel or Patrick Wisdom, and Rafael Ortega and Nick Madrigal are typically batting one and two in the lineup, which could lead to some good production.
Colorado Rockies hitters – Speaking of the Rockies, if I get four games in Coors in a week from my Rockies hitters, I’m pretty happy. I’m even happier when the other two games they have not in Coors this week are against the Rangers, where they’ll face Taylor Hearn and Spencer Howard, neither of whom are particularly scary matchups. And even better, those four games in Coors are, like I said earlier, against the Cubs, whose pitching staff isn’t the scariest around. They had the third-worst team FIP in baseball last year, and the rotation hasn’t improved all that much (save for the addition of Marcus Stroman). Make sure your obvious Rockies (Charlie Blackmon, Kris Bryant, Brendan Rodgers, C.J. Cron) are in your lineups, but I also kind of like giving Randal Grichuk a shot in deeper leagues. He’s obviously got power, he always has, and playing in a good week for hitters, who knows? He might give you a good bit of production.
Pittsburgh Pirates hitters – I already mentioned the Pirates have two games against the Cubs this week, and while Kyle Hendricks can be a tricky matchup, Drew Smyly most definitely is not. But after that, the Pirates have four games at home against the Nationals, whose pitching staff had the fourth-worst FIP in baseball last year. In fact, the only guy in the Nats’ rotation that even moderately scares me (and I mean moderately) is Josiah Gray, and the Pirates will miss him this week. Your next question is probably “who exactly am I supposed to start in the Pirates’ lineup?” and I get that. I think you definitely make sure Bryan Reynolds and Ke’Bryan Hayes are in your lineups, and maybe in very deep leagues you can get a little bit of power out of Daniel Vogelbach, who’s been leading off for the Pirates lately. Diego Castillo is also someone I find pretty interesting, assuming he gets into the lineup this week.
Milwaukee Brewers hitters – The Brewers have seven games this week, which is great, starting with three games against the Orioles. Now, yes, Camden Yards isn’t as hitter-friendly as it used to be, with the left-field wall being moved out a bit deeper, but luckily for the Brewers, the Orioles’ pitching staff is still very bad. They will see John Means this week, which could be a bit tricky, but they’ll also get Bruce Zimmerman and Dean Kremer, so I’m not worried. Then, they’ll have four games at home against the Cardinals where they’ll see Miles Mikolas, Steven Matz, Dakota Hudson, and Jordan Hicks. Hudson has been good in the past, but we’ll see what he looks like this year, I’m not ready to say he’s someone to avoid in hitting matchups just yet. Otherwise, that slate doesn’t scare me much at all.
Charlie Culberson – Let me be very clear with this, this is a deep league play. Culberson is on the weak side of a platoon in Texas, but luckily for him, half of the Rangers’ six games this week will be against left-handed pitchers. On his career, Culberson is a .284/.314/.442 hitter against lefties (hence the platoon), so if you’re in a deep league looking for a sort of sneaky play, I think Culberson could be useful.
Arizona Diamondbacks hitters – The Diamondbacks only get five games this week, which is already a major knock against them, and honestly the main reason I’m saying avoid them. But on top of that, they’ll have two games against the Astros where they’ll see Luis Garcia and Framber Valdez, and then three games against the Mets where they’ll see Chris Bassitt, Carlos Carrasco, and Taijuan Walker. Not all of those matchups are absolutely terrifying, but they’re bad enough that, on top of just having five games this week, I’d probably dodge your D’Backs hitters this week if you can.
Philadelphia Phillies hitters – The Phillies have seven games this week, starting with three against the Mets where they’ll see Taijuan Walker, Tylor Megill (who looked pretty good in his first start of the year), and the always-scary Max Scherzer. Then they’ll have three games against the Marlins where they’ll see Sandy Alcantara, Pablo López, Trevor Rogers, and Elieser Hernandez. That’s a whole bunch of matchups I want no part of, so I’d avoid my Phillies hitters if I can this week.
San Diego Padres hitters – The Padres have a full seven-game week this week, which on the surface sounds appealing, but they’re going to face some tough pitching matchups. They start the week with three games against the Giants (who had the second-best team FIP in baseball last year) in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in baseball. They’ll see Alex Wood, Alex Cobb, and Logan Webb, and while I’m not ready to suddenly say Alex Cobb is someone to be afraid of yet, I’m also not not ready to say that, especially given the reports that his fastball velocity is up a good bit. Then, the Padres will have four games against Atlanta where they’ll see Charlie Morton, Kyle Wright, Ian Anderson, and Huascar Ynoa. All in all, it’s a pretty tough week for your Padres hitters and I’d avoid them if I could.
Cincinnati Reds hitters – The Reds have six games this week, starting with two against the Guardians where they’ll face Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie. McKenzie doesn’t scare me all that much, but Bieber sure does. Then, they’ll have four games against the Dodgers where they’ll see Walker Buehler, Tony Gonsolin, Julio Urías, and Clayton Kershaw. All of that is a big “no thank you” from me for my Reds hitters this week.
Jared Walsh – The Angels have six games this week and half of those games will be against left-handed pitchers, which could have a notable impact on Jared Walsh’s value. On his career, Walsh has a .198/.226/.379 line against lefties. He’s virtually unusable in those matchups, and that’ll be half his week this week. In daily leagues, use him against the righties, but in weekly leagues, with half his games coming against lefties, I’d have a hard time using him unless I didn’t have a better alternative.
Photo by Kelly Gavin/Texas Rangers | Adapted by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)