The fantasy baseball season is finally upon us and it’s going to be a really weird one. For the past couple years, I’ve been doing this column each week outlining which hitters you should start and avoid each week in fantasy baseball, and today, we start all over again!
If you’re new to this column, no worries. Do you stream pitchers? Great! You can stream hitters too! Each week, I’ll be outlining five matchups you should take advantage of and five you should avoid with your hitters, it’s as simple as that.
For this edition, I’m going to just cover opening weekend, since the season starts on a Thursday. Then, I’ll start up with the normal weekly columns on Sunday.
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 either because of injury, weather, or anything else. 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.
Cleveland Indians hitters – The Indians open the season with a series against the Kansas City Royals who, as a team, sported the fourth-worst ERA in all of baseball last year, and they just lost Jakob Junis to the IL (who’s arguably their second-best pitcher). So who do the Indians get in their series? Danny Duffy, Mike Montgomery, and Jorge Lopez most likely. I will gladly take that. I’d take a look at guys like Domingo Santana and maybe even Cesar Hernandez this week, the latter of whom could give you a bit of speed and a nice batting average floor.
Boston Red Sox hitters – One of the mantras of this column is, when looking for hitters to stream one of the first questions you should ask is, “Who’s playing against the Orioles?” Well, the answer to that question is the Red Sox, who are starting their season off in hitter-friendly Fenway Park against the Orioles, who posted the worst team ERA in baseball last year. And guess what? Their pitching staff hasn’t improved. In their three-game series against the Orioles, the Red Sox will likely get to face Tommy Milone, Alex Cobb (if he’s healthy), and Wade LeBlanc. As much as I personally like Milone this year, you’re still 100% starting your hitters against him. Guys like Christian Vazquez and Alex Verdugo look pretty interesting this weekend, and maybe even Jose Peraza in deep leagues.
Cincinnati Reds hitters – The Reds start their season off with a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers who posted the third-worst team ERA in baseball last year. Now, they will see Matthew Boyd, who I and many others love, but that’s just one game, and even then, I’m still generally fine starting your Reds hitters. Plus, the series will be in hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark, which is even better. Guys like Shogo Akiyama, Nick Senzel, and potentially even Freddy Galvis are worth a look this weekend, as is Jesse Winker, who’s a career .307/.396/.511 hitter against righties (whom he’ll see in two out of three matchups).
St. Louis Cardinals hitters – The Cardinals get a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates this weekend, who posted the fifth-worst team ERA in baseball last year, and their rotation is mostly the same as it was. The Cardinals will likely face Joe Musgrove, Trevor Williams, and Steven Brault, all of whom are very beatable (though it should be noted, I am a Musgrove fan this year, but I’m not sitting my hitters against him right now). Kolten Wong looks slated to leadoff for the Cardinals and could be a good option this weekend, as could Tommy Edman and potentially Tyler O’Neill in deeper leagues.
Houston Astros hitters – The Astros will be hosting the Seattle Mariners to start the season, a team that posted the eighth-worst team ERA in baseball last year. They’ll get to see Marco Gonzales, Taijuan Walker, and Yusei Kikuchi, none of whom scare you even a little bit. Just about every Astros hitter is getting drafted, but some of the more middle-of-the-road guys like Yuli Gurriel and Kyle Tucker are worth a look this weekend.
Seattle Mariners hitters – Like I just said, the Mariners start their season off hosting the Astros, and that’s bad news for their hitters, as they’ll get to face Justin Verlander, Lance McCullers Jr., and Zack Greinke. Those are all big-time no thank you matchups for your Mariners hitters, and I’m not sure there’s a single Mariners hitter I’d be willing to start opening weekend. Maybe Mallex Smith if I anticipated really needing speed, but that’s really only a desperation play. I love Kyle Lewis a lot as a sleeper, but I’m not starting him against those three.
Colorado Rockies hitters – One of my other mantras with this column is “see if the Rockies are playing in Coors Field.” They’re not, to open the season, and that’s usually pretty bad news for their hitters in general. Even worse? They’re opening the season against the Texas Rangers. Now, I know, you’re probably saying “uhhh the Rangers? Who cares?” and I get it, especially since the Rangers posted the seventh-worst team ERA in baseball last year. But the Rangers’ pitching staff looks a little different this year. In their three-game series, the Rockies will likely be facing Lance Lynn, Mike Minor, and Corey Kluber, all of whom are very solid pitchers and are worth some consideration before you start your Rockies hitters.
New York Yankees hitters – The Yankees get to play on Opening Day and then skip a day before playing the next two to finish out the weekend, and guess who their series is against? You probably already know, but it’s the Washington Nationals. And what does a three-game series against the Nats mean? It means the Yankees get to see Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin all in a row. I will absolutely pass on all of that.
San Francisco Giants hitters – The Giants also get to play on Opening Day, but they’re playing a four-game series, and that series will be against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who posted the lowest team ERA in baseball last year. That four-game series will see the Giants face Clayton Kershaw, Ross Stripling, Julio Urias, and Alex Wood. Kershaw is an absolute pass, and the rest are all worth strong consideration of benching your Giants hitters unless you really need them.
Kansas City Royals hitters – As I mentioned earlier, the Royals start the year off with a series against the Indians, which means they get to see Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger, and Carlos Carrasco. If you’re like me and super jazzed about having Jorge Soler and the god Franchy Cordero on your team, I might reconsider starting them this weekend. As for Whit Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi, and Salvador Perez, I’d imagine you likely don’t have better alternatives, so I’m fine starting them if you have to, but temper your expectations.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)