This isn’t going to be a long article, but it’s an important one. The point is simple: it’s better to draft pitchers you want to start in their first matchup of the season. Easy, right? Thing is, when we’re throwing darts at the end of drafts, it can be easy to forget who is likely to face a weak opponent, creating too many situations where you drop a player before the season even starts.
Furthermore, I firmly believe you should anticipate dropping a handful of your final picks across the first week of the season in favor of chasing exciting players who are showcasing something we didn’t anticipate. If your final players in the draft are pitchers who make a start – against a middling or worse offense – during that opening weekend, not only have you snagged a sold flier off the wire, but you’ve also cashed in value along the way.
To hammer the point home, we’ve all been in the position of wanting to pick someone else up, but your pitcher hasn’t even made a start yet. And when he does? It’s against the Dodgers. It’s a headache of a situation and we want to avoid those at all costs.
To alleviate the matter, I’ve gone ahead and created a quick-and-easy table, showcasing each team’s expected rotation and who they’ll likely be facing the opening weekend. As we all know, these are heavily subject to change, from going four-man during the first turn, to tweaking the order and the dreaded injury bug hitting the squad. Please bear that in mind and be aware of potential changes come draft day.
I’ve color-coded the offenses from 1-5, with 1 being the easiest to face and 5 being the toughest. 1 = Green, 2 = Blue, 3 = Brown (neutral), 4 = Orange, 5 = Red.
I struggled with this as we generally don’t know how good or bad teams are at the moment – some offenses will click while others will plod along. If you heavily disagree with a tier here, please adjust accordingly.
- It’s hard to jump in on any of the Diamondbacks pitchers right now outside of Zac Gallen. We’re already mild on them and I’m not starting Merrill Kelly or whoever gets that fifth spot against the Padres.
- All clear for the fifth starter for Atlanta. If it’s Mike Soroka or Ian Anderson, the Cardinals aren’t scary enough to deter us if we’re amped for either after a solid spring. If the spring is meh, then we can stay out for now.
- I’m all for Grayson Rodriguez if he’s looking good to go in the spring. The rest of the Orioles…it’s a shrug for me. I’d chase a different start than the Red Sox or Rangers.
- It may be a sneaky flier to take Brayan Bello or Garrett Whitlock as they can ease into the season against the Pirates. Chris Sale should be fine, and Corey Kluber is a shrug. Ignore Nick Pivetta, though. Please.
- Note: It’s possible James Paxton is actually starting for the Red Sox this year. I’ll believe it when I see it, but it would mean Whitlock and Bello would be fighting for a spot – I’d bet on Bello sitting the Triple-A to start the year and called up at the first opportunity.
- I’m kinda digging chasing one of the Cubs main three to kick off the year with Marcus Stroman, Jameson Taillon, and Drew Smyly all likely to get the Brewers. Sign me up for the latter two if I need an opening weekend start, but Justin Steele and possibly Hayden Wesneski look too risky in Cincinnati.
- Jeeeeeeeez, why do Michael Kopech and Lucas Giolito have to get the Astros to kick off the season? There’s a chance Mike Clevinger is still pitching and also gets the fourth SP spot, so monitor this. I’d love Kopech against the Giants to start the year.
- You’re going to see a lot of people taking victory laps on Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo to start the year against Pittsburgh, but is it okay for Graham Ashcraft? I think I’m still out, sadly.
- The Guardians are up against a solid Mariners squad, making me question picks of Aaron Civale or Cal Quantrill, and even if Zach Plesac gets the Athletics, do we really care?
- As if we needed more reason to avoid Colorado Rockies starters. Ooooof.
- I’m sad to see Spencer Turnbull likely squared up against the Astros to start the year, though I can’t help but have a little bit of intrigue with Matthew Boyd if he does face the Rays. Too risky for most leagues, but let’s see how he fares in the spring. Eduardo Rodriguez may be worth the play against the Rays, too.
- The Astros are getting drafted regardless of opponent, but if they are indeed six-man, Hunter Brown gets a lovely first start against the Tigers (not inside the table as I don’t expect it to happen). It would make chasing him a whole lot easier…but in all likelihood A) It’s a five-man rotation and B) Brown would get skipped on the first pass if it were a six-man.
- The Royals staff brings little joy, with Brady Singer the only arm of value. The Twins shouldn’t scare you off in the first start.
- UPDATE: Please forgive me, somehow the Brewers pitchers were missing from the initial publication. I added them in 30 minutes later.
- Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta don’t need any extra help, but why not, you get the Cubs you wonderful men. Sadly, it means Eric Lauer and Wade Miley have to take on the Mets in the following series and I don’t want to toss them into the fire. (Sorry Aaron Ashby, I don’t think you’re in the rotation to begin the year with the signing of Miley.)
- It’s unclear how the Angels will order their rotation, but it’s reasonably safe to expect Tyler Anderson and Patrick Sandoval to get starts the opening weekend against the Athletics. I’d love to go for that in the middle-to-late rounds. I’m still in on Reid Detmers despite the Mariners, but those intrigued about José Suarez should be careful – Suarez dominates left-handers and Seattle is a RHB-focused lineup.
- The Dodgers have it easy (when do they not?), especially with Noah Syndergaard getting “Rockie Road”. I’m not enthusiastic about a rebound season, but that’s still worth your time in the short term.
- I absolutely adore the Marlins’ pitchers, but I sure don’t want to start Trevor Rogers against the Mets. If Edward Cabrera is the fifth man, a start against the Twins is a gamble I’m not sure I want to endure.
- Look at that Minnesota schedule. You should be gravitating toward taking a shot on Tyler Mahle or Kenta Maeda with the Marlins on the horizon. Sign. Me. Up.
- The Mets have it easy to kick off the season and those believing in Carlos Carrasco, José Quintana, and Kodai Senga out of the draft may be rewarded early for their faith. Consider them late.
- Those who are excited about Domingo Germán or Clarke Schmidt getting the fifth spot of the rotation, consider playing it slow as they would face the Phillies the first week. The Yankees have gone four-man in the past when in this situation and don’t be surprised if they bring out Cole and Rodón for that series instead.
- I’m awfully curious to see this Oakland rotation play out, but despite their relatively pedestrian offenses across the first week, I want to see how they perform. I’m sure at least one of Paul Blackburn, James Kaprielian, and Drew Rucinski will turn out to be a decent opening weekend streamer, but I’m struggling to figure out which one. Spring, I need you.
- To stick with the Athletics for a moment, Shintaro Fujinami and Ken Waldichuk are both arms I’m excited to scrutinize this year, but I don’t think we need to jump the gun with a start against the Guardians. Let’s see how it plays out.
- I’m not sure what to think of the Rangers’ offense and Taijuan Walker could run into trouble there. It’s still far better than Ranger Suárez and Bailey Falter against the Yankees, though.
- The Pirates are heading into Cincinnati to begin the year, making me bearish on Mitch Keller, Rich Hill, and Roansy Contreras…but it’s not like I was excited for them to begin with.
- Pay attention to the #4 and #5 spot for the Padres – Nick Martinez, Seth Lugo, and Adrian Morejon each could deserve a rotation spot out of camp and steal production against “Rockie Road”. The Diamondbacks may be a little too risky, though, as that young offense could surprise us.
- The Mariners pitchers you care about get the Guardians – sweet – while Marco Gonzales has to deal with the Angels and I do not care. By the Mariners’ fifth game, you should have a better arm to chase with that roster spot.
- There’s a good amount of love being shared for the Giants’ rotation, but do you want to trust Alex Cobb and Sean Manaea in Yankee stadium to begin the year? We don’t know what we’ll see from the White Sox, but Eloy, Anderson, Robert, Vaughan, and Benintendi could mess up Ross Stripling and Alex Wood, especially if the Giants’ defense is similar to last year’s disappointment.
- Hoooo boy do I hate trusting the Cardinals pitchers early as they host the Blue Jays and Braves. I know it’s just one week, but if you draft any of Jordan Montgomery, Miles Mikolas, Steven Matz, and Jack Flaherty, prepare to feel uneasy for the first week of the season.
- It’s hard to resist drafting any of the Rays’ starters. Sure, Shane McClanahan and Tyler Glasnow will go early in your drafts, but Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen could be steals and cruise in their first starts, while Zach Eflin gets the Tigers or Nationals for a winning ball club. He’ll be going late – if at all – and he gets a Sunday start, that may be a sneaky play.
- I’m imagining Martín Pérez and Jon Gray are the #2/#3 for the Rangers, which isn’t fun for those spending draft capital on them. However, if Nathan Eovaldi‘s velocity is there in the spring, sign me up for a start against the Orioles.
- You’re starting the first three Jays starters easily against the Cardinals, and it’s good to see The Great Undulator José Berríos get a solid chance to start his season on a high note against the Royals. As for Yusei Kikuchi? I don’t care, I’m not risking this. He’s too dang volatile.
- The front of the Nationals rotation should be ignored regardless of their battle against Atlanta, but I may be inclined to test drive MacKenzie Gore against the Rays if he’s looking solid in the spring.
Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter) / Photography by Joe Robbins, Dustin Bradford, Frank Jansky & Peter Joneleit / Icon Sportswire
great article, ty NIck