Sketchy weather on Thursday in Minnesota, Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia has pushed back home openers in those cities to Friday — thankfully all originally scheduled off days for that very reason — but we’ve got a busy weekend of baseball on the slate nevertheless, with six games on Thursday, 14 on Friday and a full slate of 15 on both Saturday and Sunday.
What are our fantasy analysts looking forward to and what lineup advantages do they see heading into the weekend? Tristan H. Cockcroft and Eric Karabell tee up what’s ahead for the April 6-9 weekend series.
Karabell: Well, Tristan, let’s get this out of the way right up front: Baseball in Denver! The Colorado Rockies open their home season with a series against the terrible Washington Nationals and we should expect myriad runs to be scored. One player I am watching on the Rockies side is leadoff hitter Jurickson Profar, as he started the season late and then notched only one single in 11 at-bats against the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers. Impatient fantasy managers, of course, moved on. Don’t move on! I bet Profar has a big weekend and since the Rockies aren’t exactly throwing Cy Young candidates out there, folk hero Joey Meneses should get going offensively for Washington after having to face the Tampa Bay Rays and Atlanta Braves, too. OK, what interests you?
Cockcroft: Good call on the Nationals-Rockies series, especially as since it’s a four-gamer at Coors, with arguably two of the worst pitching staffs in baseball and the best pitcher on either team (German Marquez) scheduled to pitch in it, it’s unusually heavily weighted on the hitting side in the Forecaster projections. I wrote up Elehuris Montero as a Monday pickup, but this series is a big reason why. Even if you’re merely streaming your hitters in our new format, stacking Rockies (and Nationals, really, since they’ll face a pair of left-handed starters in the four games, underscoring your Meneses point) makes a heck of a lot of sense.
From a pure game-watching perspective, I’m looking forward to the Padres-Braves four-game series. Nick Martinez and Seth Lugo are interesting names to watch, even if I’d hesitate to start either. I also like the St. Louis Cardinals–Milwaukee Brewers three-game set that begins on Friday. These are two big tests for Jack Flaherty, Friday’s starter for the Cardinals, and Freddy Peralta, Sunday’s for the Brewers. Based on what I saw from their first outings as well as these matchups themselves, I’m a “no” on starting the former and “yes” on the latter. Still, both bear watching.
Karabell: Philadelphia Phillies fans are certainly concerned about their pennant-winning team winning only one of six games, and first up for the Cincinnati Reds this weekend is hard-throwing Hunter Greene, who was supposed to pitch on Wednesday until rain intervened on consecutive days. The Phillies are already without Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins and now it appears Darick Hall will also miss time due to a thumb injury. Former Red Nick Castellanos has struck out 12 times in 22 at-bats, and while three of his four hits are doubles, he must do better or this lineup will continue to struggle. Fantasy managers don’t know if they can trust Phillies such as Castellanos, Alec Bohm and Bryson Stott. This could be an important weekend in that respect.
Meanwhile, not too far up the road, the New York Mets aren’t thriving, either, and calls for top prospects Francisco Alvarez and Brett Baty are getting louder as their current options at catcher and third base aren’t hitting. The Mets host the Miami Marlins, and we don’t think the Marlins will pile on the runs. Fans just don’t know how to be patient in both of these cities!
Cockcroft: You know I like digging into those Forecaster ratings, and outside of the Nationals-Rockies, the ones that stand out to me are the Dodgers (8-grade overall weekend), Boston Red Sox (6-grade and 2-of-3 left-handed starters), San Francisco Giants (8-grade) and, on the other side of the scale, Baltimore Orioles (3-grade against the New York Yankees).
It’s easy to sing the Dodgers’ praises, but they also have a lot of younger players still available and warranting a pickup in ESPN leagues: James Outman (84% available), a No. 6-7 hitter against righties (3-of-4 projected RHP starter opponents); Miguel Vargas (73%), assuming his groin injury is indeed not serious; and Chris Taylor (94%), a seemingly everyday, underrated player who can start all over the diamond. This offense clobbered Madison Bumgarner in the opening series and will be facing the No. 4-5 starters from the Arizona Diamondbacks as well, so load up on Dodgers.
By the way and speaking of those Mets, my “out there” streaming pickup for the weekend is Tylor Megill, who is still aligned to work the rescheduled Friday game in a rematch against the strikeout-prone Marlins. Who’s your “add and start” guy?
Karabell: When in doubt, see who faces the Tigers. Boston’s Tanner Houck beat the Orioles in his first outing, even though he permitted a pair of home runs, but the Tigers are hitting a weak .204 with just four home runs through six games. They don’t seem like much of a threat. Ah, if only my pal Nick Pivetta were facing the Tigers this weekend, I could recommend him! OK, let’s say something nice about the Tigers. Stick with LHP Matthew Boyd on Sunday. Boyd looked good against the Astros in his first outing, at least until the fifth inning. He can be a major strikeout pitcher this weekend and beyond!
Cockcroft: I’m still bummed Pivetta didn’t get moved up a day as a two-start pitcher with Garrett Whitlock expected back probably on Tuesday. Sigh. … Hey, we got this far and didn’t even crown the Tampa Bay Rays as 2023 World Series Champions yet! They get perhaps the weekend’s most favorable set of pitching matchups, including a start by “He of the six no-hit innings and 12 strikeouts” Jeffrey Springs on Saturday, against the Oakland Athletics. What could be better? Load up on Rays! Your other old pal, Zach Eflin, is out there for the taking in 79% of ESPN leagues! Closer Pete Fairbanks is 69% available! Here’s to a 9-0 start!