Week 1 Fantasy Hitting Planner
The Fantasy Baseball Hitting Planner is your guide to setting your lineup for the upcoming scoring period. Every week, we'll give you the latest on injuries, lineup changes, streaks and matchups, highlighting the players at each position who might surprise or disappoint as a result.
All statistics are from spring training and are up to date as of Tuesday, March 29.
The catcher position had its share of offseason movement, with Russell Martin taking his eroding skills to the pressure cooker of New York, and John Buck and Miguel Olivo signing big contracts to play in less-favorable hitting environments. But Fantasy owners generally care more about the players left behind than the players leaving. In desperate search of upside at a position of constant need, they pin their hopes to players like J.P. Arencibia , Jarrod Saltalamacchia , Chris Iannetta and Alex Avila , hoping for a big payday. But with that pursuit of upside comes a lack of certainty when setting their starting lineups for the first time.
Must-Start Options: Joe Mauer , Victor Martinez , Buster Posey , Brian McCann , Carlos Santana , Geovany Soto
George Kottaras : .409 (18 for 44), 2 HRs in 16 games
Nick Hundley : .436 (17 for 39), 2 HRs, .744 SLG in 13 games
Jarrod Saltalamacchia : .423 (11 for 26), 2 HRs, 6 2Bs in 10 games
J.P. Arencibia : .182 (6 for 33), 1 HR, 17 Ks in 22 games
Brian McCann : .208 (11 for 53), 1 HR, .302 SLG in 17 games
John Jaso : .207 (6 for 29), 3 HRs, 2 BBs in 12 games
John Buck : .167 (4 for 24), 1 HR in seven games
Worth a second look
Chris Iannetta (36 percent started): Long stuck behind some defensive-minded catcher with only a fraction of his offensive potential, Iannetta finally gets a chance to shine as the starting catcher for the Rockies. His patient approach should work to his advantage at Coors Field, where he plays five of his nine games to open the season, with the other four against the lowly Pirates. His strong finish in the Cactus League, where he's hitting .344 (11 for 32), should only add to your confidence heading into the season.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (22 percent started): The fact the big-budget Red Sox stood behind Saltalamacchia as their starter even with all the free agents on the market shows how much confidence they have in the former elite prospect. Considering the way he finished the spring, you might want to stand behind him too.
Alex Avila (6 percent started): Avila didn't have a particularly good spring, but he has shown potential in the past and faces the Orioles and Royals for six of his nine games this week. If you play in a two-catcher league and need to dig a little deeper, he's worth a shot.
Approach with caution
Mike Napoli (73 percent started): When playing regularly, Napoli has as much power potential as any catcher, but until you have a better idea how the Rangers plan to divide his time between catcher, first base and DH, you might want to steer clear of him. The Rangers' tough matchups against the best parts of the Red Sox and Mariners rotations should only make your decision easier.
J.P. Arencibia (25 percent): Arencibia fits into the Mike Napoli category of all-or-nothing catchers, but so far, his experience against major-leaguers has been more nothing than all. It's not just his poor spring; he hit .143 (5 for 35) in his brief callup last year too. Until he strings together a few hits, he belongs safely on your bench.
John Jaso (19 percent): The Rays allowed Dioner Navarro to leave this offseason, convinced Jaso's on-base ability was the way to go at catcher. Well, that's fine in theory, but not when he has two walks and a .250 on-base percentage in spring training. Power-hitting Kelly Shoppach might end up replacing Jaso for more than just the three games against left-handed pitchers.
Chris Snyder is likely to begin the season on the DL with a back injury that has plagued him throughout spring training, opening the door for Ryan Doumit to regain favor with the Pirates front office. Jason Jaramillo could also factor, though, especially coming off a hot spring, so you can leave Doumit for leagues that start two catchers ... Miguel Olivo missed nearly three weeks with a groin injury but recently returned and thinks he'll be ready to play. His power numbers figure to take a hit in the move from Colorado to Seattle, though, making him at best a No. 2 catcher in Fantasy ... Jonathan Lucroy fractured pinkie will sideline him for the start of the season, but George Kottaras is playing to keep the job even after Lucroy returns. He's a sleeper for deeper formats.
First base took a hit this spring with the news Kendrys Morales needs more time to rehabilitate last year's broken leg. He'll begin the season on the DL, but his misfortune opens the door for spring sensation Mark Trumbo to test his all-or-nothing bat at the major-league level. With Adrian Gonzalez (shoulder) and Justin Morneau (concussion) returns going better than anyone could have expected, Fantasy owners should have no shortage of options to fill the position, and by the end of the week, they'll have one more in Adam Lind , who is transitioning from DH this year.
Must-Start Options: Albert Pujols , Miguel Cabrera , Joey Votto , Mark Teixeira , Prince Fielder , Adrian Gonzalez , Buster Posey , Kevin Youkilis , Ryan Howard , Justin Morneau , Adam Dunn
Mitch Moreland : .403 (27 for 67), 4 HRs, 1.153 OPS in 23 games
Kila Ka'aihue : .449 (22 for 49), 7 HRs, 1.498 OPS in 19 games
Aubrey Huff : .438 (21 for 48), 6 HRs, 2 Ks in 17 games
Paul Konerko : .421 (16 for 38), 1 HR, 6 2Bs in 11 games
Freddie Freeman : .149 (7 for 47), 2 HRs, 1 2B in 16 games
Carlos Pena : .100 (2 for 20), 1 HR, 9 Ks in six games
Ike Davis : .067 (1 for 15), 1 HR in five games
Worth a second look
Gaby Sanchez (68 percent started): Sanchez won't hit many homers for a first baseman, but he's a steady gap hitter coming off a spring in which he nearly hit .400. With matchups against the shaky Mets and Nationals pitching staffs to begin the season, he's worth starting.
Kila Ka'aihue (35 percent): No player made as much noise this spring as Ka'aihue, who put up the same crazy numbers he did two of the last three years in the minors. The scouts have never given him much of a chance, but he looked like he belonged in the majors with eight homers in his final 117 at-bats last year. If you're undecided at corner infield, he's worth the gamble in the off chance his spring hot streak continues into the regular season.
Mark Trumbo (7 percent): You'd have to be in a pretty desperate situation to start a fringe prospect with almost no major-league track record, but considering Trumbo faces the pitiful Royals pitching staff right out of the gate, you can at least flirt with the idea. When he makes contact, he hits the ball a long way, so he may provide a couple cheap homers.
Approach with caution
Carlos Pena (61 percent started): After he hit under .200 last season, you might want to give Pena a week or two to prove himself, even with the good matchups against the Pirates, Diamondbacks and Brewers. It's not like he set the world on fire this spring.
Derrek Lee (41 percent): Lee hardly got a full slate of at-bats this spring, sitting most of the time with back and foot injuries. Considering he's coming off another injury-plagued season -- and one of the worst statistically of his career -- you don't have much incentive to start him in mixed leagues.
Mitch Moreland (20 percent): Moreland solidified his starting role with big numbers this spring and may eventually get to play against lefties, but not yet. The Rangers face three in the season's opening week, so you should probably leave Moreland for AL-only leagues.
Adam LaRoche has a slight tear in his rotator cuff, but he'll attempt to play through the injury. Knowing how shoulder injuries can affect a hitter's power and knowing how LaRoche is typically a slow starter, you probably shouldn't give the 31-year-old the benefit of the doubt, at least not in mixed leagues.
|1.||Michael Morse , OF, Nationals||29|
|2.||Tsuyoshi Nishioka , 2B, Twins||26|
|3.||Kila Ka'aihue , 1B, Royals||25|
|4.||Grady Sizemore , OF, Indians||23|
|5.||Freddie Freeman , 1B, Braves||23|
|6.||Edwin Encarnacion , 3B, Blue Jays||22|
|7.||Chipper Jones , 3B, Braves||21|
|8.||Carlos Santana , C, Indians||20|
|9.||Mitch Moreland , 1B, Rangers||20|
|10.||Chris Iannetta , C, Rockies||19|
Second base has become a surprisingly deep position in Fantasy, though it did lose some of that depth with Chase Utley knee injury. His absence -- however long it may be -- doesn't open the door for anybody worthwhile in Fantasy, but with players like Kelly Johnson and Neil Walker stepping up last season and players like Ben Zobrist and Aaron Hill ready to return to form, few owners should have a glaring need at the position. Still, new starters Tsuyoshi Nishioka (Twins), Danny Espinosa (Nationals), Juan Uribe (Dodgers), Omar Infante (Marlins), Sean Rodriguez (Rays), Bill Hall (Astros), Will Rhymes (Tigers) and Brad Emaus (Mets) give those owners additional options to consider if they ever have a need to make a change.
Must-Start Options: Robinson Cano , Dustin Pedroia , Ian Kinsler , Dan Uggla , Rickie Weeks , Brandon Phillips , Martin Prado
Ian Kinsler : .302 (19 for 63), 5 HRs, 3 SBs in 21 games
Ben Zobrist : .318 (14 for 44), 4 HRs, .750 SLG in 17 games
Rickie Weeks : .522 (12 for 23), 1 HR in seven games
Omar Infante : .542 (13 for 24) in seven games
Dan Uggla : .206 (13 for 63), 1 HR in 22 games
Bill Hall : .043 (1 for 23) in 10 games
Worth a second look
Gordon Beckham (79 percent started): Some Fantasy owners probably wrote off Beckham after his disappointing sophomore season, but they're about to regret it. His three homers and .500 slugging percentage this spring prove he's over the hand injury that plagued him at the end of 2010. With season-opening matchups against the Indians and Royals, he might not need long to become a must-start option at the position.
Howie Kendrick (53 percent): Kendrick has disappointed time and time again at the major-league level, but he's still a good enough player to contribute in Fantasy when hot. With four games against the Royals to kick off a season, he has a good chance of maintaining his .355 spring batting average for at least the first week or so.
Mike Aviles (30 percent): Aviles doesn't necessarily have stellar matchups this week, but now two years removed from Tommy John surgery, he's looking like the same player who hit .325 as a rookie in 2008, batting .351 (20 for 57) this spring. You may not want to start him right out of the gate, but you should at least beat the rush to the waiver wire.
Approach with caution
Tsuyoshi Nishioka (33 percent started): If nothing else this spring, Nishioka has shown he can slap his way to a high batting average and steal a few bases. But the regular season is different from the exhibition season, and the Japanese import still has to prove himself against higher competition. The allure of the unknown could convince some Fantasy owners to start him right away, but it's an unnecessary gamble in mixed leagues.
Danny Espinosa (22 percent): For all the power and speed potential Espinosa offers, he's still a free swinger with only 103 career major-league at-bats. The Braves and Marlins pitching staffs could bury him the first week, so unless you play in a deeper Rotisserie league, you should look into other options.
Freddy Sanchez took a knee to the head Saturday and 1hasn't played since. If he has a concussion, he could begin the year on the DL, allowing Mike Fontenot to start in his absence. Sanchez offers little pop, so even when healthy, he's pretty much just an NL-only option.
At third base, you're either set for the season or you're not. The position boasts one of the deepest elite tiers in Fantasy, but after that, you either have to hope Mark Reynolds rediscovers his form in his move from Baltimore to Arizona, pray Chipper Jones holds up in his return from knee surgery, or face some other equally uncertain scenario. Most of the young players taking over at third base for the first time this season, such as Brent Morel in Chicago or Danny Valencia in Minnesota, don't offer the upside Fantasy owners would care to see, and the retreads, such as Wes Helms in Florida and Jack Hannahan in Cleveland, don't figure to perform much better. But hey, at least Kevin Youkilis and Chone Figgins will become eligible at the position by the end of the first week.
Must-Start Options: Evan Longoria , Ryan Zimmerman , Jose Bautista , David Wright , Alex Rodriguez , Adrian Beltre , Martin Prado
Jose Bautista : .382 (21 for 55), 3 HRs, .709 SLG in 19 games
Alex Rodriguez : .404 (19 for 47), 6 HRs, 1.387 OPS in 17 games
Chipper Jones : .500 (18 for 36), 3 HRs, 7 2Bs during 12-game hitting streak
Kevin Kouzmanoff : .542 (13 for 24), 1 HR in seven games
Placido Polanco : .163 (7 for 43), 1 2B in 17 games
Chris Johnson : .074 (2 for 27), 1 3B in eight games
David Freese : .063 (1 for 16), 1 HR in seven games
Evan Longoria : .067 (1 for 15) in six games
Worth a second look
Chipper Jones (40 percent started): Yes, Jones is going to get hurt at some point this season, but he's proven this spring he's still plenty productive when healthy. He's healthy now and showing the same stroke that won him the batting title in 2008. With the Braves slotted for 10 games this week, he might actually be one of the safest options at the position, as crazy as it sounds.
Kevin Kouzmanoff (5 percent): OK, you'd have to be pretty desperate to start Kouzmanoff, so we'll call him a "deeper league only" sleeper. Still, his hot streaks have made him mixed-league viable in the past, and he has a good chance of continuing his current one with pitchers like Doug Fister , Jo-Jo Reyes and Jesse Litsch on the schedule this week.
Approach with caution
Mark Reynolds (81 percent started): You think Reynolds was bad last year, when he hit .198 with 211 strikeouts in 499 at-bats? Well, he hasn't been much better this spring, hitting .227 with 23 strikeouts in 66 at-bats. Chances are you don't have a viable alternative for the 27-year-old, but if you do, you may want to let him find his stroke before activating him. When he's cold, he'll bury you, and he's looking more and more like someone who's cold more often than not.
Chase Headley (36 percent): Headley has yet to provide the power expected of a corner infielder at the major-league level, so in mixed leagues, he's only worth starting in the most favorable of circumstances. He had a nice spring, but the Padres are the only team playing eight games this week. And if that's not bad enough, they're facing the Cardinals, Giants and Dodgers.
Chris Johnson (36 percent): The jury's still out on Johnson, but if the 26-year-old proved anything as a rookie last season, it's that he's streaky. His performance to end spring training doesn't inspire much confidence, especially since he faces the mighty Phillies to begin the season.
Ian Stewart is dealing with a hamstring injury after missing much of spring training with a knee injury. He should be fine to begin the regular season, but he's not necessarily an advisable start in mixed leagues until he shows signs of meeting his upside ... Casey Blake , who has missed most of spring training with inflammation in his back, will begin the season on the DL, but Fantasy owners weren't expecting much from him anyway. With Blake's injury, the Dodgers plan to move Juan Uribe over to third base and give rookie Ivan De Jesus the nod at second. DeJesus doesn't have enough upside for mixed-league use, though.
Shortstop has long been the weakest position in Fantasy, and this offseason didn't do anything to change that. Miguel Tejada , J.J. Hardy and Jason Bartlett all changed addresses at a time when nobody has reason to care about them anymore, and most of what they left behind doesn't inspire much confidence. Reid Brignac has some untapped power potential in Tampa Bay, but he's still not much of a factor in mixed leagues, and Alexi Casilla in Minnesota is a glorified utility player. The two most interesting shortstops breaking in new jobs this season are probably Alcides Escobar and Yuniesky Betancourt , who were traded for each other in the Zack Greinke deal, but if you have to rely on either to start for your Fantasy team right out of the gate, something went wrong on Draft Day.
Must-Start Options: Hanley Ramirez , Troy Tulowitzki , Jose Reyes , Derek Jeter , Jimmy Rollins
Alcides Escobar : .358 (19 for 53), 5 HRs, 2 SBs, 1.039 OPS in 22 games
Asdrubal Cabrera : .385 (20 for 52), 3 HRs, 4 SBs, 1.083 OPS in 17 games
J.J. Hardy : .400 (16 for 40), 2 HRs in 13 games
Jimmy Rollins : .230 (17 for 74), 2 HRs, 2 SBs in 26 games
Rafael Furcal : .231 (12 for 52), 1 2B, 1 SB in 18 games
Cliff Pennington : .227 (10 for 44), 1 HR, .580 OPS in 15 games
Alexei Ramirez : .167 (4 for 24), 1 HR, 1 2B in seven games
Worth a second look
Starlin Castro (72 percent started): Castro was one of the most popular late-round shortstops on Draft Day, but surprisingly, his popularity didn't grow with his four homers this spring. Granted, he was playing in the Cactus League, which is infamous for inflated power numbers, but any hint of power for a player who hit .300 as a rookie is reason to take notice in Fantasy, especially at such a weak position. With the Cubs playing the Pirates, Diamondbacks and Brewers to begin the season, Castro deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Alcides Escobar (18 percent): Of course, sometimes things go wrong on Draft Day. At least if you targeted Escobar as your fallback option at shortstop, you have a chance of salvaging something at the position. His spring numbers mean little since they happened in the Cactus League, but he was an elite prospect for a reason and has a chance to redeem himself in a low-pressure situation in Kansas City. If everything breaks right for him this season -- and his strong spring is a good sign, if nothing else -- this won't be the last time you start him.
Approach with caution
Rafael Furcal (77 percent started): Furcal has managed to stay healthy this spring, which is usually the big concern for him, but he's neither driving the ball nor running the bases with reckless abandon. In short, he looks like the Furcal from 2008, which would make him nothing but a disappointment in Fantasy. If you drafted him, you probably can't afford to sit him, but you shouldn't feel particularly confident in him right now.
Cliff Pennington (20 percent): Pennington looked like a reasonable fallback option on Draft Day because he'd at least contribute in the stolen base category, assuming he hit at all. Turns out he can't hit at all -- or at least he hasn't in spring training. He was a streaky player last year, but you should probably gamble on someone else while waiting for him to heat up.
Stephen Drew has been playing with an abdominal strain pretty much all spring, but the Diamondbacks don't seem particularly concerned about it right now. Still, you have to wonder if it'll affect his performance. Alexei Ramirez (back) and Elvis Andrus (calf) are also dealing with minor injuries, but both should be fine for opening day. Shortstop is so weak that you wouldn't want to stray from any of these players. They're three of the few reliable options at the position.
Outfield is a position of abundance, with seemingly no end to the number of intriguing storylines and potential waiver claims in Fantasy. But of particular interest is the return of several big-name players from season-ending injuries, most notably Jacoby Ellsbury , who proved with his hot spring he's a must-start option right away. Jason Bay , Carlos Beltran and Josh Willingham are also back in the mix, with each offering some measure of low-end mixed-league appeal, while retreads Manny Ramirez , Johnny Damon and Lance Berkman attempt to prove they have something left. Players like Michael Morse in Washington, Seth Smith in Colorado and Ryan Raburn in Detroit finally get the opportunity to play every day, giving the position plenty of new sleepers to ponder, with another potentially on the way if Nyjer Morgan can unseat Carlos Gomez in Milwaukee.
Must-Start Options: Carlos Gonzalez , Carl Crawford , Ryan Braun , Josh Hamilton , Matt Holliday , Jose Bautista , Shin-Soo Choo , Andrew McCutchen , Shane Victorino , Jayson Werth , Jason Heyward , Justin Upton , Andre Ethier , Nelson Cruz , Matt Kemp , Ichiro Suzuki , Jacoby Ellsbury
Melky Cabrera : .483 (29 for 60), 2 HRs, 3 SBs in 23 games
Michael Morse : .365 (23 for 63), 9 HRs in 20 games, including four HRs in last four
Coco Crisp : .400 (22 for 55), 3 HRs, 1 SB, 1.177 OPS in 18 games
Angel Pagan : .356 (16 for 45), 3 HRs, 5 SBs in 16 games
Alex Gordon : .434 (23 for 53), 6 HRs, 4 SBs in 16 games
Andrew McCutchen : .462 (18 for 39), 2 HRs, 1 SB in 13 games
Rajai Davis : .439 (18 for 41), 4 HRs, 1 SB in 13 games
Carlos Quentin : .462 (18 for 39), 5 HRs, 3 Ks in 11 games
Ryan Raburn : .333 (10 for 30), 3 HRs in eight games
Nick Swisher : .250 (14 for 56), 1 HR, .610 OPS in 19 games
Magglio Ordonez : .222 (12 for 54) in 19 games
Jose Tabata : .192 (10 for 52), 1 HR, 1 3B, 1 2B, 2 SBs in 17 games
Austin Jackson : .170 (8 for 47), 1 2B, 14 Ks in 17 games
Martin Prado : .205 (9 for 44) in 11 games
Carl Crawford : .200 (5 for 25), 1 SB in nine games
Dexter Fowler : .192 (5 for 26) in nine games
Carlos H. Lee : .083 (2 for 24), 1 HR in eight games
Andre Ethier : .188 (3 for 16) in seven games
Worth a second look
Torii Hunter (64 percent started): At age 35, Hunter doesn't offer Fantasy owners much reason for optimism anymore, but he's still a viable run producer worth starting in the right spots. With six games on the road, where he had a .928 OPS last season, and four games against the lowly Royals to begin the season, this is one of those spots.
Logan Morrison (38 percent): Morrison's bat has come around at the end of spring training, and his mission to hit more homers could get off to a good start against pitchers like Jason Marquis , Tom Gorzelanny and Bud Norris in the season's opening week. The four left-handers on the schedule shouldn't scare you away. Morrison hit .342 (25 for 73) against lefties last season.
Ryan Raburn (38 percent): Raburn hit .342 (68 for 199) with 13 home runs over his final 53 games as a part-timer last season, and he has continued at that pace this spring. If he takes advantage of the Orioles and Royals pitching staffs as expected this week, you might have the early lead in the home run category.
Nate McLouth (28 percent): McLouth is no stranger to hot starts, having hit .429 (12 for 28) with five doubles, a homer and two stolen bases in the season's opening week during his breakout 2008 season. If spring is any indication, he's back to swinging the bat the way he did then, which means another 20-20 campaign is possible. With the Braves playing 10 games this week, you could justify starting him in leagues that use five outfielders.
Coco Crisp (27 percent): Crisp was the position's fourth-best player on a per-game basis last season and continued to put up high-end power-speed numbers in Arizona this spring. When healthy, he doesn't give you much reason to doubt him in mixed leagues, and he gets to tee off on pitchers like Doug Fister , Jo-Jo Reyes and Jesse Litsch in the season's opening week.
Seth Smith (9 percent): Smith hasn't gotten the attention of a Ryan Raburn or Michael Morse , which means he's a sleeper in NL-only leagues as well. You'd have to play in a deeper league to roll the dice on him coming off a so-so spring, but his high-OPS bat gets five games in Coors Field to kick off the year, followed by four games at Pittsburgh.
Approach with caution
Carlos H. Lee (80 percent started): Lee's poor finish to spring training should serve as a reminder he's 34 and on the decline. Plus, he faces the Phillies killer pitching staff to kick off the season. He disappointed you all of 2010. Do you want to start off 2011 the same way?
Curtis Granderson (66 percent): Granderson has Fantasy owners excited over his retooled swing that produced a .795 slugging percentage this spring, and that's all well and good. But he can't do much with it if he's playing with a strained oblique. Players usually need weeks to recover from that injury, and Granderson is talking about playing opening day. Even if he does, you have to wonder how effective he'll be -- or how long he'll last.
Austin Jackson (57 percent): Jackson's 2011 is beginning the way his 2010 ended: with whiff after whiff after whiff. Considering he's not yet a viable source of power, he's not worth starting in mixed leagues until he heats up.
Jason Kubel (37 percent): Kubel has a lot to prove in 2011, most notably whether he can hit left-handers. Considering the Twins face six of them this week, he'll get his chance right away. Even if he remains in the lineup for all six games, his .225 batting average and .655 OPS against lefties last season don't give you much incentive to start him in mixed leagues.
Carlos Beltran (27 percent): Beltran has missed much of spring training recovering from the same knee injury that's bothered him since 2009, but the Mets plan to start him opening day, taking what they themselves describe as a risk. Yeah, this has disaster written all over it. Maybe everything will turn out fine and Beltran will regain his long lost elite form, but with Josh Johnson , Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay on tap for the Mets this week, why take the gamble in Fantasy?
Jason Bay is over last year's concussion, but now he's dealing with a rib cage injury that may force him to the DL. He was already a risk coming off a down year, but now you clearly wouldn't want to roll the dice on him in mixed leagues. The Mets could platoon Willie Harris and Scott Hairston in left field if Bay misses time, but neither would matter outside of NL-only leagues ... Vernon Wells is dealing with a strained hamstring to close out a poor spring, but after hitting 30 homers last year, he's a must-start as long as his condition doesn't get any worse ... Chris Coghlan 's availability for opening day is still up in the air because of a shoulder injury, but he's playing in spring games. He's probably safe to start, but his lack of power makes him just a borderline option in mixed leagues ... Franklin Gutierrez 's stomach, which sidelined him more than once last year, continues to bother him and could force him to the DL unless the Mariners find a quick solution. His condition could limit him all season, making his potential for a 15-15 season probably not worth the trouble in mixed leagues ... Grady Sizemore is working his way back from microfracture surgery in his knee and hasn't played much this spring. You have to think the Indians will DL him to begin the season, opening the door for Austin Kearns to contribute in AL-only leagues ... Corey Hart (oblique) and Cody Ross (calf) are both expected to miss the first couple weeks of the season. Hart's injury could open the door for newcomer Nyjer Morgan to claim an everyday job (from Carlos Gomez , not Hart). He's a sleeper for steals this week. Ross' injury could allow top prospect Brandon Belt to break camp with the team, but more likely, the Giants will go the safe route and start veteran Aaron Rowand instead.
|--||vs. Correia||vs. Maholm||vs. Ohlendorf||vs. Enright||vs. Galarraga||vs. Kennedy||--||vs. Wolf||vs. Narveson||vs. Gallardo|
|Anytime a team faces Correia on opening day, it can only be a good omen for the season. The Cubs will have a whole week of easy numbers before the reality check of Gallardo.|
|vs. Hochevar||vs. Francis||vs. Davies||vs. Chen||--||vs. Davis||vs. Hellickson||--||vs. Drabek||vs. Cecil||vs. Reyes|
|If the Royals are a cupcake matchup, a four-game series against them is the icing on top. The matchups in Tampa Bay aren't the best, but the Angels should finish well vs. Toronto.|
|vs. Sabathia||--||vs. Burnett||vs. Hughes||vs. Bergesen||--||vs. Tillman||vs. Guthrie||vs. Francis||vs. Davies||vs. Chen|
|The Tigers also draw the Royals three times, with some pretty good matchups at Baltimore as well. If they didn't have to face Sabathia on opening day, they'd rank even higher.|
|--||vs. Pelfrey||vs. Niese||vs. Dickey||--||vs. Marquis||vs. Gorzelanny||vs. Hernandez||vs. Rodriguez||vs. Happ||vs. Norris|
|The Marlins get a couple laughers against the Nationals, and that's not even counting the less-than-enthralling Hernandez. They face a few decent pitchers but no legitimate front-liners.|
|--||vs. Hernandez||vs. Vargas||vs. Fister||--||vs. Reyes||vs. Litsch||vs. Romero||vs. Blackburn||vs. Baker||vs. Duensing|
|The A's probably won't muster much against Hernandez, but they don't face a serious threat afterward, unless you count Romero. Fister, Reyes and Litsch should be fun.|
|vs. Carpenter||--||vs. Westbrook||vs. Garcia||--||vs. Bumgarner||vs. Lincecum||--||vs. Lilly||vs. Kuroda||vs. Redding|
|The Padres are the only team playing eight games this week, which immediately puts them at a disadvantage. Carpenter and Lincecum only make it worse. Thank goodness for Redding.|
|--||vs. Johnson||vs. Nolasco||vs. Vazquez||--||vs. Hamels||vs. Blanton||vs. Halladay||vs. Zimmerman||vs. Lannan||vs. Marquis|
|The trio of Johnson, Hamels and Halladay is enough to ruin any hitter's week. If Nolasco, Vazquez and Zimmerman pitch up to their abilities, the Mets could have some ugly numbers.|
|--||vs. Halladay||vs. Lee||vs. Oswalt||--||vs. Leake||vs. Volquez||vs. Arroyo||vs. Nolasco||vs. Vazquez||vs. Sanchez|
|Those first three names should give you a pretty good idea how the Astros' first week will go, and it's not like Volquez, Nolasco and Sanchez offer any consolation to close out the week.|
|--||vs. Lester||vs. Lackey||vs. Buchholz||vs. Bedard||vs. Pineda||vs. Hernandez||--||vs. Matusz||vs. Arrieta||vs. Bergesen|
|The Rangers spend most of their week at home, which is normally a good thing, but not when they face six pitchers with ace stuff, including two established aces in Lester and Hernandez.|
|vs. Verlander||--||vs. Penny||vs. Scherzer||vs. Baker||vs. Duensing||vs. Pavano||vs. Liriano||vs. Lackey||vs. Buchholz||vs. Beckett|
|The Yankees play 10 games this week, but their opposition all but ruins their chances for big numbers. Verlander, Scherzer, Liriano, Buchholz and Beckett all have Cy Young potential.|
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