Week 1 Fantasy Pitching Planner

by | Data Analyst
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As the moving vans pull out of the various spring training sites across Arizona and Florida, it's time for us to make our own move -- from draft mode to lineup-setting mode.

The Fantasy season kicks off soon and in an unusual way, with the first weekly scoring period actually spanning 11 days and with major league teams playing anywhere from eight to 10 games. The extended week produces our first, and possibly only, three-start pitcher of the year in Yovani Gallardo, while only 24 pitchers are slated to start just one game. The remainder will get a pair starts each, making the two-start pitcher commonplace for a change.

To help you sort out your rotation options, every pitcher currently scheduled to make a start during Fantasy Week 1 (March 31-April 10) is featured in the table below. For each pitcher, you can view his opponents, the scheduled dates for his starts, his ownership rate in CBSSports.com leagues and his flyball rate over the previous four seasons. They all receive one of the following overall ratings for the week: must-start, standard mixed-league start, deeper-league start, or sit in all formats.

To get information on your potential starters, either scroll down the list alphabetically or enter a pitcher's name into the search box in the upper right-hand corner. If you want to only look at the least (or most) flyball-prone pitchers, you can filter out pitchers with low and/or high flyball rates using the slider underneath the search box.

Here are some of the more intriguing pitchers to consider for the week ahead. Several of the pitchers who would normally be advisable starts are prime targets to stash or drop this week due to having a single start. That leaves us with a healthy list of potential hurlers to add or activate in their place this week.

Two-Start Add/Activate Targets

Brett Cecil, Toronto: Cecil should be active in far more than 20 percent of leagues in any week, but with matchups against the Twins' Nick Blackburn and the Angels' Ervin Santana, Cecil stands a good chance to pick up a pair of wins.

Bruce Chen, Kansas City: Of course, he's an AL-only option at best, but with one of his two starts coming against Scott Kazmir, he's worth picking up in those formats.

Wade Davis, Tampa Bay: According to HitTracker data, 11 of the 24 homers Davis gave up last year were of short distance. He should allow fewer gopher balls this year, and he needs to be active in more than 21 percent of leagues.

Brian Duensing, Minnesota: He's the best of the RP-eligible starting options this week, with a start against Oakland's feeble lineup and a matchup against the Yanks' Freddy Garcia.

Doug Fister, Seattle: Fister should be a pretty reliable arm for deeper leagues, but he's a must-start in those formats with the Athletics' and Indians' lineups on his plate this week.

Jaime Garcia, St. Louis: Garcia had a rough spring, but a first-week start against the Padres should help ease last year's rookie sensation into his sophomore campaign.

Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs: He may struggle more than many owners expect over the course of the season, but with a pair of decent matchups in Week 1, there is no reason to bench Garza right now.

Jason Hammel, Colorado: Hammel has been bedeviled by inconsistency at times, but he can be trusted in standard mixed leagues against the Dodgers and Pirates.

John Lannan, Washington: Tommy Hanson and R.A. Dickey may not look like the easiest matchups, but at the very least, Lannan can hold his own against Dickey. The lefty finished strong in 2010 and could be one of this year's bigger surprises.

Mike Leake, Cincinnati: The Astros and Diamondbacks won't be the toughest of tests for Leake, and it helps that he will go up against two pitchers (Bud Norris and Barry Enright) who appear on the dreaded Home Run Alert list below. Fortunately, Leake is a groundballer. He's active in only three percent of leagues, so get him off your bench and into your NL-only rotation.

Colby Lewis, Texas: He's a threat to give up some dingers with a start at home against the potent Red Sox and a start at Camden Yards. Still, Lewis misses enough bats to make him a must-start, even when the matchups are challenging.

Kyle Lohse, St. Louis: Lohse may be an NL-only option, but even in those formats, he is stashed in most of his leagues. With starts against Charlie Morton and Barry Zito on his schedule, it's time to get him active.

James McDonald, Pittsburgh: Sure, McDonald may not get much run support, but he is still good enough to deserve consideration in deeper mixed leagues. Especially with decent matchups against Kyle McClellan and Jason Hammel, he should be active in more than nine percent of leagues.

Most Added Pitchers
* as of March 30
Player Start %
1. Jose Contreras, RP, Phillies 37
2. Brandon Beachy, SP, Braves 33
3. Tim Stauffer, SP, Padres 29
4. Erik Bedard, SP, Mariners 27
5. Joe Nathan, RP, Twins 26
6. Matt Thornton, RP, White Sox 24
7. J.J. Putz, RP, Diamondbacks 24
8. Craig Kimbrel, RP, Braves 23
9. Jordan Zimmermann, SP, Nationals 23
10. Kyle Drabek, SP, Blue Jays 20

Chris Narveson, Milwaukee: Narveson's matchups -- against the Braves and Cubs -- aren't the best, but he is good enough to be active in far more than five percent of leagues. He was victimized by a low strand rate last year, but owners should see a more effective Narveson this season.

Jeff Niemann, Tampa Bay: It's not clear why Niemann is active in just over one out of every four leagues, but save for his struggles while overcoming a sore shoulder, he has been awfully effective over his first two full seasons. He's a worthy standard mixed-league start in most weeks.

Ricky Nolasco, Florida: Nolasco shouldn't necessarily start every week in standard mixed leagues, but with the Mets and Astros as his first two opponents, he should be active in nearly all leagues this week.

Rick Porcello, Detroit: As a contact pitcher, Porcello is hardly a slam dunk for mixed league owners, but he's good enough to consider on a weekly basis. With the Orioles and Royals as his foes this week, this is one of those times when it makes sense to put Porcello in your rotation.

Clayton Richard, San Diego: In Week 1, Richard gets a couple of very good pitchers' parks in Busch and Dodger Stadiums and a relatively easy Dodger lineup. This is one of those weeks when he should be active in standard mixed leagues.

Tim Stauffer, San Diego: With starts against Chris Carpenter and Tim Lincecum, Stauffer will be lucky to get a win this week. Fortunately, he is RP-eligible, so you can use him for ERA, WHIP and innings and not worry about the wins.

Josh Tomlin, Cleveland: Tomlin is homer-prone, but he throws strikes and will be pitching in a couple of favorable environments (Cleveland and Seattle) this week. He needs to be on a lot more active rosters in AL-only leagues and maybe even some deeper mixed leagues.

Jason Vargas, Seattle: The poor man's Dallas Braden gets a couple of good matchups in great pitchers' parks. He should be owned in far more than roughly one out of every five leagues.

Jordan Zimmermann, Washington: On a not-so-Fantasy-relevant note, Zimmermann will face off against the majors' most extreme ground ball pitcher (Tim Hudson) and most extreme flyball pitcher (Chris Young) in the same week. Zimmermann looks like a stud in the making and should be active in mixed leagues, barring a horrible week of matchups. Sunday's dustup with Hudson and the Braves won't be easy, but Zimmermann still deserves an active spot this week.

Two-Start Drop/Stash Targets

Erik Bedard, Seattle: A start at Texas is a tough way to return from a year-and-a-half absence. Owners in standard mixed leagues may want to let Bedard sit this week out if they have other viable options.

Aaron Harang, San Diego: Much has been said about Harang's "change of scenery," but the Padres' pitcher-friendly digs shouldn't help Harang much, as he is close to flyball-neutral. He still has something to prove before he can be trusted in just about any format.

Luke Hochevar, Kansas City: Hochevar has been terrible at stranding baserunners throughout his career to date. The Royals may trust him with their opening day honors, and he could possibly get three starts, but he still has to earn the trust of Fantasy owners.

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Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta: Jurrjens' struggles last season could be tied to injuries, so the discomfort that he felt in his side this spring is a little concerning, even though both he and the team said it was a minor issue. With potentially challenging matchups against the Brewers and Phillies, consider using Week 1 as a trial period for Jurrjens.

Justin Masterson, Cleveland: With one of his two starts coming against the Mariners, Masterson might look like a good start in AL-only leagues, but he could get clobbered in his other start against the White Sox. Doug Fister, who is no slouch, opposes him in his Seattle start, so consider keeping Masterson on your bench outside of deeper AL-only leagues.

Dustin Moseley/Mat Latos, San Diego: With ownership at just one percent, Moseley is not burning up more than a few Fantasy roster spots. However, even owners in the deepest of leagues should consider benching or dropping the swingman. He is set to step in for Latos (shoulder) in his two starts this week, but Latos could potentially be back in time for the second of those starts. Neither is advisable in Week 1.

C.J. Wilson, Texas: Inclusion on this list is no knock against Wilson, but he just happens to be facing Felix Hernandez and Jon Lester -- arguably the two best pitchers in the American League -- this week. Already, Wilson is among the most deactivated pitchers in recent days, and even more mixed league owners should consider giving the Rangers' nominal ace the week off.

Home Run Alerts

Daniel Hudson, Arizona: If Hudson can avoid homers like he did last season, he will become a must-start option. With a start at Coors Field as well as a start at his homer-friendly home park, this is as dangerous a week to use Hudson as there is, especially since he will face dangerous Rockies and Reds hitters.

Ian Kennedy, Arizona: With a ballpark that tends to reward home run hitters, it's curious that the Diamondbacks are pinning their hopes on two flyball pitchers. Kennedy will still be a reliable mixed league option most weeks, but with starts at Coors and Wrigley Fields, there are probably better alternatives to be had on your bench or on waivers.

Bud Norris, Astros: According to the Bill James Handbook 2011, Great American Ball Park and Minute Maid Park are the second and third best NL venues for hitting home runs, respectively. Norris will ply his craft in both places this week. While he is not an extreme flyball pitcher, he has had a tendency to give up a high proportion of homers on the flies he does allow. Give Norris a pass in standard mixed leagues this week.

Travis Wood, Cincinnati: Wood pitched only 22 1/3 innings at home last season, so we still haven't really seen if he can thrive in the homer haven that is Great American Ball Park. Treat this week's pair of starts in Cincy as an experiment in standard mixed leagues and find another arm for your active roster.

Barry Enright, Arizona: Yet another Arizona flyball pitcher. Enright's 20 homers in 99 innings last year were no accident. Using him in any Fantasy format this week, given his team's matchups and venues, is just En-wrong.

One-start pitchers

Because there are so many viable two-start candidates this week, even for standard mixed leagues, nearly all of the one-start pitchers should take a seat in Week 1. There are a few exceptions, though. Jeremy Hellickson not only gets to face an Angels lineup that has some holes, but he can be used as a reliever in Head-to-Head leagues. Joe Blanton draws the Mets in his first start, which is a matchup that could give him some value in NL-only leagues. Madison Bumgarner, Chris Capuano, Andrew Cashner, Phil Coke, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Chris Volstad also have favorable matchups that could make them worthwhile starts in deeper formats.

One-start pitchers to avoid in all formats this week are as follows: Nelson Figueroa, Armando Galarraga, Tom Gorzelanny, Phillip Humber, Sam LeCure, Jesse Litsch, Brandon McCarthy, Kyle McClellan, Sergio Mitre, Matt Harrison, Michael Pineda, Tim Redding, Esmil Rogers, Mitch Talbot and Brad Bergesen.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put Pitching Planner in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

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