Week 1 Pitching Planner
Our Eric Mack sorts out the confusing state of many pitching rotations in his season debut of his staff-by-staff Fantasy Pitching Planner.
We go around baseball's pitching staffs and Fantasy's two-start pitcher options every Sunday of the season in the weekly Pitching Planner.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Brandon Webb and Dan Haren will start the season's first two games. Webb will be a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues, albeit in tough parks at Cincy and Colorado. Doug Davis and Micah Owings likely follow as one-start options for deeper leagues, while Randy Johnson is hoping to be ready for the first time the D-Backs need a No. 5 starter, April 6. If Johnson cannot go, Edgar Gonzalez would get the nod. Only take the risk on Johnson in deeper NL-only Rotisserie formats at this point.
Atlanta Braves: John Smoltz (shoulder) is a serious concern at this point. He might open on the DL and try to be ready for the first time the Braves need a No. 5 starter, April 6 vs. the Mets. And that could be a best-case scenario. Tim Hudson will start on opening day and be a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. Tom Glavine will likely start the home opener against Pittsburgh, followed by Mike Hampton . Jair Jurrjens and Chuck James are still battling for the No. 5 spot, but both will be needed in Week 1 if Smoltz cannot go.
Baltimore Orioles: Jeremy Guthrie has been named the opening day starter, while the rest of the rotation figures to roll out Daniel Cabrera , Adam Loewen , Steve Trachsel and the winner of the No. 5 spot, Brian Burres or Matt Albers . Guthrie is an advisable two-start pitcher for deeper leagues, but the O's don't figure to give any of their starters a great chance to be a .500 pitcher for Fantasy owners.
Boston Red Sox: Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jon Lester will start the two games in Japan, while Josh Beckett (back) might not pitch in Fantasy Week 1 (March 25-April 6). He could be held out until the home opener April 8. If your league counts the two Japan games, Dice-K has a chance to be a three-start pitcher, also going in the first game in Oakland on April 1 and the last game in Toronto on April 6. Lester should get two starts, one in Japan and one in Oakland or Toronto. Tim Wakefield will either start the second game in Oakland or the first game in Toronto, but either way he is a one-start pitcher for deeper leagues. If Beckett doesn't make a start in Toronto, Clay Buchholz will likely get the call. Bartolo Colon is currently in minor league camp and wouldn't figure to be ready. Dice-K and Lester are both must-starts at this point.
Chicago Cubs: Carlos Zambrano is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. He will be followed by Ted Lilly , Rich Hill , Ryan Dempster and Jason Marquis . Jon Lieber likely opens the year in the bullpen, barring a trade of Marquis. Sean Marshall will also be a long reliever and spot starter to open the year. Manager Lou Piniella said the No. 5 starter would not be skipped for the Cubs, because he wants to "find out who our top three starters are."
Chicago White Sox: Mark Buehrle was picked to start opening day, making him a two-start pitcher useful in deeper leagues. Javier Vazquez is certain to follow, while the order of Gavin Floyd , Jose Contreras and John Danks has yet to be finalized. Everyone except Buehrle will be a one-start pitcher and Vazquez is the only one you should really trust in a mixed league.
Cincinnati Reds: Aaron Harang is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. He will be followed by Bronson Arroyo , a one-start pitcher. Dominican Dandys Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez should follow, while Josh Fogg , Matt Belisle and Homer Bailey are still battling for the fifth spot.
Cleveland Indians: CC Sabathia is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. Roberto Hernandez , Jake Westbrook , Paul Byrd and likely Cliff Lee will follow. Lee appears to have beaten out prospects Aaron Laffey and Jeremy Sowers for the No. 5 spot. Because the Indians are a top contender with a great offense, all five starters are worth considering in mixed leagues.
Colorado Rockies: Jeff Francis is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. He will be followed by Aaron Cook , Ubaldo Jimenez and two TBDs. Franklin Morales is a likely winner of the fourth spot, with Kip Wells , Josh Towers and Mark Redman finalists for the No. 5 spot that Jason Hirsh wasn't healthy enough to win.
Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. He will be followed by Kenny Rogers , Jeremy Bonderman , Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis , who would have to be the best No. 5 starter in baseball. With that lineup, all Tigers starters are solid options in all leagues on a regular basis.
Florida Marlins: Mark Hendrickson gets the opening-day nod and the Marlins will go with a four-man rotation until the No. 5 starter is needed April 13. The only other certain slot right now is Scott Olsen will open the Pittsburgh series in the season's fourth game. Andrew Miller likely has a rotation spot and could be the two-start pitcher who works April vs. the Mets and April 6 vs. the Pirates. Rick VandenHurk , Ricky Nolasco , Chris Volstad and Burke Badenhop are the candidates for the other spot, which will be the third game against the Mets on April 2. VandenHurk is clearly the front-runner at this point. Consider Miller a questionable two-start pitcher for Fantasy Week 1 at this point.
Houston Astros: Roy Oswalt is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. He figures to be followed by Brandon Backe , Wandy Rodriguez and a pair of TBDs. Woody Williams should be one of them, while Shawn Chacon or Chris Sampson figures to be the No. 5. Williams could still pitch his way to the bullpen, though. Oswalt is the only Astros starter who can be trusted in mixed leagues to start the season.
Kansas City Royals: Gil Meche is an advisable two-start pitcher in deeper leagues. He will be followed by Brian Bannister , Zack Greinke and two TBDs. Jorge De La Rosa and Brett Tomko have the edge on John Bale and Kyle Davies for the final two spots in the rotation to start the season. The only Royals you should be counting on in Fantasy are the first three starters, though. They are sleepers in almost any league.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: No announcement has been made, but Jered Weaver is lining up for the opening-day nod. He is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues regardless. Jon Garland is the fall-back option for opening day, but he too should get two starts in Fantasy Week 1 regardless. Ervin Santana , Joe Saunders and Dustin Moseley or Nick Adenhart will follow. Moseley and Adenhart are still dueling for the No. 5 spot while John Lackey (triceps) and Kelvim Escobar (shoulder) are out for at least a month.
Los Angeles Dodgers: They figure to go with a four-man rotation the first time through, which makes Brad Penny and Derek Lowe both must-start, two-start pitchers in all Fantasy leagues. Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda should each get a start in Fantasy Week 1 as well, while No. 5 man Esteban Loaiza should be reserved in all leagues until he makes his season debut the first time that slot is needed April 8. Jason Schmidt (shoulder) opens the season the DL with no timetable for his debut at this point.
Milwaukee Brewers: Brewers manager Ned Yost already announced right-handers Ben Sheets and Jeff Suppan will be the first two pitchers in the rotation. Sheets is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues, while Suppan is best left for deeper leagues with his one start. Dave Bush , Claudio Vargas and Carlos Villanueva , and left-hander Manny Parra , are competing for the remaining three spots. The fact Parra still has options and Villanueva has extensive relief experience work against them at this point. Yovani Gallardo (knee) is hoping to be ready by mid-April and will bump whoever wins the No. 5 spot temporarily. The logjam lost one Sunday as Chris Capuano (elbow) is likely head for another elbow ligament replacement and is out for the year.
Minnesota Twins: Livan Hernandez is the only certainty in the rotation at this point and will be a risky two-start pitcher best left for deeper leagues. Francisco Liriano had an important solid outing Sunday, which could put him in line to work the second game of the season and also be a two-start pitcher. Boof Bonser and Kevin Slowey likely have rotation spots, while Philip Humber and Nick Blackburn could open as the No. 5 starter if Scott Baker isn't ready for the start of the season. Baker could go anywhere from starting the second and fifth games of the season in Fantasy Week 1, to not starting at all. Keep track of this.
New York Mets: The Mets will open with a four-man rotation, with Orlando Hernandez or Mike Pelfrey waiting until Fantasy Week 2 to debut as the No. 5 starter. Although no announcement has been made, Johan Santana will likely pitch on opening day. He is a must-start pitcher in all leagues regardless. Pedro Martinez is an advisable two-start pitcher in all leagues. John Maine and Oliver Perez will follow in the rotation and are one-start pitchers useful in all Fantasy leagues on a regular basis.
New York Yankees: Chien-Ming Wang is the opening-day starter and a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. He will be followed by Andy Pettitte (probable, back), Phil Hughes , Mike Mussina and Ian Kennedy . All Yankees starters are worth using in most Fantasy leagues on a regular basis, because of all that run support they should receive.
Oakland Athletics: Joe Blanton and Rich Harden are starting the two games in Japan and could also start the two games vs. Boston in Oakland when the season starts in the States. This could make Blanton a three-start pitcher (March 25, April 1 and April 6). He is a must-start in all leagues even with just two starts, although your league might not count those first two games in Japan. Harden will be a must-start two-start pitcher if your league does count those two games. With just one start, Harden is more of a questionable option. Justin Duchscherer and Dana Eveland figure to be the No. 3 and 4 starters, while the No. 5 spot won't be needed in Fantasy Week 1. Chad Gaudin (hip) hopes to be ready to debut April 12, which is the first date the A's need a No. 5. Blanton and Harden are intriguing arms, but the A's don't figure to give the other starters much of a chance to be .500 pitchers for Fantasy owners.
Philadelphia Phillies: Brett Myers drew the opening-day assignment and is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. Cole Hamels , Jamie Moyer , Kyle Kendrick and Adam Eaton follow. Myers might be kept on his regular fifth day Monday and Saturday -- to allow him to pitch in the Mets series to follow -- but Eaton is still expected to get a start by Sunday, April 6.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Ian Snell is the opening-day starter and an advisable two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. MLB reported Sunday he will be followed by Tom Gorzelanny , Paul Maholm , Matt Morris and Zach Duke . With the exception of Morris, the Pirates rotation is full of third-year starting pitcher breakout candidates.
San Diego Padres: With no days off in the first week, the Padres have a pair of must-start, two-start pitchers in all Fantasy leagues, Jake Peavy and Chris Young . Greg Maddux and Randy Wolf will follow them, while Justin Germano leads Shawn Estes , Wil Ledezma and Glendon Rusch for the No. 5 spot. Mark Prior (shoulder) is hoping to be ready in May.
San Francisco Giants: The Giants will likely open the first week with a four-man rotation, so Barry Zito and Matt Cain are advisable two-start pitchers -- although Zito is more of a risk, we admit. Tim Lincecum and Kevin Correia will follow, while Jonathan Sanchez is expected to keep the No. 5 spot warm until Noah Lowry (wrist) is ready in April (best-case scenario).
Seattle Mariners: Erik Bedard is the opening-day starter and a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues, despite his awful spring. A day off Thursday in Week 1 could have Felix Hernandez as a two-start pitcher as well, but the Mariners will give all five starters a turn in succession: Hernandez, Carlos Silva , Jarrod Washburn and Miguel Batista .
St. Louis Cardinals: Adam Wainwright is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. Following him will be a work in progress, although MLB.com reports it will go Todd Wellemeyer , Brad Thompson and Braden Looper . Kyle Lohse late signing means he will make his debut April 6 after Wainwright makes him second start. Joel Pineiro (shoulder), Matt Clement (shoulder), Mark Mulder (shoulder) and Chris Carpenter (elbow) will all open the season on the DL. Wellemeyer and Thompson are the first ones to be sent to the bullpen when the injured pitchers are ready in mid-April and later. Surprisingly, Anthony Reyes will open the season in the minors or the bullpen.
Tampa Bay Rays: James Shields is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. Following him will be Matt Garza , Andy Sonnanstine , Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel . Jeff Niemann is the first of many prospects waiting in the wings, while J.P. Howell has been moved to relief -- perhaps for good. Shields is the only Rays arm we can advise trusting in most Fantasy leagues until Scott Kazmir (elbow) is ready in mid-April at the earliest.
Texas Rangers: Kevin Millwood should be ready to start opening day, but he is more of a questionable two-start pitcher best left for deeper leagues. Following him will be Vicente Padilla , Jason Jennings , Kason Gabbard and Luis Mendoza in some order. Days off Thursday, April 3 and Monday, April 7 will allow the Rangers to open with a four-man rotation, but no decision has been made on that. Mendoza is a high-risk starter regardless in Fantasy Week 1. Avoid him. Padilla would get a second start if the Rangers choose to open with a four-man staff. Padilla is a high-risk starter even with the added start. Brandon McCarthy (elbow) will be out until at least May at this point.
Toronto Blue Jays: Roy Halladay is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. He will be followed by A.J. Burnett , Dustin McGowan , Shaun Marcum and Jesse Litsch . Each of them will get one start. Litsch is the only one we wouldn't really advise using in a standard mixed league.
Washington Nationals: Odalis Perez is the opening-day starter, but he is a high-risk option for the deepest of NL-only leagues. He is the worst opening-day starter in baseball. Jason Bergmann , Tim Redding and a TBD follow him. Shawn Hill (elbow) could be ready for April 6, but the loser of the No. 4 TBD could slot in at that spot. Matt Chico and John Lannan are the leading TBD candidates. We advise avoiding all the Nationals starters at this point.
|Two-start pitchers in Fantasy Week 1 (March 25-April 6)|
|Johan Santana||at FLA Hendrickson||at ATL Glavine|
|Jake Peavy||vs. HOU Oswalt||vs. LAD Penny|
|Justin Verlander||vs. KC Meche||vs. CHW Buehrle|
|Brandon Webb||at CIN Harang||at COL TBD|
|CC Sabathia||vs. CHW Buehrle||at OAK Blanton|
|Daisuke Matsuzaka||at OAK Blanton (2)||at TOR Litsch|
|Aaron Harang||vs. ARI Webb||vs. PHI Myers|
|Carlos Zambrano||vs. MIL Sheets||vs. HOU Backe|
|Roy Oswalt||at SD Peavy||at CHC Marquis|
|Brad Penny||vs. SF Zito||at SD Peavy|
|Jered Weaver||at MIN Hernandez||vs. TEX Millwood|
|Tim Hudson||at WAS Perez||vs. NYM Maine|
|Roy Halladay||at NYY Wang||vs. BOS Buchholz?|
|Chien-Ming Wang||vs. TOR Halladay||vs. TB Shields|
|Brett Myers||vs. WAS Bergmann||at CIN Harang|
|Chris Young||vs. HOU Backe||vs. LAD Lowe|
|Jeff Francis||at STL Wainwright||vs. ARI Johnson|
|Erik Bedard||vs. TEX Millwood||at BAL Guthrie|
|Ben Sheets||at CHC Zambrano||vs. SF Cain|
|Adam Wainwright||vs. COL Francis||vs. WAS Bergmann|
|James Shields||at BAL Guthrie||at NYY Wang|
|Matt Cain||at LAD Lowe||at MIL Sheets|
|Pedro Martinez||at FLA Miller||at ATL Smoltz|
|Ian Snell||at ATL Glavine||at FLA Miller|
|Derek Lowe||vs. SF Cain||at SD Young|
|Joe Blanton||vs. BOS Matsuzaka (2)||vs. CLE Sabathia|
|Barry Zito||at LAD Penny||at MIL TBD|
|Jon Garland||at MIN Bonser||vs. TEX Padilla|
|Mark Buehrle||at CLE Sabathia||at DET Verlander|
|Gil Meche||at DET Verlander||at MIN Bonser|
|Tom Glavine||vs. PIT Snell||vs. NYM Santana|
|Jeremy Guthrie||vs. TB Shields||vs. SEA Bedard|
|Andrew Miller||vs. NYM Martinez||vs. PIT Snell|
|Boof Bonser||vs. LAA Garland||vs. KC Meche|
|Kevin Millwood||at SEA Bedard||at LAA Weaver|
|Livan Hernandez||vs. LAA Weaver||vs. KC Tomko|
|Jason Bergmann||at PHI Myers||at STL Wainwright|
|Vicente Padilla||at SEA Hernandez||at LAA Garland|
|Brandon Backe||at SD Young||at CHC Zambrano|
|Mark Hendrickson||vs. NYM Santana||vs. PIT Duke|
|Odalis Perez||vs. ATL Hudson||at STL Looper|
You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com. Be sure to put Attn: Pitching Planner in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state. Be aware, due to the large volume of submissions received, we cannot guarantee personal responses to all questions.
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