Week Ahead: Don’t Panic

It’s great to be back! Now back away from the ledge.

Opening day was an especially bad day for some teams’ No. 1 starters around MLB, including names like Luis Castillo, Yu Darvish, Jack Flaherty, Marco Gonzales, Kyle Hendricks, Clayton Kershaw, German Marquez, and Brandon Woodruff. Fortunately, 2021 is set for 162 games again, so barring injuries, these pitchers have 30-plus more chances to right the ship.

After all, the first week of the season can be kind of crazy. We only need to backtrack to the last full season in 2019.

The first week of 2019 saw some not so good performances from league aces, but most of them finished the year just fine. Here’s proof:

Name First Start Line Final Line Yu Darvish 2.2 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 7 BB, 4 K 6-8, 178.2 IP, 3.98 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 229 K Jack Flaherty 4.1 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K 11-8, 196.1 IP, 2.75 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 231 K Zack Greinke 3.2 IP, 7 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 3 K 18-5, 208.2 IP, 2.93 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 187 K Lance Lynn 5.2 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 0 BB, 5 K 16-11, 208.1 IP, 3.67 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 246 K Mike Minor 4.2 IP, 5 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 3 K 14-10, 208.1 IP, 3.59 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 200 K Chris Sale 3 IP, 6 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 4 K 6-11, 147.1 IP, 4.40 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 218 K Blake Snell 6 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 3 K 6-8, 107 IP, 4.29 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 147 K

Certainly, there were some other first outings from starting pitchers who went on to disappoint in 2019, but the first start doesn’t make a season. Unless you have a good reason that goes beyond the boxscore to sit your “studs” in their next start, the smart money is to run them out there in start No. 2.

-The first full week of baseball from April 5-11 is a very odd one in terms of scheduling with only one team scheduled for seven games and 26 out of 30 teams playing six games. That fact, coupled with several teams going to six-man rotations to begin the year, has somewhat limited the number of two-start pitchers in the upcoming week relative to a “normal” MLB week.

-I’m intrigued to see Logan Allen in a two-start week against KC and Detroit after an outstanding spring. Still just 23, the right-hander has seen very limited success so far in the majors, and his stock took a tumble in 2019 after posting at 5.85 ERA in 18 starts at Triple-A. However, Allen had a career year in 2018 between Double- and Triple-A with a 2.54 ERA and 151/51 K/BB in 148.2 innings, putting him among the best pitching prospects in a loaded Padres farm system. He impressed Cleveland brass after showing up in better shape this spring and was lights out, allowing one run in 14 innings with 18/3 K/BB. Add in Cleveland’s recent track record of developing starting pitchers, and don’t be surprised if Allen is an every-start pitcher on most fantasy rosters before we know it.

-If you believe in karma, Twins fifth starter Matt Shoemaker is due for some good karma soon. It’s been one injury after another for the right-hander, who has made a combined 32 starts since 2017. The thing is that those 32 starts make for a viable back of the rotation starter, with a 4.12 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 152/56 K/BB in 166 innings. There’s not much reason to trust that Shoemaker can stay off the injured list all season, but those numbers will play in deeper mixed leagues.

Michael Wacha and Mike Foltynewicz got some hype in camp after nightmarish 2020 seasons. Wacha allowed only one run in 15 innings after posting a 6.62 ERA in 34 innings with the Mets last year. Despite those struggles last season, he changed his pitch mix and did post a 5.29 K/BB ratio, so Tampa saw something that they liked. Foltynewicz went from top young pitcher and All-Star in 2018 to being DFA’ed by Atlanta due to his loss in velocity, but the velocity was back this spring. It’s too early to count on either pitcher, but their profiles are definitely worth watching early.

Dustin May won the fifth starter job for the Dodgers with a great spring, but fantasy managers who drafted Tony Gonsolin or David Price should fear not. That duo also looked strong in Dodgers camp, and should find their fair share of starts for a team that has already been known to be conservative with pitcher workloads and put starting pitchers on short injured list stints for minor “ailments.” In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they both finish with more innings this year than May. Regardless, May has an appetizing two-start week ahead at Oakland and vs. Washington.

Going Twice…

Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, April 2, and are subject to change.

American League

Strong Plays

Jordan Montgomery: BAL, @TB

Decent Plays

Frankie Montas: LAD, @HOU

Steven Matz: @TEX, LAA

Logan Allen: KC, DET

Nick Pivetta: TB, @BAL

Matt Shoemaker: @DET, SEA

Carlos Rodon: @SEA, KC

At Your Own Risk

Michael Wacha: @BOS, NYY

Mike Foltynewicz: TOR, SD

Danny Duffy: @CLE, @CHW

Tanner Roark: @TEX, LAA

Jose Urena: MIN, @CLE

Jorge Lopez: @NYY, BOS

National League

Strong Plays

Jacob deGrom: @PHI, MIA

Max Scherzer: ATL, @LAD

Sandy Alcantara: STL, @NYM

Drew Smyly: @WAS, PHI

Dustin May: @OAK, WAS

Decent Plays

German Marquez: ARI, @SF

Marcus Stroman: @PHI, MIA

Anthony DeSclafani: @SD, COL

Trevor Rogers: STL, @NYM

Adrian Morejon: SF, @TEX

At Your Own Risk

Daniel Ponce de Leon: @MIA, MIL

Jose De Leon: PIT, @ARI

Matt Moore: NYM, @ATL

Brett Anderson: @CHC, @STL

J.T. Brubaker: @CIN, CHC

Trevor Williams: MIL, @PIT

Luke Weaver: @COL, CIN

Streamer City

The following pitchers are generally available in over 50 percent of fantasy leagues and have favorable match-ups this week:

American League

Monday, April 5: Jose Quintana vs. HOU

Quintana’s four years with the Cubs was a major disappointment after a promising start to his career with the White Sox, but he’s reunited with Joe Maddon and coming off a very strong spring. The loss of George Springer makes facing the Astros lineup a little more palatable for lefties.

Tuesday, April 6: Dane Dunning vs. TOR

Dunning was too cheap during draft season for a pitcher whose profile is as good and had as much success as he did his first time around the league in 2020. The right-hander might see his innings limited, but he’s seen nothing but success as a pro and is worth a flier for the new week.

Friday, April 9: Julio Teheran @ CLE

Teheran had an embarrassing 2020 season with the Angels after contracting COVID-19, but he regained his velocity this spring. Like Michael Wacha and Mike Foltynewicz, Teheran has a good track record and is worth watching. A weak Cleveland lineup even makes him usable.

National League

Thursday, April 8: Jake Arrieta @ PIT

I’m not that optimistic spring mechanical adjustments will fix Arrieta, but facing the Pirates certainly will. Vegas has picked the Pirates to finish with the fewest wins in baseball this season and for good reason. It will be a feast whenever you have an opportunity start a pitcher against them.

Friday, April 9: Austin Gomber @ SF

Gomber would be more intriguing if he didn’t pitch for the Rockies, but he has a viable road start at San Francisco next week. After posting 19/2 K/BB in 19.2 spring innings, Gomber could be worth the risk.

Saturday, April 10: Logan Webb vs. COL

Webb had a dominant spring, but the buzz didn’t get loud until late March. As a result, he might still be available in your league. Already an extreme groundball pitcher (52% groundball rate in 2020), Webb showed markedly improved control this spring with 22/2 K/BB in 17 innings due in large part to his improved changeup. He doesn’t have the same velocity, but the overall profile with a great sinker and changeup resembles a poor man’s Luis Castillo. Facing the Rockies lineup away from Coors Field makes this a must-start.

Total Games

American League

5: CLE, HOU, KC 

6: BAL, BOS, CHW, DET, LAA, MIN, NYY, OAK, SEA, TB, TEX

7: TOR

National League

6: ARI, ATL, CHC, CIN, COL, LAD, MIA, MIL, NYM, PHI, PIT, SD, STL, WAS

The Infirmary

Here’s some injuries to prominent players from the last week, and other players to watch for in the coming week. You can get a full listing of injured players at NBCSports Edge’s Injury Page.

Nick Anderson: Out until midseason (elbow)

Ji-Man Choi: Out until May (knee)

Kyle Crick: Out indefinitely (COVID-19)

Josh Donaldson: Status uncertain (hamstring)

Hunter Dozier: Day-to-day (thumb)

Kyle Lewis: Placed on IL (knee)

Adalberto Mondesi: Placed on IL (oblique)

Scott Oberg: Out indefinitely (arm)

Trevor Rosenthal: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Sixto Sanchez: Out indefinitely (shoulder)

Nick Senzel: Day-to-day (shoulder)

George Springer: Could return April 8 (oblique)

Justin Topa: Out indefinitely (elbow)

Luke Voit: Out until May (knee)