In the following MLB weekly preview, we have a game breakdown for all 30 teams, pitching rankings and latest IL info to dominate Fantasy Baseball…
In memory of John Cannella Sr.
They say the third go-around is usually when one hits their stride. You know, they. Them. The people who know. Now entering my third season of providing the MLB Weekly Preview, I have never felt more confident in my systems of data collection and resulting analysis. All of which are extremely time-consuming, but I could give a rat’s ass when I see our subscribers posting league-winning celebrations. Never was I more proud than what we accomplished together in the pandemic shortened season of 2020. With a tear in my eye…
While I had a disappointing fourth-place finish in my Roto OC, every other league was first or second. The league which ground my gears the most was my championship loss in Fantrax Dynasty, a league I’ve now belonged to for well over 11 years (aka my old ass can’t remember when I joined) and haven’t won. However, I learned something crucial which will benefit me this season: utilization of bulk relievers with elite ratios whose value is non-contingent upon role.
That’s what this game is, a constant learning curve, and I don’t mean Jesús Luzardo’s turkey sub! Am I the greatest fantasy baseball player who has ever walked God’s green earth? No, I am not. But I outwork my opponents, and this work ethic is what got me to where I am today. Some of you reading this may be more successful, and I applaud you for that, although I’ve been crushing fantasy baseball since 1997. So, I got veteran experience going for me, which is nice. But this doesn’t mean we don’t learn from each other to be the very best at what we do. I subscribe to symbiotic relationships. With this in mind, let’s go crush it!!!
In the following weekly preview, you will find a game breakdown for all 30 MLB teams (including Interleague play), two-start and overall pitching rankings and the latest IL information to help you dominate this week’s matchup and through the entirety of your seasonal league. Plus, new this season: Stolen Base Targets!
Scroll right to the part of the MLB Weekly Preview you need in just one click!
Below, you will find an interactive table of contents. Simply click on the section of the article you wanna read and boom.. presto… alakazam.
Coming in Hot (Spring Training Hot Streaks)
Spring training stats may be wiped off the board once Opening Day arrives, but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter. Opening week of the fantasy baseball season can tend to be somewhat of a crapshoot when setting our first lineups. This is why it is so vital to pay attention to the ongoings in Florida and Arizona. The regular season is a whole new ball of wax, but players riding hot streaks into game one are fine commodities. Have some close calls for your lineups? These ballplayers could tip the scales into your favor.
Bobby Dalbec, Red Sox 1B/3B – 14 for 45, .311/.392/.822, 1.214 OPS, 7 HR, 16 RBI, 1 SB
Dalbec came into camp in prime physical shape and took hold of the starting first base gig in Boston. He worked hard on his defense across the diamond from his natural position of third base and has also looked smooth this spring. Good defense keeps his bat in the lineup, and it is this bat in which we carry more interest. His gamer has produced two grand slams and seven homers overall this spring. The 25-year-old masher is slated to bat ninth by manager Alex Cora, which will take the pressure off while maintaining some protection with leadoff hitter Kike Hernandez behind him. Potentially fewer RBI opportunities, but that could be a lot of homers at the end of the batting order. Red Sox open the season with a three-game set vs. Baltimore (projected SP: John Means, Matt Harvey & Bruce Zimmermann, the latter coming off nine shutout innings this spring).
Dylan Cease, White Sox RHP – 3 GS, 2-0, 0.77 ERA, 11.2 IP, 11 K, 3 BB, 1.20 WHIP
Most of Cease’s work this spring has come in the form of simulated games and bullpens, but the numbers in live game action were particularly sparkling. Most notably, the low walk total and WHIP have impressed. Control has often been the Achilles heel keeping Cease from greater heights, with a career 11.9% walk rate that was 13.3% in the truncated 2020 season. If he can keep this level of control heading into the regular season, he could have a nice jumpstart on a breakout season. Despite less game action, his pitch count is right where it needs to be (85-90). His fastball has topped out at 99 MPH, and he feels the slider is locked in heading into the season. White Sox begin the season on the road in Anaheim, and Cease is projected to pick up the baseball in game number four on 4/4 (facing Shohei Ohtani).
Shohei Ohtani, Angels DH/RHP – 16 for 29, .552/.576/1.069, 1.645 OPS, 5 HR, 8 RBI, 2 SB
Speaking of Ohtani, Sho Time is back on in LA. Cease hopes Angles manager Joe Maddon will not opt to have Ohtani bat for himself, as he experimented with during this spring training. Ohtani has been raking this spring. Most notably, his opposite-field power has returned at the plate. As a matter of fact, he’s been spraying the ball with power all over the field. On the mound, his fastball velocity is hitting triple digits, and he was demonstrating much-improved control since returning from Tommy John surgery. Ohtani’s health appeared pristine. It was looking like a storybook spring training straight out of a Hollywood studio, reminding baseball fans of his potential. Then, in his last start of the spring on 3/29, the wheels fell off.
Ohtani struggled mightily, allowing seven earned runs on four hits and FIVE walks with only three strikeouts. He failed to locate his fastball and surrendered three long balls. He had been posting decent numbers on the mound, but after this appearance of only two and a third innings, his spring numbers inflated to 12.19 ERA and 2.42 WHIP. After his exit, we learned the reason for the poor results and early hook. Ohtani is dealing with a blister, an ailment he has battled in the past. The good news for the Angels is this one doesn’t seem serious, and Ohtani is “not too worried.” Maddon said Ohtani should still be able to make his regular-season pitching debut as scheduled.
*UPDATE: Ohtani completed his bullpen session successfully and has been confirmed for his first start of the season on 4/4.
Francisco Lindor, Mets SS – 20 for 53, .377/.433/.630, 1.063 OPS, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 1 SB
Pete Alonso, Mets 1B – 17 for 50, .340/.421/.700, 1.121 OPS, 4 HR, 16 RBI
A pair of Mets will be formidable in the top half of their lineup. After a slow start to the spring while getting adjusted to his new team, Lindor has been as tremendous as advertised. Now, if owner Steve Cohen and Lindor could just put down the ravioli and strike a deal, Mets fans could see this winning combination for years to come. Lindor has demonstrated what made him successful in Cleveland. He has been pulling the ball with power as well as taking pitches up the middle and the other way. He’s working counts exceptionally well (six walks, six strikeouts) and making great contact (34 total bases). Locked into the two-hole for the Mets, Lindor will see a plethora of at-bats, as Steamer has him projected for 682 plate appearances. Furthermore, he will have lineup protection from Michael Conforto and the aforementioned Alonso hitting cleanup.
Pete Alonso is relieving the concerns from a somewhat down 2020 season with his torrid spring training. Having hitting coach Chili Davis back in the dugout has been monumental for Pete. The largest effect has been on his plate discipline. Despite still being on pace for 42 home runs in 2020, Alonso’s average dropped 29 points (.231). Furthermore, his wOBA declined to .342 from .384 the year prior. The key factor was chasing balls out of the strike zone (33.4% O-Swing, 54.2% O-contact) rather than waiting for his pitch. Watching him bat this spring, he has been laying off the hard sliders that had him flailing last season. The results have been tremendous. When making contact, he has been an extra-base machine, gap to gap. With a full 162, Pete will put less pressure on himself to make an immediate impact and take his at-bats mightily.
Logan Allen, Indians LHP – 4 G/2 GS, 1-0, 0.64 ERA, 14.0 IP, 18 K, 3 BB, 0.86 WHIP
I always liked Allen’s makeup from what was seen in San Diego, and now, he comes to the Indians, who have been known to maximize pitchers’ potential. He came into camp in phenomenal shape, dropping 25 pounds. The 23-year-old lefty did the work in the offseason, spending the entire winter training with the Indians’ coaching staff in Arizona and making mechanical changes. Those changes have paid off so far in Spring Training, as seen above. With rotational questions for the Indians entering camp, many assumed that Triston McKenzie and Cal Quantrill would round out the staff. However, after Allen’s fine spring and strong displayed work ethic, he has officially earned the final spot over Quantrill.
Allen will pitch the fourth game of the season for Cleveland on 4/5 against Kansas City. He very well may be next week’s top SP stream, aka Pov Special! However, I want to first see if he is slated to begin the game or if he will follow an opener to help manage early-season workloads. Cleveland’s president of baseball operations, Chris Antonetti, said the opener could be McKenzie, killing two birds with one stone in terms of innings management. Even if this is the case, I still may opt to stream Allen.
Josh Bell, Nationals 1B – 18 for 47, .383/.456/.872, 1.328 OPS, 6 HR, 15 RBI
Bell is providing the power Nationals’ brass was hoping for when they acquired him this offseason. The move to Washington provides a much better lineup around Bell, resulting in more hittable pitches. Fangraphs slates Bell to hit cleanup behind Juan Soto and Trea Turner and ahead of Kyle Schwarber and Starlin Castro. In camp, he has been more akin to the 2019 All-Star who hit 37 homers than the player who struggled last season. Many thanks can be given to the realization of a long swing and the hitting program Washington developed to cut it down. Bell’s level of strong contact has manager Dave Martinez comparing the sound to “opening day of duck season.” While the stats will not remain as gaudy as they have been this spring, he could improve his career marks (.261/.349/.466, .815 OPS, .343 wOBA, 113 wRC+).
Bell is also showing better plate discipline in spring training. This discipline has resulted in eight free passes in 55 plate appearances (14.5% BB-rate). He has still been struck out 14 times (25.5% K-rate), so more work needs to be done there. He will look to acquire rates closer to his pre-2020 form (17.8% K-rate, 13.2% BB-rate). However, if the trend of 11 extra-base hits in 47 spring at-bats continues, the Nats will take it! Bell will need to continue raking to fend off returning, and equally as hot this spring, Ryan Zimmerman (13 for 27, .481/.517/1.222, 1.739 OPS, 6 HR, 15 RBI). As a result, Bell could lose at-bats against lefties if sharing time with Zimmerman. Although, this is not a forgone conclusion. Martinez has also been praising Bell’s defense in camp, which would give him another leg up on Zimmerman.
John Nogowski, Cardinals 1B/OF – 11 for 33, .333/.477/.515, .992 OPS, 2 HR, 12 RBI
An injury to Harrison Bader (see IL report below) has secured Nogowski’s place on the Cards’ Opening Day roster, but to be honest, he may very well have earned it regardless.
Nogowski leads St. Louis this spring in RBIs, is tied for the lead in homers, and ranks near the top – if not at the very top – in several other offensive categories. Coaches say the 28-year-old rookie is best suited at first base, but he’s trying to make himself indispensable by playing the outfield, as well. Bader’s eventual return might complicate Nogowski’s spot on the bench, but he’s opened the eyes of many now in his fifth year in the organization. Currently, Justin Williams is slated to start in right field while Dylan Carlson fills in for Bader in center. But this situation does bear monitoring. If Nogowski can gain opportunity based on his spring and out-hit Williams, which shouldn’t be too difficult, Nogowski makes for a fine replacement for Bader owners while the latter is out.
Myles Straw, Astros OF – 13 for 42, .310/.341/.359, .700 OPS, 3 SB
The front-runner to replace George Springer as the Astros’ everyday center fielder, Straw has not disappointed. What Straw lacks in power to his predecessor, he more than makes up for in speed and terrorizing the basepaths. His speed could be a huge weapon for fantasy if he carries his success at the plate this spring into the regular season. An eventual prototypical leadoff man, he will likely bat eighth or ninth in most games. Straw did gain leadoff experience in camp, but manager Dusty Baker has settled on Jose Altuve at the top of the lineup. The important thing is Straw looks comfortable at this level. And defensively, he has the skillset to be an elite center fielder, considering he’s one of the fastest players in the MLB.
Straw had a COVID-19 scare at the end of camp, resulting in missing the final three days. However, fortunately, he has been cleared to travel to Oakland ahead of the season opener versus the Athletics. He looks good to go without any restrictions since he played most of camp.
As always, if there are any requests for information I can provide or a player/team you would like me to cover in this section of the MLB Weekly Preview, drop a line in our VIP Chat Room or hit me up on Twitter, @Rob_Povia.
MLB GAME BREAKDOWN GRID
Be sure to target your White Sox, Angels, A’s, Astros, Dodgers, Padres, Rockies and D-backs in this opening period. There should be plenty of fireworks in the four-game set between the Dodgers and Rockies in Coors Field. Well, at least for the Dodgers’ fierce lineup anyhow. Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy will have three righties to target. But the whole lineup should be feasting on:
- German Marquez (2020 stats: 81.2 IP, 13 GS, 78 HA, 34 ER, 25 BB, 73 K, 3.75 ERA, 1.26 WHIP)
- Antonio Senzatela (73.1 IP, 12 GS, 1 CG, 71 HA, 28 ER, 18 BB, 41 K, 3.39 ERA, 1.20 WHIP)
- Jon Gray (39 IP, 8 GS, 45 HA, 29 ER, 11 BB, 22 K, 6.69 ERA, 1.44 WHIP)
- Austin Gomber (In St. Louis: 29 IP, 4 GS, 19 HA, 6 ER, 15 BB, 27 K, 1.86 ERA, 1.17 WHIP)
Opening Day will feature lots of marquee matchups, including the next installment of Jacob deGrom vs. Max Scherzer. We’ll review more in the Starting Pitcher Rankings & Pitching Matchups below.
WEEKLY INTERLEAGUE OUTLOOK
DO NOT START NELSON CRUZ! I repeat, do not start Cruz if your first matchup only goes till 4/4. With the lack of a universal DH in 2021, American League teams will once again lose their designated hitter when traveling to National League parks. While still defying Father Time like Tom Brady, the 40-year-old Cruz will be mostly relegated to DH duties. His fantasy managers need to track his matchups closely this season before setting lineups. Speaking of “older folk,” Longoria is dealing with plantar fasciitis. He’s ready to play to begin the season in a bench role, and I could easily see him at DH in Seattle. Flores is another option with the Mariners likely to start lefties Marco Gonzales and James Paxton. We all remember how Flores destroys lefties, right?
*Rivalry Series: Citrus Series
TOP TWO-START PITCHERS
IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE
*No two-start pitchers this period
For a detailed breakdown of more two-start pitchers during the season who may be available on your waiver wire, check out Vlad’s FAAB Values!
STARTING PITCHER RANKINGS FOR APRIL 1 – 4
MLB WEEKLY PREVIEW | INJURED LIST REPORT
Besides names that may already be listed, here is the latest injury news on a few of your fantasy studs. I will update you early in the week.
Luke Voit (knee) is dealing with a partial meniscus tear that will, unfortunately, require surgery. While going under the knife is never fun, the minor procedure will only keep Voit from baseball activities for 3-4 weeks. Of course, it will be a little while after this point before he can return to live-game action. Jay Bruce is a correlative pickup for Voit owners.
By now, we all know about the saga of Framber Valdez’ fractured left ring finger. At first, it was no big deal. Then, there was talk of season-ending surgery, which was subsequently ruled out. Maybe. Now, Framber is in limbo with no clear timetable. Astros pitching coach Brent Strom says, “the news is very, very exciting and very good.” Care to share this news, homie? For now, the prospectus of getting a fair number of starts out of Valdez remains optimistic. For now.
Eduardo Rodríguez (dead arm) was cruising through Spring Training in his return from COVID-19 and the resulting myocarditis. Then the 27-year-old lefty lost his command during one of his final stints. It was determined to be a dead arm, and he was given some rest. After not pitching all of last season and ramping it up this spring, you could kinda see it coming, and this may be an issue for several hurlers this season. ERod has thrown two successful bullpen sessions, but manager Alex Cora said on 3/30, there is a “pretty good chance” Rodríguez opens the season on the 10-day IL. He should only miss his first start as no setbacks have been reported.
*UPDATE: Rodríguez is scheduled to pitch in a simulated game at Triple-A Worcester on 4/2. He was indeed placed on the IL, but if he’s throwing already, a minimum stay should be all that is required. Tanner Houck will take ERod’s spot during the first trip through the rotation, but if all goes well, Rodriguez could start as soon as 4/8 against the Orioles.
Sonny Gray (back) is scheduled to participate in an intrasquad scrimmage on 3/31, where he’ll pitch a couple of innings. According to Bobby Nightengale of The Cincinnati Enquirer, Gray could miss only two starts to begin the season. “I think we’re in a good spot,” Gray said. “I’ve got to get in games. I’ve got to get my pitch count built up. Where that pitch count is, I can’t sit here right now and say I want to get through 100 pitches.”
The status of Frankie Montas (finger) for Oakland’s opening series remains murky as of this writing. He was removed from his game on 3/25 due to a ripped cuticle. Holy shit, this world has gone soft! Anyway, Bob Melvin, Oakland’s skipper, told reporters the team will feel “okay” if Montas can reach 70 pitches in a simulated game. Continue to monitor. While slated to face Houston, it may be best to sit this one out. Daily leaguers can slide him in if called upon, just like Mia Khalifa’s DMs.
*UPDATE: Montas is scheduled to pitch 4/5 vs. LAD. He “threw great” in the successful sim game.
Spencer Turnbull (COVID-19) is expected to miss the team’s “first few series,” according to Tigers manager A.J. Hinch. One can assume Turnball contracted the virus, although Detroit isn’t permitted to divulge this information. If this is indeed the case, his symptom levels will dictate his timetable. He will need to build back up his pitch count for this early in the season. In response, let’s pray this doesn’t begin another fiasco like 2020. Overall, though, MLB has done a fine job with protocols this spring!
Harrison Bader (left forearm strain) begins the year on the 10-day injured list and is expected to be sidelined for at least four weeks. After beginning camp with the issue and receiving a PRP injection, Bader was able to get back into game action. However, after this “flare-up,” St. Louis will now take a more precautious route. Expect multi-tooled Dylan Carlson to shift over to center from left, and for a viable replacement, see John Nogowski’s writeup in Coming in Hot above.
Austin Nola (finger) begins the season on the injured list despite his best efforts to make Opening Day. He shouldn’t be absent for too long, however. Nola had zero issues catching the baseball with the fractured middle finger on his (left) catching hand. In terms of gripping the bat, his progression from tee to full batting practice took longer than expected. Several intermediary options at catcher should exist on your waiver wire. If in a deep league, look no further than picking up Nola’s fellow backstop, Victor Caratini. He’s basically free. He has fine defensive skills to remain in the lineup and enough of a bat to get you by. In the last full season of 2019, Caratini hit 11 homers and .266 in 244 at-bats for the Cubs.
POV SPECIAL – TOP SP STREAM OF THE WEEK
→ Chris Flexen, RH SEA (SF – 15-20% owned) – Don’t recommend getting too frisky during the opening weekend, but if you like to live dangerously, Flexen is your man. He is in the friendly confines of T-Mobile Park, where Park Factors favor the pitcher (2020: 0.89 R, 1.04 HR, 0.88 H; 2019: 0.95 R, 0.93 HR, 0.95 H). He faces a Giants offense that doesn’t make you hide under the bed despite some upside. Flexen often came on in mop-up duty for the Mets or made the occasional spot start. The results were not too good. In between MLB stints, Flexen shined pitching for the Doosan Bears of the KBO. The fastball looked likely, and he had a better command of his breaking ball.
A new setting with a fresh start in a favorable matchup could warrant a roll of the dice. But I’ll tell ya right now, check your blood pressure before you commit.
For more streaming options on the mound AND at the plate, visit Vlad’s FAAB Values!
Sunday,April 4, 2021
(Record, ERA / xFIP / SIERA)
Ian Anderson (RHP, ATL: 0-0, -.– / -.– / -.–) @ Zach Eflin (RHP, PHI: 0-0, -.– / -.– / -.–)
T.J. Zeuch (RHP, TOR: 0-0, -.– / -.– / -.–) @ Domingo Germán (RHP, NYY: 0-0, -.– / -.– / -.–)
Bruce Zimmermann (LHP, BAL: 0-0, -.– / -.– / -.–) @ Garrett Richards (RHP, BOS: 0-0, -.– / -.– / -.–)
Aaron Civale (RHP, CLE: 0-0, -.– / -.– / -.–) @ Tarik Skubal (LHP, DET: 0-0, -.– / -.– / -.–)
Carlos Martínez (RHP, STL: 0-0, -.– / -.– / -.–) @ Jeff Hoffman (RHP, CIN: 0-0, -.– / -.– / -.–)
Jordan Lyles (RHP, TEX: 0-0, -.– / -.– / -.–) @ Brady Singer (RHP, KC: 0-0, -.– / -.– / -.–)
Michael Pineda (RHP, MIN: 0-0, -.– / -.– / -.–) @ Adrian Houser (RHP, MIL: 0-0, -.– / -.– / -.–)
Mitch Keller (RHP, PIT: 0-0, -.– / -.– / -.–) @ Zach Davies (RHP, CHC: 0-0, -.– / -.– / -.–)
Julio Urías (LHP, LAD: 0-0, -.– / -.– / -.–) @ Austin Gomber (LHP, COL: 0-0, -.– / -.– / -.–)
Jose Urquidy (RHP, HOU: 0-0, -.– / -.– / -.–) @ Sean Manaea (LHP, OAK: 0-0, -.– / -.– / -.–)
Taylor Widener (RHP, ARI: 0-0, -.– / -.– / -.–) @ Chris Paddack (RHP, SD: 0-0, -.– / -.– / -.–)
Dylan Cease (RHP, CHW: 0-0, -.– / -.– / -.–) @ Shohei Ohtani (RHP, LAA: 0-0, -.– / -.– / -.–)
STOLEN BASE TARGETS
If you have been paying attention to the new rule changes for minor league baseball, you can see the commissioner’s office desires a return of a long-lost element to the game… the stolen base. Let’s get ahead of the curve while also maximizing on the few pilferers of the dirt in 2021. Jack Kitchen (@JAXvicious), a long-time sub, reached out this offseason, asking if I could add a section on stolen base targets. As I have said from Day One of this column, your wish is my command!
So, I have imported one of the many fine tools we offer on our sister site, Elite Fantasy. Along with stolen base targets, our DFS MLB package offers daily articles and livestreams, a 24/7 chat, ownership projections and Fantasy Cruncher optimizer, BvP data, batter splits, park factors, umpire factors, weather reports and cheat sheets. The data alone is worth well over $1200! These weapons of mass destruction aid fantasy success in all formats, DFS and seasonal. JOIN TODAY! Promo code Red10 gets you 10% off ANY Elite Sports Package, including VIP.