Do you smell that? No, not what The Rock wasn’t cooking when he didn’t show up at WrestleMania 38.
I’m talking about that other smell.
Unmistakable. Incomparable. Priceless.
I’m talking about the smell of Opening Day.
No really. You can smell it. Think of the ballpark. What smell comes to you? THAT’S the smell I’m talking about. After the long offseason – and questions about whether or not there would even be a season with the lockout – we made it.
As we prepare for Week 1 of the fantasy season, I have 10 burning questions that I’m looking either for answers to during the week or questions that may help fantasy managers navigate the week-to-week grind of their team.
1. How do I manage injured players?
Hopefully your league expanded the number of IL (Injured List) slots to at least five. If so, you’re in good shape…for now. But if you’re in a league with no IL spots, you have some decisions to make.
There’s no across-the-board answer here, as each player needs to be treated individually. For someone like Jacob deGrom, you’re holding for as long as possible. If it’s a Jack Flaherty or Lance McCullers situation, the best move is to move on. The diagnoses don’t seem promising, and the replacement-level players are more valuable for your counting stats.
2. What can I expect from the top prospects?
There are so many top prospects, and it’s so great to see. Teams are being more aggressive in promoting their top players – sorry, Pirates fans – and it’s great for the league and fantasy players alike.
That being said, be patient. Not every young player is Juan Soto. If I had to base my rookie tiers on confidence, they would look something like this:
Julio RodriguezBobby WittSpencer Torkelson
CJ Abrams, Jeremy Pena, Bryson Stott, Josh Lowe, Matt Brash, Oneil Cruz
Nick Lodolo, Hunter Greene, Adley Rutschman, Grayson Rodriguez, George Kirby, Cade Cavalli, Kevin Smith
3. Are there any prospects to stash?
And it is! While a ton made the leap for Opening Day, players like Oneil Cruz, Adley Rutschman, Grayson Rodriguez, George Kirby, Cade Cavalli, Riley Greene, Glenn Otto, Royce Lewis, Roansy Contreras, Tristan Casas, Jose Miranda, and MacKenzie Gore should all be on your radar.
4. How should I manage my early-season FAAB (Free Agent Acquisition Budget)?
The “cop-out” answer is that it depends on your team’s construction. We saw players like Brash and Stott go for big money already. It’s fun to be part of it and wisely to save your money throughout the season.
If you know you can get players later in the season when your league checks out, then spend big early. I like to look ahead a few weeks for some two-start pitchers that I can get before the rush happens.
5. Who are some players rostered in 50 percent of leagues or fewer I should target?
Here are 10 hitters and pitchers who you should add to your watchlist who are available in 21-50 percent of leagues (using Yahoo rostership numbers).
Akil Baddoo (OF–DET)
Andrew Vaughn (OF–CHW)
Tommy Pham (OF–CIN)
Alexander Kirk (C–TOR)
CJ Abrams (SS–SD)
Steven Matz (SP–STL)
Anthony Bender (RP-MIA)
Yusei Kikuchi (SP–TOR)
Matt Brash (SP–SEA)
Drew Rasmussen (SP/RP – TB)
6. What about 20 percent?
Like above, below are 10 hitters and pitchers rostered in 20 percent of Yahoo leagues or fewer who should be on your deep-league radar.
Jeremy Pena (SS–HOU)
Josh Lowe (OF–TB)
Max Kepler (OF–MIN)
Bryson Stott (SS–PHI)
Diego Castillo (2B/3B – PIT)
Madison Bumgarner (SP–ARI)
Reid Detmers (SP–LAA)
Art Warren (RP–CIN)
Zach Eflin (SP–PHI)
Dane Dunning (SP–TEX)
7. Who am I watching closely?
There are a few players I have my eyes on in the first week. The rookies mentioned above are some of them, just because it’s exciting to have some of the top up-and-coming talents leap to the big leagues.
Two pitchers who I’m watching who had side-eye emoji Spring Training performances are Jesus Luzardo and Mitch Keller. Both have top-prospect pedigrees in the past, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they carry over their production to the regular season.
Keston Hiura fits this mold from the hitter side of things, too. He had a big Spring Training performance when it came to his power from him, but the strikeout rate was still over 30 percent.
Not only am I curious if he can limit the strikeouts enough to matter, but will he play enough to matter?
8. Are there any playing time battles to watch?
I want to see how Milwaukee and the New York Mets handle their lineup as far as the designated hitter goes. Hiura and Rowdy Tellez are guys I’m invested in, as well as Robinson Cano, JD Davis, and Dominic Smith.
Keeping with the theme, Alejandro Kirk is a guy I am all in on. Not only should he catch two to three times per week, but he should also DH two to three times, as well.
Lastly, let’s see how the Mariners rotate their players in to get plate appearances. Abraham Toro is really, really good and looks like a super-utility player.
9. What about relievers?
I can’t write the “f-word here,” so I’ll go with the other “f-word” and say forget them.
I hate relievers with a passion, and leagues should switch to saves plus a half-point hold as the standard.
OK, off my soapbox I go.
I’m watching the Texas and San Francisco bullpens closely to see if we can actually believe their managers regarding their comments on Joe Barlow and Jake McGee. Cincinnati is another I’m watching closely to see if Warren can earn the job there.
Is Bender the guy in Miami? Will anyone take the job in Baltimore?
10. Who should I beat the rush on to pick up?
Players like Nick Lodolo and all of the rookies mentioned above should be at the top of your list. If they start hot, they won’t be available later in the season.
Ryan Yarbrough should be in line for two starts for Week 2, so he’s a guy I’m jumping on, as well. Alex Cobb is a guy we could see shoot up rostership lists, so I’d try to beat the rush on him. He’s my pick to be this year’s Robbie Ray.
Patrick Sandoval also has a lot of helium around him and is the kind of guy you should try to grab before his first start.
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Michael Waterloo is a featured writer at Fantasy Pros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @MichaelWaterloo.