Week 2 of the fantasy baseball season is the first that runs seven days in length, spanning from Monday, April 8, through Sunday, April 14, and it gets off to an early start thanks to a pair of day games in Chicago on Monday: Tampa Bay Rays at Chicago White Sox has a 2:10 p.m. ET scheduled first pitch, while Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs has a 2:20 ET scheduled first pitch, with the latter serving the Cubs’ home opener. The Boston Red Sox’s home opener, scheduled for Tuesday against the Toronto Blue Jays and the latest home opener of 2019, also has a daytime scheduled first pitch: 2 p.m. ET on ESPN. With so many day games on the early part of the 2019 schedule — 15 of the 62 weekday (Monday-Friday) and 36 of the week’s 92 scheduled games overall have daytime scheduled starts — be prepared for many early lineup locks as well as split slates in daily fantasy contests.
The Red Sox’s schedule is one of five that’s only five games in volume, but it’s easily the most favorable of the bunch, including a pair of games against the aforementioned Blue Jays followed by three against the surprisingly hot-starting Baltimore Orioles. The Red Sox had a rough go of it during the first 11 days of the 2019 season, playing on the road on every one of those days, including a West Coast swing, but now they return to familiar Fenway Park with more-than-adequate rest on both Monday and Wednesday, sandwiching a day of excitement when they raise their 2018 championship banner. With the possible exception of Matt Shoemaker, their Tuesday scheduled opponent who has a career 21.9 percent strikeout rate, the Red Sox aren’t expected to face a single high-strikeout starter, which should help ease some of the worries Jackie Bradley Jr.’s and Rafael Devers’ fantasy managers might have about their early whiff woes. Among the less-prominent Red Sox hitters, Devers should remain a part of your Week 2 fantasy lineup, considering his heart-of-the-order lineup spot and this sneaky-good schedule. The team’s rotation should also reverse its early funk, with all five starters earning above-average projected Game Scores.
While the Oakland Athletics have improved their team play since returning to the States, much of that the product of their pitching, it’s their hitting that should carry them during fantasy’s Week 2. Trips to both Baltimore’s Camden Yards (four games, Monday-Thursday) and Texas’ Globe Life Park (three games, Friday-Sunday) grant them sizable park-factor bumps, a needed benefit for a team that is currently missing one of its best power sources in Matt Olson (IL, hand). The Athletics were baseball’s top-scoring road team in 2018 (5.48 runs per game) and had the fourth-highest road/home differential in the category (0.92 runs more per game on the road), with Matt Chapman (.311/.388/.596, .424 wOBA), Stephen Piscotty (.265/.331/.504, .366) and Chad Pinder (.289/.341/.467, .358) particularly adept at hitting away from the Oakland Coliseum. The Athletics should face at least five, and perhaps as many as six, right-handed starters, so this is a good week to activate Robbie Grossman, Kendrys Morales and Jurickson Profar in appropriate-depth leagues.
The Colorado Rockies have an unusual schedule in that their hitters reap almost all of the rewards of their week-opening series against the injury-riddled Atlanta Braves pitching staff, while their pitchers should stand out most during their week-ending series at San Francisco’s Oracle Park, an extreme pitchers’ park, against one of the game’s weakest offenses in the San Francisco Giants. Mashing the two series together props up two-start pitcher Kyle Freeland’s matchups to that of a worthwhile start in all weekly-lineup leagues — fellow two-start pitcher German Marquez, meanwhile, is an obvious play — and the Rockies’ right-handed bats will probably stand out due to their facing four left-handed starters. Consider this a good week to activate Garrett Hampson, who might be able to capitalize as well, stealing bases against the Braves’ mediocre catching tandem of Tyler Flowers and Brian McCann.
Speaking of teams with significant park-factor shifts, the Tampa Bay Rays have one of the week’s more interesting schedules, making a pair of three-game stops at Chicago’s Guaranteed Rate Field and Toronto’s Rogers Centre, both of those parks significantly more homer-friendly than the team’s own Tropicana Field. While the Rays haven’t hit especially well as a team to date, they’ve also faced a lot of elite pitching in those games, and the fact that the team seems to be consistently using the same 10 players for their nine lineup spots decreases the playing-time risk the franchise has been known for in the past — these don’t exactly seem like your usual mix-and-match Rays. Ji-Man Choi, Yandy Diaz, Kevin Kiermaier and Brandon Lowe are all players available in more than 85 percent of ESPN leagues, with realistic chances at contributing in mixed leagues over the course of the full 162 games. Your final chance to claim any of them might be in advance of this well-above-average week of matchups.
Among the other five-game teams — the Cincinnati Reds, Minnesota Twins, Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays — the Twins and Rangers have the roughest go of it due to the loss of the designated hitter during each team’s two-game, Tuesday-Wednesday trip to a National League ballpark. For the Twins, their two-game road series against the New York Mets puts them in a tough spot with designated hitter Nelson Cruz, who has played only 54 1/3 innings in the field since the beginning of the 2017 season and is now 38 years old. In Cruz’s defense, he’s still an exceptional hitter whose three weekend games against the Detroit Tigers earn high matchups grades, and the Twins could always experiment with him in right field at Max Kepler’s expense. As for the Rangers, losing the DH means one fewer spot in the lineup for what had already been a three-man rotation between Shin-Soo Choo, Joey Gallo and Hunter Pence. Choo and Pence, in particular, are especially weak AL-only plays as a result.
Chicago White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon is the two-start pitcher who most warrants your attention, though bear in mind that using him in shallow mixed leagues comes with some risk, considering his matchups are at home against the Tampa Bay Rays and at New York’s Yankee Stadium. While he has lost a hint of fastball velocity so far this season, he has also performed well through two starts thanks to significantly boosting his slider usage, throwing the pitch more than 40 percent of the time, which is a relevant development considering the Rays have been the worst-performing team against sliders thus far (and were bottom-10 against them in 2018), while the New York Yankees were below-average against sliders both last season and so far in 2019. He is, in fact, probably the toughest of the aforementioned Rays’ Week 2 matchups. Rodon’s matchups fall into the risk/reward category, but I’d chance using him if I’m chasing volume — something that’s handiest in points leagues.
While the Kansas City Royals haven’t run wild on the base paths just yet — their five stolen bases in six games through the season’s first six games ranked sixth in the league — that should change this week when the team faces a familiar catching foe in Omar Narvaez. Narvaez surrendered a combined 11 steals in nine games to these Royals in 2018, including six to Whit Merrifield and two apiece to Alex Gordon and Adalberto Mondesi. The Royals’ weekend matchups during their weekend series against the Cleveland Indians aren’t necessarily below-average, as the ratings say, either, considering that Indians timeshare catcher Kevin Plawecki has allowed a combined 142 steals in 217 career big-league games. If you’ve been waiting for Billy Hamilton to contribute in the category, this is a prime week for him to do so.
If you’re looking for righty/lefty matchup advantages among players more suited for deep-mixed (think 14-plus-team) or “only” leagues, consider: Curtis Granderson, a .245/.358/.448 (.358 wOBA) hitter against right-handers since the beginning of 2018 whose Miami Marlins have faced a lot of lefties in the season’s opening week but are likely to lead him off against most righties; Leonys Martin, the Indians’ leadoff hitter and .280/.348/.451 hitter against right-handers since the beginning of 2018, who is scheduled to face five righty starters in six games; Joc Pederson, a .268/.351/.578 (.399) hitter versus righties since the beginning of 2018 whose Los Angeles Dodgers face nothing but right-handed starters; Christian Walker, a .297/.323/.542 hitter against lefties between the majors and minors last season whose Arizona Diamondbacks face four left-handed starters; and Tyler White, a .319/.422/.580 (.431) hitter against lefties since the beginning of 2018 whose Houston Astros face three lefty starters.
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