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Fantasy Baseball Week 1 Cheat Sheet (2021)

Well, we made it. Mostly due to the shortened 2020 season, this was the most exciting winter to analyze fantasy baseball that I can remember. There are just so many factors to consider for most players – short season, COVID-19, changes to the ball, small samples, innings concerns, etc. For anyone who might still have a draft I rehashed my entire 2021 draft thoughts in Brendan Tuma’s 2021 Draft Cheat Sheet.

Yet for as much attention as we give our drafts (yes, they’re the most fun part of this hobby) it’s now time to shift our focus to in-season management. Come Thursday afternoon fantasy lineups need to be set, and this article is going to help you get ready for it.

I’m a big believer in process over results. What I mean is that I’m not here to hype up anything I’ve gotten right before and I’m not here to dwell on calls that go awry. I’m here to continuously refine the process that leads to our weekly lineup decisions, FAAB bids, waiver pickups, and trade negotiations.

Let that serve as a reminder not to get too high or too low after Week 1. It’s a long season, and I can assure you that the process of this article is only going to get better as the summer moves along. The opening week is special in the sense that it’s longer, spanning from April 1st to April 11th this year. Because of that, this comes out on a Wednesday this week. Moving forward you can expect it every Friday.

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Notable Matchups

My esteemed colleague Mike Maher breaks down some notable matchups in his weekly Quick Grades article, and you can read his Week 1 here. Be sure to check those out every week as they’ll be crucial for weekly lineup decisions.

At the bottom of this article is a chart with ratings for hitting matchups, and I’ll be using this section to add some nuance to those scores.

Boston Red Sox vs Orioles (3), vs Rays (3), at Orioles (3)
Red Sox bats receive the top rating for Week 1 for two reasons. First, they’re playing six games in the friendly hitting confines of Fenway Park. Second, they have six games against the lowly Orioles’ pitching staff. During the opening series of the season Baltimore is going to be throwing John Means, Matt Harvey (!), and Bruce Zimmermann against Boston. Fringe players who should receive a bump in value this week include Enrique Hernandez (likely to lead off), Christian Vazquez, and Bobby Dalbec.

Los Angeles Dodgers at Rockies (4), at A’s (3), vs Nationals (3)
Not only do the Dodgers get 10 games this week, but the first four come against Colorado’s pitching staff in Coors Field. It doesn’t get much better than that. I want to jam in as many LA bats into my lineup as I can.

Kansas City Royals vs Rangers (3), at Indians (2), at White Sox (3)
KC only has eight games this week, but the three against Texas are juicy. I’m surprised they come out with such a high rating (fourth overall). Even if the back half of Chicago’s rotation isn’t overpowering, I think they might have the best bullpen in baseball. I think Royals hitters are in play this week, but I’m more bullish on them for any leagues who reset their lineups again on Monday

Colorado Rockies vs Dodgers (4), vs Diamondbacks (3), at Giants (3)
I’m about to spend a few more paragraphs on the Rockies below, so I’ll keep this brief. They rank 25th our rankings for the week, but I’m still giving their fringe bats a look in weekly lineups due to the fact that they play seven games at home. Facing the Dodgers to start out isn’t ideal, but Coors is Coors. Speaking of…

Coors Field Schedule

Throughout the years I’ve seen a lot of Coors Field analysis related to fantasy baseball. Of course, the takeaway is that Rockies hitters (as well as visiting players) see an uptick in value when playing in Colorado. This analysis has typically been limited to season-long thoughts and DFS, which makes sense.

However, I’d like to add in that we will have opportunities to take advantage of Coors throughout the season as well – both in daily and weekly lineup leagues. Coors can turn fringe hitters into streamers. Rockies players will usually receive the biggest boost, but if an opponent is slated for a three or four game series in a given week, they’ll be on my radar as well, especially in daily lineup leagues.

Here are some Rockies hitters to consider streaming/starting this week:

We’re still learning how Colorado is going to divvy up playing time, so stay tuned on which of these bats will be the most valuable moving forward. For now, Cron is certainly the one I’m most optimistic about.

As for Dodgers/D’Backs hitters, definitely be ready to use them in daily lineup leagues. Since this is a long week, the value of their games in Colorado isn’t as high as usual, but you can still use Coors as a factor for any tough decision involving Dodgers or Diamondbacks hitters.

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Lineup Notes

For this section I’ll be making note of any interesting lineup changes from the week prior as well as anything fantasy managers can expect to see moving forward. Since we haven’t had any games yet this will be tougher than usual, but there are still some takeaways from spring training.

  • As mentioned already, I expect Enrique Hernandez to lead off for the Red Sox, who have the No. 1 rated hitting matchup this week.
  • Shohei Ohtani recently suffered a blister on his throwing hand. He’s slated to face a potent White Sox lineup on Sunday Night Baseball, so I’d rather start him as a hitter this week.
  • Andrew Vaughn has still yet to be optioned to the minors. Expect him to play nearly every day. Start him.
  • Jazz Chisholm has won the Marlins’ second base job. He’s worth using in roto leagues for the stolen base upside, but the downside is that he’s unplayable by the end of April.
  • Taylor Trammell is another roto-specific player worth starting for possible steals. He won the Mariners’ starting left field job.
  • Another Mariner, Ty France, should be a consideration for anyone desperate for 2B help. He hit .327 with five homers and a 1.135 OPS this spring.
  • Another strong spring performance – Victor Robles. Leading off for Washington could be huge for his fantasy value. I don’t have any shares but I’d start him if I did.
  • Blue Jays catcher Alejandro Kirk made the Opening Day roster. It’s likely on a matter of time before he usurps Danny Jansen as the primary catcher. This is a playing time situation to monitor.

Pitching Notes

  • The Marlins are expected to option Sixto Sanchez to their alternate training site. The 22-year-old had a delayed start to spring training and this is simply a way to build him back up before pitching in games that count. Don’t start him this week but don’t be too discouraged. If anything this will save his bullets for later in the year. Sanchez was always going to have an innings cap anyways.
  • James Paxton was fantastic this spring. He draws a plus matchup with the Giants in the second game of the year before facing the Twins on April 10th. I think he’s worth starting, though.
  • It’s not ideal for the Dodgers rotation to be opening the year in Coors, but I’m still starting all four of Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer, Walker Buehler, and Julio Urias for that opening series.
  • Yes, Chris Paddack and Zach Plesac have had rough springs. If they were start-worthy for you during your draft, don’t let those spring numbers scare you off just yet.
  • Deep-league adds to stream: Carlos Rodon (@Mariners, vs Royals), Logan Allen (vs Royals, vs Tigers) and Logan Webb (@Mariners, vs Rockies)
  • Deep-league adds to wait-and-see before starting: Daulton Jefferies, Adbert Alzolay
  • Fade of the week: Max Fried (@Phillies, @Nationals) – I wrote more about Fried here.
  • Prospect to watch: Tarik Skubal (vs Indians, @Indians) – I wrote more about Skubal here.
  • Closing situations to monitor for waivers: Indians, Rangers, Reds, Padres. Also a friendly reminder to check out our closer report, which I update frequently.
  • Remember that Aroldis Chapman is serving a two-game suspension to start the year

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If you want to dive deeper into fantasy baseball, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Baseball Tools as you prepare for your draft this season. From our Cheat Sheet Creator – which allows you to combine rankings from 100+ experts into one cheat sheet – to our Draft Assistant – that optimizes your picks with expert advice – we’ve got you covered this fantasy baseball draft season.

Brendan Tuma is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Brendan, check out his archive and follow him @toomuchtuma.

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