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Fantasy Baseball Weekly Planner: Week 1 (2021)

by Josh Shepardson | @BChad50 | Featured Writer
Mar 31, 2021

Opening Day is nearly upon us, and the first week of the fantasy season will be a long one. It extends from April 1 through April 11. Only two teams drew the short stick and are scheduled to play just eight games each. The remainder of the teams will play nine or ten games.

I have filled the hitter notes section with injury updates and news of players projected to gain position eligibility shortly. Then, I’ll round things out with pitcher notes, where I’ll discuss save speculation, a rebound candidate, my advice on what to do with a talented hurler despite a less-than-ideal role, and an injury update on a southpaw who missed the 2020 season recovering from COVID-19.

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Notable Matchups

Cleveland @ DET (3), vs. KC (2), vs. DET (3)
Cleveland is one of the teams playing a week-low eight games. That’s the bad news. The good news is the opposing pitchers they have on tap are a below-average lot. You’re not sitting Jose Ramirez, but you shouldn’t be sitting Franmil Reyes with the pitching matchups, either. Reyes should benefit from Cleveland drawing four southpaws in their first eight games. According to FanGraphs, he’s hit .299/.380/.508 with 13 homers in 292 plate appearances against lefties since 2018.

Royals vs. TEX (3), @ CLE (2), @ CWS (3)
The Royals are the other club that drew the short straw this week. Unlike Cleveland, the Royals could have a considerably tougher pitching draw depending on how Cleveland handles Shane Bieber and how the White Sox deploy Lucas Giolito. Kansas City could end up facing both aces. Coupled with the short week, gamers should sit fringe fantasy options from the Royals in leagues with weekly lineups.

Braves @ PHI (3), @ WSH (3), vs. PHI (3)
The Braves are among a host of teams scheduled to play nine games in the opening week, but their hitters get a boost from playing in three hitter-friendly parks to open their 2021 campaign. Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, and Truist Park all increase runs with park factors for runs of 1.034, 1.066, and 1.060, respectively, per our MLB Park Factors. Citizens Bank Park and Nationals Park also rank within the top-six parks enhancing dingers, with park factors of 1.202 and 1.135 for homers.

Red Sox vs. BAL (3), vs. TB (3), @ BAL (3)
It’s a double-whammy of positives for Boston’s boppers. First, the Orioles’ rotation and bullpen project to be dreadful, and they’ll square off against them in a pair of three-game series. Second, the hitting conditions are favorable at Fenway Park (1.103 for runs) and Oriole Park at Camden Yards (1.022 for runs and 1.171 for homers).

Reds vs. STL (3), vs. PIT (3), @ ARI (3)
The Reds open this season with home cooking for their first two series, meaning they’ll take cuts in the most homer-friendly park (1.347) in MLB for six contests before a series in the desert. The pitching matchups look non-daunting and decidedly right-handed. Left-handed hitting outfielder Jesse Winker gets a massive uptick in value with the heavy-righty leaning matchups. He’s mashed to the tune of a .292/.390/.503 slash with 31 homers in 739 plate appearances against righties since 2018.

Twins @ MIL (3), @ DET (3), vs. SEA (3)
The Twins are featured in this section essentially entirely due to playing three games in a DH-less National League park. Nelson Cruz has played zero innings in the field in two years with the Twins. Gamers should plan accordingly.

Yankees vs. TOR (3), vs. BAL (3), @ TB (3)
Picking on the Orioles’ pitching staff is likely to be a common theme in this piece throughout the year, and the Yankees are the other team with a series against them in the first fantasy week. The Bronx Bombers also benefit from six games in their homer-friendly home digs, too. Our three-year average produces a 1.077 park factor for homers at Yankee Stadium. If you prefer to weigh last year’s data more heavily, Yankee Stadium is even more homer-happy, ranking third with a park factor of 1.565, per ESPN’s park factors.

Diamondbacks @ SD (4), @ COL (3), vs. CIN (3)
The Diamondbacks kick off the 10-game-week portion of the programming. Sitting with others atop the scheduled-games leaderboard for this fantasy-scoring period inflates counting-stat opportunities for Arizona’s hitters. A three-game series at MLB’s hitters’ paradise, Coors Field, is a plus as well.

Rockies vs. LAD (4), vs. ARI (3), @ SF (3)
The Rockies will appear in this space every week, and the first week isn’t an exception. It’s a good week for their hitters, with seven games at home and only three on the road. The Dodgers’ rotation and bullpen are loaded, so the pitching matchups aren’t great out of the chute. However, home games are the reason for rostering Colorado’s hitters. Trevor Story is always a lineup lock, and Charlie Blackmon is a no-doubt starter with 10 games and seven at Coors Field. I also include C.J. Cron in the no-doubt starter tier in the first week.

Dodgers @ COL (4), @ OAK (3), vs. WSH (3)
Everything comes up roses for the Dodgers’ hitters in week one. It starts with four games at Coors Field. Then, their lineup is bolstered by a designated hitter in three games in Oakland. Finally, they play 10 games in total. Get ’em in your fantasy lineups and enjoy the fantasy production.

Hitter Notes

Eloy Jimenez (CWS) and Andrew Vaughn (CWS)
Jimenez had surgery to repair a ruptured left pectoral tendon on Tuesday, and he’s expected to miss five to six months. He should be cut in basically all re-draft formats. Jimenez’s injury opens the door to Vaughn, the team’s slugging rookie, to earn outfield eligibility. The rookie is a first baseman/designated hitter by trade, but he’s learning left field on the fly and has the confidence of manager Tony La Russa. Added eligibility would be a bonus.

Eugenio Suarez (CIN)
Suarez will be gaining eligibility as well. The veteran third baseman who played shortstop earlier in his career will serve as Cincinnati’s everyday shortstop this year. I was already bullish on Suarez this season and ranked him sixth at third base. He’ll soon be a top-10 option at shortstop as well.

Luke Voit (NYY)
Voit will miss at least the first month of the season due to a torn meniscus in his left knee that requires surgery. Bryan Hoch of reports he could be back by May. The injury is a tough break for gamers counting on Voit’s power, but he is a must-hold player on benches or in an IL spot.

George Springer (TOR)
Springer’s injury news is far less dire. He’s dealing with an oblique injury that required an MRI, and his Opening Day status is day-to-day. Even if he misses Opening Day, the Blue Jays are scheduled to play 10 games, and gamers can start him in leagues with weekly lineup changes.

Pitcher Notes

Ian Kennedy (TEX) and Matt Bush (TEX)
Kennedy and Bush are slated to pitch in high-leverage, late-inning work to open the year. Both have experience closing and are worth speculating on for saves. Kennedy struggled last year, but he was good as recently as 2019. Bush hasn’t pitched since 2018, and he hasn’t pitched well since 2017. To handicap the saves pecking order, I prioritize grabbing Kennedy over Bush.

Carlos Rodon (CWS)
Rodon’s flashed the potential that made him the number-three pick in the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft. Still, injuries and ineffectiveness have prevented him from living up to the expectations that accompany his early selection. Perhaps the motivation of being non-tendered by the White Sox will lead to a breakout campaign. Take spring training stats with a grain of salt, but Rodon shoved it down hitters’ throats with a 1.32 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, one walk, and 16 strikeouts in 13.2 innings. He displayed bat-missing stuff and elite velocity, as evidenced by the following tweets.

He’s worth an early-season dice roll to see if he can carry his electric performance to the regular season.

Tejay Antone (CIN)
I’ve thoroughly hyped Antone in the preseason with the hopes he’d make the rotation or close for the Reds. Instead, he’ll open the year as a multi-inning reliever. It’s possible he could net a few multi-inning saves in relief, but even if that’s not the case, his ERA, WHIP, and strikeout contributions will help fantasy squads. He could also eventually usurp a starting job, as Jeff Hoffman and Jose De Leon don’t inspire confidence in me that they’ll retain their rotation spots all year. Don’t dump Antone yet.

Eduardo Rodriguez (BOS)
E-Rod was initially slated to serve as Boston’s Opening Day starter, but dead arm foiled those plans. He’ll likely start the year on the IL, but the stint projects to be short. Bench him this week. Reevaluate next week to see if he’s ready to rejoin the rotation.

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Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.