MLB Fantasy Weekend Warm-up
by Jonathan O'Konis, Sports Network
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - This is what everyone has been waiting for...Opening Day. With this in mind, let's get your team in order with some helpful tips entering the fantasy baseball season.
The Rockies begin the season at home against the Padres. That means don't start any Padres pitchers. Seeing as how you shouldn't have any Rockies starters on your roster, sorry Jeff Francis, don't worry about who they're pitching. The Rockies have several hitting prospects who should be on your waiver wire, including Clint Barmes, Garrett Atkins and J.D. Closser. Therefore, pay particular attention to how they perform in their first home series. If you have any Colorado or San Diego bench players, you should activate them unless you're replacing a superstar player.
Don't forget that after the Red Sox and Yankees open their season on Sunday the two teams don't play again until Wednesday. Either switch your line-up after Sunday's game or leave your Red Sox players on the bench since they've combined to hit .200 with four home runs against Randy Johnson in 155 at-bats. Trot Nixon owners should be sure to leave him the bench since he won't be playing against the left-handed throwing Johnson. Lefties Johnny Damon and David Ortiz will both play. Left-handed Tony Womack most likely won't play due to injury, but if you have him on your roster that's an entirely new problem.
There appears to be an abundance of star players or injury-riddled athletes riding the waiver right now. For hitters, look for ones with an everyday job and who hit in prolific lineups. Right now, the Red Sox have Nixon penciled into the No. 2 spot in the batting order, behind Damon and Manny Ramirez. Let me repeat that "between Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez". That means runs and RBI. Nixon isn't going to get at-bats against lefties, which isn't so bad after all. Just two years ago, Nixon hit 28 homers and had 87 RBI with an OPS of .887. If he stays healthy, he should be able to post numbers at least on that level. If he's on your league's waiver wire, make fun of everyone else in your league and then quickly, pick up Nixon. The same goes for Jason Giambi and even Juan Gonzalez, who has been named the starting rightfielder in a good Cleveland lineup. If you can pick Gonzo off the waiver wire or grab him with your last pick in the draft, he's a good gamble.
Pitching? Kevin Millwood struggled last year, going 9-6 with an ERA of 4.85. But facts are facts. Citizens Bank Park is not a friendly stadium to pitchers. It's also well documented that Millwood doesn't pitch well when he's at the top of a rotation. In Cleveland, he'll be behind C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee and Jake Westbrook. Millwood could easily win 14-16 games with an ERA in the low 4.00s with 160 K's. The Rockies, fearing turning their closing duties to young Chin-hui Tsao, have reached a deal to bring in Boston outcast Byung-Hyun Kim to fill that spot. Not a good idea, but not awful. Away from the harsh spotlight of Boston, it's possible that Kim emerges as a decent pitcher. If you're desperate for saves, then why not take a chance on Kim. As long as you pick him, with little-to-no expectations, he can't really hurt you.
One of the best fantasy match-ups in the next few days, at least from a pitching point of view, should be Monday's Pittsburgh Pirates home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers. Monday's scheduled starters are Ben Sheets for Milwaukee and Oliver Perez for the Pirates. Both pitchers last season finished in the NL's top ten in ERA and strikeouts. Sheets went 12-14 with an ERA of 2.70 with 264 K's. Perez went 12-10 with an ERA of 2.98 with 239 K's. You have to throw out their won-loss records because both offenses were horrible. Two superior pitchers against two offenses that don't exactly bring the '27 Yankees to mind. If you have hitters in this game, leave them on the bench and watch the strikeouts pile up.
The NL champion St. Louis Cardinals open the season in Houston on Tuesday with a rematch of last year's NLCS. Oh, how times have changed. The Astros aren't nearly as good as they were last season with the departures of Carlos Beltran, Jeff Kent and Wade Miller. The Cardinals are, believe it or not, better. Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt are still top fantasy pitchers, and Brad Lidge is amazing. But with little offense, the Astros don't have a shot this season. Start all your Cardinals pitchers and just wait for Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen and Co. to take advantage of Minute Maid Park. Watching Mark Mulder's debut with the Cardinals should be interesting to see how he adapts to the NL. The same goes for Pedro Martinez and his debut with the Mets against the Reds on Monday.
Don't believe the hype. With Barry Bonds being out for the foreseeable future, don't believe that Pedro Feliz can step in and take his place for the Giants or your fantasy team. In 373 at-bats, Bonds hit 45 home runs and had an OPS of 1.421 last year. In 503 at-bats Feliz hit 22 home runs with an OPS of .790. So don't add Feliz to your fantasy team. Wait for a better player to become available.