Randy Johnson will make his long-awaited return from back surgery on Monday, facing the Giants. Owned in less than two-thirds of ESPN leagues, Johnson's return represents an opportunity for fantasy owners as well; Johnson had a 1.15 WHIP and a 72-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 56 2/3 innings last season. Not to say stifling the Giants in his first start back is expected of Johnson, but it's more of a tune-up than a real test. If he passes, though, you can bet that ownership will shoot up in the next couple of days.
Matchups for Monday, April 14
All times are ET. Statistics are from the 2007 regular season.
Willy Aybar, 3B, Rays (hamstring)
David DeJesus, OF, Royals (ankle)
Carlos Guillen, SS/1B, Tigers (hamstring)
Torii Hunter, OF, Angels (toe)
Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees (quadriceps)
Randy Johnson, SP, Diamondbacks (back)
Jose Reyes, SS, Mets (hamstring)
Ryan Sweeney, OF, Athletics (quadriceps)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: Jon Lester has struggled on the season (10 walks to seven strikeouts) and is unable to pitch deep into games. The Indians are a patient team that should rough Lester up, notably Ryan Garko and Jhonny Peralta, who also have the platoon advantage and are off to hot starts as is.
Ervin Santana has been flat-out bombed in his short career in Ameriquest Field: an 8.92 ERA and 1.76 WHIP in seven starts. Besides benching Santana, also use that as an opportunity to start any Ranger hitter you can get your hands on. Hank Blalock is a good example: A lefty, he has the platoon advantage against Santana, has significant power and is a much better hitter at home.
Pitchers: Dustin McGowan is off to a peculiar start to the season, with 11 strikeouts in two starts (11 innings) and zero home runs allowed, but six walks allowed. McGowan does have control problems now and then, but even if he hurts your WHIP temporarily, the ability to both prevent home runs and get strikeouts makes it unlikely a team as modest as the Orioles could prevent a quality start. Zack Greinke's hot start must be tempered by his low strikeout rate (five in 15 innings); you can't bench him against the Mariners, but they do put the ball in play often (29th in strikeouts, tied for second in batting average last season), which can cause trouble. It's difficult to have much trust when there's so little relevant sample size about Hiroki Kuroda, but his peripherals are legit through two starts and, more importantly, he's facing the Pirates. The aforementioned Randy Johnson faces the Giants, which, yes, makes him an automatic start. Although I'd be surprised to see him last more than five innings or so, Johnson has inherent strikeout potential, and the D-backs obviously are hitting well enough to provide support.
Hitters: Luke Scott is off to a great start, hitting .375 with one home run and five walks to five strikeouts. It's especially notable, as it's likely more than just a hot start: Scott's up to 575 career at-bats against righties where he's hit .282 with 25 home runs and a .910 OPS.
Eric Hinske is off to a quick start in Tampa Bay, hitting .296 with two homers. Hinske will play against right-handers if he can sustain production, and hit .293/.367/.528 against them with 12 home runs in 229 at-bats as recently as 2006.
Once you get past making sure you started Ian Kinsler and any other no-brainer choices, take a look at Ben Broussard, who could be in for a big day. He has three home runs in April so far (all against righties) to go along with the matchup and park-factor benefits.
Mark Ellis wore lefties out last season (.313/.384/.600 line with 11 home runs in 150 at-bats), and was similarly excellent versus them in 2005. Despite the low batting average, Ellis is off to an otherwise great start, and deserves a look.
Pitchers: The Royals are quite susceptible to left-handed pitching -- which makes sense, as three of their best hitters are lefties -- and so far are last in OPS against lefties. There isn't anything especially appealing about Jarrod Washburn for this game other than the fact that he's a league-average pitcher, and any left-handed league-average pitcher makes it work for matchup purposes.
No weather problems Monday; Seattle is the only location expecting rain, and Safeco Field has a retractable roof.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.