If Sunday night's Fenway Park tilt represents the ceremonial first pitch of the season, Monday is when it gets real in fantasy. Twenty-six teams mark the opening of their seasons, the exception being four of the five AL East teams; the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees being your Sunday night combatants, and the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays, who open hostilities on Tuesday.
What does this mean? Opening day starters and opening day lineups galore. No resting your stars, no benching a struggling hitter, no Triple-A callups. Instead, we get staff aces, veteran hitters trying to get off on the right foot and rookies making their major league debut. Jason Heyward, Monday is the first day of the rest of your life.
ESPN Fantasy is proud to bring you another season of Daily Notes, your daily dose of lineup-setting, waiver-wire scouring, pitcher-streaming advice. We've beefed up the info this season with up-to-date matchup ratings for every game, from both the pitcher's and the batter's perspective. Every day, you'll see how we feel the starting pitcher rates versus his opponent based on a proprietary formula that assigns each starter a rating from 1 to 10. Our Daily Notes analyst, AJ Mass or Adam Madison, will then rank every pitcher taking into account this rating as well as any additional information they've gathered. Here, then, are the first starting pitcher rankings of the season.
Starting pitcher rankings for April 5
Rk.: The author's ranking of that pitcher for that day only. T: Pitcher throws left-handed or right-handed. W-L: Pitcher's win-loss record. ERA: Pitcher's earned run average. WHIP: Pitcher's average number of walks plus hits surrendered per inning. K/9: Pitcher's average number of strikeouts per nine innings. OPSA: Pitcher's on-base plus slugging percentage surrendered to opponents. OPS: Pitcher's opponent's composite team on-base plus slugging percentage. CT%: Pitcher's opponent's success rate putting the ball in play (versus striking out).
Selected notes: In this space, you'll be getting our Daily Notes authors' thoughts about the day's matchups, including the reasons behind any manipulation of the rankings. You might be served interesting tidbits, such as the fact that Roy Halladay is 5-1 lifetime versus the Washington Nationals with a 2.52 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and a 5.5 strikeout-to-walk rate. Or that if that last-place rating for Zach Duke wasn't scary enough, how about the fact that the Dodgers have owned him in his career, roughing him up for a 5.68 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in 50 2/3 innings. We'll also give you recomendations for or against waiver-wire pitchers you may be considering as options to stream into your rotation for the day.
Our next inovation for the 2010 season is team-based offensive matchups. You'll be able to look up how appealing a matchup might be overall, or broken down for left-handed hitters, right-handed hitters and for base-stealing opportunities.
Hitter matchup ratings for Monday, April 5
While the chart above should allow you to make decisions specific to your roster, in this section, our analysts will use the same information and their own research to recommend certain hitters you might otherwise consider benching. One such player might be Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Garrett Jones, drafted in the 21st round on average in ESPN standard leagues, but who may well perform as an Opening Day star against Vicente Padilla considering the Pirates' outrageous 10-3 split in matchup rating for lefties versus righties. Likewise, in deeper leagues, you may want to roll out sleeper Jeff Clement, who had moderate success versus lefties in his last major-league tour of duty (.289 in 45 at-bats in 2008). ... And if you're looking for running matchups, the ratings would strongly urge you to trot out Dexter Fowler, whose Rockies get a 9 for their speed matchup against the Brewers, or Julio Borbon for the Rangers' lucky 7 rate against the Blue Jays.
In this section, we'll do the opposite, recommending you bench, or at the very least consider alternates to, some players whom you otherwise might plug into your lineup. While we'll rarely encourage you to bench your studs, there are certain situations which may require caution. For example, with the Detroit Tigers' matchups decidedly poor for their right-handed batters, perhaps you might want to delay debuting rookie Scott Sizemore. You would also be leary to start any of your Astros or Reds, but particularly Drew Stubbs, whose speed matchup is atrocious due to facing the battery of Chris Carpenter and Yadier Molina. The speed matchups also let us apply the red light to Rajai Davis, Chone Figgins and Juan Pierre, none of whom have a rating better than 3 on Opening Day. Using this information to make judicious lineup decisions will help you maximize the stats you accumulate out of every lineup slot you have.
Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day
Have you signed up for Baseball Challenge yet? It's not too late, and if you enjoy the daily flavor of the game, we'll give you a daily pick to click, be it a high-salary stud worth every penny or a scrub that will save you enough money to fit an extra star under your $50 million cap.
Matt Kemp, CF, Dodgers: Not only do the Dodgers have a overall offensive rating of 9 versus Zach Duke, their right-handed hitters are rated a 10. Kemp is 6-for-15 lifetime against the Duke, three of the hits being doubles, and the speed matchup of 6 shouldn't prevent him from taking an extra base as well.
The name says it all. In this section, we'll keep you up-to-date on injury concerns, from players you should definitely sit to those whose injuries make them risky starts to those who are safe to play. We will also list recent additions to, and returns from, the disabled list.
Injury list: Out
Carlos Beltran, OF, Mets (15-day DL, knee)
Lance Berkman, 1B, Astros (15-day DL, knee)
Joe Blanton, P, Phillies (15-day DL, oblique)
Russell Branyan, 1B, Indians (15-day DL, herniated disc)
Emmanuel Burriss, 2B, Giants (15-day DL, foot)
Trevor Cahill, P, A's (15-day DL, stress reaction)
Alberto Callaspo, 2B, Royals (day-to-day, oblique) has been ruled out for Monday's game
Coco Crisp, OF, Athletics (15-day DL, fractured finger)
Joey Devine, P, A's (15-day DL, Tommy John surgery)
Josh Fields, 3B, Royals (15-day DL, hip flexor)
Alex Gordon, 3B, Royals (15-day DL, thumb)
Angel Guzman, P, Cubs (15-day DL, shoulder)
Joel Hanrahan, P, Pirates (15-day DL, elbow)
J.P. Howell, P, Rays (15-day DL, shoulder)
Matt Joyce, OF, Rays (15-day DL, elbow)
Scott Kazmir, P, Angels (15-day DL, hamstring)
Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers (15-day DL, ankle)
Hong-Chih Kuo, P, Dodgers (15-day DL, elbow)
Cliff Lee, P, Mariners (15-day DL, abdominal strain)
Ted Lilly, P, Cubs (15-day DL, shoulder)
Fred Lewis, OF, Giants (15-day DL, muscle strain)
Gil Meche, P, Royals (15-day DL, shoulder bursitis)
Jose Reyes, SS, Mets (15-day DL, thyroid)
Freddy Sanchez, 2B, Giants (15-day DL, shoulder)
Jordan Schafer, OF, Braves (15-day DL, hand)
Huston Street, P, Rockies (15-day DL, shoulder)
Koji Uehara, P, Orioles (15-day DL, hamstring)
Kerry Wood, P, Indians (15-day DL, muscle strain)
Michael Wuertz, P, A's (15-day DL, shoulder tendinitis)
Injury list: Day-to-day
Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers (wrist) should be ready to play
Rick Ankiel, OF, Royals (ankle) should be ready to play
Milton Bradley, OF, Mariners (quad) left Saturday's exhibition game
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Blue Jays (wrist) played Saturday in exhibition game
Carlos Guillen, OF, Tigers (hamstring) should be ready to play
Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs (foot) should be ready to play
Russell Martin, C, Dodgers (groin) will likely not be ready to play
Nate McLouth, OF, Braves (hamstring) should be ready to play
Xavier Nady, OF, Braves (elbow) should be ready to play
Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals (oblique) may not be ready to play
Cody Ross, OF, Marlins (calf) will start Monday
Dan Uggla, 2B, Marlins (finger) should be ready to play
Luis Valbuena, 2B, Indians (hand) will be a game-time decision
In this section we will list any game which is threatened by at least a 50 percent chance of precipitation, as well as note any adverse weather conditions which may crop up during the season. For Opening Day, the West Coast is the only trouble spot, with 70 percent chance of rain in Anaheim for the Angels and Twins and in Oakland for the A's and Mariners.
Pierre Becquey is the senior editor and an award-winning contributor to ESPN.com fantasy.