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"The Nine" for Week 2:
Shohei Ohtani has captured most of the Los Angeles Angels' headlines thus far, but it's the team's other hitters who stand out in Week 2 -- particularly the right-handers. The Angels are slated to face three left-handed starters, plus another four right-handers who possess league-average-at-best strikeout rates, and they'll play three of their seven games at Texas' hitting-friendly Globe Life Park. Beyond the obvious trio of Angels hitting options (Mike Trout, Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons), Albert Pujols (available in roughly 60 percent of ESPN leagues) stands out as a particularly advantageous fantasy option. As the team's cleanup hitter with the squad facing a strong week of hitting matchups, Pujols' runs/RBIs (not to mention plate appearances, since the lineup should turn over more often) should benefit. In addition, keep tabs on Ian Kinsler's (DL, groin) status heading into Monday's weekly lineup deadline because if he needs only the minimum, 10-day stay on the disabled list, as expected, he'd be eligible to return Tuesday, would presumably be slotted directly back into the leadoff spot and therefore would warrant instant activation in all leagues. That'd be bad news for Zack Cozart, but the shortstop-turned-third-baseman-turned-fill-in-second-baseman would still be a worthwhile play as the team's No. 6 hitter. As for Ohtani, though his weekly fantasy appeal remains limited on the hitting side, this schedule isn't bad for him, and he remains an ideal plug-in for those in daily leagues.
Thanks to their two-game interleague series in Los Angeles on Tuesday-Wednesday, the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Dodgers suffer the misfortune of the league's only five-game weeks, in a week in which 12 other teams are scheduled to play seven times. It's especially bad news for the Athletics, who lose their designated hitter for those two games in the National League park and are a matchups-oriented team, and it's quite a contrast to the team's 11-day Week 1 schedule, which was loaded with volume opportunity. With the Dodgers starting both Alex Wood and Hyun-Jin Ryu in the team's week-opening series, Athletics hitters will face three left-handed starters, which is awful news for Matt Olson, Matt Joyce and Boog Powell. Khris Davis and Matt Chapman are the team's only two "automatics" on the hitting side, though Marcus Semien and perhaps Olson are worth a look.
Speaking of matchups-oriented teams, the Dodgers also fit the description, having rolled out seven lineups in as many games to begin the season and given all 12 of their active hitters at least two starts apiece. If the Dodgers face four right-handed starters, as projected, Matt Kemp, Logan Forsythe and Enrique Hernandez would be sits in all formats (perhaps Kemp and Forsythe would still be worthwhile in deep NL-only leagues), while Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager would become the only Dodgers with even middle-of-the-road Week 2 matchups.
The Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays play the week's only other interleague series, taking place Friday-Sunday at Tampa's Tropicana Field. The Phillies will pick up the DH as a result, which is more beneficial to them than almost any other National League team, due to their glut of second basemen and outfielders. OK, who am I kidding? This is all about Scott Kingery, who made the team, has made starts at third base (two), shortstop (one) and right field (one) and continues to have to fight for at-bats all over the diamond. He's a lock to pick up starts in all three of those games, probably at third base with Maikel Franco shifting to DH, and that might well provide the opportunity for the rookie to build up hitting momentum and nail down an everyday role. Although the Phillies' hitting rating is middling -- 6 overall and for both left- and right-handers -- mostly due to the pitching-friendly nature of Tropicana Field, this is a good week to rely on them for a volume advantage.
Weather -- especially cold temperatures -- continues to be an issue this season, with games in the northeastern part of the country at greater risk than usual of postponement or conditions that can adversely affect scoring. Chicago (the Cubs are home for six games, the White Sox three) and Cleveland are two cities at heightened risk of delays/postponements during Week 2, with high chances of precipitation on four of the seven days on which each has a game scheduled and temperatures generally ranging between 40 and 50 degrees all week. Early-week games in Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., are more likely to experience lower (high 30s to roughly 50 degrees) temperatures than precipitation, though Monday and Tuesday could be at risk in each. The good news in Washington, as well as in Cincinnati and New York, is that temperatures should rise significantly heading into the weekend for series there. The Detroit Tigers will play three weekend home games facing a slight chance of rain and 40s-50s for temperatures. The Miami Marlins are the only team to play all its games in weather-controlled environments.
This is an unusually favorable week of hitting matchups for the San Diego Padres, thanks in large part to their beginning it with three games at Colorado's Coors Field. Add a four-game series against the San Francisco Giants' bruised and battered pitching staff, and this is a good week to chance it with some of their widely available hitters: Jose Pirela (available in more than 90 percent of ESPN leagues) is routinely batting in the upper third of the lineup; Hunter Renfroe (available in roughly 85 percent) should see regular playing time in Wil Myers' (DL, arm) absence this week, while batting fourth or fifth; and Christian Villanueva (roughly 95 percent) has been stealing time from Chase Headley at third base. It's also a likely week for leadoff man Manuel Margot to get his season rolling.
My value picks for Week 2 both come from the St. Louis Cardinals, who face four (and possibly five) right-handed starters in seven games, miss both Chase Anderson and Luis Castillo in their opponents' rotations and have one of the week's best stolen base matchup ratings. Dexter Fowler (available in roughly 40 percent of ESPN leagues) is the team's typical leadoff man who has underrated stolen base skills, while Kolten Wong (available in roughly 95 percent) showed a more aggressive approach on the base paths during the preseason that hasn't shown itself since the games began to count. Both should be in your lineup for this favorable schedule.
Eduardo Rodriguez rejoined the Boston Red Sox's rotation on Sunday (the final day of ESPN's Week 1), lining him up for a Friday start during Week 2. Drew Pomeranz (DL, forearm), too, is on the mend and could be a candidate to assume the team's Saturday opening. Rodriguez will grant fantasy managers an opportunity to scout him before the week begins, strengthening his status as a strong Week 2 play. Pre-Sunday, I'd say start Rodriguez regardless, and so long as Pomeranz gets the official OK to take that Saturday start, I'd chance using him too (though at a lesser degree than I would Rodriguez).
Among some of the lefty/righty matchups advantages to glean: The San Francisco Giants' Austin Jackson (available in more than 99 percent of ESPN leagues) typically leads off against lefties, and the Giants are scheduled to face four left-handed starters; the Cincinnati Reds' Jesse Winker (available in nearly 95 percent of ESPN leagues) has been leading off against right-handers, and the Reds are scheduled to face seven righty starters; the Tampa Bay Rays' Brad Miller (available in more than 95 percent of ESPN leagues) has frequently been slotted at cleanup against righty starters, and the Rays are scheduled to face six right-handed starters.