Six teams opened their 2017 campaign on Sunday, leaving 24 for a busy Monday. With every team's top starting pitcher taking the ball, it's surprising there are nine hurlers owned in fewer than 50 percent of ESPN leagues, hence on the table for discussion in our new format.
If you missed it Saturday, we'll be focusing strictly on seasonal fantasy leagues in this space. The objective is identifying pitchers and hitters likely available for pickup, or perhaps stashed on reserve, enjoying a matchup worthy of being active that day.
The other change is increased attention to the popular points-game format, since the bulk of analysis is usually done with the undertone of rotisserie scoring. Understanding the type of players better (or worse) in points-based formats is a great way to get an edge on your competition.
Rotisserie players are advised not to chase wins, as they're too fickle. Ratios are integral to rotisserie scoring, and it's usually not worth the risk. However, this might not be the case in points leagues. Run (and baserunner) prevention is obviously important, but they can be balanced by innings and strikeouts, along with the elusive win. If a lesser pitcher's team is favored, especially if supported by a strong bullpen, that starting pitcher is a prime points-league option.
The same principle holds for closers. In rotisserie scoring, some saves come with baggage, high ERA and WHIP. In points formats, some of the points earned from a save can be lost if the outing wasn't clean, but it still ends up helping the fantasy club. As such, even in 10-team mixed leagues, all 30 closers should not only be owned, but also active. In addition, depending on the frequency of transactions and innings limits, dominant middle relievers can be more useful in points leagues. The Daily Notes staff will make a point of identifying stealth points-league options throughout the season.
Here are the better pitching options to consider on the first Monday of the regular season.
Ricky Nolasco (Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Athletics, 6 percent ownership in ESPN leagues): While it's best to stream pitchers for home tilts, the next best thing is in on the road in a pitcher's park, especially when the opposing offense isn't all that threatening. The Angels draw Kendall Graveman -- who can be tantalizing at times, but isn't particularly dominant -- so he's susceptible to rough outings.
Ervin Santana (Minnesota Twins vs. Kansas City Royals, 27 percent): Santana's mound foe is much tougher than Nolasco, as Big Erv squares off with Danny Duffy. Target Field plays quietly favorable to runs, though the Royals offense is more grinding than explosive.
Jeremy Hellickson (Philadelphia Phillies at Cincinnati Reds, 29 percent): If Hellickson maintains last season's improved control, his ownership will be on the rise. Don't be scared off by The Great American Ballpark, as it's generous to homers but neutral for runs. Hellickson is opposed by one of the slate's worst starters in Scott Feldman.
Milwaukee Brewers (vs. Colorado Rockies): Starting for the Brewers is Junior Guerra. Jon Gray takes the ball for the visitors, or else Guerra might have been a streaming option. Still, there's a chance the game is close, meaning Jacob Barnes and Corey Knebel might be called upon to get to closer Neftali Feliz. Barnes and Knebel are both dominant setup men.
Projected game scores
Note: W-L, ERA and WHIP are full-year 2016 statistics. GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. A "*" means that the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author's ratings.
Remember your Little League coaching bellowing, "A walk's as good as a hit?" Of course, that was primarily directed to the kids who couldn't hit. In points-based leagues, hitters who coax a lot of walks are usually more valuable relative to rotisserie scoring. In leagues subtracting points for whiffs, the value of high-contact hitters increases, while batters that fan excessively lose value.
The other subset of players not as useful in points leagues are speedsters, unless the credit per steal is more than the usual one or two points.
Let's find one player at each position with less than 50 percent ownership in ESPN leagues in a favorable spot.
Tony Wolters, Colorado Rockies (2 percent): Those owning Buster Posey or Gary Sanchez might be looking to fill their catcher spot on Monday. The lefty-swinging Wolters should get the nod facing Junior Guerra on the road. While we generally love Coors Field for hitters, Miller Park is actually better for left-handed power.
Danny Valencia, Seattle Mariners (14 percent): Paul Goldschmidt or Anthony Rizzo owners should consider filling their open first-base spot with Valencia, a southpaw slayer. Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros welcome the Mariners to Minute Maid Park.
Cesar Hernandez, Philadelphia Phillies (15 percent): While stolen-base specialists lose potential in points leagues, those who draw walks are the exception. Hernandez resembles that archetype, thus is a great replacement if your second baseman played on Sunday.
Travis Shaw, Milwaukee Brewers (10 percent): Shaw is a very intriguing player. He's been hitting clean-up for the Brewers whenever a righty is on the hill. Jon Gray can be filthy, but if your hot corner spot is open with Evan Longoria or Kris Bryant enjoying a day off, Shaw has some pop, the Brewers love to run and Shaw has enough ability to take advantage.
Freddy Galvis, Philadelphia Phillies (3 percent): It's tough to find a shortstop fitting our criteria, so let's settle on Galvis in a DFS-like mini stack with his double-play partner, Hernandez.
Michael Saunders, Philadelphia Phillies (5 percent): Saunders' talent is deserving of higher ownership, but his durability is an issue. He's healthy now and in a great spot hitting clean-up, looking to drive in Hernandez and Galvis.
Andrew Toles, Los Angeles Dodgers (3 percent): Another type of player favored in points leagues is someone who might not be a home run hitter but instead piles up doubles and triples. Toles fits that bill, hitting leadoff, with the platoon bump facing Jhoulys Chacin.
Notes: Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth, as well as past 21 days) and ballpark factors. "LH" and "RH" ratings account only for left- and right-handed batters, respectively. Weighted on-base average (wOBA) is the primary statistic used in the calculation. Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. So, for example, a 10 is a must-start rating, while a 1 should be avoided (if possible); a 1-2 is poor, 3-4 is fair, 5-6 is average, 7-8 is very good and 9-10 is excellent.