The Fantasy Baseball Forecaster has been updated as of Monday, April 10, at 4:50 p.m. ET.
Welcome to the new and improved version of the Fantasy Baseball Forecaster! This year, we've reorganized the story into four parts; it's the same great intel, but you get right where you need to go as fast as possible. Good luck this season!
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On tap: Week 2 of the Major League Baseball (and fantasy baseball) season begins on Monday, April 10, and runs through Sunday, April 16, a seven-day scoring period that includes at least one day game -- with the day's first start time no later than 2:20 p.m. ET -- on each of the seven days.
The Chicago Cubs host the Los Angeles Dodgers in their home opener, before which they'll raise their 2016 World Series championship banner as well as hand out their World Series rings, on Monday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN's Monday Night Baseball.
In addition to the aforementioned Cubs, eight other teams will host their home openers during Week 2: The New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals, Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants have theirs scheduled along with the Cubs' on Monday. The Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians and Miami Marlins have theirs scheduled on Tuesday, and the Atlanta Braves have theirs scheduled on Friday. The Yankees', Royals', Mariners', Giants' and Indians' home openers are all scheduled day games -- all have start times earlier than 6 p.m. ET -- and 12 other games from Monday through Friday have daytime scheduled starts, so mind your start times as you plan your Week 2 lineups, especially in leagues with daily transactions. Weekly leagues on ESPN will lock with the first scheduled game: Tampa Bay Rays at Yankees, at 1:05 p.m. ET on Monday.
Back to that Braves home opener: It's the official opening of the team's new home ballpark, SunTrust Park, though it's not the first recorded baseball game to be played there, as the Braves hosted the Yankees in a March 31 exhibition contest. During that game, a combined 13 runs were scored, along with 18 hits and three home runs (those coming on 20 total fly balls hit), with Freddie Freeman -- a player often described as the one for whom the venue was built -- one of the three who cleared the fence. We'll get our first glimpse that counts of the new ballpark, which was described by Braves beat reporters and other baseball people as much more conducive to offense than its predecessor, Turner Field -- though that opinion was gleaned from the oh-so-minuscule, one-game exhibition sample -- and the Braves will garner the advantage of facing the pitching-starved San Diego Padres for those three games. The trade-off, however, is that the Braves suffer the disadvantage of Week 2's only five-game schedule, in a week where seven other teams are scheduled for seven. It's a somewhat favorable schedule for Braves hitters despite it being somewhat brief, however, so this seems like a week where it's worthwhile to keep Freeman, Matt Kemp, Ender Inciarte, Dansby Swanson and perhaps also Brandon Phillips active.
Weather is often a factor during the early stages of the season, as evidenced by the four combined postponements already through Thursday, April 6. Rain is in the forecast in as many as 10 cities set to host baseball games, threatening as many as 20 total games, during Week 2: Boston (four games from Wednesday through Saturday), Chicago (three games, Monday, Thursday and Sunday), Kansas City (three games, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday) and San Francisco (three games, Wednesday through Friday) are the most at risk for a postponement -- though to be clear, this is evaluating the 10-day forecasts and it's only identifying possible postponements rather than likelihoods of them. This leaves the New York Mets and Cincinnati Reds, oddly enough, as the two teams scheduled for seven games (out of seven total) with a low likelihood of weather-related postponements. The Blue Jays, Mariners and Marlins play all six of their games in weather-controlled environments. The Indians, Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers and Padres, meanwhile, all play six games with low risk of postponements, and the Braves' five-game schedule also falls within that "somewhat safe" group.
Speaking of the Reds, in addition to their high likelihood of getting in all seven games, they also have by far the most favorable set of stolen-base matchups, facing primarily Pittsburgh's Francisco Cervelli and Milwaukee's Jett Bandy and Manny Pina. The Reds' Billy Hamilton and Jose Peraza rank among the game's speediest players, and they've batted one-two in each of the team's first three games of 2017, maximizing their trips to the plate, therefore their chances to get on base, and therefore their number of stolen-base opportunities. The Reds also rank among the more favorable overall hitting schedules, including six games against right-handed starters. Scott Schebler, a .273/.340/.453 career hitter against righties, is a value opportunity.
Heads up, Jake Lamb and David Peralta owners: Their Arizona Diamondbacks are likely to face three left-handed starting pitchers in their six games, and one of them is the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw. Lamb is a .123/.219/.228 hitter with a 34.4 percent strikeout rate against lefties since the 2016 All-Star break, his .209 wOBA against them 11th-worst among 197 lefty hitters with at least 50 plate appearances during that time span. Peralta is a .222/.283/.343 lifetime hitter with a 26.5 percent strikeout rate against lefties.
Home games always seem to favor Blue Jays hitters, and in an April week in the weather-controlled environment, their lineup is especially attractive for fantasy purposes. Though the team is scheduled to face four -- and potentially up to five -- right-handed starters, none of those four has had a wOBA against right-handed batters better than the major league average since the beginning of the 2014 season. And while Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy are two of those opposing righties, this is the time you'd want the Blue Jays facing them: at Rogers Centre, when they're still working their way to midseason form and at a time where the team ranks among the most likely in baseball to give you six games' worth of production. The rest of the Blue Jays' schedule is simply outstanding for hitters, so start every one of their usual top-six hitters, as well as the underrated-against-righties Steve Pearce.
Though their rotation typically gets more press, it's the Mets' bullpen -- and, specifically, their closer -- who could be a sneaky-good play for Week 2. Yes, start the Mets' starters, including even No. 5 starter Zack Wheeler in leagues large enough to justify the matchup play, but Addison Reed could deliver a handful of saves in what should be his final week filling in for suspended Jeurys Familia. After all, the Mets face the Phillies and Marlins in their seven-game week, and neither of those teams figures to rank in the upper half in runs per game this season, nor has either team looked close to claiming that status in the preseason or Week 1.
Both the Colorado Rockies and Padres benefit from three week-opening games at Coors Field, with the Rockies facing the pitching-thin Padres and the Padres missing Jon Gray on the Rockies' side. Those three matchups on either side drive the two teams' favorable hitting ratings, and the Padres gain a particular advantage by drawing the three aforementioned games at Atlanta's new SunTrust Park, which might be more hitting-friendly than anticipated. As the Padres are scheduled to face five right-handed starters in their six games, Yangervis Solarte, Travis Jankowski and Ryan Schimpf stand out as surefire matchup-based plays in mixed leagues.
Among American League offenses, the Indians enjoy some of the more favorable overall matchups. As they're traditionally a more mix-and-match offense, their week against three left-handed starters makes players like Yandy Diaz, Brandon Guyer and perhaps even Austin Jackson worthwhile options in AL-only and very deep mixed leagues. All three started each of the team's two games against lefty starters in Texas during Week 1, and Guyer in fact batted sixth and third in them.