The first Wednesday of the regular season brings with it the first doubleheader of the season as the Nationals and Braves make up the postponed opener of their three-game series. The game, which was initially scheduled on Monday, will now be part of a pair of seven-inning affairs. Everyone else is in action except the Astros and Angels who get to take advantage of a rare Wednesday off.
Unfortunately, it's a poor slate for streaming pitchers as most of the arms available in more than 50% of ESPN leagues are taxed with tough matchups. It may be a day to focus on bullpen arms to fill open spots in your pitching lineups. Hitters, on the other hand, are plentiful.
Here are the picks to help you get through hump day, all rostered in under 50% of ESPN leagues.
Nathan Eovaldi (R), rostered in 53% of ESPN leagues, Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays: Please excuse our selection of Eovaldi, who is slightly over the usual 50% cutoff. There just aren't many options today and those in shallower leagues should check on his availability. Boston's opening-day starter did his job, allowing just one run on four hits to Baltimore in 5 1/3 innings. Next up is another divisional foe as the Rays and Red Sox continue their four-game set. It's still chilly in New England, although the temperature should be in the low 60s for this matinee.
David Peterson (L), 4%, New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies: Peterson was slated to battle Joey Lucchesi for the last spot in the Mets rotation during spring training, but with Carlos Carrasco sidelined for a month, the competition carries over to the regular season. Both men will have a handful of starts to show they deserve to remain in the rotation. Peterson posted a 3.44 ERA last season, but the estimators pegged it at well over a run higher. The best way to combat regression is improving skills and Peterson's minor-league numbers suggest he can indeed improve on last year's weak 19.5% strikeout and 11.7% walk rates.
Chad Kuhl (R), 2%, Pittsburgh Pirates at Cincinnati Reds: On a different day, Kuhl probably wouldn't make the cut, but we've got a Wednesday docket bereft of many options, so he gets a cautionary nod. Kuhl is now two years removed from Tommy John surgery, although his velocity is still a tick below the level it was at prior to his going under the knife. As is usually the case with Tommy John returnees, Kuhl's control was suspect last season. Some of the issues there were due to increased slider usage. The good news is that Kuhl's slider was actually effective. As such, even if his velocity doesn't return, he has the potential to be an above-average strikeout pitcher should he improve that control.
Justin Dunn (R), 1%, Seattle Mariners vs. Chicago White Sox: Dunn would also have been absent from this space on a typical slate, but he's in play for deeper leagues -- especially points formats which don't overly penalize for runs and hits allowed. Dunn is a below-average pitcher, prone to a lot of walks. The White Sox aren't especially patient and have been fanning at a high clip to open the 2021 campaign.
Bullpen: While it's always smart to turn to bullpens for teams playing a pair, the Nationals are an especially ideal target as their closer Brad Hand is one of the players out of action. Daniel Hudson is most likely to assume ninth-inning duties, with Tanner Rainey also a possibility.
For the latest team-by-team closer situations, please consult our Closer Chart.
Catcher -- Tom Murphy (R), 3%, Seattle Mariners vs. Chicago White Sox (LHP Dallas Keuchel): One of the best ways to get an edge is to outwork your competition. The Mariners catching situation lines up to be frustrating all season as Murphy and Luis Torrens should both play about half the time. Since they're both right-handers, identifying any particular day's starter requires paying attention when lineups are announced and adjusting accordingly. This is particularly relevant on days when Seattle faces a hittable southpaw.
First Base -- Bobby Dalbec (R), 22%, Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays (LHP Ryan Yarbrough): After leading the Grapefruit League in homers, Dalbec apparently left his power stroke back in Fort Meyers. Contact is his problem, most notably on velocity. This shouldn't be as much of an issue against Yarbrough although, to be fair, the left-hander does a good job keeping the ball in the yard.
Second Base -- Garrett Hampson (R), 5%, Colorado Rockies vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (LHP Madison Bumgarner): Bumgarner exhibited refined mechanics and more velocity in the spring. His opening-day effort was better than the 13.50 ERA indicates as he fanned six Padres in four frames, recording an impressive 15.4% swinging-strike rate. Still, Coors Field is a tough place to pitch, making Hampson the top pickup of the day.
Third Base -- Evan Longoria (R), 24%, San Francisco Giants at San Diego Padres (LHP Blake Snell): Snell is obviously a talented starter, but he has been prone to the longball in recent seasons. By choosing Longoria, it may appear that we're "chasing a hot streak" as he's homered in three of the Giants' first four games. However, he's been productive with the platoon edge as he's aged, so he'd be in play, irrespective of the hot start.
Shortstop -- Freddy Galvis (S), 4%, Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees (RHP Jameson Taillon): Galvis is the ideal safety net when it's hard to find an available shortstop. He's a switch-hitter with equal platoon splits, so he should be under consideration regardless of who is on the hill. He has a little pop and he can run, having already stolen a base in the opening game of the current series against the Yankees.
Corner Infield -- Pavin Smith (L), under 1%, Arizona Diamondbacks at Colorado Rockies (RHP Antonio Senzatela): Veteran fantasy managers are already trained to check out whether or not the Rockies are at home before setting their lineups. It won't take long before those new to the hobby follow suit. Smith is getting the majority of run in right field while Kole Calhoun is out. Smith hits more ground balls than desired, but he has the power to take advantage of the thin air if he gets under one.
Middle Infield -- Kolten Wong (L), 49%, Milwaukee Brewers at Chicago Cubs (RHP Kyle Hendricks): As long as Wong is available in at least 50% of ESPN leagues, he'll be a candidate to make this space. That said, it shouldn't be long before his rostered percentage eclipses that cutoff. Wednesday's setup isn't ideal, as Wong faces a tough pitcher on the road. Still, batting leadoff for a potentially potent lineup helps his cause.
Outfield -- Brent Rooker (R), under 1%, Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers (LHP Matthew Boyd): The Twins are deploying a left field platoon until their prized prospect is deemed to be ready. Rooker is currently getting the call against left-handers. Boyd escaped his first start without allowing a run, although he walked four with just two punch outs in 5 2/3 innings against Cleveland. He'll need to improve on that effort facing an explosive Twins offense.
Outfield -- Adam Eaton (L), 33%, Chicago White Sox at Seattle Mariners (RHP Justin Dunn): Eaton is another "boring but productive" player, especially when enjoying the platoon advantage. He's been situated in the two-hole with left-handers on the hill. This is a juicy spot to be in when the White Sox have a chance to do some damage.
Outfield -- Ben Gamel (L), under 1%, Cleveland Indians vs. Kansas City Royals (RHP Jakob Junis): This recommendation comes with a warning as Junis is only expected to work a couple of innings. If that is indeed the case, Gamel could end up being lifted for a pinch-hitter. That said, he's been batting leadoff, so he's worth a gamble. After all, the Royals only have one left-hander in their bullpen -- and Jake Brentz isn't worth avoiding.