Fantasy baseball's Week 3 gets off to a compelling start on the pitching front, as in addition to Shohei Ohtani kicking things off by starting the Patriots' Day game in Boston on Monday at 11 a.m. ET, top-15-from-2022 starter Max Fried rejoins the Atlanta Braves after recovering from a hamstring injury, while hot-starting youngsters Jesus Luzardo of the Miami Marlins and Dustin May of the Los Angeles Dodgers make their fourth starts of the season, both at home.
Fried's return goes under the start/sit microscope, primarily due to the absence of a rehabilitation start, fueling questions about a prospective pitch count in the outing. It's possible he'll be held to 75 pitches or fewer, but otherwise is too talented to bench in any fantasy league, so let how strict your league's start cap drive your decision.
Shifting to the hitting side of things, here are three players you should be adding to all of your fantasy lineups for this week:
Three to add
Jarred Kelenic, OF, Seattle Mariners: The fantasy baseball world is still abuzz over Kelenic's 482-foot home run into the second deck of the CF bleachers at Chicago's Wrigley Field on Wednesday, and if you haven't yet, it's one that you've got to see for yourself. Much more importantly (in this column's estimation), it came in the third of what was a four-game consecutive home run streak, during which all four of the homers he hit traveled at least 414 feet. Kelenic has been absolutely mashing, with 93rd-percentile-or-better Statcast numbers in average exit velocity, Barrel and hard-hit rates, and both expected weighted on-base average and expected slugging percentage. He's mashing fastballs in a way that he never did in his 2021 or 2022 tastes of the bigs, with wOBAs against the pitch more than 250 points higher this year than in either of those previous two campaigns.
In any such example, the "small sample noise" question is fair, as we're still talking about only 18 days of baseball, and really just eight strong days of power production. But in Kelenic's case, he looks like a different hitter this season than in either of the previous two, not to mention more like the type of player who earned consensus top-five-in-baseball prospect rankings entering his 2021 rookie year. Many prospects take an extended time to get fully acclimated to the majors, and Kelenic is still only 23 years old and just two years removed from those future-star predictions.
He brings far too much promise to be left available in any fantasy league. Best yet, he's somehow still out there for the taking in about 54% of ESPN leagues!
Franchy Cordero, 1B/OF, New York Yankees: Speaking of unexpected power outbursts, to date Cordero has matched Kelenic in the HR department, boasting four of his own -- or already halfway to his previous career best. If Matt Carpenter comparisons immediately come to mind, it would be understandable, recalling Carpenter's 15 homers in the first 40 games of his Yankees career in 2022, and Yankees announcers themselves have even made the parallel. The Yankees are good at finding left-handed swings perfectly crafted to their HR-friendly home ballpark, and Cordero's sure seems to fit.
Between the majors and Triple-A ball from 2017-22, he had .222 isolated power, he has an 11.3% career big-league Statcast Barrel rate (the MLB average during that time is 6.8%), and he's pulling the ball at a 54% rate this year. Cordero does have a lot of "swing and miss" in his game, and he's still too ground-ball oriented to be a budding superstar (54.2% rate this season, 46.1% career). Still, he's in a good situation for home runs, RBIs and runs scored, and he should play regularly for the foreseeable future, especially with Giancarlo Stanton now on the IL.
Consider adding Cordero, who has the added benefit of being both first base and outfield eligible, if power is what your team needs.
Brandon Marsh, OF, Philadelphia Phillies: Continued schedule advantages are in his immediate future. Coming off a four-game series at hitting-friendly Great American Ball Park, during which he went a combined 5-for-14 (.357 BA) with four runs scored and two RBI, Marsh will now enjoy a seven-game week against disappointing Chicago White Sox and sparse Colorado Rockies pitching. Six of the Phillies' seven projected starting pitching opponents are right-handed, which suits Marsh well, considering he's a career .268/.330/.434 hitter against them, his wOBA against that side 85 points higher than against lefties (.331, compared to .246).
From a general -- i.e. non Week 3 schedule-specific -- standpoint, Marsh stands out as a prospective long-term pickup, too, being that he has made some subtle changes that might fuel a breakthrough. He's chasing fewer non-strikes with his 23% chase rate checking in at well beneath his 29% career number. He's also delivering more Barrels to go along with his well-above-average speed. There might be a 20/20 caliber season in his skill set.
The AL West-leading Texas Rangers should fatten up their lead during fantasy's Week 3, beginning with three road games against the Kansas City Royals and concluding with three home games against the Oakland Athletics. That's a pair of opponents that currently place among the league's five worst run-scoring offenses. Ace Jacob deGrom is aligned as the Rangers' two-start pitcher, and he'll be working both games with five days of rest, having thrown 92 and 98 pitches in his previous two outings.
Beyond deGrom, however, the Rangers have an entire rotation of widely-available starters who all warrant streaming consideration. Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez are aligned to face the Royals, while Jon Gray and Andrew Heaney are set to battle the Athletics. Gray, incidentally, is expected to be ready to take his turn this week despite having been hit in the forearm by a line drive in his last outing.
It's the Rangers bullpen, however, that has their top pickup, with the team likely having a number of leads to protect in the ninth inning.
Jose Leclerc, RP, Rangers: The Rangers haven't had many save chances to date, as their three total opportunities are tied for second-fewest in baseball. (Only Miami has had fewer with two.) Still, Leclerc has received two of those three chances while also polishing off the team's 6-2 Friday victory. His average fastball velocity has been lacking, sitting at just 94.0 mph this season after reaching 96.5 in 2022. However, both his slider and changeup have been excellent and his overall repertoire has remained strong enough to minimize hitters' hard contact to the levels that he generally has in his career.
Setup man Will Smith might see a good share of late-inning work, warranting a mention -- especially with the new reward for holds in ESPN leagues, but Leclerc seems like the team's "go-to guy" in the ninth for now. This is an ideal week to slot him in, with the hope that he'll deliver multiple saves.