Baseball is finally here as the regular season starts on Thursday! In this weekly article, I’ll attempt to bring to light lower-owned players that are adds to help you stay ahead of the competition and win your league. This is a sprint, not a marathon, so now is not the time to get attached to those slow starters. Normally, they’d have time to turn it around, but with a 60 game season, a couple of struggling bats or arms could drag your team to the bottom of the standings. With that in mind, here are some Week 1 options to get you started on the right path.
Shogo Akiyama, OF, CIN – 24% owned on ESPN and CBS – Shogo Akiyama is penciled into the leadoff spot for the Reds and they get six games against the hapless Tigers rotation to start the season. The other four games come against the Cubs, where they’ll face Tyler Chatwood and Alec Mills in two of those games. Akiyama has been scouted with “above average plate skills”, while most projection systems have him hovering around a 9% walk rate. With Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez, Nick Castellanos, and Mike Moustakas batting behind Shogo Akiyama, he should score plenty of runs out of the gate. If Akiyama is still available in your leagues, now is the time to add him.
Colorado Rockies Hitters – The Rockies play just 8 games through August 2nd, which is tied for the least with the Rangers. On top of that, their first five games are played outside of Coors. Of course, you’re still starting Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, and Trevor Story, but everyone else is up in the air in weekly leagues.
Texas Rangers Hitters – Like the Rockies, the Rangers play just 8 games in the first long extended matchup, making their fringe hitters unstartable in weekly leagues. With the news of Isiah Kiner-Falefa winning the third-base job, I’d still add him, especially if you’re desperate at catcher, but he may be the only Ranger I’m willing to start other than Joey Gallo, Danny Santana, Elvis Andrus, and Shin-Soo Choo. Also, the Rangers are playing the first five games in the new Globe Life Park, which features a retractable roof to keep out the Texas heat. In theory, the field should lean more towards a pitchers park, so keep an eye on that development.
Jose Peraza, 2B/SS/OF, BOS – 2.9% ESPN, 49% CBS – That’s a crazy difference in ownership. There’s been a lot of chatter about Peraza’s spring/summer work and if you’re in an ESPN league, try and get ahead of the curve. The Red Sox start their season with three games against the Orioles. They then have a four-game set against the Mets, where they’ll face Steven Matz and Michael Wacha in two of those games. They finish out their extended matchup by facing the Yankees for three games, where they’re projected to miss Garrit Cole and James Paxton. Currently, Peraza is projected to hit eighth for the Red Sox, but if Andrew Benintendi continues his struggles against left-handed pitching, we could see Peraza jump to the top of the lineup in games against southpaws.
Matt Shoemaker, SP, TOR – 7.8% ESPN, 30% CBS – File this under “lower-owned pitcher to keep an eye on”. Shoemaker is almost built up to a full workload and is projected to face Tampa Bay in his first start. I’m not ready to call that a start for fantasy purposes, but I want to keep an eye on how Shoemaker looks. Really small sample, but Shoemaker was cruising through five starts last year with a 1.57 ERA before the injury bug took him down. If Shoemaker can regain his 2019 magic, he could be a league winner in the shortened season. Hell, his five starts from last year would make up about 40% of his innings pitched this year if he manages to go the full season.
Low-Owned Two-Start Pitcher
Garrett Richards, SP, SD – 20.7% ESPN, 31% CBS – The clock is ticking on the Richards “health-o-meter”, but for now everything is a go! Richards is penciled in as the Padres number 2 behind Chris Paddack. He should be ramped up to a near-full workload and gets the Diamondbacks in San Diego before facing the Giants in Oracle Park. Two pitchers parks with decent matchups in each game.
Good luck in the first week and let’s enjoy some baseball!!