Happy Baseball Season! I’m not sure why this offseason felt like the longest one ever to me, especially since it was actually shorter than last year’s, and WAY shorter than 2020’s, but it’s all moot now. We finally have actual box scores that count in fantasy standings and — who knew this was such a rarity — the first opening day with all MLB teams playing in my lifetime, which will be in the books by the time you read this. Now, all we have to do is buckle in for the 162-game roller coaster and try to keep up with the ride.
After a long offseason of drafting, I have to prepare myself for the reality that player values may change more in the next 72 hrs. than they did in the last five months. As always, knowing when to cut a disappointing player who you’ve been high on for ages loose — or pounce on another that somewhat shockingly may be in line for sudden fantasy relevance — will be key to fantasy success in 2023. This is never more true than in deep leagues, so let’s jump right into some deep-league quick hits and thoughts. This week we’ll focus on opening day, very deep-league lineup surprises (at least surprising to me compared to what I’d have guessed a day or a week or a month ago). With that full 15-game schedule, I for one am a little overwhelmed by everything going on, and I’m saying that while games are just starting. So, I’m going to take a moment now to dive into starting lineups in an effort to keep what could be interesting information from slipping through the cracks. And like I said, by the time you read this you’ll know if any of these guys took advantage of their opportunity or if they failed to make an impact on day one… but for now I’m just looking at opportunity. Sometimes in the deepest leagues, even an occasional opportunity is enough to consider giving a player a chance.
Trevor Larnach. Hats off to the Twins from this admitted obsessive planner, as they were the one team to release their opening day lineup the afternoon before opening day. That lineup features Trevor Larnach in the cleanup spot, so as I see it he’s gained some value even before taking an at bat yet this year. He’s a guy who could struggle quickly and become an afterthought, or put some of his power on display early and be a mixed-league outfield option before we know it.
Jason Vosler. Say hello to the starting first baseman (batting smack in the middle of the lineup in the fifth spot) on opening day 2023 for your Cincinnati Reds. He’s a lefty, so if one Mr. Joey Votto has to miss more time than any of us who either drafted him or are just fans of him as a human would like, Vosler may get more starts, against righthanders at least, than some of us envisioned.
Canaan Smith-Njigba. The Pirates have a pretty crowded outfield as they mix and match, mine the farm teams, and navigate who the future of their team is, but as of now, Smith-Njigba has made the cut. He’s not only made the cut, but he’s also in the opening day lineup batting fifth (um, one spot ahead of Ke’Bryan Hayes, okay). I think a lot of us deep-leaguers will be monitoring this Pittsburgh depth chart looking for live bodies for our rosters all season, whether we want to or not. We’ll mention (the left-handed hitting) Ji Hwan Bae here too; he’s hitting eighth and playing second base while presumed ‘winner of starting second base job by default because everyone was horrible this spring’ Rodolfo Castro begins opening day on the bench.
Miles Mastrobuoni. Not gonna lie, I knew there’d be a few of these surprises, but didn’t think I’d see this many just a few lineups into the season. The left-handed hitting Mastrobuoni is starting in right field and batting ninth against Corbin Burnes, which seems like a horrible assignment, but if playing time desperation is your thing it looks like Mastrobuoni will get some early work in Chicago, at least while Seiya Suzuki is hurt.
Brad Miller/Josh Smith. Neither of these is necessarily a surprise maybe, but they are a reminder of just where the Texas Rangers are in terms of their hitting depth these days. They’re both left-handed and they are hitting eighth and ninth against Aaron Nola on opening day (again, not really a plum assignment). I have Leody Tavares rostered a few places so I hope he’s back soon, but if you’re looking for fill-ins in the deepest of leagues, looks like Miller and Smith will play some against righties.
Yainer Diaz/Jake Meyers. Myers and Diaz are in the starting lineup for the Astros (at DH and CF, batting 6th and 7th), which disappoints me a bit given that I was hoping Chas McCormick might have an everyday job. Also, a shout out to the 0% owned Mauricio Dubon, batting 9th and playing second base for the injured Jose Altuve. (Again, not a surprise necessarily, but a reminder for those of us needing a fill-in). It sure doesn’t look right for a lineup that features Kyle Tucker all the way down at hitter number five, to follow with Diaz/Myers/Maldonado/Dubon, but that is indeed how the Astros open 2023.