Here we go!
After months of offseason analysis and weeks of pouring over ADP data, fantasy managers can finally shift from offseason to regular-season mode.
One of the toughest challenges for every manager is to balance the short- and long-term outlooks of players. While it is definitely a smart idea to think about the rest-of-season value for the core players on a roster, the decisions related to the players on the fringes should be more about finding the men who can help right now. With that in mind, managers should spend some time on Opening Day looking at the April schedules of each team and finding the players who could get off to hot starts this year.
I have identified five clubs that have favorable April schedules, with a special focus on teams that appear ready to dominate over the next three weeks.
The Nats are a pure volume play, as they have games on 13 of the initial 14 days of the regular season. And although they face a pair of strong pitching staffs at the outset of the campaign (Braves, Rays), they follow that stretch with a four-game stint at hitter-friendly Coors Field against the Rockies' unimpressive rotation. Lane Thomas (8% rostered) and CJ Abrams (40%) could be short-term options in deep leagues, while Keibert Ruiz (59%) should help those who are streaming catchers in shallow formats.
St. Louis Cardinals
Managers who can retain Cardinals hitters in the initial days of the season could reap the benefits during the second full week (April 10-16). During that scoring period, the team travels to Coors Field to face the previously mentioned Rockies staff, which ranked last in the majors in ERA in 2022, before hosting a below-average Pirates staff (4.66 ERA in 2022) for four games. Lars Nootbar (85%) should be active in 10-team leagues, while Brendan Donovan (57%) and Dylan Carlson (6%) can be activated in 12-team formats.
The 2023 Reds feature one of the least impressive lineups in baseball, but their group of nondescript hitters will have every opportunity to get off to a decent start. The club plays 16 of their initial 26 games at their offense-inducing home park. Additionally, three of their April road contests come at Philadelphia’s hitter-friendly venue, and they play four road games against the Pirates' weak pitching staff. Don’t be surprised to see Jonathan India (87%) get off to a strong start, while Wil Myers (45%) and Jake Fraley (27%) are solid April options in 12-team leagues. TJ Friedl (10%) could provide April production in 15-team formats.
Thanks to a favorable April schedule, the Phillies could see their offseason lineup changes pay immediate dividends. Philadelphia plays six of its initial 23 games against a Reds staff that has some exciting young hurlers but lacks depth overall and logged a 4.86 ERA last year. The club also has four home contests against the Rockies (5.06 ERA in 2022). Most of the Phillies' regular hitters are already lineup locks, but Bryson Stott (43%) should get the benefit of the doubt in shallow leagues, while Darick Hall (23%) and Brandon Marsh (9%) are options in deeper formats.
I’ll be honest — I don’t love the Rangers' lineup. To me, they have a top-heavy group with a few strong players and several spots that will leave fans wanting more. Still, Texas has a chance to get off to a strong start based on a favorable April schedule that includes playing 12 of their initial 24 games against teams that finished in the bottom-seven in ERA last year. Jonah Heim (12%) and Josh Jung (56%) could get off to solid starts, while Bubba Thompson (2%) could provide steals for roto managers until Leody Taveras returns from the injured list.
Finally, a few clubs are poised to provide their closers with plenty of April save chances by virtue of having lots of games against weak opponents.
Tampa Bay Rays
Just two of the Rays' nine series between now and the end of April are against teams that are projected by Fangraphs to have winning records. Although the Rays often use their relief corps in a more fluid nature than other teams, there should be some ninth-inning opportunities for both Pete Fairbanks and Jason Adam.
Los Angeles Angels
Los Angeles is going to open the season without a set closer, leaving Carlos Estevez (16%) and Jimmy Herget (16%) as the most likely ninth-inning men. The Angels play 17 of their initial 26 games against teams projected to have losing records, and 10 of those contests will come against two (Oakland, Washington) of the four clubs that are projected by Fangraphs to accumulate fewer than 70 victories.