Fantasy baseball Hitting Report: Best and worst of spring training
Opening Day is here, which is second only to draft day when it comes to fantasy baseball excitement. While you sit back and enjoy the games, remember that Opening Day is just one game out of 162.
Normally, this column will be filled with discussions about how hitters have performed over the past week, and what we expect of them in the coming week. Keep in mind that when I say some teams may have tough weeks hitting, it's because they're facing good pitchers, which Michael Beller will be covering in the pitching report each week. We will probably cross word paths at times, but we'll both do our best.
As exciting as Opening Day is, there are a few things you'll want to keep in mind the first week:
1. Don't react too strongly: If someone has a big day or week, don't overreact and dump a guy that started a little slow to make space on your roster. Remember that this is the 20th anniversary of the year Tuffy Rhodes hit three homers on Opening Day for Cincinnati, but then he finished his career with just 13 total home runs.
2. Give pitchers a shorter leash than hitters: Since starting pitchers only get 30-plus games a season, and hitters get 162, it's tough to wait on a struggling pitcher. If his walks per game eclipse his strikeouts per game, something's wrong. If he does it a couple starts in a row, get ready to move him or move on without him.
3. Watch the waivers for hitting prospects: Many teams choose to wait on bringing up their top hitting prospects so that they have an extra year of major league service. The Rays did that with Evan Longoria back in 2008 and many teams have followed suit since. Keep that in mind for Javier Baez, George Springer and Oscar Taveras.
Five best hitters of spring training
Going forward, we'll rename this "Hitter of the Week," and we'll just discuss one player that's rocking it. But for now, we're looking at spring training performances.
1. Mike Trout, OF, LAA: Trout hit .414 this month, with only three other hitters (including Miller and Moustakas) having a higher slugging percentages, and he pounded a league-tying six home runs this spring. After two seasons, he signed a $144.5 million deal for six years with the Angels, and he was generally considered the consensus No. 1 pick in fantasy drafts. What can he do in his third year?
2. Mike Moustakas, 3B, KC: Once again, Moustakas put together a strong spring for the second year in a row. In 2013, he hit .394 with five homers and 12 RBI before putting together a .233-12-42 regular season. Well, this spring, he hit .429 with four home runs and league-leading 18 RBI, and he got on base at a .522 OBP clip. I pegged him as a breakout candidate last month -- and now I'm worried.
3. Brad Miller, SS, SEA: Once Robinson Cano came to Seattle, Nick Franklin and Miller fought for the starting shortstop position. Miller crushed it, with 25 spring hits, four home runs, 10 RBI and a .410 batting average, sending Franklin to the minors for the start of the season. Amazingly, Miller led all hitters this spring, with an .836 slugging percentage.
4. Yonder Alonso, 1B, SD: The Padres' first baseman led his position this month in hits (23) and batting average (.442). He also posted a 1.175 OPS, and it's good to see him getting extra bases (.712 slugging), considering he missed much of 2013 with a fractured right hand. (He was hitless against the Dodgers Sunday night, however, but pretend that didn't happen.)
5. Will Middlebrooks, 3B, BOS: I also predicted that Middlebrooks would have a breakout season this year. He hit .353 this past spring, with four home runs and nine RBI.
Five non-hitters of spring training
News that Jurickson Profar is out for at least a month with a shoulder injury counts as the biggest hitter news, but these five guys are relatively healthy, but still not hitting.
1. Yoenis Cespedes, OF, OAK: Getting one hit in every six at-bats isn't going to get it done for the Cuban import. He has just one home run this spring, and he's batting .167 for March. He's working on his swing and mechanics, so hopefully he'll turn things around.
2. Shin-Soo Choo, OF, TEX: The Rangers' new leadoff hitter had a horrific spring, batting just .161. Most troubling is that he has 14 strikeouts compared to eight walks. That .423 OBP from last season looks harder to get after a rough March. He has some elbow pain, so maybe it has affected his swing.
3. Domonic Brown, OF, PHI: No home runs and just five RBI for the Phillies outfielder this spring. His on-base percentage is higher than his slugging percentage, which is just troublesome.
4. Kyle Seager, 3B, SEA: Seager had 68 at-bats this spring, but got just 13 hits (.191 BA), one home run, 10 RBI and 15 strikeouts. He'll shake things out in April, hitting in the middle of Seattle's revamped lineup.
5. Jackie Bradley Jr., OF, BOS: The Red Sox sent Bradley down to Triple-A Pawtucket this week, after he hit just .158 this spring, and then promptly recalled him for Opening Day when Shane Victorino hit the DL.
The hitting planner
Each week, this section will offer up five teams that have favorable hitting matchups this week, and five teams with unfavorable hitting matchups. We're not suggesting that you should definitely start or sit players in these lineups, but it should help you make tough lineup decisions. Also, this planner should help you with upcoming daily fantasy games you might be playing.-
Teams with seven games this upcoming scoring period: Miami, Oakland, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Toronto.
Five best hitting schedules
1. Tampa Bay Rays (Four vs. TOR, Three vs. TEX): While the Trop is considered a better pitching park, the Rays get to face a Blue Jays club that gave up the second-most home runs in the majors last season, and they'll get a Yu Darvish-less Rangers club.
2. Philadelphia Phillies (Three at TEX, three at CHC): Once again, the Rangers' current rotation of Tanner Scheppers, Martin Perez, Robbie Ross and Joe Saunders is not very scary. Wrigley Field was the second-best scoring park in the majors last season with a 1.192 Runs rate favoring hitters over pitchers.
3. Boston Red Sox (Three at BAL, three vs. MIL): No pitching staff allowed more home runs last season as the Orioles (202), and the Brewers ranked sixth, with 175 HR allowed.
4. Detroit Tigers (Three vs. KC, three vs. BAL): James Shields and Chris Tillman are really the only real obstacles the Tigers offense might see this week. Teams hit .255 on average against both the Royals and Orioles last year.
5. Miami Marlins (Three vs. COL, four vs. SD): The Marlins offense is not replete with stars, but if you're looking for some spot fillers, there are a few here, going against a re-re-rebuilt Rockies staff and the Padres in Marlins Park.
Five worst hitting schedules
Teams with just five games this upcoming scoring period: L.A. Dodgers and San Diego.
1. L.A. Dodgers (Two at SD, three vs. SF): Just five games on the docket, since they played two in Australia, then got to play the Sunday night game against San Diego. Petco Park is tough on hitters -- as is Dodger Stadium.
2. San Diego Padres (Two vs. LAD, three at MIA): Another squad with just five games, and three of them are in Miami, where road teams hit just 48 home runs last season (second-lowest in the majors).
3. St. Louis Cardinals (Three at CIN, three at PIT): Six games on the road, and up against two pitching staffs that ranked in the top six in ERA last season.
4. Seattle Mariners (Three at LAA, four at OAK): Seven road games to start the season, and while they'll face some sketchy pitching in Oakland, it isn't in the friendliest of hitter's parks.
5. Cincinnati Reds (Three vs. STL, three at NYM): The Reds get three at home against one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. Then they'll play three games at Citi Field, which has a ball park factor, run ratio of 0.867 -- second-lowest in the majors.
By the numbers
Here are some fun facts you can mention around the office or at your sports bar to kick off the new season.
1. Tuffy Rhodes had just 13 major league home runs, but he's the all-time career home-run leader for foreign-born players in the Nippon Professional Baseball league in Japan.
2. Bob Feller threw the only Opening Day no-hitter in baseball history.
3. Adam Dunn is tied with Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Robinson for the most Opening Day home runs with eight.
4. Washington's Walter Johnson threw nine shutouts in 14 Opening Day starts.
5. Hank Aaron tied Babe Ruth for the most career home runs with 714 on Opening Day in 1974.
David Gonos is a fantasy sports veteran of over 20 years and over 100 fantasy leagues. You can also follow him @davidgonos on Twitter.