Thanks to the quirks of the April schedule, which features a number of two-game series and builds in off days just in case of inclement weather in the northern part of the country, we're treated to less baseball than usual this week. Six teams play just five games, while only four go the entire week without a day off. Rotations are still being set, but as of this writing, only 28 pitchers will make two starts this week.
The paltry slate presents weekly-league owners with tough decisions. You're obviously playing someone like Miguel Cabrera or Andrew McCutchen, even though their teams will only take the field five times this week. But what do you do about players in that same boat who aren't sure things like, say, Adam LaRoche. The Nationals first baseman has had a great April, hitting .321/.430/.512 with four homers and 15 RBI in his first 23 games, but can he be trusted by fantasy owners when he might just 25, or perhaps fewer, plate appearances this week?
Owners should use the number of games played in a week as a tiebreaker when making lineup decisions. If you're going to sit a superior player for an inferior one simply because the latter is playing more games, you're making a poor choice. You stand a good chance of getting hurt in rate categories, and it's not guaranteed to give you a boost in the counting stats. Again using LaRoche as an example, I'd rather have him for five games this week than Corey Hart for six. Comparing LaRoche with someone like James Loney, who plays seven games, is a bit more interesting, but then we're also bringing vastly different skill sets into the discussion, and a decision like that would be determined more by your overall roster composition than anything else. If two players are all but indistinguishable, going with the one who plays more games in the week is a reasonable way to break the impasse. As a general rule of thumb, however, don't let games played cloud your thinking.
Owners in daily leagues might want to plan ahead for the thinned-out schedule. There are just seven games on both Monday and Thursday. If you have enough flexibility to play with your roster, check out which teams will be playing those days, and the matchups each hitter on those teams will have. You might be able to make a little bit of a profit with some judicious planning.
Carlos Ruiz, Phillies -- Ruiz has been among the hottest players in the league over the last two weeks, hitting .341/.438/.585 with a homer and seven RBI in his last 12 games. He is now the No. 5 catcher in fantasy leagues, and is second at the position with 18 runs scored. He should be owned in all mixed leagues.
Michael Morse, Giants -- Morse has hit just .250 with a .238 OBP in the last week, but he also has three homers and six RBI in that stretch. He's hitting .288/.338/.589 with six jacks and 17 RBI on the season. Health has been his greatest enemy the last few years. If he stays upright, he should push the 30-homer plateau.
Rajai Davis, Tigers -- In the last two weeks, Davis has posted a .373/.439/.471 slash with a homer, five steals and 10 RBI. He has taken advantage of his regular spot in the lineup this year, and his speed makes him an asset in even the shallowest mixed leagues. He is tied for seventh in the majors with eight swipes on the season.
George Springer, Astros -- Springer has struggled in his first few weeks in the majors, hitting .186/.286/.233. This is not the type of guy you want to give up on after a few short weeks, however. He was absolutely tearing up the Pacific Coast League and Triple-A Oklahoma City, and projects as a future All-Star. Give him some time.
Ernesto Frieri, Angels -- After struggling for most of the month, Frieri lost his closer's job to Joe Smith. Don't expect him to get it back any time soon. Smith has allowed four runs in 10 innings, but has also fanned 11 batters and surrendered just eight hits.
Hiroki Kuroda, Yankees -- Kuroda allowed six earned runs on 10 hits in 4.2 innings against the Angels on Friday. His ERA is now 5.28, and his FIP is 4.26. He has never been a big strikeout guy, but he's fanning fewer than six batters per nine innings this year. He has been so reliable during his entire career that you shouldn't be cutting bait yet, but his performance thus far certainly is unsettling.
(* indicates stream recommendation)
1. Yu Darvish
2. Jose Fernandez
3. Madison Bumgarner
4. Zack Greinke
5. Michael Wacha
6. Tony Cingrani
7. Yovani Gallardo
8. Alex Wood
9. Sonny Gray
10. Kyle Lohse
11. John Lackey
12. Tyson Ross
13. Justin Masterson
14. CC Sabathia
15. Jose Quintana
16. Alfredo Simon*
17. Tyler Skaggs*
18. Franklin Morales*
19. Dustin McGowan
20. Jake Odorizzi
21. Jon Niese
22. Erik Bedard
23. Chris Young
24. Mike Pelfrey
25. Jason Vargas
26. Wade Miley
27. Andre Rienzo
28. Tyler Chatwood
Teams playing seven games
Teams playing five games
Weekday day games
(all times Eastern)
Brewers @ Cardinals, 1:45
Tigers @ White Sox, 2:10
Dodgers @ Twins, 1:10
Cardinals @ Cubs, 2:20
Orioles (vs. Pittsburgh, @ Minnesota) -- The Orioles only play five games this week, but they should be able to cash in offensively in those games. They're scheduled to face Charlie Morton, Brandon Cumpton, Phil Hughes, Kyle Gibson and Mike Pelfrey. That's not exactly reminiscent of the 1991 Braves.
Rockies (@ Arizona, vs. New York Mets) -- The Rockies are one of few teams that play every day this week. Not only will they be out there seven times, they have nice matchups for most of the week. Arizona's starting rotation has struggled mightily this year, and they also get the average Dillon Gee and Jon Niese in their four-game series against the Mets. Playing the entire week at Chase Field and Coors Field won't hurt, either.
Tigers (@ Chicago White Sox, @ Kansas City) -- While the Tigers suit up just five times this week, they have a good chance to bust out of their offensive malaise. Hitting on the South Side of Chicago is great no matter the time of year, and they also avoid Yordano Ventura in their trip to Kansas City. They do get James Shields on Saturday, but should otherwise be very comfortable.
Pirates (@ Baltimore, vs. Toronto) -- Another team that only plays five times this week, but should be able to hit well in those five games. The Pirates will see Chris Tillman, Bud Norris, Brandon Morrow, R.A. Dickey and Dustin McGowan this week. They haven't been hitting much as a team, but you'll want your Pirates active this week.
Red Sox (vs. Tampa Bay, vs. Oakland) -- The Red Sox will see Dan Straily and Sonny Gray over the weekend, but they have the good fortune to miss David Price when the Rays visit Boston from Tuesday to Thursday. It feels like just a matter of time before the Red Sox bust out of their slump.
Cubs (@ Cincinnati, vs. St Louis) -- Outside of Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Emilio Bonifacio, the Cubs haven't done too much offensively this year. It's hard to imagine them turning it around this week. They'll see Alfredo Simon (who shut them down in their last meeting), Tony Cingrani, Homer Bailey, Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha.
Reds (vs. Chicago Cubs, vs. Milwaukee) -- If the beginning of the season is any indication, teams are going to struggle offensively in any week that they have a four-game series with the Brewers. The Reds are slated to face Marco Estrada, Wily Peralta, Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse over the weekend. They'll also go up against Jeff Samardzija, who became the first pitcher in 100 years to go at least seven innings and allow two or fewer earned runs in his first five starts and not get a win, on Monday.
Marlins (vs. Atlanta, vs. Dodgers) -- The Braves' rotation has been great this year, despite all the injuries, and it will get a boost when Mike Minor returns on Wednesday. That's bad news for the Marlins, who will also see Alex Wood and Aaron Harang in that series. They end the week with games against Hyun-jin Ryu and Zack Greinke.
Brewers (@ St. Louis, @ Cinicnnati) -- You're starting your Brewers in weekly leagues given that they are one of four teams playing seven games. Having said that, their hitters may not have a very easy week. They're scheduled to go up against Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Johnny Cueto and Tony Cingrani.
Astros (vs. Washington, vs. Seattle) -- The Astros play just five games this week, and while they will not see Felix Hernandez when they host the Mariners, they do have to face Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann. Combined with the light schedule, most of their players are iffy plays in weekly leagues.