- A look at the big stories you need to know for the upcoming week of fantasy baseball.
Monday is going to be an active day for baseball here on SI.com. You already know about Nine Innings, a collection of baseball stories to kick off your week. On the fantasy side of the equation, we’ll be taking a look ahead, highlighting players to watch, prospects making noise, and anything else that catches our eye, specifically from a fantasy perspective. We’ll also wrap it up with our favorite GIF, and occasionally GIFs, from the previous week.
With the season just a few days old, we’ll keep this week’s entry short and sweet, focusing on the hitters and pitchers you should be paying close attention to over the next seven days. Welcome to the inaugural edition of The Table Setter.
Hitters to Watch
Adam Eaton, OF, Nationals
The Reds were likely thrilled to see the Nationals, and specifically Eaton, leave town. The Washington outfielder hit everything in sight in the three-game sweep, going 8-for-13 with two homers, two doubles, five RBI and seven runs. Eaton projected as one of the biggest bargains at draft tables this season, and he immediately showed why in the Nationals opening series. They spend this entire week in their division, with six combined games against the Braves and Mets.
Mitch Haniger, OF, Mariners
Haniger is off to a quick start this season, going 5-for-8 with a pair of homers and two walks in his first three games. He was a pleasant surprise for the Mariners last year, hitting .282/.352/.491 in 410 plate appearances, and the details of his batted-ball profile suggested he could keep that up this year. We’re obviously not drawing any conclusions on a three-game sample, but so far, so good. What’s more, there’s no reason to worry about his playing time, as he is locked into an everyday gig in the outfield. As deep as the position is, Haniger could provide a significant return on investment this season. The Mariners play just five games this week, visiting the Giants and Twins.
Matt Davidson, 1B/3B, White Sox
The easy part was getting everyone’s attention. The hard part is keeping it. That’s the task before Davidson after his three-homer game on Opening Day. The strikeouts aren’t going anywhere, but we can maybe take a shred of solace in the fact that he has whiffed once in his nine plate appearances thus far. Even with all the empty swings, though, Davidson has more than enough pop to provide fantasy value in all formats. The question is whether he can make enough contact to take advantage of all that power. If he can keep things rolling for another couple weeks, owners who have already bought should feel good about their bet. The White Sox are scheduled to play every day but Friday this week, visiting Toronto before their first home series of the season against the Tigers.
Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees
Giancarlo Stanton stole the headlines with his two-homer game on Opening Day, and that helped take some of the spotlight off of Judge’s slow series in Toronto. He went 3-for-15 in the four-gamer, striking out six times in 18 trips to the plate. The strikeouts didn’t much bother his fantasy owners a year ago, and recall that Judge had one of his best months of the season in September. Everyone in the majors is likely going to have a worse stretch than 3-for-15 at some point this season. Judge just happened to have his right off the bat. The Yankees’ home opener was postponed on Monday, but they’re still scheduled for six games against the Rays and Orioles.
Derek Dietrich, 1B/2B/3B, Marlins
Dietrich went largely ignored during draft season, and that exposed one of the fantasy community’s blind spots: the Marlins. Unless it was buzzy youngster like Lewis Brinson or sneaky-valuable Justin Bour, the Marlins couldn’t get on anyone’s draft radar. The teardown in Miami has created opportunities for the players left behind, and Dietrich might benefit from that more than anyone. He’s going to play every day, he offers eligibility at three positions already, and it looks like he’ll add outfield in the near future. He has always hit righties well, but the Marlins will have no choice but to start him against lefties. Indeed, he was in the lineup against both Jon Lester and Jose Quintana in their series with the Cubs. There could be enough category production and positional flexibility to make him a valuable piece in all formats.
Pitchers to Watch
Shohei Ohtani, Angels
Ohtani made one mistake in his first career start, and that resulted in a three-run homer by Matt Chapman. Other than that, he was as electric as advertised, striking out six batters and walking one in six innings, earning a win over the A’s. He sat in the high-90s with his fastball, and made more than a few hitters look foolish with his splitter, which could quickly become one of the best offerings in the league. The Angels are committed to him as a hitter, but the mound is where he’s truly special. He’s slated to make his second start of the year on Saturday, facing the A’s again.
Jose Berrios, Twins
Berrios flashed his brilliance in his first start of the season, tossing the first shutout of his career. He allowed just three hits and one walk to the Orioles, striking out six in the Twins’ 7-0 victory. This was the pitcher the Twins were promised when they took Berrios with the 32nd overall pick in the 2012 amateur draft. If this is indeed his moment, he’ll cruise into the top 20, and could find himself among the 10 best pitchers in the fantasy game. Berrios will next take the ball on Saturday against the Mariners.
Gerrit Cole, Astros
This is exactly what the Astros had in mind when they dealt for Cole this offseason. He was great in his debut with the team, allowing one run on two hits and three walks, striking out 11 in seven innings while beating the Rangers. The Astros of recent vintage have a reputation of teasing the absolute most out of their starting pitchers, evidenced by Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton. If they do the same with Cole, he’ll be the ace he always seemed like he could be, but never did quite become, in Pittsburgh. His next start is slated for Saturday against the Padres.
Sean Newcomb, Braves
Newcomb will make his season debut on Monday against the Nationals. That’s a tough assignment, and it won’t get any easier when he takes the ball on Saturday against the Rockies at Coors Field. Still, Newcomb has plenty of upside this year, based largely on his ability to miss bats. He totaled a 23.7% strikeout rate last year, racking up 108 strikeouts in 100 innings. His four-seamer sits in the mid-90s, and he features a curveball and changeup, both capable of piling up whiffs. If Newcomb holds his own against the Nationals and Rockies, he’ll likely be one of the most popular players on the waiver wire next week. Those of you in weekly leagues who can still act should do so. Better to take the risk and grab him now then to have more competition for his services a week from now.
Jordan Montgomery, Yankees
Montgomery had his 2018 debut pushed back a day because of snow in New York. He’s one of a handful of legitimately exciting SP4/5 types who could ultimately provide one of this season’s biggest draft-day payoffs. He was mostly effective in 155 1/3 innings last year, pitching to a 3.88 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 4.45 xFIP, with 144 strikeouts. He got into trouble with homers and walks, and those are clearly red flags, but there’s enough pure stuff to bet on, especially since he’s in his age-25 season. He’ll also have the Yankees elite offense and bullpen at his back, which should help him to a gaudy win-loss record. Even with Monday’s postponement, Montgomery will make two starts this week, facing the Rays and Orioles.
GIF of the Week
For this week’s top GIF, we go back to Shohei Ohtani’s debut as a pitcher. Matt Olson is going to be seeing this splitter in his nightmares.