We made it. The long offseason is finally over, and the 2023 MLB season gets underway today. And, to mark this special occasion, we've got a special guest for the FBT Newsletter this morning: Fantasy Baseball Today's own Chris Towers.
In today's newsletter, I have a little opening day viewing guide for you all. Now, me, I'm starting my day up in the Bronx for Yankees-Giants, so that's where the viewing guide will start. But don't worry, it's not all big-city, East Coast bias here -- there's something for every single game on the schedule.
Of course, before all that, you need to make sure your first lineup of the season is set, and that's where Scott White comes in to help. He has his sleeper hitters and sleeper pitchers columns here for you in case you need some help filling out that lineup, and his All-Undrafted team will get you ready for those initial waiver-wire runs, with his favorite targets who might be available at each position.
Now you have your lineup set. It's time to watch baseball. Here's what I'll be looking out for on opening day.
Giants at Yankees
1:05 p.m. – Logan Webb vs. Gerrit Cole
What to watch: Yankees lineup construction
It's easy to overreact to Opening Day lineups, and in the Yankees case, we already know that this is a lineup that's going to change pretty regularly depending on the day. We expect to see DJ LeMahieu in the leadoff spot and Anthony Volpe batting in the bottom third, likely ninth, but one interesting thing will be to see where LeMahieu is playing. Is he the DH? That seems like the likeliest outcome if Anthony Rizzo, Gleyber Torres, and Josh Donaldson are out there, but does that mean Giancarlo Stanton is likely to see more time in the outfield? Can he hold up to that? This will be a fluid situation, but today will be our first snapshot.
Braves at Nationals
1:05 p.m. – Max Fried vs. Patrick Corbin
What to watch: Braves bullpen roles
With Raisel Iglesias opening the season on the IL with a shoulder injury, we're assuming A.J. Minter will be the closer for the Braves -- he was second on the team with five saves last season. The Braves have trusted Minter and Will Smith as their closer for stretches over the past few seasons, so they haven't been afraid to use a lefty as their primary option. Minter getting a save on opening day would go a long way to proving his early-season worth; if they opt for someone like Joe Jimenez or Collin McHugh, that would throw a wrench into the plans.
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Orioles at Red Sox
2:10 p.m. – Kyle Gibson vs. Corey Kluber
What to watch: Red Sox lineup construction
This isn't nearly as strong as the lineups we've been used to seeing from the Red Sox, but there are some interesting names beyond Rafael Devers, obviously. The Red Sox talked about using Masataka Yoshida as the leadoff hitter at one point, but it sounds like he's going to hit clean up. It isn't a traditional clean up profile -- Yoshida has 14, 21, and 21 homers over the past three seasons in Japan -- but a contact-heavy approach can lead to a ton of RBI, since the player will be constantly putting the ball in play with runners on base. He could be a sneaky source of RBI, and the 420-plus foot bomb he hit Tuesday suggests there might be more pop in Yoshida's profile than he gets credit for.
Brewers at Cubs
2:20 p.m. – Corbin Burnes vs. Marcus Stroman
What to watch: Cubs bullpen roles
The Cubs are likely to be quite a bit better in 2023 than they were a year ago, so hopefully there's an opportunity for more than the team-high 14 saves David Robertson managed a year ago. There's a lot more interest in Michael Fulmer as the top option for the Cubs in the ninth in Fantasy circles, and he's been pretty good pitching out of the bullpen the past few seasons. Fulmer is just 31% rostered in CBS Fantasy leagues, and he's a good speculative add if you're looking for a closer, though that could go up in flames if Brad Boxberger gets the call in an obvious closer situation today.
Tigers at Rays
3:10 p.m. – Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Shane McClanahan
What to watch: McClanahan's velocity/effectiveness
I don't really have any concerns about McClanahan beyond the normal concerns I have about any young starting pitcher who hasn't thrown 180 innings in a season, but it's worth noting that he struggled a bit upon coming back from a minor shoulder injury last August. McClanahan threw in front of the Statcast cameras on March 18 and averaged 96.2 mph, just 0.5 mph down from last year's average, so I don't think there's much to worry about here, but I know Frank has mentioned it a few times, so we'll watch it here. I'd also like to see sleeper Kerry Carpenter in there for the Tigers against a tough lefty -- he hit 36 homers across three levels, including a .795 OPS in the majors, but his Fantasy appeal is limited by concerns about playing time.
Phillies at Rangers
4:05 p.m. – Aaron Nola vs. Jacob deGrom
What to watch: Jacob deGrom
I mean, if you get a chance to watch a healthy deGrom, you have to take it; you don't know how long that'll last. He dealt with a minor side issue early in camp, but looked fine in two spring starts. Truthfully, there's nothing I could see from deGrom that would make me feel any better about his injury risk, because the question isn't: "Is he currently healthy?. It is: "Can he stay healthy?" And one start could never answer that.
Pirates at Reds
4:10 p.m. – Mitch Keller vs. Hunter Greene
What to watch: Greene's pitch mix
Keller remains intriguing after refining his cutter and finishing spring with 20 strikeouts in 15.2 innings with just one walk. He is admirably willing to tinker, and there's always been talent here. But the spotlight will be firmly on Greene, arguably the hardest throwing starting pitcher in MLB history who nonetheless had a pretty bad fastball as a rookie -- he allowed a .512 slugging percentage on the pitch. His slider is a wicked swing-and-miss pitch, but he made his changeup a point of focus in the offseason. In the last start he made in spring in front of the pitch tracking cameras, he threw it just five times on 58 pitches, only a small increase on his 5.3% usage rate last season. He may not need that changeup to make the leap -- he used it just 5.8% of the time during his 0.78-ERA September run -- but I'd feel better about his chances if it became something hitters had to worry about.
Blue Jays at Cardinals
4:10 p.m. – Alek Manoah vs. Miles Mikolas
What to watch: Cardinals bullpen roles
The Blue Jays don't really have many question marks coming into the season, and the Cardinals are pretty set -- though whether Jordan Walker comes out for a defensive replacement late in games could limit his path to his ultimate upside at bit. But the biggest question here is whether the Cardinals are going to treat Ryan Helsley as a true closer. Helsley got 19 saves to Giovanny Gallegos' 14, but the split was even more extreme in his favor in the second half; he got 11 of the team's 15 saves. We'd love to see the Cardinals turn to him with a three-run lead in the ninth tonight.
Twins at Royals
4:10 p.m. – Pablo Lopez at Zack Greinke
What to watch: Lopez's velocity/pitch mix
I made a late pivot to add Lopez to my breakouts column after we saw a velocity spike from him during the spring. Of course, he was pitching in briefer stretches, including during the World Baseball Classic, when adrenaline was surely running high. Lopez's velocity in the spring ended up 1.1 mph up from where he was last season, and that wasn't the only change we saw. Lopez also seemingly ditched his cutter, a pitch that gave up an ugly .450 wOBA last season; he swapped it out for a new slower, sweeper, while also using his curveball more. It's an interesting mix that has me thinking there could be more upside with Lopez than he typically gets credit for.
Rockies at Padres
4:10 p.m. – German Marquez vs. Blake Snell
What to watch: Marquez's pitch mix
Snell's pitch mix will also be worth watching since he was at his best last season when he largely abandoned his changeup and leaned heavily on his fastball and slider combo. But I'm actually more interested in seeing whether Marquez can build on his second-half improvements last season, which were fueled by his sinker and curveball usage spiking. He still only had a 4.27 ERA in the second half, but that's enough to make him intermittently useful, at least. Marquez probably still needs to be traded to ever be more than a streamer, but I'd like to see him at least get back to being in that range.
Mets at Marlins
4:10 p.m. – Max Scherzer vs. Sandy Alcantara
What to watch: Bullpen roles on both sides
I mean, watch the whole dang game: It's Max Scherzer vs. Sandy Alcantara for crying out loud! But we're interested in how both teams divvy up late-inning opportunities. On the Mets side, David Robertson and Adam Ottavino seem like the most likely options to replace the injured Edwin Diaz, with the Fantasy community backing Robertson in late drafts. On the Marlins side, the Marlins' Skip Schumaker is a first-time manager, so we don't know what to expect from him as far as tendencies go, but he did tell reporters Wednesday he expects Tanner Scott, Dylan Floro, and A.J. Puk to be in the mix for saves. Puk is the highest upside option of the trio, for what it's worth.
White Sox at Astros
7:08 p.m. – Dylan Cease vs. Framber Valdez
What to watch: White Sox lineup
If I had my choice, we would never see Andrew Vaughn or Eloy Jimenez in the outfield for the White Sox this season, and I hope the signing of Andrew Benintendi and the decision to add Oscar Colas to the opening day roster means we won't have to see that much. Of course, with a tough lefty on the mound tonight, there's a chance the White Sox go with Jimenez in the outfield and Colas on the bench for the first game of the season. I think we're hoping Colas won't be a platoon bat, and if he's out there against Valdez, that would be a pretty big vote of confidence.
Angels at Athletics
10:07 p.m. – Shohei Ohtani vs. Kyle Muller
What to watch: Angels bullpen roles
To be fair, the Athletics do have a lot of questions as the season starts ... I just don't think they're questions Fantasy players should be or are particularly interested in. And the Angels' biggest questions mostly revolve around whether their rotation will live up to expectations beyond Ohtani, which we obviously can't answer today. So, we'll keep a close eye on the bullpen. They gave Carlos Estevez a pretty decent-sized contract, but he was a disaster in the spring, so we're not expecting him to get the first save. At this point, Jimmy Herget seems most likely, with Ryan Tepera and Matt Moore also available as late-inning options.
Diamondbacks at Dodgers
10:10 p.m. – Zac Gallen vs. Julio Urias
What to watch: D-Backs lineup construction
I have some concerns about how the Dodgers up-the-middle defense is going to look, but we won't get any kind of definitive answers to that immediately, so we'll focus on the Diamondbacks lineup. This could be a pretty good lineup given how much young talent there is here, but we don't know what it's going to look like right away, specifically at the top. Corbin Carroll seems like the likeliest leadoff option, but he did bat fifth or sixth at times during the spring, and with a tough lefty on the mound in Urias, I wouldn't be surprised if they opted to shield him in this one. It won't change Carroll's outlook too much, but if he's going to live up to his full potential, we'd like to see him maximizing his plate appearances at the top of the lineup.
Guardians at Mariners
10:10 p.m. - Shane Bieber vs. Luis Castillo
What to watch: Guardians baserunning
Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez both ranked in the top 36 among all players in sprint speed last season, which made both of them obvious candidates to run more given the new rules emphasizing stolen bases. Rosario was 18 for 22 while Gimenez went 20 for 23, so there's plenty of room for both to take a few more risks. It could help overcome some expected regression with the bat for both, and I would love to see this whole team come out more aggressive on the base paths this season.