Even as it's too early to draw too many conclusions about the Fantasy Baseball season, we still have Fantasy lineups to set, waiver claims to put in, and trades to make. Our weekend preview is here to help, with waiver targets to keep an eye on in this weekend's action, plus the latest injury and bullpen notes to make sure you're up to speed.
Here's what you need to know for this weekend's games:
Waiver-wire starting pitchers to watch
These players are listed roughly in order of how interested in adding them I am:
- Graham Ashcraft (77% rostered) @PHI, Sunday – Ashcraft was one of the most added players of this week after his first start, but his new-look slider wasn't exactly a game-changer in the first outing – he didn't see a massive spike in whiff rate or anything. Of course, with another good start here, we might just view him as a must-roster player after this weekend.
- Trevor Rogers (72%) @NYM, Saturday – Rogers' bounceback season didn't exactly go as planned in the first outing, as he gave up three runs in just 4.1 innings. I still believe in him, and his new sinker did a pretty good job garnering weak contact, so that's a promising sign. This is a tough matchup, especially having already faced the Mets, but I'm not giving up hope.
- Mackenzie Gore (51%) @COL, Friday – Gore was probably a more fastball-heavy than I'd prefer in his first start, but he generated a bunch of weak contact and whiffs with it, so I can't complain too much. I'd like to see more of the secondaries in this one, though it's worth keeping in mind that he's pitching at Coors, which is a tough environment even when the Rockies aren't great.
- Justin Steele (69%) vs. TEX, Saturday – Steele's slider was his best weapon last season, and he doubled down on it in his debut – literally throwing it nearly twice as often as he did last season. Going that heavy with a breaking ball is a tough trick to pull off because it may not leave much room for further adjustments if hitters figure it out, but it might be the best path forward for Steele.
- Edward Cabrera (71%) @NYM, Friday – Last week, I said control would be key for Cabrera's breakout case, and he promptly went out and walked six in his season debut. Cabrera has great stuff, but he needs to harness it to live up to his upside. He didn't do that in the first outing, but I want to give him another few turns before I give up.
- Tylor Megill (26%) vs. MIA, Friday – Megill's velocity was down in his first outing, but he was still pretty solid with a slider-first approach. This Marlins lineup still looks pretty punchless, but if he gets through them without issue again, he'll be worth adding.
- Clarke Schmidt (55%) @BAL, Friday – Schmidt worked on a cutter in the offseason and it was his most-used pitch in his debut. That isn't necessarily a good thing because he gave up a homer and a double among three hits allowed with the pitch. He did get five whiffs on the pitch, so I don't want to write him off, and I actually think he's a pretty good streamer for this outing, given how pitcher friendly Camden Yards is now.
- Tyler Mahle (74%) vs. HOU, Sunday – Mahle was pretty good in his debut, and his velocity was up from last season, a good sign that his shoulder is feeling pretty good. This is a tough matchup, but if he gets through it relatively unscathed, Mahle will definitely be worth adding where he is available.
- Seth Lugo (40%) @ATL, Sunday – My expectations weren't particularly high for Lugo, but I thought he was pretty impressive in making the transition to the rotation. He held much of his velocity from the bullpen, averaging 93.8 mph with his fastball, and his curveball looked ridiculous, as always. He might actually be able to make this work, especially if he holds his own against the Braves.
- Aaron Civale (53%) vs. HOU, Friday – I'll be honest, I just don't really see it with Civale, but I know plenty of other Fantasy analysts like him, so I'll put him up here. This is a very tough matchup, and if he can get through it unscathed, it'll be a bit harder to write him off.
- Dylan Dodd (37%) vs. SD, Sunday – Dodd looked decent in his first outing, leaning heavily on his slider/fastball combo, though that may be harder to do against a lineup like the Padres. This is another one where, if he gets through this test well enough, I'll be more interested in him.
- Shintaro Fujinami (20%) @TB, Saturday – Fujinami got rocked for eight runs in 2.1 innings of work against the Angels, so this may be the last time we focus on him here. However, his stuff was quite impressive (when it wasn't getting crushed over the wall, of course), with an easy high-90s fastball and a couple of big swing and miss pitches in his slider and splitter. I can see Fujinami being a very frustrating pitcher, one I won't ever be able to quit even if the results are bad.
- Braxton Garrett (8%) @NYM, Sunday – Garrett got hit hard in a long-relief appearance to open the season and was actually ticketed for Triple-A before Johnny Cueto's biceps injury opened a spot in the rotation for him. Garrett was pretty impressive last season, riding his slider to a 3.58 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning, so I want to give him another chance here.
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Waiver-wire hitters to watch
These players are listed roughly in order of how interested in adding them I am:
- Francisco Alvarez, C, NYM (42) – Alvarez should probably be picked up in all leagues with Omar Narvaez expected to miss more than a month. We're talking about a catcher who, as a 20-year-old, hit 27 homers in 112 games in the high minors last season. There are questions about the glove and strikeouts, but any catcher with this kind of upside belongs on your roster.
- Jorge Soler, OF, MIA (39) – Soler might be one of the streakiest hitters in baseball, but he's on a heater right now, with three homers in seven games and a massive 97.9 mph average exit velocity. Who knows if he'll be able to keep it up, but we've seen a 48-homer season from Soler, so I'm not going to ignore this.
- Logan O'Hoppe, C, LAA (44) – O'Hoppe isn't the same caliber prospect as Alvarez, but his numbers last season weren't far off. He hit 26 homers in 104 games, all at Double-A, while striking out just 74 times in 447 PA (16.6% K rate). There have been questions about whether he'd be exposed to more swing and miss when he got to the majors, and it's too soon to say whether that's going to be an issue for him. But there's legitimate 20-plus homer pop here, and he should be rostered in pretty much all leagues as a fringe top-12 option at the position.
- Brice Turang, SS, MIL (44) – The Brewers have a ton of interesting players without enough spots for all of them to play right now – Brian Anderson, Garrett Mitchell, Joey Wiemer, and Jesse Winker are all competing for playing time right now, along with Turang – and it might take a while for everything to get sorted out here. But Turang brings a power-speed combo to the table as a middle infielder that makes him a really interesting option if you've got the roster space.
- Josh Jung, 3B, TEX (65) – Jung's hit two homers in his first six games, with promising early plate discipline signs – his chase rate is down and his zone swing rate is up from last season even with pitchers looking to get him to chase. That's a good sign from a guy who needs to make more contact than he did in his first cup of coffee last year.
- Esteury Ruiz, OF, OAK (47) – It's kind of shocking that Ruiz hasn't stolen a base yet despite getting on base eight times in six games. The steals will come, but the fact that he's finding his way on base and isn't striking out is more important. He might end up being a must-roster player in any category league if the bat is even decent.
The cut watchlist
We're not dropping these guys yet, but we're certainly putting them on notice.
- Merrill Kelly, SP, ARI – Kelly doesn't miss enough bats to get the benefit of the doubt from a slow start. Another poor start or two will see him on the wire.
- Jack Flaherty, SP, STL – Flaherty didn't allow a hit in his debut, but I thought he looked awful anyway. His stuff was much diminished, he couldn't find the zone, and he barely got any whiffs. I was willing to give him a chance with a late-round flier, but if he doesn't show significant improvement, I'm pulling the plug.
- Jarred Kelenic, OF, SEA – With seven strikeouts in 16 plate appearances and only one appearance off the bench in the team's last three games, Kelenic has the look of a part-time player. I'm not giving up on him yet, but obviously he's at the point where he doesn't have much rope left.
- Cody Bellinger, OF, CHC – Bellinger needs to give us some kind of sign soon, and so far, it's been a lot of weakly hit fly balls with little to show for it.
- C.J. Abrams, SS, WAS – Abrams was someone I was willing to take a late-round flier on, but he's hitless in four of his first five games, and he doesn't exactly have much of a track record to fall back on at this point. Abrams is still young enough to dream on, but he needs to show something.
- Jose Miranda, 1B, MIN – Miranda's huge spring training (five homers, 1.225 OPS) probably saved him from falling too far down draft boards, and the fact that he's started every game for the Twins so far is a good sign. But he has just four hard-hit balls so far, and that's not going to get it done.
- Carlos Carrasco, SP, NYM – The Mets weren't concerned about Carrasco's velocity being way down in his debut, but I'm not the Mets. He needs to prove he's worth Fantasy players' trust again, and he decidedly did not do that in his first outing.
- Hunter Brown, SP, HOU – It's probably too early to give up on Brown, but his first outing was pretty disappointing – he got hit hard and struggled to find the strike zone. There are multiple potential swing-and-miss pitches here, but he's not such a can't-miss prospect to be worth rigid through tough times. I'll give him a few more starts, but I'm definitely going to need to see more.
- Brandon Drury, 3B, LAA – I drafted Drury in a few spots when his price collapsed during the spring, but he's another player who has to prove himself to remain rosterable. He hasn't done that in the very early going.
- Whit Merrifield, 2B, TOR – I'll admit, I don't really understand why Merrifield is nearly universally rostered in CBS Fantasy leagues right now. He's started five of seven games to date, and I wonder how long even that pace is going to hold if he doesn't start to hit.
- Ezequiel Tovar, SS, COL – I don't want to make a decision on any Rockies player until we see them get a chance in Coors Field, so Tovar deserves more patience. He's started six of seven games for the Rockies but is hitting exclusively eighth or ninth in the order, which is going to make it hard for him to live up to his potential even if he does hit. Of course, if he does hit, he'll likely move up. So, let's see him hit.
Closer situations to watch
has the latest bullpen notes you need to know about from this week's action. Here are the most uncertain ninth inning situations in the game right now.
- Rangers -- Will Smith and Jose LeClerc each have a save so far, which suggests that this is very much a committee at this point. LeClerc did get the most recent save Wednesday, with Smith working the seventh, so I think we're leaning LeClerc at this point.
- Rockies -- Pierce Johnson got his second save Thursday and seems to be the guy in Daniel Bard's (anxiety) absence.
- Marlins -- With the game tied Wednesday, Dylan Floro worked the eighth, while A.J. Puk pitched in the ninth with a four-run lead. I'm treating Puk like the clear closer in Miami.
- Mets -- Adam Ottavino pitched in a high-leverage situation Wednesday, starting the ninth with a tie after David Robertson worked a scoreless eighth. Ottavino gave up a walk-off homer, so I'm leaning solidly toward Robertson right now. He got the team's only save so far.
- White Sox -- It might have been a bit surprising to see Reynaldo Lopez work the seventh Wednesday after he got the team's lone save prior to that, but it was a very closer-ish situation -- runners on first and third with a 4-1 lead. I'm still leaning his direction for saves, at least until Liam Hendriks is back.
- Angels -- Jose Quijada got the save Wednesday, with Jimmy Herget working in the seventh and eighth. However, manager Phil Nevin told reporters he wanted Carlos Estevez to have another day off after pitching both Sunday and Monday. It sure sounds like Estevez is the closer when he's available, though any potential limitations in his usage will open the door to occasional opportunities for other pitchers here.
- Astros -- There wasn't any question about who would close for the Astros at the beginning of the season, but Ryan Pressly hasn't looked right and was "under the weather" after his Opening Day appearance. Both Rafael Montero and Hector Neris have saves while Pressley doesn't, but I'd still bet on him getting the next opportunity.
- Diamondbacks -- Scott McGough has been a bit shaky in the early going after looking like he had the inside track to the job. That means this one is probably pretty wide open again. Andrew Chafin got the team's first save, but I would be a bit surprised if they used him as the full-time closer; as Scott notes, Miguel Castro is a dark horse candidate here.
- Mariners -- Both Andres Munoz and Paul Sewald have seen time in the eighth and ninth innings in high-leverage situations, so it seems like there's no clarity here. Both pitchers are excellent and should get their opportunities, but it doesn't look like anyone's running away with it.
- Athletics -- Dany Jimenez's velocity has been down in the early going, but he's gotten the only save opportunity for the A's so far. However, he also worked the seventh and eighth in a tied game in his second appearance, which isn't a traditional closer situation, necessarily. I'm still leaning Jimenez here.
- Phillies -- The Phillies enter play Thursday with a 1-4 record, and their only win came with a four-run lead entering the ninth inning. Craig Kimbrel worked that one, giving up a run before finishing the game off, so this one still looks pretty open, with a lean toward Kimbrel, perhaps.
- Cubs -- Here's another one where the usage so far doesn't really tell us much. I'm leaning Michael Fulmer's direction, because he got the ninth with a four-run lead, with Brad Boxberger handing that one off to him.
Injury report updates
- Eloy Jimenez played catch and ran Thursday and would have been available to pinch hit if he weren't placed on the IL. It was frustrating to see the oft-injured slugger already missing time, but it's good to know this seems to have been out of an abundance of caution more than anything else. Given his history, that's probably a good thing.
- Miguel Vargas (thumb) and Miguel Rojas (groin) head into the weekend with injuries, and Mookie Betts played his third game at second base Thursday as a result. He's two appearances from gaining 2B eligibility, and he'd be the clear top option at the position when that happens.
- Jazz Chisholm seemed to avoid serious injury when he left Wednesday's game against the Twins with a stinger in his shoulder, but he's questionable for the weekend at this point.
- Max Fried has been able to play catch, but hasn't thrown off a mound as he works his way back from a hamstring injury that landed him on the IL. He's likely to miss another turn or two in the rotation.
- Jorge Polanco will begin a rehab assignment. He's working his way back from a lingering knee tendinitis issue, and the Twins will likely want to see him get through multiple days in a row playing in the field without issue before he is activated. Polanco is a solid bounce-back candidate if he can stay healthy, and I'm excited to see him get back.
- Oneil Cruz enters the weekend in some doubt after colliding with Rafael Devers at third base Wednesday. Hopefully we learn more about his status before Fridays' game.
- Darick Hall is dealing with a thumb injury and could be placed on the IL by this weekend. Alec Bohm would move to 1B with Edmundo Sosa taking over at third if Hall does miss time.
- Tarik Skubal is close to throwing a bullpen session as he continues to work his way back from flexor tendon surgery last August. Anything we get from Skubal this season seems like a bonus at this point, but he was showing signs of breaking out before the injury last season, sporting a 3.52 ERA and 1.156 WHIP with a 2.96 FIP in 117.2 innings. Keep him on your radar for a potential June return.
- Raisel Iglesias (shoulder) has yet to resume throwing since being shut down two weeks ago. The injury still isn't considered serious, but he'll likely need several weeks to get back up to speed once he's cleared, so at this point, it seems like we're looking at more like a May timetable. A.J. Minter remains the primary source of saves for the Braves in Iglesias' absence.
- The Braves placed Collin McHugh on the IL Thursday with right shoulder inflammation after he gave up three hits Wednesday in a relief appearance.
- Mitch Haniger is eligible to be activated from the IL next week, but he is not expected to return from his oblique strain just yet. He remains worth stashing.
- Omar Narvaez will miss 8-9 weeks due to a left calf strain, hence Francisco Alvarez's promotion.