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MLB opening weekend viewing guide for fantasy baseball

Morel the most underrated fantasy baseball player?
Craig Counsell and the Chicago Cubs are buying into Christopher Morel for the 2024 MLB season, and fantasy baseball managers should, too.


All 30 teams will take the field today (weather pending), and we can finally see what each lineup looks like or how each manager uses their bullpen when the games matter. While we won’t want to react to a small handful of games in the same way we didn’t want to overreact to Spring Training games, there are some things that fantasy managers should keep an eye on during each of the opening series.

Yesterday I covered general roster management strategies for the opening weeks of the fantasy baseball season, so today I’ll go matchup-by-matchup to tell you what I believe fantasy managers should be watching for. For the sake of brevity (and my sanity) I’m only going to include players or lineups or bullpens that we have questions about as of now. I’m not going to tell you that we should watch to see how good Corbin Burnes looks because we’re not making any fantasy decisions on Corbin Burnes unless there’s an injury (please please no more injuries).

With that said, these are the fantasy-relevant things I’ll be watching for in each of the opening weekend series.

Arizona Diamondbacks vs Colorado Rockies

  • What does Corbin Carroll’s exit velocity look like? The speedy outfielder battled through an injury to his surgically repaired shoulder and did not undergo any surgery in the offseason to correct the issue. He has just four home runs from August 1st through the end of the season and slugged just .444 in Spring Training. It may be nothing, but I’d feel a lot better if I saw him come close to last year’s level of thump.
  • What does Alek Thomas’ new swing look like? I mentioned in my post-hype hitters article that Alek Thomas re-tooled his swing in the offseason to try to find the gap-to-gap power that he showcased as a prospect. Thomas was a former top prospect and was a career .316/.391/.500 hitter in 329 minor league games with a .891 OPS. There’s no reason that should have translated to a .230/.274/.359 hitter at the MLB level. Perhaps this is the year he shows some of that pedigree.
  • Who do the Rockies start in right field? With Sean Bouchard being sent to the minors, it seems like Michael Toglia will get the first look in right field, but it’s also possible the team could put Elehuris Montero at 1B or DH and let one of Charlie Blackmon or Kris Bryant play right field. I’m not sure Toglia or Montero will make enough contact to be fantasy-relevant, but they both have big-time pop so getting a full-time lineup spot would be something to note.
  • How are both teams deploying their bullpens? The Diamondbacks are dealing with an injury to Paul Sewald. We assume that Kevin Ginkel will close for them while Sewald is out, but we need to see it. The Rockies also seem like they’ve chosen Justin Lawrence to close over Tyler Kinley, but we need to see how they use their back-end relievers in meaningful games.

Atlanta Braves vs Philadelphia Phillies

  • Not a lot of questions for these two powerhouse teams, but I’m curious to see what the Phillies do in center field. Johan Rojas appears likely to be the man there to start the season, but he wasn’t great in the spring and Christian Pache is almost his equal as a defender. Neither one will light the world on fire with their bat, but they each could be helpful with their wheels if one were to secure a full-time role in center field.
  • How does Brandon Marsh’s knee look? Marsh underwent a scope procedure early in the offseason, so I’m curious to see how he’s bounced back. If he doesn’t look like he has the same speed as before then that would be a knock to his fantasy value.
  • I also want to see how Philadelphia deploys their bullpen. Jose Alvarado is expected to be their closer, but he’s had consistency issues in the past and, as a left-hander, it’s possible the team will use him to face guys like Matt Olson or Michael Harris in the eighth inning. Would that leave save opportunities for Jeff Hoffman or Seranthony Dominguez?
  • How does Chris Sale look? Sale will take the ball on Sunday, and I’m watching to see how he looks in the regular season. He was electric at times in the spring, but will that carry over when the games matter and the team needs him to go five-plus innings? I believe it will, but I need to see it happen too.

Baltimore Orioles vs Los Angeles Angels

  • How bad is the Angels lineup? We don’t expect the Angels to be good, but I want to see just how bad they might be. I’m interested in guys like Brandon Drury, Zach Neto, and Luis Rengifo, but if the team looks lost then it will hurt their fantasy value. Is Aaron Hicks playing well? Is Mickey Moniak going to start every game? There are so many questions about this lineup.
  • Is this the year for Chase Silseth? The righty has tantalized us before and failed to deliver the true breakout we were hoping for, but he looked great in the spring. He gets a stiff test on Sunday against this Orioles lineup, but if he looks good against them, he could be a trendy waiver claim on Sunday night.
  • How does Grayson Rodriguez’s fastball look? Rodriguez’s fastball was not good early in the season last year and a big part of his success after his minor league stint was the improved fastball performance and location. That has not carried over to the spring. I’d like to see it begin to show itself here.
  • Does Colton Cowser push Austin Hays? Cowser had an electric spring and is a top-25 prospect in baseball. Hays is a fine player but not much more than that. Will the Orioles give Cowser a chance to push Hays for a job early on? I’d love to see the rookie get one start over the weekend.
  • What are the Orioles doing at second base? It appears they’ll go with Ramon Urias after they sent Jackson Holliday to Triple-A, but they also added Tony Kemp this week. Could they move Jordan Westburg to second base and call up Coby Mayo soon? Those lineup decisions will be important to track early on.
  • Does Ryan Mountcastle play every day? I’m a believer in Mountcastle, but there are some who believe he will sit against some right-handed pitchers to get guys like Cowser (or future prospects) more at-bats. Baltimore will face two righties in the first series, so I’m curious to see if Mountcastle plays in both.

Boston Red Sox vs Seattle Mariners

  • Is this Red Sox rotation good? I know people love to trash the Red Sox rotation but all of Brayan Bello, Nick Pivetta, Kutter Crawford, and Garrett Whitlock have looked interesting in the past. Each will get one start against the Mariners this weekend, and I’m curious to see if any of them deliver on the promise that analytics suggests each of them has.
  • Where does Ceddanne Rafaela play? The Red Sox’ third-ranked prospect won a job with a great Spring Training, but he also offers defensive versatility that makes it interesting to see where the team decides to play him. Will he play center? What would that mean for Jarren Duran, Tyler O’Neil, and Wilyer Abreu? With Rafaela play 2B? Will he be coming off the bench? He’s one of the most intriguing players to watch this weekend because he has 30 stolen base upside if he has an everyday job.
  • Is Trevor Story healthy? Trevor Story has not looked good his last two seasons as he’s battled through an arm injury. He is now healthy after surgery and looked great this spring. Will we see a resurgence?
  • How will the Mariners use their bullpen? Andres Munoz is the closer, but will he be used in high-leverage situations earlier on? I believe the Mariners are fine saving him for the ninth on most occasions, but if that proves to not be the case, could that mean save chances for Ryne Stanek or Gregory Santos and Matt Brash when they’re both healthy?
  • What do the Mariners do at third base? It seems like Josh Rojas has the job to start the season, but can he claim it? Will the team also use Luis Urias or Dylan Moore? Similarly, what will the Mariners do in left field? It seems like Dominic Canzone has won the job over Luke Raley, but will they split starts in this four-game series or will one of them clearly push in front of the other?

Chicago White Sox vs Detroit Tigers

  • So many unknown quantities to watch on the mound this weekend. The White Sox will roll out Garrett Crochet, Erick Fedde, and Mike Soroka while the Tigers will throw Kenta Maeda and Jack Flaherty. All of them have flashed 12-team value this spring, so it will be interesting to see what they look like as the season gets going. I’m particularly intrigued by Crochet, Fedde, and Flaherty of the group.
  • I called Parker Meadows the 2024 Josh Lowe, so I’m excited to see him in action. He’s likely going to lead off for the Tigers, and I think there’s more upside in his bat than people think.
  • What are the Tigers going to do at 3B? Will Gio Urshela start every day? How much will Andy Ibanez or Matt Vierling play? This is more of a question for AL-Only leagues, but I’m curious about how the Tigers man that spot.
  • I’m also intrigued by the trio at the end of the Tigers’ bullpen. Right now Alex Lange looks to be the closer but both Shelby Miller and Jason Foley have the talent to push him for the job. I want to see how all three of them are deployed and see if Miller or Foley could be a decent bench stash.
  • The White Sox have their own closer questions. Michael Kopech has looked electric in his early relief appearances, but will he get a shot right away? Will the White Sox use John Brebbia? Are they both being auditioned to be traded?
  • The White Sox might be the worst team in baseball. There likely isn’t a lot to watch here; however, I want to see how Yoan Moncada looks. I’ve been intrigued by him this draft season and think he could produce some solid fantasy value if healthy. I also want to see how the White Sox use their right field spot. It seems like Dominic Fletcher has the job, but he didn’t look great this spring. Could Gavin Sheets push him for playing time? Likely only AL-Only managers care, but that’s me!

Cleveland Guardians vs Oakland Athletics

  • Shane Bieber is the biggest ticket here. We’ve talked all off-season about his increased velocity and new curveball shape. Well, him recapturing his old curveball shape. If that can carry over into the regular season, we could see a vintage Bieber season.
  • I’m curious to watch this whole Cleveland offense, to be honest. I know the new coaching staff has pushed them to try to drive the ball more early in the count and not worry about swinging and missing. I’m interested to see what that does for players like Josh Naylor, Andres Gimenez, and Steven Kwan.
  • The Guardians also have two starting lineup spots in flux. As of now, it appears that Tyler Freeman will start in center and Brayan Rocchio will be at shortstop. Neither one has really emerged as a prospect in recent years, so I’m curious if either can take the job and run with it.
  • Oakland has some interesting lineup decisions too. It’s possible that Esteury Ruiz’s poor defense has cost him a starting spot. That would, obviously, kill his fantasy value. However, it may also mean a starting spot for Lawrence Butler, who I really like. I think Butler could be a fantasy asset in all league types if he has a spot in this lineup.
  • The other big question in Oakland is how they use Mason Miller out of the bullpen. I’m of the mind that he’ll have tons of fantasy value even without the full-time closer’s role, but if the A’s show they want to use him in that role right away, he could be in for a huge season.
  • I also weirdly like all of the Oakland starters we’ll see. Alex Wood and Ross Stripling have been reliable starters before, and I think JP Sears has some untapped upside. I’m curious to see how all three look this weekend.

Kansas City Royals vs Minnesota Twins

  • What do the Royals do at 2B with Michael Massey hurt? I assume it’s just Adam Frazier sliding into that spot, but could Garrett Hampson get a look? I’m also curious if Nelson Velazquez is their everyday DH or if they use that spot to mix and match, which would crush his fantasy value.
  • Is Maikel Garcia leading off? I just want to see him hit; I’m so all in.
  • What do the Royals do in a save situation? Does Will Smith have the ninth or will he face the opponent’s toughest lefties? If he does, will James McArthur get save chances or will it be John Schreiber, who they just gave up a legit pitching prospect to acquire?
  • On the other side, we assume the Twins will use Griffin Jax to close games with Jhoan Duran sidelined but Brock Stewart is also a name to watch. This series should help us answer that.
  • The Twins have a heavy-platoon lineup and with Cole Ragans starting Game 1 for the Royals, we’ll know right away what that means for Edouard Julien, Alex Kirilloff, Max Kepler, and Matt Wallner. Wallner also had a pretty poor spring, so I’ll be curious to see how he looks as the games get going.

Miami Marlins vs Pittsburgh Pirates

  • JARED JONES IS STARTING! AJ PUK IS STARTING! TREVOR ROGERS IS STARTING! MARTIN PEREZ IS STARTING! OK, that last one maybe not so much, but there are a lot of intriguing young starting pitchers getting chances here, and I’m excited to watch a lot of them.
  • Jared Triolo had a good spring and won the Pirates’ 2B job, so I’m curious to see what kind of value he could have, and I want to see if we’re going to get the 2022 version of Rowdy Tellez back. If we do, he’ll have great value in the middle of this lineup, and the Pirates offense as a whole could be interesting.
  • I’m also curious if Michael A. Taylor is a full-time center fielder for Pittsburgh because he has put up usable fantasy seasons in the past.
  • Aside from their starting pitching, I’m curious to see how the Marlins’ bullpen looks. Tanner Scott seems to have gotten past his early spring command issues, but he also seems to always have command issues. Could Sixto Sanchez make himself fantasy relevant in the pen?
  • I’m also curious to see how the Marlins split their outfield reps between Jesus Sanchez, Avisail Garcia, Bryan De La Cruz, Nick Gordon, and Vidal Brujan. Will any play enough or look good enough to be fantasy-relevant?

New York Mets vs Milwaukee Brewers

  • DL HALL. That’s all. I need to watch DL Hall. I think he could have a breakout season. I also think Colin Rea may be a deep-league streamer, so I’m curious to watch him. I guess I also want to see if Luis Severino has iVB back on his fastball. I know he touched 98 this spring, but he threw 97 last year, so I don’t really care. What does the vertical movement on the pitch look like? Can Tylor Megill stick in the rotation? These are the pitching questions I have.
  • We also want to see how Milwaukee using their bullpen trio of Joel Payamps, Abner Uribe, and Trevor Megill to fill in for Devin Williams. Will any of them have a real crack at taking the closer job?
  • The Garrett Mitchell injury also created questions in Milwaukee’s infield. Will Sal Frelick move back to the outfield? That potential multi-position eligibility was part of his charm. If he does, does Joey Ortiz get the shot at third base? I think he could have value if he does.
  • How does Rhys Hoskins look? It’s been a while since we’ve seen him in an MLB game.
  • With J.D. Martinez starting in the minors, is DJ Stewart the starting DH for the Mets? Can he be relevant in any format for the first few weeks?
  • We’re also curious to see how Starling Marte and Jeff McNeil look coming off injuries and if Brett Baty can make good on his prospect pedigree. He had a solid spring, but can he hit for enough power to be relevant without real speed?

New York Yankees vs Houston Astros

  • OK, we’ll talk about one star here. How healthy does Aaron Judge look? Will his oblique or toe be an issue? Will he steal bases?
  • It also seems like the Yankees will start newly-acquired Jon Berti at 3B while D.J. LeMahieu is out. Berti is maybe the only player aside from Anthony Volpe with elite speed on this team. Will that help him carve out a big role with the Yankees? Speaking of Volpe, how does the new swing look? He had a solid spring, but can he carry that over against major league pitching?
  • What are the Yankees doing at catcher? Is it a 50/50 split or will one of Austin Wells or Jose Trevino claim the job?
  • Both Nestor Cortes and Carlos Rodon had inconsistent springs. How do they look against a top-tier offense like Houston?
  • Jeremy Pena also changed his swing in the offseason. Like Volpe, we want to check and see if that’s something that will lead to any meaningful boost in results in 2024.
  • With Josh Hader preferring to throw one inning at a time, will the Astros use him to get tough outs in the seventh or eighth innings, allowing Ryan Pressly to steal some saves?
  • Which version of Hunter Brown will we see in 2024? He looked good at the start of last season, but the wheels fell off in the second half. He’s been tinkering with his pitch mix to unlock the best version of his arsenal, so I’m curious to see what he looks like against a solid offense.
  • How does Jake Meyers look after battling injuries and mental health struggles over the last few years? He had showed promise previously so he could be a solid deep-league contributor if he’s “back.”

San Diego Padres vs San Francisco Giants

  • We’ve already seen the Padres for two games, so there aren’t really questions to answer here. How long a leash does Tyler Wade have at third base? Will Graham Pauley get a shot? We also get our first look at Michael King and Dylan Cease in starts for the Padres, so I’ll be tuning in for those.
  • On the other side, we get to see Kyle Harrison and Jordan Hicks get the ball. I’ve never been super high on Harrison, but if he can use that new cutter more often this season, he could make good on some of his promise. Hicks has also never been able to stick as a starter, but perhaps things will be different this year. Does he have the depth of arsenal to be a starter?
  • I’m also curious to see what new Giants centerfielder Jung Hoo Lee looks like. The Giants will be a platoon-heavy team, but they’re not set to face a left-handed starter, so we won’t really answer those questions this weekend.
  • I guess we can see how they split their catching duties between Patrick Bailey and Tom Murphy. Will there be a clear starter or is this a platoon?

St. Louis Cardinals vs Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Much like the Padres, we’ve already seen two games from the Dodgers and know what to expect. We will get to see both Bobby Miller and Gavin Stone make their season debuts, so I’m excited to see their new arsenals. Stone in particular changed half of his pitch mix, so I’m looking to see how much staying power I think that gives him in the rotation.
  • Now that Victor Scott II is up it’s time to see how his bat plays at this level. Can he put the Esteury Ruiz comparisons to bed or will they continue to linger? If Scott plays well, he’ll likely remain up most of the season, so if he can get off to a good start in the first weeks, he could be a big waiver wire add with his elite speed.
  • It also appears that Brendan Donovan will lead off for the Cardinals for the time being. Does he look healthy? If so, he could be a great multi-position bench bat for fantasy leagues. Alec Burleson also had a really good spring and has a starting job for now. Can he hit well enough to cling a bit tighter to it before Dylan Carlson and Tommy Edman come back?
  • Lastly, what do we get from rookie Masyn Winn? He plays elite defense but can he hit enough to use his speed for fantasy managers?

Texas Rangers vs Chicago Cubs

  • The Cubs don’t seem to want to commit to Adbert Alzolay as the closer, but will they use him as one considering how well he pitched last year or will Hector Neris work himself into some save situations? I also want to see Jordan Wicks’ start on Sunday to see if he can keep a starting spot in the Cubs’ rotation or if we’re starting to countdown clock for Cade Horton yet.
  • The Rangers also have some questions at closer. Jose Leclerc has never been consistent in the role and he had a rough spring. If he struggles at all, do the Rangers try David Robertson or Josh Sborz? What does this bullpen hierarchy look like?
  • Corey Seager and Josh Jung should be back for Texas, but how do they look? Also, what does that mean for Ezequiel Duran? He’s been working out at 1B over the spring and will likely start there in the first game with Justin Steele pitching for the Cubs, but when a righty is on the mound, will Jared Walsh play over Duran? If so, that could kill his fantasy value early on.
  • I’m also curious to see how Texas deploys their outfield. Will they DH Wyatt Langford? They had previously said they wanted him to play the field, but Leody Taveras is a strong defensive centerfielder. Will Adolis Garcia DH at all?

Toronto Blue Jays vs Tampa Bay Rays

  • The Blue Jays are dealing with injuries to their bullpen, so it will be curious to see who gets the first save chance. It seems like Yimi Garcia is the favorite, but maybe they’ll turn to Chad Green.
  • We also don’t really know how Toronto will fill out the lineup card and 2B and 3B. Will it be Cavan Biggio and Isiah Kiner-Falefa in all games or does Davis Schneider or Ernie Clement get worked in there as well? Will Justin Turner play 3B versus righties so that Daniel Vogelbach can DH? There are a few questions left in this lineup.
  • Yusei Kikuchi was also pretty poor this spring. Will that carry over into the regular season after his breakout 2023 campaign? On the Tampa Bay side, we will get to see what a whole offseason with Aaron Civale and Zack Littell has done for the Rays and their elite pitching development.
  • Offensively, how will the Rays fill in for Josh Lowe? Will it be Richie Palacios against righties and Amed Rosario against lefties? Does Rosario get starts anywhere else? Will they immediately play Niko Goodrum or will Jose Caballero get a long leash as the shortstop? He has the speed to be a difference-maker if he gets that chance.
  • Also, what will the Rays do at DH? Is it just Harold Ramirez or are they open to using Brandon Lowe there to get extra at-bats for Rosario or Goodrum? So many questions here.

Washington Nationals vs Cincinnati Reds

  • The Reds had so many lineup questions and now they seem to have none. They will face a lefty in Patrick Corbin, so what does that mean for Jake Fraley, Will Benson, and Nick Martini? Which right-handed hitters get into the lineup on those days?
  • We also get to see Frankie Montas back on the mound, but what version of Montas will we get? It feels hard to trust him in that park. It also feels hard to trust Hunter Greene who claimed he was adding two new pitches and barely threw either in the spring. Will the curve or splitter show up meaningfully here? If not, it’s really hard to trust him in fantasy.
  • The Nationals have an intriguing decision to make at the end of games between Hunter Harvey and Kyle Finnegan. I’m not sure they’ll get many save chances this weekend, but how they use those two pitchers can help to show us who they trust more.
  • We also need to see how the Nationals use the aging veterans. Will Jesse Winker, Eddie Rosario, and Joey Gallo play against all righties? Does that mean Victor Robles is in a short-side platoon? If Winker and Rosario get that much playing time, can they be fantasy-relevant again?
  • Will this be the year we see any consistent offensive growth from Luis Garcia or Nick Senzel? Probably not, but they always seem to intrigue at various times during the season and Garcia has yet to turn 24 years old, so there is time for him to improve still.