Whether you love baseball or not, Opening Day is always exciting. If you disagree, well, you’re more than likely the spawn of Satan.
Kidding, of course.
But seriously. While football and basketball are more enjoyable for me, I still love playing fantasy baseball, and watching the star players return to the diamond is a very fun time. And for fantasy owners, Opening Day tends to have a wide range of outcomes. Depending on your team’s performance, the first day of the season was either no big deal or a very big deal. On Monday, there were plenty of fantasy headlines to be had, whether it be good or bad. Of course, Ken Griffey Jr. is still retired, so that’s a bad right off the bat.
Pun absolutely intended, by the way.
-I love Mookie Betts… so, so much. The hyped Red Sox outfielder showed no signs of slowing down on Monday, going 2-for-4 with a walk and a solo shot off Cole Hamels. In 213 plate appearances last season, Betts provided fantasy owners with just a taste of his upside, batting .291 with 18 RBI, seven stolen bases and an .812 OPS. Boston’s lineup has been hyped to be arguably the best in baseball this season, and with Betts playing everyday and batting atop the order, he is going to be a monster this season, especially when you consider how intelligent of a hitter he is, swinging at just 20 percent of pitches landing outside the strike zone last year, while walking almost nine percent of the time. A guy who walks, gets on base and steals bases, Betts is going to score plenty of runs in this offense.
-Meanwhile, entering the season, Dustin Pedroia stated that he was the healthiest he’s been in years, and the power would improve in 2015. He wasn’t kidding. The Red Sox second baseman belted not one, but two home runs against the Phillies on Monday, a very, very positive sign. Newly acquired Hanley Ramirez also launched two home runs in this game, including a grand slam. Boston’s offense should be fun this season.
-Real quick. We all know David Price is awesome, but just in case you somehow forgot… he’s awesome. Price tossed 8 2/3 shutout innings against the Twins on Monday, striking out five, surrendering just five singles and walking just one. Get used to seeing Price go deep into ball games, as not many pitchers throw as many strikes and possess the command that he has. Over the course of last year, he set a career-high in strikeout percentage (26.9), and yesterday, 22 percent of his pitches induced infield flies, while 40 percent were groundballs.
-Staying on the mound, Sonny Gray was nearly flawless on Monday night, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning, ultimately allowing just one hit, zero runs and striking out three during the A’s win. According to ESPN Stats and Info, Gray became the first pitcher in the last 62 years to throw at least eight innings and allow one hit or fewer on Opening Day. Gray is a guy who tends to show up when under the lights, and he’ll draw his next start against the Mariners.
-He may be 36 years old, but Jimmy Rollins can still play, folks. After a very strong Spring with his new team in LA, Rollins followed it up with an awesome season debut, going 2-for-4 with a walk, stolen base and a three-run homer off of Shawn Kelley in the 8th inning. He batted leadoff for the Dodgers, which will be a nice uptick on upside, going from the top of a Phillies lineup that ranked 23rd in runs scored to a team that ranked sixth a season ago. Even at his age, with his new home in Los Angeles, Rollins is still capable of a 20/20 season, which is extremely valuable in fantasy, seeing as only five players accomplished that feat in 2014. Rollins has done it four times in his career, averaging about 14 homers and 28 stolen bases over a 16-year span.
-Batting sixth in the Rockies lineup could provide plenty of RBI opportunities, and that was certainly the case on Monday afternoon for Corey Dickerson. The 25-year-old outfielder went 2-for-5 with a home run and four RBI during the Rockies’ mauling of Kyle Lohse. Dickerson contributed to Colorado’s monster first inning, smacking a two-run homer, then later followed it with a two-run ground rule double in the fourth. A breakout year could very well be looming.
–Andrew McCutchen is the second-best player in baseball. He’s my favorite player in the league, so I selfishly wanted to talk about him, but he did have two hits on Monday, including a two-run homer. Cutch finished with about 30 percent of the Pirates’ teams hits during the game. Move along, folks. Nothing to see here.
Home Run Tracker
-Well, it started off well. Masahiro Tanaka was perfect through two innings of work against the Blue Jays, but it all went downhill from there. Toronto tagged him for five earned runs over four innings of work, while Tanaka ended up striking out six. He sat down three of the first four batters he faced, and did look very good at points of the outing, inducing nine swinging strikes out of the 25 splitters he tossed. It was practically untouchable, but when he was forced to throw his fastball, he just didn’t have the juice, tossing a fastball barely above 90 mph. Trying to pitch through that partially torn elbow is a bit concerning.
-The good news? Ryan Braun didn’t injure his thumb. The bad news? He did leave the game with a lower body injury when fielding a flyball. The severity of the injury is still unknown, and we should find out on Tuesday whether or not Braun will be headed for an MRI. It’s looking like it could be an oblique injury for Braun, which typically isn’t the greatest of signs. Keep an eye out, and if he’s forced to miss time, look for Gerardo Parra to see an uptick in value.
-This isn’t exactly “bad”, as Yordano Ventura pitched well in a win over the White Sox, but he did admit to cramping in his thumb, forcing him to leave the game in the seventh inning. However, the injury doesn’t appear to be at all significant.
–Matt Cain won’t make his 2015 debut until next week, as he experienced forearm tightness (gasp!). However, the MRI indicated a flexor tendon strain, revealing no ligament damage. He’ll likely be placed on the short-term disabled list.