Fantasy Baseball 2014: Thoughts From Opening Day

By Adam Pfeifer
Francisco Liriano
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports


Baseball …

Nothing else needs to be said.

After months of cold, snowy, warm and then snowy again weather, baseball is back. The diamond was surrounded by the sights and sounds that make this game great; the fans, the venues, the smell of hot dogs and peanuts, and, of course, that one idiot who shields the sun with his hand, rather than use the hat that is nestled above his head. And if baseball is America’s past time, fantasy baseball may be a very close second.

Fantasy owners were thrilled to actually watch the stats count for the first time all year, as they hope to get off to a good start in their matchups. However, as exciting as Opening Day is, there was also plenty of stress to be had. Join me as I recap the day that was.

Bryce Harper avoids a scare

Many, many people have the Nationals pegged as a World Series favorite out of the National League this season. Those hopes nearly crashed and burned on Monday when Bryce Harper slid into second base in attempts to break up a double play. It was a job well done, but the consequences were almost brutal, as Harper took a knee to the head during the slide. He was down for a few minutes before exiting toward the dugout. Many Twitter reports indicated that Harper was done for the day, but he would return to the field during the next inning. The only people holding their breaths more than fantasy owners were the fans of the Nationals. Harper went on to finish the day 1-for-4 with a walk.

Wilson Ramos does not

The Nationals couldn’t fully avoid injury, as catcher Wilson Ramos suffered a hand injury on Monday. X-Rays were later revealed negative, but he will see a hand specialist this week. Many reports hinted toward a broken hand, which would sideline him for a while. Fantasy owners need to monitor this situation as it develops, especially since the Nationals are already weighing their options at the catcher position.

Here are some potential waiver wire guys to target:

– Yan Gomes

– Carlos Ruiz

– J.P. Arencibia

– Alex Avila

Francisco… that’s fun to say

In 2013, Liriano was one of the better under the radar pitchers in fantasy, and was a key component to the Pirates’ postseason run.

This year, he is already proving that it was no fluke.

During his opening day start, Liriano was absolutely dealing. He pitched six innings, walking just three batters, allowing four hits and striking out 10, a franchise record for k’s in a game on opening day. He looked stellar, providing a solid fastball, a nasty changeup and that same old filthy slider. The guy threw the slider 36 percent of the time last year, yet it’s still so tough to hit. Liriano found himself inside my top-20 starting pitcher rankings for this season, and with each batter he mows down, he also mows down some more critics. Playing in a pitcher-friendly park (7th on ESPN Park Factor last year), Liriano has a terrific defense behind him, and should be in line for another strong season.

Streaming pitchers doesn’t always work

Tanner Scheppers, you will not be invited to the next sleep over I host.

No sir.

With starting pitching so deep in fantasy, a ton of players tend to resort to the streaming strategy, adding guys off the waiver wire and plugging them in when they face weak offenses. And with Yu Darvish scratched from his start, the 27-year old Scheppers became the second arm since 1945 to make his big league debut on a team’s opening day. It was a good matchup, as the Phillies offense has been known to struggle producing runs, ranking 27th in runs from a season ago.

But, you know, it helps if the pitcher is good.

Scheppers was brutal, lasting just four innings, walking three batters and allowing seven runs. He had absolutely zero command, throwing just 11 first pitch strikes. Perhaps it was just nerves, but it was a very rough outing, and those in daily leagues who went cheap at pitcher weren’t too happy. This is a reminder that streaming isn’t a lock just because an opposing offense isn’t top notch. I mean, down the stretch last year, the Houston Astros were lighting pitchers up a bit.


Ramos (hand)

Reyes (hamstring)

Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.

You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.





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