What a day Wednesday was for MLB fans and fantasy baseball players. Everyone talks about the negative side of baseball, with the 2022 MLB lockout and management bickering with the players, but the 2022 MLB season is already loaded with some fantastic performances and even some romantic nostalgia. Whether you’re talking about Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hitting two home runs to beat the New York Yankees, Clayton Kershaw almost throwing a perfect game, Albert Pujols chasing 700 home runs or just a masterful performance by an unknown like Owen Miller, this season has delivered one of the most exciting and action-packed first week of the season and will make the updated fantasy baseball rankings for May a very interesting exercise. Let’s get to the action.
Fantasy Baseball Highlights
Los Angeles Dodgers Managers Pulls Clayton Kershaw from Perfect Game
This one is drawing both excitement and ire as the real baseball and fantasy baseball communities seem split on how Wednesday’s Dodgers game should have been handled. In just his first start of the season, Kershaw pitched a perfect game against the Minnesota Twins and he was only at 80 pitches. He was cruising, and he had 13 strikeouts to boot. The sensible folk understood that having only thrown 75 pitches in a simulated game during the spring, it was in both Kershaw’s and the team’s best interest to pull him and spare his arm the extra wear and tear. The Dodgers are hunting for another World Series title and between injuries to Kershaw, truncated seasons and abbreviated springs, Roberts was being sensible and putting team needs ahead of personal accolades. His star pitcher agreed publicly, but others wondered if he was just toeing the company line. For those others, the feelings were less pragmatic as the notion of MLB’s 24th perfect game and another milestone for such a great player (not to mention padded fantasy stats) were so close they could taste it. We’ll never know if the perfect game would have happened had Kershaw been left in. Gary Sánchez broke it up with one out in the eight after he knocked a single on the first pitch he saw reliever Alex Vesia. For me, I would have liked to have seen him finish. The rational side of me understands why Roberts did what he did, but I think MLB needs more feelgood stories to repair its relationship with the fans. With the way Kershaw was dealing, I think an exception could have been made.
Quick shoutout to Dodgers second baseman Gavin Lux who made an absolutely outstanding play at second base to help close out the seventh inning for Kershaw. Fantastic range on this kid. He then stepped up and smacked a home run in between Cody Bellinger’s and Austin Barnes’ for a back-to-back-to-back power display that solidified the Dodgers victory. Oh baby!
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Shakes Off Finger Injury to Hit Two Home Runs Against the Yankees
This series between the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees has been absolutely fantastic. We saw Alek Manoah dominate for the Jays on the mound, we saw Nestor Cortes match him the next night and now the bats take center stage as Guerrero stayed in the game after suffering a lacerated finger and powered the Jays with a three-homer night. If you missed the action, Guerrero, who already homered in the first inning, put his hand down on the ground to balance himself while digging a ball out of the dirt on a throw to first. Aaron Hicks was running hard down the line and accidentally stepped on the first baseman’s hand, causing a laceration that was bleeding profusely. Guerrero headed to the dugout, trainer Voon Chong taped it up and the rest is, well, you know. Guerrero smacked a two-run shot in his next at-bat and then hit another in the eighth to provide a much-needed insurance run. The kid is an absolute superstar anyway, but to gut out a heroic effort like this just makes you love him even more. You almost feel bad for those who don’t have him on their fantasy baseball rosters.
Owen Miller is a Diamond in the Rough for Cleveland Guardians
The notion of a first-base platoon between Bobby Bradley and Yu Chang was clearly not sitting well with manager Terry Francona, so he moved Miller, a shortstop prospect by trade, over to first base just to see what he could do. Well, the results are already in and after his first two-homer game and five doubles on the season already, it looks like Miller has earned himself a spot as the Guardians first baseman. We’ll look to see if this hot start cools off and how Francona will handle things, but for now, this looks like someone to add off your fantasy baseball waiver wire if you play in leagues of 12 and 15 teams.
Detroit Tigers Rookie Spencer Torkelson Hits First Career Home Run
After opening the season 0-for-9 with seven strikeouts, Torkelson seems to have found his footing in the big leagues. On Monday he went 1-for-3 with a double and scored the first run of his career and then in yesterday’s matinee, Torkelson went 2-for-4 and hit a moon-shot down the left field line for his first round-tripper. He’s hanging out near the bottom of the order right now, but if he can build off this momentum, it’s just a matter of time before manager A.J. Hinch moves him up. We always encourage patience with the rookies, so if you weathered the first four-game storm, welcome to reaping the benefits. This kid has the power to do some serious damage for the Tigers.
Cincinnati Reds Starter Nick Lodolo Struggles in First Outing
After Hunter Greene’s strong debut, all eyes were on the Reds rookie southpaw who was tasked with stifling one of the hottest-hitting teams to open the season. Now don’t laugh because it was the Cleveland Guardians, because their offense is in such high-gear right now, you wonder if they were completely overlooked as a sleeper team in the AL Central. Lodolo’s command was off, plain and simple. Maybe it was first -start jitters, but five runs on seven hits and three walks over just four innings was a tough pill to swallow. We’re willing to chalk this up to nerves, but he’s got the Padres next, so watch him closely. I still firmly believe in this kid, but I also don’t think the Reds would hesitate to send him down if they believe he isn’t quite ready for prime-time.
Fantasy Baseball Closers
More Struggles for Chicago White Sox Closer Liam Hendriks
Fantasy owners who invested an early-round pick to secure a high-end fantasy baseball closer are suffering from some serious anxiety right now with regard to Hendriks. He struggled in his first two outings and despite notching the save in one of them, he was sporting a 13.50 ERA entering last night’s game against the Seattle Mariners. The hope was for a clean and quick innings, but instead saw Hendriks allow another run off two hits. He earned the save after shutting it down quickly after that, but another blemish on the record is not endearing Hendriks to the fantasy community. Maybe it’s just the abbreviated spring, but fantasy owners may want to think about stashing Kendall Graveman just in case there’s another hiccup.
In other closer news…
While it was far from smooth sailing, Camilo Doval picked up the save for the San Francisco Giants furthering the belief that he and Jake McGee are in a committee situation and you should have both on your roster. It looks like Gabe Kapler is going to play the lefty/righty match-ups.
Josh Hader finally nailed down his first save of the season for the Milwaukee Brewers, but keep an eye on his as his velocity dipped about 2-3 mph from his last appearance Sunday. Maybe it’s just early and he’s thrown three times in four days, but you just want to stay prepared.
Oakland Athletics closer Lou Trivino is not expected to see a ton of work this season, but if the A’s win 60 games, you can bet the majority of them will be close ones.
Houston Astros closer Ryan Pressly allowed two runs in just one-third of an inning to blow the save against the Diamondbacks. Just a hiccup here. Nothing with which to be too concerned.
After Matt Barnes and Jake Diekman handled work between the sixth and eighth innings, it was Hansel Robles who earned the save for the Boston Red Sox. Prior to the start of the season, manager Alex Cora had said he needed Barnes to prove himself before being put back into the closer’s role, so expect this closer-by-committee to last a while longer.
Eloy Jiménez Will Not Play Thursday Due to Ankle Injury
No need to panic. Everything seems to be ok, but the Chicago White Sox got a scare yesterday when Jimenez fouled a ball off his ankle and was forced to leave the game. X-rays turned up negative for any structural damage, but with the amount of swelling they’ve seen, the team is going to err on the side of caution and keep him on the bench until he’s 100-percent ready. Chicago has endured enough injuries already that they’re going to need to be careful. Consider Jimenez day-to-day and check back for his weekend status.
Blue Jays Send Outfielder Teoscar Hernández for an MRI
Not great for fantasy owners as Hernandez was a top pick among outfielders in fantasy baseball drafts this year. The Blue Jays are still calling it “left side discomfort,” but being shipped off for an MRI sounds like it could be more serious. If it is some sort of an oblique strain, it could require a stint on the 10-day IL, but before we panic you with worst-case scenarios, we’ll wait for more information. Keep your fingers crossed.
John Means Leaves Wednesday’s Baltimore Orioles Game with Left Forearm Tightness
Uh oh. This is no good. On a day where everyone was citing pitch-counts in the wake of the Kershaw moment, fantasy owners of the Orioles’ lefty watched him leave his start after just 51 pitches. It didn’t look like a quick hook and the 51 pitches were an indicator that this was more than just load management. We later learned that he left with forearm tightness in his pitching arm which, sadly, is usually a precursor for some sort of UCL issue. Means did note that he’s experienced this before and didn’t seem overly concerned, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Stay tuned.
Mike Clevinger to Make First Rehab Start Thursday at Class-A Lake Elsinore
Just another step on the road to recovery for the once-dominant hurler. Clevinger had been working his way back from Tommy John surgery and was primed to open the season in the San Diego Padres rotation, but a knee flare-up put him on the shelf. Keep a watchful eye on this rehab which will likely require a few more minor league outings, because I’m a huge fan for when he comes back. Clevinger has phenomenal stuff and will have shaken off the rest of the rust from being idle for so long. The Padres brought in former Cleveland assistant pitching coach Ruben Niebla to help with Clevinger’s return and I expect the results to be huge.
Thursday’s Free MLB Best Bets
We are definitely starting the season off on the right foot as we enjoyed another winning day yesterday. We missed on the Reds money line early on as I truly didn’t see this hot start for the Guardians to pick up speed as the week moved on. But, with that loss in our rearview mirror, we happily watched as both the Brewers/Orioles and Astros/Diamondbacks game went under the game totals and gave us another pair of wins, one of which was plus-odds. Thank you very much!
MLB Season Best Bets: 7-2
Here’s what I like for Thursday, April 14:
Let’s start with the Phillies/Marlins game, one that I actually should have bet late last night because I saw plus-odds on the Marlins money line. I wake up this morning and it’s already down to -115 because the money is coming in on Marlins hurler Sandy Alcantara. That’s exactly where I was going and still am. The Phillies bats are producing but after watching Alcantara dispatch of the Giants in his first start (5 IP, 2 ER), and seeing how the heart of the Phillies order has struggled against Alcantra in the past, I’m in on the Fish. I also can’t stand the Kyle Gibson love after his first start. The guy is just not as good as some people think.
Pick: Miami Marlins Money Line (-115 on DK Sportsbook and BetMGM)
Plain and simple, this next pick is all about backing Shohei Ohtani. I wasn’t a big fan of the Texas Rangers coming into the season as it was, so I’m going to take what I saw from Ohtani’s first start (1.93 ERA with nine strikeouts) and couple with a healthier Mike Trout and some strong performances from the bottom of the lineup. The Angels top three hitters in the order are among the best in baseball and if some of the lefty bats like Jared Walsh and Brandon Marsh can get to righty Dane Dunning, the Halos should finish out on top. The juice is a little high, but again, we’re just building our MLB bankroll right now.
Pick: Los Angeles Angels Money Line (-140 on DK Sportsbook and BetMGM)
We’re going to prey on some shaky bullpen action for this last bet. The Braves bullpen has a 4.30 ERA over 29.1 innings so far this year while the bullpen of the Padres has a 4.97 mark over 25.1 innings. Both starters, Charlie Morton and Joe Musgrove can definitely hold their own, but both offenses have been putting some decent run totals up over this first week of the season. The under 7.5 on the run total would look a lot better if I knew these pitchers were going to go deep into the game, but given what we’ve seen throughout the league, I think the bullpens are going to be on display again following the fifth inning. A first-five run total looks too low for me, but for a full game? I like the bats.
Pick: Atlanta Braves/San Diego Padres Run Total OVER 7.5 (-115 on DK Sportsbook and BetMGM)
- Fantasy Baseball Week 1 Waiver Wire: Connor Joe's Surging Start
- Fantasy Baseball Week 1 Prospect Report: Matt Brash Among Rookies to Watch
- Fantasy Baseball Player Spotlight: Buying Low on Eugenio Suárez
- Fantasy Baseball Closer Grid