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The Spin: What you need to know during the first weekend of fantasy baseball action

Weekend baseball is a classic, beloved tradition. But there can be a lot for a fantasy manager to take into creating that much action. But don’t worry: Scott Pianowski is here to put his spin on what we need to know going forward.

The Spin check-in is coming this weekend.  (Banner by Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)The Spin check-in is coming this weekend.  (Banner by Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

The Spin check-in is coming this weekend. (Banner by Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

So you were heading into your fantasy draft and thinking about which pitching staff to target. “Okay, the Dodgers are loaded, those Mariners sure look good, maybe I can get a few Braves. Do I want to wait a little longer for a few Rangers? Maybe their stars can come back in the second half of the year.”

And there were the Red Sox, hiding in plain sight. Maybe Boston’s rotation was the steal of the draft.

Have we undermined the Red Sox rotation in fantasy drafts?

The Red Sox had to settle for a four-game split in Seattle for the opening series, but you couldn’t fault Boston’s starting pitching: it was fantastic. Collectively, the four Boston starters played 22 innings, 14 hits allowed, four earned runs. There was one walk. There were 27 strikeouts. That’s a 1.64 ERA, a 0.68 WHIP, a .177 batting average against. Wiffle ball stats.

Other staff members naturally got to work. Among all teams in Kansas City, the rotation recorded an ERA under 1. The Orioles starting staff collected the same 27 strikeouts and one walk as the Red Sox. Unfortunately, those teams offered destination fantasy picks in March. Most Boston pitchers were viewed as supplemental options, an afterthought.

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[It’s not too late: Join or create a Yahoo Fantasy Baseball league for the 2024 MLB season]

This is where the hiding in plain sight angle begins. Maybe those Boston pitchers had stronger stuff than we recognized. Kutter Crawford’s breakout seemed real last year when he posted a 3.83 FIP, better than a strikeout per inning. Nick Pivetta tinkered with his approach and was very good in the second half (3.30 ERA, 0.96 WHIP). Brayan Bello has worked with Pedro Martínez and has always been seen as a positive side. Garrett Whitlock had an excellent spring training (22 strikeouts, three walks, 2.49 ERA, 0.88 WHIP), emphatically stamping his name in a rotation spot.

And perhaps pitching coach Andrew Bailey is one of the heroes here. He saw many students improve during his three years as a pitching coach in San Francisco; he joined the Red Sox this year. Not far from his own fantasy relevance, Bailey collected 95 saves over an eight-year career. He was an All-Star with Oakland in 2009 and 2010.

The Red Sox also have a much better defense this year. Right fielder Tyler O’Neill has a pair of Gold Gloves on his resume. Trevor Story is healthy again, a clear upgrade over Enrique Hernández and others at shortstop. Ceddanne Rafaela has an impressive defensive reputation; he takes over in midfield.

The fantasy market has turned to the Boston rotation, even though in some cases the first week was necessary. Whitlock is the only member of the front four with a low selection at Yahoo; he is at 33%. And an opening series in Seattle was a perfect draw, pitching confidently in a park that stifles offense. Fenway Park is, of course, a hitter’s best friend.

Yet we know that the K/BB ratio is a metric that stabilizes quickly. It’s certainly too early to say with certainty that Boston’s rotation will be a season-winner, but it won’t be much longer before we can accept these statistics with complete confidence. In the meantime, let’s enjoy this Boston rotation against some daisy matchups. The Red Sox play six games this week against non-threatening lineups; three games in Oakland, three games in Anaheim. That’s good work, if you can get it.

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Some teams aren’t interested in running

I found it interesting that in the shortened first week there were still six teams without a stolen base. The Angels, Royals, Blue Jays, Cubs, Mets and Giants are waiting to break the seal.

Some of those bagels will disappear soon enough. No team with Bobby Witt Jr. will remain on the bags. The Cubs were eighth in steals last year, the Mets were 13th.

The Giants ranked last in stolen bases last season, so it’s safe to say this is a red light organizationally. Last year the Angels were 29th. Ron Washington says he wants his team to compete, but a .238 OBP in the series in Baltimore – and several big deficits – didn’t provide much of an opportunity. Say this for the Angels, at least they won the last game of the series. Thank youReid Detmers.

On the plus side, the Guardians were the busiest bag team: eight steals, 11 attempts. The Brewers (8-for-8) and Nationals (7-for-7) ran at will. Cincinnati was only successful on two-thirds of its nine attempts, but we know those guys want to make it a track meet. The stolen base thrived under the new 2023 rules, and that won’t go away this year.

Just don’t expect the Giants to come with you.

Jack Flaherty was part of Detroit’s fast start

Maybe Detroit’s win in Chicago didn’t impress you much; the White Sox look like one of the worst teams in baseball. But Detroit’s schedule will be beautiful for much of 2024. Detroit faces the Mets, Athletics, Pirates and Twins in the next two weeks. Maybe the Twins’ offense will be decent, even if it is built on an injury risk basis. The other three teams don’t scare anyone.

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Jack Flaherty is the wild card in Detroit’s rotation. He caught our attention with an excellent camp (2.95 ERA, 26 K, 4 BB), albeit with about a Triple-A level of competition. Flaherty’s opening start was also impressive: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 K. Once again, the White Sox were complicit. But Flaherty is only 28, and his St. Louis salad days aren’t that long ago.

The Tigers think they can steal the AL Central this year – and they’re not messing around. Jason Foley looked great with two quick saves, while Alex Lange struggled in his only outing (three walks), a non-save performance. Lange was the stopper last year, but it appears manager AJ Hinch has already moved on. Also keep an eye on Shelby Miller, who threw pellets and until now has been used for high leverage work.

Pitching game of the week

The second half of Chris Sale’s time in Boston was full of injuries and setbacks. Now he’s in his age-35 season and starting over in Atlanta. I couldn’t watch him this spring, but the fan in me will definitely cheer for his comeback. The sale was effective in a no-decision in Philadelphia on Sunday, two runs over 5.1 innings. He walked two and struck out seven.

Brandon Pfaadt dominated the Rockies on Sunday, as teams often do. One run, zero walks, six whiffs in five innings. Pfaadt did hit a few batters, but at least they don’t count towards the WHIP. Bless you, founding fathers.

Pfaadt took some time to settle in as a rookie, but he was effective and impressive in five postseason starts (3.27 ERA, 1.13 WHIP). It appeared on many breakout lists this spring, including mine.

So we have a comeback story against an outbreak. Sounds good. Sale and Pfaadt meet on Saturday evening, April 6 in Atlanta (7:20 PM ET), and I’ll have it on one of my main screens.

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