Table: Do not bench list
Aaron Harang, Cincinnati Reds
Analysis: The defending NL strikeout champion overwhelmed the Chicago Cubs in his first start, going seven innings for five strikeouts to two walks while allowing only an unearned run. He will face the Cubs on the road in Week 2. In 2006, Harang had a 2.98 ERA on the road compared to his 4.61 number at the Great American Ball Park. You should have no reservations starting him again, since he probably holds one of the top two spots in your fantasy rotation.
Bronson Arroyo, Cincinnati Reds
Analysis: "Charles" Bronson Arroyo struggled through a rough fourth inning against the Cubs, eventually losing his first start of the season. He went on a tear last season in his first trip through the National League. Oddly, his 4.00 road ERA put to shame his 2.60 ERA at the Great American Ball Park in 2006. Arroyo goes to the hill at the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Chicago Cubs and should be considered a tentative start.
Chris Young, San Diego Padres
Analysis: Young has been labeled as a dark horse candidate for this year's NL Cy Young, and there's no reason not to at least include his name in the discussion. He had a career-high 3.46 ERA and 164 K last year. Young will start at home against the San Francisco Giants and at the Los Angeles Dodgers in Week 2, so if you're a believer in the two-start advantage, Young is a nice play this week - even though you shouldn't question starting him in 2007 anyway.
Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies
Analysis: Hamels was dominant in his first start of the season, hurling seven scoreless innings against the Braves while allowing just four hits, and with eight strikeouts to one walk. He is starting against two division rivals, traveling to play the New York Mets before hosting the Houston Astros on Sunday. The Mets and Astros' lineups could do some damage, but Hamels looked too nasty in his opener to ignore. He is worth the risk, but is more than likely to pay dividends for you if you start him.
Ervin Santana, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Analysis: Santana has been frequently predicted to make "The Leap" this year. His hype will be put to the test early against two offensive powerhouses - hosting the Texas Rangers and visiting the Boston Red Sox. Santana did not face the Sox last season, so that could most certainly play in his favor, especially with his electric stuff. Santana's division rivals scored 12 earned runs in 18 IP. Santana was unstoppable in his 17 home starts in 2006, going 10-2 with a 3.02 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP and .224 BAA in 116.1 IP. Temper your expectations, but you should still start the up-and-coming star.
Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
Analysis: Verlander heads to Baltimore and Toronto next week, facing two revamped offenses. Verlander lost velocity on his fastball toward the end of last season but was dominant in the first half with his fresh arm. Regardless, Verlander faces a packed Blue Jays offense that he didn't meet last year, and a Baltimore offense that he beat at Camden Yards in 2006 (6.1 IP, three runs, four K, three BB).
Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boston Red Sox
Analysis: Fantasy managers will only get to play craps once in Week 2, as Dice-K will host fellow countryman Ichiro Suzuki and the Seattle Mariners. The heart of the Mariner order all topped 100 strikeouts last season (first baseman Richie Sexson 154, third baseman Adrian Beltre 118, and outfielder Raul Ibanez 115), and it's not hard to believe that facing the import would confuse them just as much. He allowed just one run and struck out 10 in his MLB debut against the Royals Thursday. Matsuzaka should have a huge coming out party in his first Fenway start, so in Week 2, show off the fact that he's on your team.
Dave Bush, Milwaukee Brewers
Analysis: Bush is everyone's favorite mid-round sleeper on the mound this year; he's a good ratio pitcher. In Week 2, Bush faces the Florida Marlins at Dolphins Stadium. Bush gave up six runs in five innings in his only start there last year, but had five strikeouts to one walk - a typical Bush start. The Brewers offense can eat up the back end of Florida's rotation, so Bush could have some offensive support. Start him.
Derek Lowe, Los Angeles Dodgers
Analysis: Lowe faces the Giants and the San Diego Padres this week, two teams that favor Lowe's groundball methodology. Lowe was roughed up in his first 2007 start against a faster Marlins squad, so he might get some help against his NL West rivals. Lowe's five walks indicated that he had trouble setting up opposing hitters for his split-finger fastball, so he needs to regain his control to help you this week. He has a shot of doing so with his less offensively gifted Week 2 assignments.
A.J. Burnett, Toronto Blue Jays
Analysis: Once again, Burnett comes into this season as one of the best risk-reward buys in fantasy baseball. However, he showed the risk in his first outing of 2007, getting smacked around by the Tigers, giving up six runs before he was pulled without recording an out in the third inning. He will host the Royals and the Tigers in Week 2. Burnett should recover slightly against Kansas City, but it's hard to think Detroit couldn't get to him again. Sit Burnett this week if you have the choice.
Andy Pettitte, New York Yankees
Analysis: Pettitte hits the road to Minnesota and Oakland, two of the better teams in the American League. Minnesota's .287 team batting average was the best in the majors last year, and they're a patient enough team to wear down an aging pitcher like Pettitte. Oakland was one of the least patient teams in the league last season. If you don't expect more than six innings in either outing, start him.
Barry Zito, San Francisco Giants
Analysis: Zito's first outing in the senior circuit did not go as fantasy owners hoped. He gave up three runs (two earned) in a loss to the Padres last Tuesday, having to work out of numerous jams early. In Week 2, he hosts the Dodgers and pitches at the Pittsburgh Pirates. His foray into the National League was supposed to make him a much improved fantasy pitcher, but he showed his similar signs of control problems and being "too cute" with his pitches. He should be started, but expect to take a bit of a hit in your WHIP.
Chris Capuano, Milwaukee Brewers
Analysis: Capuano had to be rescued by his bullpen in his first start of the season. He gave up three runs in five innings against the Dodgers, and left the game with runners on base and in line for the loss. In Week 2 he collides with the Cardinals - not an encouraging proposition for his owners. This might not be the best week to rely on Capuano, given his struggles on the road last season (4.59 ERA).
Kelvim Escobar, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Analysis: "El Magico" Escobar supposedly has shed the back spasms that haunted him the past few seasons, and when he's healthy, he's a great midrange source for strikeouts, ERA and WHIP. Escobar proved solid in winning his first 2007 start, surrendering only three runs (two earned) on three hits in 5 1/3 innings, with four strikeouts and five walks against the Texas Rangers. However, his Week 2 starts at home against the A's and at the Red Sox don't put his fantasy owners at ease, especially with the control problems he had against Texas. Find another option for Week 2.
Greg Maddux, San Diego Padres
Analysis: Maddux goes to the mound at home against the Giants. Week 2 can be a productive game for Maddux; in 2006 he only surrendered 11 hits in 21 IP against San Francisco, who hit only .151 against him. Maddux matching up with the back end of other rotations puts an advantage in place for the Padres. Maddux is most definitely a go for Week 2, especially in deeper leagues.
Mike Mussina, New York Yankees
Analysis: Moose will take the hill at Minnesota in Week 2. With Chien-Ming Wang out, Mussina is the No. 1 starter in New York, and any frontline Yankee starter is a good play with that offense backing him. Moose went 4-1 with a 2.31 ERA in April last year, so he has a chance to start off hot again. It's not much of a risk to play Mussina.
Scott Olsen, Florida Marlins
Analysis: Olsen had some control problems in his 5 1/3-inning win against the Nationals. Like Sanchez, he will pitch against both the Brewers and Braves this week. The youngster had a great 2006, but has not done anything so far to earn confidence this early in the season. Beware the egg shells, and the sophomore slump.
OTHERS FOR CONSIDERATION
Nate Robertson, Detroit Tigers
Analysis: Robertson was steady if nothing else in his opening start. He lasted only 5.2 IP of mediocre ball against the Blue Jays. In Week 2 he heads to both Baltimore and Toronto this week, but is a riskier play than barrage mate Verlander, especially against Toronto with their dangerous right-handed hitters in outfielder Vernon Wells, third baseman Troy Glaus and designated hitter Frank Thomas. Think about your other options before putting the inconsistent Robertson in your rotation.
Dontrelle Willis, Florida Marlins
Analysis: Willis looked impressive against the Nationals in the opener, giving up two runs in six innings in his victory. While this is not exactly a milestone, it does show what Willis can do when he is on. People seem to forget how deceptive Willis can be. Don't be afraid to start him at Atlanta this week.
Tom Glavine, New York Mets
Analysis: The Mets' 41-year-old ace outdueled Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter in baseball's 2007 opener, maintaining his (relatively mediocre) fantasy relevance by holding the Cards to one earned run in six innings. His only Week 2 start is at home against the lowly Nationals, so owners should continue to ride the old horse this week.
Rich Hill, Chicago Cubs
Analysis: Hill suffered a setback to breaking through to the Cubs rotation, as he was limited to one inning in his final spring training appearance by a blister in his throwing hand. The youngster's only start in Week 2 is against the Astros. Make sure to read reports before even considering starting him.
Chuck James, Atlanta Braves
Analysis: James will face the Nationals and Marlins. James could be a successful play this week. He struck out five in five innings while just allowing the Phillies to score once Thursday in his first win of the season. James only gave up 101 hits in 119 innings pitched last year, and his command is unparalleled for a back-end starter in this league. He should be inserted into your lineup.
Jose Contreras, Chicago White Sox
Analysis: Contreras looked more like his 2004 self than his more recent self in the Sox' home opener. He allowed eight runs in the first inning against the Indians and left in the second inning without recording an out. This time, he will visit at Cleveland in his only Week 2 outing. Don't even consider playing him until he musters two consecutive quality starts.
Anibal Sanchez, Florida Marlins
Analysis: One of the biggest 2006 second-half waiver wire darlings will start at home against the Brewers in Week 2. However, this comes after he let the Nationals push him around for 10 hits and four runs over 5.2 IP. Despite this performance, he has shown the ability to control games at a young age. Don't give up on him just yet.
Anthony Reyes, St. Louis Cardinals
Analysis: Reyes and the Cardinals will host the Brewers in Week 2. Still, Reyes is a below-average assignment this week. He has been tabbed as a pitcher with extreme potential, but he has yet to show it on the field. Be careful in expecting a lot from him at this stage of the season.
Kevin Millwood, Texas Rangers
Analysis: In his first start of 2007, Kevin Millwood went only five innings pitched against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Millwood could be serviceable in his second start, which will take place at the Mariners. Millwood is normally thankful just to be away from Ameriquest Field, where his 5.38 home ERA makes him long for his 3.74 road ERA. He certainly has a chance to get to the Mariners order and is worth a play for this week.
Josh Beckett, Boston Red Sox
Analysis: Beckett won his opening start, but in 2006 fashion. Against the Royals, he went five innings giving up one run on two hits, while walking four. His control problems resurfaced slightly. He faces the Mariners and Angels at home but is still worth a shot because of the offense backing him. You'll have a decent shot at getting two wins out of him.
Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals
Analysis: With Chris Carpenter's recent injury, Wainwright is in the same boat as Reyes. Despite the fact that he has yet to pitch in a starting role, Wainwright will need to have a more prominent presence in the rotation. He has a chance to start off right at the Pirates in Week 2; he's worth a flyer.
Ian Snell, Pittsburgh Pirates
Analysis: Snell rewarded the managers who made him a sleeper pick this year with a great first outing. He gave up two runs on four hits over six innings, while striking out an outrageous 11 while walking only one in a 3-2 victory over the Houston Astros. This might seem like an aberration, but Snell was a help to fantasy owners last season at the back end of the rotation. He will face the Giants at home this week, and thus should be an above average play.
Ted Lilly, Chicago Cubs
Analysis: Lilly passed his first test in the National League, taming the Reds offense with nine strikeouts to only one walk, and only three hits in seven IP. He will face more offensive tests at home against the Astros and Reds in Week 2, but he could still be suitable for the week if you need extra starts. Feel free to test his waters.
Key Players on DL
Randy Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks - Out until Mid-April
Chien-Ming Wang, New York Yankees - Out until Mid-April
Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - Out until Mid-April
Josh Johnson, Florida Marlins - Out until Mid-June
Pedro Martinez, New York Mets - Out until July
Bartolo Colon, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - Out indefinitely
Kenny Rogers, Detroit Tigers - Out until July
Mark Mulder, St. Louis Cardinals - Out until August
Francisco Liriano, Minnesota Twins - Out for season
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
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