2021 Fantasy Baseball Week 1 Pitching Planner (April 1 – April 11) 

by Brandon Morrow
2021 Fantasy Baseball Week 1 Pitching Planner

Welcome to the 2021 Fantasy Baseball Week 1 Pitching Planner! In this article, I will discuss pitchers to target and to avoid in the upcoming week. I will also be touching on some bullpen movement around the league.

The first week is a tough one, as rotations aren't set in stone and we have yet to see anybody play. It is also an extended week as it spans 11 days, April 1 - April 11, so a lot can change. However, we can still make accurate assumptions based on track record and Spring Training.

Without further ado, let's get into the 2021 Fantasy Baseball Week 1 Pitching Planner.

2021 Fantasy Baseball Week 1 Pitching Planner

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Two-Start Pitchers

With it being Week 1, there is a lot of uncertainty with starting rotations, so we are not sure who will get two starts outside of your elite pitchers. Still, there is likely to be a ton of two-start guys with 10 days worth of games.

Throughout the season I will list the probable two-start pitchers here.

Start Of The Week 

Brad Keller, Kansas City Royals (32% Owned)

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For the start of the week honors, the player must be owned in 50% or less in Yahoo Fantasy Baseball Leagues.

I am going with Brad Keller who is going up against the Texas Rangers on opening day. Start of the week players are very likely to be underrated, solid arms who face one of the worst lineups in baseball. I believe Keller has the potential to be an asset in season-long leagues as well, and you should hold onto him if he performs well here. 

Last season, Keller pitched to a 2.47 ERA in 54.2 innings but his lack of strikeouts have turned people away. Going against the Texas Rangers lineup will always help your stats, so expect a solid strikeout from Keller here.

Keller is a good bet for a win with minimal runs allowed and some strikeouts mixed in. 

Pitchers To Target

I will pick four starters each week who are owned in 65% of leagues or fewer who have plus matchups and can help you in a one-start situation. 

Adam Wainwright, St Louis Cardinals (38% Owned) 

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The Cardinals veteran pitcher is coming off of a very solid year, where he posted a 3.15 ERA in 65.2 innings with 54 strikeouts. 

He is slated to take on the Cincinnati Reds on April third, and I believe this is a favorable matchup for Wainwright. Last year the Reds lineup was one of the bigger disappointments in baseball, and while I believe they will improve I don’t think they will be a bad matchup for pitchers this season.

Wainwright is a ground ball pitcher (23rd in GB% in 2020), and the acquisition of Nolan Arenado is going to help him tremendously this season. The ability to get ground balls will also help against a homer-happy lineup such as the Reds. 

Zach Davies, Chicago Cubs (64% owned)

The Pittsburgh Pirates are, in my eyes, the worst team in baseball. Exploiting matchups against bad teams is one of the biggest factors in having a successful fantasy season. Rookie Ke’Bryan Hayes is the biggest threat in their lineup, as the second-best hitter for them last season was Colin Moran and his .247 average.

This isn’t purely about how bad the Pirates are though, as Davies is a very good pitcher. He is coming off of an underrated season with the Padres where he posted a 2.73 ERA in 69.1 innings. 

Davies has shown the ability to strike guys out as well, as he posted a career-best 22% K rate in 2020 and has an eight strikeout game in Spring Training. Start him comfortably, and expect a win with good ratios with sneaky strikeout upside. 

Domingo German, New York Yankees (65% Owned)

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Right at our threshold of 65% owned, Domingo German makes for an excellent option on April 6th against the Orioles. 

Coming off of a suspension, German has pitched to a 1.38 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 13 innings of work. With this performance, he has earned the fifth spot in the Yankee rotation.

The Orioles are a bad team, and while their lineup can be pesky good, I believe this is definitely a plus matchup for German. German’s best pitch is his curveball, and in 2019 right-handed batters had a .166 batting average against it. This bodes well for this matchup, as the Orioles lack any impactful lefty bats. 

German is definitely worth a look in this spot, and is someone I would be holding onto if he shows well here. 

Michael Pineda, Minnesota Twins (52% Owned) 

Michael Pineda is slated to take on the Mariners on April 10th, and it should be a matchup that he is able to take advantage of. Pineda is coming off a strong, but short, season where he didn’t give up much hard contact at all. He was in the 87th percentile for exit velocity and 80th for hard-hit rate, all while keeping a respectable K% of 22.5. 

When I look for streamers, I really key in on guys who have a good chance to get a win. In this situation with Pineda, I feel comfortable betting on him and the Twins to beat the Mariners. If a pitcher can put up average stats but grab the win, it is a successful stream in my eyes. 

Pitchers to avoid 

Every week I will be highlighting four pitchers to avoid who are owned in 70% of leagues or more. 

German Marquez, Colorado Rockies (80% owned)

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Marquez will be taking on the Dodgers on Opening Day in Colorado, what more needs to be said? After all, we know how hitter-friendly Coors Field is and how great the Dodgers are. When looking for pitchers to avoid this season, Coors Field and the Dodgers are two things I will be looking for. In this particular matchup, we have both of those concerns, which makes this matchup a must-avoid for me. 

Last season, Marquez pitched to a 5.68 ERA in Coors Field compared to a 2.06 ERA away from home. Coors Field makes Marquez more avoidable than most good starters. 

Dallas Keuchel, Chicago White Sox (81% owned)

Keuchel faces the Los Angeles Angels on April 2nd, and he is an avoid for me in this matchup for several reasons. First, the Angels lineup is very good. Fletcher, Ohtani, Trout, Rendon are a very formidable top four and will be able to cause trouble for Keuchel right away in this game. 

Keuchel overperformed last season, as he pitched to a 1.99 ERA with a 4.30 xERA. This makes him an avoid for me right out of the gates, as regression is certainly coming. He also performed better against left-handed batters than right-handed batters last season, and this Angels lineup is loaded with right-handed batters. On Fangraphs, Ohtani is projected as the only non-right-handed bat. 

The amount of right-handed bats in this lineup with power is why I am staying away from Keuchel here. 

Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals (98% owned)

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Strasburg is somebody I am avoiding in all leagues, all season. He is currently slated to take on the improved New York Mets on April 3rd. He recently ruptured a calf muscle, but it is said that the muscle is not needed. I don’t particularly buy that, as his velocity was down 4-5 MPH in his most recent start since the injury.

The Mets offense should be very good this season, and if Strasburg is going to come in throwing soft toss I expect it to go very poorly. Until Strasburg shows that the velocity dip was a one-time thing, I will be avoiding him in almost every matchup. 

Marco Gonzales, Seattle Mariners (86% owned)

On April 7th, Gonzales is due to face the Chicago White Sox. This White Sox lineup, even with Eloy Jimenez being out, is a very scary lineup. This is a situation where I just don’t believe the pitcher is good enough to trust against this lineup. Avoid if possible, but still, trust Gonzales to be productive this season.

Gonzales is a solid pitcher, but he doesn’t get many swings and misses. He ranked in the ninth percentile in that area last season, and this is not the squad you want to pitch to contact against. It could get out of hand fast if Gonzales isn’t on his game. 

Bullpen Updates

Matt Bush and Ian Kennedy have both made the Rangers bullpen. It will likely be a committee, but monitor the situation to see if someone emerges as the closer. 

Jordan Hicks has looked good, but look for Gallegos to open the season as the closer. Alex Reyes will also be a factor in this ongoing competition. A committee approach is expected until Hicks is deemed fully healthy. 

With Kirby Yates out for the season, expect Jordan Romano to get the bulk of the ninth inning work. Rafael Dolis would be the next man up if Romano falters. 

Check out the rest of our 2021 Fantasy Baseball content from our great team of writers

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