Early Schedule Advantages to Target in Your Fantasy Baseball Drafts

Capitalizing on weak schedules with your late SP targets is key.

When you’re looking for starting pitching late in your draft, it’s crucial to know who your targets will face in their first few starts of the season. Drafting high-upside arms late can be tantalizing, but if their early matchups are tough, they will be of little use to your team and may lose their role or roster spot on your team before they have a chance to contribute. Attacking weak offenses early in the season can help you get the upper hand in head-to-head matchups or get your ratios off to a strong start in rotisserie leagues. With that in mind, here are five mid- to late-round SPs with some tantalizing matchups out of the gate.


1. Tyler Wells (BAL: vs KC, vs PIT, vs MIL, vs KC, @LAA)


As an Orioles fan, I knew I’d have at least one O’s arm on here given their extremely soft early schedule. Wells looks to be the biggest beneficiary of this because of the injury to Kyle Bradish and the Orioles choosing to slow-play John Means. The tall right-hander should take the No. 4 spot in the Orioles rotation, with four of his first five starts projected to come against teams that ranked 24th or below in wRC+ last season. The other is against the Angels, who now have an Ohtani-sized hole in their lineup. One small disclaimer I want to mention is that Wells’ second start could come at Boston instead of against Pittsburgh if the Orioles choose to keep Corbin Burnes on regular rest because of the off day after Opening Day.

If that does not occur, four of these first five starts will be in the now-cavernous Camden Yards, where the flyball-prone Wells (0.59 GB/FB in ’23, 0.62 career) should thrive. He has already built up to almost five innings this spring and will have a great win chance in all of these early starts while also helping your ratios, especially WHIP (0.99 in ’23, 1.03 career). Wells is a good target right before pick 300, but managers should not be counting on him to stay in the rotation all season.


2. Erick Fedde (CWS: vs DET, @KC, @CLE, vs KC)


When the White Sox moved Dylan Cease, I assumed Fedde would get the Opening Day start, but not so! Their surprise announcement of Garrett Crochet as OD starter gives Fedde a noticeably easier reintroduction to the big leagues if the schedule holds. Projected starts against the Braves and Reds will both be swapped out for the Royals, making Fedde much more interesting all of a sudden around pick 350. While the win probability will still be low, these four matchups are about as good as it gets. The Guardians, Tigers, and Royals finished 22nd, 27th, and 28th in wRC+ respectively last season, and none of the three squads made any major offensive additions. Fedde remade his arsenal en route to an MVP season in the KBO in 2023 and should be motivated to prove that he can translate this success to MLB. At the least, managers will be able to get a good look at him and have some extra pitching volume on opening weekend.


3. Michael Soroka (CWS: vs DET, @KC, @CLE, vs KC)


Soroka should slot behind Crochet and Fedde as the No. 3 starter on the South Side. His last outing was on March 14th, when he struck out five in four scoreless innings. Soroka was never able to get in a groove last year as Atlanta rifled through SP5 candidates, but he will have ample opportunities to reestablish himself as a big-league starter this year with the White Sox. The injury risk is high, but drafters targeting him for his first four matchups shouldn’t have to worry about that. He will get the same matchups as Fedde out of the gate! Soroka might need to be dropped to the wire after these first four starts unless he looks lights out, as his next two projected starts would be against the Twins and Rays. But managers should have gotten what they need from him by then. He is a great late target in deep leagues, especially those using quality starts (QS) instead of wins. He has a 496 ADP in 15-team NFBC leagues from March 11-18; I like this value better than Fedde.


4. Chris Sale (ATL: @CWS, vs ARI, @MIA, @HOU, vs MIA)


Sale is by far the highest-drafted player on this list, as the hype around him pitching in Atlanta has caused his ADP to soar into the top 100. I understand why, though. Sale will be pitching for a great team and is finally getting away from Fenway Park. He’s looked pretty sharp this spring (17:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 11.2 innings pitched) and flashed improved velo in his only start for which Baseball Savant data is available. It’s hard to say with certainty because Charlie Morton has only made two appearances this spring, but Sale should slot into the No. 4 spot in Atlanta’s rotation. If so, he will miss the season-opening series with the Phillies and make his first start with his new team against the White Sox. His only tough start in the first five will come at Houston, but if he is throwing well, Sale is matchup-proof. Sale will rack up wins and strikeouts all season, especially in the early going with these softer matchups.


5. José Quintana (NYM: vs MIL, vs DET, @ATL, vs KC)


Because of Kodai Senga’s should injury, Quintana is getting the Opening Day start for the Mets. This sets him up pretty nicely for the beginning of the season except for a start at Atlanta, which is an auto-sit. Three of these first four starts will also come at Citi Field, the fifth-friendliest park for pitchers according to MLB park factors. Quintana was solid if unspectacular last year when healthy (3.57 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 11.3% strikeout-minus-walk rate in 75.2 innings), and he can be expected to do more of the same this year, hopefully with a larger workload. In his start on March 7, his velocity was up from last year and was right in line with where it was in 2022 when he posted an outstanding 2.91 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over 165.2 innings. Quintana won’t post those numbers again this year, but they won’t need to at the current price. Quintana can be had around pick 375, and managers should be able to pick their spots with him.

Patrick Fitzgerald

Patrick Fitzgerald is a Staff Writer for Pitcher List's fantasy team. He is an alum of Vassar College, where he pitched on the baseball team and studied economics and political science. Patrick is an avid O's fan and head-to-head fantasy baseball player (roto remains a work in progress).

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