Welcome to Week 1 of the season and week 1 of Head2Head Sports, which we will be discussing in this article (head2head.com). Thank goodness we are finally here. After a month of draft prep, actual drafts and setting lineups, we finally get some games that count. In this article, we will take a look at some of the guys I consider values that may be under-priced, solid choices each week, and then also take a look at Week 1. First of all, we will take a look by position at who may be undervalued if you are looking for guys who might be playable for multiple weeks at a time. I have to give respect to whoever set the salaries at Head2Head as there are very few (maybe none) obvious "gimmes" that are clear every week plays to set in and forget it. That is great for roster diversity and for the overall challenge of the game.
Catcher: There is a very clear Top 7 tier in catchers this year (Top 8 if you include Alex Avila, which I do not). The two lowest priced guys of this tier are Miguel Montero ($8.3) and Matt Wieters ($8.2) and they would both be very good long-term plays if you wanted a solid, top tier catcher in the lineup. The key to remember with catchers is that this is a points contest and as you travel down the catcher list, you start to get guys who lose at-bats, which is always dangerous. If you are looking to save cap at catcher, a couple of workable options are Nick Hundley ($5.5) or Ramon Hernandez ($6.1) now that he is in Coors. I think the top tier guys are so much better in this case that it will be worth the extra money each week as we can find better value at other positions.
First Base: One of the premier positions in fantasy is not quite as elite as usual, especially in the National League. The top tier of guys is priced as it should be, so I think this will be a position that I will be changing quite often during the season trying to take advantage of matchups, park and number of games per week among the top guys. A couple of values if you wanted to save some cap at 1B that stick out to me are Billy Butler ($9.0), Paul Goldschmidt ($8.7), Ike Davis ($8.4) and Adam Lind ($8.2). The two guys to really keep an eye on at their price tag are Justin Morneau ($8.4) and Kendrys Morales ($7.4). These guys are studs who have gone through major injury issues, but if either one appear to be back to their normal self, they could be guys who you slot in and play every week at the price. Keep an eye on how these two start the season!
Second Base: This position is deeper than usual this year. There are a few elite guys at the top, but there are quite a few guys who could end up providing value from a position that is typically a very thin one. Among the upper tier guys, the values that stick out to me are Ian Kinsler ($9.0), Ben Zobrist ($8.2) and Howie Kendrick ($7.8). Kinsler is a guy I will try and play a lot of weeks when Texas is at home and Kendrick will see my lineup a lot too with his new lineup slot in front of El Hombre. Among the cheaper options, I like Kelly Johnson ($6.6) on a bounce back year or Jason Kipnis ($6.3).
Third Base: Third base appears to be a very top-heavy position for 2012. There are about 8-10 really good hitters and then the talent falls off a cliff fast. I don't think you can go wrong with many of the top guys, but I especially like the values on Hanley Ramirez ($9.2), Brett Lawrie ($9.0), Adrian Beltre ($9.0), Pablo Sandoval ($8.5) and Aramis Ramirez ($8.2). It will be tough to go wrong with any of these choices and I imagine I will usually play one of those guys depending on schedule. If you have a desire to save some cap at 3B, decent options are Edwin Encarnacion ($6.8) or Mike Moustakas ($7.8), but these guys are close enough in price to the high-end guys that this should really be a position where you don't drop below Aramis unless someone emerges.
Shortstop: Now when we talk about a thin position, this is what we mean. SS is a mess in drafts this year and that holds true in H2H. Tulo ($11.0) and Reyes ($10.2) are the top-end guys and are definitely priced as such. I imagine I will try and play Tulo when I can in all Coors weeks. Among the cheaper guys, I see some value in Jimmy Rollins ($8.4), Dee Gordon ($8.0) and J.J. Hardy ($7.6). Gordon is definitely a rabbit that we suggested avoiding in last week's column, but at SS, you sometimes have to take what you can get. Also, he will be leading off so hopefully will have a lot of hits and runs to go with what could be a league leading number of SB's.
Outfield: This is a very tough position to get a handle on due to the large number of players. We do need three every week so this will likely be a place where you want to save some cap and find value on at least one of your spots. The top guys are pretty self-explanatory so we will works backwards and look for spots where maybe you can save some money.
Starting with guys under $7 million, Nolan Reimold ($4.6) appears to have won the LF job for the Orioles and might even lead off to start the year. After his solid 2009, he has struggled, but at the tag, he may be a good play for you. Cameron Maybin ($5.0) is a bit of a rabbit, but he also should score a lot of runs and toss in 10 HR this year and most importantly, his BA downside, an issue in drafts, does not hurt us here. Brennan Boesch ($5.1) is a popular target for drafts this spring, as he will be hitting second before the Miggy/Prince combo. Lorenzo Cain ($5.6) is the hot riser of spring training 2012, so I have to toss him in here, but I am one who is not buying the spring power carrying over to the real thing. Dayan Viciedo ($6.1) has some power potential and plays in a very nice home park for home runs. Finally, as long as Logan Morrison ($6.8) does not Tweet himself to Double-A, he should provide value at that price tag, but I am not a buyer on his home run outburst in 2011.
Moving up to the mid-range guys, I am quite bullish on Dexter Fowler's second half breakout last year. He has struggled mightily this spring, but I think he could be a play here in all Coors weeks. Carlos Beltran ($7.6) is a risk in draft leagues where you have to hold him while he goes through his inevitable DL stint, but the joy here is that we can just swap him out once he gets hurt. Chris Young ($7.9) is a guy who could help you since this is a points league. You don't have to worry about his BA and he plays in a nice park for offense. Mike Morse ($8.9) will be a nice value this years with his 30 HR pop, but not to start the season as he has a lat issue he is still recovering from. Finally, if you are a believer in Jason Heyward ($8.9), he is discounted now due to his down 2011.
You don't need me to tell you about Matt Kemp and Ryan Braun, but among the guys over $9 million, the guys who I like more than the rest are Corey Hart ($9.0) once he is healthy, Shin Soo Choo ($9.7), Giancarlo "Don't call me Mike" Stanton ($9.7) and Nelson Cruz ($10.1) when Texas is at home. In addition, I love Carlos Gonzalez ($11.5) and Justin Upton ($11.0) when they are at home for 6 or 7 game weeks.
Pitching Staffs: This is one spot that I believe needs to be broken down every week. So much will come down to who they are facing, where they are pitching and how many games they have that week. Of course, the Phillies will be better than the Orioles, but this is a spot that we will deal with week by week and I will not be suggesting slotting in any staff long-term.
Ok, now on to the real business of picking our lineup for Week 1. This Week 1 is a little different than most of the weeks we will be dealing with. There are more off days than usual this week and we have a number of teams with four-game weeks, which only happens again in the All-Star Game week. Games played will play a much bigger factor than usual this week as the difference between four games and five or six is big in a points-based contest. I am guessing Week 1 will be very heavy on schedule plays and I will need a lot of changes before Week 2 and then we can settle in a few long-term plays. For a couple of general notes, the Cardinals are the only team playing 6 games and Texas not only has 5 games, but they are all at home and it looks like it will be nice and warm there all week. Here is how I see Week 1.
Catcher: I am going Matt Wieters for five games at home, facing Minnesota pitchers who don't scare me and then the #4 and #5 for the Yankees. Wieters is a nice value with a nice schedule. I could also see Yadier Molina or Mike Napoli this week as plays.
First Base: This week I am playing Joey Votto for his five home games. The weather looks fine in Cincy and he gets the Marlins and Cardinals, but misses Josh Johnson and Wainwright and only faces one lefty. Hard to argue against many of the top end guys, but a super sneaky guy this week could be Mitch Moreland for a Texas home week at $7.1 million.
Second Base: This spot is a slam-dunk for me, Ian Kinsler's price for his overall resume, which means I love this price when he has an all-home week. If you wanted a cheaper option, I could see using Danny Espinosa for five games against mostly bad pitching (except Garza) or maybe Kelly Johnson with five games against five pitchers who don't scare me, but I think Kinsler is an easy call for Week 1.
Third Base: Another easy call for me as I will take Adrian Beltre at home for five in Texas. He isn't overly expensive, is a stud and in Texas all week. I could see Aramis if you don't trust Beltre since Aramis has three home games indoors and then two vs. his old team, but I think Beltre is the guy this week at 3B.
Shortstop: Easily my toughest call of the week and no one stood out to me and I don't like Elvis Andrus that much in this scoring format. Starlin Castro gets five at home, but he also gets Strasburg, Gio and Zimmermann, which I don't love. Dee Gordon gets five, but hard to love him in Petco this week. I decided to go with Alexei Ramirez for a road trip to Texas and two more at Cleveland. I don't love him, but he doesn't face any elite pitching and he is not too expensive.
Outfield: In the OF, I went with Josh Hamilton, Matt Holliday and Cameron Maybin. Hamilton and Holliday are stud hitters as well as schedule plays. Holliday gets an extra game on the field and Hamilton gets an all-home week. Maybin is a salary cap play. He gets five games and while all five are at Petco, we all need some cap relief and he seemed like a solid guy to only pay $5 million for. So he is in there for the price, but he not a stiff. There are tons of OF options as always and guys like Nelson Cruz and Jay Bruce were also strong considerations here.
DH: I used Carlos Beltran here. Here, I also get some cap savings and an extra game on the field. Might as well use him while he is healthy, at a price he will earn when he is actually upright.
Pitching Staff: The easy call here would be to go with St Louis for an extra game, but I don't like Lohse throwing twice and can't stand Jake Westbrook. Wainwright and Garcia should be nice, but I don't like the matchups on the road at Milwaukee and Cincinnati. I went with the Dodgers for Week 1. They are only the 12th most expensive staff and we get five games with four of them in the best pitcher's park in the league. In addition, we get two starts from Kershaw against San Diego and Pittsburgh since LA is skipping their #5, which should be very nice. I also gave consideration to the Braves and Nats, but settled on LA.
So in summary, here is my squad for Week 1:
C: Matt Wieters ($8.2)
1B: Joey Votto ($11.2)
2B: Ian Kinsler ($9)
3B: Adrian Beltre ($9)
SS: Alexei Ramirez ($8.1)
OF: Josh Hamilton ($10.9)
OF: Matt Holliday ($10.8)
OF: Cameron Maybin ($5)
UT: Carlos Beltran ($7.6)
P: Los Angeles Dodgers ($20)
Will be back next week to discuss Week 1 and prep for Week 2.