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Saturday Lineup Card: J.P. Starts with a Bang

Andrew Fiorentino

Managing hockey editor, talent wrangler, football columnist, FSWA's 2015 fantasy hockey writer of the year. Twitter: @akfiorentino

Projected Starters - A look at Saturday's matchups (all times Eastern):

Pirates (Paul Maholm – L) at Cubs (Carlos Zambrano – R), 1:05
Braves (Tommy Hanson – R) at Nationals (John Lannan – L), 1:05
White Sox (Edwin Jackson – R) at Indians (Carlos Carrasco – R), 1:05
Twins (Francisco Liriano – L) at Blue Jays (Kyle Drabek – R), 1:07
Angels (Ervin Santana – R) at Royals (Kyle Davies – R), 1:10
Padres (Clayton Richard – L) at Cardinals (Jake Westbrook – R), 4:10
Giants (Matt Cain – R) at Dodgers (Ted Lilly – L), 4:10
Tigers (Brad Penny – R) at Yankees (A.J. Burnett - R), 4:10
Astros (Wandy Rodriguez – L) at Phillies (Cliff Lee – L), 7:05
Orioles (Chris Tillman – R) at Rays (James Shields – R), 7:10
Mets (Jonathon Niese – L) at Marlins (Ricky Nolasco – R), 7:10
Brewers (Shaun Marcum – R) at Reds (Travis Wood – L), 7:10
Red Sox (John Lackey – R) at Rangers (Colby Lewis – R), 8:05
Diamondbacks (Daniel Hudson – R) at Rockies (Jorge De La Rosa – L), 8:10
Mariners (Jason Vargas – L) at Athletics (Brett Anderson – L), 9:05

Day Game After a Night Game: MIN, TOR, LAA, KC, SF, LAD

Injuries - A brief look at players that have been missing time with minor ailments and their expected returns.

Day-to-Day (includes players expected to make their return from the DL)
Matt Holliday, OF, STL (appendix) – Had appendectomy Friday; DL stint almost certain.
Michael Stanton, OF, FLA (hamstring) – Pulled from Friday’s game with tightness.
Carlos Beltran, OF, NYM (knee) – May sit Sunday and play in only five of the first seven games.
Stephen Drew, SS, ARI (abdomen) – Out of the lineup Friday.
Brian Matusz, SP, BAL (back) – Has an intercostal strain; could miss 3-6 weeks.
Aaron Hill, 2B, TOR (quad) – Left Friday’s game.
Ian Stewart, 3B, COL (hamstring) – Pinch-hit Friday, a sign that he’ll probably avoid the DL.
Cameron Maybin, OF, SD (leg) – Left with cramping Thursday.
Kurt Suzuki, C, OAK (ankle) – Left Friday’s game with mild sprain.
Barry Zito, SP, SF (neck) – Still hoping to go Sunday.
Juan Uribe, 2B, LAD (elbow) – Has soreness, sat Friday.
James McDonald, SP, PIT (oblique) – Expected to be limited to 85-90 pitches in first start (Tuesday).

Players on the DL
Kendrys Morales, 1B, LAA (ankle) – Fielding grounders, expected to begin running next week.
Brian Wilson, RP, SF (oblique) – Felt good after Thursday bullpen session.
Andrew Bailey, RP, OAK (forearm) – Threw long toss Friday; still on track for April return.
Brandon Morrow, SP, TOR (elbow) – Will throw Sunday bullpen, then rehab assignment.
Octavio Dotel, RP, TOR (hamstring) – Hopes to return April 6, when eligible.
Frank Francisco, RP, TOR (pectoral/shoulder) – A few more bullpens, then rehab; hope is for April 12 return.
David Aardsma, RP, SEA (hip) – Coming along well; late-April return possible.
Brandon Webb, SP, TEX (shoulder) – Felt good after 65-pitch ‘pen session; could be on track to rehab and get back in a few weeks.
Jason Donald, SS, CLE (finger) – Played catch Friday and hopes to field grounders Saturday.
Franklin Gutierrez, OF, CLE (stomach) – Better, but not all the way.
Aaron Cook, SP, COL (shoulder/finger) – Threw this week; still targeting May 15.
Rich Harden, RP, OAK (shoulder) – Threw a bullpen Friday.

Transactions - Players that have been demoted, called up, traded, released, you name it. We'll cover it here.

Called Up
Joe Inglett, OF, HOU
Jason Giambi, 1B, COL
Reed Johnson, OF, CHC

Sent Down
Henry Villar, RP, HOU

Placed on DL (15-day unless otherwise noted)
Mat Latos, SP, SD
Joe Thatcher, RP, SD
Dioner Navarro, C, LAD
Jay Gibbons, OF, LA
Jarrett Hoffpauir, 2B, SD
Corey Patterson, OF, TOR
Damaso Marte, RP, NYY (60-day)
Matt Mangini, 3B, SEA

Ronnie Belliard, 2B, PHI
Josh Wilson, SS, ARI

Romulo Sanchez, RP, NYY

Closer Watch - A closer look at intriguing ninth-inning situations (also check out our Closer Grid).

Houston – Brandon Lyon somehow managed to give up six hits while recording just one out to blow the Opening Day save against the Phillies on Friday. Somehow, the throw-every-pitch-down-the-middle strategy didn’t work for him. If Lyon continues to falter – and, well, don’t call me a believer – Wilton Lopez is the likely second chair and Aneury Rodriguez is the dark horse.

Key Matchups

Paul Maholm at CHC – Maholm rarely makes for a fine fantasy play, and he looks that much worse against the Cubs at Wrigley. Chicago’s hitters have a combined .341/.386/.597 line against him, so he basically makes them look like a team of Pujolses. Alfonso Soriano (four homers, two doubles in 28 AB), Aramis Ramirez (10-for-30, 2 HR, 8 RBI) and Geovany Soto (6-for-15, HR, 4 RBI) have been particularly damaging.

Carlos Zambrano v. PIT – For some reason, I believe in Zambrano this year, and the Pirates are always a good starting point. Ryan Doumit (8-for-18, 6:3 BB:K) and Andrew McCutchen (5-for-7, 4:0 BB:K) have seen Zambrano extremely well, but nearly every other Pirate with any history against him has been atrocious, as even with those two inflating things, they still only have a .749 OPS against the fiery righty over 113 plate appearances.

Tommy Hanson at WAS – Only Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond have double-digit plate appearances against Hanson, with Zimmerman going just 3-for-14 (two doubles, though!) and Desmond a shinier 4-for-11 (and a homer!). Jayson Werth owns all four walks that Hanson has issued against these current Nationals hitters in their 64 plate appearances against him. Hanson has pitched to a 2.72 ERA and 1.01 WHIP, averaging better than a K per inning in his six career starts against the Nats. He’s one of Saturday’s stronger plays.

John Lannan v. ATL – The good: Lannan has a 3.39 career ERA against Atlanta, spanning some 61 innings. The bad: He also has a 1.61 WHIP against them. Fortunately for him, the hitters Atlanta may trot out Saturday have a combined .725 OPS against him over 149 plate appearances, mostly thanks to none of them but newcomer Dan Uggla having homered against him. Take this as the most hesitant and lukewarm Lannan endorsement possible. Martin Prado (7-for-21) and Uggla (5-for-13) have had the most success here.

Edwin Jackson at CLE – Shin-Soo Choo (8-for-20, 3 2B) has had the most success against Jackson, but these Indians in general have seen him well, with the notable exception of Asdrubal Cabrera (4-for-23, 7 K, but at least he’s got two doubles and a homer). Overall, their line of .296/.359/.452 against him is troublesome, and that’s without any ABs by Carlos Santana. I’ll start Jackson, but I could be more confident.

Carlos Carrasco v. CHW – Carrasco has just 12 MLB games under his belt, so the sample size is limited here, but these White Sox hitters do have a very meager .132 average and .517 OPS against him in 41 plate appearances. Omar Vizquel headlines the list of futility with an 0-for-7. Still, the addition of Adam Dunn (who hasn’t faced Carrasco – nor has Carlos Quentin) makes this lineup very dangerous, so despite the bit of success, it’s tough to bet on Carrasco.

Francisco Liriano at TOR – Rajai Davis is the only Jay who’s seen Liriano more than nine times, and he’s got good results to show for it – 5-for-14 with a couple doubles and no strikeouts. In a limited 63-PA sample, the Jays have a quite shiny .321/.387/.536 line, buoyed in large part by Edwin Encarnacion’s two homers in two at-bats off the lefty fireballer. It’s opening weekend; there’s no way I’m benching a K-per-inning guy like Liriano, even against the homer-happy Jays.

Kyle Drabek at MIN – The rookie hasn’t faced a single Twins batter in his three major league starts, and Drabek is a former first-round pick who put up a nice 2.94 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in Double-A last year. With Justin Morneau still not looking like he’s all the way back, the Twins have a vulnerable lineup.

Ervin Santana at KC – Billy Butler, who’s about as allergic to the long ball as any first baseman in MLB, is the only Royal with a homer against Santana, and somehow he’s got three of them among his five hits in 21 AB against the righty. Even with Butler and his bombs, the Kansas City hitters have a very terrible combined line of .204/.268/.301 against Santana, making him a fine play for Saturday. Mike Aviles (0-for-7, 2 K) could be best left to the bench.

Kyle Davies v. LAA – Howie Kendrick (1-for-9) is a weak play, as is Jeff Mathis (0-for-7), but the Angels’ outfielders have spectacular lines against Davies. Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu and Vernon Wells each have an OPS over 1.100 against Davies, and it’s no coincidence that they’re the three with the most at-bats against him. Between them, they’ve got four homers and a 10:5 BB:K in 57 plate appearances. Davies is, in a word, awful, and it’s hard to imagine a fantasy team that actually has a place for him in its starting lineup.

Clayton Richard at STL – Richard has barely faced these Cardinals hitters, but has had small-sample success, holding them to a combined 8-for-29 line and .658 OPS. On the downside, he’s got five walks and just three strikeouts against them, which is not very promising. Richard will serve your fantasy team best if you run him out only when he’s at home (3.15 ERA and 1.22 WHIP at pitcher-friendly Petco, 4.41 ERA and 1.61 WHIP everywhere else last year), not when he has to face Albert Pujols & Co. in St. Louis.

Jake Westbrook v. Padres – San Diego is running out one of the worst lineups in the majors this year, so almost any pitcher makes a fine play against them, even outside of Petco. Westbrook had some success late last year with the Cards, thanks to the ol’ Dave Duncan magic, and he makes a good bet to get off to a good start this year against the Pads. For San Diego’s part, Jason Bartlett should be riding the bench for you, as he’s managed to OPS .594 in 27 PA against Westbrook; no one else here has much in the way of noteworthy numbers.

Matt Cain at LAD – You’re gonna want to roll out Andre Ethier (a ridiculous 20-for-41 – yeah, .488) as well as James Loney (.378, 5 2B, 10 RBI in 37 AB) against Cain, but aside from Casey Blake, the rest of the Dodgers have such horrible numbers against Cain that even those enormous lines by the two guys on the team who have seen him most are only good enough to give them a combined .739 OPS. Matt Kemp (8-for-32, 8 K), Rod Barajas (0-for-8) and Tony Gwynn Jr. (3-for-16, 3 K) are your biggest culprits. Even counting out the pitchers (who account for a fantasy-friendly 11 strikeouts), Cain has a 41:16 K:BB against these Dodgers hitters.

Ted Lilly v. SF – Miguel Tejada has three homers in 51 AB against Lilly, Freddy Sanchez and Aaron Rowand are both at .333 off him, and Buster Posey has two homers and a double in five at-bats. On the other hand, Pat Burrell is 1-for-11 and Aubrey Huff 5-for-29; keep them reserved. So it’s a mixed bag. The Giants have a better offense than in past years (hi there, Brandon Belt), but Lilly still makes a decent play at home against them.

Brad Penny at NYY – The Yankees hitters have a combined .349 average and 1.045 OPS against Penny, which is pretty much exactly what you’d expect. Reserve outfielder Andruw Jones has been a particular destroyer, smacking six homers and hitting .333 in 45 career at-bats off Penny. The other Yankees don’t have that many reps against him, but the results have been nearly universally good, with the exception of Mark Teixeira’s 2-for-11. There’s just no reason to start anyone but an ace in Yankee Stadium, fantasy-wise, and Penny is certainly no ace.

A.J. Burnett v. DET – Burnett has limited exposure against the Tigers, but they’ve managed to put together a .910 OPS against him over 78 plate appearances. That 11:11 BB:K is not very inspiring – nor is last season’s 5.26 ERA. Victor Martinez, Brandon Inge, Jhonny Peralta and Magglio Ordonez are the only ones with 10 or more plate appearances against Burnett, and they all have homers off him. If you’ve decided to invest in Burnett, make him go out there and show you several good starts in a row before you actually put him into your lineup. He’s also been suffering from a nasty cold, so it’s possible he could miss the start.

Wandy Rodriguez at PHI – Nearly every Philly who has seen Magic Wandy has hit him pretty well – albeit in a very limited sample – resulting in a combined .318 average and .872 OPS off the veteran lefty. Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Placido Polanco – three of the five Phillies with 10 PA against Rodriguez – have homered off him in the past. Citizens Bank Park is never a fun place to visit as a pitcher, even with the Phillies’ fairly crippled lineup, and Cliff Lee is on the other end, so Wandy isn’t the greatest play for Saturday.

Cliff Lee v. HOU – Only Carlos Lee among the Astros has been up against Lee more than 10 times, and he’s made the most of it, hitting .333 over 18 AB with a couple homers, but also a 0:4 BB:K. Good Lee-on-Lee action there. Clint Barmes has the second-most at-bats – nine – and no hits to show for it. Lee makes a great start in his first regular-season game back with the Phillies.

Chris Tillman at TB – The Rays have had limited exposure to Tillman, but they’ve made good on it, ripping on him to the tune of a 1.222 combined OPS over 52 plate appearances. Thank five home runs and an 8:4 BB:K for that one. Ben Zobrist has a couple homers off him, and Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton have gone yard as well. This game has the makings of a shootout. (See below.) Keep your Rays in the lineup.

James Shields v. BAL – What James Shields will we get this year? The one who was a solid mid-rotation guy for Tampa from ’07 to ’09, or the one who imploded to the tune of a 5.18 ERA last year? When you look at last year’s stats, you see a solid walk rate, a very good strikeout rate – and a ton of hits. That doesn’t make any sense. How can a guy become so much less hittable (last year’s 8.3 K/9 was easily the best his career) and yet so much more, well, hittable (246 hits in 203 innings… that’s an ouch)? Well, mostly bad luck. Still, he hasn’t had the greatest success against the lowly O’s, who touched him up for an ERA over seven in his four starts against them last year. These Orioles hitters have a combined .902 OPS against him, led into battle by Nick Markakis (.315, 2 HR, 2 2B, 8:8 BB:K), Vladimir Guerrero (.371, 2 HR, 2 2B), Luke Scott (.387, HR, 4 2B) and Adam Jones (.440, HR, 5 2B). Shields may bounce back this year, but maybe not on Saturday. You won’t hear this too often, so make good on it now: Start your Orioles.

Jonathon Niese at FLA – Niese has an atrocious 6.49 career ERA against the Marlins, making him the second straight starter the Mets are running out who just can’t handle Florida for some reason. Things are looking up a little with Dan Uggla gone, though, as the Marlins hitters have only a combined .224 average and .744 OPS against him, with one home run in 58 AB. Unfortunately, he also has an uninspiring 10:10 BB:K against them. Omar Infante has seen the most of him, and he’s just 3-for-15. Niese had a strong spring this year, his velocity seemingly up a tick, and could be one of the more surprising starters in the NL.

Ricky Nolasco v. NYM – The Mets have gotten to Nolasco quite a bit in the past, particularly the premier guys, David Wright and Jose Reyes, who have homered off him three times apiece and have matching 1.080 OPS marks. Carlos Beltran is at .333 (.421 OBP) with a homer, too. Ike Davis, on the other hand, is hitless in eight at-bats off Nolasco and Willie Harris is 1-for-9 (but probably won’t start). Overall, these Mets hitters’ .299/.347/.493 line against Nolasco suggests the enigmatic righty could be in for a rough time. Still, I wouldn’t bench him this early on in the year.

Shaun Marcum at CIN – The only Reds hitter with a significant number of at-bats against Marcum is Ramon Hernandez, and he’s 3-for-19 (.158) with a homer. Big things are expected from Marcum in his move to the National League, but Great American Ballpark is a tough place to pitch, the Reds have plenty of pop, and Marcum struggled with some shoulder tightness in camp, so he may not get off to the best start on Saturday.

Travis Wood v. MIL – Wood has seen these Brewers hitters only 25 times combined, but at least he’s held them to a .182 average. Wood is looking to build on his strong rookie year, but note that he was much better on the road than at home last season – albeit in a small sample. Still, if I could find a better option, I’d go with it.

John Lackey at TEX – The Rangers have hit Lackey well, totaling a .303 batting average and .815 OPS off him, with Michael Young having faced him the most and succeeded quite nicely (.360, 2 HR, 15 RBI, 6:10 BB:K). Ian Kinsler (.435 over 23 AB with a couple homers) and Josh Hamilton (.429 over 21 AB with three homers) have also torched Lackey, while Adrian Beltre (9-for-50, 2:14 BB:K) did not hit well against Lackey before becoming his teammate in Boston.

Colby Lewis v. Bos – In limited exposure to this Boston lineup, Lewis has done some real damage, limiting them to a .194 average and .648 OPS over 76 PA – but, of course, he’s never faced Adrian Gonzalez. The 21:8 K:BB is quite strong, too. David Ortiz has a couple homers off him, while Marco Scutaro looks like a bad play, as he’s 1-for-10. Lewis had a very strong 2010 after returning to MLB from Japan, striking out nearly a batter per inning, but Arlington is quite hitter-friendly and the Red Sox lineup is not very pitcher-friendly, so consider this a cautious endorsement.

Dan Hudson at COL – Hudson’s family sponsors his Baseball Reference page, which is adorable. He has a negligible record against the Rockies, having faced them one time, but he did go seven shutout innings with nine Ks in that game. He’s a cautiously optimistic upside play in Colorado, which – humidor or no humidor – is still a hitters’ park. Carlos Gonzalez and the Rockies’ offense are very dangerous.

Jorge De La Rosa v. ARI – Chris Young (.975 OPS, 2 HR, 4:6 BB:K) has hit De La Rosa quite well, as has Ryan Roberts (5-for-12), but the latter seems unlikely to start Saturday. Other than that, not much doin’ for the D-Backs against JDLR, as they have a combined .739 OPS against him. The strikeout numbers and the not-too-strong Arizona offense make him a decent start.

Jason Vargas at OAK –The only A’s player who’s faced Vargas more than eight times is Hideki Matsui, and Godzilla has dominated the lefty, homering three times among four hits in 12 AB. There’s not enough intel to talk about the rest of the Oakland offense against Vargas, but let’s just say that they’re not exactly a murderers’ row.

Brett Anderson v. SEA – Anderson has allowed a .282 batting average to these Seattle hitters over 123 plate appearances, but it’s an empty .282, as he’s got a 22:5 K:BB and they’ve slugged just .376 off him. Ichiro Suzuki has an all-slappy 9-for-26 (yep, singles only and no walks) for a .346 average off Anderson. Catcher Adam Moore is the no-start here -- 2-for-13 with six strikeouts. Anderson may be in for a breakout year if he can stay healthy and facing the Mariners’ punchless offense at home is a good start to that.

Recommended Pickup

J.P. Arencibia, C, TOR – The immensely talented young backstop had a booming season debut Friday, homering twice and adding a triple in a rout over Minnesota. The former first-round pick hit .301 and bopped 32 homers in the minors last year, so this is nothing new. Run, don’t walk, to pick up Arencibia if you’ve got a low-grade catcher in your starting lineup.

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