Fantasy baseball weekend watch: Giving starting pitchers a Hall pass?

Patience is required for those fantasy managers who drafted DL Hall. Getty Images

What East Coast bias?

West Division teams give us a pair of the weekend's best rivalry series, as the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers, who split a pair of games last weekend at Texas' Globe Life Field, now engage in a three-game rematch at Houston's Minute Maid Park. In it, we'll see Ronel Blanco, who recorded 44 consecutive outs before surrendering his first hit of the season -- the most by any pitcher to begin a season during the expansion era (since 1961) -- make his third start of the year.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, who split a pair of season-opening games in South Korea, will link up for three games at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers' Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Friday) and Padres' Yu Darvish (Sunday), who each started one of the games overseas, will get a start in the series.

What can fantasy managers expect from these series, as well as the rest of the weekend slate? Our fantasy baseball analysts, Tristan H. Cockcroft and Eric Karabell, have the scoop.

Cockcroft: Call it a hunch, but first off, I don't see Blanco enjoying the same level of success this weekend. He has a 100% LOB percentage, a 9.6% K-BB rate and a 4.63 SIERA. Something's gotta give. The Forecaster projections do like him and there could yet be additional short-term value, but he's a sell, sell, sell.

What I'm watching most closely this weekend are the Friday starts by both the Atlanta Braves' Max Fried and Toronto Blue Jays' Kevin Gausman. Both starters looked downright awful in their most recent turns and, with the rash of pitching injuries thus far, fantasy managers were in flat-out panic about their performances.

Gausman was the No. 5 starting pitcher, while Fried was No. 17, in terms of average draft position in ESPN standard points-based leagues during the preseason, so a quick turnaround by both is critical. And, to throw another name onto the "needs to rebound" pile, the Minnesota Twins' Kenta Maeda is inching closer to being a fantasy cut, making his Friday start against the Detroit Tigers an important one.

I don't feel good about starting any of them, but Fried's (@MIA) and Gausman's (COL) matchups are extremely favorable, at least.

Karabell: I only kind of agree with you on Blanco. Yes, Blanco is not this unhittable, but why can't he emerge as a top-75 fantasy starter? Remember, this is not the same pitcher we saw last season. He relies far more on an effective changeup, not an average fastball, and the fact he is 30 and was never a top prospect hardly matters. He's here now and thriving, and I do not buy into the fact the Rangers have the advantage just because they just saw him last week.

I will throw out another threesome of weekend starting pitchers I am watching closely, each left-handed (like me!). The Milwaukee Brewers' DL Hall pitches in Baltimore on Saturday. Hall comes with control issues, but also strikeout upside. His first two outings did not go particularly smooth, but the 1.93 WHIP is more a product of a .394 BABIP than anything else. Try to be patient. If you liked Hall in March, you're going to give up now, before tax day?

Cincinnati Reds LHP Nick Lodolo makes his first start on Saturday in Chicago, while San Francisco Giants LHP Blake Snell goes Sunday at Tampa Bay. Lodolo pitched so well as a rookie in 2022, and last season was truncated -- not due to arm issues, but due to a stress reaction in his lower left leg. Perhaps it remains an issue, but there is clear strikeout upside here. Same with Snell, who tossed 73 pitches in his Giants debut. He was wild (which is far from shocking), but still in preseason mode. It's a roller coaster with this fellow, and one I am not interested in, so each outing presents a key buy or sell strategy.

Cockcroft: Revenge games! "REVENGE!!!"

(That's from one of the best-ever superhero movies -- still -- as well as one of the best sequels of all-time, if you ask me. Although I do wonder, this many years later, how many of our readers know it!*)

*I'm talking about "Superman II" -- go watch it! Well, after you make it through this column, of course.

Yes, Hall and Snell are also on my list, but does Hall outperform the guy for whom he was traded, Corbin Burnes? Nah, and that's not the kind of matchup I'd exploit, but I'm with you on patience. Snell should be good. I'd start him. And I might just start everybody against the White Sox at this point. Wow, what a bad lineup (and I'd say snake-bitten with the injuries, except didn't we all know they were coming with guys like Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert Jr. and Yoan Moncada?) theirs is.

Speaking of lineups, I'd load up on the Cincinnati Reds in that series in Chicago. Yes, Garrett Crochet has been great, and he faces them on Saturday, but Chris Flexen/Michael Soroka bookend games are plus-matchups, especially since the Chicago bullpen is thin. Blue Jays bats should thrive against the weak Colorado Rockies pitching, earning the best projection grade of any offense for the weekend. And I think some of that Pittsburgh Pirates magic begins to fade in a series that leans hitter-friendly for the hosting Philadelphia Phillies. Another revenge game, Bailey Falter's, this time, probably won't go so well for the lefty.

Karabell: You can't be recommending movie sequels. C'mon now. "Major League II"? "Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice"? Not so super, man.

There's a big focus on the "Jackson rookies" in the Orioles-Brewers series. Baltimore Orioles 2B Jackson Holliday debuted on Wednesday with a few strikeouts and nary a hit, but he shouldn't be overwhelmed at the plate. It will be interesting to see if he is in the lineup against the lefty Hall on Friday, and left-handed relievers.

Brewers OF Jackson Chourio is swinging and missing more than we may like, but there is obvious 20/20 potential here. Meanwhile, the third hyped Jackson rookie -- San Diego's Jackson Merrill -- earned outfield eligibility and faces tough Dodgers pitching this weekend. Again, he looks far from overwhelmed.

The Brewers enter Thursday averaging a cool 5.91 runs per game, behind only the Braves and Cubs, and only two Brewers hitters are rostered in a high percentage of ESPN leagues. Middle-infielder Brice Turang may steal 30 bases. 1B Rhys Hoskins may hit 30 home runs. Chourio may be legitimately great, even in his age-20 season. This is an offense to pay attention to for sure.

Cockcroft: I guess I deserved that. I mean, I mentioned the terribleness of the White Sox, it has a way of bringing to mind a pair of truly terrible sequels. Hey, they better get on the horn and trade for Jack Parkman, quick!

Speaking of Chicago players, and rookies -- geez, do foreign players count? -- the Chicago Cubs' Shota Imanaga has looked great in his first two starts, the latter one (granted) was rain-shortened. Start No. 3 is Saturday in Seattle, against a Seattle Mariners offense that has struggled initially while being the game's most strikeout-prone. That's one tantalizing matchup. MacKenzie Gore of the Washington Nationals is throwing harder this year than last -- is that still a good thing? -- and pitches the same day in Oakland, against a similarly weak Athletics lineup. Oh, and he's just 12.8% rostered!

Karabell: There is no shortage of readily available starting pitchers to stream and perhaps keep around longer, and yes, Gore appears to be one of them. Everyone's talking about so many elbow injuries and pitch clocks and fantasy managers should be open to trying out new pitchers (especially in solid matchups) and see what happens. Nobody knows for sure who will stay healthy and who will emerge. And when Ronel Blanco scores more fantasy points this season than ... well, I guess now I'm the optimistic one.