It's not that last weekend was a disappointment, but only one meaningful major league game was played, as the Boston Red Sox beat the New York Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball. It was a fun way to spend seven-plus hours. OK, I jest; it didn't take quite that long. But I'd still prefer the weekends with 45 or so games, not merely one. Starting this weekend, there are games aplenty, and as a result, tons to watch from a fantasy baseball perspective.
Here are 10 players/situations I'll be tracking this weekend:
• The Francisco Liriano hype machine is running at full tilt, and fantasy owners probably are expecting too much from the Minnesota Twins southpaw. Yes, Liriano was terrific in winter ball and in spring training (30 strikeouts, five walks), but John Danks and the White Sox won't be an easy opponent Friday night. Liriano is 0-3 with a 7.52 ERA lifetime against the Chicago White Sox. That said, don't let a rough outing persuade you to give up so soon.
• We've seen Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and Matt Cain shut down the Houston Astros, but now Jonathan Sanchez and Todd Wellemeyer (and Lincecum) start for the San Francisco Giants against the Atlanta Braves. Sanchez is likely active for most fantasy teams, but Wellemeyer's Saturday outing, if it's anything like his last awful spring start, could kickstart the Madison Bumgarner (or Pedro Martinez, or perhaps John Smoltz?) era. Also, can the Giants' Edgar Renteria, hitting .727 and owned in 12.6 percent of ESPN leagues, keep on hitting?
• I happen to own both Lance Berkman and Chipper Jones on one NL-only team (as well as on other teams). Neither is likely to help me this weekend, but I'm hoping the news is positive for each. Berkman (knee) hopes to return from the DL on Monday, so I expect a weekend update. Jones left Thursday's game because of a sore right side, and might not play until Monday. Wow, it took only two-plus games for him to get hurt! Omar Infante isn't a bad pickup in daily leagues as he fills in for Jones against a weak Astros pitching staff.
• Check out ESPN3.com on Sunday as two top pitching prospects make their minor league debuts. Stephen Strasburg will be in Altoona, Pa., to unleash his nasty stuff on the Double-A Harrisburg Senators. This will be the ESPN3 link to watch it. Meanwhile, Aroldis Chapman will hurl for Triple-A Louisville against the Toledo Mud Hens, and you can watch that here. Get two computers ready!
• Tyler Colvin homered for the Chicago Cubs on Thursday, and it's possible manager Lou Piniella will turn his outfield into a four-man rotation at Cincinnati. Colvin, the team's top draft pick in 2006, isn't much of an on-base guy, but with the Cubs' offense hitting .197 with a .593 OPS, look for Piniella to try anything. This should affect playing time for Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome, but I think Marlon Byrd is relatively safe.
• I watched young Cardinals left-hander Jaime Garcia a few times this spring, and he sure looked ready for a rotation spot to me. He starts Saturday against Yovani Gallardo, the newly minted $30.1 million man. See, this is why we tell you No. 1 starters rarely match up against other No. 1 starters! If you drafted Garcia, don't sit him because he's facing an ace. He's facing the Brewers, not Gallardo.
• Vernon Wells has four home runs already, and now gets to face the "awesome" Baltimore Orioles rotation of Brad Bergesen, David Hernandez and Kevin Millwood in a ballpark that he has hit his most road home runs at (11). I'm interested to see how many Wells fantasy owners successfully move him for top 50 picks this weekend. As I noted earlier today, I would try to, were I a Wells owner.
• Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Wade Davis ranks way too high on ESPN's Most Dropped List. After he beats CC Sabathia (or just pitches well) Saturday, I'm guessing that will change. Certainly any Yankees-Rays series -- playoff preview? -- is worth watching. Something else worth watching: We still don't have clarity on Tampa's second base/right field battle (Sean Rodriguez, Reid Brignac, Matt Joyce eventually).
• Among closer situations, I can't say there's a lot to watch for. I do want to see who the Cubs' Piniella chooses for setup duty, because I think Esmailin Caridad is distinguishing himself. For the Cardinals, whereas Ryan Franklin, like Carlos Marmol, is no sure thing, does Jason Motte or Kyle McClellan get the eighth inning? Finally, baseball's lone winless team, the Houston Astros, must face the two-time defending NL champs. Will Matt Lindstrom get a save opportunity anytime soon?
• Sunday Night Baseball features a guy who nearly led the NL in quality starts last season ... and Chris Carpenter. That's right, Milwaukee Brewers lefty Randy Wolf was really good, and remains unowned in two-thirds of ESPN leagues! Wolf's first Brewers start wasn't great, but he struck out eight Colorado Rockies and won the game. Maybe getting the Sunday spotlight will make him a more attractive fantasy pickup.
Have a great weekend everyone!