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Fantasy Baseball Players To Watch For The Week Ahead (April 15 - April 21)

Colton Cowser - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, MLB Injury News

The third week of the season has come to a close and of course, we saw more of what we saw last week... oh, you thought I was referring to home runs, pitching gems, and exciting plays? Well, yes of course there were those, but I was referring to pitcher injuries. Bobby Miller looked electric his first time out, not good his second time, and now he's on the IL. It went from good to bad real quick.

While that's bad news for some fantasy managers, the good news is that there are reinforcements on their way and we'll discuss some of them below.

We'll also take a look at some other names below who are on here for a variety of reasons. I've got my eye on them, and perhaps you should, too, whether it be for season-long or DFS purposes. Let's have a look!

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball waiver wire pickups and weekly lineup resources:


Players to Watch: Hitters

Marcell Ozuna

What I'm watching: Hit streak

Marcell Ozuna extended his league-leading hit streak to 13 games on Sunday, and it wasn't with some cheap infield single or bloop hit. Ozuna's first hit was a 405-foot single, his second was a double that would have been a home run in 20 out of 30 major league parks, and his third hit of the day was a three-run blast that flipped the score from a 7-6 Marlins lead in the ninth inning to a 9-7 Braves lead that eventually became the final score. Talk about locked-in.

The home run tied him for the most in baseball with Tyler O'Neill who also clubbed his seventh home run of the season on Sunday. The 33-year-old stands alone atop the RBI leaders with 21, he's batting .373, and slugging .780. Sadly, this is an unsustainable pace, so he's sure to cool off at some point, but it may not be early this week.

He'll face the Astros' Spencer Arrighetti on Monday, who has one MLB start to his name, a start in which he gave up seven earned runs. Then, he'll face Hunter Brown on Tuesday, who's given up 14 ER in his last two starts over a total of three-and-two-thirds innings. The cherry on top of the batting practice sundae is J.P. France on Wednesday, who lasted just four innings his last time out after allowing eight earned runs.

Ronald Acuna Jr.

What I'm watching: The first home run of 2024

It's hard to believe that this segment was in last week's article, but here we are again. The fact that Ronald Acuna Jr. doesn't have a home run is starting to get concerning at this point. Is the knee injury from the spring bothering him? Is there some other injury we don't know about?

The reigning NL MVP's average exit velocity is in the 76th percentile, which is unexpected to say the least for someone who was in the 100th percentile last season. The 26-year-old has a Barrel% of 2.8% (20th percentile), which is a full percent lower than the light-hitting Steven Kwan, who has a Barrel% of 3.8% (29th percentile). At least he has seven stolen bases, which is offsetting some of the other offensive underperformance (and might also mean his knee is actually fine).

It's a long season, so it's not time to panic yet, but fantasy managers who spent the first overall pick on the four-time All-Star are certainly starting to sweat. The good news? See the last paragraph for Ozuna above. The Braves take on the Astros to start the week and some super-juicy matchups could help Acuna turn things around.

Colton Cowser / Michael Busch

What I'm watching: Hot starts for rookies

Colton Cowser had a hot spring, which earned him a spot on the Opening Day roster, and he's continued his hot hitting right on into the regular season. With some other Orioles scuffling at the plate, Cowser has finally been getting regular at-bats. The 24-year-old has a little six-game hit streak going, during which time he's gone 10-for-24 (.417), and he's blasted four home runs over his last four games. The 2021 fifth overall draft pick is worthy of a roster spot and is available in over 30% of Yahoo leagues.

Michael Busch has caught fire recently, too, now with a four-game home-run streak after hitting another one on Sunday, bringing his season total to five. The 26-year-old has hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games, and now has a .327-5-11-8-0 stat line for the season. The former first-round draft pick sent 27 balls over the wall last season at Triple-A in just 390 at-bats, so the power is for real. The lefty hitter is available in almost 60% of Yahoo leagues and is eligible at both first and third base, giving him some added appeal.


Key Matchups: Hitters

These hitters caught my eye when looking over batter vs. pitcher matchups. These guys are already rostered in most leagues, so you aren't running out to snag them off the waiver wire, but they could be targets for your DFS lineups. While sometimes there isn't enough matchup history worth looking at, there is frequency with these, and with frequency comes familiarity. These pitchers likely don't have any more tricks up their sleeves versus these batters.

Nolan Arenado vs. Ross Stripling - Monday, April 15
7-for-15 (.467), one HR, three XBH

Paul Goldschmidt vs. Ross Stripling - Monday, April 15
7-for-19 (.368), two HR, four XBH

Gleyber Torres vs. Yusei Kikuchi - Tuesday, April 16
9-for-21 (.429), one HR, two XBH, only two K

Manny Machado vs. Wade Miley - Tuesday, April 16
5-for-16 (.313), two HR, six BB, zero K

Aaron Judge vs. Kevin Gausman - Wednesday, April 17
10-for-25 (.400), four HR, six XBH

Mark Canha vs. Andrew Heaney - Thursday, April 18
6-for-20 (.300), two HR, four XBH

Mookie Betts vs. Sean Manaea - Friday, April 19
10-for-26 (.385), three HR, seven XBH, only three K

Will Smith vs. Sean Manaea - Friday, April 19
6-for-12 (.500), one XBH, only one K

Juan Soto vs. Zach Eflin - Saturday, April 20
11-for-23 (.478), two HR, four XBH, five BB

Anthony Rizzo vs. Aaron Civale - Sunday, April 21
5-for-10 (.500), two HR, three XBH

Bryce Harper vs. Erick Fedde - Sunday, April 21
11-for-22 (.500), six HR, seven XBH, only two K


Players to Watch: Starting Pitchers

Justin Verlander

What I'm watching: Season debut

You don't need me to spout out a bunch of stats to tell you about how good Justin Verlander has been in his career. With all of the injuries to pitchers, fantasy managers are looking for help anywhere they can get it these days. I'm anxious to see what the future Hall of Famer has left in the tank, as he's now 41 years old, had Tommy John surgery in 2021, and is currently in the process of working his way back from a shoulder issue.

He may make his season debut this Friday against the Nationals, but I'll point out that there are some red flags in his stats that may give managers pause before depending on him to lead their fantasy rotations. One example is that his K-BB% has dropped in three consecutive years, all the way down to 14.8% in 2023. Another is that while the three-time Cy Young winner's ERA in 2023 looked good at 3.22, his xFIP of 4.56 and SIERA of 4.43 tell another story.

Jordan Montgomery

What I'm watching: Season debut

Jordan Montgomery is also expected to make his season debut on Friday. I talked about the fantasy impact on Montgomery signing with the Diamondbacks right before the season began, but to sum it up: he's coming off of a season in which he set a career high in innings pitched and a career low in ERA. He's not overpowering, so does not strike out a ton of batters, but he should give managers enough innings each time out where the Ks do start to pile up over time, and he won't crush your ERA or WHIP along the way.


Players to Watch: Relief Pitchers

Andres Munoz and Ryne Stanek

What I'm watching: Who is the "closer"

While Andres Munoz is listed as the Mariners closer, an interesting dynamic has seemingly taken hold in this bullpen and put fantasy managers in a bit of a conundrum. Set-up man Ryne Stanek has earned two saves in the early going, and in both cases, Munoz pitched the inning before him. Does this mean Stanek is the preferred option? Not necessarily, as Munoz was tasked with getting the heart of the order out, which could be the more difficult, high-leverage task -- it just might come in the eighth inning instead of the ninth.

Unfortunately for fantasy managers who drafted Munoz, one of the better "closer" options who was taken in fantasy drafts won't be racking up as many saves as anticipated. If this trend continues, it obviously dampens Munoz's value while boosting Stanek's value, but that's not good for fantasy unless you own both or are in a league where holds are counted. It's like the dreaded RBBC in fantasy football.

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