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Top Fantasy Baseball Stories Of The Week - Opening Week 2024

Shohei Ohtani - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

Welcome back to another season, baseball fans. The Dodgers and Padres got things kicked off on March 20 and 21 with a two-game set played in South Korea but the rest of the league had to wait another week for Opening Day. Now that the first full weekend of baseball is in the books, it’s time to look back at some of the bigger news stories from the last week and a half.

The regular season’s news cycle started in a big (and bizarre) way. Between the two games of the Seoul Series, news broke that Shohei Ohtani’s (now former) interpreter Ippei Mizuhara was entangled in an illegal gambling investigation. The story, and its shifting details, cast a shadow over the start of the season and the more run-of-the-mill baseball news in the days that followed.

In this new series on RotoBaller, I’ll be reviewing some of the news from the week that was and offering my thoughts on how it might affect fantasy baseball going forward. You can also keep tabs on the latest happenings in Major League Baseball as they happen at our fantasy baseball news feed.

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Say It Ain’t Sho

It’s hard to imagine a wilder story than the one that came out following the first game of 2024. Mere hours after the Dodgers claimed the first win of the new season the team was briefed regarding a developing story that involved Ippei Mizuhara, then employed as Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter. During the team meeting, it was revealed that Mizuhara had a gambling addiction, had run up a debt to an illegal bookmaker, and a significant amount of money once belonging to Ohtani was used to pay that debt off.

The initial claim by Mizuhara, which was then echoed by a spokesman representing Ohtani as well as Dodgers executives, was that Ohtani had covered Mizuhara’s $4.5 million debt in a series of $500,000 transactions. The claim was refuted by Ohtani’s legal team soon thereafter who labeled the transactions as thefts carried out by Mizuhara.

The shifting details fueled rampant speculation about the 2023 Most Valuable Player’s level of involvement and level of contact with bookmaker Mathew Bowyer. Once stateside, Ohtani addressed the media with a prepared statement denying any involvement in gambling whatsoever and reiterating the accusations of fraud and theft on Mizuhara’s part.

Fantasy impact:

While MLB has since opened an investigation, some are skeptical that the league is properly motivated to probe and potentially discipline its biggest star. The federal investigation already underway should settle the matter. However, there is no firm timetable for its conclusion nor can it be assumed that it will come to an end anytime soon. As such, fantasy managers rostering Ohtani can put worries of a possible suspension to rest for the time being.

Given the suddenness of Mizuhara’s reveal, and how closely Ohtani trusted him, it wouldn’t be surprising if the superstar was thrown off his game. Ohtani did play in the next game after the news broke and recorded a hit, run, and RBI. So far this season the superstar has yet to hit a home run but has reached base safely in all but one of the Dodgers’ games.

Ohtani’s tunnel vision when it comes to practice and preparation is well-known. While the developing story is certainly a source of stress, the baseball field is one place where he remains in total control. Unless there is another major break in the story, don’t expect anything less than what you would usually expect from the two-time MVP.


Jordan Montgomery Finds A Home

On March 26 it was reported that free agent pitcher Jordan Montgomery agreed to a one-year, $25 million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The deal was made official on March 29, and the 31-year-old was promptly assigned to Triple-A Reno to tune up for the regular season, having missed the entirety of spring training.

Montgomery was the last of the “big four” free agents represented by Scott Boras to find a new home for 2024. Boras has a reputation for drawing out negotiations and driving up the price for his clientele, but in this past offseason, he found few teams were willing to play ball. Rather than fetching nine-figure deals as originally hoped for, Montgomery et al. took short-term deals so they could take another shot at free agency in the next year or two.

Fantasy impact:

There’s no doubt that Montgomery drafters breathed a sigh of relief to see their investment finally find a place to play. They still have some waiting to do as Montgomery needs to get the kinks out before jumping into Arizona’s rotation. His expected debut is April 19, which would have him facing the Giants on the road.

Montgomery has shown good durability recently, averaging 174.2 IP over the last three seasons while also maintaining a sub-4.00 ERA. The lefty has a 22.5 K% over his career and can be expected to turn in another below-average strikeout total, but at least he will be getting the volume to pump that number up as much as he can. Montgomery tends to limit walks and will have Arizona’s above-average infield defense working behind him which will suppress his WHIP. Once he joins the D-Backs, look for either Tommy Henry or Ryne Nelson to get pushed out of the rotation.


The Royce Lewis Experience

On Opening Day, Royce Lewis picked up where he left off last season and mashed a 423-foot home run on the third pitch he saw from Cole Ragans. In his second at-bat, the 24-year-old got his second hit of the game, knocking a single into left field. You couldn’t ask for a better start for one of the league’s rising stars.

Then disaster struck. Carlos Correa laced a double down the line in the next at-bat, prompting Lewis to hustle from first to third. As he rounded second, Lewis grimaced and took several awkward steps coming into third base and again after being granted time. Lewis was taken out of the game and was placed on the 10-day injured list with a “severe” quad strain two days later.

Fantasy impact:

In comments to the media, Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey revealed that Lewis is looking at a recovery window of at least one month. After the initial recovery period, they can assess if further recovery is necessary or if the third baseman can build back up to playing and how long that process should last.

Lewis already has a lengthy injury history in his young career. He made his mark in 2023, hitting 15 home runs and 52 RBI in 239 plate appearances. His potential drove his ADP up to 48.83 as he looked like another Jose Ramirez in the making.

With Lewis out indefinitely, utility infielders Willi Castro and Kyle Farmer will take turns covering the hot corner for Minnesota. Castro is an option for those looking for stolen bases (33 SBs in 2023), though he offers little else. Farmer would provide a more stable batting average and a little more pop. Fantasy managers shopping for a replacement should broaden their search beyond those whom the Twins will be using in the weeks ahead.

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