Welcome to the new and improved version of the Fantasy Baseball Forecaster! This year, we’ve reorganized the story into four parts; it’s the same great intel, but you get right where you need to go as fast as possible. Good luck this season!

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On tap: The 2016 Major League Baseball season begins with a Sunday, April 2, tripleheader televised on ESPN and ESPN2. At 1 p.m. ET, the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays battle at Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field on ESPN; at 4 p.m. ET, the San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks square off at Arizona’s Chase Field; and at 8:30 p.m. ET, the rival Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals match up at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium. Monday, April 3, baseball’s traditional Opening Day, features four games on ESPN/ESPN2: Atlanta Braves at New York Mets at 1 p.m. ET, San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Dodgers at 4 p.m. ET, Cleveland Indians at Texas Rangers at 7 p.m. ET, and Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Athletics at 10 p.m. ET (ESPN2).

The Nine

  • Week 1 of the fantasy baseball season runs one day longer than usual, as ESPN leagues include the Sunday, April 2, games in the first scoring period. Leagues with weekly lineup deadlines will lock for the entirety of Week 1 at the start of the Yankees-Rays matchup on Sunday, April 2, at 1 p.m. ET. Week 1 will conclude with the games on Sunday, April 9. ESPN leagues with daily lineup deadlines, meanwhile, will lock players at the start times of each of their respective games.

  • If your league has not yet drafted, be aware that drafts that occur after the start of the regular season will lock the drafted starting lineups into place retroactively, meaning that if you draft an injured or minor league player into an active roster spot, that player will remain there either through all of Week 1 in a weekly league, or until the next eligible roster deadline in a daily league. In other words, if you draft Wilson Ramos as a starter in a Thursday, April 6, draft, he will remain in place in that spot through Sunday, April 9, even though he will be on the DL for at least the first week of the season. In order to ensure that your lineup locks the way you want it mid-draft — this pertaining to those who draft after 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 2 — within the draft room, when selecting a player, use the “Choose Slot” option beneath the “Draft Player” button to place him into any empty slot. You may also move players during your draft by going to the “Team Summary” tab and clicking “Move” in the “Action” column.

  • The Baltimore Orioles have the misfortune of Week 1’s only five-game schedule, which is a significant volume disadvantage in a week in which 11 other teams play as many as seven games. This is especially problematic in larger leagues when picking from beyond the team’s obvious start-worthy fantasy pool — meaning even beneath players like Welington Castillo and Jonathan Schoop, who are fringe plays in 10-team standard mixed due to the schedule — because the Orioles kept just three starting pitchers on their Opening Day roster, leaving them with a flood of first base/corner outfield/designated hitter types on their 25-man list. It’s likely that the Orioles will utilize straight platoons at both corner-outfield positions, with Hyun Soo Kim and Joey Rickard partnering in left and Seth Smith and Trey Mancini (with Mancini probably serving as DH and usual DH Mark Trumbo shifting to right field against lefties) sharing right field. That makes all four players — Smith being the most notable in AL-only — poor plays in all formats, as the Orioles are set to face a near-even split of two left-handed and three right-handed starting pitchers, with spring sensation Masahiro Tanaka one of the righties on their schedule.

  • The Cleveland Indians are the first American League team to visit a National League park this season, therefore losing their DH for three of their six scheduled games. All indications, however, are that Carlos Santana will play right field in Arizona, just as he did during a March 30 exhibition game in that very city and perhaps for all three games of the series. Edwin Encarnacion would likely take priority over Santana at first base in any games in which Santana can’t handle the outfield, but their fantasy owners shouldn’t fret over possible lost playing time considering how hitter-friendly the two ballparks they’re scheduled to visit are: Texas’ Globe Life Park and Arizona’s Chase Field. The lost at-bats would be just as likely to be taken from mix-and-match outfielders Abraham Almonte, Brandon Guyer and/or Austin Jackson.

  • The Los Angeles Dodgers have some kind of Week 1 schedule: Four home games against the San Diego Padres’ patchwork rotation, then three at Colorado’s Coors Field. As the Dodgers did keep six outfielders on their Opening Day roster — Franklin Gutierrez, Enrique Hernandez (as the utilityman, though, he might see more time in the infield), Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Andrew Toles and Scott Van Slyke — they might initially be a tough read for weekly matchup purposes, which is why the loaded schedule keeps fantasy-relevant players like Pederson, Puig and Toles viable for Week 1. Five games against right-handed starters, with two of them coming at Coors, makes Toles, a .333/.345/.491 spring hitter through March 30, and Pederson, who had .255 isolated power through the same date, especially attractive choices.

  • San Diego Padres hitters, conversely, should be avoided if possible. These are five of their projected opposing starting pitchers: Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto. In 16 starts combined against the Padres last season, that quintet posted a 2.28 ERA and 0.76 WHIP, allowing just 67 hits total. Only the best right-handed Padres — they face four left-handed starters and could draw a fifth if Ty Blach is named the Giants’ fifth starter — are even worth a look in mixed leagues, meaning Wil Myers and possibly Manuel Margot.

  • Among beneath-the-radar hitters for Week 1, the Colorado RockiesGerardo Parra stands out. A .340/.389/.440 spring hitter through March 30, Parra should be the team’s starting left fielder, and he could even pick up a start or two at first base considering the team will be facing the entirely right-handed Milwaukee Brewers‘ rotation for four games, then two righty starters in their weekend series back at Coors against the Dodgers. Rockies hitters as a whole aren’t as scary as they might seem, with four road games and a Coors start against Kershaw; Milwaukee’s Miller Park is one of the better road parks they’ll visit this season, and they’ll face Brandon McCarthy in one of the Coors games.

  • The Arizona Diamondbacks have already announced that they’ll keep the roof open at Chase Field for their Sunday, April 2, opener, and with the weather reasonable in Phoenix at this time of year, that could remain the plan for much of Week 1. Chase is a more hitting-friendly environment when the roof is open, so temper your expectations for some of the pitchers scheduled to visit there (though don’t necessarily sit them). That list includes San Francisco’s Bumgarner, Cueto and Matt Moore, and Cleveland’s Corey Kluber. In addition, the Giants’ offense could enjoy a fruitful Week 1 as a result, considering their final three games will be played at San Diego’s Petco Park. Keep an eye on left-field platoon mates Jarrett Parker and Chris Marrero, with Parker the stronger choice in deep mixed and NL-only leagues due to five scheduled righty opposing starters.

  • Don’t sleep on the Houston Astros‘ rotation during Week 1, even though they’ll play all seven of their games at Houston’s Minute Maid Park, with four of them against a Seattle Mariners offense that ranked sixth in the majors in runs scored in 2016. Minute Maid Park is actually a neutral to pitching-friendly leaning ballpark nowadays, and, in fact, was significantly more pitching-friendly than neutral in 2016 alone. The removal of Tal’s Hill beginning this season might shift things somewhat back toward the hitters, but this slate is a sneaky-good one, especially since none of the Astros’ starters was being regarded as a top-25 fantasy option on draft day. The Astros as a staff had the seventh-best spring team ERA entering play March 31, and their five scheduled starters had a 3.05 spring ERA combined. Only Lance McCullers Jr. (7.31 ERA in five starts) stumbled much at all during Grapefruit League play, and he has the most strikeout potential of any of their starting five.