Stream Team: Cardinal Directions

Our first group of Stream Team picks for 2011 got things started off with a bang. The three ace picks (Dan Haren, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt) came through with two wins, plenty of strikeouts and one one walk between them. Middle man Mark Buehrle got out of a great start before allowing four runs in the sixth inning, but the offense staked him to a massive league and allowed him to cruise to a victory. Carlos Zambrano was a little rough on Saturday but still managed a quality start, and Wade Davis was great for six innings before giving up three runs in the seventh. Wild Card Jeff Francis matched Haren pitch for pitch while turning in an excellent outing. Kyle Drabek was even better for us on Saturday, surrendering just one hit in seven innings while picking up seven Ks. Only Bruce Chen had a particularly ugly start, giving up five runs in five innings. Still, it was a great way to kick off the season.

Monday

Ace: None. With teams reaching the end of their rotations, no true aces are in play on Monday. All 12 starting pitchers are available in 70 percent of fantasy leagues or more on Yahoo, so all are available to be on our Stream Team. I will note that the Rangers have flipped Alexi Ogando and Derek Holland in the rotation, with Holland scheduled to pitch Monday. Make sure you don’t draw a zero by selecting the wrong guy in Monday’s FanDuel competitions.

Middle Man: Kyle Lohse, STL vs. PIT ($4,600, 3 percent owned in Yahoo). This guy was awful in 2010, finishing the year with a 6.55 ERA and 1.78 WHIP. Yet I’m buying, thanks to an excellent spring (15 Ks, no BBs, 0.88 WHIP) and a great track record against the Pirates (3.41 ERA, 1.22 WHIP in 60.2 innings). The price is right, so grab him and build yourself a killer lineup.

Wild Card: Brandon Beachy, ATL at MIL ($3,700, 15 percent owned). Beachy surprisingly beat out Mike Minor for the Braves’ No. 5 starter job heading into the season after posting a 0.90 ERA in 20 spring innings. He has a ton of strikeout upside, so if you’re looking for a guy with heat, take Beachy on the road against the 0-3 Brewers.

Stream Team Pick: Lohse.

Tuesday

Ace: Anibal Sanchez, FLA vs. WAS ($7,600, 45 percent owned). There are a few more talented pitchers available on Tuesday, but cost-conscious owners will want to grab Sanchez. He’s 5-0 with a 2.28 ERA in 13 career starts against Washington, and he was phenomenal at home last year, posting a 2.65 ERA and an 85:35 K:BB ratio in 91.2 innings.

Middle Man: Mike Leake, CIN vs. HOU ($6,000, 3 percent owned). Leake is a guy that puts a lot of runners on base but does a great job of mitigating the damage to his ERA. Last season, that trait was most apparent against the Astros, against whom he had a 2.33 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in three starts. Houston doesn’t figure to be any better this year, so this looks like an easy win.

Wild Card: Kyle McClellan, STL vs. PIT ($2,700, 29 percent owned). I tend to pick a lot of pitchers facing cellar dwellers in order to maximize our chances at earning wins, so you’ll see a lot of picks against the Pirates and Astros this year. As a converted reliever, McClellan comes dirt cheap in FanDuel leagues, and he’s primed to build off a great spring.

Stream Team Pick: McClellan.

Wednesday

Ace: Justin Verlander, DET at BAL (98 percent owned). The Tigers ace gets a much better matchup in his second start of the season when he takes on the Orioles on Wednesday. He’s 5-0 with a 2.52 ERA in seven career starts against Baltimore, and unless opposing pitcher Jeremy Guthrie can duplicate the shutout posted in his first start, Verlander should add another win.

Middle Man: Joe Blanton, PHI vs. NYM (4 percent owned). Lost in the excitement over the Four Aces, Blanton is worth using sporadically if he lands in a good matchup. This appears to be just the case on Wednesday, as Blanton is 3-1 with a 2.64 ERA and 1.07 WHIP against the Mets in seven career starts.

Wild Card: Brandon McCarthy, OAK at TOR (1 percent owned). McCarthy won the battle to be the fifth starter in Oakland partly due to Rich Harden not-so-surprisingly succumbing to injury and partly thanks to a 20:1 K:BB ratio this spring. He’ll be an excellent streamer when pitching in Oakland, and I like his chances to start the season strong in Toronto.

Update: McCarthy has been moved up to Tuesday’s start against the Blue Jays. McClellan makes for a much better Tuesday value, while Tim Stauffer and Mike Minor can be considered for Wednesday.

Stream Team Pick: Blanton.

Thursday

Ace: Ricky Romero, TOR vs. OAK (90 percent owned). Romero was spot on in his first start of the season, holding the Twins to one earned run through 6.1 innings while not giving away any free passes and striking out seven batters. He’s 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in three career starts against the A’s.

Middle Man: Chris Tillman, BAL vs. DET (4 percent owned). The third-year pitcher looks like he may be ready to cash in on his incredible upside after no-hitting the Rays for six innings in his first start of the season. Despite posting ERAs over 5.00 in each of his first two seasons, Tillman has been solid against the Tigers in three career starts.

Wild Card: Esmil Rogers, COL at PIT (0 percent owned). Rogers has some nice strikeout potential, and if he can avoid walking too many Pirates he should be in a position to win this start. He won his only previous start against Pittsburgh, and with this game coming on the road, Rogers makes for a solid spot starter.

Stream Team Pick: Tillman.

R.J. White is the head writer at the Fantasy Baseball Cafe and has also written for FanHouse. You can follow R.J. on Twitter here.

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