The early bird catches the worm! It's a cliché for a reason, and you can bet every baseball junkie worth his salt is paying close attention to Wednesday's pitching matchups. This early in the season there are still a ton of unknowns, but the first guy to pounce on C.J. Wilson or Brad Penny could be adding this year's Esteban Loaiza (remember him?). And what about all those young guns with tremendous upside, like the Tampa Bay Rays' David Price -- wait, he's old news -- or the Oakland Athletics' Gio Gonzalez? Knowing what to look for can pay a lot of dividends, so get your serving of today's Daily Notes as we help make your decisions easier with our daily rankings:
Starting pitcher rankings for April 14
Rk.: The author's ranking of that pitcher for that day only. T: Pitcher throws left-handed or right-handed. W-L: Pitcher's win-loss record. ERA: Pitcher's earned run average. WHIP: Pitcher's average number of walks plus hits surrendered per inning. K/9: Pitcher's average number of strikeouts per nine innings. OPSA: Pitcher's on-base plus slugging percentage surrendered to opponents. OPS: Pitcher's opponent's composite team on-base plus slugging percentage. CT%: Pitcher's opponent's success rate putting the ball in play (versus striking out).
Selected notes: As an owner, this is what you drafted Jonathan Sanchez for: exploiting matchups. This is where, thanks to a creampuff opponent and his gaudy strikeout rate, he can masquerade as an ace or a No. 2. And with a slightly improved lineup behind him, he even has a decent chance to pick up a win. … As if we needed a reminder how tough the transition is from the NL to the AL -- especially the AL East -- Javier Vazquez kindly handed us one, getting blasted by the Rays for eight runs in 5 2/3 innings. If you started him, well, those are the breaks, as Vazquez always has at least a couple of those in him each year. But he can bounce back just as well, so don't let his initial performance shock you into leaving him inactive. Vazquez's weakness tends to be the gopher ball, but thankfully the Los Angeles Angels pack substantially less punch in that category than the Rays. … It's easy to see Brad Penny becoming the next Joel Pineiro in St. Louis, holding the Cincinnati Reds to one run in seven innings with help from 13 groundball outs in his last start. The NL Central is full of light-hitting teams, so the upside is there and he has a pitchers' park backing him up; if he does it again versus the Houston Astros, I would be all over him. … And the smoke and mirrors continue for Randy Wells, who shut out the Atlanta Braves for six innings despite striking out just one batter while walking two. At some point you just throw your hands up, let the results speak for themselves and throw him out there, matchup permitting, hoping for the best. That's where I am with Wells right now, so while I may not be comfortable in saying Wells can keep this up, he has earned some benefit of the doubt. … C.J. Wilson was unexpectedly sterling in his first start since his rookie season, holding the Toronto Blue Jays, an above-average offensive team, to five hits and no runs over seven innings, fanning nine. Such a dominant performance makes Wilson quite the intriguing option against the Indians, made especially perplexing by the fact we have no idea what to expect from Wilson going from an ace reliever to a starter. While the Cleveland Indians are competent offensively, they aren't elite, and since Wilson dispatches left-handed batters quite handily, that helps reduce the effectiveness of the team's two best hitters, Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo. The upside is tantalizing, so lean toward grabbing him and throwing him out there. … When he's on, Gio Gonzalez can resemble a really poor version of Jonathan Sanchez. Against the weakest offenses in the AL, he's worth taking that chance, and the struggling Seattle Mariners certainly apply. Because he can strike out a batter per inning, his upside is worth fishing for.
Hitter matchup ratings for April 14
Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days) as well as ballpark factors. "LHB" and "RHB" ratings account only for left- and right-handed batters, respectively. "Steals" is a base stealing matchup rating, which accounts for the opponent's catchers' ability to gun down opposing base stealers.
Michael Cuddyer, 1B/OF, Minnesota Twins: He's taken John Lackey deep three times in just 18 plate appearances. Since he's hitting right behind Joe Mauer (.500 OBP) and Justin Morneau (.484), he has the potential to put in a monster game if all breaks right.
Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Chicago Cubs: Although he's stumbled out of the gate, he tends to be a streaky player who can turn it on at any time. Why not against Dave Bush? He is 9-for-30 (.300) against Bush, with three home runs and three doubles.
Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas Rangers: After starting the season 0-for-8, Hamilton has hit in four straight games, going 5-for-17 with four walks, three doubles and a triple. He has a great chance to keep it up against Justin Masterson, who tends to struggle against lefties. Masterson has limited righties to a .580 OPS the past three seasons but has allowed lefties to post a .838 mark, hitting over .290 in the process.
Josh Willingham, OF, Washington Nationals: Always a solid outfielder while he's healthy, Willingham is currently raking, and unlike many other outfielders, he does not have to be platooned. He's a good bet to do some damage against Kyle Kendrick, and it further helps that he has taken him deep before.
Alex Gonzalez, SS, Toronto Blue Jays: Let's see how long he can keep this going. With another double and a walk Monday, Gonzalez still isn't cooling off, and he's again a threat to go deep versus John Danks, considering he's done it before: he's 1-for-5 with a dinger and a walk lifetime.
Drew Stubbs, OF, Cincinnati Reds: Consider Stubbs a big threat to take a base against Florida Marlins catcher John Baker, who barely threw out 20 percent of attempted swipes last year. Runners continue to test him: he's allowed six more steals in eight attempts in just four starts.
Ryan Ludwick, OF, St. Louis Cardinals: Four of Ludwick's five hits versus Brett Myers have gone for extra bases, including two that have left the park. That's especially impressive considering Ludwick's gotten only eight cracks at Myers.
Clint Barmes, 2B, Colorado Rockies: This is what you should have Barmes around for: games against left-handers in Coors Field. More often than not he'll have a strong game, and against Jonathon Niese he's already 1-for-3 with a home run.
Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Yankees: No matter how hot Granderson has started the season, he still needs to prove he can perform against left-handed pitching before you give him the benefit of the doubt there. While he is 3-for-10 against lefties this year, all three hits have been singles and his 5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio doesn't bode well for the long haul. Potentially hitting at the bottom of the lineup won't help his runs or RBIs, either.
Derrek Lee, 1B, Chicago Cubs: Sometimes a pitcher just has your number, and Dave Bush has solved Lee. In three of the past four years, Lee has failed to get more than one hit off Bush (minimum seven at-bats); he's batting .161 off him lifetime.
Garrett Jones, 1B/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates: Few pitchers mowed down left-handed hitters more efficiently than Jonathan Sanchez; batters hit .223 and had just four home runs against 43 strikeouts in 157 at-bats. Worse, AT&T Park is known for limiting home runs from left-handed hitters.
Jhonny Peralta, SS/3B, Cleveland Indians: Peralta has one hit in 10 tries against C.J. Wilson, and it's the way he's gotten himself out: via the punch-out. He's gone down swinging in 70 percent of his at-bats and has failed to draw a walk.
Justin Upton, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks: Do I really think you'll bench Upton? No, probably not, but if my outfield was very deep I would consider it. Upton has just one hit in 14 at-bats against Chad Billingsley, easier to believe since it's not exactly Joe Schmoe on the mound. Indeed, right-handers have a sub-.300 on-base percentage when Billingsley has been on the mound the past three years.
Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day
Bobby Abreu, RF, Los Angeles Angels: His career batting line against Javier Vazquez should be all you need: he's 20-for-71 (.282) lifetime with nine home runs and five other extra-base hits.
Injury list: Out
Carlos Beltran, OF, New York Mets (15-day DL, knee)
Lance Berkman, 1B, Houston Astros (15-day DL, knee): Pencil Berkman's return for April 20, but don't be surprised if it takes a bit longer than that.
Russell Branyan, 1B, Cleveland Indians (back): Branyan is in the midst of a rehab assignment should return soon. Now is a great time to stash him on the disabled list if he's available in your league.
Coco Crisp, OF, Oakland Athletics (15-day DL, finger)
Joey Devine, RP, Oakland Athletics (15-day DL, elbow)
Alex Gordon, 3B, Kansas City Royals (15-day DL, thumb)
Aaron Hill, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays (15-day DL, hamstring): Apparently he didn't get the thumbs up. Instead the Blue Jays placed Hill on the disabled list retroactive to April 7, meaning he is eligible to return in a week.
Brad Lidge, RP, Philadelphia Phillies (15-day DL, knee)
Miguel Montero, C, Arizona Diamondbacks (15-day DL, knee): Montero tore his meniscus in his right knee and likely will undergo surgery later in the week. Expect him to be out about six weeks.
Brian Roberts, 2B, Baltimore Orioles (15-day DL, abdominal): The second baseman also received an epidural in his back, so consider Roberts out of action until late April at the least.
Freddy Sanchez, 2B, San Francisco Giants (15-day DL, shoulder)
Huston Street, RP, Colorado Rockies (15-day DL, shoulder)
Michael Wuertz, RP, Oakland Athletics (15-day DL, shoulder)
Injury list: Day-to-day
Mark Ellis, 2B, Oakland Athletics (hamstring)
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Boston Red Sox (ribs): Ellsbury ran into teammate Adrian Beltre on Sunday and he ended up missing Monday's game with bruised ribs. He's questionable for Wednesday.
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies (hamstring)
Derrek Lee, 1B, Chicago Cubs (thumb): Lee left Monday's game because of inflammation in his right thumb, but X-rays came back negative. For now just consider him day-to-day.
Jimmy Rollins, SS, Philadelphia Phillies (calf): Consider Rollins doubtful for Wednesday, as there's a chance he could land on the disabled list with a Grade 2 calf strain; an MRI on Tuesday will tell more.
Grady Sizemore, OF, Cleveland Indians (back): His back kept him out of two consecutive games, although the team says it's not serious. Teams are being cautious this early in the season, so you should be, too. That said, Sizemore should return by Wednesday.
Jayson Werth, OF, Philadelphia Phillies (hip): Werth said he exited Monday's game for precautionary reasons, so this isn't a big concern. It is a reminder, however, that he tends to get banged up, and chances are he'll end up on the DL sooner or later.
We've got two weatherproof games on tap Wednesday: White Sox-Blue Jays and Athletics-Mariners. And now that the rain has cleared in Miami there aren't any serious chances of rain in any baseball cities, a rarity in April.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.