LHitch’s Opening Day MLB DFS Picks
Happy baseball season DailyRoto members! Baseball is finally upon us and I’m focused on preparing you guys not only for Opening Day, but also for the entirety of the Major League Baseball season. It is going to be a long season, but stick by my side and we’ll enjoy a fun and fruitful year. Long live baseball season!
Disclaimer: It is important to note that the format you see below might not be the format that is used to prepare this weekly picks article for the remainder of the season. Without any official Opening Day lineups nor any true precedents, it’s difficult to gauge value of hitters in particular, as their position in the batting order has a significant effect on their value. Keep in mind the values of the players below are subject to change should they find themselves near the bottom of the lineup, or out of it altogether.
Opening Day is a nightmare for most hitters. After finishing Spring Training in warm temperatures, hitters move to colder environments to face the best pitcher on the opposing team. For some, that guy is named Kershaw (an even bigger nightmare) but the Houston Astros will face Corey Kluber. Kluber emerged as a force last season and I expect him to carry it into this year. He gets to take the mound against the Astros, a team that was second in MLB in K% last season, striking out in almost a quarter of their at bats. That feeds into the hand of Kluber who put up an incredible 10.27 K/9 last season in over 200 innings pitched. The Astros did make some improvements during the offseason but remain a relatively undisciplined, youthful team.
I think Cleveland fans will rejoice on Opening Day, and in particular, baseball fans that love a great outing from battery mates. Yan Gomes made his mark as a valuable asset in MLB DFS last season, especially against left-handing pitching. Gomes will square off with Dallas Keuchel on Opening Day in Houston where he should find himself in a favorable spot in the order. Against LHP last season Gomes posted a .380 wOBA with an above average .186 ISO. He’ll be hitting in one of the lone favorable ballparks on Opening Day while the colder environments dampen hitters’ spirits in the northern parts of the country.
We are only three lineup spots in and already it is becoming more and more difficult to find guys I like for Opening Day. Brandon Belt and Adam Lind will be more popular picks, but I’m constantly eyeballing Freddie Freeman. Freeman is the lone guy in the Atlanta offense that will consistently be on our DFS radar, but the lack of talent around him is disheartening. With that being said, it’s increasingly difficult to take advantage of all the aces that are on the mound on Monday, and while Henderson Alvarez can be incredibly efficient, I still like Freeman’s chances against him. Freddie is a nice cash game play as his career .362 wOBA points out that he does a good job of getting on base, regardless of the circumstance.
I fully acknowledge that Chase Utley is getting older and that the Phillies are an atrocity, but I’m still keeping my eye on him for Monday. Utley and the Phils don’t expect to win too many games this season, but they might be able to edge one of those out on Monday against Clay Buchholz. The Phillies boast one of the better hitter’s parks, and Utley has been historically better against RHP. He might present a useful contrarian stack option when paired with first baseman Ryan Howard.
Am I allowed to say Troy Tulowitzki? Shortstop is brutal on Opening Day with no real eye-popping matchups to note. Tulo is away from Coors and carries the largest price tag, but with good reason. He put up Herculean numbers last season when healthy and has the opportunity to do the same each and every year. I think the monster price tag will scare away a lot of people who might be looking to use shortstop as their “value” position, so there is a chance to gain some ground by just paying up for the best shortstop. The matchup with Kyle Lohse should not be one that scares you.
We all fall subject to the “homer” play every once in a while in DFS. While it’s not always the best play, it’s often a great tiebreaker. With not many superb options available anywhere on the diamond on day one, I’m giving the tiebreaker at third base to Todd Frazier, via the father-to-son homer gene. My dad is a huge Reds fan and puts Frazier in his lineups every single day. While I’m not advising you to do that, I think you can make a case for Frazier against Francisco Liriano. Frazier, who you might remember from his days in the Little League World Series, was a solid contributor for the Reds last season, and posted a .333 wOBA against southpaws. While that is a little less than ideal for a top play, the lack of solid options pushes him up the list.
On a day with so few bad pitchers taking the mound, you must truly capitalize on the bad apples that do get thrown out. Kyle Kendrick is taking the mound at Miller Park to face the Brewers on Opening Day. While typically the Brewers are the premier stack against LHP, they still present us with a lot of value on Opening Day. Both Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez carry a significant price tag but also both have significant upsides. On a day where scoring runs might be a premium, you’re going to have to pay for the pop.
It’s also good to capitalize on Bartolo Colon when you can. For some reason the Mets are sending out Colon on day one and bypassing the theatrics of a Matt Harvey Opening Day start. Colon falls into the category of pitchers that you should try to get exposure against, and Bryce Harper is a great way to do that. While long Spring Training homeruns don’t count for much, at least Harper has given us a glimpse of just how much damage he can do to a baseball. He has posted a career .212 ISO against RHP and should be heavily leaned on by the Nats this season. Remember his Opening Day a few years ago? Need I say more?
Who do you have in your Opening Day lineups?