We did it. We made it through all the stalemated labor discussions. We made it through two doses of exhibition games. We made it through waking up at 5:15 a.m. ET to set KBO lineups. We made it to Opening Day. If Thursday’s two-game slate was the appetizer, Friday’s 11-game featured slate is the main course, and what a course it intends to be. We’ve got great pitching matchups as far as the eye can see and more than a handful of star offensive players waiting to get in their first real hacks of 2020. I’m excited. How could you not be?
Let’s break it all down, position-by-position.
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Jack Flaherty, STL vs. PIT, $9,000 - To put Flaherty’s salary into perspective, he was regarded by some as a top-five starting pitcher in redraft formats heading into 2020. So, to see him carrying just the sixth-highest salary on a single slate seems a little odd. We’re also taking about someone coming off a second-half in 2019 that saw him maintain an astounding 0.91 ERA across 99.2 innings, all while limiting opposing hitters to a microscopic .189 wOBA. That not enough? How about the fact that Flaherty held the 370 batters he faced in St. Louis last season to a .220 OBP with a 31.6% strikeout rate? Believe me, I could go on. With FanGraphs projecting the Pirates to be the third-lowest scoring team in the National League, I’m having a hard time envisioning Flaherty not thriving on Friday.
Other Options: Justin Verlander ($11,400), Shane Bieber ($10,300)
Brandon Woodruff, MIL at CHC, $7,700 - This is less about thinking the Cubs are bad and more about the general price of exploiting ceiling. You’re just not going to get someone of Woodruff’s archetype at this salary very often. I mean, one quick glance at his price tags from last season and you can see that he was considered a $10K pitcher by mid-June. You can’t argue with the logic, either. Among the 104 starters who threw 120-plus innings in 2019, the RHP’s 3.01 FIP ranked sixth and his 29.0% strikeout rate ranked 17th. Woodruff also held RHBs to a minuscule .253 expected wOBA, so the 27-year-old is fit to combat the likes of Kris Bryant ($4,900), Javier Baez ($4,600) and Willson Contreras ($4,300).
Other Option: Nate Eovaldi ($7,100)
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Roberto Perez, CLE vs. KC, $4,600 - This is a perfect matchup for the catcher. Perez broke out with a career-high 24 home runs in 2019 and he did a majority of his damage against left-handed pitching. To wit, Perez mustered a .240 ISO and a 122 wRC+ in his 153 plate appearances within the split. On top of that, the 31-year-old is a pure fastball hitter, as evidenced by a .712 slugging percentage on opposing LHP’s fourseam offerings last season. Danny Duffy ($6,400) might not lean on his fastball as much as he used to, but it remains his most common pitch.
Other Option: Christian Vazquez ($4,700)
Sean Murphy, OAK vs. LAA, $3,500 - Prior to this year’s Draft, MLB Pipeline had Murphy rated as the Athletics’ no. 2 prospect and the third-best catching prospect in the entire league. To say this 25-year-old has expectations coming into 2020 would certainly be an understatement. I’ll take a shot on Murphy’s ceiling in a right-on-left matchup with Andrew Heaney ($8,000), who surrendered a 47.6% opponent hard contact rate last year - the second-worst mark among all pitchers with 90-plus innings.
Max Muncy, LAD vs. SF, $4,500 - We learned a couple of things on Thursday. First, Muncy will be hitting leadoff against right-handed pitching. Second, the Giants’ mostly inexperienced bullpen is probably going to have its struggles in 2020. That latter point only helps Muncy’s projection on Friday, as he’ll also have the advantage of an enticing matchup with San Francisco’s stater. Jeff Samardzija ($6,500) allowed LHBs to hit 1.75 home runs per nine in 2019. That translated to a 5.54 xFIP within the split. Yikes.
Other Option: Carlos Santana ($4,600)
Evan White, SEA at HOU, $2,600 - I’m not super optimistic about White’s chances to get a hit in his major league debut against the decorated Verlander; however, if where he’s been hitting in the Mariners’ intrasquad games is any indication, the rookie will be slotting into the top-third of Seattle’s lineup on Friday. Combine that with first-round pedigree and Verlander’s propensity to give up solo home runs and there’s a decent amount of upside here well below $3K.
Jose Altuve, HOU vs. SEA, $5,000 - As much as I told myself that I’d be avoiding Altuve in season-long formats in 2020, I’m always willing to use the diminutive infielder in situations against left-handed pitching. Altuve slashed .331/.338/.667 with an eye-popping .429 wOBA in his 143 plate appearances within the split last season. As for Marco Gonzales ($5,900), he possessed the fourth-highest qualified opponent contact rate in MLB in 2019 (83.4%). This could get ugly.
Cesar Hernandez, CLE vs. KC, $3,800 - Hernandez is projected to hit leadoff for Cleveland this season, which is great news for his DFS value on a slate where the Indians have one of the highest implied run totals. A slate like Friday’s. Yes, most of the middle-infielder’s power comes from the left-side of the plate, so this matchup with a southpaw isn’t ideal; but Duffy also posted a 5.14 xFIP in 2019. I’ll take my chances with Hernandez.
Josh Donaldson, MIN at CWS, $4,400 - In a way that’s very similar to the aforementioned Woodruff, Donaldson’s just too cheap on Friday. This isn’t about me wanting to pick on Lucas Giolito ($9,500), but I don’t think people fully realize how good a once again healthy Donaldson was in 2019. Among qualified hitters, the former MVP averaged the fifth-highest average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives in the league at 98.1 mph. He also ranked 10th in baseball in barrels per batted ball event (15.7%) and posted a massive .271 ISO against RHPs. This price is a bargain.
Other Options: Alex Bregman ($5,300), Jose Ramirez ($5,200)
Manny Machado, SD vs. ARI, $4,000 - How the mighty have fallen. After signing a huge free agent contract last offseason, Machado now finds himself as just the 17th-most expensive third baseman on Friday’s slate. That sort of seems like a slap in the face, especially for someone who still managed to hit 32 home runs. Anyway, if a bounce-back campaign is in store for the former first-round pick, it starts versus Madison Bumgarner ($8,400). Machado hit to a .370 ISO and a .441 wOBA against LHPs in 2019. This is a good spot for him.
Carlos Correa, HOU vs. SEA, $4,700 - Much like his teammate Altuve, Correa made his living last season feasting on left-handed pitching. In fact, the shortstop led all Astros’ players with a jaw-dropping .434 expected wOBA within the split; a mark that was also good enough to represent the seventh-highest figure in all of baseball. The best part? You only need Correa to stay healthy for four plate appearances this evening. I think even he can do that.
Other Options: Xander Bogaerts ($4,900), Corey Seager ($4,100)
Didi Gregorius, PHI vs. MIA, $3,800 - If you’re going to try and attack Sandy Alcantara ($6,800), you might as well do it with a left-handed bat. The RHP surrendered a .424 slugging percentage to opposing LHBs in 2019 - a mark that was 59 points higher than the .365 figure he allowed to righties. Left-handers were also responsible for 16 of the 23 total home runs Alcantara conceded. With Gregorius healthy, I think this is a pretty fair price point.
J.D. Martinez, BOS vs. BAL, $4,800 - This is way too affordable a salary for someone with Martinez’s profile. There was no other player in the veteran’s stratosphere when it came to hitting left-handed pitching in 2019. In fact, Martinez led the league in ISO (.482), wOBA (.539), expected wOBA (.492) and wRC+ (242) within the split. Now’s he less than $5K going up against Tommy Milone ($4,000) and the Orioles’ beleaguered bullpen? This is a buying window if I’ve ever seen one.
Other Options: Cody Bellinger ($5,300), Bryce Harper ($5,000)
Stephen Piscotty, OAK vs. LAA, $3,600 - Piscotty wasn’t able to play a full allotment of games in 2019, but, in the 92 plate appearances he received versus LHPs, he thrived. The veteran slashed .360/.391/.628 with a .419 wOBA. In simpler terms, Piscotty also hit six home runs in just 86 at-bats within the split. Additionally, Chad Pinder ($2,900) could be an Athletics’ asset to keep an eye on if he finds his way into tonight’s lineup.
Other Options: Andrew Benintendi ($3,800), Domingo Santana ($3,600)
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theglt13) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.