Major League Baseball wraps up the work week with a busy Friday night schedule, featuring a dozen games on the main slate. Most of these teams will start a new series as they get geared up for a nice weekend of baseball ahead. As is going to be typical on this modified schedule, there is an emphasis on divisional games this weekend. On this particular slate, 10 of the 12 games feature divisional matchups, so there should be plenty of familiarity between opponents. There are also a few weather spots to keep an eye on, primarily Atlanta and Baltimore.
The 60-game abbreviated season is just over one week old, and we’re starting to have enough recent history to be able to figure out the form of most of these players. Based on form, matchup and expected opportunity, I’ve selected my favorite value plays and studs at each position. Make sure to stay locked in to @DKLive on Twitter and check the latest news in the DK Live app as we approach the first pitch.
Lance McCullers Jr., HOU at LAA, $9,000 — McCullers will need to help the Astros pick up the slack with Justin Verlander (forearm) sidelined, and he looked like he may be ready to do just that after a strong first start of the season. McCullers missed all of the 2019 regular season recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he picked up the win in his first start since 2018, allowing just two runs on five hits over six innings and striking out six against the Mariners and finishing with 20.7 DKFP. In 2018, he posted a 3.85 ERA and went 10-6 with 142 strikeouts in 128 and one third innings. If he can return to that strikeout rate, he should be a good fantasy option in most starts. He’ll face another division foe in this outing, as he takes on the Angels. With Mike Trout (paternity) no longer in the lineup, McCullers catches a little bit of a break against an Angels lineup that has a few nice options but lacks depth.
Other Options — Sean Manaea ($9,600), Mike Minor ($9,200)
Luis Castillo, CIN at DET, $8,000 — Castillo is a great option at this salary and my favorite pitcher to build around on this slate. He looked outstanding in his first start of the season, striking out 11 in six innings, allowing just one run on six hits and posting 29.3 DKFP even in a no-decision. He will look to pick up where he left off in that start against the Tigers as he faces Detroit for the second straight outing. The Tigers have the second-most strikeouts per game in the majors, and Castillo will look to increase that number with another strong showing. He was originally scheduled to pitch Thursday but will have an extra day of rest after Cincinnati’s game was rained out. Castillo is developing into a true ace for the Reds, so take advantage of his salary being so low especially in this favorable matchup.
Other Option — Dallas Keuchel ($7,300), Garrett Richards ($6,500)
Christian Vázquez, BOS at NYY, $4,800 — Vázquez stayed hot on Thursday night with a pair of home runs off of lefty Steven Matz. He’s 8-for-19 (.421) to start the season and already has four home runs. He’ll face another southpaw tonight in Jordan Montgomery ($7,800), as he and the Red Sox stay in New York to face their division rivals, the Yankees. He has had good splits throughout his career against lefties, including an .894 OPS against them last season, and he’s 3-for-4 with a home run in his limited career at-bats against Montgomery. Three of his four homers have come against lefties this season, giving him an unsustainable but fun 2.181 OPS against southpaws on the season. As long as he’s in the lineup either at C at DH, Vázquez will be a good play against the Yankees, who he has a good history against as well.
Other Options — Yasmani Grandal ($4,500), Travis d’Arnaud ($4,300)
Victor Caratini, CHC vs. PIT, $3,100 — The addition of the DH to the National League has allowed the Cubs to get more at-bats for Caratini, who has started the season 4-for-16 (.250) with a double and two RBI. He has at least five DKFP in four of his five starts and will likely be in the lineup against Trevor Williams ($6,300) when the Cubs open their series at Wrigley. Last season, the switch-hitting Cartini hit 10-of-11 home runs against right-handed pitchers putting together a solid .798 OPS from that side of the plate, and he is 3-for-11 in his career against Williams. He crushed the Pirates last season, going 11-for-31 (.355) with three homers and a 1.152 OPS against the Buccos.
Other Options — James McCann ($3,700), Austin Nola ($2,800)
Max Muncy, LAD at ARI, $4,900 — The Dodgers and Diamondbacks started their weekend series early, with Los Angeles winning 6-3 on Thursday night. Muncy went 2-for-4 in that game with his third homer of the season and is now averaging 11.4 DKFP per contest while going 7-for-29 (.241). He has been locked into the top of the Dodgers’ potent lineup and will continue to be a good option given his power, plate discipline and lineup spot.
Other Options — Freddie Freeman ($5,600), Anthony Rizzo ($4,600)
José Abreu, CWS at KC, $4,200 — Abreu and the White Sox will attempt to give a rude welcome to the majors to Royals prospect Kris Bubic ($4,000), who has never pitched above Single-A but is slated to make his MLB debut on Friday night. Bubic is a 22-year-old lefty who has a bright future, but he may not be ready for a deep White Sox lineup. Abreu has started the season 7-for-25 (.280) with two doubles, a home run and three RBI. He usually feasts on lefties and hit .360 against them last year with nine home runs and a 1.009 OPS.
Other Options — Luke Voit ($3,900), Colin Moran ($3,100)
Whit Merrifield, KC vs. CWS, $4,800 — Merrifield lost his six-game hitting streak on Thursday, going 0-for-4, but he should be in a great spot to bounce back as the Royals have their home opener against Dallas Keuchel and the White Sox. Merrifield is always a strong play against southpaws and is 6-for-12 with a double in his previous meetings with Keuchel. So far this season, the Royals versatile leadoff man has gone 9-for-27 (.333) with two homers, a stolen base and seven RBI to give him an impressive 12.3 DKFP per game average.
Other Option — Ketel Marte ($5,000), DJ LeMahieu ($4,100)
Mike Moustakas, CIN at DET, $3,600 — Moustakas missed a few days with an illness but returned with a bang on Wednesday, hitting his second home run of the season and going 1-for-2 with a pair of walks and 22 DKFP against the Cubs. With Thursday’s rainout, he should be back in the lineup Friday against the Tigers and Spencer Turnbull ($8,100). Turnbull allowed left-handed batters to hit .298 off him last season with an .813 OPS, and all three of the hits he gave up in his first start came to lefties as well. Moustakas is 5-for-12 so far for the Reds and will look to keep producing in this favorable matchup.
Other Options — Hanser Alberto ($3,500), José Peraza ($2,900)
José Ramírez, CLE at MIN, $4,600 — Ramírez had breakout campaigns in 2017 and 2018 but was plagued by injuries and slumps throughout a disappointing 2019. This season, he looks ready to return to his excellent 2018 form and has started the year 11-for-25 (.440) with two doubles, two home runs and just under 12.0 DKFP per game. He will continue to anchor the Cleveland lineup as they spend the weekend in Minnesota, where he went 1-for-2 with two walks to open the series with nine DKFP on Thursday. Ramírez has hit safely in six of his seven starts and offers some nice pop in the middle of the Cleveland order.
Other Options — Nolan Arenado ($5,500), Anthony Rendon ($4,800)
Donovan Solano, SF vs. TEX, $3,900 — Solano was expected to start primarily against left-handed pitchers this season but has started so hot that the Giants have had to keep his bat in the lineup. He has started the season 10-for-20 with four doubles, a home run and nine RBI. He has hit safely in four straight games and is a low-risk play since he typically makes solid contact. Last season against southpaws, Solano went 39-for-115 (.339) with an .843 OPS, so getting him in your lineup against Mike Minor and the Rangers makes sense.
Other Option — David Fletcher ($2,800), Isiah Kiner-Falefa ($2,500)
Trevor Story, COL vs. SD, $5,700 — Story and the Rockies will have their home-opener at Coors Field on Friday night, so it’s our first slate of the season with the elevation factor in play. Story is always worth considering paying up for when the Rockies are at home, where he posted a 1.064 OPS last season with 24 of his 35 home runs and an impressive .328 home average. Story looks to be in good form, going 5-for-18 with a pair of home runs in his first five games of the season in Oakland and Texas. The Rockies’ salaries are all elevated since they’re at Coors Field, but Story gets enough of a boost that he’s worth considering given his Mile High ceiling.
Other Options — Dansby Swanson ($4,600), Francisco Lindor ($4,400)
J.P. Crawford, SEA vs. OAK, $3,300 — On Thursday, Crawford was back atop the Mariners’ lineup for the second straight game and had another good performance. He went 2-for-5 with a pair of stolen bases and 24 DKFP against the Angels after going 2-for-3 with 18 DKFP the previous contest from the leadoff spot, which he manned even though he was in a lefty-lefty matchup. He’ll be in another one tonight against the A’s Manaea, but he has looked good enough to roll out despite the matchup at this very affordable salary. Crawford is 9-for-24 (.375) with a double, two triples, seven walks and two stolen bases and is producing an impressive 12.1 DKFP per contest.
Other Option — Jorge Polanco ($3,800), Freddy Galvis ($2,800)
Marcell Ozuna, ATL vs. NYM, $4,900 — Ozuna is off to a strong start to his first season with the Braves, going 8-for-22 with three doubles, two home runs, six walks and a 1.273 OPS. He and Atlanta are in a good matchup against Rick Porcello ($7,000), who was shelled for seven runs in two innings in his Mets’ debut against the Braves last Sunday. Ozuna has been hitting cleanup on a regular basis for the Braves and should continue to be a good power bat in the heart of their potent offense.
Other Option — Giancarlo Stanton ($5,700), Wil Myers ($4,600), Kyle Schwarber ($4,400)
Shogo Akiyama, CIN at DET, $2,500 — The Reds have gone with Akiyama at the top of their batting order in each of their past two games and the 32-year-old lefty could be the regular solution there at least against right-handed starters. He had great on-base numbers in Japan and went 2-for-5 with a double and 10 DKFP in his most recent game on Wednesday. He is now 4-for-15 on the season with just one run scored and one stolen base, but if he hits leadoff against Turnbull, he’ll be in a good spot to produce solid returns as a nice value option.
Other Option — Nick Castellanos ($4,000), A.J. Pollock ($3,500), Michael Brantley ($2,800)
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Z.Thompson) 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.