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Fantasy Baseball Rankings: DraftKings MLB DFS Picks for April 1

Timothy Finnegan ranks the top fantasy baseball plays in each salary range for Thursday’s main DraftKings MLB slate, which starts at 2:10 p.m. ET.

Welcome to the Opening Day edition of the DraftKings fantasy baseball rankings page. The idea of this page is to rank the top options in each salary range, helping you make quick decisions when debating which players to roster for Thursday’s main DraftKings MLB slate. Players are sorted from top to bottom in order of preference. Player notes will be included at the bottom of the rankings to shed further light on select players.

Each player listed here is someone I’m considering rostering based on their price and matchup. If a player is not listed in these rankings but is in the lineup, that just means I am not particularly interested in paying for this player today due to the combination of their matchup and price. They might still be a viable option—a wise sage once said, “you know, you just can’t predict baseball, Suzyn”—but I’m looking to spend my DraftKings capital elsewhere today.

One of the best ways to find hitter value in DraftKings MLB contests is through lineup slot upgrades after pricing has been set. These lineup slot upgrades often do not happen until teams release lineups a few hours before the game locks. The salary relief section will address some of these lineup slot upgrades with live updates. Check back before lock to see potential updates to the rankings and value plays.

Always be sure to check your DraftKings lineups before lock to make sure that the players you have chosen are in the lineup. Also be sure to check the weather to make sure that players you have chosen will not have their games rained out. For up-to-the-minute news related to today’s DraftKings MLB slate, download the DK Live app and follow DK Live on Twitter at @dklive.

Follow me on Twitter at @timfinn521 for nerdy baseball stats and Mets tweets.


Set your DraftKings fantasy baseball lineups here: MLB $500K Season Opener [$100K to 1st]


Notable Lineup Absences

Team Name Position Injury Status
Team Name Position Injury Status
Houston Astros Alex Bregman 3B Abraham Toro will start with Bregman out.
Houston Astros Yordan Alvarez DH Ronnie Dawson will start in place of Alvarez.
Houston Astros Jose Altuve 2B Aledmys Diaz will start in Altuve's place.
Houston Astros Martin Maldonado C Jason Castro will start with Maldonado out.

Today’s games between the Red Sox/Orioles and Mets/Nationals have been postponed due to rain and COVID-19.

Check back before lock for updated lineup notes!


DraftKings Sportsbook Betting Odds

Teams Moneyline Total Runs
Teams Moneyline Total Runs
NY Yankees -121 Over 10.5
TOR Blue Jays +106 Under 10.5
WAS Nationals +110 Over 8.5
STL Cardinals -127 Under 8.5
CHI Cubs +143 Over 7.5
MIL Brewers -167 Under 7.5
LA Angels -136 Over 9
KC Royals +117 Under 9
BOS Red Sox +128 Over 6
MIN Twins -148 Under 6
CIN Reds -113 Over 8.5
SF Giants -103 Under 8.5
SD Padres -215 Over 8
PIT Pirates +185 Under 8
SEA Mariners +110 Over 9
BAL Orioles -132 Under 9
DET Tigers +210 Over 9
HOU Astros -265 Under 9
PHI Phillies -118 Over 8
NY Mets +102 Under 8
TEX Rangers +163 Over 8.5
TB Rays -195 Under 8.5
MIA Marlins +205 Over 8.5
ATL Braves -265 Under 8.5
CLE Indians +107 Over 7.5
CHI White Sox -129 Under 7.5
COL Rockies +240 Over 8
LA Dodgers -286 Under 8

Pitchers

Studs

Player Name Position Opp Salary
Player Name Position Opp Salary
Yu Darvish SP ARI $10,400
Tyler Glasnow SP MIA $8,800
Luis Castillo SP STL $9,200
Jack Flaherty SP CIN $8,600
Kenta Maeda SP MIL $8,300
Brandon Woodruff SP MIN $8,000
Aaron Nola SP ATL $10,100
Clayton Kershaw SP COL $9,500

Salary Relief

Player Name Position Opp Salary
Player Name Position Opp Salary
Kyle Hendricks SP PIT $7,700
Brad Keller SP TEX $5,900
Max Fried SP PHI $7,500
Sandy Alcantara SP TB $6,500

Pitcher Notes

Yu Darvish, San Diego Padres ($10,400)

Darvish unlocked a new level to his game in late 2019 with dramatically improved control and the development of new pitches. Darvish slashed his walk rate down to a microscopic 2% over his final 14 starts in 2019 and carried over the improved control into 2020 with a 5% walk rate. Darvish has a walk rate of about 3% over his last 26 starts, way better than the league average of about 9% and a huge improvement from his career mark of 8.5%.

Darvish’s pitch development included a new knuckle-curve, a modified splitter, various shapes to his cutter and expanded breaking ball usage. Pitch tracking shows Darvish throwing seven pitches, but it’s really more than that because of how he alters the shape and speed of his pitches.

Darvish’s opening day matchup is a good one. The Diamondbacks are projected to be a bottom-third offense, and Petco is an excellent park for pitching, a combination that creates a strong environment for run prevention. Darvish also has a big edge in the pitching matchup given Madison Bumgarner’s eroding skills, so he is a candidate for quality run support.

Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay Rays ($8,800)

Glasnow has some of the most explosive pure stuff in baseball, sitting 97 mph with a ferocious curveball. The deadly two-pitch combo contributed to an obscene 38% strikeout rate in 2020, trailing only Shane Bieber and Jacob deGrom.

Glasnow might take a step further this season. Glasnow developed a new pitch over the offseason that has a cutter/slider shape—also called a “slutter” by baseball lingo—which may give him a quality third pitch that was lacking prior to 2021. Glasnow traditionally has been primarily four-seam fastball/curveball, and a new third offering may help him turn over the opposing lineup more often and get deeper into games, aiding fantasy volume.

Glasnow has a soft matchup vs. the Marlins, who project to have one of MLB’s least productive offenses. Glasnow is also getting a park and league upgrade at pitcher-friendly Miami with no DH.

Here’s a look at Glasnow’s new “slutter” from the legendary Pitching Ninja:

Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers ($9,500)

Kershaw’s fastball velocity has declined from his peak, but he has compensated for the velocity dip by generating more backspin on his four-seam fastball, which creates a “rising” effect and allows him to pitch above the barrel effectively. Kershaw’s average spin rate on his four-seamer sat just below 2,500 RPM in 2020, a huge boost from about 2200 RPM in 2015 during the height of his powers. Kershaw has also cut his fastball usage down in favor of more sliders.

Coors Field is generally a place to avoid for pitchers for a variety of reasons. The thin air allowing fly balls to travel further is the most obvious one, but Coors Field’s outfield gaps are also massive, which creates more space for hits to fall in on batted balls. The park environment at altitude can also diminish pitch movement.

Kershaw’s career wOBA allowed at Coors Field is .314, which is a tick better than the league average and much better than the Coors Field average. Kershaw has tamed the beast in a small sample recently: he’s allowed just a .255 wOBA in Coors Field since 2018 and has struck out 20 of 75 batters faced (26.6%). Still, any time you roster a pitcher in Coors Field, there’s risk of a poor fantasy outing due to the extreme park effects.

Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds ($9,200)

Castillo is one of the league’s best at generating strikeouts, striking out 30.5% of batters faced in 2020. Castillo’s strikeouts are fueled by high velocity combined with a wipeout change up—nobody has generated more swings and misses on a change up than Castillo over the last two seasons. Castillo’s 26% swing and miss rate on his change up since the start of 2019 is also tops among all starting pitchers.

The Cardinals are projected to be a bottom-third offense, creating a plus matchup for Castillo.

Kenta Maeda, Minnesota Twins ($8,300)

Only Yu Darvish threw less fastballs than Maeda in 2020 on a rate basis, and the low fastball usage allows Maeda to thrive with subpar fastball velocity. The Brewers are projected to have a bottom-third offense and strike out at an elevated clip, giving Maeda a good matchup for run prevention and strikeouts.

Brandon Woodruff, Milwaukee Brewers ($8,000)

A matchup against the Twins’ offense with Kenta Maeda on the other side is rough, but Woodruff has strong strikeout potential at an affordable price. Woodruff struck out 31% of batters faced in 2020 and was one of only 12 qualified SP to post a strikeout rate above 30% last season.

Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies ($10,100)

Nola is the second most expensive pitcher in an unappealing matchup vs. the Braves. Nola’s bat-missing from last season is enticing—a 33% strikeout rate is elite—but there are probably more efficient ways to spend money on this slate given his matchup, such as paying for Glasnow and Darvish.

Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals ($8,600)

Flaherty had a disappointing 2020 season by run prevention, but he still maintained a high strikeout rate at 29%. Flaherty gets a park downgrade on the road at hitter-friendly Cincinnati, but the Reds are projected to be a below average offense and strike out more often than average.

Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs ($7,700)

Hendricks has one of the best matchups on this slate. The Pirates are projected to be one of MLB’s least productive offenses, and Pittsburgh is starting Chad Kuhl at pitcher, who had very alarming peripheral statistics last season. Hendricks is positioned well to prevent runs and get run support.

Brad Keller, Kansas City Royals ($5,900)

Keller’s lack of bat missing is a problem for fantasy—he struck out just 16% of batters faced last season—but the Rangers are projected to be a very poor offense. A home matchup in Kansas City is also a plus pitching environment. Keller has run prevention upside in this matchup at a dirt cheap salary.

Max Fried, Atlanta Braves ($7,500)

Fried’s home run rate was very low last season, and he generates weak contact by exit velocity + batted ball angle, which supports a skillful prevention of home runs. Fried was very tough to hit for power in 2020, holding batters to a paltry .121 isolated power, much better than the league average of .173. Fried’s fantasy scoring is limited by mediocre bat-missing, and Thursday’s matchup is not highly appealing against an above average Phillies offense in a strong park for hitting at Philadelphia.

Chad Kuhl, Pittsburgh Pirates ($5,200)

Kuhl’s ERA was a tick better than average in 2020 but his peripheral statistics were foul, posting a rancid 6.70 FIP while allowing batters to produce an expected wOBA of .384 based on the exit velocities and angles of their batted balls. Kuhl’s peripherals point towards hard regression unless something changes in his skill set.

Madison Bumgarner, Arizona Diamondbacks ($7,100)

Bumgarner experienced a steep decline in fastball velocity in 2020, seeing his average fastball velocity erode by about three mph. The velocity drop, combined with a switch from pitcher-friendly San Francisco to hitter-friendly Arizona, contributed to Bumgarner getting smashed. Bumgarner’s FIP rose to a vile 7.84, and he allowed batters to produce an expected wOBA of .409 based on the exit velocities and angles of their batted balls, one of the worst marks among regular starting pitchers. These type of numbers over a prolonged period generally result in phantom DL stints or DFAs.

It doesn’t look like things will get much better to start 2021. Bumgarner’s four-seam fastball velocity has only been tracked at about 89 mph this spring, which is still down by about two mph from 2019. Bumgarner’s cutter velocity has also only been tracked in the 84-mph range, which is down from 87 mph in 2019.

Bumgarner does draw an elite park for pitching at Petco Park, but he’s facing a quality Padres offense. Bumgarner’s erosion in skills makes him highly unappealing at $7,100 despite the name value.

Nathan Eovaldi, Boston Red Sox ($6,300)

Editor’s note: Today’s game between the Red Sox and Orioles has been postponed due to rain.

Eovaldi had plus rate stats in 2020, including a 26% strikeout rate and 3.5% walk rate, but a lack of inning volume can cap his fantasy upside. Thursday’s matchup is in hitter-friendly Fenway Park, which is a tough environment to pitch in, but the Orioles are projected to be a below average offense.

Sandy Alcantara, Miami Marlins ($6,500)

Alcantara’s peripheral statistics do not support a 3.00 ERA from 2020 being sustainable over the long run, but those statistics still indicate that he’s better than average. Alcantara’s matchup is taking place at home in pitcher-friendly Marlins Park and the Rays are projected to be a mediocre offense. Tampa Bay will also lose the DH on the road at Miami.

German Marquez, Colorado Rockies ($6,800)

Marquez is a good pitcher but this is a brutal matchup in Coors Field against the top offense in the National League. Marquez is a tournament consideration only due to high risk and likely low ownership.

John Means, Baltimore Orioles ($6,000)

Editor’s note: Today’s game between the Red Sox and Orioles has been postponed due to rain.

Means’ 24% strikeout rate from 2020 was better than average, but he has an ugly road matchup at hitter-friendly Fenway Park against a Red Sox offense that is projected to rank in the top 10.


Hitters

Studs ($5,000+)

Player Name Position Opp Salary
Player Name Position Opp Salary
Mookie Betts OF COL $5,900
Cody Bellinger OF COL $5,800
Corey Seager SS COL $5,600
Fernando Tatis Jr. SS ARI $5,700
Trevor Story SS LAD $5,500
Max Muncy 1B COL $5,200
Manny Machado 3B ARI $5,700
Ronald Acuna Jr. OF PHI $6,000
Christian Yelich OF MIN $5,600
Randy Arozarena OF MIA $5,300
Freddie Freeman 1B PHI $5,400
Javier Baez SS PIT $5,100
Kris Bryant 3B PIT $5,000
Willson Contreras C PIT $5,000

Midrange ($4,000-$4,900)

Player Name Position Opp Salary
Player Name Position Opp Salary
Will Smith C COL $4,600
Justin Turner 3B COL $4,700
AJ Pollock OF COL $4,600
Wil Myers OF ARI $4,700
Anthony Rizzo 1B PIT $4,800
Ian Happ OF PIT $4,400
Nelson Cruz OF MIL $4,200
Brandon Lowe 2B MIA $4,600
Josh Donaldson 3B MIL $4,500
Hunter Dozier 1B/3B TEX $4,100

Salary Relief ($3,900 and under)

Player Name Position Opp Salary
Player Name Position Opp Salary
Jorge Soler OF TEX $2,800
Gavin Lux 2B COL $3,800
Joey Gallo OF KC $3,600
Austin Meadows OF MIA $3,600
Carlos Santana 1B TEX $3,600
Tommy Pham OF ARI $3,100
C.J. Cron 1B LAD $3,800
Joc Pederson OF PIT $3,400
Max Kepler OF MIL $3,800
Miguel Sano 1B MIL $3,700
Andrew McCutchen OF ATL $3,900
Raimel Tapia OF LAD $3,400
Josh Fuentes 3B LAD $3,400
David Dahl OF KC $2,500
Yoshi Tsutsugo 1B/OF MIA $3,300

Hitter Notes

Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves ($6,000)

Acuna is the most expensive hitter on this slate and is in a tough matchup vs. top pitcher Aaron Nola, but this particular matchup may not be as unfavorable as it appears at first glance. Nola’s low arm slot creates less vertical rise than average on his fastball due to a more tilted spin axis, and this movement plays into Acuna’s swing path. Acuna has had success in a small sample against Nola, posting a contact quality derived expected wOBA of .393 with a .318 isolated power in 28 plate appearances. Acuna’s price and opponent could drive his ownership rate down in tournaments.

Los Angeles Dodgers stack

Dodgers hitters are getting a massive park upgrade on the road at Coors Field, the greatest hitting environment on earth. Any Dodger bat that is in the lineup on Thursday is worth considering, with Mookie Betts ($5,900), Cody Bellinger ($5,800) and Corey Seager ($5,600) the obvious stud options and Will Smith ($4,600) an affordable midrange play. Gavin Lux ($3,800) is a potential option under $4K.

San Diego Padres right-handed stack

The Padres are facing the aforementioned Madison Bumgarner, whose skills have badly eroded. Bumgarner got destroyed by RHB in 2020 and gave up tons of extra base hits to righties, including a .333 isolated power with a contact quality derived expected wOBA near .450, which is terrifying. Bumgarner’s velocity this spring has been slightly better than 2020, but it’s still noticeably down from 2019.

Fernando Tatis Jr. ($5,700) is in prime position to launch a gigantic dinger with a massive bat flip, much to the enjoyment of baseball fans under the age of 60. Manny Machado ($5,700), Wil Myers ($4,700) and Tommy Pham ($3,100) are also considerations from the right side, with Pham a potential big source of savings.

Jorge Soler, Kansas City Royals ($2,800)

Soler is only one year removed from a big 2019 season and is priced at under $3K for a soft matchup against Kyle Gibson. Soler’s 2020 season wasn’t even that bad, either. While his strikeout rate and batting average were poor, his park and league adjusted wRC+ was better than average.

Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies ($5,500)

Clayton Kershaw is not a soft matchup, but Story has generally creamed lefties at Coors Field, posting a career triple slash of .321/.402/.733 (1.135 OPS) at home vs. LHP. Story has an incredible .413 career isolated power vs. LHP at Coors Field.

Chicago Cubs stack

As mentioned above, some of Chad Kuhl’s major peripheral statistics from 2020 were very alarming and point towards a sharp decline in run prevention. The higher-priced Cubs players like Willson Contreras ($5,000), Kris Bryant ($5,000) and Javier Baez ($5,100) are worth considering, but Joc Pederson ($3,400) could be the best play of the stack on a per dollar basis. Pederson traditionally hits right-handed pitchers for power and is an affordable value option. Contreras is also appealing given how poor the fantasy production is at the catcher position.

Austin Meadows, Tampa Bay Rays ($3,600)

Meadows had a highly potent 2019 season but saw his production fall off in 2020 largely due to getting sick with COVID-19. Meadows never fully recovered in 2020, and an oblique injury further compromised his season. A healthy Meadows is a candidate for value in the early part of the season, especially facing a right-handed pitcher on Thursday.

Kiké Hernández, Boston Red Sox ($3,000)

Editor’s note: Today’s game between the Red Sox and Orioles has been postponed due to rain.

Hernandez is expected to bat leadoff, giving him a prime lineup slot in a hitter-friendly park at a very cheap price. Hernandez is also facing a left-handed pitcher, and Hernandez has hit LHP well in his career.

Corey Dickerson, Miami Marlins ($2,700)

A matchup against Tyler Glasnow is not appealing, but Dickerson is a potential punt play batting leadoff considering he’s priced under $3K in a premium lineup slot and has the ability to put one in the seats if Glasnow makes a mistake.

Set your DraftKings fantasy baseball lineups here: MLB $500K Season Opener [$100K to 1st]


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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is timfinn521) 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.


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