The interminable wait is over – Opening Day is here. We’ll be treated to a wee two-game slate featuring some of the best teams and also the Giants.
This is Plan of Attack. We’re here to provide advice and recommendations to help you build successful daily fantasy lineups. We’ll be loosely guided by the tenants of our DFS Manifesto – namely a single lineup build designed to improve your enjoyment of the game while giving you a chance to beat the rake.
Don’t be surprised if the column evolves. This is a living creature, and it’s sure to adapt in Darwinian fashion. If there are features you especially like or believe need tweaking to be actionable, please reach out to us. Since this is written early in the day, certain important details will be left for you to find on your own. In particular, weather, lineups, and umpires are all things you should verify within three hours of contest-lock.
1. The RotoFanatical Challenge
We will be hosting a daily 20-entry, $3 contest on DraftKings. It’s an excellent low-cost testing ground against fellow RotoFanatic fans. A level playing field is always nice. Today’s two-game slate begins at 7:08pm ET. Reserve your spot for the contest.
For today’s small slate, there is an obvious “correct” answer. You might consider some strategic contrarianism to tease out a unique lineup – especially in GPPs. One easy trick is to leave money on the table.
2. Weather and Park Factors
The Yankees-Nationals game has some risk for a delay or interruption. Mid-afternoon storms could linger. Nationals Stadium is one of the best venues for singles, especially for hitters who use the middle of the field. Otherwise, it’s known as a decidedly neutral location.
Dodger Stadium will have pleasant-to-cool temperatures and clear skies. The park suppresses most types of hits but increases home run rates in the neighborhood of 10 percent. Centerfield and the power alleys are extremely homer-friendly. Dead pull hitters will have their home run rates dampened.
3. Building Block Bats
In this section, we’ll look at top hitters with strong projections before moving on to the deeper analysis of deeper picks.
Elite values: In a slate with three aces and Johnny Cueto, it should come as no surprise that Dodgers mashers offer the best value. All of the top stacks are combinations of Dodgers. Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, A.J. Pollock, Max Muncy, and Chris Taylor are all among the Top 10 investment opportunities on DraftKings. FanDuel typically offers a more random scattering of value, and today is no different. On a points per dollar basis, no expensive hitter is a bargain.
Cody Bellinger (DK $5100, FD $4500)
Mookie Betts (DK $4900, FD $4200)
Bellinger’s ownership rate will make for an interesting case study. Coming off his excellent 2019 campaign, he decided to tinker with his swing. This news is sure to put off some DFS managers, but probably not enough to matter in GPPs. By projection, he’s the most likely hitter to homer. However, the accuracy of that projection is in question, depending on his new mechanics. Chances are, the new will look an awful lot like the old. Betts is also very likely to homer – around a one-in-four chance. He’s also among the five most likely to single, double, or produce a run.
Both Cueto and the Giants bullpen feature low strikeout and high walk rates. Betts bats leadoff while Bellinger has the much-coveted cleanup role. Only a contrarian Dodgers stack would exclude them.
Aaron Judge (DK $4400, FD $4100)
Nationals starter Max Scherzer is not immune to home runs. Judge has around a one-in-four chance to deliver a blast. In this era of fly balls, Judge goes against the grain with a hard, low-angle power profile. Scherzer likes to elevate in the zone when chasing whiffs. This interaction of traits favors Judge’s power. Of course, strikeouts are very much a risk.
Unlikely heroes: There really isn’t much to work with tonight.
Chris Taylor (DK $3800, FD $2400)
This pick isn’t exactly under-the-radar. In fact, his affordable price relative to his solid projection makes him one of the chalkiest picks. As of a few days ago, this was supposed to be Gavin Lux. Taylor is awkwardly categorized as a third baseman on DraftKings and a shortstop on FanDuel. He’ll mostly play second base for the Dodgers. Taylor is a line drive, spray hitter with a little too much swing-and-miss in his game. Cueto’s low whiff rate helps to alleviate that weakness.
Under normal conditions, we would not discuss these players. At least not with this matchup. Cheap price tags leave them as some of the best values available despite uninspiring projections. The best that can be said for them is that they avoid strikeouts and have valuable lineup roles. Cole likes to work up in the zone while both Eaton and Castro are ground ball hitters. This improves the odds for line-drive contact. They’re expected to bat second and third.
This section will usually be organized as “safe” picks and value targets. That doesn’t work for this slate so let’s just talk about all four hurlers.
Gerrit Cole (DK $10000, FD $11400) at Max Scherzer (DK $8600, FD $10700)
It will be tempting to use both of these pitchers on DraftKings. They’ll also be among the most popular on FanDuel. If the weather report worsens, then the script might flip. The Yankees offense features some impressively high strikeout rates. The Nationals are stingier when it comes to whiffs. For this reason, Scherzer looks to be the best projected pitcher of the day even though most would agree Cole is the superior talent. The Nationals have a flimsy bullpen whereas the Yankees look to their relief corps as a strength. In short, Washington has more incentive to stretch out Scherzer through at least six innings.
Johnny Cueto (DK $5000, FD $6600) at Clayton Kershaw (DK $7700, FD $10300)
Kershaw’s DraftKings price seemingly assimilates an important piece of information – the Dodgers are being careful with early season pitcher workloads. Kershaw has ramped up to six innings in Summer Camp so early reports of a three-inning outing are probably out the window. Still, there is a risk he fails to finish five frames, especially if he runs into trouble. The Giants lineup has a lefty skew and is stuffed with below average hitters.
Cueto’s matchup against a fly ball happy Dodgers offense seems doomed from the start. He’s allowed over 1.35 HR/9 since the start of 2017 – a span of only 226.1 innings. When he’s on, Cueto can consistently limit hard contact. He’ll use a funky delivery to keep hitters off balance. In a normal slate, his ownership rate would be witheringly low. Tonight, he’ll appear in quite a few lineups – especially in big GPPs where contrarianism is incentivized. He projects to deliver well below half the points of the other three hurlers.
When you stretch for elite pitchers and shiny stacks like the Dodgers, you’ll need some cheap filler. Preferably valuable filler. Unfortunately, this isn’t the best day to find it.
It’s purely a guess, but Slater could draw a start in left field while batting near the top of the lineup. He’s a roughly league average hitter who has performed well against southpaws in a small career sample (107 wRC+, 216 PA). Notably, Slater’s plate discipline and contract profile are much better when he has the platoon advantage – both signs of somebody with “real” splits. He pounds the ball into the ground. Kershaw is also a ground ball pitcher. So expect more grounders.
Flores is a more widely recognized lefty masher, and his price tag on DraftKings reflects it. Unlike Slater, Flores lifts fly balls against southpaw pitchers. That makes his matchup against Kershaw all the more favorable. As a bonus, he’ll probably bat cleanup. His second base eligibility is important in a slate with limited second base options.
Heineman, a switch-hitter, will presumably start against left-handed pitchers. He’ll bat down in the order. While he has only 12 Major League plate appearances, the catcher performed impressively at Triple-A last season. He demonstrated a bit of power, speed, patience, and a high rate of contact. He appears to be an extreme pull hitter which, if true, isn’t ideal for power outcomes in Los Angeles.