MLB DFS: DraftKings & FanDuel Opening Day Strategy Overview – Thursday 3/28/24

Opening Day is finally here! The baseball season gets underway in style on Thursday afternoon with premium prize pools around the MLB DFS industry and a run of competitive games all starting within an hour of one another across both sites. DraftKings is opting for a 4:10 ET start time and the slate will include the eight games in that window. FanDuel was aiming to include a high-profile contest between the Braves and Phillies at 3:05 ET but that game has been rained out, leaving just one differentiated game with the Angels and Orioles battling on the now nine-game FanDuel main slate. The slate includes several highly compelling spots for offensive production and a strong group of pitchers with most teams utilizing one of their top two starters for Opening Day. Even with talented arms on the slate, targetable pitchers are still available, and several stacks look very strong on this slate. The pitching pool is somewhat pricey but there is one very low-priced starter with interesting upside and there are several strong options in the mid-range to go along with the more clear-cut aces of the day.

Don’t miss our Hitter Projections, including custom Home Run ratings for each player, and Pitcher Projections for more on the top opportunities today.

(Shows will begin for the full Opening Day slates on 3/28)

Note: All analysis is written utilizing available projected lineups as of the early morning, pay close attention to confirmed lineups and adjust accordingly. This article is posted and updated as it is written, so if a game has not been filled in, check back in a few minutes. Update notes are provided as lineups are confirmed to the best of our ability. Still, lineup changes are not typically updated as lock approaches, so stay tuned to official news for any late changes.

MLB DFS: General Strategy Notes

  • Always Be Stacking – It’s not as good an acronym as the one in Glenngarry Glenn Ross but it is just as critical. MLB DFS is all about positive correlation and capturing the most point-scoring possible from every event in a highly event-based and volatile sport. As opposed to the minor stacking that we find in NFL DFS or the lack of stacking at all in NBA DFS, making the most of every home run is the only approach to building lineups for baseball. The goal is to capture not only the raw points of a home run hitter but also the upside of the baserunners who provided scoring in how they reached base and will provide additional scoring on the home run via RBIs for the hitter and runs scored for the baserunners. With that in mind, it makes far more sense to roster groups of hitters together, with a slight preference for directly adjoining hitters in a lineup where possible, to capture the full upside of a team scoring a high number of runs. Every lineup should feature at least one stack. Our typical approach is for double stacking, whether that means a 4-4 or 4-3-1 construction on FanDuel with 5-3 and 5-2-1 builds available on DraftKings. Individual upside can be captured in a 5-1-1-1 build on any given DraftKings slate but the approach adds more variance to a lineup.
  • Do NOT focus on individual batter vs pitcher matchup results “BVP” this is bad data that is tremendously lacking for sample size even for late-career players who have faced one another numerous times. Baseball statistics take a long time to normalize.
  • Batting average is not a key metric, nor is ERA, we prefer to focus on predictive stats and batted ball events.
  • Pitching can be treated as a source of value to reach high-cost stacks on many slates, low-cost pitchers often provide strong paths to success simply by providing access to otherwise unavailable hitting combinations. Premium pitching talent should always be considered regardless of price and, almost, regardless of matchup.
  • MLB DFS lineups do not demand a full salary spend, particularly when utilizing two full stacks in a lineup.
  • Remember, baseball is incredibly variable, if a hitter does his job right just 30% of the time he is a potential Hall of Fame candidate.

MLB DFS: Game by Game Main Slate Overview – 3/28/24

Los Angeles Angels (+167/3.22) @ Baltimore Orioles (-183/4.37)

Provided that the weather cooperates, the FanDuel slate should get underway with the 3:05 ET start of the Angels @ Orioles game in Baltimore before the remaining games commence at 4:10 ET to kick off the DraftKings slate. The Angels are fairly significant underdogs on the board in Vegas but our models do not think so poorly of them in their matchup against elite Corbin Burnes. Los Angeles lands with the sixth-highest average FanDuel points projection on the slate but they sit 15th out of 18 teams for home run potential. Burnes worked to a 3.39 ERA and 3.81 xFIP over 193.2 innings and 32 starts last season. While he was good in 2023, Burnes was less dominant than in previous seasons. The righty’s strikeout rate dipped from 30.5% in 2022 and 35.6% in 2021 to just 25.5% last year and his walk rate spiked from 6.4% to 8.2% year over year. Burnes still generated a strong 12.2% swinging-strike rate with a 29.2% CSW% and he allowed just a 2.81% home run rate with 32.2% hard hits. The $10,200 price tag may be the most daunting thing about selecting Burnes in his Orioles debut, his closest competition at the price tier is outpacing him for projected fantasy points and there are several stronger points-per-dollar value options.

The Angels bring an interesting lineup to this matchup. Los Angeles has a roster filled with veterans including the frequently injured Anthony Rendon who is on the record as not even liking to play baseball. Rendon made just 183 plate appearances last year, 193 in 2022, and 249 in 2021 so get him while he’s available if you are a fan. The third baseman is projected to lead off ahead of discarded veteran outfielder Aaron Hicks who saw a minor resurgence in the second half after landing with Baltimore last season. Rendon slashed .236/.361/.318 with a .081 ISO and two home runs in his small sample last year while Hicks went .253/.353/.383 with eight home runs and six stolen bases in 312 opportunities. Hicks is the better of the two players, he has never truly lost his strong eye and ability to reach first base and he can hit for power when healthy. The outfielder also occupies a premium spot in MLB DFS hitting ahead of Mike Trout. Trout slots in for $3,700 on the FanDuel slate. The superstar outfielder made just 362 plate appearances last season but hit 18 home runs and posted a .227 ISO and 134 WRC+. Trout makes amazing contact at the plate, his 16% barrel rate and 51.5% hard-hit rate are both elite marks. Trout is playable whenever he is on the field, Hicks is cheap at $2,300, and Rendon provides inexpensive potential for correlated scoring at just $2,700 at third base. Taylor Ward follows Trout in the projected lineup, he had 14 home runs but just a .169 ISO in 409 plate appearances. Ward hit 23 home runs with a .192 ISO in 2022 so there should be additional upside in the player at $3,000, but booking a third outfielder from this squad may be overkill. Brandon Drury fills first or second base with quality for just $2,700. The right-handed slugger hit 26 home runs with a .235 ISO last season and had 28 homers and a .230 ISO the year before. Drury has made himself into a truly fearsome power hitter over the past few seasons after adjusting his swing going into 2022, his 10.7% barrel rate over the past two seasons is a strong indicator of consistent power potential. Lefty Nolan Schanuel helps shake things up in a heavily right-handed lineup. Schanuel enters his first full season after making 132 plate appearances last year and slashing .275/.402/.330 with a 112 WRC+ in the small sample. Miguel Sano is in the projected lineup but he is not currently available on the DFS slate. Logan O’Hoppe could be an underrated source of catcher power going into the season. O’Hoppe missed a large chunk of last season, a theme with the Angels, but he hit 14 home runs in his 199 opportunities and posted a strong .264 ISO with a 15.6% barrel rate and 46.7% hard-hit rate in that opportunity. Zach Neto rocketed through the minor leagues last year and made 329 plate appearances with the big club. Neto hit nine home runs and stole five bases but was otherwise fairly unimpressive at .225/.308/.377 with an 89 WRC+. The Angels are a playable stack on FanDuel but they are in no way a priority against a pitcher like Burnes.

The Orioles will face lefty Patrick Sandoval who made 28 starts last season. Sandoval had a low 19.6% strikeout rate and posted an ugly 11.3% walk rate over 144.2 innings in 2023. The southpaw worked to a 4.11 ERA and 4.61 xFIP with an unsightly 1.51 WHIP but he gains some ground on the upswing of a 12% swinging-strike rate and a 1.84% home run rate. Sandoval was better in 2022, he had a 23.7% strikeout rate, a 9.4% walk rate, and a 3.67 xFIP but he has never been elite and projects third from the bottom of a deep pitching pool for $7,300.

Baltimore’s young up-and-coming lineup features names growing in familiarity and popularity with breakout performances in the books and several more prospects on the way. Baltimore has a glut of talent, the team was forced to send several of their prospects back to the minors as camp broke, though most of the key players will likely be with the team soon enough. Leadoff man Austin Hays is a grizzled veteran compared to some teammates. Hays made 566 plate appearances last year with a respectable .275/.325/.444 triple-slash, 16 home runs, and five stolen bases. The outfielder also hit 16 home runs in 2022 but was at 22 for the 2021 season. Hays is one of the cheaper Orioles at just $2,800 and provides direct correlation potential with the team’s key hitters. Adley Rutschman is a catcher who plays every day and excels at his craft. The backstop made 687 plate appearances last season, high for any position but virtually unheard of for a catcher. Rutschman hits from both sides of the plate, he slashed .277/.374/.435 last year with 20 home runs while creating runs 27% better than average. For $3,700 this is one of the top catcher options on the slate, but his team ranks just 11th by fantasy points and 15th by value as a stack. Outfielder Anthony Santander is another switch-hitter with power. Santander hit 28 home runs last season and 33 the year before with ISOs of .215 and .214. The veteran makes strong contact and he will also provide first base eligibility on this slate, making him somewhat interesting for $3,500 when stacking Orioles. Santander leads the team with a 6.24 in our home run model. Ryan Mountcastle had a somewhat disappointing season in 2023. Mountcastle missed time and made just 470 plate appearances, finishing the year at 18 home runs with a .182 ISO and 114 WRC+. Over 609 plate appearances the year before, the righty masher had 22 home runs and he blasted 33 long balls in 586 opportunities the year before. Mountcastle makes elite contact, he had a 12.1% barrel rate with a 44.6% hard-hit mark last season and a 15% barrel rate with 45.8% hard hits the year before. The potential for blooming power still exists in the right-hander, Mountcastle is a value option at first base for $3,200. Gunnar Henderson broke out with 28 home runs, 10 stolen bases, and 100 runs scored across 622 plate appearances last year. The left-handed hitting shortstop slashed .255/.325/.489 with a terrific .234 ISO while mashing to an 11.4% barrel rate and 51.7% hard-hit mark. Henderson is a pricey fit with his teammates at $3,500 and struggled against fellow lefties last season, this may not be the prime spot to deploy him. Jordan Westburg will be hated until Jackson Holliday arrives to take his job at second base, the entire city of Baltimore, and most of the MLB community, was expecting Holliday to break camp with the big club. Westburg costs $2,600 at shortstop on the FanDuel slate, he hit three home runs and stole four bases in 228 plate appearances and had a sneaky 44.5% hard-hit rate but he did not hit for much overall power. Ramon Urias made 396 plate appearances and came away with four home runs while creating runs one percent below average. Jorge Mateo is somehow in the projected Opening Day lineup after an elite start quickly went sour last season. Mateo finished with 32 stolen bases over 350 plate appearances but he is all speed and defense with very little skill at the plate. Mateo is very cheap at $2,100, he makes for an interesting wraparound play in Orioles stacks if nothing else but he does not carry a strong projection. Cedric Mullins drops to ninth in the projected order, at $3,000 he is another interesting option for upside. Mullins is a former 30-30 contributor, but he has dipped to 16 home runs and 34 stolen bases in 2022 and just 15 home runs with 19 stolen bases in 455 chances last year. Mullins has rangy upside for $3,000 as a wraparound play.

Play: Expensive Corbin Burnes is fine. Only minor shares of either stack.

Update Notes:

Pittsburgh Pirates (+114/3.37) @ Miami Marlins (-123/3.70)

DraftKings gamers join the fun at 4:10 ET with the start of every other game. The Pirates and Marlins will battle in Miami with a fairly tight line and low implied totals on both sides. Miami will be starting left-handed ace Jesus Luzardo who worked 178.2 innings over 32 starts last year. Luzardo had a strong season with a 3.63 ERA and 3.72 xFIP, a 28.1% strikeout rate, and an elite 14.1% swinging-strike rate. The southpaw gave up a 2.97% home run rate despite a 9.3% barrel rate allowed with 89.3 mph of exit velocity on average. Luzardo projects among the leading options on the mound today, at $9,100 on FanDuel he lands at a similar projection for less cost than the top few starters by raw projections and he is much too cheap on DraftKings at $7,600. With comparable starters only a few points higher than him on the projections board for $1,100 to $1,900 more in salary, Luzardo seems like a playable option as a spendy SP2 or a cheap SP1 on the two-starter site.

The Pirates lineup ranks in the middle of the board for points and value on both sites and lands 10th overall for home run potential. Pittsburgh’s lineup is projected to include veteran Andrew McCutchen who made 473 quality plate appearances last year, posting a .256/.378/.397 triple-slash and a 115 WRC+. McCutchen is a good table-setter with infrequent speed and power, he hit a dozen home runs and stole 11 bases last season. Bryan Reynolds leads the Pirates with an 8.10 in our home run model tomorrow. Reynolds fills the outfield for $3,500 on FanDuel but a whopping $5,200 is required for him on the DraftKings slate. That price puts a Pirates stack somewhat off-balance on this slate, though it is possible to maintain quality and skip Reynolds’ cost. The outfielder hit 24 home runs and stole 12 bases over 640 plate appearances last year, putting up a solid 11.1% barrel rate with a 47.1% hard-hit mark. Reynolds had a 110 WRC+ for the season, one of a surprising seven hitters in the lineup with above-average run creation marks for the games they played last year. Ke’Bryan Hayes is a hitter we discussed throughout last season and he is a popular breakout pick at third base coming into 2024. Hayes hits the ball very hard but he makes inefficient power contact, his 48.4% hard-hit rate is undercut for home run potential by a 7.4% barrel rate last year and a 3.9% mark the year before greatly drew down his 46.8% hard-hit mark. Hayes still managed 15 home runs last year but he hit only seven the season before. The third baseman offers speed as a bonus, he swiped 10 bases last year and had 20 steals the season before. If he puts things together this year, Hayes is a 20-20 threat. Connor Joe is very cheap at $2,300 on FanDuel and $3,000 on DraftKings and he offers first base and outfield eligibility. Joe is a middling right-handed hitter, he had 11 home runs with a .174 ISO last year but he is good at drawing walks and reaches first base at a decent clip which supports minor upside for correlated scoring down the lineup. Edward Olivares hit 12 home runs and stole 11 bases in 385 chances last season and could see regular playing time in Pittsburgh, he is fairly priced but a low-priority play on this slate. Henry Davis is an outfielder on DraftKings but he retains his catcher eligibility on the FanDuel slate which helps his fit in stacks of Pirates at $2,800. Davis was a mid-season call-up as a high-level prospect last year, he made 255 plate appearances and hit seven home runs while adding three stolen bases. Overall, Davis was below average with just a 76 WRC+ in the small sample but there is room to grow and he has a multi-category fantasy upside. Michael A. Taylor is always good for a sneaky shot at a homer but he is absent from the FanDuel slate. Taylor costs $2,500 on DraftKings, he had 21 sneaky home runs and 13 stolen bases from late in the lineup over 388 plate appearances last year. Jared Triolo is more of an afterthought in the infield, though he did slash a productive .298/.388/.398 in his 209 chances last year. Oneil Cruz is projected to rejoin the Pirates at the bottom of the batting order but he will probably not linger there for long. Cruz has elite potential but he comes with swing-and-miss flaws and needs time at this level. Cruz hit 17 home runs and stole 11 bases in his 361 plate appearances in 2022 but that came with an untenable 34.9% strikeout rate and just a .294 on-base percentage and then he missed most of last season with an injury, managing just 40 plate appearances for the season. At $3,400/$5,500 there is no discount for Cruz’ absence, need for seasoning, or place in the projected batting order.

Righty Mitch Keller finally had the breakout that everyone was calling for last season. Keller finished at a 25.5% strikeout rate with a 4.21 ERA but a stronger 3.70 xFIP while making 32 starts and throwing 194.1 innings, all of which were career marks. Keller allowed a 3.03% home run rate, he was hittable on the wrong days but his 6.7% walk rate was also a big improvement over years past in which poor command would ultimately cost him both runs and innings. A 9.7% swinging-strike rate and just a 28.3% CSW% leave something to be desired but Keller can reasonably be expected for around a one-in-four strikeout rate once again. At $9,300/$8,300, the righty is more affordable and a better option on the DraftKings slate where he projects a few points below the elite options on the slate. On FanDuel, Keller is overpriced for his position on the pitching board.

The Marlins lost a major source of power with the departure of Jorge Soler, who is now on the Giants. The team will still open with all-world leadoff man Luis Arraez who flirted with .400 for the first half of last season before settling for .354/.393/.469 and a second batting title. Arraez hit 10 home runs and stole just three bases, his skill is putting the ball in play and reaching first base but he does not fill counting stats without help. Arraez had a 132 WRC+ but he is a risky option for $4,500 at first or second base on DraftKings. On FanDuel, for $3,000 at second base, Arraez is slightly more playable but his team ranks just 14th for collective fantasy points. Josh Bell hit 22 home runs while posting a 105 WRC+ last season but his power is more mid-range and we are approaching the point of no return on a breakout at age 31. Bell had just a .172 ISO last year and a .156 mark the season before but he makes good contact. The switch-hitter had a 10.1% barrel rate and 42.1% hard-hit rate last year and he walked at a 10.2% clip. Bell’s strikeout rate jumped from 15.8% in 2022 to 21.7% with an uptick of only five home runs year-over-year to show for it. Jake Burger mashed his way to 34 home runs and a .268 ISO with a 120 WRC+ between the White Sox and Marlins last season and now has to repeat the task if the Marlins are going to be at all competitive. Burger’s power was supported by a strong 16.7% barrel rate with a 49.3% hard-hit rate last year and he had shown signs by posting similar rates the season before in a small sample. Jazz Chisholm Jr. made just 384 plate appearances in 2023, hitting 19 home runs and stealing 22 bases in the half-season. Chisholm has premium skills across everything that scores points in MLB DFS. Now a full-time outfielder for $3,300 on FanDuel and $5,100 on DraftKings, Chisholm is a critical piece of any stack of Marlins hitters and is a contender for individual shares in one-offs. Tim Anderson took most of the offseason before finding a new home in the MLB’s game of shortstop musical chairs. Anderson had a famously terrible season in 2023, slashing .245/.286/.296 with only one home run and 13 stolen bases in 524 plate appearances. That was a monumental dropoff for a player who slashed .301/.339/.395 with a 110 WRC+ and 13 steals in only 351 plate appearances the year before and went .309/.338/.469 with 17 homers and 18 steals in 2021. With most gamers off of Anderson, he is at least interesting at $3,900 on DraftKings and $2,500 on FanDuel and he helps to average down the cost of rostering an Arraez-Burger-Chisholm group, for example. Jesus Sanchez is a post-hype prospect who needs more plate appearances. Sanchez is a lefty hitter with power, he clubbed 14 long balls in just 402 plate appearances while posting a .197 ISO and a 12.2% barrel rate last year and he costs just $2,600/$3,100. Bryan De La Cruz is affordable for a hitter who quietly hit 19 home runs in 2023. De La Cruz made 627 plate appearances but finished eight percent below average for run creation last year. Veteran Avisail Garcia only made 118 plate appearances last year, he is now two seasons removed from the 29 home run campaign he posted in 2021. Catcher Christian Bethancourt has infrequent average power at the plate as a cheap catcher but the bottom of the Marlins lineup is not commonly a place to source one-offs.

Play: Jesus Luzardo value on DraftKings. Mid-level exposure to Pirates stacks for moderate value. 

Update Notes:

Washington Nationals (+136/4.12) @ Cincinnati Reds (-148/4.99)

A game-of-the-day candidate will take place in Cincinnati with the Nationals cast as +136 underdogs with a 4.12-run implied team total against a potentially lethal Reds squad that is favored at -148 with a 4.99-run implied total and some of the highest marks in our home run model. The Reds will be popular on both sites on this slate, they are affordable on FanDuel and, while they are at higher relative price on DraftKings they are not out of reach. The Nationals, meanwhile, are not a very high priority but they could surprise against righty Frankie Montas who missed virtually all of last season. Montas threw 144.1 innings over 27 starts in 2022, pitching to a 3.61 xFIP under a 4.05 ERA and striking out 23.4% of opposing hitters. The righty had a 12.6% swinging-strike rate but just a 25.6% CSW% overall with mixed results for premium contact. Montas was somewhat better over 187 innings in 2021 but between the gap and a season-long injury, as well as the extremely hitter-friendly conditions, Montas is more of a target than an option on the mound at $7,500 on FanDuel. It is difficult to envision success for Montas on the DraftKings slate but he is one of the cheaper options at just $6,300 which will put him in play for SP2 shares against a weak Nationals squad.

Washington opens with shortstop CJ Abrams who is a bit cheaper than some of the other young upside shortstops on this slate at $4,600/$3,200. Abrams had a strong season for fantasy contributions last year but he ended up 10% below average for run creation over 614 plate appearances. With any improvement in his bat-to-ball skills or his ability to draw a walk and reach first base, Abrams could explode this season. The shortstop hit 18 home runs and stole 47 bases last year keeping him viable for MLB DFS purposes. Lane Thomas was a popular play in spots last season and his moderate breakout led to 101 runs scored, 28 home runs, and 20 stolen bases while creating runs nine percent better than league average. Thomas costs $3,200 on FanDuel and $4,300 on DraftKings, he and Abrams are an interesting tandem at a discount and they connect well with power upside lefties like Jesse Winker or even Joey Gallo from later in the lineup. Winker had a disaster of a season last year, making just 197 plate appearances with one home run and a 65 WRC+. He was not much better over 547 chances the year before, hitting only 14 home runs after a stronger season led him to Seattle. With an opportunity for a fresh start and, seemingly, full health, Winker has a bit of potential on any given slate. The lefty is very good at drawing walks and can help with correlated scoring and better production with the bat should be expected even if it does not come in the form of home run upside. Joey Meneses hits between Winker and Gallo in the projected batting order. The righty had 13 home runs last year and the same total the season before, though he made three times as many plate appearances last year. Meneses slashed .275/.321/.401 for the season and created runs four percent below average but he has a bit of potential for a bounceback with good premium contact and a low strikeout rate. Gallo will not provide a low strikeout rate, that much is guaranteed. The hated slugger has a new home as the everyday first baseman for the Nationals this season, so get ready to hear about him until his reputation improves or he loses the job. Despite what some may choose to see, we see an elite hitter with one critical flaw in Gallo. He made just 332 plate appearances last season after poorly educated (in a baseball sense) fans booed him out of New York. In that half-season, Gallo still managed to mash 21 home runs while producing a .262 ISO with an 18.6% barrel rate and 52.9% hard-hit rate. He created runs four percent better than average over that sample despite his admittedly absurd 42.8% strikeout rate. Gallo’s core problem is not talent, he is too discerning of a hitter in many situations and he is the definition of a three-true-outcomes hitter with his elite 14.5% walk rate. In 1,358 plate appearances over the past three seasons, Gallo has hit 78 home runs, a 5.70% home run rate. For comparison, Matt Olson has 127 home runs over 2,092 plate appearances in the same three seasons, a 6.07% rate, and Adolis Garcia has 97 homers in 1,911 opportunities, a 5.07% rate. Gallo leads the Nationals with a 7.26 in our home run model, he is a strong value buy at $2,500 on FanDuel and he is playable at $3,500 on DraftKings. Catcher Keibert Ruiz has sneaky power potential, he hit 18 home runs and slashed .260/.308/.409 last season and costs just $2,400 on FanDuel but $3,700 on DraftKings where his value is out of order. Eddie Rosario joined this team during spring training after a moderately successful year with the Braves in which he hit 21 home runs but who didn’t? Rosario has had several strong seasons for power in his career, he is affordable on both sites but remains a low priority late in the lineup. Former high-end prospect Nick Senzel has missed every opportunity he has been given, primarily because of an ongoing series of injuries over the past few seasons. Senzel is projected to hit eighth with eligibility at third base and in the outfield. He had a .236/.297/.399 triple-slash and an 82 WRC+ over 330 opportunities last year and is not a strong option. Luis Garcia Jr. rounds out the projected lineup and is finally differentiated from other Luis Garcias around baseball in data. Garcia hit nine home runs over 482 plate appearances and was 16% below average for run creation last year, he is not a strong choice on this slate.

Righty Josiah Gray has been one of the more targetable pitchers for home run potential for opposing offenses over the past few seasons but he wrangled that problem somewhat last year. Gray had a 6.19% home run rate in 2021 and a 5.86% mark in 2022, easily one of the worst in the league both seasons. Last year the righty cut that mark to just 3.15% though he still allowed a 9.4% barrel rate while striking out just 20.5% and walking 11.5%. Gray pitched to a 3.91 ERA but his 5.12 xFIP is far more revealing about the true nature of the starter, who is further miscast by his role on opening day. The combination of available power in a lineup, a highly targetable pitcher, and this ballpark make for a premium but popular spot for Reds hitters. We would not roster Josiah Gray on this slate at $7,000/$6,000 outside of anything but a few extreme value darts in a full group of 150 lineups.

The Reds’ projected batting order gets rolling with Jonathan India for $2,800/$3,900 at second base. India hit 17 home runs and stole 14 bases last season in what was a bit of a down year compared to his last full season, 2021, when he hit 21 homers and stole 12 bags with a 122 WRC+ over 631 plate appearances. India is affordable and in an enviable lineup spot for run creation and fantasy point scoring. As a cheap click in a stack of Reds hitters, there is value in getting to the toolsy second baseman on this slate. Elly De La Cruz is a total wildcard this season. 30-30 is in play, so is a demotion to the minors. De La Cruz has all the makings of a star with plus talent in every facet of the game. He has world-class bat speed and his time around the bases is the best in baseball. De La Cruz came up to great fanfare part of the way through last season, ultimately making 427 plate appearances and coming away with mixed results. The shortstop hit 13 home runs and stole a strong 35 bases but he slashed just .235/.300/.410 with a .175 ISO while creating runs 16% below average and posting a concerning 33.7% strikeout rate. De La Cruz had many strong MLB DFS games last season but he is as volatile as they come and is not likely to change in a hurry, for $5,600 on DraftKings he is a major investment on this slate while his $3,400 is more reasonable on the blue site. De La Cruz is second on the team with an 11.44 in our home run model. Spencer Steer is another multi-positional option with first base and outfield eligibility. Steer is a right-handed hitter who costs $3,200/$4,700 on this slate, he hit 23 home runs and stole 15 bases last season, power and speed in combination is an ongoing theme for this team. Jake Fraley was our individual home run pick from the Reds for this slate with a 10.65 in the home run model. The lefty had excellent output in just 380 plate appearances in 2023, blasting 15 long balls and stealing 21 bases while creating runs seven percent better than average. Switch-hitting Jeimer Candelario joins the action coming off of a 22 home run campaign in which he posted a .220 ISO and an underrated 117 WRC+. Candelario remains affordable, his $4,200 price with first and third base eligibility is a bargain on DraftKings and he is entirely too cheap at $2,900 on FanDuel. Christian Encarnacion-Strand has the second-highest home run mark on the entire slate at 12.11, he was an easy choice for today’s overall home run pick. The right-handed slugger tattooed 13 homers in just 241 plate appearances while creating runs 12% better than average in the small sample last year and he mashed his way through Spring Training with all signs of a big breakout on the horizon. Encarnacion-Strand is not a surprise, he hit 20 home runs in 316 plate appearances at AAA before his callup last season and 32 across three minor league situations the year before. The first baseman has eligibility at third as well on DraftKings where he is priced at just $4,000, he is a $3,000 first base option on FanDuel and he is not nearly popular enough in a very popular Reds stack on both sites. Will Benson is another popular breakout candidate. Over 329 plate appearances last year, the outfielder hit 11 home runs and stole 19 bases, he should see everyday playing time this season with easy 20-20 upside. Tyler Stephenson and Nick Martini round out the projected batting order, Stephenson has moderate power at catcher for a fair price, he will not be too popular on this slate and Martini managed six home runs in just 79 plate appearances last year but he is a fill-in journeyman minor leaguer in his age-33 season, not a prospect.

Play: Bats. Mostly Reds bats and in a big way but mixing in some Nationals stacks is not a wild idea. Joey Gallo.

Update Notes: The confirmed Reds lineup runs India, Benson, Encarnacion-Strand, Candelario, Fraley, De La Cruz, Steer, Martini, Stephenson

Minnesota Twins (-115/3.89) @ Kansas City Royals (+106/3.69)

A premium pitching matchup is on tap in Kansas City with righty Pablo Lopez taking the hill for the visiting Twins and darling of the fantasy industry Cole Ragans pitching for the hometown squad. Ragans is surprisingly affordable on both sites at $8,800/$8,700, he is sure to be very popular on this slate. The lefty came seemingly out of nowhere last season to work to a 28.8% strikeout rate after joining the Royals in a trade from Texas. Ragans won several fantasy slates in that stretch but he was not perfect with his 10.5% walk rate. The lefty was good at most everything else however, he had a 14.1% swinging-strike rate and allowed just a 6.4% barrel rate with a 1.79% home run rate and 87.8 mph of exit velocity on average, all strong marks. Ragans pitched to a 3.47 ERA and 3.71 xFIP in the dozen starts. Against a Twins team that has improved but not eliminated its strikeout problem there is potential for Ragans to succeed on this slate at a good price, he is likely to be more expensive in his second start of the year next week. Minnesota’s projected batting order averaged a 23% strikeout rate last season but that is helped by both Carlos Santana who was at just 16.8% and Manuel Margot at 16.4%, every other hitter in the lineup struck out in 21.6% (Max Kepler) or more of their plate appearances. The additions of Santana and Margot should help keep the ball in play but the Twins are still a good target for strikeout upside. Santana hit 23 home runs while slashing .240/.318/.429 and creating runs one percent ahead of the curve last year, he is cheap on FanDuel but not particularly so on DraftKings today. Byron Buxton is another player to get while he is available, the unfortunate reality is that another trip to the injured list is probably not far away. Buxton hit 17 home runs and swiped nine bases while slashing a meager .207/.294/.438 in 347 chances last year. The talent is star-caliber on the right day and he is not priced that way at $3,400/$4,600. The outfielder has a 10.76 to lead the Twins in our home run model. Buxton is one of just nine players on the slate who are above the “magic number” of 10 for home run potential. Shortstop Carlos Correa managed just 18 home runs and a .230/.312/.399 triple-slash after his odd bounce around the league and back to the Twins in free agency before last season. Correa is a former star with lingering upside, he is yet to turn 30 and he still made strong contact throughout last season with a 9.6% barrel rate and 45.9% hard-hit rate. Royce Lewis costs $4,000 on FanDuel and $4,900 on DraftKings, he slashed .309/.372/.548 with 15 home runs and six steals in 239 fantastic plate appearances last year. The rookie created runs 55% better than average over the small sample and his .240 ISO was the makings of a premium power hitter. Lewis is expensive but worthwhile, he has an 8.93 in our home run model but the matchup against Ragans is not a helpful one. Overall, Minnesota ranks just 16th for FanDuel points and 14th on DraftKings as a stack. Kyle Farmer is more interesting when he is a sneaky source of late lineup power than when he is hitting fifth as projected. Farmer hit 14 home runs in each of the past two seasons and 16 the year before, he is not a strong power bat but he is never expensive and he typically fills multiple positions. On DraftKings today he is unfortunately just a shortstop but his $3,000 price is affordable. Farmer has eligibility at second, third, and shortstop on FanDuel for a mere $2,200, he is a value option in stacks and can be leveraged as a one-off where necessary but it is important to be realistic about these things. Ryan Jeffers had an 11.6% barrel rate and 42.7% hard hits with 14 home runs in just 335 plate appearances last year, he is a good catcher bat but the matchup does not boost home run potential. Margot is another right-handed hitter with mid-range power but he managed only four home runs last year, adding nine steals in his 336 plate appearances. Willi Castro had a productive 2023, stealing 33 bases and creating runs nine percent above the league average. Castro is another triple-threat positionally on the blue site with eligiblity at third, shortstop, and in the outfield. On DraftKings, the utility man lands with third base and outfield eligibility for $3,100. Max Kepler is a lefty power hitter who does not have great upside hitting ninth against a fellow southpaw. Kepler does not struggle for contact against lefties but his power is mostly drained, he had a .234 ISO with 20 home runs against righties and just a .182 mark with four homers against lefties last year.

Kansas City will be facing righty Pablo Lopez who made huge strides on the mound his first year in Minnesota. Lopez went from a 23.6% strikeout rate to a 29.2% mark while cutting walks from 7.2% to just 6.0% and working to a 3.29 xFIP over 32 starts and 194 innings. The righty finished fourth in total strikeouts with 234, putting him in company with Kevin Gausman, Blake Snell, Gerrit Cole, and Zac Gallen, all of whom look up the board in awe at Spencer Strider. Lopez had a 14.5% swinging-strike rate and a 30.1% CSW% last season, he gave up a few additional happenstance home runs but was able to check premium contact with just a 6.3% barrel rate and 34.5% hard-hit rate leading to 87.1 mph of exit velocity on average. Lopez costs $9,700 on FanDuel and $9,300 on DraftKings and he projects among the best starters on the slate in a raw points sense. Between the two, Ragans is the better buy for points-per-dollar, the starters have nearly matching projections at different prices.

The Royals lineup is fairly low-impact but they rank in the middle of the board for collective points and dollar value. Kansas City’s lineup opens with Maikel Garcia, who had a .272/.323/.358 triple-slash and just a .086 ISO with four home runs over 515 plate appearances last year, his 23 stolen bases padded fantasy value slightly but he was 16% below average for run creation and does not do much with his 50.6% hard-hit rate. Bobby Witt Jr. is a star shortstop coming off of a massive season. Witt hit 30 home runs and stole 49 bases last year, leading to a run creation mark 15% better than the league average. Witt slashed .276/.319/.495 while striking out just 17.4% of the time and improving his walk rate from 4.7% to 5.8% year-over-year. If he manages to reach first base more frequently in 2024, Witt has immense potential on any given slate. The shortstop is a functional one-off at $3,800 on FanDuel but his $6,200 price on DraftKings is back-breaking. First baseman Vinnie Pasquantino hit nine home runs in 260 opportunities last year with a 7.4% barrel rate and 40.1% hard-hit rate. He had 10 home runs in 298 chances the year before and needs to stay on the field full-time to show his skills this season. Pasquantino has terrific bat-to-ball ability, he struck out just 11.9% of the time last year and 11.4% the season before while drawing walks at a 9.6% and 11.7% clip in those seasons. Pasquantino created runs three percent better than average and can boost his production across the board this season, he is cheap at $3,000 on FanDuel but pricey at $4,500 on DraftKings. Veteran catcher Sal Perez has first base eligibility on DraftKings, where he is a $4,200 option, he is a catcher on FanDuel at $2,900. Perez hit 23 home runs but had just an 86 WRC+ last year while slashing .255/.292/.422. Perez sees plenty of plate appearances for a catcher and he still has upside, particularly at low prices, but his best days are probably in the rearview mirror at nearly 34. Lefty slugger MJ Melendez is one to watch this season. Melendez hit 16 home runs in his 602 plate appearances last year while adding six stolen bases but his premium contact suggests a strong chance to boost that output significantly. Melendez had an 11.4% barrel rate with a 49.6% hard-hit rate last season and he walked at a strong 10.3% last year and 12.4% the year before. Melendez is a work in progress that may never fully reach his potential but he is a cheap $2,800 outfielder on the blue site and lands at just $3,300 on DraftKings. Hunter Renfroe has a new home with the Royals after a down season in Los Angeles. Renfroe managed to get to 20 home runs last year but his .183 ISO was way off of the .236 he put up in 2022 or the .242 in 2021. Renfroe hit 29 and 31 home runs those two seasons but he had a big dip in premium contact last year and will need to show he has recovered the ability. Still, he offers a 7.01 in the home run model for cheap pricing. Adam FrazierNelson Velazquez, and Kyle Isbel round out the lineup in a lefty-righty-lefty setup. Frazier hit 13 home runs and stole 11 bases but was below average for run creation last year. Velazquez had 17 long balls in just 179 plate appearances but is an aggressive free-swinger with extreme volatility. His 21.4% barrel rate in the small sample is interesting. Isbel is a weak hitter and an afterthought in stacks.

Play: Cole Ragans, Pablo Lopez, minor shares of stacks, multi-positional value bats from the Twins

Update Notes:

Toronto Blue Jays (+120/3.56) @ Tampa Bay Rays (-130/4.02)

Right-handed Rays starter Zach Eflin had a microscopic 3.4% walk rate with a 26.5% strikeout rate last season in a career year. Eflin made 31 starts and threw 177.2 innings, blowing away his totals from the previous two years. The righty had a good 11.1% swinging-strike rate and a better 30.2% CSW% while working to a 3.50 ERA and a more impressive 3.13 xFIP. Eflin allowed a bit of premium contact with a 9.0% barrel rate for opposing hitters but it did not cost him greatly, his 87.5 mph average exit velocity allowed helped keep the ball mostly in the yard. Eflin gave up a 2.70% home run rate for the season. The Blue Jays are a solid mid-level divisional opponent and there are several better pitchers on the slate, but Eflin is not devoid of upside for his fair $8,500/$7,300 price, on DraftKings he makes a compelling case for SP2 shares if nothing else.

The projected Blue Jays lineup had just an 18.9% strikeout rate collectively last season, which is part of what drags Eflin slightly down today. Toronto has several star-caliber talents and they made a smart acquisition bringing in veteran Justin Turner to hit in the heart of the lineup. George Springer is projected to leadoff today. The outfielder is coming off of a 21-homer season over his 683 plate appearances, adding 20 stolen bases for fantasy value. Springer had a 104 WRC+ but just a .147 ISO last year, down hard from the .205 he put up the year before and extremely so from a .291 mark he posted in just 342 chances in 2021. Springer has high-caliber talent for $3,200 on FanDuel, he is underpriced on the site and helps to make Blue Jays stacks work. On DraftKings, Springer is a $4,800 investment, first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. costs $5,600, and star shortstop Bo Bichette is a $5,300 buy. The Blue Jays stack is more difficult to reach on the DraftKings slate. Guerrero hit 26 home runs with a mere .179 ISO in a big dip for power last year but he still created runs 18% better than average and had a 14.7% strikeout rate to go with his 11.1% barrel rate and 49.2% hard-hit rate. Bichette put up a team-leading 125 WRC+ over 601 plate appearances, hitting 20 home runs and stealing five bases while slashing .306/.339/.475. The shortstop is only priced at $3,300 on FanDuel, it is easy to combine him with Springer, Guerrero, and Turner or anyone further down the lineup on the blue site. Turner has eligibility at first and third base on FanDuel for only $2,900, he costs $4,600 at first base on DraftKings which makes it impossible to play him alongside Guerrero. Turner slashed .276/.345/.455 with a 114 WRC+ and 23 home runs over 626 plate appearances last year, he has not shown much sign of slowing down in the late stages of his career and he is very good at avoiding strikeouts with just a 17.6% rate last year and a 16.7% mark the year before. Daulton Varsho was disappointing overall last year but he still managed 20 home runs and 16 stolen bases for MLB DFS gamers who landed on him on the right day. Varsho hit 27 home runs and stole 16 bags the season before and his ISO dipped from .207 to .169 with a decline from 106 to 86 in his WRC+ year-over-year. The left-handed outfielder has skills and is affordable on both sites and his 6.87 mark in the home run model is sneaky-strong when stacking this team. Alejandro Kirk is an affordable catcher with just moderate power, Cavan Biggio has struggled over the past few seasons, he can provide odd counting stats but he is not at all consistent, Isaiah Kiner-Falefa is a slap-hitting utility man, and Kevin Kiermaier is a defense-only option in the outfield, the Blue Jays lineup is extremely top-heavy.

Tampa Bay draws hittable starter Jose Berrios who has one strong season and several years of average pitching in his ledger. Berrios gained esteem by posting a 26.1% strikeout rate over 192 innings in 2021. He followed that up with just a 19.8% mark over 172 innings in 2022 and a 23.5% rate in 189.2 innings last year while pitching to a 4.21 xFIP in 2022 and a 4.01 mark last year. Berrios allows a medium amount of power, his home run rate allowed was 3.20% last year and 3.85% the season before but he improved in barrel rate and hard-hit rate allowed last year and worked to his best swinging-strike rate (11.1%) in any of the three seasons. Berrios is a classic example of the pitcher who will succeed in 10 starts, fail in 10 starts, and have his entire season decided by the 10-12 outings in between. For this slate the righty is far too expensive for a lower-middle projection at $9,600 on FanDuel but he is a playable SP2 for only $7,100 on DraftKings.

The Rays were a fun team for most of last season. The upstart AL East squad has a reputation for polishing other team’s discarded stones until they are gleaming gems and player after player provided surprising upside throughout the year. Repeating the task is difficult but not impossible. One candidate for another strong season is leadoff hitter Yandy Diaz who slashed an impressive .330/.410/.522 and created runs a whopping 64% better than average over his 600 plate appearances last year. Diaz added 22 home runs, he struck out just 15.7% of the time, and he had a 54% hard-hit rate for the year, he is an ideal MLB DFS option on many slates. Brandon Lowe made 436 plate appearances last year, hitting 21 home runs and posting a .212 ISO in a bit of a return to form for the power-hitting second baseman. Lowe had just eight home runs in a lost 266 plate appearances in 2022 but he mashed 39 to lead all second basemen over his 615 chances the season before. For $3,400, Lowe offers a 9.13 in our home run model at second base, he is affordable at $4,000 on DraftKings as well. Randy Arozarena is a multi-category star who hit 23 home runs and stole 22 bases over 654 plate appearances last year. The outfielder mashes from the right side of the plate, his 12.3% barrel rate and 48% hard-hit rate are premium marks but somehow he managed just a .171 ISO last year, Arozarena has room to grow in the power department. Isaac Paredes seemed to come out of the woodwork to his 31 home runs with a .238 ISO and 137 WRC+ last season, he was one of many Rays players who were well above average for run creation for last season. Paredes costs $3,100 at first and third base on FanDuel but $4,400 on DraftKings with the same positional eligibility is a bit more difficult to reach. Harold Ramirez is a solid bat with only moderate power. Ramirez slashed .313/.353/.460 and created runs 28% better than average last season, he is a good table-setting correlation play if nothing else. Richie Palacios made just 102 plate appearances last year, posting a .258 ISO and six home runs in the tiny sample. Jose Siri blasted 25 homers and stole 12 bases in only 364 chances, his 12.7% barrel rate and .272 ISO are very strong marks but his 37.3% hard-hit rate is telling of his inconsistent and unpredictable nature at the plate. Siri also strikes out aggressively, he had a 35.7% strikeout rate against just 5.5% walks last season. Jose Caballero and Rene Pinto round out the projected lineup. Caballero stole 26 bases last season and Pinto is an interesting sneaky catcher at a cheap price. The backstop hit six home runs with a .204 ISO in just 105 plate appearances as a backup last year, his 15.9% barrel rate and 40.6% hard-hit rate are worth chasing for a minimal investment if one is building numerous stacks of Rays hitters.

Play: Zach Eflin & Jose Berrios as SP2 mid-level values on DraftKings. Minor shares of either stack, top of the Blue Jays and a more complete Rays lineup. Brandon Lowe for cheap power.

Update Notes:

Detroit Tigers (-174/4.61) @ Chicago White Sox (+159/3.49)

The Tigers and White Sox square off with the visiting team coming up as strong favorites given two very different starting pitchers. Lefty Garrett Crochet is the value play of the day on FanDuel, less so on DraftKings. Crotchet checks in with just a $5,500 salary on the FanDuel slate despite being named Chicago’s starter for Opening Day two weeks ago. The southpaw is priced at $6,500 on DraftKings, which puts him in company with other options on this slate. Crochet has a plus-plus fastball with swing-and-miss stuff but he lacks command making him highly unreliable even at the cheap price, this is no sure thing and could easily go haywire, buyer beware. The lefty stretched out to start during camp, he reached 80 pitches in his most recent outing so he should be able to work reasonably close to other starters if all goes well, and he has unrivaled points-per-dollar potential in that instance. Crochet had only a 12.2-inning sample in the Show last year, working entirely out of the bullpen, he was not at all good with a 3.55 ERA but a 7.16 xFIP, an 18.8% strikeout rate and a ridiculous 20.3% walk rate. In 2021 Crochet was better while working out of the bullpen. Over 54.1 innings, the lefty had a 28.3% strikeout rate with a 2.82 ERA and 3.95 xFIP, though he did walk 11.7% of opposing hitters. Crochet is a major dice roll but a difference of nearly $2,000 between him and every other pitching option and the combinations of hitters to which he allows access are undeniable, even in a shortened outing he could make value and win the day with the right bats in tow.

Of course, the Tigers will have something to say about that. Detroit is an improving baseball team, do not make the mistake of thinking that these will be the pushover Tigers of recent seasons. While they remain a work in progress, the outstanding growth of power hitter Spencer Torkelson in the cleanup spot last season is noteworthy and necessary, the emergence of Riley Greene as a premium hitter is key to the team’s future, and the new arrival of Colt Keith and a full season of Parker Meadows should spell upside for the Tigers. In the first game of the season and of the career for a player like Keith, they are less imposing than we expect later in the season. Adding to that, Greene, Keith, and Meadows are all left-handed hitters, which could put them at a disadvantage against the flame-throwing southpaw. The lineup opens with Matt Vierling who knocked 10 balls over the fence in 530 chances last season. Vierling had a 99 WRC+ with a .261/.329/.388 triple-slash and six stolen bases, he was not productive for MLB DFS on most outings. Gio Urshela is a wildly overrated player who made 228 plate appearances and slashed .299/.329/.374 last season and .285/.338/.429 in 551 plate appearances the year before. Urshela has a few clutch hits in his career that have bolstered his reputation, he is a hitter who had a 3.9% barrel rate and a 33.2% hard-hit rate last year, his bat-to-ball contact skills are fine but he does not offer power or speed on the bases. Greene is a solid lefty hitter who slashed .288/.349//447 with a 119 WRC+ and 11 home runs with seven stolen bases in 416 plate appearances last season. Greene costs just $3,100 on FanDuel but $4,700 on DraftKings, he is one of a few playable Tigers hitters on the slate and a starting point for stacks. Torkelson hit 31 home runs with a .213 ISO and a 107 WRC+ in a bit of a breakout last  year. The right-handed sluger was a letdown in 2022 so the step forward is huge for Detroit. Torkelson had a 14.1% barrel rate and 50.5% hard hits last year and there is room for growth. The right-handed first baseman is a must in any stack of Tigers hitters today at $3,300/$4,900. Veteran Mark Canha had a 111 WRC+ with 11 home runs and 11 stolen bases last season, so at least he had a theme going. Canha has an OK mid-level bat for a fair price on most slates, he is playable in stacks but not overly compelling. Javier Baez was kidnapped by aliens three years ago and replaced with an approximation that lacked his baseball talent. Baez made 547 plate appearances last year and managed just nine home runs and 12 steals with a .222/.267/.325 triple-slash while creating runs 39% worse than average for the season. If the Tigers were not spending $24 million per season on him through 2027 they would probably be better off, but a turnaround is not entirely out of the question with better teammates, seemingly with motivation, and at just age 31. Baez is a stretch of a play at $2,500/$3,600 but he is an option if one is stacking Tigers. Rookie masher Colt Keith is expected to hit the ground running for Detroit, he had 27 home runs across 577 plate appearances between AA and AAA last season on his way to the Show and he made the team out of Spring Training after signing a big extension before even seeing a plate appearance. Jake Rogers is a right-handed catcher who hit a sneaky 21 home runs in just 365 plate appearances last year but managed just a 97 WRC+. Meadows closes out the lineup from the left side of the plate, the outfielder hit three home runs and stole eight bases in his limited 145 plate appearances as a rookie last year.

Chicago draws lefty Tarik Skubal who has the highest pitching projection on both sites by a slim margin. Skubal worked 80.1 innings and 15 starts in 2023, pitching to a fantastic 32.9% strikeout rate with just a 4.5% walk rate in the small sample. The lefty is on every list of top draft targets on the mound around the fantasy baseball industry coming into this season, he is a top option at his price on both sites despite landing at $10,100/$9,100. Skubal is very good at checking power, if the uptick in strikeouts and ability to limit walks remains he is potentially a Cy Young Award candidate, he can be that lights out on the mound. The White Sox rank dead last on the stacks board today, they are not a good option and they are not offering much resistance to Skubal’s potential on this slate.

Chicago’s lineup was lousy last year and they have not seen much improvement in the offseason, they are still largely a three-man machine driven by Andrew Vaughn, Luis Robert Jr., and Eloy Jimenez, when the latter is available. The new configuration of this lineup should see Yoan Moncada in a leadoff role. Moncada has not been a productive Major Leaguer over multiple seasons and it is difficult to pinpoint what might make him a good leadoff hitter, given last season’s 30% strikeout rate and .305 on-base percentage. Moncada did not hit for much power with just 11 home runs and a .165 ISO and his 98 WRC+ is not encouraging. Robert is a superstar who hit 38 home runs and stole 20 bases last year while creating runs 28% better than average and posting a .278 ISO on the back of a 15.2% barrel rate and 41.7% hard-hit rate. For just $3,300 on FanDuel, Robert looks like a total bargain and a potential one-off, even against the tough pitcher, he is a $5,500 play on the DraftKings slate where things are far more difficult to reach at that price tier. Vaughn slots in between Robert and Jimenez, the right-handed first baseman had a 46.5% hard-hit rate last year but managed just 21 home runs and a .171 ISO. Vaughn is a decent hitter, his 21% strikeout rate is respectable and he had an OK .258/.314/.429 triple-slash but he needs to show more power and growth at the plate. Jimenez made 489 plate appearances and hit 18 home runs in a down season that was partly lost to injury once again. The outfielder had 16 homers in 327 plate appearances last year and 10 in just 321 chances in 2021, his limited nature season after season is frustrating but he is a solid hitter when available. Jimenez slashed .272/.317/.441 last year with a 105 WRC+. Shortstop Paul DeJong joined Chicago in the offseason to replace Tim Anderson, the veteran hit 14 home runs last year and has been a consistent source of mid-range power at the position over his career. Andrew Benintendi is a slap-hitting outfielder who does not strike out much and steals the occasional base but does little else for MLB DFS gamers. Kevin Pillar, Martin Maldonado, and Nicky Lopez help explain why this is the worst-ranked stack of the day.

Play: Tarik Skubal on either site. Garrett Crochet as a value SP2 on DraftKings and as an extreme and unique value option on FanDuel. Minor shares of Tigers bats particularly as a hedge against a Crochet position.

Update Notes:

San Francisco Giants (-101/3.76) @ San Diego Padres (-107/3.82)

Veteran righty Yu Darvish will look to make up for a weak outing in the Seoul Series with a better second start against the Giants on Thursday. Darvish was all over the place in his 3.2 innings last week, ultimately yielding three walks and striking out three while allowing just two hits and an unearned run, but he looked worse than the numbers might suggest. Darvish is a highly talented veteran with a wild diverse arsenal of pitches, he will ultimately find what works for him this year and run with it but if another short outing full of kinks is in store it might be best to explore other options. Darvish had a 24.6% strikeout rate last year and a 25.6% mark the season before, working to a 3.58 xFIP in 2022 and a 3.92 mark last year. Now 37-years-old, the righty is probably going to continue trending downward, it will probably pay to wait for his price to dip lower than the $9,200 on FanDuel and $8,200 on DraftKings, though he is more playable at that level.

San Francisco added interesting pieces this offseason with Matt Chapman and Jorge Soler bringing excellent right-handed power into the mix. The lineup opens with another new face in KBO signing Jung Hoo Lee who is expected to deliver average, on-base skills, and run creation from atop the lineup. Lee made 387 plate appearances over 86 games in his age-24 season with Kiwoom in 2023, slashing .318/.406/.455 with a 139 WRC+. Chapman is slated to hit second in the projected lineup, the slugging third baseman ended last season with 17 home runs in 581 plate appearances after a hot start. His .185 ISO dipped badly from the beginning to the end of the year but Chapman maintained an elite 17.1% barrel rate and 56.1% hard-hit rate for the season and he has the potential to knock one out of the park on any given slate. Chapman has a 6.42 in our home run model for just $2,600 on FanDuel but $4,000 on DraftKings. LaMonte Wade Jr. is a good left-handed hitter who has excellent on-base skills via his ability to draw walks. Wade hits for mid-range power, he had 17 home runs in 519 chances last year while slashing .256./373/.417 and creating runs 22% better than average. The lefty first base option struck out 18.3% of the time and walked in 14.6% of his plate appearances and he had a serviceable 9.1% barrel rate. Jorge Soler obliterated 36 homers last season for Miami, the second-highest total of his career. The right-handed masher made 580 plate appearances and maintained a steady .250/.341/.512 triple-slash, a .262 ISO and a 126 WRC+. Soler is in range at just $3,400/$4,900 in the outfield, he is a one-off option against Darvish but the ballpark is not conducive to home run potential. Michael Conforto made it back to a fulltime role last year, making 470 plate appearances and delivering league-average run creation and 15 home runs. The lefty is cheap in stacks of Giants but he is a low-priority hitter overall. Thairo Estrada has moderate power and speed on the basepaths, he hit 14 home runs and swiped 23 bases last year over his 530 plate appearances. Estradad has eligibility at both middle infield spots on FanDuel for only $3,200, he is just a second baseman for $4,300 on DraftKings. Mike Yastrzemski has a bit of left-handed pop, he had a 9.8% barrel rate and a 44% hard-hit rate over 381 plate appearances last season and came away with 15 home runs and a .212 ISO. Patrick Bailey and Nick Ahmed round out the lineup, Bailey has a touch of power but neither hitter is a key MLB DFS option.

San Diego will be facing righty Logan Webb who slots in with an upper-mid-range projection on a slate where several starters seem the same. Webb is similarly priced to those options at $9,500 on FanDuel but he has a touch more value on DraftKings at just $8,400, setting him a bit below the top options. Webb pitched to a 22.8% strikeout rate with a minuscule 3.6% walk rate last year. The righty had a 3.25 ERA and an even better 2.96 xFIP in 216 innings over his 33 starts, he is one of the better options for depth when the season gets rolling. Webb is also adept at minimizing home runs, he allowed a 2.35% home run rate last year and just 1.40% and 1.51% the two seasons prior. Webb works to very low average launch angles, keeping the ball down and preventing it from going for extra-base hits or home runs as frequently as other starters. He had a 0.6-degree average launch angle allowed for the full season last year but his 6.9% barrel rate and 45.5% hard-hit rate led to the oddity with a slight increase in home run rate in a larger sample. Webb is a competitive option on the slate, if he does not project for high public popularity he is at worst a reasonable alternative in a pitcher-friendly ballpark against a top-heavy offense.

The Padres lineup opens with Xander Bogaerts who got his season underway in style in the Seoul Series. Bogaerts made 10 plate appearances in the series and went 4-10 with four singles and a walk while scoring three and driving in three. The now second baseman still fills shortstop on both sites, he costs $3,300 on FanDuel and $4,800 on DraftKings and hits in a prime spot ahead of Fernando Tatis Jr. who had a 25-29 season in 2023. Tatis missed the entire 2022 season after going 42-25 and creating runs 56% better than average in 2021, he was not quite the same player at just 113 WRC+ last season but there is time for the young star to regain his incredible ceiling. Tatis is pricey at $3,900/$5,800 and Webb is not prone to getting blown up, this may not be an ideal spot for Tatis shares at such high prices. Jake Cronenworth had a bad season in 2023, the multi-position option slashed just .229/.312/.378 with a .148 ISO and 92 WRC+ in 522 chances last year. The season before, Cronenworth hit 17 home runs with a 110 WRC+ but little else over 684 plate appearances, he seems miscast as a three-hitter but this is where the Padres have stated they plan to play him all season. Manny Machado is a veteran bat on the right side, he has third base and shortstop eligibility on the DraftKings slate for $5,200 and is a $3,500 third baseman on FanDuel. Machado hit 30 home runs in 601 plate appearances last year while teeing off to a .204 ISO and creating runs 14% better than average, he is far from done and is easily worth the expense when stacking Padres, but the overall spot for the team is not very strong. Ha-Seong Kim had his best season in the Show last year, walloping 17 home runs and stealing 38 bases on his way to a 112 WRC+ for the year. Kim fills second, third, and shortstop for just $2,900 on FanDuel, he is far too cheap on the site and is an interesting one-off with his ability to score fantasy points against a pitcher like Webb without having to hit the ball out of the yard. Jurickson Profar is a low-end talent who had a 76 WRC+ in 521 plate appearances last season. There is more upside in catcher Luis Campusano, who slashed .319/.356/.491 with a 134 WRC+ in a tiny sample of just 174 plate appearances last year. Tyler Wade is a role player in the infield for cheap prices, he offers triple-eligibility on FanDuel for the flat minimum price if he is in the lineup. Jackson Merrill won the starting centerfield job after taking up the role during Spring Training, the high-end rookie is still a shortstop on both sites however, he lands at $2,200 on FanDuel and $3,000 on DraftKings. Merrill debuted in the Seoul Series, going 2-8 with a pair of runs scored in the two games and making excellent contact, he is too cheap for his talent but the matchup is not great.

Play: Logan Webb value on DraftKings, if low-owned he is OK at a higher price on FanDuel. Minimal Giants bats, minimal Padres bats, both stacks are top-heavy. 

Update Notes:

New York Yankees (+138/3.87) @ Houston Astros (-148/4.71)

The Yankees are a bit of an anomaly on our tools today. The team has too many high-talent players who project for strong fantasy scores, even against a premium starter like Framber Valdez today that it drives them to the top of the “average projection” column in what may not be the best spot. When he is on his game, Valdez has a lethal ability to suffocate a lineup with ground ball after ground ball, though his average launch angle spiked from -3.6 and -5.5 degrees the past two seasons to 4.2 degrees on the positive side last year. That led to a spike from 1.33 to 2.35% home runs year over year, but that mark was not far off of the 2.10% he allowed even with the -5.5-degree average launch angle in 2021. Home runs are weird. Valdez pitched to a 24.8% strikeout rate over 31 starts and 198 innings in 2023, inducing an 11.6% swinging-strike rate but allowing a 45.1% hard-hit rate and 91.5 mph of exit velocity on average. The pitcher was somewhat more hittable while remaining a strong starter through most of the season, he will have to find that talent to deliver on his strong projection for $9,000/$8,000 today. Valdez is much more of an option at the low price on the DraftKings slate.

The Yankees are expected to have Gleyber Torres in the leadoff role on Opening Day with DJ LeMahieu on the shelf. Torres had an underappreciated upswing last season, most notably cutting his strikeout rate from 22.6% to just 14.6% while pushing his walks up from 6.8% to 10% and creating runs 23% better than average. The second baseman hit 25 home runs and slashed .273/.347/.453 with a 40.3% hard-hit rate. Torres is not priced highly enough at just $3,200 on FanDuel, he is affordable at $4,500 on DraftKings, particularly when stacking his teammates. Juan Soto is the jewel of the offseason for New York and his 2024 represents the culmination of a lot of YouTube rants for yours truly. Soto is the ideal hitter. The lefty gets on base at a ridiculous rate, does not strike out much, walks a ton, hits for power, has hit for average, steals the occasional base, and creates runs like few others in baseball. Soto had 35 home runs with a .275/.410/.519 triple-slash, a .245 ISO, and a 155 WRC+ last year while striking out 18.2% of the time and walking 18.6%. The utterly elite talent joins a lineup that will see him protected by another of baseball’s very best, Aaron Judge. The outfielder combines the best power bat in the game with an excellent and underrated skillset at the plate, he is excellent at getting himself to first base when he fails to simply circle the bases in one shot. Judge had a .406 on-base percentage with a .346 ISO and a 174 WRC+ over 458 plate appearances last year. He hit 37 home runs in the partial season and had an otherworldly 26.2% barrel rate with a 60.9% hard-hit rate. No one in baseball makes contact like Aaron Judge, he is well worth $4,300/$6,300. Giancarlo Stanton had a terrible triple-slash last year at .191/.275/.420 but he managed to hit 24 home runs and post a .229 ISO on the back of his sheer power. Stanton maintained a 15.7% barrel rate and 48% hard-hit rate even in the lousy overall season, he has significant any-given-slate upside for multiple home runs and he costs just $2,900/$4,500 today. Anthony Volpe won a gold glove as a rookie but defense does not buy you a lot of MLB DFS points. The shortstop needs to improve across the board as a hitter in 2024, he hit 21 home runs and stole 24 bases, the counting stats were fine, but his .209/.283/.383 triple-slash is untenable even with that production and his run-creation mark was 16% worse than the league average. Right now, Volpe is better for MLB DFS purposes than he is in the real Yankees lineup, the shortstop is affordable at $2,500 on FanDuel and $3,800 across town. First baseman Anthony Rizzo was having another strong start to his season before he was concussed last year and never recovered from the symptoms. Rizzo lost tangible bat speed and reaction time but lingered and suffered in the lineup for weeks before he was properly diagnosed. Now reportedly healthy, there is not reason to doubt a return to form for the lefty slugger. Rizzo is underrated coming into the season and he is cheap at $2,900/$4,400 at first base, outside of Soto and Judge none of the Yankees hitters are expensive. Oswaldo CabreraJose Trevino, and Trent Grisham are lower-end options to round out the projected batting order. Cabrera is a fill-in utility man who is seeing time with a few players banged-up, Trevino is a good defensive catcher but not much of a bat, and Grisham is OK for counting stats but not much else. The outfielder hit 13 home runs and stole 15 bases last season, he could benefit when the team returns to Yankee Stadium, but he does not have a strong path to success in this spot against a lefty like Valdez.

Nestor Cortes Jr. made just 12 starts last season for the Yankees, posting a 25.2% strikeout rate and an ugly 4.97 ERA with a 4.84 xFIP. Cortes was much better over 28 starts the season before but even in a good year his 3.64 xFIP betrayed a sparkling 2.44 ERA to some degree. The lefty is famous for mixing his delivery style and timing, there is a possibility that new pitching rules impacted him prior to his injury last season and it will be interesting to watch his return to the mound. Cortes did not have a strong Spring but that does not count for much, the bigger problem by far is the matchup against the outstanding Astros. Cortes is not a recommended pitcher on either site at any price today.

Houston’s lineup pounds left-handed pitching, even their two elite left-handed sluggers absolutely mash against same-handed starters. The Astros lineup opens with category-stuffing Jose Altuve, who had another strong year in 2023. Altuve made 410 plate appearances and hit 17 home runs with 14 stolen bases and a 154 WRC+ to go with his .311/.393/.522 triple-slash. Altuve sets the trend for this lineup with his 17.3% strikeout rate, he is followed by one of baseball’s best in outfielder Yordan Alvarez who checks in with an 18.5% strikeout rate in 496 plate appearances last year. Alvarez blasted 31 home runs and had a gigantic .290 ISO with a 170 WRC+ last season, his 18% barrel rate and 52.2% hard-hit rate last year and the 21% with a 59.8% he put up the year before are the only marks to come close to rivaling Judge and Stanton’s level of premium contact over time. Alvarez has excellent slate-to-slate upside and he brutalizes same-handed pitching, let the field look elsewhere with a lefty on the mound, Alvarez belongs in basically every Astros stack. Alex Bregman is not expensive at $3,400/$4,700. The third baseman hit 25 home runs in a bit of a down year in 2023 but he still created runs 25% better than average and he struck out just 12% of the time while walking at a 12.7% clip to continue the trend atop this lineup. Kyle Tucker hit 29 home runs with 30 stolen bases last year after going 30-25 the season before, this is the year he lands correctly over 30 in both categories. Tucker is a $3,700 outfielder on FanDuel and a $5,700 option on the DraftKings slate. Like Alvarez, Tucker hits lefties very well and he also was incredible with bat-to-ball skills last season, posting a 13.6% strikeout rate and an 11.9% walk rate to go with the power and speed. Jose Abreu was awful through most of last season and half of the season before, but he managed to pull things together a bit in the second half and he finished the year at 18 home runs over 594 plate appearances. Abreu’s ISO was just .146 and he had an 86 WRC+ while slashing .237/.296/.383 so the home runs were largely empty production but a bounceback is not out of the question for the formerly excellent hitter. Abreu is affordable at first base in stacks of Astros hitters. Chas McCormick had an 11.1% barrel rate that led to 22 home runs in 457 plate appearances over which he added 19 stolen bases last year. McCormick got popular throughout the year and he saw his price increase with his profile but he is back to $2,900 on FanDuel while landing at $4,200 on DraftKings today. Yainer Diaz is a quality stick at the catcher spot, he created runs 27% better than average over 377 plate appearances last season. Jeremy Pena hit 10 home runs and stole 13 bases with a .118 ISO and 96 WRC+ in a letdown season in 2023 after hitting 22 homers the year before. The shortstop is cheap and playable as a wraparound option in stacks of Astros hitters. Jake Meyers is a late lineup mix-in, he managed 10 homers and five steals but just an 88 WRC+ in 341 chances last season.

Play: Yankees Bats/Stacks, Astros bats/stacks, Framber Valdez value on DraftKings.

Update Notes:

St. Louis Cardinals (+199/3.66) @ Los Angeles Dodgers (-220/5.46)

The final game of the day is somewhat lopsided with the visiting Cardinals landing as the slate’s biggest underdogs and the Dodgers pulling down the highest overall implied team total at 5.46 runs. Los Angeles is starting Tyler Glasnow who did not have his best outing in Seoul. The righty worked five innings and faced 20 hitters, allowing two earned runs on two hits while walking four and striking out just three. Glasnow should improve on those marks and he has upside to work into the sixth inning in his second start. Over 120 innings and 21 starts last season, the righty had an excellent 33.4% strikeout rate with a 3.53 ERA but a sparkling 2.75 xFIP revealing his true quality. Glasnow is an ace-caliber pitcher when everything is going well, he was one of several big splurges for the Dodgers this offseason. The righty’s commanding 16.4% swinging-strike rate and 33.4% CSW% were both among league leaders last season when one removes the innings qualification. Glasnow costs $10,000 on FanDuel and $9,500 on DraftKings, he is the second-most highly projected starter less than a point behind Tarik Skubal today.

The Cardinals are not a pushover lineup. The team has veteran quality and young interesting talent and they could get to Glasnow if he is walking the world once again. St. Louis opeens with Brendan Donovan in the leadoff role. Donovan is another three-position option on FanDuel and he costs just $2,700 on this slate. On DraftKings he is only a second baseman for $3,600. The lefty hit 11 home runs and stole five bases while creating runs 18% better than average in his 371 plate appearances last year and he saw an uptick to a 40.6% hard-hit rate with a 5.8% barrel rate in a bit of improved power output. In a better spot, Donovan would be a more interesting option for cheap flexibility. Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado remain strong options in the heart of the lineup. Goldschmidt hit 25 home runs last year and he is affordable at first base while Arenado had 26 and fills third base for a slightly lower price. In between the two veterans lands Nolan Gorman, who offers eligibility at second and third base on both sites. Gorman has explosive power potential at the plate, he had a .241 ISO with 27 home runs to lead the team in both categories last season. The lefty has a 10.96 in our home run model today, he is cheap at $3,300/$4,200, the DraftKings price is notably low. Willson Contreras slots in after Arenado, the catcher will hit fifth on most days but he has a good enough bat to land atop the lineup if needed. Contreras hit .264/.358/.467 over 495 plate appearances with 20 home runs and six stolen bases while creating runs 27% better than average last year, terrific output for a catcher. Matt Carpenter is a $2,100 first baseman on FanDuel and a $2,500 first baseman on DraftKings. We were not wild about the Carpenter option in his surprising return to baseball two seasons ago, we were not overly involved in his five home runs in 237 plate appearances with a .176/.322/.319 triple-slash last year, and he does not look overly compelling this season. Jordan Walker is far more interesting. After a rough start, Walker ended up making 465 plate appearances and slashing .276/.342/.445 with a 116 WRC+ and 16 home runs. The inexpensive outfielder is an easy click on either site if one chooses to stack Cardinals in a rough spot. Victor Scott is not available on DraftKings but the burner is on the FanDuel slate at the dead minimum in the outfield. Scott is filling in for injured teammates out of camp but he could settle into a permanent role if he does his thing on the basepaths. The rookie stole a combined 94 bases in 618 plate appearances across high-A and AA last year. For such a low salary, Scott is an interesting presence on the slate but we do not envy the spot making a debut against a starter like Glasnow. Masyn Winn had a rough first 137 plate appearances last season but he is fairly well-regarded for his mid-range power-speed combination and good bat-on-ball skills.

Righty Miles Mikolas looks like the least playable starter of the day on either site. Mikolas projects for minimal fantasy points for $7,400/$5,800, even at the lowball price as an SP2 on DraftKings it is difficult to envision much success for the low-strikeout mediocre righty. Mikolas worked 201.1 innings over 35 starts in 2023, pitching to a 4.78 ERA and a 4.76 xFIP, he is very much exactly who he looks like. Mikolas had only a 15.9% strikeout rate, which is less than half of what his opponent posted for the season. The righty did manage to limit walks to just 4.5% but his ugly 1.32 WHIP suggests too many runners on base via contact and his 7.3% swinging-strike rate and 25% CSW% are intimidating no one. Mikolas is unplayable and the Dodgers are primed for production.

Los Angeles believably ranks in the top few spots on every tool we offer today. The Dodgers have an All-Star team of a lineup that begins with multi-positional superstar Mookie Betts, who has three-position eligibility at second, shortstop, and in the outfield on FanDuel and loses only shortstop (his actual current position) on the DraftKings slate. Betts hit 39 home runs and stole 14 bases while creating runs 67% better than average last year and now he hits in front of Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani mashed 44 long balls and had a .350 ISO with a 180 WRC+, he is correctly priced at $4.400/$6,400, if not slightly too cheap in this matchup. Ohtani has an 11.10 in our home run model and one of the better chances on the entire slate at a moonshot. Freddie Freeman is a superstar first baseman who slashed .331/.410/.567 with a .235 ISO, 29 home runs, 23 stolen bases, and a 163 WRC+ and is somehow only the third-best hitter on this team. Freeman costs $4,000/$5,900, the trio is very expensive to stack on either site. Will Smith just signed a massive 10-year extension that will take the sweet-hitting catcher through his age-37 season. Smith hit 19 home runs and made 554 plate appearances last season, adding value just by being in the lineup on a daily basis. The backstop struck out at just a 16.1% clip and walked 11.4% of the time while creating runs 19% better than average, he is a star at his position for a fair $3,400/$4,800. Max Muncy has monstrous left-handed power. Muncy hit 36 home runs with a .263 ISO last season on the back of a 14.6% barrel rate and 46% hard hits. The lefty struck out 26.4% of the time but walked 14.7% making him another three-true-outcomes masher with MLB DFS value. Muncy costs $3,600/$4,800 at third base today. Teoscar Hernandez is a $3,000 outfield bargain on the FanDuel slate but costs $5,000 on DraftKings where nothing is cheap today. Hernandez hit 26 home runs and created runs five percent better than average last season before deciding to join the Dodgers, he has solid power potential given a 13.8% barrel rate and 49.4% hard hits last year and a better 2022 that produced a 15% barrel rate and 52.7% hard hits with 25 of those going for home runs. Lefty James Outman is a threat for a 20-20 or better season from late in the lineup. Outman quietly hit 23 home runs and stole 16 bases in 567 plate appearances last year and has shown growth at the plate, he is a high-strikeout free-swinger however, he and Hernandez will leave holes in lineups on a lot of days this season. Jayson Heyward had a resurgent 2023 with 15 home runs in just 377 plate appearances, and Gavin Lux closes out the lineup with talent in the infield for a fair price. Lux is a $2,600 second baseman on FanDuel and he costs just $3,400 at either middle infield spot on DraftKings. Lux missed all of last year but has long been regarded for an interesting combination of power and speed.

Play: Dodgers bats/stacks. Tyler Glasnow.

Update Notes:

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