This Friday is officially the first day of summer, and Major League Baseball is ready to help you celebrate with a solid 14-game fantasy baseball slate that includes every team except Mets and Cubs, who play an afternoon contest at Wrigley Field. Dallas Keuchel making his season debut for the Braves, Albert Pujols returning to St. Louis, the Rockies moving on without Tyler Story and the Yankees and Astros battling in the Bronx are a few of the big storylines to monitor on the slate.
As you get your team put together, sometimes there is a spot or two you need to fill with less expensive options that still come with a significant amount of upside. Here are my top five bargain plays for the day, who have a good shot at stepping up and out-performing their pricing.
SP MARTÍN PÉREZ, MIN at KC, $7,600After a hot start to the season, Pérez has struggled lately, causing his ERA to balloon to 4.09 after being 2.95 just four starts ago. He did seem to make some progress in his most recent start, though, setting down and throwing four straight perfect innings in the middle of his start against the Royals in which he finished with 16.8 DKFP in 6 2/3 innings with four runs allowed and seven strikeouts.
Pérez took the loss and dropped to 7-3 but will have a chance to get his revenge as he and the Twins visit Kauffman Stadium. Pérez has a nice strikeout rate with 74 in his 77 innings this season, and most of his rough outings have come during daytime starts. At night, Pérez is 5-1 with a 3.65 ERA. He should be a solid source of innings and strikeouts and could get a win if Minnesota can get its bats to wake up against Jakob Junis ($6,300)
SP TAYLOR CLARKE, ARI vs. SF, $6,800There are a lot of scheduled starters under $7K on this slate, but the one I like the most is Clarke, who gets a nice matchup against the Giants at home in Arizona. San Francisco is the third-worst team at scoring runs hit season, averaging just 3.82 runs per contest and are hitting an ugly .223 on the season.
Clarke has made six starts for the Diamondbacks and is 1-2 with a 5.34 ERA and 1.42 WHIP. Despite those initial scary numbers, he has shown some positive signs. He struck out a season-high six in his most recent start and fell just one out short of getting his second win of the season. His one win and best start of the season came against the Giants when he went 6 1/3 and allowed just two earned runs on his way to 16.9 DKFP. Clarke has had most of his starts come on the road, so getting the call at home should allow him to build on his strikeout form and take advantage of a good matchup with San Francisco.
3B JOSÉ RAMÍREZ, CLE vs. DET, $3,500Last season, Ramírez was a legitimate MVP candidate for the Indians before fading a little bit down the stretch. He finished the season hitting .270 with 39 home runs, 105 RBI and a .939 OPS. It was his third-straight season with an OPS over .800, but this season his OPS has dropped all the way to .602, which would be the lowest total of his career if the season ended today. However, Ramírez has been showing some indications that he could be returning to form at least in the right matchups.
Over the past week, Ramírez went 7-for-30 with a double, triple, home run and seven RBI. He has been much better at home this season than on the road and has continued to hit lefties relatively well, going 24-for-89 (.270) with three doubles, two homers and a .711 OPS. Ramírez has a .313 career average against Detroit with 13 homers and a .981 OPS, and he has gone 5-for-21 (.238) in the past against scheduled starter Matthew Boyd ($9,700) with a triple and a home run. While Ramírez hasn’t been nearly the fantasy star he was last year, he’s worth a shot at this price since he still has lots of upside and all the splits are in his favor in this matchup.
C ELIAS DÍAZ, PIT vs. SD, $3,400With Francisco Cervelli (concussion) sidelined, Díaz has taken over as the Pirates’ primary backstop. He has started 18 of the team’s past 25 games and has gone 23-for-76 (.303) with eight doubles, eight runs scored, a home run and 14 RBI.
If you need a bargain catcher Díaz is worth a look whenever he’s taking on a lefty. He is 12-for-38 (.316) with a .728 OPS against southpaws this season and is a career .315 hitter against lefties with four homers and a .802 OPS. He and the Pirates could be a nice source of value at home since they have a good matchup with Padres SP Eric Lauer ($6,100), who has given up nine runs on 17 hits in 9 2/3 innings in his past two starts.
SS J.P. CRAWFORD, SEA VS. BAL, $3,400Crawford has jumped right back into the Mariners’ everyday lineup at SS and hitting second since returning from a two-week absence due to an ankle sprain. In his seven games back, he has gone 6-for-26 (.231) with three doubles, six walks and a stolen base to average 8.4 DKFP per contest.
He has reached base safely in each of those seven games and posted 11 and 12 DKFP in his two most recent contests. The Orioles will have to go with a bullpen day today since John Means (shoulder) is on IL, and since Baltimore’s pitching is already so thin, the Mariners offense should be a good source of solid production.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Z.Thompson) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.