Thursday’s early MLB slate has four games. Noah Syndergaard ($10,100) and Stephen Strasburg ($10,300) have a rematch after facing off Saturday in what was an unexpectedly high-scoring game. Alex Cobb ($4,700; groin) is expected to make his season debut for the Orioles. Xander Bogaerts ($4,600; ankle) is expected to play after sitting out Wednesday.
Three of the four games are projected to have over/unders of eight runs on DraftKings Sportsbook: Yankees-Orioles, Red Sox-A’s and Royals-Tigers. The Strasburg-Syndergaard pitching matchup has the lowest over/under at 6.5 runs.
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Let’s take a look at some plays fantasy owners can consider using on DraftKings.
James Paxton, NYY at BAL ($10,900): Paxton draws by far the softest matchup among stud starters, facing off against the Orioles who, despite a 4-2 start, are projected to have the worst run differential for the rest of the season while being a bottom-five run-scoring team.
Paxton was limited to 82 pitches in his first start of the year, also against the Orioles, and he’ll be a candidate to build on that pitch count and pitch deeper into the game today. In the start, Paxton walked only one, struck out five of the 21 batters he faced (24%), and had outstanding contact quality metrics, holding batters to an expected wOBA of just .190 based on the exit velocities and angles of their batted balls.
Paxton is projected to be an excellent pitcher this year and is coming off a 2018 season where he struck out an elite 32% of the batters he faced behind huge fastball velocity for a LHP starter and nasty stuff, giving him big strikeout upside on any given day.
Other options: Noah Syndergaard ($10,100)
Eduardo Rodriguez, BOS at OAK ($7,600): Rodriguez gets a park upgrade in pitcher-friendly Oakland to take on an Athletics team that is projected to rank outside the top 10 in run scoring this year.
Rodriguez’s velocity was down a tick in his first start of the year, but despite allowing five runs in 4 1/3 innings, Rodriguez’s contact quality allowed in the start was much better than the outcomes. He also generated a swing and a miss on 12% of his pitches, which is better than average.
Rodriguez will be backed by Boston’s strong offense in a favorable matchup vs. hittable LHP Brett Anderson.
Other options: Jakob Junis ($8,000)
Gary Sanchez, NYY at BAL ($4,900): Sanchez’s true talent level, assuming he is healthy, is far better than the performance he displayed last season as he played the entire year with a bad left shoulder. He’s off to a good power-hitting start in 2019, already hitting two homers through five games, with one of his home runs leaving the bat at 110 mph, a very strong exit speed.
Sanchez draws a road matchup in hitter-friendly Camden Yards against RHP Alex Cobb, who is projected to be a worse-than-average pitcher this year. Cobb’s main out pitch is a splitter, which gives him some reverse platoon splits in recent years, finding less success against RHB due to the movement path of the pitch. Cobb struck out less righties than lefties last year and had a higher HR rate to righties than lefties.
Cobb struck out just 13% of RHBs he faced last year, which should help Sanchez make contact and put the ball in play.
Wilson Ramos, NYM vs. WAS ($3,500): Ramos was rested during Wednesday’s game, putting him in line to start the Mets’ home opener.
While a matchup against Strasburg is generally not appealing, Strasburg showcased diminished velocity in his first start of 2019, sitting roughly 2 mph less than he did last year. Strasburg was hit hard by righties in the start, allowing five batted balls to righties to leave the bat in excess of 100 mph, including two to Ramos, one on a first-inning double that was hit off the wall that left Ramos’ bat at 104 mph.
Ramos has been one of the best offensive catchers in baseball since undergoing LASIK eye surgery in 2016 and is coming off hitting .306 with a .358 OBP and .487 SLG last season, all significantly better than the catcher league averages of .232/.304/.372.
Luke Voit, NYY at BAL ($4,700): Voit has a strong matchup for similar reasons to Sanchez. Cobb is projected to be a worse-than-average pitcher and has been less effective in recent years against RHBs in part due to his pitch types.
Voit has been hitting in a premium lineup slot all year and has hit third in the Yankees’ three most recent games. His power hitting also gives him fantasy upside, especially in hitter-friendly Camden Yards.
Other options: Greg Bird ($4,500)
Pete Alonso, NYM vs. WAS ($3,800): Like Ramos, Alonso also hit the ball hard against Strasburg in their first meeting. Alonso recorded a 390-foot double that left his bat at 107 mph after identifying a 3-2 curveball, showcasing good pitch recognition of Strasburg’s spin. Alonso also recorded another single on a batted ball that left his bat with at 25 degree angle, the top end of what is classified as a line drive.
Alonso has destroyed the baseball so far this year, already recording seven batted balls with 105+ mph exit velocities, and has been a hard line drive machine through his first six big league games.
Other options: Miguel Cabrera ($4,100)
Gleyber Torres, NYY at BAL ($4,900): The Yankees’ plus matchup in hitter-friendly Camden Yards against Cobb has been well discussed above. Torres is one of the most talented offensive middle infielders aged 22 or younger and has the capacity to keep producing beyond his impressive rookie season last year, when he hit .271 with a .340 OBP and .480 SLG with strong power numbers.
With the Yankees banged up, Torres has received a lineup slot upgrade since the opening series, batting fourth and fifth over his past two games, up from eighth and seventh during his first two.
Other options: Whit Merrifield ($4,600)
Niko Goodrum, DET vs. KC ($3,900): Goodrum has hit cleanup in three of the Tigers’ past four games, including yesterday’s game. Goodrum produced better than average power numbers last season and is off to a good start this year, already hitting four extra-base hits through five games. Goodrum faces RHP Jake Junis, who is projected to be worse than average at preventing runs.
Other options: Robinson Cano ($4,100)
DJ LeMahieu, NYY at BAL ($4,500): LeMahieu is the fourth member of the Yankees’ lineup to be mentioned in this article, as a stack in Camden Yards against Cobb is highly appealing.
LeMahieu should see regular playing time for the foreseeable future with both Miguel Andujar (shoulder) and Troy Tulowitzki (calf) sidelined. He hit leadoff in the Yankees’ most recent game, although it was vs. a LHP. LeMahieu hit fifth in the order the last time the Yankees faced a RHP.
LeMahieu is not much of a power threat, but he is projected to have a better batting average and on base percentage than average.
Jeimer Candelario, DET vs. KC ($3,900): Candelario has hit fifth, fourth and fifth over the Tigers’ past three games and draws a matchup vs. the aforementioned Junis, who is projected to be worse than average. Candelario was slightly worse than the league average hitter last year, but his .169 isolated power was eight points better than the league average of .161.
Adalberto Mondesi, KC at DET ($5,100): Mondesi, Kansas City’s two-hole hitter, draws a matchup vs. RHP Spencer Turnbull, who is projected to be worse than average this year.
Mondesi’s approach can be open to criticism, as he is very aggressive, barely walks and chases a lot of pitches outside of the strike zone, but he has a power/speed combo that gives him fantasy upside.
Marcus Semien, OAK vs. BOS ($3,600): Semien has been batting leadoff for the A’s against lefties, putting him in line for a premium lineup slot Thursday against LHP Eduardo Rodriguez. Rodriguez is projected to be around average at preventing runs this season. Semien has roughly league average contact quality metrics vs. LHPs in recent years, but they are better than average by the standards of the shortstop position.
Mookie Betts, BOS at OAK ($5,400): Betts made explosive contact quality off LHPs last season based on the exit velocities and angles he struck the ball at and put together an equally impressive .368 isolated power vs. LHPs, the second best power output among all hitters against lefties.
Betts draws a favorable matchup against LHP Brett Anderson, who is projected to be worse than average this year. Anderson struck out just 15% of the RHBs he faced last year, below the league average of 22%, which will make it easier for Betts to put the ball in play. Anderson also allowed more home runs than average to RHBs last year.
Victor Robles, WAS at NYM ($3,900): The speedy Robles, who is projected to steal more than 25 bases this year by most mainstream projections, could take advantage of Syndergaard on the base paths, especially if given a lineup slot upgrade in the absence of Trea Turner (finger). Syndergaard has been among the worst in the game at holding baserunners and preventing stolen bases.
Robles launched a 110 mph missile of a home run off Syndergaard in their previous meeting, the third hardest hit batted ball Syndergaard has given up in his entire career.
Other options: Brett Gardner ($4,300)
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is timfinn521) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
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