We have a small five game slate for the late start on the big Opening Day for MLB. A lot of top tier pitching will toe the rubber tonight, which means the good spots for hitters are tougher to find. We do have a few who stand out, though, so let’s get right to them.
Update (3:45 PM ET): Sonny Gray (SP) has been scratched for Oakland tonight and will be replaced by Rich Hill.*
Clayton Kershaw – Dodgers v. Padres – $12,900 – I realize this is a ton of money to spend, and it handcuffs you into some cheaper options for the rest of your lineup, but he is Clayton Kershaw. Multiple Cy Young’s, minuscule ERA and WHIP, huge strikeout numbers, and the most likely to get a win today. Don’t overthink it here, it’s Kershaw against a bottom half offense in one of the top pitcher’s parks in all of baseball.
Jake Arrieta – Cubs v. Angels – $11,200 – If you think this is too pricey for Arrieta, just look at his stats from last season. Lefties hit only .159 against him. Righties were slightly better, but still not good at only .207. Sure the Angels do have some solid right-handed bats like Trout and Pujols in the middle of that order, but Arrieta is arguably the third best pitcher in all of baseball behind Kershaw and Scherzer. I still think he makes a lot of sense to roll out here.
Zack Greinke – Diamondbacks v. Rockies – $9,000 – Greinke has a new home ballpark that is not as pitcher friendly as Dodger Stadium was. Arizona tends to see more balls fly out of it. That would still require a hitter to make good contact, and that is not something that they do often against Greinke. Lefties hit .192 against him last year and righties were worse at only .182. $9K does not seem like a value, but it’s the first day of the season. We have the ace for every team on the mound tonight. $9K is a $1,000 – $3,000 discount from the top price guys, and it is also towards the middle of the pack in salary today. With an ace on every hill, that’s about as value oriented as I am willing to go here today.
Jose Abreu – White Sox v. Athletics – $4,400 – Abreu has what looks like a tough matchup against a solid pitcher in Sonny Gray, but the spot is softer than it first appears. Gray is actually tougher on lefties (.208 batting average against in 2015) than he is on right-handed hitters who hit .226 against him. Abreu is also someone who prefers a same handed matchup, as he had a .384 wOBA with a .240 ISO score in those situations last season. Chicago is a pretty friendly hitter’s park, and I think Abreu could be a low owned gem that has tournament winning upside today.
Josh Donaldson – Bluejays v. Rays – $4,200 – Josh Donaldson has crushed left-handed pitching his entire career. The only thing that could make this matchup better would be if it was in Toronto. He had a .428 wOBA and an insanely high .333 ISO score against left-handed pitching in 2015. He faces a pitcher in Drew Smyly that not only allowed a batting average of .249 to right-handed bats last year, but gave up 11 homers in 51 innings of work against them. A Homer prone lefty going up against one of the best offenses at hitting left-handed pitching last year is a recipe for disaster. I expect a big game from Donaldson as well as the rest of the Toronto team.
Paul Goldschmidt – Diamondbacks v. Rockies – $5,500 – Goldy is one of the most expensive field players today, but he is also in a great spot. He plays at home in a hitter friendly ballpark. He gets a matchup with a bad pitcher in Jorge De La Rosa who had allowed right-handed hitters to hit .249 against him with a WHIP of 1.40 last season. Goldy is the total package. He has a good lineup spot, he can hit for power, he has speed, his on-base percentage is high, and he drives in runs. Many argue that he is a top 3 player behind Trout and Harper, and others argue he belongs ahead of one or both of them. There is no denying this guy is a stud, the question is whether you can afford to use him or not.
Kris Bryant – Cubs v. Angels – $4,500 – Kris Bryant is an animal. The young Cubs third baseman is a generational type talent. He absolutely mashes the ball, and he had some of the better moonshot homeruns I remember from the 2015 season. Bryant does well in righty/righty matchups with a .377 wOBA and a.215 ISO score last year. He faces a pitcher in Garrett Richards that allowed right-handers to hit for a higher average at .241 and also allowed 12 homers in 93 innings of work. Bryant’s power could come into play here, and his lineup spot will ensure him a few RBI opportunities as well.
Jose Bautista – Bluejays v. Rays – $4,200 – We are going to be picking on Smyly today with all the big right-handed bats in the Jays order. Bautista usually bats third or fourth, so he is right in the heart of that order. He has huge power upside and loves to mash against left-handed pitching. He had a wOBA over .360 and an ISO score of .220 against them in 2015, so this is a great spot. Remember that Smyly is very homerun prone, so the Jays entire heart of the order is in play tonight.
Kyle Schwarber – Cubs v. Angels – $4,300 – Schwarber will be a popular play at a weak catcher position due to the power he showed us in limited time last year. He had a .407 wOBA and a .258 ISO score against right-handed pitching, so he was one of the best bats the Cubbies had to attack a southpaw. Garrett Richards allowed a .226 batting average with a WHIP of 1.19 to left-handed batters last season. It is not a slam dunk matchup, but he is in a good spot to produce in that stacked Cubs lineup. His spot in the order is going to determine whether he is a great play today or merely a good one.
Troy Tulowitzki – Blue Jays v. Rays – $3,600 – Shortstop is a weak position to begin with, and the homer on Opening Day Part 1 for Tulo is only going to raise his ownership rate. That does not mean you should fade him, though, as this is a great spot. The Blue Jays absolutely mashed left-handed pitching last season, and the whole core of the team had a wOBA over .360 with ISO scores in the .220 range against them last year. Tulo has always been good against left-handed pitching himself, so that combo should yield a nice score. Smyly is prone to giving up homers, and at only $3,600, you will not find a player this cheap with more upside today at any position.
Cory Seager – Dodgers v. Padres – $3,600 – The highly touted prospect exploded onto the scene late last season and showed us why he is so coveted. In limited time, Seager had a .427 wOBA and a .259 ISO score in the majors against right-handed pitching. Tyson Ross allowed left-handed batters to hit .256 against him with a WHIP of 1.50. It is a tough ballpark to jack out a homer in, and we have no idea where Seager will bat or if he even plays today. If he does, though, $3,600 seems like a cheap price for the budding star.
Carl Crawford – Dodgers v. Padres – $2,700 – This price is way too cheap for Crawford here today. Andre Ethier went down with an injury, so Crawford is in line to start. Not only that, but Crawford is most likely going to be the lead off man for this offense while he is out. The lefty has always hit well against right-handed pitching, and we just went through the numbers for Ross above. Crawford has a lot of big bats in that Los Angeles lineup behind him, so I would look for a nice game with a few times on base, the potential for a steal or two and some runs scored. At only $2,700, he offers a lot of upside at a very low price for a guy who should have prominent lineup placement in a decent matchup today.
“He should continue to be prominently featured in the middle of that lineup and can help you cash with one swing of the bat…”
Wellington Castillo – Diamondbacks v. Rockies – $3,800 – The man affectionately dubbed BEEF Wellington Castillo was a pleasant surprise last season for daily fantasy owners. His batting average and wOBA are not huge, but he does have elite power for a catcher. Castillo’s .254 ISO score highlights just how much power he has. He plays in a hitter friendly ballpark and faces a weak left-handed pitcher in Jorge De La Rosa. He should continue to be prominently featured in the middle of that lineup. He is very hit or miss, so I would prefer to use him in a tournament, but he did enough last year to make me feel safe in his upside.
Logan Forsythe – Rays v. Blue Jays – $3,100 – Forsythe comes in with second base eligibility, and that is important on this slate. We do not have many stud options at the position, and he should fly under the radar. Forsythe faces R.A. Dickey, and you can throw most numbers out against a knuckleballer like him. Against Dickey I am way more interested in BvP history then I am in any other stats. Guys tend to either be able to hit a knuckleball or not. Dickey struggles more with right-handed batters, so that is a good sign for Forsythe. Forsythe is also 6/21 Lifetime with a .375 on-base percentage against Dickey, so the numbers are solid enough for me to give him a look as a salary saver at only $3,100.
Steven Souza Jr. – Rays v. Blue Jays – $3,400 – This guy has tantalizing upside, but he never seems to break through. I think this is the season he takes a step forward. He has limited at-bats against Dickey, but he has gone 2 for 6 in them. BvP matters a lot to me against knuckleball pitchers as we discussed above, so he is an interesting tournament flyer. Crawford is my favorite cheap option by a wide margin, but I will have some Souza in tournaments, as I think he will be very low owned.