Opening Day brings us a plethora of solid pitching options, as all teams will put their best arms forward for the beginning of the season. Let’s break down my top-5 options for Monday’s Opening Day slate.
1. Clayton Kershaw – LAD vs. SD – $12,800
He’s an obvious choice, but there’s a very good reason that Kershaw is the most expensive starting pitcher on Opening Day. In his six Opening Day starts, Kershaw has a sparkling 0.93 ERA. He has piled up 44 strikeouts in 38.2 innings while walking only six. He tuned up for this year’s start with a great spring (2.14 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 21 innings), and he threw six shutout innings with 11 strikeouts in his last outing.
On top of all those dominating numbers, Kershaw will be facing the Padres who he is 5-0 against with a 1.10 ERA over the last three seasons, and he’ll be at home where he is 29-6 with a 1.54 ERA over that timespan. The Padres’ lineup is loaded with potential but doesn’t have many well-established options. The only slight downside to Kershaw is that he will likely be highly owned since he’s such an obvious choice when you look at all the numbers. Still, Opening Day may be the day to spend big on pitching and roll with Kershaw.
2. Stephen Strasbug – WAS vs. MIA – $9,900
Getting a power pitcher like Strasburg with a high strikeout-rate at under $10K is a beautiful way to start the season. He has a 2.25 ERA in his three Opening Day starts.
The big plus of going with Strasburg over some of the other options at the top of the salary structure is his ability to pile up major strikeouts almost every time out. He had 183 strikeouts in his 147 innings last season including 17 strikeouts in 14 innings against Miami.
3. Rick Porcello – BOS vs. PIT – $8,800
The reigning American League Cy Young award winner gets a home start against the Pirates to start his title defense. Porcello went 5-0 last April and 13-1 at Fenway last season. He also pitched very well against the National League and gets the advantage of facing the Pirates who play half their games without the DH spot. In day games, Porcello was unbeaten going 7-0 with a 3.69 ERA.
I see Porcello as a solid, low-risk start on Opening Day backed by a good lineup, but he’s #3 on the list because he doesn’t get quite the strikeouts to move him past Strasburg or Kershaw. If you’re spending under $9K, though, to leave budget for hitters, Porcello should be a good investment.
4. Julio Teheran – ATL @ NYM – $8,300
The Braves won’t open their new park until April 14, but they’ll get their season underway in the Big Apple against the Mets this afternoon. Teheran may not be quite as well-known a commodity as the top three pitchers on this list, but he’s still in a place to produce a strong start for you.
Last season, he started four games against his AL East rivals from New York and went 2-0 with a sparkling 0.90 ERA. He only allowed 15 hits in 30 innings against the Mets while striking out 18 and walking just three. He pitched for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic and led them to their first ever win as they knocked off Canada. Teheran should be stretched out and ready to roll for his first start for the Braves.
5. Danny Duffy – KC @ MIN – $8,600
In his sixth season with the Royals, Duffy finally had a breakthrough year posting a 3.15 ERA to go with a 1.14 WHIP and an impressive 12-3 record. While the Royals will definitely start the season with a heavy heart after the loss of Yordano Ventura who pitched last year’s Opening Day, Duffy was already the “ace” last season and will look to continue his emergence as a frontline starter this season.
He starts with a great matchup on Opening Day against the Twins who are expected to struggle offensively this season. Last year, Duffy went 1-0 with a 3.10 ERA against Minnesota in four appearances. He should have a good chance at a win against the Twins who are rolling with Ervin Santana as their Opening Day starter.
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