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Opening Day MLB DFS Action
Greetings, Gamers! Baseball is back and we have a two-game Opening Day slate on Thursday before things begin in earnest on Friday with 26 teams in action.
Let’s look at all four teams and see what hitters and stacks will be standing out. Keep in mind that the marquee contests are gigantic and there will be a ton of roster construction overlap. Don’t play above your means, as we are going to have two months of wall-to-wall MLB DFS opportunities.
There are three excellent pitchers taking the bump on Thursday with Johnny Cueto being the hurler the masses are going to target against.
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Los Angeles Dodgers vs. RHP Johnny Cueto – 5.0 implied runs
Over the last two seasons, Cueto has compiled just 69.0 innings with a 6.65 K/9, 4.94 FIP and 4.61 xFIP. This is mediocre at best considering 48.0 of these innings took place in pitching friendly Oracle Park.
Lefties have had their way with Cueto over the last two seasons. The last 131 he faced have tattooed longballs at a 2.25 HR/9 rate with just a 16.8 K%. Same-handed batsmen have mostly been held in check with the last 150 tallying a low 0.73 HR/9 and a mediocre 19.3 K%.
This implied run total and the Dodgers now enjoying a full-time designated hitter along with the rest of the National League will have the masses congregating here. We can still employ the Dodgers, but we will need to find some differentiation unless, of course, we are prepared to hold hands with everyone across the finish line if the projections hold true.
And the top options are…
Cody Bellinger will likely be the most popular option on Thursday. This makes sense as the reigning National League MVP also won a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger last year. He was fourth in the league with 47 home runs and 10th with 115 RBI accompanied by a .305 batting average. The advanced metrics are even more impressive with a .415 wOBA, .324 ISO and 162 wRC+.
Joc Pederson is likely to be hitting sixth or seventh, which is an amazing luxury. Of course considering that the Dodgers have won the last seven NL West titles, this should not be a surprise. Pederson was 22nd last year with 36 homers with all of them coming off right-handed pitchers. Over the last two seasons, in 743 at-bats, he checks in with the third-most home runs in lefty-righty matchups with an even 60.
For differentiation (again, that will be somewhat limited on the two-game slate in these large-field tournaments), look to Justin Turner, A.J. Pollock, Will Smith and offseason acquisition Mookie Betts, better known as the 2018 American League MVP.
San Francisco Giants at LHP Clayton Kershaw – 2.5 implied runs
Basically we are looking for a lucky home run or a potential meltdown from the three-time Cy Young Award winner and/or one of the best bullpens in baseball. Heading into his 13th campaign, Kershaw is still a force to be reckoned with despite allowing a career-high 1.41 HR/9 last season. Righties got to him at a 1.49 HR/9 rate and lefties had an above-average 1.32 HR/9, accounting for five of the 28 total home runs allowed.
Active Giants hitters are barely above the Mendoza line when facing Kershaw with Brandon Belt having the most dubious line, going 4-for-60 or .067, striking out 29 times with one double. Of course it only takes one swing of the bat for him to pay off, and he should get one or two chances against the bullpen. Belt is dealing with a sore heel, but he could always be the designated hitter.
So who do we turn to from San Francisco For MLB DFS lineups?
Evan Longoria is a noted lefty masher, but he will likely be announced as heading to the injured list with an oblique issue. That leaves the aging duo of Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval along with recent acquisition Wilmer Flores, who may actually not be a lefty masher.
Your “sneaky” option is Mike Yastrzemski, who made his rookie debut last year and will turn 30 next month. He put together a scrappy season and was a serviceable fantasy option with 21 home runs in 107 games. On a fun note, he and his grandfather Carl have a combined 473 MLB home runs.
New York Yankees at RHP Max Scherzer – 4.0 implied runs
This is not going to be easy for the Yankees going against the World Champion Washington Nationals. Scherzer will be on the mound. Across his amazing career, he has three Cy Young awards, two no-hitters and a 20-strikeout game. More impressive he has been a top-five finisher for the Cy Young in each of the last seven seasons.
Luke Voit, Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks are the only Yankees to have faced Scherzer. Collectively they are 8-for-45 for a .178 average with two home runs and 18 punchouts. The Nats bullpen still has question marks, and even if Scherzer rolls up 100-ish pitches, they are still likely to have to handle a couple innings.
Among the usual suspects in the New York lineup, I am giving strong consideration to Hicks and Gardner as lefties. Since the beginning of the 2018 seasons, Scherzer has a 38.5 K% against same-handed hitters.
Washington Nationals vs. RHP Gerrit Cole – 3.5 implied runs
Last year Cole came in second place for the AL Cy Young behind teammate Justin Verlander. Across his last 800 left-handed hitters faced, Cole has fanned an astounding 42.4%. That is amazing considering they have the “platoon advantage” over him. Same-handed hitters are striking out 32.1% of the time during that same two-season span. Those figures are first and 10th, respectively, among pitchers with at least 70 innings pitched during that stretch.