Major League Baseball is back! With rule changes designed to improve the pace of play and no more wonky defensive shifts, there’s definitely hope that it will also be better than ever.
The start of a new season also means it’s time to get back to the daily fantasy baseball action on DraftKings. I’m excited to be back for another season of MLB targets as part of our full team of great fantasy baseball coverage coming your way each day.
As always, make sure to keep a close eye on pregame lineups and the latest player news by installing the DK Live app and following DK Live on Twitter (@dklive). I’m also on Twitter (@ZT_Sports), where you can keep up with all my picks as the season continues.
Opening Day brings a great 11-game afternoon schedule starting at 1:00 p.m. ET. No game on the main slate starts after 4:10 p.m. ET, but there are four games scheduled under the lights as well with three games on the late slate that gets underway at 10:05 p.m. ET. In this post, we’ll be focused on the main slate of 11 games where you can find our featured contests.
Max Scherzer, New York Mets at Miami Marlins ($9,400) – There are so many aces in play on Opening Day that it’s really just a case of picking between good, better and best. To me, Scherzer is the best option in part due to his great matchup against the Marlins. Miami is projected to have one of the lowest-scoring offenses this season and also has plenty of swing-and-miss options in its projected starting lineup. Last year, the Marlins ranked in the top 10 in K/9 and the bottom 10 in ISO, wOBA and runs per game. They did make some offseason moves but should still be a great matchup for Mad Max.
Scherzer produced mixed results in his first season with the Mets. He actually set a career-best with a 2.29 ERA and kept his elite strikeout rate at 10.7 K/9. However, he only made 23 starts and pitched a career-low 145 1⁄3 innings (not counting the shortened 2020 season). He has looked healthy and ready to roll for another big season during Spring Training, allowing just three runs in 17 2⁄3 innings with 25 strikeouts. Building around Scherzer against Miami isn’t a revolutionary idea, but this looks like a case of not overthinking it and taking that free space.
Other Options – Corbin Burnes ($8,800), Max Fried ($8,100)
Shane McClanahan, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Detroit Tigers ($7,700) – So many aces on the mound and so few SP roster spots! It’s impossible to overlook McClanahan, though, at this salary in this home matchup against the free-swinging Tigers. Last year, McClanahan started the season red-hot and went 10-3 with a 1.71 ERA, 2.41 FIP and 11.95 K/9 before the All-Star break. Sure, he faded down the stretch and battled injury, but there’s no denying the elite ceiling he can bring based on his strikeout potential.
The 25-year-old southpaw has looked sharp this spring as well, allowing only one run in 9 2⁄3 innings with 10 strikeouts. His strikeout numbers were much better last year at home than on the road, and a matchup with the Tigers should lead to a big game for McClanahan out of the gates. McClanahan might be one of the five best starting pitchers in baseball, so getting him with the 10th-highest salary on this slate and in a juicy matchup is too good to pass up.
Other Options – Hunter Greene ($7,400), Mitch Keller ($6,700)
Anthony Rizzo, New York Yankees vs. San Francisco Giants ($4,700) – Rizzo and the Yankees open the season at home against the Giants and Logan Webb ($7,600). While the Giants’ starter normally limits damage, he struggled against lefties last year, allowing a .321 wOBA and six home runs to lefties over his 32 starts. Rizzo hit 32 homers last season, matching his career high while driving in 75 runs and posting a .352 wOBA. Nineteen of his 32 homers were at home, where he had a .360 wOBA and .270 ISO. He’ll be one of the anchors in the middle of the Yankees’ power-packed lineup again this season, and Rizzo is a good play at home on Opening Day.
Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays at St. Louis Cardinals ($4,600) – Bichette started slowly last season but looks to be ready to explode out of the blocks this year. He went 17-for-54 (.315) in his 20 games this spring with four home runs, which is in stark contrast to his 7-for-33 (.212) with no home runs last year. Miles Mikolas ($7,400) gets the call for the Cardinals on Opening Day and gives up enough contact to be a decent matchup on this slate full of aces.
Other Options – Vladimir Guerrero Jr. ($5,300), Yandy Díaz ($4,300)
Brandon Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Detroit Tigers ($4,000) – Lowe is looking to bounce back from a lost season last year due to multiple injuries. He was limited to just 65 games and hit just eight home runs with a .162 ISO and .306 wOBA. In 2021, he hit 39 homers with a .277 ISO and .363 wOBA in his breakout season. His projections for this year fall somewhere in between those two outputs, but he has looked healthy and productive this spring, with three homers and a .306 batting average in 16 games. He is in a lefty-lefty matchup against Eduardo Rodríguez ($7,100) and the Tigers, but Lowe has actually gone 4-for-13 with three home runs against E-Rod in the past, making his not a matchup you need to avoid.
Anthony Volpe, New York Yankees vs. San Francisco Giants ($2,500) – Climb on board the hype train for the Yankees’ top prospect! At this salary, he’s hard to pass up even if he hits ninth in the order as expected. Volpe forced his way onto the roster by going 17-for-55 (.309) with three home runs and five stolen bases this Spring Training. His much-anticipated MLB debut will probably be the last time he’s available so affordably.
Other Options – Jose Miranda ($3,300), Josh Jung ($2,800)
Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals ($5,800) – The Twins have treated Buxton extremely cautiously this preseason and they’re expected to have him DH primarily in the early going this season. There are no fantasy points given for playing CF, but that’s great with fantasy owners, who are primarily interested in Buxton’s big bat. Last season, he smashed a career-high 28 home runs in his 92 games with an elite .303 ISO and .356 wOBA. When he’s healthy, he brings an elite ceiling, and he should be ready to roll this season, starting with this favorable matchup against Zack Greinke ($6,100).
Randy Arozarena, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Detroit Tigers ($5,100) – Arozarena was dominant in the WBC, going 9-for-20 (.450) with six doubles, six walks and a home run at the top of the lineup for Mexico. He has been streaky throughout his time in the Majors and looks to be scorching to start the season. After returning to the Rays, he finished Grapefruit action 5-for-17 (.294) with two home runs. The Rays will rely on Arozarena to keep crushing, and he should be locked into the heart of their batting order this season.
Other Options – Christian Yelich ($4,800), Masataka Yoshida ($4,400)
Michael Harris II, Atlanta Braves vs. Washington Nationals ($3,700) – The 2022 National League Rookie of the Year comes at a special discounted rate for Opening Day, apparently. Harris is expected to move up and hit at least in the middle of the order after his impressive rookie year in which he made the jump from Double-A straight to the Majors. Once arriving, he hit .297 with 19 homers, 20 stolen bases and a .368 wOBA. He is a lefty in this matchup with Patrick Corbin ($6,200), but don’t let that scare you off. Harris brings too high of a ceiling with multiple ways to produce to pass on because of Corbin, who has been great for stacking against the past few seasons.
Jordan Walker, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Toronto Blue Jays ($2,000) – If Volpe isn’t the top prospect to watch on Opening Day, Walker gets that title. Like Volpe, the 20-year-old forced his way onto the Opening Day roster with an electric Spring Training. Walker went 18-for-65 (.277) with five doubles, three home runs and two stolen bases. Most of that damage was early in the spring, though, so he doesn’t roll into the regular season quite as hot as Volpe. He does come extremely cheap, though, and is an outstanding punt play loaded with upside. His sky-high ceiling and potential for greatness have been on full display all spring, so getting him at only $2K may not last for long.
Other Options – Lars Nootbaar ($3,900), Jesse Winker ($3,100), Trent Grisham ($2,500)
TEAMS TO STACK
Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals – The Nationals give the ball to Patrick Corbin ($6,200) for the second straight season on Opening Day. Last year, he allowed 27 home runs in 31 starts on his way to a 6.31 ERA and 4.84 FIP. In Spring Training, he continued to struggle, allowing 10 runs on 21 hits in 18 innings. The Braves should be one of the best stacks to open the season as a result of his ongoing issues. Ronald Acuña Jr. ($5,700), Austin Riley ($4,600) and newcower Sean Murphy ($3,400) are all good power options from the projected top four in the lineup. Harris and Matt Olson ($4,200) are both available at a discount since they’re left-handed but can still be considered in such a delicious matchup. Murphy is joined as a potential value play by Ozzie Albies ($3,900), who has gone 12-for-28 in his career against Corbin with seven extra-base hits including three home runs.
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Detroit Tigers – After signing with Detroit as a free agent prior to last year, Rodriguez was limited to 17 starts going 5-5 with a 4.05 ERA and 4.41 FIP. He had strong reverse splits, allowing lefties to pummel him for a .393 wOBA while holding righties to “just” a .297 wOBA, although nine of his 12 homers allowed came to righties. Since Rodriguez was never the picture of efficiency, the Rays should get a good look at the Tigers’ bullpen too, which is good for their matchup as well. Arozarena and Lowe are both cornerstones to build around, as mentioned above, but there’s also some good upside to consider with Yandy Diaz ($4,300) and Wander Franco ($4,700) at the top of the lineup with Christian Bethancourt ($2,800) and Jose Siri ($2,600) as value plays near the bottom of the lineup.
Put your knowledge to the test. Sign up for DraftKings and experience the game inside the game.
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 do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups. 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.