Major League Baseball is back! After a great Opening Day on Thursday that was a 15-game baseball bonanza with every team in action, Friday settles down a little bit with just five games on the slate. The five games on Friday night are in domes or places that usually have reliably good weather, since the date was left as a buffer in case any of Thursday’s games had weather issues.
The start of a new season also means it’s time to lock in for another great season of 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.
Robbie Ray, Seattle Mariners vs. Cleveland Guardians ($9,200) – Ray has always had immense strikeout upside, and he was able to harness that and turn in one of the best fantasy baseball seasons in MLB history on his way to the 2021 Cy Young. He struggled a little last year, though, in his first year with the Mariners. His ERA and FIP were both up and his K/9 rate dropped from 11.54 K/9 in his Cy Young season to 10.1 K/9 last year. He still was a solid 12-12 with a 10.1 K/9 and 4.17 FIP but had some rough luck and a few bad outings.
This Spring, though, he was back in top form, allowing only two runs on 11 hits over 17 innings. In those five starts, he piled up an impressive 26 strikeouts and walked only six. He gets a good matchup at home for his first start of the regular season, and he looks primed for another dominant season.
Other Option – Dustin May ($8,400)
Cristian Javier, Houston Astros vs. Chicago White Sox ($8,200) – Javier is another pitcher with an extremely high ceiling due to his strikeout potential. Last year, he had a breakthrough season logging just under 150 regular season innings and going 11-9 with a 3.16 FIP and an 11.74 K/9 rate. The 25-year-old looks ready to pick up where he left off, posting a Grapefruit League stat line of 2.31 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 10 strikeouts in 11 2⁄3 innings.
Javier was especially dominant last year at home, where he held opponents to a .154 batting average with 96 strikeouts in just 75 2⁄3 innings. Javier would be a tempting option if he was the most expensive pitcher on the slate, but the fact that he’s so affordable makes him too good to pass up on Friday night.
Other Options – Nick Martinez ($7,300), Drew Peterson ($6,600)
Alex Bregman, Houston Astros vs. Chicago White Sox ($5,100) – Bregman and the Astros will look to give Javier run support as they take on veteran Lance Lynn ($8,800). Bregman has gone 6-for-15 (.400) with four extra-base hits including two home runs in his career against Lynn. He went 12-for-43 (.279) this spring, showing he’s fully recovered from the broken finger that required off-season surgery. Without Jose Altuve (thumb) and Michael Brantley (shoulder), Bregman slotted second in the Astros’ lineup in the opener. Despite going 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts in that contest, he should be very productive in that spot in the order, especially in this favorable matchup.
Xander Bogaerts, San Diego Padres vs. Colorado Rockies ($4,800) – Bogaerts hit cleanup in his Padres’ debut on Thursday night, going 3-for-4 with two doubles and a run scored. He should be in a great matchup for him on Friday as he faces lefty Kyle Freeland ($7,200). Last season, he hit a scalding .382 with a .446 wOBA and 192 wRC+ against southpaws. Getting him in that matchup at under $5K in the heart of a productive lineup should make him a good cornerstone to build around Friday night.
Other Options – Pete Alonso ($5,600), Max Muncy ($4,700)
Christian Walker, Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers ($3,300) – Walker is extremely affordable for a power bat who hits in the heart of his team’s lineup. On Opening Day, he was in his typical cleanup spot and 1-for-3 with an RBI single in the first inning.
Last season, Walker had horrible BABIP luck early in the year, but his hard-hit rate eventually led to positive regression He hit .305 with a .384 wOBA and 148 wRC+ after August 1 last season and finished with a career-high 36 home runs to go with a .346 wOBA and 44.0% hard-hit rate, per Statcast. While Dustin May ($8,400) isn’t an easy matchup, he’s not one you need to avoid either, so getting Walker at this salary could be a bargain buy that pays off.
Ezequiel Tovar, Colorado Rockies at San Diego Padres ($2,500) – Without the Yankees and Cardinals on the slate, Anthony Volpe and Jordan Walker aren’t available for rookie value. Tovar is a solid alternative, though, after claiming the everyday SS job for Colorado. On Opening Day, he batted ninth and went 1-for-5. The 21-year-old hit .302 with two doubles and two homers this spring, and has a great power/speed combo that can make him a hit at this salary in multiple ways on any slate, even when the Rockies aren’t at Coors Field.
Other Options – Luis Arraez ($3,900), Elehuris Montero ($2,400)
Julio Rodríguez, Seattle Mariners vs. Cleveland Guardians ($5,500) – Rodríguez quickly became one of everyone’s favorite players in his rookie season last year, with the exception of opposing pitchers. He got 29 of the 30 first-place votes for the AM Rookie of the Year after smashing 28 homers and stealing 25 bases and posting a .366 wOBA despite a slow start. Although he went 0-for-4 on Opening Day, he doesn’t look like he’s set for a sophomore slump or a second straight slow start. He tore up the Cactus League, going 16-for-36 (.444) with five doubles and two home runs. He and the Mariners get a good matchup overall against Guardians’ SP Hunter Gaddis ($5,000), who will be making his third MLB start in place of the injured Triston McKenzie (shoulder). In his two starts last year, he went 0-2 with 15 runs allowed on seven home runs in just 7 1⁄3 innings pitched for an 18.41 ERA and 15.39 FIP.
Tommy Pham, New York Mets at Miami Marlins ($4,400) – Pham is projected to get the start on Friday against lefty Jesús Luzardo ($7,800) after appearing as a pinch hitter on Thursday. Last season, Pham hit .273 against southpaws with a .173 ISO, a .342 wOBA and 115 wRC+. He has a good blend of power and speed, giving him a high ceiling, and he is a good option to consider in this salary range Friday night.
Other Options – Yordan Alvarez ($5,700), Teoscar Hernandez ($5,300)
Jarred Kelenic, Seattle Mariners vs. Cleveland Guardians ($2,700) – Kelenic was viewed right alongside Rodríguez as a top prospect as the tandem rose to the Majors, but last year, the lefty was totally unable to find his footing, hitting just .141 in 54 games with the Mariners. He still brings loads of potential, and showed his upside with a big spring, going 18-for-51 (.353) with four homers, two doubles, two triples and three stolen bases. He went 1-for-3 with a stolen base in the season opener Thursday and is in a great matchup to target him as a cheap bat on Friday. It feels like he’s been a “bust” of a top prospect for a while, but he’s only 23 years old.
James Outman, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks ($2,000) – Outman seems to have secured a starting spot in the OF after a big Spring Training, and he kept his momentum going with a 2-for-3 performance in the season opener including a 390-foot home run. He hit three homers in the Cactus League while going 15-for-53 (.283) and should be a regular at least against right-handed starters like Merrill Kelly ($8,300). At the minimum salary, the 25-year-old brings much more upside at the plate than his platoon mate Jason Heyward and has also shown off a great arm in the outfield.
Other Options – Lourdes Gurriel ($3,800), Yonathan Daza ($3,200), Oscar Colas ($2,000)
TEAMS TO STACK
Seattle Mariners vs. Cleveland Guardians – The Mariners should be in a good spot against Hunter Gaddis, as highlighted above under Julio’s section. Gaddis’s ugly numbers from last season don’t paint a total picture since he did have some success at Triple-A and looked much sharper this spring. Still, any time a pitcher has an 8.59 HR/9 rate and allows a 28.1% barrel rate, it’s definitely a matchup to attack even if it is a small sample size. In addition to Rodríguez and Kelenic (highlighted above), Ty France ($4,600), Eugenio Suárez ($4,200) and newcomer Teoscar Hernández ($5,300) are power options to consider. For value in the stack, Cal Raleigh ($3,200) is cheap behind the plate and J.P. Crawford ($3,500) brings power and speed potential from the ninth spot as a “second leadoff” option ahead of Rodríguez.
Colorado Rockies at San Diego Padres – The Rockies are an interesting value stack to consider against Nick Martinez ($7,300). No one in their lineup costs $5K or more, but they piled up 17 hits in the win on Opening Day. C.J. Cron ($4,800) led the way with a pair of home runs, and every starter picked up at least one hit. The Rockies on the road was a stack to stay away from in almost any situation last season, but this squad has some exciting young bats alongside a hopefully healthy Kris Bryant ($4,900), Cron and Charlie Blackmon ($4,300) in the middle of the order. Yonathan Daza ($3,200) is a good value in the leadoff spot, and Tovar is joined by Elehuris Montero ($2,400) as young options who could have breakout seasons.
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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.