While most of the attention of the sports world will be on the start of the NFL regular season on Sunday, a great 13-game fantasy baseball slate is also ready to roll on DraftKings. Nine games are scheduled to start in the first hour of the contests, which start at 1:05 p.m. ET. Five of the games are divisional contests, and three are interleague matchups. There is some rain in the forecast in several locations, so be sure to check back for a weather update before the action gets underway.
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Jesus Luzardo, Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies ($8,900) – Sunday afternoon’s slate is packed with good pitching plays, with multiple aces and lots of options with high ceilings. Luzardo is one of the best balances of upside and salary savings, since he’s priced under $9K, but still has high strikeout potential and good form.
Luzardo has strung together three straight quality starts, allowing just two total runs on seven hits with a total of 21 strikeouts in 18 innings. Luzardo pitched the Marlins past the Dodgers in his most recent outing, earning a no-decision and 18.5 DKFP. In his two previous outings, he had better totals with 29.7 DKFP against the Padres and 27.7 DKFP against the Rays. Luzardo will be facing the Phillies for the third time this season. He has two wins against them, while allowing five runs in 12 1⁄3 innings with 14 strikeouts. He had an impressive 28.65 DKFP in his most recent outing against the Phillies, who can sometimes struggle against left-handed pitchers. They have decent team-power against lefties but rank No. 6 in the majors with a 24.7% K% in that split. The matchup should let Luzardo get enough strikeouts to counteract any damage and give him a very high ceiling.
Other Options – Gerrit Cole ($12,000), Corbin Burnes ($10,200)
Cole Ragans, Kansas City Royals at Toronto Blue Jays ($8,200) – Since he pitches for the Royals, Ragans is a little off the radar coming into this matchup, but I have him and Luzardo as an outstanding mid-range tandem that can be the core of a winning lineup. Ragans started the year with the Rangers but was traded to the Royals as part of the Aroldis Chapman trade. Since joining Kansas City, Ragans has been absolutely awesome. He went 4-1 with just eight earned runs allowed over his first eight starts with the team, with a 1.51 ERA, 1.61 FIP, 0.96 WHIP and an average of 25.6 DKFP per start. Ragans has been piling up strikeouts with 63 over his 47 2⁄3 innings with the Royals for a robust 11.9 K/9.
Ragans comes into this start in Toronto with the best form of any starter on the whole slate. He hasn’t allowed a run in 19 innings over his past three starts, with 27 strikeouts and just six hits allowed. While the lineups he faced weren’t as tough as Toronto’s, the lefty still brings a high enough ceiling that he definitely deserves consideration at just over $8K after posting over 30 DKFP in three straight outings.
Other Option – Hunter Greene ($8,400), Grayson Rodriguez ($7,600)
Matt Olson, Atlanta Braves vs. Pittsburgh Pirates ($6,400) – Coming into Saturday night’s contest in which he smashed another homer, Olson was starting to heat up again, and he has a good matchup against Luis L. Ortiz ($5,500) on Sunday afternoon. Ortiz has allowed seven home runs and a .427 wOBA to lefties on the season, so Olson should be in a great spot to go off. Coming into Saturday, the slugging 1B leads the majors with 47 homers and has a .406 wOBA, which places him sixth in MLB. He has had many bursts of dominance this season and went 10-for-18 (.556) with a double, four home runs and an average of 18.4 DKFP per game in his five games this past workweek.
Gunnar Henderson, Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox ($5,300) – At just 22 years old, Henderson has had an impressive first full season in the majors. He hit his 24th homer of the year on Saturday night, raising his batting average to .254 and his wOBA to 346. He has been on a great roll lately, going 15-for-50 (.300) over his past 11 games with two home runs, two stolen bases and an average of 11.8 DKFP per contest. Henderson typically hits in the first or second spot against right-handed starters like Bryan Bello ($7,800), so he should be in a prime run-producing spot on Sunday afternoon, as the Orioles go for the sweep in Boston. He also brings the added bonus of dual eligibility at 3B and SS.
Other Options – Trea Turner ($6,200), Spencer Steer ($5,000), Ha-Seong Kim ($4,800)
Noelvi Marte, Cincinnati Reds vs. St. Louis Cardinals ($3,200) – If you needed more proof that the Reds are a super-young team, Marte was hit by a throw during warmups in a classic little league blooper. It wasn’t all fun and games for Marte, though, since he was scratched from the lineup. The injury didn’t initially appear too serious though, and he could be back in the lineup Sunday in a great matchup to take out his frustration on Miles Mikolas ($6,500), who usually gives up a ton of contact. The 21-year-old Marte has been productive since being called up 19 games ago. He hit .254 in those games (16-for-63) with five doubles, a home run, six stolen bases and an average of 7.2 DKFP per contest. He has hit safely in seven of his past eight games, with four games of at least 9.0 DKFP. He has a good ceiling for an option under $3.5K, if he’s able to return.
Donovan Solano, Minnesota Twins vs. New York Mets ($2,700) – If you decide to go cheap at 1B to pay up in other spots, Solano has been a steady producer for the Twins since August 1. In his 26 games since then, he hit .372 (35-for-94) with a solid .384 wOBA. He doesn’t offer the power potential of a prototypical 1B target, but he does come cheap and almost always gives some level of production since he’s an on-base machine. He has 11 multi-hit performances over his past 24 games, though, so there’s enough upside to make him a good value punt play.
Other Options – Nick Loftin ($3,300), Elvis Andrus ($3,100), Garrett Hampson ($2,300)
Julio Rodriguez, Seattle Mariners at Tampa Bay Rays ($6,700) – Rodriguez has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball when healthy over the past several weeks. He has 10 homers in his past 18 games after going yard again on Saturday, and is up to 29 dingers on the year. Rodriguez started slowly in his sophomore season but has come on strong since the All-Star break. He went 37-for-87 (.425) in his past 19 games with six stolen bases, in addition to his 10 home runs and 21 RBI. That production boosted him to an average of 17.4 DKFP over that stretch. Rodriguez is on the strong side of the splits against Zach Eflin ($9,200) in Sunday’s series finale, since Eflin has been more hittable by righties and Rodriguez has had much more power production against right-handed pitchers this season.
Cody Bellinger, Chicago Cubs vs. Arizona Diamondbacks ($6,300) – After fading to an afterthought with the Dodgers, Bellinger has had a remarkable resurgence with the Cubs in his first year in Chicago. The lefty has hit .319 with 24 homers and 88 RBI in his 112 games this season and is on track for a career-high with a .380 wOBA. He has also been finishing the season strong in September, going 14-for-41 (.341) with four home runs, two stolen bases and an average of 12.4 DKFP per contest. He and the Cubs will look to avoid a four-game sweep at home at the hands of the Diamondbacks as they take on prospect Brandon Pfaadt ($6,900), who has surrendered 17 homers in 15 starts, including 10 to lefties like Bellinger, who have a .389 wOBA in the split.
Other Options – Ronald Acuña Jr. ($6,900), Corbin Carroll ($5,800), Kerry Carpenter ($4,800)
Esteury Ruiz, Oakland Athletics at Texas Rangers ($4,000) – In case you’re not watching a ton of A’s games (and who could blame you), Ruiz is back and putting up good numbers again after an injury and a midseason swoon. The 24-year-old looked a lot like Rickey Henderson early in the year and has returned to form over the past couple of weeks. In his previous nine games with a plate appearance prior to Saturday, Ruiz went 10-for-25 (.400) with two doubles, two homers and nine stolen bases for an average of 12.8 DKFP per contest. His 58 stolen bases on the season lead the AL and are second only to Acuña in the majors. While he doesn’t offer nearly the power production Acuña brings, Ruiz has enough speed to be a great play at $4K in Sunday’s matchup with Jon Gray ($8,600).
Evan Carter, Texas Rangers vs. Oakland Athletics ($2,500) – Carter didn’t start on Saturday, but in his MLB debut on Friday, he went 1-for-3 with a walk, a stolen base and 10 DKFP. The 21-year-old is the Rangers’ No. 1 overall prospect and the No. 8 prospect in all of baseball, per MLB Pipeline. He looks ready to contribute immediately after posting 12 homers and 25 stolen bases in his 105 games in Double-A and Triple-A. While his salary is no longer at the minimum of $2K, he still is a great bargain at $2.5K for the upside he brings in a very productive lineup, in a good matchup against the Athletics.
Other Options – Tyler O’Neill ($3,800), Hunter Renfroe ($3,600), Chris Taylor ($3,500)
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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 skills 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.