Opening Day 2019 is here! Without a doubt this should be a National Holiday as it marks the official beginning of six months of Baseball through the Spring, Summer and Early fall months where we can enjoy the best sport in America. However, my hot take on Opening Day is that it sucks for DFS. To me Opening Day in any DFS sport is like New Years Eve, it brings out all the fakes and the ‘look at me’ types who are trying to come around and sound relevant but will be gone by early May when we are still grinding and dominating. But that’s okay, we should be happy we have Baseball back and get settled into a nice long season.
Opening Day and April baseball in general is a fantastic time to go against the grain but also stick to what your pre-season thoughts and predictions might have been if they were contrarian in any regard. Specifically looking at underdogs in April, over the last ten years if you had bet $100 on every underdog you would have profited $3,114. Yeah, thats a lot of wagering but the point here is that underdogs are more likely to win in April when the Vegas odds aren’t adjusted to what is known about teams like it is when we get into May and June. Road underdogs in particular are very solid plays, especially coming off a loss the day before.
This doesn’t mean that we have to go completely contrarian, but if ever there is a time to stop and say what “could” happen versus what “should” happen then that time is now. There are also three common elements to early season Baseball that you will want to remember over the next week or two:
- Hitting generally is slow. The transition from Spring Training elements and smaller ballparks into colder weather games and adjusting to playing every day means hitters generally are behind early in the season in Production. You should still expect plenty of offense, but we won’t be seeing a ton of 8, 9, 10 run games early in the year.
- Weather is key early. Lots of games will be cold. We can narrow our focus generally to a few key stadiums that will play well for hitting.
- Pitchers don’t go deep and aren’t worth expensive prices. The chances of getting a pitcher to throw 115 pitches on Opening Day are about as slim as they come. Don’t expect more than 6 innings out of most guys early in the season which means paying 11k premiums is gonna be pretty rare to stomach unless all other options are horrific.
- Bullpens blow games. Death. Taxes. Opening Day Blown Saves.
DraftKings and FanDuel are off and running with different MAIN slates for Opening Day. One day in and we’re already cursing these two. I prefer FanDuel’s slate simply because it is bigger. The bigger sized main slate will always win for me in Baseball. Bigger is better in MLB. But I’ll cover angles for both sites here, however your DK Early only focus will need to be mindful of who is playing in the games before 4PM if you are on there and obviously the thoughts on who is chalk will differ. Hopefully going forward we don’t have much of this from the sites this year.
It looks like we are going to dodge major issues on Opening Day. Obviously no games have extreme heat, but outside of Minnesota (above 40) we don’t have any games that appear to be really cold either. All of the 4PM games could have some shadows in them and even a few of the 1PM games will get some shadows creeping in. Spring and fall day games get more shadows than the summer games.
- Chicago White Sox @ Kansas City Royals — Rain concerns here with the rain picking up later in the day. I would suspect they PPD it early if they are going to cancel it. They have an off day Friday so they could technically push Opening Day back a day.
Masahiro Tanaka … Get used to everyone picking on the Orioles lineup this year with Pitching and starting off with Tanaka at home vs Baltimore is where we can expect most to start off today. While I made the note about underdogs above, the Orioles are one team we should bring heavy exception to on this rule. They’re horrific. Trey Mancini is the only quality batter in this lineup with the other potential threats being Cedric Mullins, Jonathan Villar and Chris Davis. Seriously, I’ll take the potential of Chris Davis jacking one off Tanaka for the two strikeouts he is going to give. Tanaka shouldn’t have walk issues here even if Gary Sanchez is confirmed to be catching him today (he’s notably been worse with Sanchez behind the dish) and he has one of the best bullpens in baseball that will lock up the win for him today. At $9400 on FD we can do much worse. I project him to go 6 IP, 6 K and give up 1 ER which if he can get the win would be 43 FDP.
Jose Berrios … Berrios is hard to ignore on DraftKings today. There’s no Tanaka, Nola, Verlander, Mikolas there and those are all guys I love. I don’t want to touch Freeland against the Marlins and although I’m always tempted by Urena I won’t see the need to go that low on pitching today. Berrios and Bumgarner are actually the only other two SP2’s I would consider with my guy below (Ryu) and Berrios draws an Indians team who has a gimpy J-Ram and a lot of new faces in that lineup. Outside of Carlos Santana, he should have a pretty good game today but won’t go over 90 pitches in my mind.
Hyun-Jin Ryu … There’s not a ton I have liked about Ryu over his career, but the Sumo Lord was impressive in 2018 while pitching at Dodger Stadium. Ryu went 5-2 with a 1.15 ERA while striking out better than 1 batter per IP in 2018 at home. The Diamondbacks lineup is putrid now. Gone are AJ Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt and now Steven Souza Jr is also out for the season. Facing a lefty will negate Jake Lamb and David Peralta a good deal and flips Eduardo Escobar to his weaker power side. Outside of Adam Jones and JR Murphy there isn’t much in this lineup that scares be offensively, but there is plenty of strikeout upside here. He’s risky for his prize given that I don’t trust the Dodgers arms to go deep into games in general, but I expect some shadows later in the game at Dodger Stadium and nothing about the ‘Zone offense excites me in LA.
UPDATE … One slight lineup change for the Diamondbacks has me worried on Ryu. Lamb is sitting and Walker will start. It’s the right move for ‘Zona but I didn’t expect it. Walker mashes LHP. I still like Ryu’s FD price but don’t love him as much on DK.
The DK pivot for me is bumping up Kyle Freeland. He should navigate the Marlins lineup without major concern.
Aaron Nola … I don’t see why you would want to go here with Tanaka sitting there as $1k cheaper on FD but if you want my pick of any stud SP going today, it would be Nola who was dominant at home in 2018 and didn’t have much issue with the Braves to make me fear their potent lineup. I don’t think anyone will have Nola with Max, deGrom, Verlander and Snell going but Nola has the best opposing SP match-up to consider him a winner on opening day. He’s my favorite “STUD” arm.
Brad Keller (DK) … Weather issues would potentially be the dagger here, but Keller on DK as an SP2 is simply too cheap. He’s good. Keller and Junis are pretty much the lone bright spots on the Royals pitching staff this year which is going to have a hard time getting wins with that lineup and with their bullpen. That said, Keller’s a guy who really limits giving up heavy damage and gets plenty of ground balls which should bode well against this White Sox lineup.
Side Note: Scherzer, deGrom, Snell, Verlander, Greinke and Nola will all be pitching to catchers who did not catch them last year.
ATHLETICS … One could ponder that the A’s and Mariners might have some jet-lag from their games a weak ago over in Japan. But really they’ve had a week now to recover and both have been back home and should be ready to come out swinging today. For Oakland they welcome in former Athletic Trevor Cahill who is now a member of the Angels — and we know what to do with that. Pound him into the bleachers all day long. I would have loved Matt Olson in this spot but with him being out we’ll have to focus on Chapman, Davis and Jurickson Profar as the main targets here. I also expect Ramon Laureano to play better this weekend than he did over in Japan.
- Chapman, Davis, Profar, Lucroy
CARDINALS … My world series pick should get off to a good start in Milwaukee today. They have two bats who love to hit in this ballpark in Carpenter and Goldschmidt and in the case of Carpenter he has the major split advantage against Jhoulys Chacin. Yes, I know the Brewers are an ELITE bullpen and yes I know that this is an afternoon Miller Park game which tends to bring a bright glare into the stadium on the batters eyes, but the Cardinals in my mind will jump on Chacin early and the 1-3 in this lineup is legit one of the best in Baseball.
- Carpenter, Goldschmidt, DeJong
DODGERS … Attack Greinke on Opening Day! It’s been a tradition unlike any other for me and with decent temps in L.A. and Greinke having his blanket (Mathis) gone, I’ll ride a team who has hit him well and is much better this year vs RHP in the Dodgers. Seager is the main core player in the LA lineup along with Joc and Muncy. Yep, we’re gonna Joc the Muncy on Opening day folks.
- Seager, Joc, Muncy, Turner
TIGERS … I hate to be listing 5 stacks on opening day, but the Tigers to me are one team like Oakland that I have a ton of confidence in putting up 5+ runs today. With Miggy back they looked better in Spring Training and going into a decent hitters park with no weather elements (roof should be closed) and a below avg pitching staff on the other side.
- Harrison, Castellanos, Cabrera, Goodrum, Stewart … DK early only stack
ASTROS … Best lineup in baseball and on the road where they lock up that 9th inning AB (they won’t get those at home very often) but unfortunately today it’s not a positive park shift and it is the reigning AL Cy Young. That said, Snell faced only a handful of live batters in Spring Training and if ever there is a time to jump on him it’s now and with the best 1-5 in all of Baseball.
- Springer, Altuve, Bregman
CUBS … Very good hitting conditions in Texas obviously and the Rangers bullpen is where the goodness truly lies here. Expect the Cubs to be the highest owned team on the slate against Mike Minor. If you do want to eat the Cubs chalk then I would target Contreras and Javy Baez who are both at fairly weak positions today, but I won’t have any Cubs.
Royals … Not much power in this lineup which actually makes them an okay opening day play. However with the weather and their heavy ownership that I suspect I will pass on my boys today. If you wanted a one off from this lineup it’s Raul Mondesi.
Yankees … Plenty of games, no need to chase a team in < 50 degree weather.
Favorite one off players per position in BOLD
CATCHERS: Spending up for catcher is a NO before April 15th.
- Jonathan Lucroy: 2019 Catcher narrative
- Wilson Ramos: 2019 Catcher narrative
- Austin Hedges: He’s just damn good in a loaded lineup.
- Paul Goldschmidt: Has fantastic numbers in Miller Park, not shocking because he is a fantastic player and this is a good stadium to hit in.
- Max Muncy: I’d play him only as part of a Dodger stack with Joc and Seager.
- Daniel Murphy: I like Murphy to have a big season this year and that all starts on Thursday in South Beach.
- Miguel Cabrera: Miggy looked VERY refreshed in the Spring, and maybe that was because he was playing close to home, but he looks prime to have a fantastic bounce back year on his way to the HOF. Toronto has one of the most up and down bullpens in the league before the 9th inning.
SECOND BASE: We can go a bit off the reservation here. I don’t expect much chalk at 2B.
- Niko Goodrum: I like Detroit today in Toronto. Hitters park vs bad staff.
- Joe Panik: Panik at the PETCO
- Jurickson Profar: $3200 for Oakland
THIRD BASE: As you can see below, third base is definitely worthy of spending up today.
- Matt Carpenter: Carp in Miller Park & a great matchup split against Chacin.
- Kris Bryant: Could be highest owned hitter not named Harper, Bryce today. Especially on DK.
- Matt Chapman: Chapman and Davis are must plays for Oakland ownership.
SHORTSTOP: Weakest position today in my mind
- Javy Baez: Baez is the only SS I am thinking of paying up for with Mondesi in a bad weather spot
- Corey Seager: LA has good weather and facing Greinke with a new catcher.
- Paul DeJong: I would only go him if you go all 3 Cardinals and play for RBI upside with Carp and Goldy.
OUTFIELD ONE OFFS:
- Bryce Harper: Not only does he obviously own Teheran, but he is making his debut in Philly and has always had a thing for homering on Opening Day.
- Khris Davis: My favorite OF play today
- Aaron Judge: If Bryant isn’t highest owned then Judge should be on FanDuel.
- Randal Grichuk, Joc Pederson, Corey Dickerson, Franmil Reyes
What is the Dongers Club exactly??? These are the ‘special’ calls for the slate, or more specifically they originated as players who are being picked to homer from their respective positions on the slate. No more than one player per position and you can generally use these as my favorite play at the position on the day when trying to decide on a tie-breaker. The Chairman is the top overall HR pick of the slate and it will not always be guys who are gonna wind up with 30+ homers — that’s what makes this unique and bold.
CHAIRMAN: Matt Carpenter, 3B – Cardinals
- Khris Davis, OF – Athletics
- Corey Seager, SS – Dodgers
- Carlos Santana, 1B – Indians
- Franmil Reyes, OF – Padres
- Josh Phegley, C – Athletics
- Joc Pederson, OF – Dodgers
- Niko Goodrum, 2B – Tigers
- Matt Chapman, 3B – Athletics
Money Line BETS:
- Mariners (Not on DFS slate)