Welcome to the Opening Day 2018 edition of FanDuel MLB Daily Lineups. This is a fantasy baseball column focused on helping you build a DFS MLB optimal lineup for each slate on Thursday, March 27th.
Programming Note: Due to the early postponement of the Nats at Reds game on Thursday and the likelihood of additional postponements on the eastern part of the US, we’ve SIGNIFICANTLY modified our article and example lineup outcomes. The following games could be impacted by weather-related issues tomorrow:
Pirates at Tigers (1:10pm ET)
Nationals at Reds (4:10pm ET) PPD
Phillies at Braves (4:10pm ET)
Twins at Orioles (4:10pm ET)
While there is some risk to the Cardinals and Mets game at 1:10pm, we believe they’ll get the game in before most of the precipitation arrives.
Major League Baseball has closed spring training and regular season baseball is back in our lives, starting Thursday, March 27th. The 2018 season starts at 12:30pm ET in Miami where the Marlins will host the Chicago Cubs. Unlike prior seasons, where Opening Day official begins with a Sunday Night game, we’ll see all 30 teams play in 15 games spread across the day into Thursday evening.
FanDuel MLB is providing three slate options. You can play the Early Only slate which presents roster picks from the first three games of the day in Miami, Detroit, and at Citi Field in New York. The Main Slate starts with the Twins traveling to Baltimore to play the Orioles at 3:05pm ET. And of course, FanDuel MLB provides an All Day slate, combining the two options and allow you to build the ultimate day-long roster.
We will review the top pitchers for each slate, and favor one over the other for an All-Day slate. Also, for offensive plays, we generally like to use stacking as a strategy. Stacking is ideal for DFS MLB optimal lineups, as it presents your best opportunity to win with favorable hitting-to-pitcher match ups, and you can benefit from RBI’s and Runs at the same time.
Finally, we’ll summarize our thoughts for the day’s slates, and offer some example lineups you can consider for both the Early and Main slates. But be sure to apply your own input into your lineup. These are general examples based on what we’ve discussed, and you may have additional information to apply to each lineup.
Also, as we progress toward opening day, you’ll continue to hear updates on player injuries and starting pitchers. For example, FanDuel MLB didn’t have an identified start for the Rockies as of Tuesday afternoon, but we already heard Jon Gray was announced and several beat-writers broadcast the news by lunchtime. So make sure you follow final lineup thoughts throughout the day on our twitter account @FantasyCPR and look for late breaking lineup news.
Now, let’s get to the top pitching options…
FanDuel MLB: Top Pitcher Early Only Slate
There’s only three games in the Early Only slate, narrowing our pitcher selection down to six pitchers. Skill-wise, Noah Syndergaard ($10,300) is the most dominate option, and if you find a cheap offensive team stack to afford him, he’s a great play at home in Citi Field against a mediocre Cardinals offense.
Last season, Syndergaard had some early injury concerns. The Mets seemed to push him too far, and he was eventually shelved for the season. In his minimal time on the field, Noah was 1-2 but with a solid 2.97 ERA, low 1.07 WHIP, and his usual more than one strikeout per inning. Of all pitchers on the mound today, he’s a top four option. If you’re playing the All Day slate, he’s worth considering, but we’ll get to some better match ups for this price later.
Even though Carlos Martinez ($7,900) is facing the more dominate Syndergaard on Thursday afternoon, he’s our favorite value play. With a 3.85 SIERA, Martinez had the second best season in 2017, of the six starters Thursday afternoon. Carlos salary is reflective of the match up with Noah. But even with a loss, Martinez often snagged you 30 to 40 FanDuel MLB points with a quality start and a high 25% K-rate.
Martinez had 20 quality starts in 32 games last season. He was tied for 8th in MLB, and was only three behind Chris Sale and Justin Verlander, who lead with 23 quality starts. In fact, Carlos’ stats resemble Verlander’s from last season. Both had a 1.2 home run rate, sub-4 ERA, were just under 26% with their strike out rate, and walked around 8%.
Ironically, Verlander’s salary on Thursday night is $9,500. Yes, Justin is now pitching for the World Series champs Houston Astros, but you’re getting about the same result for a much better value from Martinez in the Early Slate. Carlos is a strong value consideration for all-day play as well.
Weather-Related Updates: While it appears we’ll see rain late in the day in the New York area, we should be able to get the Mets and Cardinals game in before the rain arrives. However, due to the likely postponements, we’re target Martinez for offensive stacks, and it now makes more sense to pay up for Jon Lester ($9,300).
FanDuel MLB: Top Pitcher Main Slate
For the Main Slate, we have a plethora of great pitching options. With every team likely throwing their top ace, it’s no surprise we see five pitchers carrying a 40+ FanDuel MLB point-per-game rate into Opening Day. Of that five player group, Max Scherzer ($11,100) and Chris Sale ($11,200) have the best match ups, even though they’re third and fourth in price. Sale has some early season injury concerns. But we’re not buying that in Tampa where the Rays are mowed down at a high 20%+ rate over the last couple of seasons.
But again, those are hefty salaries to pay for a guarantee 40 FanDuel MLB points. While the Braves are a dangerous offense in Sun Trust field, it’s early in the season and the conditions may not be as favorable as we’ve seen last summer. Also, the Phillies 24-year-old ace Aaron Nola ($8,800) had no trouble pitching there last June, when he fanned six, let six on base but only allowed one run. Nola snagged a quality start and win for 49 points.
Nola is striking out hitters just under 27% of the time, walking batters just over 7% of the time, and gives up less than a home run per nine innings. Aaron’s 3.54 ERA and 1.21 WHIP from last season show he still needs some work to become the Phils dominate ace, but even when giving up too many runs, he’s filling your point sheet with a high strikeout rate. For the Main slate, Nola is our top pitching play, and for all-day, he’s a better bet for points from a win.
Weather-Related Updates: While Nola was our favorite play, there is strong potential Aaron won’t get enough pitches in for a game that counts tomorrow, or the game gets postponed. So, for the Main slate, we prefer to switch to Danny Duffy ($7,700). Duffy has a low HR rate, 20%+ K-rate, and a low 6.7% walk rate. Danny also get the White Sox at home.
FanDuel MLB: Top Hitting Stacks Early Only Slate
While I’d love to stack my offense with all the stud bombers each day, it’s not always affordable to lay that way. However, for Thursday’s early slate, a Martinez play at pitcher opens the door to great stacking possibilities.
We’ll start with the most exciting one, the Chicago Cubs. Jose Urena had some promise for the Marlins last season. But even though he had a solid 3.82 ERA, his SIERA skyrockets with with a low 15.6% K-rate, nearly 1.4 home runs per nine innings, and 8.8% walk rate.
While the walk rate isn’t horrendous, compared to his strikeout rate, he’s nearly walking as many as he’s fanning…not good. Of all 30 pitchers on the mound Thursday, Jose has the third worst (5.19) SIERA, tied with the Reds Home Bailey.
That blows the door wide-open to play the Cubs on Thursday. And with a cheap salary for Carlos, you can afford to play Anthony Rizzo ($4,600) at the C/1B slot, first base slot, or Utility. In addition, you can still afford slugger Kris Bryant ($4,300) third base, and add value plays like Ian Happ ($3,300) in one OF slot, and Addison Russell ($2,900) at shortstop. You could also swap Russell out of the lineup with our other stack, and grab catcher Willson Contreras ($3,200) for each of the likely Cubs top four hitters.
With similar stats to Urena, but a significantly worse 6.08 ERA, Jordan Zimmermann has fallen off a cliff since leaving the Nationals and signing with the Tigers. That presents a great, and more affordable, Pirates stacking opportunity for Thursday.
While the Pirates offense no longer includes Andrew McCutchen , they still have a solid top four lineup including first baseman Josh Bell ($3,100), second baseman Josh Harrison ($2,700), and Starling Marte ($3,400) and Corey Dickerson ($2,600) in the outfield. So thanks to the price of Martinez, you can afford most of the Cubs top four hitters with the Pirates top four hitters. The Pirates have some deep value in their lineup as well, like Gregory Polanco ($2,200) in the outfield, to be able to pay up for the Cubs top four.
Weather-Related Updates: It now appears very likely the Pirates could be dormant in Detroit on Thursday. So, while we are sticking with the Cubs stack, we’re also dropping the Pirates stack and adding a Mets stack of Travis d’Arnaud (C $2,000), Asdrubal Cabrera (2B $2,600), Brandon Nimmo (OF $2,500), and Yoenis Cespedes (OF $3,200). To make this lineup work with Lester, we’re dropping a Cub outfielder for Marcell Ozuna (OF $3,600).
FanDuel MLB: Top Hitting Stacks Main Slate
With a focus on pitchers and hitting parks, it wasn’t hard to stick to our two-team stacking theme in the Main slate. However, the pricing for our stacking targets is more expensive. Also, we’re likely going with Nola at pitcher, and he is more expensive than Martinez in the Early Only slate. So before we get into the stacks, we want to look for some value we can plug into our lineup for stacking affordability.
There are several options, but one that could slip under the radar on Thursday is Josh Reddick ($2,900). While Reddick was considered a platoon player when entering the Astros’ lineup last season, he worked his way into regular playing time with his dominating hitting against left-handed pitchers. The Stros are facing lefty Cole Hamels in Texas on Thursday, so Josh is likely to be slated around the 5th spot of the lineup. Plug him into your lineup before you do anything else.
A few things we like from starting pitchers, when targeting stacks, are high walk ratios, high home runs per nine innings, and terrible ERA. Homer Bailey and Jake Odorizzi provide all three of those opportunities as the Nationals visit the Reds and the Orioles host Jake and the Twins.
The Nats are also hitting in a hitter-friendly park, in Cincinnati, so they’re understandably expensive on Friday. Trea Turner ($4,200) is a very expensive option at shortstop, we’d rather save some salary with Manny Machado ($3,900). Rounding out the infield, we also like Ryan Zimmerman ($3,100), Jonathan Schoop ($3,400), and Anthony Rendon ($3,200).
In the outfield, Adam Jones ($3,000) is a great value, but if you can afford to pay up for Bryce Harper ($4,700). This is Harper’s sixth Opening Day, and he already has five home runs in five opening day appearances, a Major League Baseball record. Also, Adam Eaton ($2,900) is dirt cheap at this price.
Finally, we didn’t consider Rhys Hoskins ($3,700) at any of the positions, but we’re likely slotting him into our Utility spot. With a .259 batting average and high K-rate last year, the Phillies slugger still had a great rookie season smashing 18 home runs and logging 48 RBI’s in just 50 games and 212 plate appearances.
Also, Rhys hasn’t struck out as much during the Spring. In fact, word around camp is that he’s improving his patience at the plate. If that carries into Thursday, we love his power in Sun Trust Field.
Weather-Related Updates: We had to make substantial updates to the Main Slate. With Danny Duffy now our likely starting pitcher, we’re completing a Royals stack on offense with Whit Merrifield (2B $3,300), Mike Moustakas (3B $3,300), and Jorge Soler (OF $2,200).
We’re flipping Josh Reddick out of our lineup, replacing with a Yankee, and slipping Elvis Andrus (SS $3,100) into the lineup. Finally, with the Royals picks so affordable, we’re replacing the Nats stack with an expensive Yankees stack adding Gary Sanchez (C $3,900), Aaron Judge (OF $4,100), Brett Gardner (OF $2,700), and Giancarlo Stanton (OF $4,600).
FanDuel MLB: Summary and Example Lineup
For the Early slate, we love Syndergaard, but would rather get the value from Martinez. In the Main slate we love Sale or Scherzer, but would rather get the value from Nola. But for the All-Day slate, we’d isolate pitching picks down to Sale, Scherzer, or Nola with the best winning outcomes.
For hitting stacks, we love the Cubs and Pirates early in the day, and the Nats and the O’s later in the day. For the All-Day, you’ll want to mix the expensive Cubs or Nats with either the Pirates or O’s as they’re more affordable. But don’t forget about Josh Reddick in the OF, and we’re looking for Rhys Hoskins to continue his strong spring.
Weather-Related Updates: Due to multiple likely postponements tomorrow, for the Early slate we’ve dropped Martinez for Lester at pitcher, and swapped the Pirates for the Mets as an affordable offensive stack. Marcell Ozuna brings the Early slate lineup together. For the Main Slate, we made substantial changes, moving Duffy to pitcher, and flipping our stacks to the Royals and Yankees. Elvis Andrus brings the Main slate together.
FanDuel MLB EARLY ONLY Sample Lineup: FanDuel MLB MAIN Slate Sample Lineup:
Remaining Salary: $0 Remaining Salary: $100
Note: This is a recommended lineup after discussing our top options for today. You should use this as a guide, and provide your own input when building FanDuel NHL lineups. We are not telling you, or selling you, to use this lineup.
Best of luck in your FanDuel MLB contests and stay tuned to Fantasy CPR for all your DFS news and analysis across MLB, NBA, NHL, and EPL this spring!