UPDATED: Sunday 7/26, 8:45 AM (added Sunday pitchers)
While we’ve had our small share of “We’re back!” moments since the pandemic began in March, never have we had a return-to-sports moment to relish in quite like this.
We had a return to baseball when the Korean Baseball Organization partnered with ESPN, and pulling all-nighters was that much more intriguing for the Daily Fantasy Degens after a strict two-month diet of eSports. But it wasn’t quite the return to baseball we were missing deep down. KBO has been awesome from the standpoint of those of us fiending for daily fantasy baseball, yet damn near impossible to stay up all night for on a regular basis without sacrificing your sleep or your day job.
Amidst this joyful agony, we writhed at the end-of-day reports of Major League Baseball’s owners struggling to come to terms with the MLB Players Association. The DFS world appeared relegated to outlier forms of real sports while golf and NASCAR appeared as the only majors in a safety zone.
Until the MLB commissioner imposed a 60-game season when agreements were in dire straits, and suddenly the day has arrived.
BASEBALL IS TRULY BACK!
Thursday evening features a two-game slate to kick off the race to 60, with the World Champion Washington Nationals hosting the ever-potent New York Yankees, while the Los Angeles Dodgers hosting the arch-rival San Francisco Giants follows suit.
And Friday is our first full main slate, eleven-games to be exact, rolling out the red carpet to a full weekend of MLB Baseball, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to speak those words.
Let’s get started with some strategy for Opening Day, along with some players and stacks to focus on for the weekend upon us. MLB Baseball, how we’ve missed you so…
Opening Day Strategy & Stacks (Thursday, July 23)
The intro day of the season coming as a two-game slate makes for some rough treading if it’s your first time testing the waters with MLB DFS, given the obvious limited number of players to choose from and even more limited realistic options to elect.
While cash games may be the much easier road to picking sides and sticking to them, the massive prizes at stake in guaranteed prize pools leave much intrigue to be entertained. If you want to take one of those top prizes outright, it will likely require some crafty roster strategy to differ yourself from the pack to get there.
As a strict GPP gamer myself, I’m naturally getting to every team by means of a 4 & 5-man stack in at least one roster each, but not everyone has a playing style like that. Some gamers prefer to go heavy on one or two notions and “Go Big Or Go Home” so-to-speak.
Two-game slates open up a whole other angle when it comes to tournament play considering the different outcomes you may consider in order to differentiate your rosters. For example, loading up on two pitchers from a game you anticipate to be low scoring, along with mostly bats from the other game, would be one way of getting to a unique lineup while remaining fairly realistic in terms of fantasy scoring output. Just a bit of a suggestion to get you to think outside the box if this happens to be among your first attempts at MLB daily fantasy.
With all that being said, I do very much like both favorites in the Yankees and Dodgers stacks in cash games, but obviously we’re not the only ones thinking that. I would take at least one crack at getting one high-ceiling opposing player to your pitcher if you’re playing in tournaments for roster differential.
Opening Day Pitchers (In Numerical Order):
1) Gerrit Cole ($10,000), NYY
2) Max Scherzer ($8,600), WAS
3) Clayton Kershaw ($7,700), LAD
4) Johnny Cueto ($5,000), SF
Opening Day Stacks:
Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts, Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, Justin Turner
Luke Voit, Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Giancarlo Stanton, Mike Tauchman
Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Asdrubal Cabrera, Adam Eaton, Eric Thames
Wilmer Flores, Mike Yastrzemski, Donovan Solano, Brandon Crawford, Tyler Heineman
Josh Donaldson (3B), Minnesota Twins (vs. CWS)
Following a majority career stint in Oakland and Toronto, the quality-aged Josh Donaldson had since resurfaced in Cleveland (via trade from Toronto) and finally Atlanta last season, where he accumulated a .900 OPS and 37 home runs in 2019.
Donaldson now enters the end of his first decade in the Majors, where he’ll be hitting in the middle of the order for a napalm-potent Twins batting rotation that looks to function as contestant to the New York Yankees Murderers’ Row 38.0 featured this shortened season.
Likely slotted in the 4-6 cleanup spot, the placement is ideal for the third-baseman who currently projects for 13 HR, 34 Runs, and 51 Hits in 52 games played in the 60-game 2020 season (via SteamerProjections). This impressive forecast ties into his projected 137 wRC+, putting him in the top ten projected in the category for the condensed season.
His 8.7 DraftKings Fantasy Point average for 2019 has room for improvement despite his age, and given the Twins roster he’s on now in contrast to the 2019 Braves, Josh Donaldson is a very worthwhile play at a higher-end middle price tier.
Cody Bellinger (OF), Los Angeles Dodgers (vs. SF)
While freshly minted Dodger Mookie Betts joins the Los Angeles outfield as a welcome addition, Cody Bellinger remains a potential MVP favorite and high-ceiling scoring monster for daily fantasy purposes. The visiting San Francisco Giants pitching rotation is one to make that potential look that much greater on Opening Weekend.
Averaging 10.67 DKFP through 156 games played, the National League 2019 regular season Most Valuable Player will attempt to not only retain the honor of the prestigious award this year but also somehow come close to what he accomplished statistically last season.
Bellinger finished 2019 with an outstanding 1.035 OPS, only trailing Mike Trout (1.083 OPS) and Christian Yelich (1.10 OPS) for the season. He projects to finish the shortened 2020 season with a .971 OPS and 147 wRC+, which are still no joke whatsoever if those numbers hold true.
You’ll pay through the teeth with him on every slate, but Cody Bellinger has the ceiling capability of breaking a slate, especially against the likes of a Giants pitching rotation highlighted by Jeff Samardzija, Tyler Beede, and Drew Smyly (following Johnny Cueto).
Other Hitters For Opening Weekend:
Christian Yelich (OF), MIL
Mookie Betts (OF), LAD
Nelson Cruz (OF), MIN
Bryce Harper (OF), PHI
George Springer (OF), HOU
Alex Bregman (3B), HOU
J.D. Martinez (OF), BOS
Francisco Lindor (SS), CLE
Trevor Story (SS), COL
Ketel Marte (2B), ARI
Rafael Devers (3B), BOS
Joey Gallo (OF), TEX
Mitch Garver (C), MIN
Paul Goldschmidt (1B), STL
Jose Ramirez (3B), CLE
Joc Pederson (1B/OF), LAD
Josh Bell (1B), PIT
Rhys Hoskins (1B), PHI
Eduardo Escobar (3B), ARI
Javier Baez (SS), CHI
Justin Turner (3B), LAD
Edwin Encarnacion (1B), CWS
Fernando Tatis Jr (SS), SDP
Yoan Moancada (3B), CWS
Matt Chapman (3B), OAK
Matt Olson (1B), OAK
Jose Abreu (1B), CWS
Eddie Rosario (OF), MIN
Jon Berti (3B/SS), MIA
Jorge Polanco (SS), MIN
Didi Gregorius (SS), PHI
Manny Machado (3B), SDP
Roughned Odor (2B), TEX
Franmil Reyes (OF), CLE
Jake Cave (OF), MIN
Jose Peraza (2B/SS), BOS
Frankie Barreto (2B), OAK
Chris Taylor (3B), LAD
Colin Moran (1B), PIT
Jake Lamb (1B/3B), ARI
Steven Duggar (OF), SF
Shane Bieber, Cleveland Indians (vs. KC)
Following a decent rookie season and smashing in his second year as fourth-place AL Cy Young Award finalist, Shane Bieber made massive strides last season and starts the 2020 60-game season with every bit as much in others’ high regards to his hopeful output.
Dishing a monster 1.05 WHIP in 2019, including a massive 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings average, Bieber cooked opposing batters off the plate and has a very manageable opponent in the Kansas City Royals at hand. According to Steamer Projections, Bieber forecasts for a 1.13 WHIP, 9.77 K/9, alongside a 3.63 ERA.
He’s going to be one of the most expensive pitchers on Friday’s slate but very much worth the spending, and going against the Royals helps immensely. Shane Bieber is the real deal and I will be getting to plenty of him in my DraftKings rosters on Friday.
Lance McCullers Jr, Houston Astros (vs. SEA)
Following his fourth year with the Houston Astros in 2018, and posting his most impressive numbers to date, Lance McCullers Jr. faces a Seattle Mariners team to start the season who was tied for second-most strikeouts in the Majors in 2019 (1,581 SO).
After being on the IL for all of last season due to Tommy John surgery, McCullers looks to get back to the progress he had made season-to-season prior to the unfortunate setback. While he doesn’t project for quite the same numbers as he had finished with in 2018, McCullers is slated for a 1.28 WHIP along with a 3.73 ERA and 9.84 K/9 in 2020.
Lance McCullers Jr looked solid in the appetizer of a Summer Camp game he posted earlier this week against the Kansas City Royals, registering 6 K, 1 ER, 4 H over five innings pitched and got the W as well. So long as he isn’t priced astronomically out of proportion, Lance McCullers will be a pitcher I will likely be over the field ownership on come Saturday.
Other Pitchers For Opening Weekend:
Hyun Jin Ryu, TOR
Justin Verlander, HOU
Kyle Hendricks, CHC
Aaron Nola, PHI
Sonny Gray, CIN
Jack Flaherty, STL
Zach Wheeler, PHI
Mike Clevinger, CLE
Jose Urias, LAD
Stephen Strasburg, WAS
Luis Castillo, CIN
Mike Minor, TEX
Adam Wainwright, STL
Trevor Bauer, CIN
Patrick Corbin, WAS (CONTRARIAN)
Zach Greinke, HOU
Dakota Hudson, STL
Carlos Carraso, CLE
Mitch Keller, PIT
Spencer Turnbull, DET
Jose Urena, MIA (CONTRARIAN)
Corey Kluber, TEX
Opening Weekend Stacks
While I will be getting to essentially a minimum of one four or five-man stack from each team over the course of the Opening Weekend, the following are going to be favorites that I’ll be chasing for a variety of reasons rolled into one ranking (in numerical order):
1) LA Dodgers
2) Boston Red Sox
3) Houston Astros
4) Minnesota Twins
5) Cleveland Indians
6) New York Yankees
7) Philadelphia Phillies
8) Texas Rangers
9) Toronto Blue Jays
10) Tampa Bay Rays