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Opening Day MLB DFS: Best Plays for DraftKings and FanDuel

Happy Opening Day and welcome to the new-look MLB DFS coverage at Fantrax for the 2023 baseball season. A few times each week, we will be posting articles looking at the slate from a big-picture perspective as well as making recommendations for the best plays of the day for DraftKings and FanDuel.

Opening Day is always an exciting slate when you consider the long layoff and the sheer number of stud pitchers we have at our disposal. But pitch counts and weather can always wreak havoc on best-laid plans this early in the season, so our coverage will help you decipher what to do for today’s full slate.

The season is not here yet, but why not get a head start and jump in a Fantrax Classic Draft contest? Get a jump on the season with a Best Ball league or maybe a Draft and Hold. Or put some green on the line with a new season-long league to try and conquer. There’s no better time than now to get your baseball on!

If you have any thoughts or recommendations for how we can better cover MLB DFS in 2023, reach out to us on Twitter or send me a message (@KirkseySports). I’m always happy to talk a little DFS throughout the day. Let’s start by looking at weather issues for Thursday as well as the best hitting and pitching environments on the slate. Today’s analysis covers the 11-game main slates on DraftKings and FanDuel beginning at 1:05 PM ET.

Weather Concerns:

  • The Padres-Rockies game has already been moved to 9:40 PM ET to avoid some afternoon rain, but some could linger into the evening
  • Cold weather in New York and Boston could suppress bats somewhat

Best Hitters’ Parks:

  • Great American Ball Park
  • Fenway Park
  • Yankee Stadium

Best Pitchers’ Parks:

  • Petco Park
  • Busch Stadium
  • Tropicana Field

DraftKings Top Plays

High-Dollar Pitcher

Gerrit Cole ($9,000) vs. San Francisco – Considering the limited pitch counts we may see tomorrow from pitchers, safety is the name of the game at this high-end investment. Cole should have no issues cruising past 85 pitches. He is pitching at home and is facing a Giants’ squad whose active roster had the fourth-highest strikeout rate in the majors last season (24%). Only Jacob DeGrom (who we know is limited to 75 pitches) matches Cole’s 7.5 strikeout total prop for Thursday on the main slate.

Value Pitcher

Shane McClanahan ($7,700) vs. Detroit – Care to take a guess what McClanahan’s last two salaries were to end the 2022 season? They were $8,900 and $10,600. And the $8,900 was that low only because he was facing the Astros and was being saved for the playoffs. Someone pushed the wrong button at DraftKings to make McClanahan only $7,700 on this slate. Detroit’s active roster had the highest strikeout rate in the league last season, and this game is indoors so there are no weather concerns. The only drawback is McClanahan is likely to be HEAVILY rostered in tournaments and 85%+ rostered in cash games.

High-Dollar Infielder

Austin Riley, 3B ($4,600) – Perhaps you remember Patrick Corbin from such 2022 hits as his league-worst 6.31 ERA or his abominable 1.59 HR/FB rate. Right-handers slashed .320/.373/.526 against him last year, making Riley an ideal bat to have in your lineups for a mid-$4,000s salary. Riley is more than $1,000 cheaper than teammate Ronald Acuna.

Value Infielder

Brandon Belt, 1B ($2.800) – Miles Mikolas is a fine real-life pitcher, but he doesn’t even scare me away in DFS. He struck out less than 20% of left-handed batters and gave up 37% fly balls to that handedness in 2022. Meanwhile, even in an injury-filled season, Belt slugged 125 points higher against righties than lefties. He now will bat third or fourth in a potent Blue Jays’ lineup against righties and appears to be completely healthy.

High-Dollar Outfielder

Randy Arozarena, OF ($5,100) – Players like Ronald Acuna, Juan Soto, and Byron Buxton also fit the mold here on the main slate, but give me Arozarena who comes at a discount off of all of those players. He faces Eduardo Rodriguez who started just 17 games last year, struck out just 18% of the batters he faced and gave up 1.38 HR/9 in the second half last season. Arozarena can also do damage on the basepaths should he get on, so he can contribute to our rosters in a number of ways.

Value Outfielder

Trevor Larnach, OF ($2,500) – There is really no way around it, but leftie Larnach will be the most rostered value bat on the DraftKings slate on Thursday. He is batting fourth for the Twins against Zach Greinke who was last relevant as a good pitcher in 2019. Larnach had all of his home runs and 82% of his RBI against right-handers last season. He is just way too cheap for the lineup slot and matchup he has on Thursday.

Best DraftKings Stack

Atlanta Braves vs. Patrick Corbin – Despite having the highest implied team total on the slate (4.75 runs), the Braves only feature three players with a salary north of $4,000. Ozzie Albies ($3,900) and Sean Murphy ($3,400) are in fantastic spots for their salary and there are even some sneaky right-handed plays like Marcell Ozuna and Travis D’Arnaud towards the bottom of the lineup. Even though it is a lefty/lefty matchup, Matt Olson had a 110 wRC+ against lefties last season.

FanDuel Top Plays

High-Dollar Pitcher

Max Scherzer ($10,700) vs. Miami Marlins – Unlike DraftKings, we don’t care about baserunners as much on FanDuel. While DK takes away points for hits, walks, and hit-by-pitch against, FanDuel does none of that. What we want in that format are Wins, Quality Starts, and strikeouts. All of those are in play for Scherzer against a Marlins’ squad whose active roster had a .387 slugging percentage in 2022 (ranked 26th) and struck out almost 21% of the time.

Value Pitcher

Hunter Greene ($9,100) vs. Pittsburgh Pirates – A win and quality start are far less likely for Greene on Thursday (he had just five and nine of those last year, respectively), but the strikeouts are certainly coming. Greene struck out almost 12 batters per nine innings last season and the Pirates’ roster had the third-highest strikeout rate at 24.1% last season. He is not “cheap” on this day full of studs, but he is about as low a salary I would recommend on a slate that will have several strong pitching performances.

High-Dollar Infielder

Oneil Cruz, SS ($5,100) – Despite his ability to blow people away last year, Greene also did give up 1.72 HR/9 last season and this game is being played in Great American Ball Park. The Reds’ home park has the highest home run park factor for left-handers (by 25%) over the last three years. Cruz rewrote the whole idea of what we believed possible with exit velocity, so I am calling my shot right here. Cruz will have a home run and two strikeouts in this game.

Value Infielder

Triston Casas, 1B ($2,900) – In case you missed it, Red Sox rookie Triston Casas slashed .333/.381/.632 this spring and finished the preseason with the eighth-highest OPS in the league (1.013). He will likely hit in the middle third of the order against Kyle Gibson who had a career-high flyball rate last season and a bottom-15 strikeout rate among all starters (7.73 K/9). With a friendly home crowd awaiting him, Casas could easily fly one around the Pesky Pole on Thursday.

High-Dollar Outfielder

Ronald Acuna, OF ($3,900) – Acuna has the highest projection of any batter among most DFS predictors across the industry this morning. Facing off against a weak lefty in Patrick Corbin, Acuna likely has five plate appearances coming to contribute to the highest implied total on the slate (4.75 runs). For his career, Acuna has a .384 on-base percentage and a .517 slugging percentage against lefties.

Value Outfielder

Joey Gallo, OF ($2,400) – Trevor Larnach ($2,200) also fits the profile on FanDuel as well, but Gallo can definitely deliver the boom stick against Greinke. Home runs are the most valuable piece of FanDuel scoring in their format and Greinke gave up his highest flyball rate since 2010 last season (35.4%). Strikeouts don’t count against us on FanDuel so we just need one big swing out of Gallo to come close to 10x the value of this salary.

Best FanDuel Stack

Minnesota Twins vs. Zach Greinke – Minnesota (4.61 runs) just trails Atlanta and Boston for the most implied runs on the slate. But on FanDuel, their salaries are even better than compared to how they stack up on DraftKings. Only one batter (Byron Buxton, $3,500) is above $3,000 and seven of their nine starters are between $2,800 and $2,100. All the lineups in the world will feature Gallo or Larnach. But don’t forget about Max Kepler ($2,500), a left-handed batter who is leading off and who slugs 105 points higher for his career against right-handers than left-handers. Surprisingly, Kansas City is also one of the better weather spots around the country with mild temperatures and winds projected to be blowing out to the outfield in this game.

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