With nearly four weeks in the books, some of those sluggish starts are starting to look a bit worrisome. On the other hand, sample sizes are still tiny enough that there are plenty of players with ugly stats due in large part to poor luck.
I'm still partial to the slow-starting big names on DraftKings, but we're nearing the point where that may no longer be the case.
Note: All player prices are as of Friday (4/25), with the exception of players in action Thursday night, whose prices are based on Thursday's games. As it turns out, many of the best values are playing Thursday night, and so a five-game slate should offer more bargains than you'd think.
Teams playing Friday night: New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox; San Diego Padres at Washington Nationals; Baltimore Orioles at Toronto Blue Jays; Oakland A's at Houston Astros; Philadelphia Phillies at Los Angeles Dodgers.
Now, on to some of the top plays for the fourth weekend of the season .
Jordan Zimmermann, WAS (Thu. vs. SD), $10,200 Scott Kazmir ($12,000 at HOU) looks excellent and could very well be on his way to a career season, but I'm not quite ready to fork over elite-starter money, even with a friendly matchup against the Stros. Dan Haren ($10,300 vs. PHI) isn't a bad play, yet his matchup isn't quite as good as Zimmerman's, and Haren's ceiling this season looks pretty similar to Zimm's floor. I typically prefer to target more of a strikeout guy if I'm crossing the $10,000 threshold, but the price here is right and so is the matchup. Not that they hit lefties any better, but the Friars have a hideous .281 wOBA against right-handed pitching this season, ranking dead-last in walk rate (5.3 percent) and 23rd in strikeout rate (23.3 percent).
Stephen Strasburg, WAS (Fri. vs. SD), $11,400 It kills me to pick on a team that serves fish tacos at its ballpark, but cilantro isn't the secret to hitting. Since we've established that the Padres can't hit a lick, they might have some problems against a pitcher who has fanned 42 of the 122 (34.4 percent) batters he's faced this season. Don't worry about Strasburg's 5.33 ERA a .394 BABIP and 58.7 strand rate are the main culprits, and he'll be more than fine so long as he keeps missing bats. Also worth noting: While the sample size is still small, Strasburg's K numbers are backed by a phenomenal 14.6 percent swinging-strike rate. Masahiro Tanka is at 14.9 percent, while Jose Fernandez is at 14.8 percent. Not bad company to keep.
Cliff Lee, PHI (Sat. vs. ARI), $10,300 I'm not really a fan of the matchup, but the D-Backs have been surprisingly awful (.263 wOBA, .585 OPS) against left-handed pitching this season, and Lee's price is very, very low for a proven ace coming off consecutive double-digit strikeout starts. While I didn't expect to use the lefty when I first looked at the matchups, at this price, he's a pretty easy choice.
Saturday looks like a hitter-friendly day, with plenty of potential lineup stacks, and two of the top pitchers (King Felix and Liriano) squaring off against heavyweight lineups.
David Price, TB (Sun. at CHW), $9,700 Another proven lefty at another surprisingly low price. Yes, the White Sox have been better than expected at the plate this season, but let's not confuse competence for a scary matchup. Much like Strasburg, the Rays' big lefty doesn't have a strong ERA (4.04) to show for his hurling, and yet the other numbers are just too good for anyone to care. Price's 40:4 K:BB ratio does come along with an ugly 1.53 HR/9, which is of minimal concern given his lack of past problems with the longball.
Other intriguing options: Drew Hutchison, TOR (Thu. vs. BAL), $6000; Homer Bailey, CIN (Fri. at ATL), $8300; Zack Wheeler, NYM (Fri. vs. MIA), $8000; Colby Lewis, TEX (Sat. at SEA), $6300; Wily Peralta, MIL (Sun. vs. CHC), $7900
Salvador Perez, C, KC , $2900 The underlying numbers indicate that we're more or less watching the exact same Salvador Perez, even if his .213 batting average and lack of run production hint otherwise. While it's a bit discouraging that he'll probably be batting sixth instead of fourth this weekend, the Royals do have some (historically) good OBP guys (Alex Gordon and Billy Butler) in the No. 4 and 5 slots, and both seem to have recovered from slow starts. Best used against lefties, Salvy is worthy of consideration against right-handers at this price, particularly with a weekend trip to Camden Yards looming. It's also somewhat encouraging that eight of his 16 hits have gone for extra bases.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, CHI-NL, $3700 Anybody else get the feeling that Rizzo's slash line is going to stick out like a sore thumb in the Cubs' box scores by mid-season (or mid-May)? Thanks to his teammates, this guy probably won't get the RBI or run totals he deserves, but he's raking right now and comes at an excellent price. Not only is Rizzo the proud owner of a .319/.432/.458 slash line, but his strikeout rate (13.6 percent) is way down from last season (18.4 percent), and his walk rate has also improved a bit. While it's still early, Rizzo's age and talent make it quite possible that the gains are real. His peripheral numbers strongly hinted at a significant improvement in plate discipline last season, and the results should match up this time around.
Logan Forsythe, 2B/3B, TB, $2700 Well, this one is easy. Forsythe is pretty good against left-handed pitching (career .342 wOBA, .779 OPS), and he's been batting third for the Rays against southpaws. He can't hit right-handers and won't start against them, but he's an obvious choice against any non-elite lefty, so long as the price remains south of $3200 or so, and Forsythe sticks in the No. 3 hole. With the Rays scheduled to face Chicago's John Danks on Saturday, Forsythe should be an excellent play. He could also be an option Sunday, as the White Sox have yet to announce a starter. In other Rays platoon news, outfielder Matt Joyce ($3400) the team's No. 3 hitter vs. right-handers is off to an excellent start.
Jose Reyes, SS, TOR, $4200 Reyes has looked just fine at the plate since he returned from the disabled list Saturday, and he hit his first homer of the season Wednesday night. With everything checking out, he seems to be underpriced by at least a few hundred dollars, if not a bit more. Even better, he's listed at just $4000 for Friday, though it probably won't be long before his price heads back in the other direction.
Yasiel Puig, OF, LAD, $4200 Like Reyes, Puig will see his price drop to $4000 for Friday, with the caveat that it probably won't stay there for long. The early results .818 OPS, 2 HR, 10 RBI, one SB haven't been great, but they certainly haven't been bad, either. Puig won't be this cheap later in the season, and he won't get to face the Rockies' pitching staff every weekend. He'll be seeing those Rockies pitchers in LA rather than Denver, but it's still a nice matchup.
Seth Smith, OF, SD, $3000 I won't be pointing out these platoon guys all year, but the season is still young, and Smith can still hit right-handed pitching. I'm not slotting him in against Zimmerman or Strasburg on Thursday and Friday, but weekend matchups against Tanner Roark and Tyler Jordan look much more manageable. Similarly, Will Venable ($2900) could eventually be an option against right-handed pitching, though I'll stay away this weekend, given how awful he's been thus far.
Other intriguing options: Miguel Montero, C, AZ, $3600; Chris Davis, 1B, BAL, $4300 Kyle Seager, 2B/3B, SEA, $3400; Jed Lowrie, 2B/SS, OAK, $4400; George Springer, OF, HOU, $3200; Alex Gordon, OF, KC, $3900; Allen Craig, 1B/OF, STL, $3700