This article is part of our FanDuel MLB series.
The main slate of Thursday pitching reeks of "hold your nose and pick someone."
Yu Darvish ($8,400) is the biggest name on the mound, and he's coming off an 11-point fantasy performance his first time out. He had blister problems during the spring, which may have carried over into the regular season as evidenced by the seven walks in his first start. The Cubs' matchup with the Braves isn't easy, but the lack of quality choices puts him as the first- or second-best option for GPPs and cash games.
Matt Harvey ($6,400) may prove to be the biggest value among the pitchers. He had a respectable (for the price) 19 fantasy points his first time out in which he hit 95 mph with his fastball. The home matchup with the Rangers isn't too bad. While other pitchers may be on a pitch limit, Harvey won't have one after throwing 89 pitches his first time out. He's arguably the top option for cash games. The Angels are also the biggest favorite on the three-game slate.
The Reds head to Pittsburgh to open up a series with the Pirates, and Tyler Mahle ($7,000) will toe the rubber for them. Mahle had a run of good starts during the 2018 season before serving up way too many home runs toward the end, finishing with 22 allowed in only 122 innings. He's still a young pitcher, and any shoulder issues that were resolved in the offseason could put him back on the right track. The Pirates were in the bottom half of the league last season with a .311 wOBA against right-handed pitching, so Mahle has that working for him. On a slate with only three games, he's worth a shot in GPPs.
Pittsburgh will roll with former prospect Jordan Lyles ($7,700), who'll come off the injured list to make his first start of the season. He reportedly threw 100 pitches in a simulated game last Friday, so if he's effective, he may not be on a strict pitch count. The Reds were 16th in the league last season with a .315 wOBA against right-handed pitching, showing they were league-average. Lyles has only started 18 games over the last three seasons (two of them in Colorado) so it's tough to read the tea leaves as to how effective he'll be, but the Reds offense has slumped over the first week.
Edinson Volquez ($6,800) is the opposing pitcher in the duel with Matt Harvey, and he only managed nine fantasy points in his first start. The 35-year-old probably doesn't have a lot left in the tank, and the matchup against Mike Trout and Co. on the road isn't great. Volquez ranks at the bottom of the six pitchers available tonight regardless of the price differences.
The final starting pitcher of the slate is Atlanta's Max Fried ($5,500), who comes in only $500 more than Mike Trout. Fried has shown good strikeout ability (11.76 K/9 last season), but his 1.37 WHIP didn't exactly match his 2.97 ERA. He's had trouble with walks, too (5.35 BB/9 last season), and after pitching in relief Sunday, he probably won't last too long in this one. Throw in the amount of lefty killers the Cubs have in their lineups and it makes sense why he's so cheap.
On a night when there'll be a lot of money to spend on bats, Mike Trout ($5,000) will easily be the chalkiest player on the slate. There's every reason to use him against Volquez, and putting his over/under for fantasy points at 18.6 in this contest sounds about right.
One of the cheaper outfield options who'll be under the radar tonight is Albert Almora ($2,600). He has a career .343 wOBA against left-handed pitching, and surprisingly that number goes up to .369 on the road. Fried is still a young pitcher learning the ropes, and the Cubs should be able to get to him.
Multiple Cubs are in play for cash tonight, including Javier Baez ($4,700), one of their many players who smash left-handed pitching. Baez enjoyed a .384 wOBA against lefties last season, and that number seems to improve every year.
Atlanta's Dansby Swanson ($2,300) has been hot out of the gate and is an alternative at shortstop if fading Baez.
Fitting Kris Bryant ($4,500) into lineups shouldn't be a problem, and like Trout and Baez, he'll be chalky. He's reached base multiple times in every game thus far, and he has a career .408 wOBA against southpaws. Jung Ho Kang ($2,400) is a cheap third-base pivot for GPPs.
Even with a few expensive stud bats, there's room to spend at second base, which is cheaper compared to the other positions. Ozzie Albies ($3,600) is preferred by a hair over Ben Zobrist ($3,700) considering the upside of each at this point of their respective careers. Both have gotten off to a hot start, but Albies has homered in two straight games and is a better bet to steal a base.
Many DFS players who played yesterday's early slate can quickly tell you that first baseman Joey Votto ($4,200) laid the goose egg in their lineups. He's hitting .222 early on with no home runs, and all of those factors will lead to him being sparsely owned tonight. He's a good play in cash games but a great play in GPPs (due to the likely low ownership) with his matchup against Lyles.
Don't forget about Justin Bour ($2,900) in GPPs, either. He's capable of a multi-home-run game against Volquez and should be less than 5 percent owned in GPPs.
Despite the tiny three-game schedule, it's tough to look at which stack will be the most popular.
The Angels are the biggest favorite of the night according to Vegas, so using a four-player combination out of Trout, Kole Calhoun ($3,000), Bour, Andrelton Simmons ($2,600) and Albert Pujols ($2,300) is an obvious choice. Fading Volquez will be a popular play tonight.
Next, using the Braves at home against Darvish seems like a spot to avoid, but they're favored in a game with an over/under of 8.5 runs. A stack of Albies, Freddie Freeman ($4,400), Ender Inciarte ($3,000) and Ronald Acuna ($4,500) could pay off handsomely if other owners shy away from the Darvish matchup. Using batters in the middle to end of the Braves' lineup might make sense here if Darvish issues a lot of walks to the hitters toward the top of the lineup.
The sleeper stack of the night is the Reds. They're a road underdog in a game with the lowest run total (eight). Their outfield, outside of Yasiel Puig, has been horrendous at the plate, but they could turn it around. Using the obvious bats of Puig, Votto and Eugenio Suarez ($3,800) along with another outfielder – Jesse Winker ($2,600), Derek Dietrich ($2,600) or Scott Schebler ($2,200) – will be one of the lowest-owned stack combinations tonight. If these types come through, they'll take down big GPPs.