This article is part of our DraftKings MLB series.
DraftKings has once again divided the day into two short slates, which means I will be taking a look at the two four-game windows at 1:10 PM ET and 6:10 PM ET, respectively. It should be fairly clear who the chalk plays will be in both cases, which makes it imperative for prospective owners to find scarcity plays in order to gain leverage in GPPs.
James Paxton ($10,900) is the most expensive of a trio of injury-prone pitchers who top the early slate. The Orioles finished 2018 with the fourth lowest wOBA in the league against lefties and a 23 percent strikeout rate. I generally try to avoid five-figure pitchers in hitter-friendly ballparks but it will be tough to fade Paxton, who sees the most favorable matchup in the early window of games.
Stephen Strasburg ($10,300) will draw the Mets in his second outing of the year. While he still held strong strikeout and ground-ball rates in 2018, his normally excellent fastball hit the skids to the tune of -8.8 runs above average, a mark that was by far the lowest of his career. For those of us trying to decide between high-priced options on a short slate, that troublesome fastball might be a reason to look in another direction.
Noah Syndergaard ($10,100) rounds out the triumvirate of top arms. Syndergaard was fantastic when he was on the field last season, notching a 3.09 ERA and 155 strikeouts in 154.1 innings but will unquestionably have a tougher matchup than his counterparts. The Nationals finished 2018 with a top -10 wOBA against right-handed hurlers while striking out just 21 percent of the time.
Brett Anderson ($6,300) could be worth a look as our GPP differentiator. While nothing he does is very exciting, Anderson is an extreme groundballer who keeps a low walk rate, and (perhaps, somewhat counterintuitively) the Red Sox were a bottom-half offense against lefties last year according to wOBA.
Eduardo Rodriguez ($7,600) should be a far more popular play under $8,000 but will face an A's offense that was among the strongest against left-handed pitching last year. Add to that some drama between Rodriguez and pitching coach Dana LeVangie and Rodriguez suddenly doesn't quite seem as worthy of a chalk designation.
The evening slate kicks off with Trevor Bauer ($11,300). Bauer was an absolute machine in 2018, logging a 2.21 ERA and 221 strikeouts in 175.1 frames. The Blue Jays were among the best teams in the league against right-handed pitching according to wOBA but did strike out at a 23 percent rate, making this an intriguing matchup. Those who wish to fade Bauer at that price can probably find a reason to do so but he is unquestionably the best pitcher on a very small slate, which may back prospective owners into a corner.
Yu Darvish ($8,300) had a nightmare first outing of the new campaign when he walked seven batters in 2.2 innings. Darvish had real issues with walks last season as well when his slider went from a significantly above average pitch (13.5 RAA in 2017) to a slightly below average pitch (-1.0 in 2018). Darvish can still be looked at as a GPP play due to his strikeout upside but I don't see how he can be trusted anywhere near a cash lineup in this matchup with the Braves.
The Rangers will hit the road for the first time this season, which could provide an opening for players to roster Matt Harvey ($7,600). The Rangers were a bottom-10 team away from Arlington last year according to wOBA and carried a strikeout rate higher than 25 percent. There weren't many things that Harvey did well in 2018 but he was able to limit walks, carried a fastball that averaged 94 miles per hour and threw grounders at a 42 percent clip.
Aaron Judge ($5,500) could lead a Yankee parade against Alex Cobb, who will be returning from the 10-day injured list to make his first start of the year. Cobb allowed a .521 slugging percentage against right-handed hitters last season.
Though I may take a shot on Anderson as a low-cost play, I can still see players like Mookie Betts ($5,400) and J.D Martinez ($5,200) being popular, as Anderson surrendered a .467 slugging percentage to righty hitters in 2018.
Chad Pinder ($3,500) and the .361 wOBA he put up against left-handers last season could be a fine value play if Rodriguez is having trouble getting on the same page as his pitching coach.
Niko Goodrum ($3,900) may not hit for a high average but did notch a .215 ISO against right-handed pitchers last year. Meanwhile, Jakob Junis finished 2018 having logged a 4.48 xFIP and a 43 percent hard contact rate against left-handed hitters.
Mike Trout ($5,800) returns on the night slate against Edinson Volquez. Volquez's trouble with command and low strikeout rate should make him a sitting duck for someone like Trout, who posted a .457 wOBA against righty pitchers in 2018.
Aaron Sanchez posted an ERA approaching 5.00 and a 14 percent walk rate last season. This should present a strong matchup for Jose Ramirez ($5,200), who tallied a .315 ISO and .410 wOBA against righty pitchers.
Freddie Freeman ($4,600) is well worth a shot against Darvish based on the .371 wOBA he posted against righty hurlers last year.
Adam Frazier ($3,900) has moderate power and finished 2018 with a .364 wOBA against right-handed pitchers. He will take on Tyler Mahle, whose xFIP numbers often portend doom despite his small-sample success in recent years.
The New York offense has already sustained several injuries early this season but what's left should have a fairly easy time with Cobb, who didn't have a single pitch in his repertoire rate as above average in 2018.
It may be worth seeing if Rodriguez has straightened himself out in GPPs. If he hasn't gotten his issues ironed out, then a team that finished with the sixth highest wOBA against left-handed pitchers last year will likely be able to take advantage.
Darvish has already shown us signs that the control issues that cropped up in 2018 will remain this year, and prospective owners owe it to themselves to see if that may be the case. While it may not seem like Markakis belongs in this group, he will hit in the middle of the order and kept a respectable .353 wOBA against right-handed pitchers last year.
Sanchez carried a 6.20 xFIP against left-handed hitting in 48.1 innings last year, while also delivering more walks than strikeouts. This makes for a scenario where DFS players can fit high-dollar options into their lineups by plugging in cheap lefty bats as they see fit.