This article is part of our DraftKings MLB series.
Thursday's five-game evening slate doesn't offer much safety but prospective owners who strike the right balance between punt play and calculated risk could be in for a big night, as there are several plays that can be used in an attempt to gain an edge on the field.
It seems as though Jon Gray ($9,300) would be quite a serviceable pitcher if he could just keep the ball in the yard. This was the problem in 2018, and the new campaign is starting similarly, as Gray has allowed two homers in his first 12.2 innings. The 27-year-old should be able to use his strikeout prowess and groundball-heavy profile to attack an eminently forgiving San Francisco lineup on the road.
Joe Musgrove ($9,000) is coming off a fantastic outing against the Reds but is seemingly priced too aggressively for a matchup against the Cubs, who hold the highest wOBA in the league against right-handed pitching to begin the year after finishing just outside the top 10 last year.
It would hardly be surprising if DFS players bristled at the thought of using any Red Sox starter at this point, which could open up some opportunity to play Nathan Eovaldi ($8,600) for leverage. Eovaldi has been absolutely hammered in his first two starts of the year but will face a largely toothless Toronto lineup that holds the third-lowest wOBA in the league against right-handed pitching.
Pedro Avila ($7,800) was a strikeout machine in the minor leagues, which could make him an intriguing GPP play against the Padres, who hold a 23 percent strikeout rate against righty pitchers to begin the year.
Kevin Gausman ($7,500) is likely to be a popular option after he tallied a casual 31.4 DraftKings points in his first start of the season against the Marlins. The key for DFS players is to remember that Gausman has always been somewhat homer-prone and has never kept a strikeout rate anywhere close to the 31 percent he currently holds in his 830.1 major league innings. While he will be worth watching to see if his new reliance on changeups yields long-term fruit, I believe him to be a fade against a sneakily powerful Mets lineup.
Jeff Samardzija's ($7,500) disappearing strikeout rate coming off an injury-plagued season is concerning, but most starters should be given a look against the Rockies on the road, where they have begun the season with a .234 wOBA in 250 plate appearances.
Mookie Betts ($5,400) and J.D. Martinez ($5,200) will likely garner their usual levels of attention but it makes more sense to target a sensibly priced Mitch Moreland ($4,500), as Aaron Sanchez finished last season with a 6.20 xFIP against left-handed hitters in 48.1 innings.
Josh Donaldson ($3,900) hit lefties hard in 2018, finishing the year with a .241 ISO against his opposite hand in 58 at-bats. Meanwhile, Matz logged a 1.7 HR/9 rate against righty hitters in 124.1 frames.
DraftKings has finally decided to scale down the price of Rockies on the road, which brings someone like Charlie Blackmon ($4,400) into play. Blackmon's numbers take a sizable hit away from Coors Field but Samardzija's inability to get whiffs combined with his penchant for giving up homers could make him a target.
Pete Alonso ($4,800) has been priced to the (relative) moon after his hot start but the talented prospect could be worth a look against Gausman, who allowed a .459 slugging percentage to righty hitters in 94 innings last year.
Anthony Rizzo ($4,400) can be counted on to post an ISO north of .200 against righties with regularity. We mentioned Musgrove's strong first start of the year above, but I don't expect DFS players to forget he allowed a .446 slugging percentage against left-handed batters last season when working with a small slate.
It will be difficult to pass on Francisco Cervelli ($3,200) against Jose Quintana. While it's true that Cervelli fared better at home last year, his numbers against lefties were solid (.171 ISO, .354 wOBA) in 82 at-bats. Also keep in mind that Quintana tallied a 4.42 xFIP against right-handed hitters last year.
Benintendi is the only real slow starter of this group but it's worth noting that he logged a .376 wOBA against righty pitchers in 2018. Swihart's success against righties is based on a small sample but he remains an option in a good matchup.
Matz's troubles staying in the yard should provide an enticing matchup for one of the most powerful teams in the league against lefty pitchers. Acuna is in something of a slump to begin the year but his ability to hit for extra bases has remained intact, as evidenced by the .526 slugging percentage he has tallied in 38 at-bats.
DFS players will have some decisions to make about the trust they have in Samardzija but those who decide he is exploitable while working his way back could have a nice contrarian GPP stack on their hands. The stack in question will be rounded out by Tapia, who has yet to get much of an opportunity with the big club but has shown the ability to hit for average and power at every level in the minors.