This article is part of our FanDuel MLB series.
FanDuel is welcoming baseball back in a big way with a $1 million first-place prize at stake for a mere $3 entry, amongst Friday's offerings. The main slate gets going at 7:05 p.m. et, with only Atlanta, New York (NL), Detroit, Cincinnati, Tampa and Toronto omitted from the player pool.
Picking a path on the bump will be paramount to success Friday, and likely for the first few weeks of the season as we're not certain how deep into games the top pitchers will work. The top four arms, price wise, all offer a nice blend of top talent and preferred match ups, led by Justin Verlander ($11,200 vs. SEA); supplemented by Jack Flaherty ($10,500 vs. PIT), Shane Bieber ($10,200 vs. KC) and Aaron Nola ($9,900 vs. MIA). Given the divisional familiarity, we can lean a bit more on last year's results, where Verlander went 3-0 against Seattle with 40 Ks in 30.1 frames. Nola was nearly as impressive, surrendering five runs and 18 hits across 21.2 frames, striking out 21 in the process. Flaherty didn't see the Pirates as often as you'd expect, but was dominant, allowing one run and striking out 18 in 15 frames. Bieber, somewhat surprisingly, struggled against the Royals, allowing nine runs and 19 hits while whiffing 20 across 18.0 frames. All food for thought, and given what appear to be some favorable hitter pricing, paying for of these four makes sense for cash purposes.
I expect Nathan Eovaldi ($7,100 vs. BAL) to draw plenty of attention, with the Red Sox checking in as a big favorite (-180 or higher). Maybe last year's numbers (eight runs in seven innings) keep his ownership in check, but given that we'll likely see opposing pitchers be targets against the Orioles all season, he'll be a popular choice. So will Ross Stripling ($6,600) against the Giants, for the exact same reason. And while he went over five innings just three times in 15 starts last season, he did post a 25.1 percent strikeout rate.
Sandy Alcantara ($6,800 at PHI), is easy to overlook, but surrendered only eight runs while fanning 17 in 18.2 innings against the Phillies last season and could be a sneaky, low-owned GPP option.
There are only six bats priced at $4K or greater, and if money is no object, it makes plenty of sense to pair Cody Bellinger ($4,400) with Mookie Betts ($4,200), even if the Giants haven't revealed their pitching plans. Betts' .352 wOBA against lefties last year was the lowest of this duos possible outcomes.
If looking for some differentiation outside of the Dodgers duo, Red Sox and Astro top bats figure to be building blocks. With Boston facing lefty Tommy Milone ($5,600), we're going to see (rightfully so) high ownership of right-handed bats' J.D. Martinez ($3,900) and Xander Bogaerts ($3,600), the former of which being a known lefty masher, posting a .539 wOBA, 242 wRC+ and .482 ISO against southpaws last season.
While virtually the entire Astros' lineup succeeded against lefties in 2019, Alex Bregman ($4,000) stands out with his .473 wOBA, 205 wRC+ and .393 ISO, significantly better numbers than teammate George Springer ($4,000), if you're forced to choose.
It's a weird slate overall for bats with so few priced in an upper tier, and there are plenty of names sitting in the $3,500 range, making for hugely affordable stacks, as I'll hit on below.
If we're passing on Bellinger and Betts as top Dodger options, a plethora of second-tier options are available in this lineup, led by Max Muncy ($3,800). But there's a steep drop off in price following Muncy, with a preseason hot Corey Seager ($3,200) leading the way, followed by Justin Turner ($3,000), Joc Pederson ($3,000) and Will Smith ($3,000). If confirmed in the lineup, Edwin Rios ($2,000) and his power potential make for a nice wildcard.
Cesar Hernandez ($2,500) is a personal favorite stand-alone play. He's at a non-premium position, and priced very favorably for someone projected to lead off, and should see plenty of run scoring chances with Francisco Lindor ($3,800), Jose Ramirez ($3,500) and Carlos Santana ($3,200) behind him. Teammate Jordan Luplow ($2,200) has the potential to be a supreme bargain after posting a .474 wOBA, 198 wRC+, .422 ISO and 45.8 hard hit rate against lefties last year.
The slate's highest total (9.5) comes in Arlington where the Rockies visit the Rangers. We don't yet know if the ball will travel similarly at Globe Life Field as it did at Globe Life Park, and both starting pitchers faired reasonably well last year, Lance Lynn at home and German Marquez on the road. But this contest probably shouldn't be overlooked, and a small buy in on someone like David Dahl ($2,900) or Danny Santana ($2,900) could provide a return.
Stacks to Consider
I want to stress I'm looking for some GPP stacks here that may be overlooked, or even scoffed at. Sometimes a team just seems to have a pitcher's number, and that was the case with Cardinals and Musgrove in 2019. Musgrove went 0-4 against St. Louis, allowing 24 hits, 20 runs and four long balls. Further, Goldy and DeJong combined to hit 11 homers in 19 games against Pittsburgh. The Cards' lineup can dictate the third piece here, but Carpenter figures to be completely overlooked, has power potential and seems pleased with a reworked swing/approach after a trying year last season.
I actually like Heaney this season, so this is another play to simply differentiate, and grab some bats that have high upside and hit lefties well. Semien posted a .388 wOBA, while Chapman had a 49.2 percent hard hit rate, followed by Davis' 42.2 percent hard hit rate. Heaney was middle of the road last season against Oakland, allowing six runs, 12 hits and two long balls over 11.1 innings. The game has an 8.5 run total, a common number on Friday's slate, and with the A's being (-147) favorites, they're obviously expected to provide the largest portion of that total.
Indians vs. Danny Duffy: Lindor ($3,800), Ramirez ($3,500), Santana ($3,200)
See above, but this core is priced favorably for the matchup. And can be supplemented with either Hernandez or Luplow to save even further.