This article is part of our Yahoo DFS Baseball series.
It's the first Sunday of the MLB season, and it only took us to the end of July to get it. Better late than never, as they say. As per usual, if you want to play daily fantasy baseball on a Sunday, you are going to want to get your lineups in early. After all, only four games start at 4:00 PM ET or later of the 15 games on the slate. If you don't have a full slate of games to make your picks from, you're really missing out. Everything is still up in the air, especially for pitching staffs, as we get this all figured out. Some players have gotten off to strong starts, but even in this shortened season the sample sizes are too small. So with an eye on 2019 performances, here are some recommendations for our first Sunday!
Yes, Blake Snell ($48) saw his ERA jump from 1.88 in a Cy-winning season to 4.29 in 2019, but his FIP last year was still a healthy 3.31 - and that's with him experiencing elbow issues. Plus, most of his problems were on the road, as the Ray posted a 2.89 home ERA. The fans may not be there for Tampa Bay, but will anybody even notice in that ballpark? One thing I did notice is the fact the Blue Jays only managed a .236 team batting average last year.
There are issues one can have with Trevor Bauer ($47), and I'm not just talking about his off-the-field decision making. After he was traded to the Reds, he posted a 4.89 FIP in 10 starts. That was with a 1.92 HR/9 rate, which seems unlikely to continue. I certainly am not concerned about the Tigers roughing up the Reds, as they only scored 582 runs last season. The team in 28th - the Giants - counted 678.
If you want to save money and bet on regression, I would roll the dice on Mitch Keller ($31). Last season, he struggled to a 7.13 ERA in 11 starts as a rookie. Why would I ever consider giving Keller a shot? Because he managed a 3.18 FIP and struck out over 12 batters per nine innings. The man had a .475 BABIP. It's basically impossible to be that unlucky two seasons in a row. Let's see if Keller's luck normalizes in 2020.
You know that Alex Bregman ($22) is good at hitting, I assume. He's so good he almost won the AL MVP last season with a 1.015 OPS and 41 home runs. I can't argue with Bregman against almost any pitcher, but I love him against Yusei Kikuchi of the Mariners. Kikuchi came overseas last year and was smashed by right-handed hitters to the tune of a .304 batting average. Imagine what Bregman could do, especially in Houston's ballpark.
Anthony Rizzo ($19) hit a home run in his first game of the season, which means he's red hot and primed for a great season, right? OK, maybe not, but there is a lot to like about a slugger with a career slash line of .273/.373/.489 who has never hit fewer than 23 homers over a full season. I also like the southpaw against the righty-handed Freddy Peralta, who is starting for the Brewers. Peralta spent most of last season in the bullpen, but he still slumped to a 5.29 ERA with a 7.04 road ERA.
Remember when Rick Porcello won the Cy Young? He hasn't nearly been the same pitcher since. Over his last three seasons, Porcello hasn't recorded a FIP lower than 3.95 and he's allowed 1.52 homers per nine innings across those three campaigns. Sure, he's with the Mets now, but is he going to be a better pitcher? Atlanta's Ozzie Albies ($19) has smashed 24 homers in each of his last two seasons with double-digit stolen bases. Last year, he boosted his OBP up to .352 and will improve as a hitter if he can keep that up.
You can be forgiven for never thinking of the Baltimore Orioles when it comes to DFS, other than targeting their pitchers. Sometimes, you can fine value in one of their batters. Last year, Renato Nunez ($10) hit 31 home runs with a .460 slugging percentage. That's something. I'm willing to take a shot on him because the Red Sox are starting Ryan Weber. Even though he's primarily pitched out of the bullpen, Weber has posted a career 5.04 ERA and has only struck out 5.67 batters per nine innings. Believe it or not, I'm indeed recommending an Oriole for your lineup.
Franmil Reyes's ($16) numbers dipped after he was sent from San Diego to Cleveland, but in a larger sample size I imagine not being in Petco Park will benefit him. It also benefits him when a lefty is on the mound by producing a .937 OPS against southpaws since 2018. The Royals are starting lefty Mike Montgomery, who had a 5.22 FIP in 13 starts for the Royals after being dealt by the Cubs in 2019.
Catchers can be a tricky proposition, since many of them can't hit. Martin Maldonado ($8) of the Astros is not necessarily a great hitter, but he did hit 12 home runs last season. Mostly, I like him because he's cheap and he's right handed. I mentioned earlier Yusei Kikuchi allowed a .304 batting average to righties last year. He also allowed two home runs per nine innings. If Maldonado goes yard, he'll pay off big time for your lineup.
Like I said, the Orioles are usually worth targeting when it comes to your hitters - especially stacks. LeBlanc mostly pitched out of the bullpen last season when he posted a 5.48 FIP and surrendered 2.08 homers per nine innings. This was with the Mariners, and now he's with the Orioles. That's concerning, given LeBlanc looked decent with a 3.97 home ERA in two seasons with Seattle but a 5.29 road mark. Since he's a southpaw, the many lefties on Boston's roster are question marks, so I have three righties for you.
Ever since he tweaked his swing, Martinez has been one of the best power hitters in the majors. He hasn't registered a slugging percentage lower than .535 in his last six seasons. You can basically pen Martinez in for 35 homers and 100 RBI, at the very least. After breaking out in 2018, Bogaerts took things to the next level in 2019 by slashing .309/.384/.555 along with 33 homers. Chavis seems like the heir apparent to Dustin Pedroia at second base. He only appeared in 95 games last season, but went on to crush 18 homers.
Lopez used to be a pitcher with some potential, but that hasn't really panned out. In fact, 2019 was his worst season yet where his FIP rose to 5.03 and he allowed 1.71 home runs per nine innings. The Twins set a home run record last season, and I've got two of the guys who played a part in that plus a former MVP who is new to the team.
I like to grab lefties versus righties - and vice versa - when I can, especially when the southpaw in question is Kepler. The German-born slugger hit two homers in Minnesota's first game of the season and clubbed 36 dingers in 2019. He also posted an .880 OPS versus right-handed pitcher last year. Polanco didn't produce as many homers but recorded 40 doubles, which is partially why he managed a .485 slugging percentage. He's also more of a guy who can hit for average after batting .295 last season. After a lost season in 2018, Donaldson joined Atlanta in 2019 and slashed .259/.379/.521 with 37 home runs. Clearly, some of that MVP-level talent remains in his bat.