This article is part of our DraftKings MLB series.
The first few days are always a bit strange, but now we enter the meat of a long season. While some of the early bargains are gone, others are still there, and some new value options have emerged.
For those of you who prefer smaller daily games offerings, the 15-game baseball slates may seem a bit intimidating. Fear not, for DraftKings offers plenty of "early only" or "late only" contests that focus on a subset of the day's games.
Now, on to some of the top plays for the first weekend of the season….
Danny Salazar, CLE, (Fri. vs. MIN)– Salazar either hates the sound of wood meeting leather, or he's just a really good pitcher. Either way, DraftKings gives you two points for every strikeout, and Salazar gets plenty of those. Last season, he posted a 13.6 K/9 over 33.2 Double-A innings, an 11.8 K/9 over 59.1 Triple-A innings, and an 11.3 K/9 over 52 big-league innings. He should pitch deeper into games in his second season, and he'll start the year with an excellent matchup against the Twins on Friday. With Mike Pelfrey slated to pitch for Minnesota, you have to like Salazar's chances to grab a win.
Andrew Cashner, SD, (Sat. at MIA) – After holding the Dodgers to one run over six innings in the Friars' season opener, Cashner will face a much more manageable lineup his second time out. The downside is that he's matched up against Jose Fernandez, who should also make for a strong play against a Padres lineup that's without Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin. Getting back to Cashner, the right-hander struck out just 128 batters in 175 innings last season, but he has the talent to improve on that number significantly. Cashner should come at a very reasonable price, as he was a solid but unspectacular performer on DraftKings last season.
Chris Sale, CHW, (Sun. at KC) – Sale should be a solid option one way or the other, but he almost becomes a must-start if his price doesn't rise from last week's $10,000. While that's a nice chunk of change on DraftKings, it falls short of the typical salary for an elite pitcher. Sale is quite obviously one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, and the Royals' lineup isn't particularly intimidating. Even though there are some excellent bargain options at pitcher early in the season, this horse is worth paying for.
Other intriguing options:Masahiro Tanka, NYY (Fri. at TOR), Dan Straily, OAK, (Fri. vs. SEA), Julio Teheran, ATL, (Sat. at WAS), Michael Pineda, NYY (Sat. at TOR), Drew Hutchison, TOR (Sun. vs. NYY), Sonny Gray, OAK (Sun. vs. SEA)
Miguel Montero, C, ARI, $3300 – Surprisingly bad last season, Montero is only 30 years old and has otherwise been remarkably consistent throughout his career. Not only is a season-long bounce back likely, but the veteran backstop also makes for an excellent DraftKings play at Coors Field on Friday, against Rockies starter Juan Nicasio. Look elsewhere Saturday and Sunday, as Montero has never been able to hit southpaws, and will likely sit against either Jorge De La Rosa on Saturday or Brett Anderson on Sunday. Montero owns a .295/.356/.516 career slash line in 135 plate appearances at Coors Field, and he should offer good value into next week.
Victor Martinez, 1B, DET, $3800 – Martinez comes much cheaper than the big thumpers at first base, and rightfully so, but he bats fourth in a strong lineup and won't have to deal with any top pitchers against the Orioles this weekend. The Tigers are scheduled to face a trio of mediocre right-handers in Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, and Bud Norris.
Marcus Semien, 2B/SS, CHW, $2700 – Semien is off to an 0-for-10 start heading into Thursday, but he's 2-for-2 when it comes to appearing in this column. Still carrying the same $2700 price tag, the 23-year-old has been batting second in a lineup that's not nearly as bad as you might think. A Sunday matchup against KC's James Shields will be tricky, but Semien first gets to face Jeremy Guthrie and Bruce Chen on Friday and Saturday.
Chris Owings, SS, ARI, $2300 – The 22-year-old Owings lacks experience and bats seventh in the lineup, but he's off to a fast start (6-for-14) heading into Thursday's game. More importantly, he has good offensive potential for a shortstop, and a weekend spent at Coors Field could help to unleash some of his talent. It can't hurt that the Rockies will start two southpaws this weekend, as the right-handed Owings figures to start at least two of the three games. Most important of all, Owings is dirt-cheap at a position where it's best to go with the extremes. The Tulo's ($4500) and Ian Desmond's ($3800) are worth big bucks, but the shortstop middle-class is an ugly bunch. If you're looking to save money at shortstop, it's best to spend $2500, not $3300.
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, COL, $4700 – To the surprise of absolutely no one, CarGo is off to another fast start, highlighted by an opening-day bomb off of Jose Fernandez. The five-tool outfielder doesn't turn 29 until October, and he was arguably having his best season in 2013, before a sprained finger caused him to miss most of the second half. The Rockies have their first home series of the season this weekend, and the Diamondbacks will be pitching the manageable trio of Randall Delgado, Brandon McCarthy, and southpaw Wade Miley, in that order.
Jason Kubel, OF, MIN, $2400 – The Twins play the Indians this weekend, meaning that Kubel won't have to face any left-handed starters. Danny Salazar still makes for a tough Friday matchup, and the same goes for Justin Masterson on Sunday, but Kubel – who had always crushed right-handers until a disastrous 2013 – still makes for a nice play at this price. What's more, he batted cleanup for the Twins on Wednesday and may do the same this weekend. A good option for Friday and Sunday, Kubel is particularly appealing for Saturday, when he'll face Cleveland's Carlos Carrasco.
Brandon Moss 1B/OF, OAK, $3200 – As covered last week, Moss absolutely crushes right-handed pitching. Guess what? He'll face three righties in this weekend's series with the M's, including late rotation addition Chris Young on Friday and Erasmo Ramirez on Sunday. It's probably best to avoid King Felix on Saturday, but Moss should still have a fun weekend. Whether or not his name is actually mentioned, consider Moss a part of this column so long as his price stays below $3500. Just don't use him if the A's are facing a lefty.