This article is part of our DraftKings MLB series.
The sample sizes still aren't particularly meaningful, but the season is well under way, and there are plenty of bargains to be had on DraftKings.
While some of the early value plays have predictably noticed a price jump – younger players in particular – there are now some struggling veterans carrying enticingly low prices.
A hot batter is obviously preferable to a cold one, but at this point in the season, historical performance still far outweighs anything a player has done this year.
Now, on to some of the top plays for the second weekend of the season….
Jon Lester, BOS (FRI. at NYY), $9200 – Following a torrid finish to 2013, Lester is off to an excellent start this season with a 2.51 ERA and 14:2 K:BB ratio through two starts. He never seems to maintain his top form for more than a month or two, but when things are going well, he often looks like a true ace. A matchup against C.C. Sabathia and the Yankees lineup would have been an obvious stay-away two years ago. Now? Not so much. And, even better, this mediocre Yankee lineup is much better against right-handers than left-handers.
Drew Hutchison, TOR (Sat. at BAL), $5000 – The matchup is quite obviously harsh, but it's still worth rolling the dice on talent at a price this cheap. The 23-year-old Hutchison has been overshadowed for a variety of reasons, and while he lacks the elite ceiling of some other young starters, he could conceivably be a No. 2 or No. 3 quality pitcher as soon as this season. Why spend $7-8K on a pitcher that's proven to be mediocre, when you can get Hutchison and save a few thousand bucks? The money you save here should be enough to roster both an elite starter and a strong lineup.
Michael Wacha, STL (vs. CHC), $8300 – Not that I'd avoid him if he were off to a slow start, but Wacha allowed just one run in his first two outings, both of which came against the Reds. He draws a much friendlier matchup his third time out, and it's hard to argue against him at this price. As was the case for the first two weekends of the season, talented young pitchers who debuted last year offer excellent value. Wacha, Sonny Gray, and Danny Salazar are all nice bargains, although they're also pretty popular choices.
Jonathan Lucroy, C, MIL , $3500 – Catcher is a great place to save some dollars, as there are typically some decent sub-$3000 options with reasonable power, and the position's elite players don't match the production of top players at other positions. Toronto's Dioner Navarro ($2600), for example, offers tremendous value when the Jays face a left-handed pitcher, or at least he will until that price rises. What does all this have to do with Lucroy? Not much, actually, but the price here is tempting enough to make me reconsider my catcher strategy. The Brewers backstop may have middling power, but his contact skills and plate discipline are nearly unmatched at the position, and the price strongly indicates otherwise. Lucroy also figures to be a fantastic source of RBI on a per-game basis, as the Brew Crew's order typically goes Gomez-Segura-Braun-Ramirez-Lucroy.
Brandon Belt, 1B, SF, $4000 – Is Brandon Belt suddenly an elite power hitter? Very likely not. Was he already a good hitter, and is it likely that he'll improve upon last season's numbers at the age of 25/26? Yes, and yes. Sure, it doesn't hurt that he's off to a torrid start with five homers through nine games, but it's also not something to put a ton of stock in. More importantly, Belt entered the season undervalued, and he remains that way even after the hot start. Typically, I'm spending $4400+ at first base, but I'll be happy to get an equivalent player while saving a few hundred dollars. If you feel the need to overpay for a hot start, Mark Trumbo ($4600) is more up your alley. Just be careful with the lefties, as Belt handles them reasonably well but still probably shouldn't be started Friday and Saturday. Luckily, he'll be making a lefty sandwich, with friendly matchups against right-handers on Thursday (Randall Delgado) and Sunday (Tyler Chatwood) serving as the bread.
Aramis Ramirez, 3B, MIL, $4200 – Nestled right between Ryan Braun and the aforementioned Jonathan Lucroy, Ramirez has everything working in his favor as he looks to rebound from a "down" season. This isn't an otherworldly bargain, but Ramirez still finished 12th among third basemen in DraftKings fantasy points per game last season, and he should finish higher this year.
Ian Desmond, SS, WAS, $4000 – On the list of moderately slow starts that I don't care about, this one is pretty high. Desmond was one of the better hitting shortstops each of the last two seasons, and while he may never reach the heights of 2012, he's still one of the best options at a weak position. Not to mention that his slow start hasn't been that bad, as he has two homers to make up for an early .226 batting average and .242 on-base percentage. More than anything else, it seems that Desmond was just underpriced by a couple hundred dollars entering the season. He started the year at $4100, which would also be a pretty good deal.
Andrew McCutchen, OF, PIT, $4400 – McCutchen's price has been jumping all over the place, but he sat at $4400 on Thursday. I'd be happy to take him at that price if he were 0-for-20 over the last five games, so I'm not particularly worried about a 7-for-30 start. McCutchen unfortunately saw his numbers drop a bit last season, but he got a nice MVP trophy to make him feel better about his measly .912 OPS. Seriously, why can I get this guy for less than $4800?
Daniel Nava, OF, BOS, $3600 – Again, there's just no reason to care about this slow start. Nava may not do anything else well on a baseball field, but there's no doubt that he feasts on right-handed pitching. His season-opening price of $4100 was quite fair, and his ugly .125/.200/.156 slash line through a mere 35 plate appearances isn't sufficient reason to shy away. Nava needs to be avoided against lefties and typically won't be in the lineup anyway, but he's been batting leadoff against right-handers, atop a strong Boston lineup.
Rajai Davis OF, DET, $2800 – Never to be mistaken for a good hitter, Rajai Davis is a fast guy who gets to bat in front of good hitters, at least for a few more days. Typically the Tigers' No. 9 batter, Davis has been pushed up to leadoff for interleague play to keep Miguel Cabrera one spot further away from the pitcher. The Tigers may be overthinking things, but you don't need to do the same. Davis is an elite base-stealer, and he'll spend the next few days batting at the top of a strong lineup. $2800? Yes, please.
Other intriguing options:Jean Segura, SS, MIL, $4300, Hanley Ramirez, SS, LAD, $4800, Marcus Semien, 2B/SS, CHW, $3300, Matt Kemp, OF, LAD, $3600, Dioner Navarro, C, TOR, $2600, Carlos Gomez, OF, MIL, $4200, Josh Donaldson, 3B, $4200, Jose Altuve, 2B, $3800