FantasyDraft DFS Plays for March 29

Chris Sale headlines Opening Day's top FantasyDraft DFS plays for opening day.

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After spending months analyzing players with a long-term view, fantasy managers must adjust their lens to construct winning DFS lineups.

At times maddening, the daily grind can often be liberating. Rather than juggling health and playing-time risks, DFS allows players to look at the lineups and ride the best talent. Of course, it also involves more matchup research to uncover the best bargains and sturdiest stars.

MLB made life easier on daily participants by giving most teams a Thursday-afternoon start time. Yet Mother Nature is already messing up the schedule. The Nationals and Reds must wait until Friday to start their season, which means DFS players must wait another day to play Bryce Harper and Co. against Homer Bailey. A certain author wishes he saw this news before writing about Harper’s chances of tallying his fourth consecutive Opening Day home run. That means Mike Trout ($10,500) merits a deep look against Oakland’s Kendall Graveman, but it won’t be easy budgeting the day’s top hitter and pitcher.

Since FantasyDraft’s main slate starts with the 3 p.m. ET contests and ends before the night games, a few early and late bouts were taken out of consideration. With Clayton Kershaw, Corey KluberNoah Syndergaard, and a rained-out Max Scherzer off the board, the top pitching selection required little deliberation.

Must Play SP: Chris Sale, BOS ($22,900) at TB

There’s no need to get cute here. Paying up for stud aces is the top strategy adjustment those used to seasonal leagues should make in DFS. Opening Day gives gamers access to elite arms, so let’s pick the best one with the best matchup. That’s easily Chris Sale, who gets a Rays squad that unloaded Evan Longoria, Steven Souza, Corey Dickerson, Logan Morrison AND Lucas Duda during the offseason. That’s 56 percent (128 of 228) of last year’s home runs out the door with C.J. Cron, owner of a career .306 wOBA against lefties, marking the most significant power replacement. Even before cleaning house, the Rays racked up an MLB-worst 25.0 % strikeout rate last year, and Sale recorded a resounding 9.6 punchouts and 6.2 innings per start. He should also receive more run support from a Red Sox lineup now featuring J.D. Martinez, so make Sale the steady (albeit expensive) anchor of cash-contest lineups.

Honorable Mention: Aaron Nola, PHI ($17,800 at ATL)

Value SP: Chase Anderson, MIL ($13,800) at SD

Anyone who pays the iron price for Sale or another ace will want a more affordable second starter. Let’s stay loyal to the PitcherList brand and roll with Chase Anderson. Despite facing the Padres at Petco Park, he’s $1,100 cheaper than Julio Teheran and just $400 more than Cole Hamels against the Astros. While Eric Hosmer gives San Diego’s lineup a little more credibility, he’s not transforming an offense last in home runs and wOBA into a juggernaut. A 4.14 SIERA and 4.33 xFIP suggest severe regression from last year’s sparkling 2.74 ERA, but a 3.08 batted-ball FIP says Anderson validated that discrepancy by inducing weak contact. Even a skeptic has to like his chances of opening 2018 with a win over a feeble Padres lineup with a replenished Brewers offense teeing off against Clayton Richard. More on that matchup in a moment.

Honorable Mention: Garrett Richards, LAA ($13,700 at OAK)

IF Lucas Duda, KC ($7,600) vs. CHW (RHP James Shields)

Lucas Duda couldn’t have asked for a better way to start his Royals tenure. Hosmer’s replacement gets to tee off against James Shields, who surrendered 27 homers in 21 starts with a 43.5 % fly-ball rate and 5.23 ERA. He treated opposing lefties to a .388 wOBA, which means he made they all equivalent to 2017’s Marcell Ozuna. Shields has no business in a big league rotation, let alone an Opening Day start. While Duda’s 2015 success against same-handed pitchers proved a fluke, he amassed 25 homers and a .360 wOBA against righties last season despite batting .227. The potential to go deep especially makes him an intriguing tournament play, as most competitors will likely pay the extra $100 for Mike Moustakas. It’s not a bad idea to use both corner infielders, and Jon Jay is a sneaky value play at $6,300 if given leadoff duties.

Honorable Mention: IF Mike Moustakas, KC ($7,700) vs. CHW (Shields)

OF Ryan Braun/Lorenzo Cain, MIL ($8,100) vs. SD (LHP Clayton Richard)

Relying on the Brewers will require careful lineup consternation in the early weeks, but the picture is clearer against lefties. Craig Counsell already declared Ryan Braun his starting first baseman for Opening Day and subsequent games versus southpaws. Despite recording his worst wOBA (.340) since 2014, the former MVP still maintained a .516 slugging percentage with more walks (14) than strikeouts (10) in a limited sample against opposite-handed pitchers. He has torched lefties to a .331/.400/.617 slash line over his career, and righties decimated Richard (.312/.372/.527, 23 homers) last year. Braun’s new teammate, Lorenzo Cain, is also a strong play at the same price. The batting order could tip the scale in one’s favors, but Braun currently gets the edge for anyone who only has room for one Brewer at $8,100.

Honorable Mention: OF Justin Upton, LAA ($8,400) at OAK (Kendall Graveman)

Value: OF Aaron Hicks, NYY ($6,500) at TOR (LHP J.A. Happ)

Look, I like J.A. Happ. I pegged him as a top-45 starter in my bold predictions piece and targeted him as an end-of-rotation stabilized in season-long drafts. But he’s not a matchup-proof stud. Over the last three seasons he has coughed up 46 home runs against righties. While playing-time concerns understandably suppressed Aaron Hicks‘ stock, he should get the Opening Day nod after batting .312/.389/.514 against southpaws last season. Coming off a season in which he recorded a higher wOBA (.363) than Brian Dozier, Khris Davis, and Andrew McCutchen, the 28-year-old center fielder is under-priced with the platoon advantage and Rogers Centre working in his favor.

Honorable Mentions: IF/OF Odubel Herrera, PHI ($6,400) at ATL (Julio Teheran); OF Jon Jay, KC ($6,300) vs. CHW (Shields)

Top Stack: Astros at Rangers (LHP Cole Hamels)

They’re not cheap, and a comprehensive stack will require some penny-pinching in other spots. Yet all four of Houston’s stars submitted a wOBA above .400 against southpaws last season.

They’ll start the season at Texas against Hamels, who regressed to a 4.20 ERA and career-worst 17.1 strikeout % last season. Bregman is oddly the priciest of the bunch and the slate’s costliest infielder with Trea Turner eliminated, so contestants will get a better return on investment by pairing Correa or Altuve with Springer. Although FantasyDraft does not require anyone to roster a catcher, a $6,400 Evan Gattis can make these lavish purchases possible. There’s nothing more Altuve can do to prove he’s a superstar, and his high-contact floor especially makes his price too good to pass up in cash contests.

Honorable Mentions: Royals vs. White Sox (James Shields); Brewers at San Diego (Clayton Richard)

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Andrew Gould

Andrew is Pitcher List's DFS Manager who also covers MLB and NFL for FantasyPros and Bleacher Report. He placed second in FantasyPros' MLB accuracy ratings in 2016 and fifth in 2018.

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