Is this real life?
Is MLB Opening Day actually here?
After what seems like an eternity since we’ve witnessed meaningful Major League Baseball games – Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday, October 30, 2019 to be exact – we have a double-dip going down tonight.
Indeed, the Yankees and reigning World champion Nationals do battle in Washington before NL West rivals clash later on with the Giants and Dodgers butting heads.
So, if I have this right, we get the defending champions as well as the 2020 World Series co-favorites kicking off the season. I’m good with that.
I’m also thrilled to be back doing my daily FanDuel MLB DFS Picks again and like last season, I’m hoping to get out of the gate hot, beginning with tonight’s action.
Make sure to check back daily for these picks, but for now let’s get to it and dish out the first lineup of the season, one I would suggest for GPPs and head-to-head matchups.
FanDuel MLB DFS Picks – July 23, 2020
P – Clayton Kershaw (LAD) – $10,300 vs. SF
After Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer duke it out in D.C., Kershaw takes the hill at home against a Giants lineup he has dominated in his career as current Giants players have combined to hit just . 178 off the future Hall of Famer with a minuscule .202 wOBA and big-time 28.7% K-rate to boot. It’s also important to note that these numbers come from a hefty 279 plate-appearance sample.
There’s reasons to back Cole or Scherzer as well, but that Yankees lineup is likely to make things tough on Max while the Nationals’ 20.9% K-rate last season was tied for the fourth-lowest mark in baseball. While Cole led all of baseball in strikeouts last season, the Nats just don’t strikeout that much while there’s also a mild weather concern in Washington this evening.
Kershaw is the best bet to notch a victory on tonight’s two-game slate and while he might not be the same unworldly pitcher he was from about 2009 through 2017, let’s not scoff at his 3.03 ERA and 9.54 K/9 from last season.
That strikeout rate is pretty much in line with his career mark of 9.75, but most notably it was a notable improvement from the previous season in which he posted an 8.65 mark, the lowest mark since he posted an 8.36 figure in his rookie 2008 campaign.
All signs point to a Dodgers victory over the lowly Giants and with Kershaw’s history again this club, we should lock him in as the second-cheapest option on the slate.
C/1B – Eric Thames (WSH) – $2,400 vs. NYY
Thames will enter this lineup as a one-off on what I expect to be a weaker Nationals offense this season, however I see value in the slugger against a right-handed pitcher.
While that pitcher is Gerrit Cole, keep in mind Thames has pummelled right-handed pitching since returning stateside as he posted a .275 ISO, .877 OPS and .362 wOBA to go along with a 122 wRC+ against right-handed pitching last season as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. If we dip back to the 2018 season, Thames posted a .268 ISO, .804 OPS and a 110 wRC+ against righties with the latter two figures behind dragged down by a 34.9% K-rate and .223 average against right-handers.
However, make no mistake that the power is there in spades and that’s all we’re focussed on here.
He hasn’t fared terribly well in his history against Cole with just two hits in 14 at-bats (.143), however one of those hits went for a home run.
Let’s give Thames a chance to earn us some big-time value in his Nationals debut tonight.
2B – D.J. LeMahieu (NYY) – $3,500 vs. WSH
Second base is an awfully thin position after LeMahieu, so I would expect significant ownership on the Yankees’ leadoff man, however I’m rolling out a Yankees stack that should go lower owned on the whole, so I’m not too worried about it.
Now, keep in mind that his status for tonight’s contest is in doubt as he was a late arrival to camp and manager Aaron Boone didn’t confirm he would play when asked yesterday, so make sure to keep an eye on that situation as we move forward or follow me on Twitter @BKemp17 for updates.
For now, he’s in my lineup coming off a season in which he slashed .327/.375/.518 in his first tour of duty with the Bronx Bombers. He added 26 home runs and five steals to his resume, but broke the 100 mark in another pair of counting stats with 109 runs scored to go along with 102 RBI – both of which are career-highs.
He fared better against lefties, but also hit .310 with an .830 OPS and 119 wRC+ against righties.
His spot atop the lineup is big in front of the meat of the powerful Yankees lineup, so while he probably won’t hit for as much power as last season, expect a ton of runs for LeMahieu again this time around to go with his quality on-base rate.
3B – Gio Urshela (NYY) – $2,800 vs. WSH
My Yankees stack will be of the wraparound variety as Urshela is projected to hit in the nine-hole this evening and will hit just one spot ahead of LeMahieu once the lineup turns over.
The Yankees needed someone to step up in a big way in their injury-ravaged 2019 season, and Urshela was up to that task.
He came out of no where to his .314 with a .219 ISO and .369 wOBA to go along with a big-time 132 wRC+ as part of his 476 trips to the plate. He launched 21 home runs, and the good news is that the numbers actually lean better towards right-handed pitching for the righty-swinging third baseman.
Urshela’s .320 average, .895 OPS, .373 wOBA and 135 wRC+ against righties were all superior to those same figures against southpaws. He hit for slightly more power against lefties, but his .210 ISO against righties is a strong figure.
Despite hitting down in the order, Urshela could surprise us once again as he did last season.
SS – Corey Seager (LAD) – $3,200 vs. SF
Johnny Cueto takes the mound tonight look for his first fully healthy campaign since the 2017 season after Tommy John surgery midway through the 2018 season cost him much of 2019 as well.
In Cueto’s tiny 16-inning sample from last season saw left-handed hitters fare much better again him, however over the course of his career his splits are rather even, so I’m not concerned as much about Cueto as I am with rostering players who hit righties well and/or have a history of hitting Cueto well, and Seager fits both moulds.
Last season Seager hit right-handers much better, posting a .239 ISO, .876 OPS, .361 wOBA and 126 wRC+ against right-handed pitching, all of which were significantly superior to his figures against lefties. In fact, it’s been that story all along for the talented shortstop who owns a career .208 ISO, .889 OPS, .375 wOBA and 137 wRC+ against right-handers with those numbers once again sitting well above his numbers against lefties.
So, we know the righty-swinging Seager is a reverse-splits hitter, but how has he fared against Cueto?
All he’s done against the 34-year-old is go 12 for 34 (.353) with three home runs and a double off of him, good for a .294 ISO, .421 wOBA and 1.008 OPS against the righty.
Add it up and Seager looks like the top shortstop on tonight’s slate.
OF – Joc Pederson (LAD) – $2,800 vs. SF
If we are stacking Dodgers who hit righties well, Pederson is a must in this lineup.
He was nearly traded to the Angels in the offseason, but remains with the Dodgers with whom he’s raked righties for his entire career.
All Pederson did last season against right-handed pitching was post a massive .319 ISO, .920 OPS, .377 wOBA and 127 wRC+. Pederson launched 36 home runs last season, and all 36 of those long balls came at the expense of a right-handed pitcher. He did not hit a single home run against a lefty in 50 plate appearances against them, which helps explain his ugly 34 wRC+ versus southpaws.
While he’s a candidate to be pinch-hit for if the Giants decide to use a lefty against him later in the ball game, I’m quite comfortable with Pederson and his gaudy numbers versus righties.
Pederson has largely struggled against Cueto in his career, going just 2 for 20 (.143) against him, but one of those hits went for a home run and I’ll look for just that tonight.
OF – Cody Bellinger (LAD) – $4,500 vs. SF
It’s probably a safe bet that last season’s NL MVP – a left-handed hitter – fared quite well against right-handed pitching last season, but let’s check for good measure.
During his assault on pitching across Major League Baseball, Bellinger posted hit righties to the tune of a .328 ISO, 1.061 OPS, .423 wOBA and 167 wRC+. While those numbers are flat-out elite, Bellinger was as matchup proof as anyone in the game last season as he raked left-handers as well with most of his lefty splits coming in just shy of his figures against righties.
What’s more is that Bellinger displayed some speed last season too, swiping 15 bases as part of his MVP campaign.
Like Seager, Bellinger fits the mould of both raking righties and raking Cueto. He’s gone 6 for 17 (.353) with a homer and a pair of doubles off of the veteran. Not much more to be said here.
OF – Aaron Hicks (NYY) – $2.600 vs. WSH
My Yankees stack is going to go lower owned than most which is why I feel this lineup is appropriate for most formats including GPPs.
Hicks appeared in just 59 games last season and required Tommy John surgery, but is healthy again and should be in Boone’s starting lineup tonight.
Of course, Max Scherzer is as elite as it gets and is a future Hall of Famer, but there are times when he struggles some with the long ball, especially against lefties. Last season, Scherzer yielded a 1.32 HR/9 to left-handed bats while his 3.52 FIP and 3.74 xFIP versus lefties is well above his dominant 1.62 FIP and 2.22 xFIP against righties.
While Hicks is a switch-hitter, I will have three righties in my Yankees stack. Why? Well, their projected lineup features just two left-handed bats in Hicks and Brett Gardner while Scherzer has owned Gardner in their history against one another.
For his part, Hicks hit right-handers for a bit-time .261 ISO last season to go along with an elevated .818 OPS, .343 wOBA and 115 wRC+. He was much, much better from the left side of the plate last season, although his career splits are rather even.
I like his pop and he did rack up double-digit steals in both 2017 and 2018, so let’s see if Hicks can deliver some value despite the tough matchup.
UTIL – Luke Voit (NYY) – $2,900 vs. WSH
Completing our lineup and our Yankees stack is Voit who brings plenty of power of his own to the dish.
After erupting after coming to the Yankees in a low-key August deal in the 2018 season, Voit followed that up with a solid 2019 in which he hit 21 home runs as part of his .200 ISO, .360 wOBA and 126 wRC+.
Even better is the fact that Voit out-produced against righties and had himself a reverse-splits 2019. He posted a .206 ISO, .860 OPS, .368 wOBA and 131 wRC+ against right-handed pitching, all of which are superior to his figures against lefties.
That said, that hasn’t been quite the case for his big-league career to this point as his numbers are better against lefties on the whole, but let’s just say he flexes plenty of muscle against both pitchers’ handedness.
Very few Yankees hitters have a history against Scherzer, but it’s always comforting to know that Voit singled on the second – and final to this point – pitch that he saw from the righty.
At the end of the day, we’re getting plenty of power in Voit and he completes what should go down as a fairly low-owned Yankees stack with the potential to do some damage in GPPs.