Hurray hurray it’s Opening Day!
In what should be a national holiday across North American, Opening Day has arrived and competitive baseball is back! While the MLB offseason isn’t a lengthy one from a time standpoint, the shear lack of action for large portions of the winter certainly makes it feel like we haven’t seen big-league ball in a very, very long time.
That said, here we are as we look into our first FanDuel MLB DFS Picks of the season! I’ll be here on a near-everyday basis rolling out my top DFS plays of the day, whether it be cash or GPP-aimed.
Today’s lineup is more of the cash variety, but we can’t afford Coors Field, so it could be used in some GPPs as well. Let’s dive in and see if we can pocket some dough and get our 2021 season started on the right note!
FanDuel MLB DFS Picks – April 1, 2021
P – Shane Bieber (CLE) – $11,500 vs. DET
Regardless if you’re playing cash or GPP games tonight, there isn’t much reason to fade Bieber as he takes on the Tigers this afternoon in Detroit.
First of all, the game time temperature is right around freezing. In other words, the hitting conditions at Comerica Park today are going to be far less than ideal, especially when the reigning Cy Young winner is throwing 97 mph heaters in on your hands.
Besides, this Tigers team struck out a lot last season. The Tigers’ 27.3% K-rate from 2020 was the worst mark in baseball, and just for good measure, their 26.6% mark from the larger 2019 sample was also the worst mark in baseball. Like all teams, they have new pieces on board, but expect Bieber to carve these guys up today.
After all, the big right-hander worked to a 1.63 ERA/2/07 FIP last season with an expected ERA of 2.54. He also struck out 14.20 batters per nine innings a season ago. He was no slouch in 2019, either, working to a 3.28 ERA/3.32 FIP with a 1088 K/9 while taking the ball every fifth day and throwing 2141 innings.
The Indians’ bullpen lost Brad Hand in the offseason, but expect this group to be a formidable once again after finishing top five in baseball across the board last season and in the 2019 campaign. I fully expect this group to shut Detroit down as well.
With the Indians -174 moneyline favorites entering this one, look for Bieber to rack up plenty of punchouts en route to a season-opening win this afternoon.
C/1B – Carlos Santana (KC) – $2,800 vs. TEX
The Royals enter the 2021 campaign with increased expectations after a busy offseason, one that saw Santana move over from the rival Indians in free agency on a two-year pact.
He’s doing so on the heels of a 2020 season that saw him post a .199 average and .150 ISO. He got on base plenty thanks to an enormous 18.4% walk rate, but he didn’t hit for average or power last season. However, he’s a guy with a career .197 ISO and someone that cracked the 30-homer barrier in two of his previous four seasons while hitting at least 23 long balls in each of his last four campaigns.
Of course, the Rangers are certainly a team to target today for a couple reasons. One. right-hander Kyle Gibson worked to a 5.35 ERA/5.39 FIP with an xERA of 5.70 in 2020. He allowed 1.60 homers per nine innings to boot. While it was the worst season of his career — and a small sample — Gibson owns a 4.57 ERA/4.36 FIP for his career, so he’s not exactly an ace while he’s posted an ERA of 4.84 or worse in three of his last four seasons.
Additionally, this is a Rangers bullpen that ranked 22nd with a 4.63 ERA and 26th with a 5.04 xFIP last season, but also one that is without key arms in Joely Rodriguez, Brett Martin and closer Jose Leclerc, the latter of whom underwent Tommy John surgery the other day.
Get your Royals exposure going in this matchup tonight.
2B – Jurickson Profar (SD) – $2,300 vs. ARI
I had a Red Sox stack in here originally, but that game has been postponed, so we’ll move to a San Diego Padres stack as they take on left-hander Madison Bumgarner, a pitcher coming off a horrendous start to his D-backs tenure.
MadBum posted an ugly 6.48 ERA/7.18 FIP last season and his xERA of 7.84 tells us that he deserved every bit of that brutal season as he allowed a whopping 2.81 HR/9 while punchout out just 6.48 batters per nine innings. He was also brutalized by the Padres in his two outings against them last year, surrendering nine earned runs and four home runs in just 9.2 innings against the Friars, including three runs in 5.2 frames on Opening Day, although it was his six earned on four homers in just two innings in his second start of the season against San Diego that did the damage.
Profar will see everyday reps in left field to begin the season with Trent Grisham on the IL and Tommy Pham moving to center. Profar was brought back by the Padres this offseason after he hit .278 with a 111 wRC+ for them last season, showing some pop and speed with seven homers and another seven stolen bases in 56 games.
The switch-hitter was basically even splits-wise, but he’s historically hit for more power against righties. That said, Bumgarner allows a ton of steals despite being a lefty. He allowed 13 steals in 2018 and another 14 in 2019, and while his four in 41.2 innings last season isn’t outrageous, it’s about one per 10 innings, a high mark for a southpaw.
He’s going to hit in the bottom of the lineup, but forms a wrap-around stack with a certain superstar shortstop as well.
A Boston stack is looking quite good this evening.
3B – Hunter Dozier (KC) – $2,900 vs. TEX
Next man up in our Royals stack is Dozier who enters the season with a shiny four-year extension in his pocket as the Royals wanted to lock up a late-bloomer who has flexed notable muscle in his big-league tenure to this point.
Dozier got his first taste of the bigs at the age of 24, but recorded just 21 plate appearance in that 2016 while 2019 marked his first full season at the age of 27. In said season, Dozier launched 26 home runs with a .243 ISO and 123 wRC+ to boot. The juiced baseball probably had a little sometime to do with that and Dozier regressed to six homers and a .165 ISO last season across 44 contests.
Still, across 1,181 trips to the plate in the big leagues, Dozier owns a .202 ISO and 104 wRC+. The good news is that all six of his homers last season came against a right-hander while he posted a .236 ISO, .856 OPS and 120 wRC+ in 2019 against righties. Clearly, the righty-swinging Dozier flexes plenty of muscle against same-handed pitching.
He’s just 2 for 12 in his career against Gibson, but both hits came in double form, so let’s look for some more extra-base power from the hulking third baseman in this one.
SS – Fernando Tatis Jr. (SD) – $4,300 vs. ARI
Perhaps you’ve heard of this guy by now. Tatis’ mega-extension caught plenty of attention in this offseason, and I’d suggest he deserves every bit of it.
All he’s done so far in his big-league career is hit .301 with a .281 ISO and 150 wRC+ across 629 trips to the plate, essentially one full season given his injury-shortened 2019 season and truncated 2020 MLB season. In layman’s terms, he’s homered 39 times and stolen 27 bases in that time, so he’s bringing plenty of power and speed to the table.
Agaisnt left-handed pitching in that time, all he’s done has hit .331 with a .266 ISO, 1.042 OPS and 172 wRC+. Furthermore, he’s absolutely owned Bumgarner in his career, going 6 for 11 (.545) with two homers and a double, good for a 1.825 OPS, .636 ISO and .718 wOBA against the southpaw. He also attempted a steal against him, but was caught.
Add in his spot atop the Padres’ lineup and Tatis once again brings a monstrous ceiling into this one tonight.
OF – Wil Myers (SD) – $2,900 vs. ARI
Completing our three-man Padres stack is Myers who is coming off a big 2020 season despite the small sample.
In 2020, Myers launched 15 homers in just 55 games, posting a career-best .318 ISO in the process. He also slashed .288/.353/.606 with a .392 wOBA and 154 wRC+.
We knew Myers bring plenty of pop to the table. He’s twice hit at least 28 homers in a season and was well on his way to a career-high in his age-29 season last year. Myers stole just two bases last season, but also an average of 19 steals per season over his previous four, so there would appear to be plenty of stolen base upside here.
Against lefties in 2020, Myers turned in a .328 average, .328 ISO, 1.042 OPS and 176 wRC+. Not too shabby while he has been a little better against lefties for his career, posting a .197 ISO, .800 OPS and 117 wRC+ against southpaws for his career.
He’s also put in some appetizing work against Bumgarner. He’s just 9 for 49 (.184) against him, but six of those nine hits have been of the extra-base variety in the form of four home runs and two doubles, good for a monster 286 ISO against the Giants legends. Additionally, Myers has actually stolen three bases off Bumgarner and has not been caught.
Loving this player at this price.
OF – Andrew Benintendi (KC) – $2,700 vs. TEX
Among the many players who scuffled in the small 2020 sample, Benintendi has to be close to the top of the list in terms of bounce-back candidates. He’s never been a superstar, but he brings pop and speed to the table to be sure.
He hit just .103 with zero homers in 14 games last season before missing the rest of the season with a rib injury. However, he’s a career .278 hitter with a 108 wRC+ in 485 games. He broke out in 2017 with a 20-homer, 20-steal season and followed that up with a 16-homer, 21-steal season in 2018 before hitting 13 homers with 10 steals in the 2019 season.
Of course, we’d want more of the 2017-2018 production, and that’s entirely possible here as the matchup tonight gives him a nice opportunity to get started on the right note with his new club.
Gibson has number noticeably worse against left-handed bats, and while we have right-handed hitters in this lineup, it’s players who hit right-handed pitching well, so call it even. For his part, Benintendi has hit .283 with an .821 OPS, .350 wOBA and 116 wRC+ against right-handed pitching for his career with 45 of his 53 career steals coming against a righty.
He’s projected to hit in the valuable two-hole in this one, leading off our four-man Royals stack in the process, so let’s look for him to hit for some extra-base power and use his legs on the basepaths in this one.
OF – Jorge Soler (KC) – $3,000 vs. TEX
I just noted that Gibson’s numbers have been consistently worse against left-handed bats, but Soler has a track record of mashing right-handed pitching despite swinging from the right side of the plate.
Most notably, Soler posted a monster .318 ISO, .939 OPS, .384 wOBA and 139 wRC+ against righties as part of his 47-homer 2019 season. That said, all eight of his homers in 2020 came against right-handed pitching. Add it up and Soler owns a career .224 ISO, .807 OPS, .342 wOBA and 114 wRC+ against right-handed pitching, but clearly the work has been far better of late.
Soler has just one hit in eight at-bats in his career against Gibson, but yes, that hit left the yard so his .375 ISO off Gibson doesn’t look so shabby after all. He, Santana and Dozier are all hitting well under .200 against Gibson, but with serious power.
He’s projected to hit fifth in the order today, so let’s see if he can produce some runs out of that spot, hopefully in the form of some long balls.
UTIL – Jordan Luplow (CLE) – $2,200 vs. DET
Completing this lineup today is a cost-efficient Luplow who has monster value potential in this matchup.
While he’s much better than this, left-hander Matt Boyd’s 6.71 ERA from last season was the worst mark among qualified pitchers and he also allowed 2.24 homers per nine. In fact, Boyd has dealt with home-run issues throughout his big-league tenure with a career 1.70 HR/9 against and a mark of at least 1.89 over the last two seasons.
Boyd also allowed a .985 OPS, .410 wOBA and 2.55 HR/9 versus right-handed bats last season, so the righty-swinging Luplow is in a nice spot here. However, that’s just one half of the story.
The other half is Luplow and his monstrous .422 ISO, 1.181 OPS, .474 wOBA and 200 wRC+ against left-handed pitching in the 2019 season. He work in 2020 wasn’t as good, but let’s not argue with a .781 OPS and 111 wRC+ against lefties from that season, either. Clearly, the dude rakes lefties as he’s just coming into his own at 27 years of age.
Additionally, Luplow is 4 for 13 (.308) with two home runs in his career against Boyd. I’m not using an Indians stack here given the difficult hitting conditions today in Detroit, but with Luplow hitting out of the leadoff spot, mashing lefties and mashing Boyd, he’s in a position to provide some serious value to this lineup tonight.