What an Opening Day that was! From a pure baseball perspective, it was, of course, excellent baseball across the board with many thrilling games that went down.
However, from a DFS perspective, it was even better.
Indeed, we raked on Opening Day. Our Royals stack did damage as K.C. scored five first-inning runs and did not look back, although the Rangers scored some of their own in a 14-10 Royals win. Jorge Soler homered to lead the way and while Carlos Santana, Hunter Dozier and Andrew Benintendi didn’t exactly go off, they scored plenty of runs, drew some walk and knocked in a few as it was a solid all-round output from that four-man stack.
We also rolled out a three-man Padres stack, and Wil Myers led the way with a homer, two runs and a walk. Fernando Tatis Jr. notched a hit and a run while Jurickson Profar walked and knocked in a run. Again, not outrageous production, but good enough.
Shane Bieber allowed three runs in his six innings against the Tigers, but man did he rack up the K’s. Bieber racked up 12 strikeouts in those six frames, giving him a real nice 49 FanDuel points, and somehow he was in the 8-15% owned range.
All told, the 168 FanDuel points that lineup notched ranked right near the top of most cash games while you would have fared quite well in head-to-heads to boot.
FanDuel MLB DFS Picks – April 2, 2021
P – Yusei Kikuchi (SEA) – $7,500 vs. SF
My top pitcher of the slate is Blake Snell for cash games, but I went with a cheaper pitcher in Kikuchi in order to get some high-priced bats into the lineup.
After all, it doesn’t appear Kikuchi’s matchup is all too difficult. Yes, the Giants surpassed any and all expectations on offense last season, ranking sixth with a .337 wOBA on the season. In fact, they raked left-handers to the tune of a third-ranked .358 wOBA in the process. However, this has more to do with Kikuchi than anything.
The Mariners signed this guy out of Japan for a reason. He struggled mightily in 2019 to the tune of a 5.46 ERA/5.24 FIP. His 2020 season wasn’t any better with a 5.17 ERA, however he also posted a 3.30 fIP, 3.78 xFIP and an expected ERA of 3.37. He also increased his K-rate from 6.46 K/9 in 2019 to an even 9.00 K/9 in 2020. He also increased his ground-ball rate from 44% in his first tour of duty in North America to an impressive 52% mark in 2020.
If you catch my drift, I think this guy is going to perform here in 2021. He’s not going to win the Cy Young, but he’s a guy that is going to keep his ERA down to that expected level from last season and the increase in punchouts is encouraging.
Finally, I’d be shocked if the Giants repeated their offensive output from last season. Given the lineup, it’s difficult to envision another top-six performance from this group. Given all of the above, I’ll see if Kikuchi can deliver some value to this lineup tonight.
C/1B – Cody Bellinger (LAD) – $4,700 vs. COL
Obviously, this is a cash-aimed lineup as I’m going to stack the Dodgers’ big boys as they take on the Rockies in the world’s top hitter-friendly park in the form of Coors Field in Colorado.
The Dodgers scored five runs in yesterday’s season-opener, but I think they’re in for more in this one. Right-hander Antonio Senzatela gets the nod in this one, he of a 3.44 ERA from last season. However, he also worked to a 4.64 xERA that suggests his ERA figure was a mirage while his 5.02 SIERA is also a blemish on his season. A 3.44 ERA while playing for the Rockies is very good, but his underlying work was not.
So, we’ll look for these guys to play some long ball. Bellinger actually did so yesterday in one of the most bizarre fashions you will see as Justin Turner ran backwards thinking the ball was caught. Shenanigans aside, Bellinger went 2 for 5 with a homer and a double on Opening Day (his homer was officially scored as a single but it was in fact, a homer), giving himself a far better start to the season after his early-season 2020 struggles.
It’s going to be a big year for a guy that’s still just 25 years old, so we’ll get him in here and watch him go to town in this one tonight.
2B – Jake Cronenworth (SD) – $2,600 vs. ARI
Although we saved some dough on the Kikuchi pick up top, we’re spending plenty of coin on that Dodgers stack as we look to complement them with some cost-efficient bats that can get the job done.
For Cronenworth and the Padres, it’s D-backs right-hander Merrill Kelly as the opposition in this one, and he had a good year in 2020. Kelly worked to a 2.59 ERA, and while his peripherals were well above that ERA figure, a 3.99 FIP and 3.85 xERA is solid work. However, this just simply has more to do with Cronenworth than anything.
He burst onto the scene with a big rookie season following an offseason trade from the Rays as Cronenworth hit .285 with a 125 wRC+ in his rookie campaign across 54 games, but the lefty-swinging, versatile-defending Cronenworth raked right-handed pitching.
Indeed, Cronenworth posted a .316 average, .265 ISO, .963 OPS and a 156 wRC+ against right-handed pitching last season. He also swiped three bags as well, so there’s some cross-category upside here.
For the price, Cronenworth would appear to be a fine play on a shortened slate.
3B – Ty France (SEA) – $2,600 vs. SF
Another mini-stack we’ll go with today is the Mariners as they take on right-hander Johnny Cueto of the Giants.
Cueto has has a fine career, but he’s now 35 years old and the skills are diminishing. He worked to a 5.40 ERA in 2020, but the peripherals weren’t great either as he posted a 4.83 xERA, 4.64 FIP and a 4.90 SIERA. Not the worst numbers you’ll see, but certainly numbers that we can target here in 2021.
For his part, France brings notable power to the table. He hit just four homers and posted a .163 ISO last season, but this is a guy that launched 17 long balls at the Double-A level in 2018 and followed that up with 27 dingers and a monster .372 ISO in the 2019 season at the Triple-A level. He’s homered 11 times in just 361 trips to the plate at the big-league level so far, good for a 16-homer season if we take Steamer’s 522 plate-appearance projection into account.
Even more important is the fact that he is projected to hit out of the valuable two-hole tonight, so we’ll get another cost-efficient, high-ceiling player into this lineup to kick off a Mariners mini-stack tonight.
SS – Corey Seager (LAD) – $4,500 vs. COL
This guy just hasn’t stopped hitting for quite a while now.
Injuries set him back a little bit over the last little while, but Seager exploded in 2020. He hit .307 with 15 home runs and a big .278 ISO throughout the regular season in 2020. For example, that’s a 41-homer pace according to Steamer’s 641 plate-appearance projection for 2021. He’s not likely to hit that mark this season, but he might get close.
Seager also raked the playoffs, taking home both NLCS and World Series MVP honors before mashing this spring, posting a .346 average with eight homers and a 1.251 OPS before going 2 for 3 with an RBI in yesterday’s season-opener in Colorado.
The lefty-swinging Seager also rakes right-handed pitching. Last season, he posted a .322 average, .301 ISO, .998 OPS and a 166 wRC+ versus righties while he owns a career .217 ISO, .902 OPS, 380 wOBA and a 140 wRC+ versus right-handed pitching.
The icing on the cake? He’s gone 5 for 15 (.333) with two homers in his career against Senzatela, so it would seem we have plenty of upside in cash games with Seager in tow.
OF – Jurickson Profar (SD) – $2,400 vs. ARI
We’ll get these mini-stacks out of the way first, completing a Padres group with Profar who we’ll use for the second straight day as he’s the club’s full-time left fielder while Trent Grisham sits on the IL to begin the season.
He didn’t do much with a walk and an RBI, but hey, that’s decent production at this price. However, the power from the switch-hitting Profar is superior from the left side of the plate where he’ll take his cuts today against the right-handed Kelly.
His splits were fairly even in the truncated 2020 season, but Profar’s 2019 season included a .203 ISO against right-handed pitching as he knocked 17 of his 20 long balls against righties. If you want to go back another year, he posted a .216 ISO against righties while 16 of his 20 long balls from that campaign came at the expense of a right-handed pitcher.
I like the power potential at a small cost, but there’s some stolen-base upside here as well. Profar swiped seven bases in the shortened 2020 season, six of which came against righties. Go back to 2019 and seven of his nine steals came against righties and eight of his 10 from 2018 were off righties. Kelly doesn’t give up a ton of steals with just six against in 214.2 big-league innings and Carson Kelly is good behind the plate, but there’s still some potential in the stolen-base department here.
Add it up and we’re getting plenty of potential here at minimal cost.
OF – Taylor Trammell (SEA) – $2,500 vs. SF
Here we get another left-handed bat against a right-handed pitcher with youngster Taylor Trammell against the veteran right-hander Cueto.
Trammell made the Mariners’ Opening Day roster at 23 despite not having played at all at the Triple-A level. He hasn’t shown a ton of power in the minors, but man can this kid run.
Trammell swiped as many as 41 bases in a minor-league season — a 129-game sample from 2017 in A-Ball — but also swiped 17 bases in just 94 games at Double-A in the 2019 season. He went on to steal three more in Triple-A that year, so chalk him up for 10 homers and 20 steals in 126 games between Double-A and Triple-A in his age-21 season in 2019. That’s very good.
Cueto was noticeably worse versus left-handed bats last season, and while he’s kept base-runners in check over his career, there would appear to be some more cross-category potential here with the rookie this evening.
OF – Mookie Betts (LAD) – $4,800 vs. COL
From the rookie to the superstar, sign me up for Betts at Coors Field all day long.
I mean, what can you say? All Betts did in his first year in L.A. is hit .292 with 16 homers, 10 steals and a 149 wRC+ in 55 games. If we project that home-run total to his Steamer 685 plate-appearance projection for 2021, we’re looking at a 45.5 homer-season for the former Red Sock. Not bad. While we’re at it, we’ll also do the stolen bases with his 10 from 2020 pacing out to 27.8 steals if we’re going by plate appearances there as well.
This is clearly nothing new. Betts has been a superstar for some time, but he’s bound for greater heights as part of a lethal Dodgers lineup that has power and speed to spare. He’s pretty much been in the 29-31 homer range in his career, but keep in mind this guy is still just 28 years old and very much in the prime of what looks to be a Hall of Fame career.
If you’re playing cash games today, please get this dude into your lineup out of that ever so valuable leadoff spot.
UTIL – Will Smith (LAD) – $3,400 vs. COL
Completing this lineup is catcher Will Smith who you should mark down as one of the more valuable backstops in the league moving forward. For today, we get a big bat at Coors Field.
Smith’s 2019 season was special. He hammered 35 long balls in that season, but 15 of those came with the Dodgers in just 54 games. He homered 20 times in 62 Triple-A games prior, so not a bad year for the kid. Smith followed that up with eight homers in just 37 games and 137 trips to the plate in 2020, good for a 20-homer season if we use Steamer’s 344 plate-appearance projection, but I think that is a little light. I see him far more closer to 400, if not more.
The power numbers have been good throughout the minors. He hit 19 homers with a .268 ISO at Double-A in just 73 games in 2018 and hit 11 homers with a .216 ISO in 72 High-A games the prior season.
The Dodgers continue to churn out stars out of their system, and Smith is one you might want to buy into in 2021. At Coors Field in April 2, he’s a big-time play at a reasonable price.