10 Things You Must Know About MLB Opening Day 2.0
1) The Boston Red Sox Are Facing Tommy Milone At Home
We’re projecting Tommy Milone to be one of the worst starting pitchers in all of baseball, with a .370 wOBA and an absurd .257 ISO against. The Orioles’ bullpen projects to be bottom 10 in both wOBA and ISO against. While hitting at home doesn’t guarantee the coveted ninth inning opportunities, this “spot” is as good as it gets for a Red Sox offense that will have a slate high implied team total of 6+ runs. They’re also demonstrably cheaper than the other high end offenses in this slate, which makes it easier to stack them alongside expensive pitching. As a result, they’ll likely end up being the chalkiest offense in this slate.
2) J.D. Martinez Is Cleary Underpriced
The one note that we didn’t tack on Milone is that as a southpaw, he’s been even more susceptible to right-handed power. We’re projecting a .275 ISO baseline against vs. RHBs specifically, which is simply unheard of at the MLB level. Enter J.D. Martinez, easily the best hitter in a Red Sox uniform, specifically against LHP. Martinez has posted a .502 wOBA and a .403 ISO vs. LHP since 2017. You read that correctly. Martinez is priced at $4,800 on DK and $3,900 on FD, which are price tags that leave a significant amount of value on the table. This is likely one of if not the cheapest price tag you’ll see for Martinez this season against a bad pitcher. There’s a strong chance that he ends up being the highest owned hitter on the slate, though…
3) Justin Verlander Is Pitching Against The Mariners At Home
This blurb writes itself. Verlander gets the benefit of pitching in one of the premier ballparks for strikeouts against an offense that offers good strikeout upside and great run prevention potential. Verlander, who owns a 30% K rate against RHBs and 32% K rate against LHBs in our projections, will face ~6 LHBs in this matchup and only one of those hitters (Daniel Vogelbach) carries an above average wOBA baseline (.347) against RHP. On top of this, Verlander’s price tags around the industry have been reduced to bake in the duration risk, which is a bit more meaningful on Opening Day as most pitchers try to get stretched out. If you’re playing cash games, you’ll be forced to play Verlander. If you’re playing tournaments, we think the shakier duration baseline for the first start is enough to warrant going under the field on Verlander, which should allow you to spend more on high end offenses.
4) The Houston Astros Are Facing Marco Gonzales
Like the Red Sox, the Astros are in a clear upside spot albeit in a worse hitting environment and not having the guaranteed ninth inning. Marco Gonzalez is coming off a luckbox season in which he posted a 3.99 ERA and 5.11 xFIP. In this instance, given Gonzales’ inability to generate strikeouts (18.6% career K rate) at a league average level or generate an elite groundball rate (42% career GB rate; 40.7% LY), we believe his xFIP is way more indicative of the type of pitcher he’ll be moving forward. The Astros’ RHBs are all well above average hitters against LHP except their catcher. The one challenging thing about this stack is that it’s expensive but that could also prove to be a benefit for their ownership.
5) The Cleveland Indians Could End Up Being A Great Leverage Stack
We view Cleveland as the type of stack that carries the type of upside that could take down a tournament at lower ownership than the Red Sox and potentially the Astros. They’re also a home team and are facing southpaw Danny Duffy, a pitcher that projects to own a .348 wOBA and .200 ISO against vs. RHBs. Duffy projects to be good against LHBs but he won’t have the benefit of facing a single lefty in this lineup. Cleveland will trot out Lindor (.219 ISO), Ramirez (.226 ISO), Reyes (.251 ISO), Luplow (.232 ISO) and Santana (.191 ISO) and they’re all above hitters against LHP. Luplow is a pinch-hit risk but we’re hoping that it results in reduced ownership. His best price tag can be found on FD where he’s just $2,200.
6) The Los Angeles Dodgers Are Likely Facing Jeff Samardzija
There hasn’t been official confirmation that Jeff Samardzija will start game 2 for the Giants, but he’s the likely pitcher for that game. Samardzija was extremely lucky last season (3.52 ERA/5.02 xFIP) and he doesn’t generate an above league average K rate (18.9% last season; 14.5% in 2018) or groundball rate (36.4% last season; 29.9% in 2018) anymore. The Dodgers are a very public team and the addition of Mookie Betts will make this stack even better, but their high end pricing in a slate this big might reduce their ownership some.
7) Ross Stripling Is A Strong Value Target
Ross Stripling will get the nod for the Dodgers’ second game of the season. Like all pitchers on Opening Day, we’re not expecting Stripling to pitch deep into this one as he’ll likely have a 5-6 inning limit. Thankfully, he doesn’t need to pitch deep to generate strong value as he’s just $7,900 on DK and $6,600 on FD in a matchup against the hapless Giants. The Giants are starting the season without Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria while Buster Posey sits the entire season. They’re going to have a tough time generating runs and Stripling is a legitimately good pitcher. Over the last two seasons with the Dodgers in which he was turned into a starter, he’s posted K rates of 27% and 25% while posting an ERA under 3.50.
8) Nathan Eovaldi Deserves Tournament Consideration
Eovaldi is coming off an awful season in which he posted a 5.99 ERA and an uncanny 11.4% BB rate. While those are certainly concerning, Eovaldi was still able to miss bats (23.2% K rate) in an injury riddled season that saw him throwing just 67.2 innings. While we think that’s likely an unsustainable K rate, it’s also unlikely that Eovaldi is all of a sudden a terrible pitcher. And the Red Sox need him more than ever as Chris Sale is out for the season and Eduardo Rodriguez is unavailable to open up the season. Ultimately, the $7,100 price tag on DK is alluring enough for Eovaldi, who gets a strong matchup against an Orioles’ team that projects to be one of the worst in the league once again.
9) The Minnesota Twins Open Up The Season As A Contrarian Stack
Lucas Giolito is coming off an ace-level season in which he posted a 32.3% K rate and a 3.41 ERA/3.66 xFIP. This is a very difficult matchup for the Twins, but they’re going to have so much power upside with names like Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson, Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario,Max Kepler and Mitch Garver in this lineup that they’re still worth pursuing in MME as a lower owned stack. There’s a good chance that they don’t do much damage against Giolito but given that it’s Opening Day, we don’t expect Giolito to be fully stretched out and the bullpen will likely have to be more active for this one. There are paths here for the Twins to hit even if they don’t hit early.
10) The Philadelphia Phillies Are A Strong Stack To Consider In Tournaments
Opposing pitcher Sandy Alcantara is another luckbox pitcher that’s coming off a season in which he posted a 3.88 ERA/5.17 xFIP. Alcantara didn’t make any improvements in K rate, GB rate or anything that makes his run prevention believable. Our guess is that the Phillies won’t go completely under the radar but given the slate size and high price tags to some of their better hitters, it’s also unlikely that they’re over-owned. They’re a strong leverage stack.