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Daily DFS MLB Picks for April 4th

The real Opening Day is upon us. Let's play ball!

Mad Max is going to make it look this easy against Atlanta on Monday.
Mad Max is going to make it look this easy against Atlanta on Monday.
Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

The FakeTeams staff will offer up daily MLB thoughts throughout the season, driven largely by Tim Finnegan and myself. Tim will be the heavy part of the platoon but I plan to play every day against southpaws. Either way, expect plenty of MLB DFS coverage right here at FakeTeams.

For my part, I am a slave to my nature. I hate math, numbers, formulas, etc. I tolerate them so that I can be good at this game. Therefore, look for my analysis to lean more towards the qualitative side of things--the narrative side, even. But fear not, for the foundation will always be the numbers.

Now for the fun stuff. Welcome to the first edition of MLB DFS, 2016-style.

Opening Day Aces

With soft pricing on hitters in this inaugural effort by FanDuel, the title of this slate could easily be "any ace and any batters you want." There is no reason to get cute at starting pitcher with so many stud options available. Here are the heaviest favorites on the slate at the time of this writing (please check again for yourself prior to lock to make sure there have been no major changes):

Zack Greinke (-230) vs COL (Jorge De La Rosa)

Max Scherzer (-200) @ ATL (Julio Teheran)

Madison Bumgarner (-185) @ MIL (Wily Peralta)

Clayton Kershaw (-175) @ SDP (Tyson Ross)

Raisel Iglesias (-150) vs PHI (Jeremy Hellickson)

***Prior to submitting, Iglesias has already dropped to a -140 favorite***

I personally won't be using Iglesias in any cash games unless he is my SP2 on two-pitcher sites. The Reds say he could throw 90 pitches on Monday, and while that's enough of a pitch-count to do some damage against the Phillies I'd prefer to pay up at pitcher on sites that only allow one. On FanDuel, my preferred options are Max Scherzer and Madison Bumgarner. I know Kershaw is mythical in his awesomeness, but he is on the road against a very fine pitcher in Tyson Ross and the Dodgers lineup is not very good right now (injuries). I'll save a little money in my cash games and spread the love out between Scherzer and MadBum.

Greinke should get a mention too, but I'll confess the recent loss of A.J. Pollock's defense in center field is a little sketchy to me. I understand the Rockies' struggle is real apart from Coors, but Chase Field is a prime hitting environment in its own right. I don't want a bloop hit or a misjudged ball deciding my night for me. I'd rather pick on the Atlanta offense and on Wily Peralta. We'll see how that shakes down.

So what about the other aces? Well, those guys have some battles on their hands. See below:

Jake Arrieta (-138) @ LAA (Garrett Richards) is away from home against a good pitcher. Arrieta also did not have a great spring, for what that is worth (probably nothing). Still, the numbers tell a tale, and for me the moral of the story is to avoid pitchers in close games. There are safer options available.

***Update - Over 80% of the money is on Arrieta, despite him being a marginal favorite. Keep watching that line, but I expected something closer to -150 and I wonder if we move closer to that by tomorrow. ***

Chris Sale (+108) @ OAK (Gray) is actually a slight underdog against Sonny Gray. Given Oakland's struggles against southpaws last season, this line is a bit surprising to me. Other than the matchup between Kershaw/Ross, this game has the lowest run total on the docket at an even 6 runs expected. While that's normally a great thing for your pitcher, this game is basically a coin flip as to who gets the all-important win. That victory is worth a massive 12 points on FanDuel, so I am also ignoring these pitchers in my cash lineups.

David Price (-109) @ CLE (Kluber) is a small favorite in a game with a low over/under of 6.5. The same method applies here, however. Low run totals are superb, but when it's a pair of aces on the mound good luck choosing the one who gets the almighty win.

Dallas Keuchel (-125) @ NYY (Tanaka) fits the same bill as a risky play, but he does have the LvL splits advantage over most of the dangerous Yankee bats. Ellsbury, Gardner, and McCann are all lefties, and Gardner will likely take a seat in this one in favor of Aaron Hicks. Keuchel also keeps the ball on the ground (his GB% is over 60 percent each of the last two seasons) so it's likely he'll have the upper hand in this one. Especially after he dominated the Evil Empire last season. I will still adhere to my guidelines and not trust Keuchel in cash games, but you better believe I have a share (or two) in tournaments. Tanaka would interest me a little as an SP2 but the man is a walking wound. He's a risk every time. Why not take Raisel Iglesias if you are digging that deep?

Felix Hernandez (+110) @ TEX (Hamels) is a small underdog in our final ace-versus-ace game. More of the same here. You should be avoiding either pitcher in your cash games. Take note of Nelson Cruz's career splits against southpaws, though. He is slashing .300/.375/.545 with a .920 OPS and .246 ISO against lefties for his career. He is definitely in play if you are looking to differentiate your lineups, as many will gravitate towards Bryce Harper when paying up at the outfield position.

Value Plays

Chris Owings should lead off and start in center field, taking over for the recently injured A.J. Pollock. He pairs nicely with Paul Goldschmidt if you aim to stack against the lefty De La Rosa. One added bonus to rostering Diamondbacks hitters is Welington Castillo. A cursory look at the backstop options will tell you it's either pay up for Posey or punt the position. Most guys will have poor batting order spots and have very tough matchups. Might as well take the guy at Chase Field against a lefty. Oh, and he's only 2.3K, too.

Zack Cozart will probably lead off for the Cincinnati Reds, who face Jeremy Hellickson at home. Hellickson's career wOBA against right-handed batters is .313, but last year that mark rose to .330. He allowed a .339 wOBA to left-handed hitters in 2015, meaning Joey Votto and--gasp--Jay Bruce are in play. In fact, with the Reds as -150 favorites and Raisel Iglesias on a pitch count of 90 tomorrow, I wonder if Vegas is telling us how much they like the Reds offense against Jeremy Hellickson. We shall see.

Joe Panik is a superb price-saver if you plan to stack the Giants. He hit second in the order more often than not in 2015, and had an .833 OPS while doing so. He had an .852 OPS against right-handed pitchers. Wily Peralta is right-handed.

Franklin Gutierrez is a favorite of mine and is finally healthy for an Opening Day. If you decide to be contrarian with a Seattle stack against the lefty Cole Hamels, don't forget about Gutierrez, who has a .291/.346/.491 triple slash with a .837 OPS and .200 ISO against southpaws for his career. I'm assuming you already know to add in Kyle Seager as well. Seager hit .297/.324/.511 with an .835 OPS vs. lefties in 2015, and 13 of his 26 home runs.

Fat? Stacks of the Day

San Francisco Giants vs. Wily Peralta

Everyone is going to be playing the Giants, and for good reason. Wily Peralta gave it up to both handedness of hitter last season, with a .376 wOBA to LHBs and a .349 wOBA to RHBs. He is the worst pitcher on the slate by the numbers, and this game is in Miller Park. As Miller plays more to left-handed power and Wily has been historically worse against opposite-handed hitters, I am leaning more towards the lefty San Francisco bats. That means Denard Span, Joe Panik, Brandon Belt, and Brandon Crawford offer a little symmetry and some power potential for a pretty cheap price. You also get to skip over Buster Posey in the lineup (a righty) who went home this weekend with a case of the flu. Spend that money elsewhere. On Bryce Harper, maybe.

Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Jorge De La Rosa

The Diamondbacks are at home and reeling from the loss of A.J. Pollock. That is brutal news for seasonal owners who spent a second-round price on the stud outfielder, but actionable news for DFSers as Chris Owings is only 2.1K on FanDuel and the likely candidate to bat leadoff. Be wary of David Peralta, however. The Diamondbacks plan to let him hit against southpaws this season, but I'm not sure that's a good thing with Peralta's .686 OPS against lefties in 2015 (.936 vs. righties). He is an easy fade by the numbers with De La Rosa on the hill, but a worthwhile shot in tournaments if you think the Diamondbacks knock De La Rosa out early and Peralta gets to do some damage against the Colorado bullpen. You could consider Yasmany Tomas instead, who slashed .279/.319/.477 with a .797 OPS against lefties in 2015. That's not setting the world on fire but it is better than what Peralta gave us against lefties last season.

Minnesota and Baltimore against Chris Tillman and Ervin Santana

The most likely game for stacking both offenses is Minnesota at Baltimore, as it has the highest run total on the slate (8.5) and offers two starters who have clear weaknesses to a certain handedness of hitter. Ervin Santana allowed a .346 wOBA to left-handed bats in 2015, but managed a .286 wOBA against right-handers. Chris Tillman allowed a .353 wOBA to right-handed bats in 2015, but held left-handed hitters to a .309 wOBA. If you use the big righty hitters of Minnesota, you get the added advantage of reverse splits (RvR) that maybe some beginners to DFS will overlook. Brian Dozier, Miguel Sano, and Trevor Plouffe are all in play for me. Plouffe should bat cleanup too, if all the chatter out of Spring Training is accurate. He's also cheap at 2.5K. This stack works out well because it allows you to get Chris Davis into your lineup and still have room for the three biggest Twins bats. The only downside to Plouffe is you can't roster Manny Machado. Machado does face Santana's strength (.286 wOBA to righties) but Machado's strength is hitting right-handed pitchers. Obviously Machado's vastly superior skill-set is preferable to Plouffe's in any lineup if you can fit him in there. My take for tomorrow is to play it safe at pitcher no matter what, though. If that means going down to Plouffe, then go down to Plouffe. Get the pitcher right, first.

Sneaky Stack of the Day

Your Philadelphia Phillies! No really. Raisel Iglesias is on a pitch count of 90 (if he makes it that far) and the Phillies were a plucky team in certain spots last season. Left-handed bats had a .332 wOBA against Iglesias in 2015, which means Ryan Howard is still relevant to our fantasy discussions...barely. Cesar Hernandez, Odubel Herrera, and Maikel Franco are a super-cheap way to get exposure to what is projected to be the second-highest scoring game on the slate (O/U set at 8). All of those runs won't be scored by Cincinnati. I think there's a chance Maikel Franco makes his presence felt on Day One once he gets into that Cincinnati bullpen. We shall see.

Stud of the Day

Bryce Harper is only 4.8K on FanDuel and is facing Julio Teheran, who allowed a .386 wOBA to left-handed hitters in 2015. That isn't news, either, as left-handed hitters have hit .272/.340/.460 with a wOBA of .348 off of Teheran for the course of his career. That's an extreme split, as Teheran is death to right-handed hitters (career .259 wOBA). What does all this mean? It means Harper is chalky, chalky, chalky. Get him in there.

And that's it for the first day. Future efforts will definitely be less verbose, but I am super excited for Opening Day and I couldn't help myself. Hopefully this 2,000 word document pointed someone in the right direction. I welcome any comments or disagreements in the form below. Let's haggle over these picks so that we all get better (and maybe even make some coin). But mainly, let's have fun. Good luck to all.