3 Daily Fantasy Baseball Pitchers to Target on Opening Day
They didn't want to make things too easy on you for the new season of MLB DFS.
Just as we're emerging from the drudgeries of winter, ready to embrace spring and baseball, the schedule makers lowered the hammer with a tough opening pitching slate. You've only got three games from which to choose, and none of them feature an obvious elite pitching option.
That will only make things more fun.
Sunday's slate features high-profile pitchers in Matt Harvey and Chris Archer, but both have difficult assignments in the opposing Kansas City and Toronto batting orders. Who should we be turning to instead in our pursuit of a hot start? Here are three names to consider.
Marcus Stroman, $7,700 on FanDuel
There's a reason the Blue Jays decided to roll with Marcus Stroman over David Price in Game 5 of last year's American League Division Series. Stroman is an ace in the making, and he has a decent matchup for Sunday.
Through the first 157 2/3 innings of his big-league career, Stroman has scorched the Earth with a 3.21 SIERA. He doesn't bask in strikeouts with only a 20.3% strikeout rate, but his non-existent walk rate (5.8%) and ability to keep the ball on the ground with a 55.6% ground-ball rate have pushed him into elite potential.
There's also reason to believe the third strike could eventually become a part of Stroman's arsenal. In 2013 -- his last full season in the minors -- Stroman registered a 28.1% strikeout rate in Double-A. He then moved up to Triple-A to start 2014, where that number increased to 30.8% prior to his big-league call-up. He's not likely to hit those numbers in the majors, but this allows you to entertain the thought that we haven't even seen Stroman's best yet.
The other factor at play here is the Rays' offense. They did add Corey Dickerson and Logan Morrison -- a pair of lefty bats to help against righties -- but the loss of John Jaso nullifies that a bit. Tampa Bay was 19th in wRC+ against right-handed pitchers last year and had the seventh highest strikeout rate. It's not a lock that Stroman shuts them down, but this appears to be the top option on the board.
Adam Wainwright, $8,600 on FanDuel
This game features a bunch of the elements we're looking for in a top-notch pitching performance. The temperature is supposed to be cool with a projected high of 44 degrees in Pittsburgh, and PNC Park has a below-average park factor. The Pirates' lineup brings an extra bit of optimism.
Without Jung Ho Kang in the order, the Pirates figure to have a lineup that falls off significantly after John Jaso and Andrew McCutchen. They were seventh in wRC+ against right-handed pitchers in 2015, but without Kang, Neil Walker, and Pedro Alvarez, it'd be difficult to see them duplicating that success this year.
The biggest question mark in this matchup is Adam Wainwright himself. He missed most of last year with an Achilles injury, but he came back with his typical command toward the end of the season with just a 3.6% walk rate. That's not an issue. The lack of strikeouts are.
Wainwright's strikeout rate dipped to 18.0% in his return, falling further from his 19.9% mark in 2014 and 22.9% in 2013. As he enters his age-34 season, those aren't likely to creep back up. The Pirates were 14th in strikeout rate against right-handed hurlers, giving this matchup limited upside and possibly limiting it to cash-game consideration. Given the other options on the slate, though, it's hard to argue against Wainwright as a legitimate and solid choice.
Francisco Liriano, $8,400 on FanDuel
This option is neither for cash games nor the faint of heart. Francisco Liriano has historically struggled in the month of April, and his high walk rate is frightening against a team like the Cardinals. It's the strikeouts that make him an intriguing option.
Liriano finished 2015 with a 26.5% strikeout rate, the highest for him since his breakout in 2006. That total will be going up against a team with a 23.6% strikeout rate against lefties last year, and they'll be without Jhonny Peralta and his career 34.0% hard-hit rate against lefties. The Cardinals were 25th in wRC+ versus south paws last year, giving Liriano the upside we desire.
Again, there's not a lot that's safe about this pick. Liriano could easily walk five batters and get bounced early. But on a slate where the pitching options are as thin as they are, a little risk may not be the worst thing in the world.