Happy Friday! Before we can get a taste of the weekend, the baseball gods have gifted us a bite-sized slate of only six games. The first game begins at 7:07 p.m. EST, with half of the games played in domes. Weather should cooperate for the three outdoor affairs, and there is plenty of time to build lineups without headaches. Now let’s grab those winners!
Top SP: Lance McCullers Jr., HOU ($10,700 DK, 9,000 FD) vs. OAK
Our top-ranked arm on the day will be Lance McCullers Jr. The good news is he looked fully stretched out by throwing 95 pitches in his season debut. However, he needs to fine-tune the efficiency and tone down the walks, so he can make it deeper into the game. What should give him the extra boost is his enticing matchup against the scuffling Oakland Athletics. The bats in Oakland have been mighty quiet to begin 2021 and hold a 59 wRC+, .246 wRC+, with a .095 team ISO, which has translated into being one of the lowest-scoring teams in the MLB. There are a couple of other strong candidates for the top SP on the slate, but I am leaning Lance because of the savory matchup.
Value SP: Tyler Mahle, CIN ($7,500 DK, $8,400 FD) at ARI
Mahle is a strong play for either sportsbook site. He harnesses the ability to strike out batters in a hurry, plus he gets a cupcake of a matchup against Arizona. The Diamondbacks lineup looks awfully vulnerable without Ketel Marte in the heart of it. Mahle’s fastball/slider combo looked every bit as mouth-watering as it did in 2020, with each generating over 20% whiff rates. The slight knock is the big knock that batters produce when putting balls in play against those two pitches. The Reds should run away with this game, so there is an increased chance for the QS or W bonus.
Honorable Mention: Julio Teheran, ($5,800 DK, $6,800 FD) at CLE.
Established Batter: 3B Manny Machado SD ($5,800 DK, $3,500 FD) at TEX
Manny Machado is absolutely sizzling to begin the season. A look at his .240/.337/.487 slash line with only one HR might have you perplexed. Insert Statcast. Manny currently has a .343 xBA to go along with a 76.2% hard-hit rate and .497 xwOBAcon. Those numbers are off the charts! Unfortunately, a lot of the contact has not been airborne, so a slight adjustment and boom, he is going to take off. Good news! He is squaring off against Kohei Arihara, whose game is to get out via balls in play. This is a terrific spot for Machado to earn his bacon and put up massive points.
Established Batter: 1B/OF Shohei Ohtani, ($4,600 DK, $3,500 FD) at TOR
Shohei Ohtani is a sweet bat for a few savory reasons. First, he is mashing baseballs again. Setting a new max exit velocity (115.2 mph) was just the appetizer. For the main course, Ohtani has a .404 xwOBA and a 43% hard-hate rate to go along with four barrels on 14 batted ball events. What is making his start so juicy? Possibly a more swing-happy approach. Ohtani is swinging over 62% of the time, which is extremely more than his career swing% of 46.9%. The icing on the cake factor is at game time; we are looking at a 75 degree evening — the warmest game of the slate. Balls could be jumping into the seats.
Value Batter: OF Trent Grisham, SD ($4,400 DK, $2,400 FD) at TEX
Trent Grisham is a value bat, but only in FanDuel lineups. DraftKings is not discounting the missed playing time and therefore isn’t making him a value at all on their site. Grisham is that rare speed + power combo that will heat up the DFS points in a hurry. It might be a small sample; going 10 HR/10 SB with .205 ISO is extremely impressive. Let’s hope he is fully healthy and able to roam centerfield for nine innings. Given all the tools and facing one of the weaker pitchers on the slate, it won’t take much for him to return value for you — just do it on FanDuel.
Top Stack: Cincinnati Reds at ARI (RHP Taylor Widener)
This quite possibly might be the easiest decision of your Friday. This is not throwing shade at Taylor Widener; it’s more so looking at the daunting task in front of him this evening. The Cincinnati Reds have been eating their spinach, because they lead the MLB with 14 HRs and 57 runs scored. That is 12 more runs than the second-place Houston Astros squad. What else do they lead the MLB in? Well, ISO (.286), wOBA (.427), and wRC+ (167). My suggestion is don’t make this a short stack; get yourself a full five-person stack and enjoy a lineup with a big point total. Any Cincy stack should come with massive power upsides like Nick Castellanos and Eugenio Suarez, then load the plate up with any array of left-handed bats like Tucker Barnhart, Joey Votto, Mike Moustakas, and Tyler Naquin. Bon appétit!
Honorable Mentions: SD at TEX (Arihara), TOR vs LAA (Heaney);
Featured image by J.R. Caines (@JRCainesDesign on Twitter and @caines_design on Instagram)