Monday’s slate kicks off with the familiar Patriots’ Day game in Boston between the Red Sox and Blue Jays. We’ll ignore that one for our purposes here given its morning start time, and instead focus on the seven remaining games on the docket.
Starting pitcher: Noah Syndergaard ($12,100) @ Philadelphia and Tanner Roark ($6,800) @ Miami
Matt Harvey’s performance this year may be tripping the alarm bells in Queens, but Syndergaard has met early-season expectations, and then some. He looked every bit the breakout ace so many believe he can be when he fanned 12 batters and allowed just one run in seven innings in his last outing, a no-decision against the Marlins. On Monday, he gets the Phillies, a team he shouldn’t have any trouble dominating. They’re already down at 26th in the league in wOBA and also carry the majors' seventh-highest strikeout rate. Syndergaard might be the most popular player on the board on Monday, but he’s also one of the very best cash-game options.
Roark, meanwhile, looked good in his last start, shutting out Atlanta across seven innings on four hits and three walks. The Braves may not present pitchers with the toughest challenge in 2016, but we’re hunting for a bargain at this spot on the roster. Roark doesn’t have huge strikeout upside, and the Nationals have a lot on their hands going up against Jose Fernandez, but the price is right given the offense that we’ve build around these two pitchers. All we need out of Roark is six relatively clean innings.
Catcher: Wilson Ramos ($2,700) @ Miami, Jose Fernandez
Ramos has enjoyed an excellent start to the 2016 season, going 14 for 36 with a homer, three doubles and five RBIs. More often than not, we’re going to look for a cheap option behind the dish. Ramos comes at a discount of a few hundred dollars on Monday because of the matchup with Fernandez. That, of course, isn’t ideal, but when you’re already pinching pennies at a position, taking a matchup-based discount makes plenty of sense. To put it bluntly, catcher is the least important spot in Monday’s ultimate lineup. This roster can do plenty of damage even with Ramos going 0 for 4, so why not get the cheapest palatable option?
First base: Joey Votto ($4,600) vs. Colorado, Jordan Lyles
Votto is off to a dreadful start this season, going 10 for 44 with just two extra-base hits in his first 12 games. That’s going to turn sooner rather than later, if Votto’s history is any indication. At $4,600 on a short slate, it makes all the sense in the world to roll the dice and bet that he breaks out of his funk in a game at home against a righthanded pitcher. Votto has mashed righties to the tune of .316/.433/.545 in his career and has been nearly as good at home, slashing .299/.418/.527.
Second base: Ben Zobrist ($3,800) vs. St. Louis, Mike Leake
The Cubs and Cardinals meet for the first time this season, with three games in St. Louis to kick off the week. Zobrist has gotten off on the wrong foot in his Cubs career, going 9 for 42 in his first 11 games. While the switch hitter has typically been better from the right side of the plate, Zobrist has been hitting third against righties this season, with Dexter Fowler and Jason Heyward in front of him and Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant behind him. There might be no better lineup spot in baseball.
Third base: Nolan Arenado ($4,700) @ Cincinnati, Dan Straily
Arenado already has six homers and 16 RBIs this season, compiling a .700 slugging percentage in 53 plate appearances. He homered twice in Colorado’s win over the Cubs on Sunday, his second multi-homer game of the week. Straily, meanwhile, has always had an issue with the longball, surrendering 40 homers in 268 2/3 career innings. That translates to about 27 homers per 180 innings, which is about an average full year for a starting pitcher.
Shortstop: Addison Russell ($3,200) @ St. Louis, Mike Leake
This is largely a price-based play, with Russell one of the best cheap options on the board at shortstop. His bat has yet to get going, but he’s always an attractive DFS play because of his talent level and presence in the Cubs' lineup. He has been taking his walks this season, earning six in 45 plate appearances, good for a 13.3% walk rate. This Cubs offense knows Leake well from his time with Cincinnati, and while he has good career numbers against Chicago, he’s also vulnerable to a lineup that has seen him so many times.
Outfield: Carlos Gonzalez ($5,000) @ Cincinnati, Dan Straily; Gerardo Parra ($3,700) @ Cincinnati, Dan Straily; David Peralta ($3,300) @ San Francisco, Jake Peavy
Gonzalez and Parra complete our Colorado stack with Arenado. Gonzalez has been one of the best hitters over the first two weeks of the season, going 18 for 53 with four homers, three doubles and 10 RBIs. Parra hasn’t been nearly as good, but he does have six extra-base hits and three steals at the start of his Rockies career. He has slotted nicely into the five-hole, right behind Gonzalez and Arenado. Finally, so long as Peralta is at an affordable $3,300, he’s going to have a spot in the ultimate lineup. The power has yet to show up, but he’s still 14 for 52 with five doubles, a triple and four walks on the year.