Daily fantasy baseball: Bryce Harper, Josh Donaldson among top picks

SI’s fantasy expert picks his daily fantasy baseball lineup for Thursday, April 14 including top players Bryce Harper and Josh Donaldson. Take a peek at our full fantasy lineup.
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It’s a getaway day, and that always means at least one thing: day games. Seven of Thursday’s 12 games start before 3:05 ET, so you’ll need to get your lineups set early if you want to use the full slate.

Starting pitcher: Danny Salazar ($11,000) @ Tampa Bay and Vince Velasquez ($7,300) vs. San Diego

Finding bad offenses to target is sometimes just as important as betting on the actual merits of a pitcher, which is what we’ve done here. The Rays and Padres have been among the worst offenses in baseball in the season’s first two weeks, ranking 23rd and 22nd, respectively, in wOBA. The Padres have scored five runs in the six games they’ve played outside Coors Field, while the Rays have put up three or fewer runs in six of their eight games this season. Both Salazar and Velasquez have the sort of strikeout upside that could lead to significant fantasy totals, and Salazar has the allure of also being one of the best pitchers on Thursday’s board.

Catcher: Miguel Montero ($3,000) vs. Cincinnati, Raisel Iglesias

Thursday’s matchup with Iglesias is much tougher than Tuesday’s with Alfredo Simon, but the relentless Cubs lineup is already proving to be a nightmare for opposing pitchers. Montero gives us a cheap avenue to investment in quite possibly the league’s best offense. He had a nice game Tuesday, going 1-for-3 with two walks, three runs and an RBI. If you have a bit more money to spend at the catcher position, Jonathan Lucroy with a platoon advantage against Jaime Garcia is a good splurge at $3,200.

First base: Edwin Encarnacion ($4,800) vs. New York Yankees, Nathan Eovaldi

The Blue Jays, as always, present one of the more attractive stacks on Thursday. While Encarnacion has a lot of competition at first base, it’s hard to exclude him from any Blue Jays grouping. Miguel Cabrera is intriguing given that the matchup with Gerrit Cole has pushed his price tag all the way down to $4,000, but you probably want to load your lineup with Blue Jays or Rockies with both of those teams playing at home. That’s mainly why we turn to Encarnacion in this spot.

Second base: Cesar Hernandez ($3,300) vs. San Diego, Drew Pomeranz

Hernandez, Philadelphia’s newly minted leadoff man, is one of the few consistent fantasy options in the team’s offense. He’s 10-for-30 with a walk on the season, and while he has swiped just one bag, he’s a threat to steal every time he’s on base. Second base turned into a value position with the money spent on Salazar, the outfield, and our Blue Jays stack, and Hernandez provides that, while also carrying identifiable upside.

Third base: Josh Donaldson ($5,000) vs. New York Yankees, Nathan Eovaldi

After his two-homer, seven-RBI day, Nolan Arenado was obviously a thought at third, but his $5,200 asking price was just a bit too steep to fit into the budget. At $5,000, Donaldson is a nice consolation prize. Eovaldi surrendered a pair of homers in five innings in his first start of the season, which does not bode well for a matchup with the Blue Jays in Toronto. While the longball hasn’t been a particular Achilles heel for him in the past, he has racked up WHIPs of 1.32 or worse in all of his major league seasons. Bad things are going to happen if you’re allowing that many hitters to reach base, especially against an offense like Toronto’s.

Shortstop: Francisco Lindor ($3,200) @ Tampa Bay, Chris Archer

Like second base, shortstop became a position where we had to go bargain hunting. It’s nice to find something to latch onto besides value, though, and that’s what we’re doing with Lindor’s talent. Even though the matchup with Archer is one of the toughest on Thursday’s slate, a player like Lindor should never cost $3,200. The 22-year-old is 7-for-23 with a homer in the early going after slashing .313/.353/.482 with 12 jacks in 99 games as a rookie. I don’t typically want to challenge Archer, but I can get on board with a discounted Lindor.

Outfield: Bryce Harper ($5,100) vs. Atlanta, Julio Teheran; Colby Rasmus ($3,900) vs. Kansas City, Ian Kennedy; Nomar Mazara ($3,300) vs. Baltimore, Chris Tillman

Harper never seems to mind seeing Teheran on the mound. He homered off of him on Opening Day, the fourth time he has taken Teheran deep in their respective careers. All told, Harper is hitting .440/.533/1.040 against Teheran with those four homers and six RBI. Rasmus is quietly off to a great start for the Astros, going 9-for-27 with three homers, seven RBI and seven walks in his first nine games. With the righty Kennedy on the mound for the Royals, there’s no risk of Rasmus being moved out of the cleanup spot. Finally, Mazara had the first hitless game of his career on Wednesday, but the rookie is easily worth the $3,300 price tag. To give you an idea of the value you’re getting on Mazara, some other outfielders who check in at that price include Travis Jankowski, Cedric Hunter and Peter Bourjos. We’ll continue to ride with Mazara until the price comes up to where it should be.