The MLB season is still less than one week old, and so begins the longest—and best—DFS odyssey of the season. Here at SI.com, we’ll be coming at you with our DFS picks a few times per week, focusing on the biggest slates. In general, we’ll give you pitchers to target at three different price points, and the offensive stacks with the best chance of paying off in a significant way. As always, be sure to take our picks and plug them into Lineup Lab’s MLB Lineup Optimizer to round out your lineups.
If the weather holds up, which has been a problem with the earlier than normal start to the season, there will be 13 games across Major League Baseball on Wednesday. There are several elite pitchers scheduled to take the mound including Corey Kluber, Luis Severino and Noah Syndergaard. Offense may be hard to come by in those games as a result.
Corey Kluber, at Angels (FD: $11,300, DK: $11,100)
If you are playing the early slate, Kluber is the cream of the crop on the mound. He was fantastic on his way to winning the AL Cy Young Award last season, equaling or setting career-bests in wins (18), ERA (2.25), WHIP (0.87) and K/9 (11.7). Not only did he strike out a lot of hitters, but he showed impeccable control by only allowing 1.6 BB/9. He handled batters from both sides of the plate well, allowing a .251 wOBA to lefties and .230 wOBA to righties.
Although he suffered a loss in his first game of the season, he allowed only two runs while recording eight strikeouts in eight innings. He made one mistake that resulted in a two-run homer by Nelson Cruz, and while that cost the Indians in real life, it didn’t exactly hurt Kluber’s fantasy owners. He has the potential to pitch a gem regardless of who he is facing, so don’t be afraid to pay up for him Wednesday.
Jon Gray, at Padres, (FD: $8,000, DK: $8,500)
Gray was limited to just 110.1 innings last year due to injury but pitched well when he was healthy, finishing with a 3.67 ERA and 9.1 K/9. His FIP was down at 3.18 and opponents had a .338 BABIP against him, so there’s reason to believe he pitched better than those already impressive surface numbers suggest.
He didn’t get off to a good start this season, allowing three earned runs in four innings on Opening Day against the Diamondbacks. It could have been much worse, too, but he pitched somewhat around the danger created by six hits and three walks . Wednesday brings a more favorable matchup against the Padres who still don’t have an overwhelming lineup despite the addition of Eric Hosmer. Gray has also had success at Petco Park during his career, posting a 3.21 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 12.9 K/9 in five starts.
Aaron Sanchez, vs. White Sox (FD: $6,200, DK: $7,800)
Sanchez looked like one of the emerging young aces in baseball in 2016, making his first All-Star team and finishing with a 3.00 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. He only had a 7.5 K/9, but he had a 54.4% ground-ball rate, helping him finish with a 0.7 HR/9.
Blister problems derailed his 2017 campaign, leaving him to pitch just 36 innings. He’s healthy heading into 2018 but didn’t get off to a great start, allowing four runs in 5 2/3 innings to the Yankees in his first start. The Yankees have one of the best lineups in baseball, though, and Sanchez will have an easier task against the White Sox on Wednesday. His upside is limited due to his lack of strikeouts, but he could be worth a shot in tournament play.
New York Yankees vs. Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays
Stadium – Yankee Stadium
The Yankees have dealt with several injuries to their lineup out of the gate with Aaron Hicks (intercostal), Jacoby Ellsbury (oblique) and Clint Frazier (concussion) all on the DL. While their outfield might lack depth, it doesn’t want for fantasy value with Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Brett Gardner. Add Gary Sanchez to the mix, and Snell will have his hands full against the top four of this lineup.
Snell improved as the season wore on last year, posting a 3.49 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in the second half. He could be in line for an improved season overall in 2018, but this is not a good matchup for him. Snell struggled on the road last year, posting a 4.76 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in 13 starts. He also had a tougher time against righties, allowing them a .320 wOBA compared with .228 against to lefties. The Yankees lineup is loaded with right-handed power, making them a team to consider stacking in this game.
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Carson Fulmer, Chicago White Sox
Stadium – Rogers Centre
The White Sox have added some talented young players during their rebuilding process, and Fulmer is one of them, a first-round pick in the 2015 amateur draft. He struggled, however, in his cup of coffee last year. He had a 3.86 ERA in 23.1 innings, but it was unsupported by his peripherals, most notably a 5.69 FIP and 5.0 BB/9.
Fulmer is not an overpowering pitcher, evidenced by an 8.1 K/9 during his career in the minors. The Blue Jays have a few big power hitters in their lineup, so not having swing and miss stuff could put Fulmer in some tough spots. Josh Donaldson is coming off a two-homer game on Tuesday, as well.
Oakland Athletics vs. Doug Fister, Texas Rangers
Stadium – Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
Once a very valuable starter, Fister has reached journeyman status in his career. He’s on his fourth team in the last four seasons, posting an ERA of at least 4.19 in each of the last three years. He also allows way too many runners to reach base, finishing with a WHIP of at least 1.38 in all of those seasons. He did have an outlier campaign in 2017 by posting an 8.3 K/9, but there’s no reason to believe his skill set demonstrably changed, and with a career K/9 of 6.2 Fister is likely to see his strikeout rate crater this season.
He only gave up one run in five innings against a tough Astros lineup in his first start the season, but he lived on the edge in that game, allowing four hits and three walks. The Athletics lineup is no walk in the park, with Khris Davis, Matt Olson and Matt Chapman all providing excellent power. Without a dominant pitch arsenal, Fister could be in trouble Wednesday.
Colorado Rockies vs. Clayton Richard, San Diego Padres
Stadium – Petco Park
Even though this game is at Petco, the Rockies are likely to be a popular stack. Richard was the Opening Day starter for the Padres this season, which says a lot about how bad the state of their starting rotation. He did not have a good season in 2017, finishing with a 4.79 ERA. 1.52 WHIP and just a 6.9 K/9. He does live on the ground, finishing with a 59.2% ground-ball rate last year. If he can bring his good sinker on Wednesday, he has enough to torpedo this stack.
Still, that’s a risk worth taking. Richard has had a problem getting out right-handed hitters, allowing a .377 wOBA to them last year. The Rockies have some tough righties in their lineup, headlined by Nolan Arenado, D.J. LeMahieu, and Ian Desmond. They’re the three you’d want to include, without question, in a Rockies stack.