When looking at “bargains” on FanDuel, we'll typically focus on hitters who are $3,200 or lower. In general, we'll only highlight players at the top end of that scale if they have star potential.
For 12 teams, today is the real Opening Day. FanDuel has organized a nine game main slate to begin at 1:05pm. Three of the games are postponement risks. The Tigers-White Sox contest is almost certain to be scratched. Keep a closer eye on the Royals-Twins and Phillies-Reds. There may be a chance the weather report improves.
Please note, these player picks were organized early in the day. For MLB contests, always check lineups and weather closer to game time. Rain, wind, or unexpected managerial decisions could open up additional sources of value. Be sure to keep an eye on the MLB Headlines and Injuries desk.
Onto the bargain plays...
1 – Jeremy Hellickson – SP – Philadelphia (FanDuel $6,900)
Storms will likely invalidate this pick, but I couldn't justify targeting Edinson Volquez. Other available starters like Julio Teheran ($7,900), Marco Estrada ($7,900), and Kevin Gausman ($8,000) don't really qualify as bargains. And each have issues with their matchups.
Hellickson is a steady starter who will often supply six to seven innings. He features big platoon splits so you'll want to avoid him against very left-handed lineups. That does not describe the Reds. The Cincinnati offense has Joey Votto, Scott Schebler, switch-hitter Billy Hamilton, and a bunch of righties. Hellickson could take a step forward if he throws his plus changeup more often to southpaws. If the rains clear, Hellickson should receive run support opposite Scott Feldman.
2 – Sandy Leon – C – Boston (FanDuel $2,100)
Admittedly, I'm not a Leon truther. He was certainly more comfortable and confident at the plate last season. Even with above average hard contact and line drive rates, Leon's .392 BABIP looks fluky. This season, he'll likely return to being a below average hitter. Some of the modest power gains he made may be here to stay. For $2,100, I'll see if he can bang a liner or two off the Green Monster. Of the actual aces available today, Gerrit Cole is the most likely to run into trouble.
3 – Eric Thames – 1B – Milwaukee (FanDuel $2,200)
Here's a fascinating dice roll. Earlier in the offseason, I was sent a video showing all of Thames KBO 2015 home runs. It's a glorious highlight reel packed with majestic bombs. If you watch closely, you'll also notice a few themes. Thames' home runs came on center cut, unimpressive fastballs and hanging breaking balls. In the majors, velocity is king and breaking balls rarely hang. As such, Thames is a risky play versus hard throwing righty Jon Gray. Thames may grow into a DFS presence, but it will probably be a rocky ride.
4 – Ryan Zimmerman – 1B – Washington (FanDuel $2,400)
Zimmerman may offer a safer bargain, albeit with a lower ceiling. The former star continued to bat cleanup throughout all of Spring Training, posting a solid .302/.413/.491 line. It's worth noting that Zimmerman was even better last spring. In other words, don't get your hopes up. Or, maybe you should? He's supposedly implemented popular mechanical changes that have unlocked power in so many hitters around the league. With a good lineup spot, health, and a new swing, Zimmerman could be in line to help a few DFS owners.
5 – Neil Walker – 2B – New York (FanDuel $2,600)
Last April, Walker was a DFS god before back injuries slowed and eventually ended his season. He bopped nine home runs in the first month of the season. While we shouldn't expect him to slug at that pace again, he's shown a knack for popping long balls when healthy. The switch-hitting Walker's matchup against Julio Teheran is favorable. Walker prefers to bat from the left side, and Teheran has substantial platoon splits.
6 – Jose Reyes – 3B – New York (FanDuel $2,700)
Unlike Walker, Reyes doesn't have big platoon splits. He has slightly more natural power from the right side of the plate which won't help him today versus Teheran. Over his career, the Braves ace has allowed a .264/.335/.456 line to lefty swingers. Reyes will bat leadoff, giving him a chance at five plate appearances. His top-of-the-order role makes Reyes at least as valuable as Walker.
7 – Asdrubal Cabrera – SS – New York (FanDuel $3,200)
It's a good day to pay for your shortstop. None of the steep bargains are particularly attractive. If you insist upon a bargain – possibly because you think Trea Turner, Trevor Story, and Corey Seager will be over-owned – then I'd consider going with a full-blown Mets stack. Cabrera is a heavy pull hitter with slightly more home run power versus right-handed pitching. And as we've already fully explored, Teheran can be susceptible to left-handed hitters.
8 – Joc Pederson – OF – Los Angeles (FanDuel $2,800)
The Dodgers face the worst “ace” of the day – Jhoulys Chacin. Obviously, Dodger hitters will be quite popular. The stacks are going to lean heavily toward infield options like Corey Seager, Justin Turner, and Logan Forsythe. Yasmani Grandal should be in demand, and let us not forget Kershaw. That leaves Joc Pederson as a potential fifth or sixth wheel despite two home run power. The soon-to-be 25-year-old has fallen out of vogue despite a strong 2016 campaign. Further growth could push him into All Star status with a $4,000 price point. Buy while the buying is good.
9 – Andrew Toles – OF – Los Angeles (FanDuel $2,000)
Speaking of fifth wheels, Toles will almost certainly fall through the cracks. His ludicrous $2,000 price point will convince deep bargain hunters to invest, but those lineups may not include other Dodgers elements (besides the ace). Toles is an athletic player whose bat took a big step forward last season. He'll start in left field against right-handed pitchers. While the Dodgers used him in the top two lineup spots this spring, Toles will probably bat at the bottom of the order now that Seager has returned to action.
10 – Seth Smith – OF – Baltimore (FanDuel $2,500)
Joining the Baltimore lineup should really help Smith's fantasy production. Unfortunately, he'll probably play his way out of the bargain bin before long. A long standing righty masher, Smith appears likely to bat first or second for the Orioles when they're opposed by a northpaw. He's a ground ball hitter with an above average hard contact rate. Estrada, for all his good qualities, is a fly ball pitcher who also allows an above average contact rate. When ground ball hitters face fly ball pitchers, the matchup usually favors the hitter.