What’s up Karma Nation! Welcome into the first #BensBuildingBlocks of the 2019 MLB season! Many of you know that the Building Blocks are a cash game based article that I use for NBA, NFL and MLB. I am a cash game player at heart, and I normally only play one lineup per slate unless otherwise noted. Generally, I will use this article to break down my thoughts on the pitching, batting and stack options each slate — but given that it’s opening day, we have a split slate between FanDuel and DraftKings. So, for today, I will separate my analysis based off each site, and with most days going forward it will be a universal breakdown. Let’s dive in!
Like I said above, FanDuel is offering a full 14 game main slate starting at 1:05 EST while DraftKings is a nine game main slate kicking off at 4:00 EST.
High Tier: Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Jacob deGrom- On this slate, we are awarded two extra aces in addition to Justin Verlander in Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom who will square off in DC. Look, I don’t need to deep dive into these players numbers, these are three top-five starting pitchers in the MLB and we know that their numbers are absolutely elite. All of them posted 32.0+% strikeouts last season with sub-2.80 SIERA’s and minimal hard-contact allowed. Of the trio, Justin Verlander has the best matchup inside the pitcher-friendly confides of Tropicana Field, against a team that should send out six batters that project for a 23.0+% strikeout rate against righties this season. I most likely will be looking at Verlander in cash games for safety, but feel free to pivot to either of deGrom or Scherzer in GPPs for leverage.
Mid Tier: Masahiro Tanaka, Jose Berrios, Hyun-Jin Ryu- This mid-tier is where it gets especially interesting as I think all are fantastic tournament options on this slate. Of the three, I’m going to project Jose Berrios as the highest-owned, which is funny to me because I don’t think he is head and shoulders a better play than the other two. By no means am I calling him a bad play, I’m writing him up for a reason, but if he’s going to be significantly more owned than Tanaka/Ryu, I’m going to be coming in well underweight on him on Thursday. Let’s start with Berrios who had a stellar 2018 posting a 3.80 SIERA with 25.4% strikeouts. He was an even better pitcher at home, where this game takes place, but he still struggled with left-handed bats owning a 4.13 xFIP compared to 3.78 against righties — note that the strikeouts where still there against LHH however (26.5%). I don’t think this Indians lineup is good at all, especially without Francisco Lindor, but it still contains guys like Jose Ramirez (barring he plays) and Carlos Santana from the left-side as well as newly acquired Jake Bauers who has pop.
Tanaka is the guy that I think we all will wonder why he wasn’t higher-owned come lock tomorrow, even considering that he is a massive -360 favorite against one of the worst offenses in the MLB, the Baltimore Orioles. People don’t like to roster Tanaka but it’s solely because he allows home runs, he generates swings and misses, strikeouts, and doesn’t walk guys so people choose to ignore those things because he can give up the long ball? That shouldn’t be a big issue in this matchup however, as the Orioles figure to be one of the weakest teams in the MLB, and even if he allowed two home runs tomorrow, the odds that they are solo shots are going to be pretty good considering the lineup he will be facing. I don’t think he is any safer than Berrios outside of potentially getting the Win bonus, but the upside is similar and hopefully he comes in a bit lower owned.
Ryu is the final guy I’m considering, and I’m pretty positive nobody else will be on him for the most part. People hate playing Dodgers pitchers as it is, so I highly doubt that they will be looking here with all of the aces available on Opening Day. It is a known fact that the Dodgers are more cautious with their pitchers and that he won’t have a long leash, but he opened up with multiple starts of more than six innings pitcher last season so they might let him go a bit longer than they would if it was late in the season. The matchup with the Diamondbacks doesn’t immediately stand out, but this a team that struck out the tenth-most in baseball against southpaws last season (23.0%) and oh yeah, they lost Paul Goldschmidt! Ryu was a reverse-splits pitcher last season and significantly better against right-handed batters than left, so if we get a righty-laden lineup don’t hesitate to fire him up in tournaments.
Overall, I will be attacking this tier in GPPs only as Verlander seems to be the lock for me in cash games for me on both sites, and there is a value option I am interested in on DraftKings in an attempt to get some room to pay up for some bats. I definitely want to play the ownership game, and will probably end up with more Tanaka/Ryu than Berrios IF he truly is set to the highest-owned of the bunch. If Jose Ramirez happens to miss the game tomorrow, that would do enough for me to bump Berrios to the top regardless of ownership, but if he is in I have no problems siding with Tanaka/Ryu, all are strong plays.
I’ll pretty much echo what I said above when it comes to pitching on DraftKings — Verlander is a near lock for me for the safety, with the mid-priced guys like Berrios and Ryu being strong in tournaments — remember that Tanaka will not be available on the main slate here. Ultimately, I don’t hate trying to get up to one of Berrios/Ryu for your SP2, but that’s definitely going to have you make some sacrifices in the rest of your roster and I love to bargain hunting on DK, so I’ll bring about one more name I’m considering.
Eric Lauer- Lauer gets the opening day nod for the Padres, and draws the Giants are who will send out a borderline minor league team. They were horrible against left-handed pitchers last season sporting a 75 wRC+ as a team with 23.3% strikeouts and it appears they will send out six left-handed batters against Lauer. Even their righties — Evan Longoria, Buster Posey and Mac Williamson don’t scare me — and Lauer’s bread and butter is keeping the ball on the ground which will play well in a pitcher-friendly ballpark. Now, normally I target strikeouts above all in MLB DFS, but when we get these extremely cheap pitchers on multi-pitcher sites I don’t hate taking them, allowing me to get Verlander and some higher-priced bats and just hoping for 13-14 fantasy points which is more than possible. It seems like Brad Keller will be the popular value arm, and while I can see that against the White Sox, they have quite a bit more pop than the Giants do and I’ll be picking on SF with lefties all season long.
Cash Games- Justin Verlander, Jose Berrios (If Ramirez out), Eric Lauer (DK)
GPP- Masahiro Tanaka, Hyun-Jin Ryu, deGrom/Max (FD)
Kris Bryant- Bryant was bothered by a shoulder injury seemingly all of last season, but looks healthy and ready to go in 2019 and starts with an extremely favorable matchup with Mike Minor. Minor has allowed over a .180 ISO to right-handed hitters over the last two seasons, and career-wise Bryant boasts a .410 wOBA and a .272 ISO against southpaws.
Mike Trout- There’s no secrets as to why you want Mike Trout in your lineups, and I think he fits perfectly alongside KB as your spend-ups, you will read more on Trout’s matchup in the stacks section.
Cheap Lead-Off Hitters- It looks like we should get a few cheap lead-off men on Thursday — Jesse Winker, Adam Frazier, Albert Almora and Leonys Martin are all affordable and in play for the top spot in their respective orders. I don’t think you will need all of them, but using two or three in cash games will probably end up being a popular route once lineups are confirmed.
Note: If you’re playing FanDuel there is no doubts that the Yankees will be the chalk stack against Andrew Cashner. Be sure to get some exposure there, and Greg Bird is extremely cheap and is slated to start. In addition to the Yankees, the Blue Jays have some great plays against Jordan Zimermann. On DraftKings, the Cubs will dominate ownership as the top stack in all formats, and I never want to write up what I deem to be the chalk stacks. This is something I will identify daily, and you should definitely get exposure to these teams in cash games — hence Kris Bryant — but I’m going to dissect my personal favorite stacks daily.
1. Los Angeles Angels- Mike Fiers is somehow starting an Opening Day game, and he has been a pitcher we have routinely picked on in recent years. He’s not good against either side of the plate, and he allows a ton of power — specifically to righties (.215 ISO). They just lost Justin Upton to injury, but that still leaves us with Mike Trout, Zack Cozart, Justin Bour and Kole Calhoun as a great starting place for a stack.
2. San Diego Padres- This might come as a shock to some people, but it’s time to let go. Madison Bumgarner is not the man we once knew. Since returning from injuring his shoulder in a dirt bike accident in 2017, we have seen his xFIP and walk rate rise while his strikeouts dropped over 7%! We want the righties in this matchup, which is great because the Pads have a slew of hard-hitting ones ranging from Manny Machado, Franmil Reyes, Hunter Renfroe, Wil Myers and one of the best prospects in all of baseball — Fernando Tatis Jr.
3. Pittsburgh Pirates- This one is definitely going to be low-owned, because a lot of people are going to be interested in using Luis Castillo as their pitcher on Opening Day rather than stacking against him. Castillo has tons of potential, but outside of two months last season he was extremely attackable and he struggles with the long ball. He allowed over 40% hard contact to left-handed batters last season along with a .241 ISO and the Pirates have a trio of lefties to consider in Corey Dickerson, Adam Frazier and Josh Bell paired with Starling Marte and Jung-Ho Kang for a five man stack.
Written by Ben Hossler (Follow @BenHossler on Twitter)