In an effort to serve daily fantasy players and season-long fantasy players who use daily lineup settings, we present daily notes each day of the season. It's a daily version of our Fantasy Forecaster in which we project the best pitcher game scores as well as the best team hitting matchups based upon a number of factors.
Despite checking in with the lowest-projected game score of the three aces, Stephen Strasburg is the top DFS play. He has the softest matchup, facing the Atlanta Braves, albeit on the road. That said, last year at Turner Field, the Braves sported the third-lowest weighted on-base average (wOBA) at home versus righties, though they whiffed at a rate below average. Still, Strasburg should rack up ample innings and punchouts while his mates take aim at the hittable offerings of Bud Norris.
In both seasonal and DFS play, monitoring how deep into games the Miami Marlins let Jose Fernandez go will be important. Especially in DFS, innings are crucial since they lead directly to points as well as afford a greater chance of whiffs and wins. A common mistake is to use ERA and WHIP as filters for ranking. Most of the time that's fine but occasionally there will be a hurler who sports great ratios over a lower innings total. This was the case last season for Fernandez, as he was fresh off Tommy John surgery. If the kid gloves are off, Fernandez is one of the best, as suggested by his excellent projected game score. However, if he's not pitching into the seventh inning consistently, he'll fall short in DFS, despite such stellar ratios. His inaugural 2016 effort won't be easy as the Detroit Tigers travel to South Beach, but at least the visitors will be without Victor Martinez, who likely will sit with no designated hitter in play.
Carlos Carrasco rounds out the elite tier as he faces Clay Buchholz and the Boston Red Sox at Progressive Field. Carrasco was a hot commodity in seasonal leagues. Last season, the flashy righty carried a 10.6 K/9, one of only five to hurl at least 180 frames with a double-digit strikeout rate, doing it with an excellent 2.1 BB/9. Add in a penchant for inducing grounders -- thus limiting homers -- and it's easy to see what the fuss is all about. The tough matchup renders Strasburg and Fernandez as better cash-game plays, though that means Carrasco is an intriguing GPP option.
For much of last season, Sonny Gray was DFS cash-game gold. A rule of thumb for your cash-game anchor is a reasonable expectation of a combined 13 innings plus strikeouts. Last season, Gray accomplished this in 13 of his first 23 outings, before doing it only once in his final eight efforts. Coming off a bout of food poisoning and facing the revamped Chicago White Sox lineup (albeit in pitcher-friendly O. Co. Coliseum), Gray isn't in a great spot for cash play since he isn't likely to pitch more than six or so innings.
On the other hand, these factors make Gray's opponent, Carlos Rodon, an intriguing GPP play. Rodon has the stuff to rack up a bevy of strikeouts, with control being his crutch. If he's throwing strikes, the big park should protect him while the White Sox offense faces a weakened Gray (and a weakened Athletics bullpen).
"He stinks!" say 2015 Jeff Samardzija owners. "The park and a move back to the National League will do him wonders," say those not owning Samardzija last season. We'll have to wait to see how The Shark looks in AT&T Park as the San Francisco Giants continue a series on the road against the Milwaukee Brewers. Assuming Samardzija's initial DFS salary reflects last season's woes, he's in play despite the hitter-friendly nature of Miller Park as the home team's lineup is not particularly daunting, availing Samardzija a great chance to get off to a solid start.
Last year, one of the common tenets for DFS play was checking out who was facing the Houston Astros as they were often a perfect GPP option due to the Astros' proclivity to whiff. The problem was that while they fanned the second most in the game, they were also second overall in home runs. Michael Pineda draws the assignment of facing the Astros in a home tilt. Pineda has the strikeout rate to take advantage of Houston's free-swinging ways and is a groundball pitcher, which helps keep homers in check, even in Yankee Stadium. The risk should keep Pineda's ownership low, which is another plus for GPP deployment.
Two of the more promising young arms are matched up as Aaron Nola and the Philadelphia Phillies visit Brandon Finnegan and the Cincinnati Reds. Nola is more of a pound-the-zone control guy while Finnegan is a strikeout artist. Given that the better option for the win is too close to call, Nola makes for the better cash play while Finnegan is a viable GPP option, especially on DFS sites requiring multiple pitchers.
Spot starters and streamers
With most teams using their aces to open the season, we're now seeing the weaker underbelly of many staffs, as evidenced by 14 of the 26 scheduled starters sporting a projected game score below 50. Continuing the format used last season, we'll divide the potential steamers into those in a favorable spot and those who should be avoided. The general rule of thumb is to be aggressive but smart early in the week, then let your team's position dictate what to do over the weekend (the conclusion of most seasonal fantasy weeks).
A healthy Colorado Rockies club is dangerous, but less so on the road. Patrick Corbin is tasked with keeping them in check as he takes the hill at home, opposed by Tyler Chatwood. This matchup significantly favors Corbin, so much so that not only is the Arizona Diamondbacks southpaw a great streaming option, but also a DFS candidate.
Keeping to the aggressive theme, former top prospect Matt Moore is finally healthy and looking strong this spring. The visiting Toronto Blue Jays tote the game's top offense but Tropicana Field should help as well as facing J.A. Happ, who needs to prove he can continue to dominate outside of Pittsburgh. If this game were in Toronto, Moore would be on the pine, but he's viable with the contest in St. Petersburg.
Truth be told, where to rank Los Angeles Dodgers newcomer Kenta Maeda is just speculation, but until we have more data the projected game score will be conservative. Maeda's seasonal owners should be pleased that he embarks on his major league career with a juicy start against the San Diego Padres in Petco Park. Maeda's mound foe, Andrew Cashner, is also a viable streaming option as runs are likely to be scant in this encounter.
Expect another low-scoring affair between the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates in Steel City. As such, both visiting veteran Mike Leake and spring sensation Juan Nicasio are strong spot starters.
There are only four arms too risky to not even consider. The first is Colorado Rockies righty Tyler Chatwood, who is coming off Tommy John surgery. Chatwood didn't pitch at all in the bigs last season so don't expect much as he takes on the Arizona Diamondbacks in the desert.
After jumping between the bullpen and the rotation last season, Bud Norris begins this campaign in the Atlanta Braves' rotation. However, until he proves 2014's success was not a fluke, Norris is a huge risk.
The other two benchwarmers face off in Arlington as Wade Miley leads the Seattle Mariners against Colby Lewis and the Texas Rangers. To be honest, this is a borderline call on both sides as both starters are veterans with the ability to impress, but both are also inconsistent and prone to rocky outings. Your mileage may vary, but with a lot of good options coming up later in the week, erring on the side of caution is defensible.
The Arizona Diamondbacks occupy the top spot on the docket as they face Tyler Chatwood and the rather weak Rockies bullpen. The Snakes are still fleshing out their lineup after losing A.J. Pollock, but the usual suspects -- Jean Segura, Paul Goldschmidt and David Peralta -- are all in play. DFS enthusiasts should check the Diamondbacks lineup, as Socrates Brito could be intriguing if he's playing.
As a fly-ball pitcher, Colby Lewis is prone to the long ball. In fact, only once in his career has he sported a HR/9 below 1.0. The Mariners have several hitters capable of taking advantage, especially those at the top of the order. More often than not this space will suggest taking advantage of platoon edges, but Lewis isn't discretionary. He's equally charitable to right-handed and left-handed hitters.
Home runs are currency in DFS play, and obviously integral to seasonal play as well. Over the past three seasons, Wade Miley has served up 61 dingers, including 50 to right-handed batters. This makes the righty contingent of the Texas Rangers excellent options.
The Washington Nationals look to take advantage of Bud Norris, especially those stepping into the left-handed batter's box. The entire team is in play, with a slight nod to the lefties as Norris historically serves up more homers to those with the platoon edge.
Most likely to hit a home run: Let's go a little off the grid and look for Robinson Cano to continue his strong start with a long ball off Colby Lewis.