The 2018 daily fantasy baseball season officially arrives on March 29th and it couldn’t come a minute sooner. All 30 MLB teams are in action on this joyous day, with a three-game early slate starting things off in the middle of the day and 12 games taking us home at night. It’s destined to be a jam-packed, entertaining night, whether you’re literally betting on the games or trying to piece together a winning MLB DFS lineup.
Both activities can be a lot of fun, but one of the main differences between DFS and sports betting is the fact that it doesn’t always matter who wins in fantasy contests. Any avid daily fantasy baseball player knows that by now, which is precisely why some cheaper value plays on would-be bad teams still hold value.
On the first official MLB DFS slate of the year, there promises to be plenty of value to go around, which should allow for major spending on the expensive spots (elite pitcher, 1B and OF). You’ll need to find some savings one way or another, though. Whether you demand Chris Sale or Clayton Kershaw as your arm or desperately want to roster guys like Mike Trout and Freddie Freeman, some value dives could be necessary.
Regardless of your MLB DFS strategy, I’ve got my eye on six tantalizing value picks – one for each main position on FanDuel:
SP: Madison Bumgarner – San Francisco Giants ($8.6k)
I’m not sure it gets any better than this when it comes to landing an elite arm on the cheap. I’m sure bypassing Kershaw, Mad Max and Sale (all undeniably elite and over $11k on FanDuel) won’t be easy, but it’s hard to ignore a guy like Mad Bum that can easily match them despite costing about $3k less.
That isn’t to say Bumgarner is a lock to pay off. He’s priced down for three obvious reasons; he’s on the road against a stacked Dodgers team, he’s going up against Kershaw (tough to get the win) and he’s held hostage by a shaky San Francisco roster.
While that’s all important, I can’t ignore the staggering value here. Bumgarner averaged over 34 fantasy points per game in a down year last season and even dropped 45 fantasy points the last time he battled the Dodgers. Getting a win on the road in this spot won’t be easy, but Bumgarner is still too cheap to gloss over on this huge slate.
C/1B: Ryan Braun – Milwaukee Brewers ($2.9k)
FanDuel switched things up this year and combined the Catcher and 1B positions to increase versatility (they also added a Utility spot). That should really open up value at this spot, especially if you don’t feel a need to pay up for guys like Paul Goldschmidt or Freddie Freeman on Opening Day.
If you’re in that group, perhaps Braun will suit your fancy. He’s not exactly in a hitter’s paradise at Petco Park and Clayton Richard is notorious for being a ground ball pitcher, though.
That could deter some people from using the aging Braun, but he’s been wrecking southpaws over the last three years (.312 BA, .394 OPS). He also sports a career .391 OPS against Richard, who happened to get wrecked last year (23 HR, .315 BA, .372 OPS) against right-handed batters.
I’m not saying Braun is the locked and loaded stud he was years ago, but he can be an efficient hitter and packs some power. In what looks to be a favorable matchup, he could crush this price tag.
2B: Jason Kipnis – Cleveland Indians ($2.6k)
To be clear, I think I’ll be paying up at 2B on Opening Day. Jose Altuve is probably calling my name, while guys like Brian Dozier and Jonathan Schoop aren’t bad alternative options.
If you need some savings at 2B, though, Kipnis makes sense for the moment. Cleveland still doesn’t know what arm they’ll be facing on March 29th, so while things could change in a hurry, Kipnis does offer value based on his talent and past production.
Kipnis leaves a regrettable 2017 run in the rearview mirror, but this is still a talented hitter that displayed some solid pop (23 HR) in 2016 and seemed to be rounding the corner in terms of efficiency.
I’m going to assume for now that last year had more to do with health and getting in a groove (just 90 games played) and hope Kipnis ends up being a steal at a discounted price.
3B: Jake Lamb – Arizona Diamondbacks ($3.3k)
It’s a bit early to bite down too hard on Lamb, but if the Colorado Rockies push a right-handed hurler onto the mound in Arizona on Opening Day, this feels like a lock for me.
Third base is loaded, per usual, but Lamb offers a steep discount and a potentially elite contrarian option at a spot where most will invest serious cash.
Lamb is a flat out masher and while he specifically wrecks southpaws, he also tends to play his best ball at home.
Lamb wasn’t great against the Rockies a year ago, but he’s no stranger to the long ball and could excel on March 29th if the Rockies don’t put a lefty on the dirt.
SS: Jean Segura – Seattle Mariners ($2.9k)
Usually you want a solid shot at some serious pop when you select MLB DFS hitters, but if I can get Segura on the cheap, I’ll just hope his efficiency shines through.
I think it can on March 29th, as he’ll be at home, where he thrived (7 HR, .314 BA, .364 OPS) a season ago. Segura is nothing if not consistent, so the chances are good you’re in for a couple of hits. If he can swipe a big (22 steals last year) and reach home, he’s delivering a solid play at a cheap rate.
Despite a litany of games on Opening Day, SS is not as loaded as one would imagine. Trea Turner and Carlos Correa are the obvious studs, but most of the top dogs have difficult matchups.
Segura’s matchup isn’t known yet and he doesn’t provide much power, but he’s at home and few shortstops are more efficient at the plate. He’s a solid gamble if you need to save some cash.
OF: Andrew Benintendi – Boston Red Sox ($3.1k)
Keep in mind that you’ll need to roster two other OF spots and a utility player. That being said, I love the value I can get with a masher like Beni, who seems destined to blow up even more in 2018.
Last year saw Benintendi drop 20 homers on the majors and if he can improve his efficiency a bit, I think he’s in for an even bigger season. It could start right away against Chris Archer, who is a brutal strikeout pitcher, but still tends to give up a good amount of contact.
That could be music to Beni’s ears, especially since he excelled against right-handed pitchers (19 HR, .280 BA, .356 OPS) a year ago.
I don’t put much stock in BvsP data, but it doesn’t hurt that Beni is hitting .500 in 10 trips to the plate against Archer. It also can’t hurt that Benintendi was very effective (.296 BA) versus the Rays last year and specifically excelled outside of Fenway Park.
It’s tough to say if all of these options will wreck, but it’s at least easy to see the value they could provide on Opening Day. As the first day of daily fantasy baseball draws closer, pitching matchups will be cemented and so will starting lineups at some point. Only then can we all truly know where we stand with the first big MLB DFS slate. Still, it’s never too early to prepare yourself and if you’re looking for some solid value plays, this list should lend a helping hand.