This article is part of our FanDuel MLB series.
We'll have a 13-game slate for FanDuel's main contest on the first Sunday of the week, beginning with the games starting at 1:05 p.m. EDT and ending with a pair of games at 4:10 p.m. EDT. The two evening games — Braves-Mets and Giants-Dodgers — will not be part of the contest. As of writing, weather seems unlikely to be much of a factor, with the only cities possibly having rain in the forecast being Houston (where the Astros have a retractable roof) and Tampa (where the Rays play in a dome). Selecting a starting pitcher who won't be on a pitch count will likely be key to success here, as has been the case with most slates so far this season.
Trevor Bauer ($9,700) looks like the pick of the top-tier options, primarily because he faces the easiest matchup on the slate against a Tigers' team that ranked last in scoring in 2019 at just 3.61 runs per game. Bauer wasn't at his best last year, as he saw his ERA more than double to 4.48 after an excellent 2.21 in 2018. Still, he possesses plenty of strikeout upside, posting a strong 27.8 percent strikeout rate - a number that's halfway between his career-best mark of 30.8 percent from that dominant 2018 season and his overall 24.8 percent mark. It's not yet clear which version of Bauer we'll get this year, but he doesn't have to repeat his 2018 form to be worth a look against the Tigers.
For a mid-tier option, consider Zac Gallen ($8,3000) against San Diego. The Padres come in with an improving young lineup and could finish well above their 27th-place ranking in runs per game from last year, but their overall numbers will still be held back by their pitcher-friendly home park, where Sunday's game will take place. Gallen flashed tons of promise in his 15-start debut for the Marlins and Diamondbacks last year by posting a 2.81 ERA. It took an 83.7 percent strand rate to get him there, though his 3.61 FIP was a perfectly fine number and his 28.7 percent strikeout rate gives him plenty of upside.
Vince Velasquez ($6,600) is worth a look as a budget option, in no small part due to his matchup against the lowly Marlins and their second-fewest runs scored last year. He comes with the risk inherent in pitching in Citizens Bank Park as well as the risk inherent in being Vince Velasquez, as he hasn't managed an ERA below 4.85 in any of his last three seasons and saw his mistakes consistently punished last year, leading to a 1.99 HR/9. However, he impressed in camp in part due to a new cutter and could finally make good on his promise this season with the Phillies ditching pitching coach Chris Young after just one season, whose insistence on the high fastball reportedly didn't sit well with Velasquez.
Mitch Keller ($6,500) also deserves consideration among the day's cheaper choices. He doesn't pick up the easiest assignment against a decent Cardinals' lineup, though he'll at least get to face them at pitcher-friendly Busch Stadium. It's never easy placing much faith in a pitcher who struggled to a 7.13 ERA last season, though there's plenty of reason to believe that number doesn't accurately reflect the 24-year-old's talent. Keller's ERA was inflated significantly in his 11-start debut by a .475 BABIP and a 59.6 percent strand rate, neither of which is anything close to sustainable. Both his 28.6 percent strikeout rate and 7.0 percent walk rate were strong, leading to an excellent 3.19 FIP.
The top of the second-base pool is thinner than most, making Jose Altuve ($3,800) worth paying up for. The Astros have charged out of the gate, showing no ill effects from their tumultuous offseason by scoring 15 runs through their first two games. Altuve has been a key part of that, reaching base four times and scoring three runs. He'll bat second and get the platoon advantage against Seattle southpaw Yusei Kikuchi, who generated some buzz with reports of increased velocity over the offseason but needs to be far better than his 5.46 ERA and 16.1 percent strikeout rate from the debut season if he's to scare anyone away from hitters as good as Altuve.
Bryce Harper ($3,800) is yet to get going this season - laying down a bunt for his only hit thus far - but it's only a matter of time before he starts showcasing the power that's seen him hit 69 homers across the past two seasons. A matchup against Jose Urena, who struggled to a 5.21 ERA while striking out just 16.8 percent of opposing batters last season, seems like the prime opportunity for his first big game of the year. With the platoon advantage and a hitter-friendly home park, this looks like prime time to invest in the Phillies' star.
As a switch hitter, Francisco Lindor ($3,800) always earns the platoon advantage and is therefore nearly always a strong play whenever he faces a mediocre pitcher. That description fits Mike Montgomery quite well, as he slumped to a 4.95 ERA and a 5.52 FIP last season with a low 17.2 percent strikeout rate. As a bonus, Lindor has hit better against lefties than against righties so far in his career, with a career 125 wRC+ against the former and a 115 wRC+ versus the latter.
Max Kepler ($3,000) seems far too cheap for a player who leads off against righties for a lineup which finished second in the league in scoring last season. He'll get the platoon advantage against White Sox righty Reynaldo Lopez, who struggled to a 5.38 ERA last season. Even without those advantages, Kepler is underpriced compared to his performance from last season, where he broke out to hit .252/.336/.519 with 36 homers, 98 runs and 90 RBI.
Tommy La Stella's ($2,700) price doesn't seem to reflect his breakout 2019 campaign, in which he hit .295/.346/.486 with 16 homers in 80 games, well more than the 10 homers he managed in the first 396 games of his career. That surprising season was well-deserved according to Statcast, which gave him an xSLG of .479, quite close to his actual mark. La Stella will pick up the platoon advantage against Oakland righty Mike Fiers, whose 3.90 ERA last year was well out of line with his 4.97 FIP and 5.19 xFIP.
Like La Stella, Howie Kendrick ($2,500) also enjoyed a surprising late-career breakout that was backed by his Statcast numbers. His 146 wRC+, the product of a .344/.395/.572 slash line, blew out his previous career high of 123. Statcast suggested Kendrick underachieved, if anything, giving him an xSLG of .615. He hit cleanup in each of the Nationals' first two games and should face some relatively unimposing opponents Sunday, with the Yankees set for a bullpen game.
Hatch was a surprising inclusion on the Blue Jays' Opening Day roster and an even bigger shock as part of their starting rotation. He's at least a moderately interesting prospect, with decent enough stuff and command to project as a future back-end starter, but has yet to pitch above Double-A and hardly impressed there last season after posting a 4.12 ERA and a 22.7 percent strikeout rate. The stack listed here is an inexpensive one, featuring the top three left-handed hitters from the Rays' lone lineup against a righty this season (Saturday against Matt Shoemaker).
LeBlanc wasn't close to good in 121.1 innings for the Mariners last season when he struggled to a 5.71 ERA. His 5.49 FIP suggests he more or less deserved that poor figure, as he struck out only 17.3 percent of opposing batters and couldn't keep the ball in the park by allowing 2.08 HR/9. It would be a surprise to see LeBlanc suddenly improve in his age-35 season, and the Orioles don't have much of a bullpen either, so the Red Sox's hitters shouldn't be in much trouble if they knock him out early. The stack suggested here contains righties who hit second, fourth and fifth, respectively, against southpaw Tommy Milone in the season opener. For a cheaper option, consider Christian Vazquez who hit sixth in that game.
Unlike Hatch and LeBlanc, Peralta has shown recent big-league promise with his unimpressive 4.79 career ERA coming with a much stronger 3.96 ERA and a 30.0 percent strikeout rate. He's been far better out of the pen than as a starter thus far, posting a 3.83 ERA in 33 relief appearances but a 5.27 ERA in 22 starts. Speaking of splits, Peralta's also been much better against righties than against lefties, as he's held righties to a .284 wOBA while allowing a .338 mark against lefties. This stack ignores some of the Cubs' top right-handed options in favor of the much cheaper - albeit much worse - Heyward.