This article is part of our DraftKings MLB series.
We have an 11-game schedule for our first Sunday DraftKings slate of the year, featuring all the games that start between 1:05 p.m. and 2:35 p.m. EDT. Weather, thankfully, seems to be a non-factor, so the name of the game will be finding pitchers who will be allowed to pitch deep into games, as has been the case for most early-season slates this year.
Trevor Bauer, CIN vs. DET ($10,100) - Bauer is the cheapest of the top-tier options but also potentially the best. He has the easiest matchup among all pitchers 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 his ERA spiked up to 4.48 after it came in at an excellent 2.21 in 2018. He gets plenty of whiffs even when he's not at his best in terms of preventing runs, as he posted a 27.8 percent strikeout rate, giving him plenty of fantasy upside. It's not yet clear which version of Bauer we'll get this year, but even last year's version is worth a look against Detroit.
Mitch Keller, PIT at STL ($8,000) - Keller is an interesting mid-tier choice. He'll face a decent Cardinals lineup, though he'll at least get to face them at pitcher-friendly Busch Stadium. Keller's price seems quite high for a pitcher who struggled to a 7.13 ERA last season, but there's reason to believe it's a fair one. He almost certainly won't repeat his .475 BABIP and a 59.6 percent strand rate from his 11-start debut last year, and both his 28.6 percent strikeout rate and 7.0 percent walk rate were quite strong, leading to an excellent 3.19 FIP.
Vince Velasquez , PHI vs. MIA ($6,900) - Velasquez is worth a look as a budget option, as most pitchers would be against the Marlins. Selecting a pitcher in Citizens Bank Park is undeniably risky, as is selecting Velasquez in any park, as he hasn't posted an ERA less than 4.85 since 2016 and allowed 1.99 HR/9 last season. He looked good in camp, though, showcasing a promising new cutter, and could finally turn a corner this season with a new pitching coach who doesn't demand a steady diet of high fastballs which apparently didn't suit Velasquez well.
Jose Altuve, HOU vs. SEA ($5,000) - You don't need me to tell you Altuve is an elite hitter, but he's worth paying up for as the top option in a comparatively shallow second-base pool. The Astros have shown no signs of struggling following their difficult offseason, scoring 15 runs in their first two games. Altuve has been at the heart of that, reaching base four times and scoring three runs. He'll bat second and get the platoon advantage against Mariners lefty Yusei Kikuchi, who showed off increased velocity over the offseason but who needs to be miles better than his 5.46 ERA and 16.1 percent strikeout rate from last year to make Altuve a bad play.
Bryce Harper, PHI vs. MIA ($5,100) - Harper hasn't done much yet this season, with a bunt single his only hit, but it's best to ignore tiny samples through just two games. A matchup against Jose Urena, who posted a 5.21 ERA and a 16.8 percent strikeout rate last season, should help wake his bat up. With the platoon advantage and a hitter-friendly home park, this looks like a great time to select the Phillies star.
Francisco Lindor, CLE vs. KC ($4,500) - Lindor is somehow the sixth-most expensive shortstop on the slate but could well be the best. He'll face the mediocre Mike Montgomery, who struggled to a 4.95 ERA and a 5.52 FIP last season with a low 17.2 percent strikeout rate. The switch-hitting Lindor has hit better against lefties than against righties thus far in his career, with a lifetime 125 wRC+ against the former and a 115 wRC+ against the latter.
Howie Kendrick, WAS vs. NYM ($3,900) - Kendrick had a surprising late-career breakout year last season that was backed by his Statcast numbers. His hit .344/.395/.572 over 370 plate appearances, good for a 146 wRC+ that was easily his career high. Statcast suggested that he may have even underachieved, giving him an xSLG of .615. He hit cleanup in each of the Nationals' first two games and should be right in the middle of whatever the Nationals do on what should be a bullpen day for the Yankees.
Jesus Aguilar, MIA at PHI ($3,500) - While Vince Velasquez was mentioned as a cheap pitcher worth consideration above, Aguilar is worth a look if Velasquez isn't in your lineup. Homers are Velasquez's Achilles heel, and Aguilar has plenty of pop, hitting 35 bombs in 2018. He had a down year last year, hitting just .236 with 12 homers in a part-time role for the Brewers and Rays, but that's reflected in his price. He's worth consideration as a cheap option at a hitter-friendly park here.
Stacks to Consider
Hatch was a surprising inclusion on the Blue Jays' Opening Day roster and an even more surprising inclusion 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 he's yet to pitch above Double-A and hardly impressed there last season, posting a 4.12 ERA and a 22.7 percent strikeout rate. The stack listed here features the players who should hit in the top three spots in the Rays' order.
LeBlanc wasn't close to good in 121.1 innings for the Mariners last season, struggling to a 5.71 ERA. His 5.49 FIP suggests he more or less deserved that poor figure, as he struck out just 17.3 percent of opposing batters and couldn't keep the ball in the park, allowing 2.08 HR/9. It would be a surprise to see him 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, as his unimpressive 4.79 career ERA comes 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 in his career, however, posting a 3.83 ERA in 33 relief appearances but a 5.27 ERA in 22 starts. Speaking of splits, he'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, therefore, ignores some of the Cubs' top right-handed options in favor of the much cheaper (albeit much worse) Heyward.