If you are reading this before the early 2-game FanDuel degenerate slate starts, allow me to propose a possible lineup – the use of an Astros reliever. Now hear me out – you can’t get all the good Coors bats with any of the four starters. So instead, click the “show only probable pitchers” button to turn it off, and pick the best Astros reliever who didn’t pitch yesterday. Maybe he’ll pitch an inning and get you a strikeout for 6. And you’ll have all the money, so load up on every single Coors field bat, since it’s 91 degrees and the game is in Coors. And when the game is 15-14, and the Astros/Athletics game is not, you’ll win a GPP. Also, only do this with an entry fee you are perfectly willing to lose for being dumb enough to actually use a relief pitcher. If you’re reading this after the degenerate slate, don’t do this on the main slate, it’s for the degenerates playing a 2-game slate only

On to the picks…

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PITCHERS

Max Scherzer, P: $12,000 – Yes, I know he stunk last start against the Marlins, but if you’re lucky, people will see that and not play him. I know there are two other aces on the slate (Severino and Kluber), but they’re facing each other, which by the rules of baseball means they’re also facing the offenses that play for the same team as the other one. And one of the easiest points I’ll ever make in this article is to point out that the Yankees and Indians are two of the four offenses in the league right now that you simply cannot play a cash pitcher against (Boston and Houston are the other two). So they’re out, leaving Scherzer. He’s facing the Mets, who are a comedic act pretending to be a major league baseball team. They’re the 5th worst offense in baseball and are well below average in strikeouts (for those wondering). It’s about as easy as a spot as there is today, and the only question is how to make it work with the pricing.

Ross Stripling, P: $9,200 – The way Stripling has pitched this year, with 28.7% strikeouts and 3.6% walks makes this price silly. While he doesn’t have the strikeout upside of Scherzer, the Padres are pretty bad at offense and if the value doesn’t materialize as the day goes on, Stripling may wind up being cash viable. But on the other hand, don’t fade Max Scherzer.

HITTERS

Overview – The reason I start with an overview is because if you look around at all the offenses, you discover that there is almost no attractive matchups or spots for offenses. It’s not that everyone is facing an ace – far from it, but there isn’t a single offense with a juicy matchup out there – somehow all the truly bad starting pitchers out there, and also all of the not quite truly bad but still quite bad hurlers out there are not on the slate. Without any jabronis on the hill, typically we’ll look to the best overall offenses – specifically the aforementioned Astros, Yankees, Indians and Red Sox. The Astros aren’t on the slate – they’re available on the two-game early slate of complete degeneracy. And the Yankees and Indians are facing elite pitchers such that no matter how good they are, all you can really do is go bomb-hunting in a GPP using one player. Which leaves…

Boston Red Sox While Estrada’s not a jabroni (again, there are no jabronis on the slate), he’s nowhere near elite and he’s got jabroni like qualities (namely the 1.51 HR/9 with a 25.7% ground ball rate), giving the Red Sox a massive advantage over any other offense. And it’s not remotely close. They’re the only team with a Vegas implied total over 5. Razz’s teamonator projects the same thing for the slate – no one else projects for more than 5 runs. I feel that you can narrow down which Red Sox to play fairly well simply by using game-theory-optimal analysis of lineup building without even delving into the details of each batter’s skills. Scherzer costs enough that you only have the money for one of Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi and J.D. Martinez (if you’re feeling frisky and are OK with true punts, you can try to squeeze Benintendi and one of the other two). It is absolutely a requirement to have one, and since Benintendi isn’t quite the hitter that the other two are (and doesn’t have enough savings), I would limit the choice to either Betts or J.D. I prefer to target JD Martinez when he’s facing a low strikeout pitcher and Estrada has a perfectly average 20.6% since the start of last year, meaning unless the $100 matters, I’d play Mookie ever so slightly over JD. Xander Bogaerts, at $4,300, has the same problem as Benintendi – it’s too tight to put him in the same lineup with one of Betts or J.D. So that leaves us picking between Moreland, Pearce, Devers, Holt, Leon, and Bradley. Both Moreland and Pearce (at $3,500 and $3,400) are affordable enough to pair with one of the top bats, but it’s likely too tight to play them both with one of those guys. They are both far better hitters than the rest of the guys, so it will be a good idea to play one (and if only one is in the lineup, then there is no choice). Devers has some pop vs righties, but doesn’t get on base too often even vs righties .308 OBP and .206 ISO). Brock Holt isn’t a good hitter and is projected to bat 6th because he’s had a lucky 190 plate appearances.  Holt does have a solid matchup and he bats 6th, which means he has a path to get runs and RBI to eek his way to value. Jackie Bradley is the best hitter of the bottom, but he’s batting 9th and Sandy Leon is really bad at hitting. Focus on who hits where, the price points and how they fit with the guys from other games.

Now that you have your Red Sox you’re left needing to fill out the rest of the spots with value plays. Essentially, as of this writing, I don’t forsee playing any guy who is $3000 or more if he is not a member of the Boston Red Sox. The only possible exception is Joc Pederson at $3200 if he’s leading off. As for the values I’m looking at –

Pittsburgh Pirates Pairs – The Reason I say pairs is that there are six guys (likely not all six play, but as of this writing I do not have the official lineup) who offer potential value to make the Scherzer and Red Sox lineup work, and you can look at them in pairs of two.

Pair #1 – Relatively Underwhelming Right Handed Bats With Platoon Edge and Likely Hitting In The Middle of the Order – David Freese at $2,500 and Fransisco Cervelli at $2,300

Pair #2 – Moderately More Talented Hitters Who May Be a Touch Too Expensive Unless They Are Hitting at the Top of the Order – Josh Bell $2,800 and Josh Harrison $2,800

Pair #3 – Middle Infield Punts Who Suck At Hitting But Hey They’re Not Pat Valiaka – Max Moroff $2,500 and Jody Mercer $2,200. Moroff isn’t cheap enough to play if he’s batting 8th – I’d need him at the top of the lineup to play him given that he’s not stone minimum and he sucks. Mercer is equally pathetic at hitting, but at $2,200 and the lineup needing value somewhere, he’s in play even if he’s batting 8th.

Ryon Healy, 1B: $2,400 – Vs lefties, Healy is actually pretty similar to Rafael Devers vs righties, where you get someone who’s not that great at getting on base (.318 OBP) but has a bunch of power .207 ISO. Skaggs isn’t someone who you want to target, but on this slate, bomb hunting with Healy at this price is very solid.

David Freitas, C: $2,000 and Guillermo Heredia, OF: $2,100 – Neither of these guys is even remotely the hitter that Healy is, but one is the stone minimum and the other is only $100 more, so it’s not the end of the world if you play one of these guys, particularly if either of them slides up in the batting order up above the last two spots.

Brad Miller, SS: $2,500 – He’s a lefty with decent enough power (,191 ISO), and Milwaukee’s always favorable for left handed power. That by itself may be enough to declare someone a playable value on this slate. When you add that he’s a SS on FanDuel and that’s the one position I know I am never filling with the Red Sock player on this slate (due simply to price, Xander is perfectly competent as a play if price does not matter), the value here starts to look pretty solid.

I’m Only Happy When It Rains

Looks like a clear day and you can focus on figuring out the value.

Doing Lines In Vegas

Even though Severino and Kluber are two top pitchers, I just feel there’s enough offensive firepower in these two lineups to hit the over of 7.5. Even if it’s just all solo HRs.