While not likely apples to apples, none of the four starters Thursday night threw more than 5.1 innings. in GPP tournaments this figures to remain a theme early in the year, and it makes paying up for Justin Verlander ($11,400) less than idea. He was sharp in his final preseason scrimmage, and it's a plus matchup, but there is enough uncertainty where I'd prefer to pay less.
My preferred pivot is Jack Flaherty ($9,000) against Pittsburgh, a team he faced twice in 2019, hurling two quality starts and striking out 18 across 15 innings, giving up only one run. He was dominant down the stretch last season and threw 92 pitches in his final preseason tune up. While likely not as much potential as Verlander, the discount is substantial, and the matchup presents better than a few guys priced higher than him, like Jose Berrios ($9,600) and Lucas Giolito ($9,500), who oppose each other.
We're going to see the Orioles and Giants offenses targeted with great frequency this season, and the Giants showed why Thursday, mustering only one run on eight singles in essentially a bullpen game by the Dodgers. As such, Ross Stripling ($7,900) figures to be a popular buy as a second, or even first arm if you're saving for bats. I wouldn't be surprised to see him paired with Nathan Eovaldi ($7,100) either. They both seem to have safe floors, but the Red Sox-Orioles contest has the slate's highest run total at 10, and the Red Sox (-1.5) is only around a -115 favorite. Maybe staying away from a chalky Eovaldi is the right move. Pivots to Brandon Woodruff ($7,700) and/or Kyle Hendricks ($7,400), who oppose each other, work for me. The game is a near pick 'em with an 8.5 run total. Woodruff boasted a 29.0 strikeout percentage in 2019, something nearly impossible to find at this price.
Sandy Alcantara ($6,800) stands out in the bottom tier of arms. He faired decently against the Phillies last season, striking out 17 over 18.2 innings in route to a 3.86 ERA, something that could have been lowered if not for seven walks. He went 65 pitches in his final tune up, and with some control should get through five frames Friday. Top Targets It will likely be challenging to avoid Dodger, Astro and/or Red Sox bats, the first two a likely season-long, while the Sox may be a bit more matchup dependent. That matchup is Friday with lefty Tommy Milone on the hill. J.D. Martinez ($4,800) looks to be a bargain comparatively, as the southpaw masher posted an obscene .539 wOBA, 242 wRC+, .482 ISO and 44.6 percent hard hit rate. Alex Bregman ($5,300) and Cody Bellinger ($5,300) both profile similarly. Bregman earned a .473 wOBA, .393 ISO, 205 wRC+and 50.7 hard hit rate against lefties entering Friday's tilt against Marco Gonzales, while Bellinger had a .434 wOBA, 208 wRC+, .333 ISO and 66.7 percent hard hit rate against righties. While these are clearly pristine matchups for three of the top bats, it's worth considering pitch counts here, especially for Martinez and Bregman, as they may only see two at bats against a southpaw before bullpens potentially take away that matchup advantage. Bargain Bats Two schools of thought here: secondary bats from top offenses, or pivot away from trendy options for a balanced lineup. Preferred secondary Dodgers include Corey Seager ($4,100), who doubled Thursday after a solid spring. Enrique Hernandez ($3,400) will draw eyes if in the lineup after Thursday's big night. Secondary Red Sox bats don't have nearly the appeal, but the case can be made for Jose Peraza($2,800). He's far from an on-base machine, but he's a potential leadoff option ahead of the team's big bats, and offers some position flexibility to boot. There's nary an Astro bat under 4k, so value and/or stacking is a challenge. Given the high run total mentioned above, the Orioles offense is at least worth a glance. Renato Nunez ($4,000) is probably the safest bet here, and he's taken Eovaldi deep twice in only six at bats. While I should probably be fired on the spot for typing this, Chris Davis ($3,100) had an okay spring and has two long balls in 13 ABs against Eovaldi. Colorado-Texas has the slate's second-highest run total, so some shares of each side make sense. David Dahl ($4,500) stands out on the Rockies' side as the likely leadoff hitter, while Joey Gallo($4,400) is buried down the list of bats on this slate. I'm particularly high on the Indians, and we'll touch more on that below, but there appears to be stand alone value in Jordan Luplow ($4,200), who had an impressive, maybe somewhat surprising, .474 wOBA, .422 ISO, 198 wRC+ and 45.8 percent hard hit rate against southpaws Stacks to Consider Indians vs. Danny Duffy: Carlos Hernandez ($3,800), Jose Ramirez ($5,200), Carlos Santana($4,600) Readers of my FanDuel column know I'm a fan of Hernandez for no real reason other than his spot in the top third of the order in front of the Indians' bashers. His price allows for plenty of flexibility, as do the above mentioned lefty sluggers. Ramirez surged in the second half, posting a .442 wOBA, 177 wRC+ and 47.8 percent hard hit rate against lefties, while Santana was good all year long, posting a .402 wOBA and 153 wRC+. Cardinals vs. Joe Musgrove: Paul Goldschmidt ($4,200), Paul DeJong ($3,900), Tyler O'Neill($3,300)