It is baseball season, and we have 15 games Thursday throughout the day. Every major site out there has a different main slate and a bunch of smaller ones, so I am going to just include players from the all-day slate that can be applied on most sites in different contests.
Trying to find gems for the first day of baseball is always difficult because we don’t really have any data to pick from. We can go back to last year’s numbers, or we can look into Spring Training, which lacks a lot of data. That being said, I have found an edge in the last few years just looking into Spring Training data to see if we can find some hidden gems. Some guys start quick, and some start slow. Some have been training for 4 months while others hadn’t picked up a bat until 3 weeks ago. Maybe someone is banged up, but we don’t have any data to really know their exit velo is really low. This Spring Training stuff isn’t anything that should talk you off someone, but seeing that your favorite play hit 6 home runs or didn’t allow a run in the spring is definitely a good sign.
My favorite play at the top end of the pricing is Max Scherzer. Scherzer pitched 7 innings and struck out 12 in his last outing, which is very, very nice to see. We know that Max will not be on a hard limit that we could see with other guys. The Mets lineup is projected for about 3 runs and does not really worry me in this spot.
Masahiro Tanaka gets a fantastic matchup as a -370 favorite vs. a horrible Baltimore team. Tanaka struck out 23 in 17 spring innings and threw 5 innings about 10 days ago, indicating to me that he should be good to go here.
My favorite low-tier pitcher on this slate is Marcus Stroman. Stroman threw 4.1 innings March 13th and hasn’t been seen since, likely meaning he has been working up his stamina in bullpen sessions. He faces a pretty weak Detroit lineup and is cheap everywhere. Stroman has had injury problems the last few years but is a talented pitcher when healthy.
***There is likely not a position that a Yankee cannot make a case as the best play in that spot, so I will try to diversify when possible***
My favorite play here by far is Francisco Mejia. He is a very talented catching prospect that gets Madison Bumgarner in this spot. Bumgarner allowed 10 hits and 7 runs in 2 innings in his last spring start, and Mejia was hot all spring long. If Mejia doesn’t start, I like simply pivoting to Austin Hedges in the same spot.
Greg Bird is too cheap and really talented. 3 years ago, Bird was considered the best hitter in the Yankee organization above most of their current stars. Injuries have riddled his career so far, but this spring, Bird hit .333 with 3 homers and gets Andrew Cashner.
I like saving salary at second on this slate with a bunch of elite plays all over. Ian Kinsler should get a good lineup spot in an improved Padres lineup facing a lefty that may be in decline.
Kolten Wong wasn’t great in Spring, but he wasn’t concerningly bad. He gets a great ballpark and an improved lineup vs. Jhoulys Chacin, who doesn’t scare me at all. Wong provides a lot of salary relief.
Nolan Arenado and Miguel Andujar were both great in the spring and are both in great lineup situations. Arenado isn’t in Coors, which isn’t great, but I think both of these guys are great plays depending on how much money you have to spend.
Jean Segura should get a bump in production this year in a good ballpark and a great lineup spot likely between McCutchen, Harper, and Hoskins. The Phillies have a top 3 team total, and Segura should be a nice way to get exposure to that lineup.
My favorite play on the entire slate is Aaron Judge vs. Andrew Cashner. Cashner isn’t good, so that helps. Judge had 11 extra-base hits in 38 spring at-bats, which is incredibly high. Judge came into spring hitting and never cooled off. I expect him to start the year with a home run in this fantastic spot.
A nice salary saver in the outfield is Randal Grichuk. Grichuk has always been a player that I like, but he lacks consistency. What he doesn’t lack is home run power. Grichuk is in a good park, and Zimmerman is not a good pitcher. That claim is backed up by Zimmerman’s 10 earned runs in 17 innings during the spring. Grichuk also hit 3 home runs in his last 6 games, which is nice to see from a streaky player.