Happy Opening Day everyone! While the majority of the Opening Day festivities will be taking place tomorrow with a full slate of games, we still have three games on tap today.
This season, with our expanded writing team over here at Fantasy Forecast, I will be writing daily batter breakdowns where I highlight an option that I like at every position. If you’re looking for a pitching breakdown, we are hoping to have Forecast team member Greg Harrington in charge of those articles for this season, so we can go more in-depth on both ends.
My batter breakdowns will be identical to my Starting Five articles format-wise. In the “other options” section, my favorite options are identified by italics.
Here are my preferred bats for Sunday, April 2nd:
Gary Sanchez ($3,400)
Arguably the most exciting young player in baseball, Gary Sanchez comes in as a lock for me and Ben tonight. While Chris Archer poses a daunting matchup, the numbers show that Sanchez is in a position to thrive. Over his 229 plate appearances last season, Sanchez cranked 20 home runs, one per 11.45 at-bats, contributing to his ridiculous .451 wOBA, .358 ISO and .657 SLUG. As these numbers show, Sanchez possesses an absurd amount of raw power, an area that Chris Archer struggled with last season. Archer allowed a career-worst 1.34 HR/9 and a 32.8% hard-contact percentage last season, falling victim to the long ball more than often. Sanchez only has three official plate appearances under his belt against Archer, going 1-2 with a walk and, you guessed it, a home run. On a three game slate with limited options, $3,400 for the upside Sanchez brings to the plate should be considered a steal.
Other options: Buster Posey ($3,300), Willson Contreras ($2,900)
Anthony Rizzo ($4,100)
Fresh off of a World Series championship, Anthony Rizzo checks in as our top stud batter of the night. He gets to face RHP Carlos Martinez of the Cardinals, who he’s a career 7-26 (.269 average) against with 3 home runs, a double and a triple. Not only has he experienced some success against Martinez, Rizzo mashes right-handed pitching in general. Last season, he posted 24 of his 32 home runs against right-handed pitchers while recording a .273 ISO, .404 wOBA and a 38.6% hard-contact percentage. If you’re debating between Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo as your stud of choice tonight, I strongly suggest you go with Rizzo, the player who holds more dominant split stats and comes at a $500 discount.
Other options: Paul Goldschmidt ($4,600) – GPP only, Brandon Belt ($2,900), Greg Bird ($2,400)
Ben Zobrist ($3,100)
The swiss-army knife of the MLB is back and underpriced for us on Opening Day. I’m all about a left-handed Cubs stack today with Zobrist being right in the middle. In his 13 career at-bats against Martinez, Zobrist has seen the ball rather well, notching 5 hits for a .385 batting average (small sample size, but notable nonetheless). Last year against right-handed pitching, Zobrist posted a .357 wOBA and .182 ISO to go along with an elite 16.3% walk rate and 11.1% strikeout rate. Take advantage of his reasonable salary as the safest option at the second base position tonight.
Other options: Brad Miller ($3,000), Starlin Castro ($2,500), Joe Panik ($2,500)
Eduardo Nuñez ($2,700)
I’m going a little contrarian here and not rostering Kris Bryant or Evan Longoria and instead going down the Eduardo Nuñez at $2.7k. Aside from the left-handed Cubs batters, the Giants come in as my favorite team to stack today and Nuñez is a great bet for a low-owned piece of that. Zack Greinke really struggled last season, posting a career-worst 1.30 HR/9 and 1.27 WHIP, a large reason as to why the Giants have the highest implied team total on the slate. Nuñez is nothing to drool over, but his .334 wOBA against right-handed pitching and 3 hits in 5 plate appearances against Greinke (yes, small sample size, take it with a grain of salt) give reason for optimism at a reduced salary if you want some differentiation in your lineup today.
Other options: Kris Bryant ($4,400), Evan Longoria ($3,200) – way too cheap for his upside
Brandon Crawford ($2,400)
The second part of my three man Giants stack (Denard Span being the third) is Brandon Crawford. Crawford absolutely dominated this summer in the World Baseball Classic, posting a .385/.429/.577 slash line with six RBIs. He posted an elite .180 ISO against right handed pitching to match his impressive 34% hard-contact percentage against righties as well. I already talked about Greinke’s struggles last season and Crawford is also significantly better in the friendly confines of At&T park, where his .284/.368/.439 slash line is far better than his .265/.313/.422 slash line away from home. He comes in as a tremendous value at only $2,400 at a rather weak SS position. I expect him to be extremely chalky as well.
Other options: Aledmys Díaz ($3,200), Addison Russell ($2,700)
Kevin Kiermaier ($3,000)
While Kiermaier is not the premier outfielder we will be rostering tonight, he’s still a fixture in our lineup for an extremely affordable price. While he missed 57 games last season due to injury, he was still able to post a career-high 12 home runs in 414 plate appearances with a career-high .331 on-base percentage as well, leading the Rays to ink him to a 6-year $53.5 million dollar extension. He faces Masahiro Tanaka to open the season, a pitcher he’s faired extremely well against in a small sample size, going 5-11 with a triple, home run and three RBIs. Tanaka’s strikeout rates were way down last season (20.5%) and he struggled a bit with hard contact as well (32.5%), giving Kiermaier a nice advantage at the plate in the right/lefty split. He’s batting second in the order this afternoon, giving him potentially five at-bats which means more opportunity for production. For $3,000, Kiermaier possesses home run and steal upside that many others don’t at his price point.
Other options: AJ Pollock ($3,500), Dexter Fowler ($3,400), Kyle Schwarber ($3,400), Stephen Piscotty ($3,100), Jacoby Ellsbury ($2,900), Denard Span ($2,800), Jason Hayward ($2,700)