-- In an effort to serve daily fantasy players and season-long fantasy players who use daily lineup settings, we present daily notes each day of the season. It's a daily version of our Fantasy Forecaster in which we project the best pitcher game scores as well as the best team hitting matchups based upon a number of factors.
The first Friday slate of the season features just one ace, Jacob deGrom. Not only that, the New York Mets righty is in a great spot at home facing the Philadelphia Phillies, so his DFS ownership will be quite high. This should not be a deterrent for cash play, but does afford a perfect spot to fade deGrom in GPP action.
The solid tier is dotted with some very good pitchers in very tough spots, which makes them sketchy in cash games but in play for tournaments. Heading that pack is Francisco Liriano, who is tasked with slowing down a Cincinnati Reds offense that had the long ball working on Thursday. The contest is in The Great American Ballpark. Historically, Liriano has pitched well on the road and as an extreme groundball pitcher, can fend off the home run tendencies of the venue.
Chris Archer was drafted in the elite class in many seasonal fantasy leagues and deservedly so. His peripherals are outstanding and he's still in the growth phase. However, taking the hill in Camden Yards is a daunting task for anyone. Archer whiffed a dozen Toronto Blue Jays in his 2016 debut and the Orioles do fan a lot, which lends some credence to using the Tampa Bay righty in GPP action.
Archer's opponent in his opener was Marcus Stroman, another hurler highly sought after in seasonal play. Stroman and the Toronto Blue Jays entertain the Boston Red Sox in the opener of a weekend series. Lost in the Red Sox's last-place finish in the American League East last season was that they scored the fourth-most runs in the majors. Of course, the Blue Jays led the league by a wide margin and since they're facing Joe Kelly, Stroman should get some run support. So long as you're not expecting a stellar performance from Stroman, the win potential puts him on the radar in GPPs.
Danny Salazar is poised to take the next step and join fellow Tribe hurlers Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco among the elite. His peripherals are borderline elite, so all he has to do is either improve them a bit or go deeper into games, with the strong possibility that the former leads to the latter. If he does, we're talking about the Indians' top three starters as the league's best. Salazar opens in a tough spot, challenging the White Sox in hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field. If Salazar has a weakness, it's surrendering a few extra long balls. But that's the kind of risk that renders the righty an intriguing tournament play. If he keeps the ball in the yard, he usually doesn't give up many runs.
That covers the quartet of near aces. When healthy, Jaime Garcia pitches like an ace, so why not take advantage when he's indeed injury-free? The matchup is strong despite being a road tilt, as the St. Louis Cardinals visit the offensively challenged Atlanta Braves. Garcia's mound foe is Matt Wisler, a promising right-hander who still hasn't gotten over the hump encountered by almost all young hurlers.
The wild card on the docket is Taijuan Walker, who has the stuff to dominate any time he takes the bump. Unfortunately, he also has bouts of wildness which result in clusters of baserunners. In his favor is a home date with the Oakland Athletics. Backed by pitcher-friendly Safeco Field and facing Eric Surkamp, Walker is the perfect tournament option.
For those wanting to zag hard while everyone is zigging along the chalk, Jerad Eickhoff draws the assignment against deGrom. This is more than simply going against the grain, as Eickhoff impressed late last season, fanning 49 while walking only 13 in 51 frames.
There's not a lot to choose from, but the week is running short and ground needs to be made up in head-to-head leagues, so let's give the enigmatic Ervin Santana a shot. The chances of a bevy of punchouts facing the Kansas City Royals is low, but run-scoring should be limited, so his ratio should be safe.
The fantasy community is collectively down on Jordan Zimmermann, as he's coming off a down season and making the move to the American League. However, one wonders if the narrative would be different if he was still with the Washington Nationals. Chances are, Zimmermann would be thought of as a great bounce-back candidate. In that vein, he still is, with the expectations tempered a bit since he is switching leagues. Zimmermann makes his debut for the Detroit Tigers at home against the New York Yankees. There's a line of thinking that says if you're not going to deploy a decent starter for a home matchup, why is he on your roster? If you own Zimmermann, start him.
Choosing spot-starters is extra difficult so early in the season, since there's no current data or trends to evaluate. As an example, there's no tangible means to rank Matt Cain or Ross Stripling. Options like Jason Hammel, Alfredo Simon, Robbie Ray, John Danks and Chase Anderson are borderline, requiring current information to break the tie. If you need to make up some ground, those are the top candidates, headed by Hammel on the road in Arizona.
If the venue were different, Colin Rea would be an intriguing option, but in Coors Field the San Diego righty isn't worth the risk. And, despite the Padres' early-season struggle to score runs, do you really trust Jordan Lyles to keep them quiet in Colorado?
A couple of pitchers that occasionally surprise with solid outings are Scott Feldman and Alfredo Simon. Occasionally is not good enough, so despite working at home, Simon is too risky as the Reds welcome the Pittsburgh Pirates to town. Feldman's start is on the road, as the Houston Astros play an interleague affair in Miller Park against the Brewers. Actually, if all you care about is snagging a win, Feldman is in play, but if your ratios are at all in jeopardy, he's bench-bound.
As alluded to in the pitching notes, a visit to Denver could be just what the doctor ordered to snap the San Diego Padres out of their opening-week doldrums. The Friars' power hitters are predominantly right-handed, so they don't enjoy the platoon edge on Jordan Lyles. Then again, the Rockies righty has been equally ineffective against hitters in either batting box.
Late last season, John Danks frustrated those stacking against him a few times, but bottom line he isn't a very good pitcher, not missing many bats while allowing a high number of home runs. The Cleveland Indians, especially those swinging from the right side, will take aim at the southpaw's hittable offerings, as the divisional foes commence a weekend series in hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are known for their pitching and defense, so it may be surprising to learn they were fourth in the Senior Circuit last season in runs scored. In fact, they were third in the National League in runs scored on the road. This makes their sticks prime options against Alfredo Simon and the Cincinnati Reds in a very favorable hitting venue.
Most likely to hit a home run: While Mike Napoli is nearing the end of a nice career, one thing he can still do is crush left-handers, so look for the former catcher to put one over the fence on the road against John Danks.
Most likely to steal a base: While he's not terrible, Ervin Santana isn't great at controlling the running game either, so let's hope noodle-armed Kurt Suzuki is behind the dish, giving Alcides Escobar the green light to take off at will.