This article is part of our FanDuel MLB series.
You basically have to get started early to play DFS baseball Thursday. The first game begins at 12:20 p.m. EDT, which I know means trying to put together a morning lineup on the West Coast. However, there are nine games Thursday, and only two start later than 6:05 p.m. There's really no choice but to try and be the proverbial early bird that gets the worm, that worm being DFS success I guess. Here are my recommendations.
Framber Valdez, HOU at TEX ($10,100): Last year Valdez moved into the starting rotation on the regular for the Astros and posted a respectable 3.57 ERA. This year that ERA has moved to 3.26. The Rangers rank 29th in runs scored and 30th in team OBP, while the Astros are in the top three in runs scored. The odds are Valdez will pick up a win in this one.
Ian Anderson, ATL vs. COL ($8,000): Anderson impressed last year in both the regular season and the playoffs, while this year he has a 3.61 ERA. The Rockies are quite awful on the road. In away games they rank 29th in runs scored and 30th in team batting average. Unsurprisingly, they have one of the worst road records in MLB as a result.
Tyler Mahle, CIN at PIT ($9,700): The Pirates are awful offensively both at home and on the road. They rank last in runs scored and team OPS. Mahle will actually be very happy to be on the road. In home games he has an alarming 6.09 ERA. However, in away outings his ERA is a robust 1.97.
Bryce Harper, PHI vs. CHC ($4,500): Harper has been as hot as any hitter down the stretch. Somebody is gunning for another MVP award! Over the last 21 days he has an 1.385 OPS, and he has a 1.145 OPS against righties on the season. Kyle Hendricks is right-handed, and he also has a 4.87 FIP. His 87 mph fastball doesn't feel like it will suffice against Harper's hot bat.
Alex Bregman, HOU at TEX ($4,200): On the season, Bregman has a .297/.375/.459 slash line, which is quite good but perhaps not what people expect from his bat. However, since returning from a long injury absence he has a 1.009 OPS. Glenn Otto has made three starts for the Rangers, totaling 13.0 innings. In that time, he has a 6.92 ERA.
Nicky Lopez, KC vs. OAK ($3,000): Lopez is a slap hitter, but his hitting skills have helped him to a .303 batting average with a .368 OBP. He also has some speed as he's stolen 20 bases. Paul Blackburn has a 5.24 ERA on the season, and since 2019 he's allowed lefties to hit a staggering .377 against him. I expect Lopez to end up on base at least a couple times.
Yandy Diaz, TAM vs. DET ($2,800): Detroit starter Tyler Alexander has a 4.49 FIP and has allowed 1.61 home runs per nine innings in his career. Like a lot of lefties he can handle southpaws, but righties have hit .297 against him in his career. The trick with the Rays is that their best lineup is so lefty heavy. Enter Diaz, a righty I expect to see in action Thursday. In his career Diaz has a .270/.360/.401 slash line. He's also posted an .843 OPS against lefties since 2019.
STACK TO CONSIDER
It's expected that Kranick will get the call for the Pirates on Thursday. He's spot started here and there this season and put up a 7.66 ERA. Down in Triple-A he has a 4.14 ERA, so he's not exactly lighting it up in the minors either. The Pirates don't have a ton of options, though, and the Reds get to take advantage in their quest to grab a wild-card spot.
Castellanos has fallen a bit off his batting-title pace recently, but he's still hitting .313 on the season and .286 over the last 21 days. He's also got 29 home runs on the year. India's .272/.378/.464 slash line has him as a front-runner for the NL Rookie of the Year, and with a stolen base Wednesday he now has 10 of those to go with 20 home runs. While Votto's incredible power surge did not continue in perpetuity, he still has an 1.060 OPS versus righties in 2021.