This article is part of our DraftKings MLB series.
Welcome to Opening Day! The 2023 MLB season begins Thursday. On DraftKings, the primary DFS contest slate is starting a 1:05 p.m. ET, but only including the first 11 games of the day, excluding the four night starts. Now, obviously, making DFS recommendations this early in the season is a little trickier. Rosters have changed. Players have tweaked their games. Oh, and we have new rules as well. Last year's numbers can only tell us so much, but they can tell us more than pure speculation. So let's get to it! Here are my Opening Day recommendations.
Corbin Burnes, MIL at CHC ($8,800): Burnes pitched the most innings in his career in 2022 but took a slight step back. Granted, for him that meant a 3.13 FIP and 10.83 strikeouts per nine innings. His home runs allowed jumped in 2022, so if that regresses, we're looking at a Cy Young candidate. We're also looking at Burnes facing a rebuilding Cubs team that ranked 22nd in runs scored last year.
Max Fried, ATL at WAS ($8,100): Fried has company in the Atlanta rotation, but he's the Opening Day starter for a reason. The 29-year-old is coming off his best campaign, posting a 2.70 FIP over 30 starts. Also, he's facing the Nationals, and I'm calling it now: the Nats have the worst offense in MLB in 2023. Why wait to take advantage of that?
Shane McClanahan, TAM vs. DET ($7,700): Washington may be my pick to finish last in runs scored in 2023, but last year that "honor" went to Detroit. As a Tigers fan, it gives me no joy to predict more futility in the Motor City. McClanahan has emerged as a true top pitcher for the Rays, as in his career he has a 2.92 ERA and has struck out 10.41 batters per nine innings.
Rafael Devers ($5,900) is still standing in Boston, and he's still got a killer bat. He posted an .879 OPS in 2022 with 27 home runs in 141 games. That includes a .932 OPS at home. Baltimore's rotation hasn't caught up to its lineup, as Kyle Gibson is getting the start on Opening Day. He's new to the Orioles but has finished two of his last three campaigns with an ERA over 5.00.
On the flip side of that game, Cedric Mullins ($5,400) stole 30 bases for the second season in a row last year. His hitting numbers dipped, but that was primarily due to an inability to sustain success against his fellow lefties. Versus righties, Mullins hit .279 and slugged .441. Corey Kluber is now with the Red Sox, and the 36-year-old righty is mostly a spot-filler at this point in his career. He made 31 starts for the Rays last year but posted a 4.34 ERA while striking out 7.63 batters per nine innings.
Though Jake Fraley ($4,200) only played in 68 games with the Reds last year, he definitely showed potential. In particular, the southpaw had an .861 OPS versus righties, plus an .873 OPS at home. Fraley will be facing a righty at home Thursday, and that righty is Mitch Keller. Since 2020, lefties have hit .295 when Keller has been on the mound.
While he didn't show much power, Harold Ramirez ($3,600) hit .300 last year, his first season as a Ray. Plus, he did slug .459 against lefties, so he can at least provide some pop in those matchups. Eduardo Rodriguez is a southpaw, and he's trying to rebound from a lost first season with the Tigers where he missed considerable time and posted a 4.43 FIP.
Stacks to Consider
Braves at Nationals (Patrick Corbin): Austin Riley ($4,600), Ozzie Albies ($3,900), Sean Murphy ($3,400)
How bleak are things in Washington? "Starting Patrick Corbin on Opening Day" bleak. Every season since signing with the Nats, Corbin's ERA has risen. Last year, it went all the way up to 6.31. Since 2020, righties have hit .313 against him, which is almost batting-title good these days. I'm jumping on stacking Braves on Thursday.
Riley proved he was no fluke last season, slashing .273/.349/.528. He also hit 38 home runs. Albies struggled with injuries last year, but in 2021 he hit 30 home runs and stole 20 bases. Also, while he's a switch hitter, he has an .829 OPS against lefties since 2020. Murphy was a big trade acquisition for the Braves, so I expect him behind the plate on Opening Day. The catcher should enjoy being away from Oakland — he had an .802 OPS on the road last year — and had an .848 OPS against lefties last year.
Blue Jays at Cardinals (Miles Mikolas): Vladimir Guerrero ($5,300), George Springer ($4,900), Daulton Varsho ($3,800)
Mikolas is kind of whatever as a pitcher. He has a career 3.89 FIP, and last year his FIP was 3.87. Mikolas has struck out 6.67 batters per nine innings in his career, and last year he struck out 6.81 per nine. Now, against some lineups, Mikolas can manage. The Blue Jays may have baseball's best lineup, though, so I am happy to stack this trio.
Guerrero needs to bounce back a bit, but let's not overlook that in a down year he hit .274 with 32 home runs. He has a career .862 OPS, and last year his issues were mostly against lefties, as he posted an .841 OPS versus righties. Springer's issue is health. When he's healthy, he's a top performer. He played in 133 games last year but had 25 home runs and 14 stolen bases. Springer also had an .840 OPS on the road. Varsho is a new addition to the Blue Jays. He doesn't hit for average, but the lefty had 27 homers and 16 stolen bases with the Diamondbacks in 2022. Don't chalk that up to Arizona's ballpark, either. Varsho had a .698 OPS at home last year but a .786 OPS on the road.
Twins at Royals (Zack Greinke): Byron Buxton ($5,800), Carlos Correa ($5,400), Joey Gallo ($3,100)
Get 'em while they're healthy! That's the name of the game with this stack. Greinke, bless him, loves to pitch, but he's 39 now and his fastball doesn't break 90 miles per hour. He had a 4.03 FIP in 2022 and somehow only struck out 4.80 batters per nine innings. Hitters make contact against Greinke. A lot of it.
We know the story with Buxton. He's one of the top players in MLB when healthy, but he's never healthy. The Twins are already DHing him instead of playing him in the field to start the year. That said, he's also slugged .558 over the last four seasons, and he had 28 home runs in only 92 games last year. Correa is, circuitously, back with the Twins. In his first season in Minnesota, he slashed .291/.366/.467 with 22 home runs in 136 games. Gallo is a real roll of the dice. We know he has power, but last year he simply could not hit. And yet, he still managed 17 home runs against righties, because he has so much power he sometimes just walks into one.