The MLB Yahoo Cup Hot Corner: Opening Day | Round 1

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The MLB Yahoo Cup Hot Corner: Opening Day | Round 1
Eric Lindquist brings you his Opening Day MLB DFS picks for Round 1 of the MLB Yahoo Cup Daily Fantasy Baseball | Fernando Tatis Jr. 3/31/21
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Happy Opening Day, and welcome to the MLB Yahoo Cup Hot Corner! This free-to-enter, single-entry contest will consist of 27 rounds where the top 1,075 overall entries and the top 70 entries per round share $10,000, with $1,000 to first and $50 to first per round. Scoring will be cumulative across all rounds, with your seven lowest scores dropped at the end. You may join this multi-round contest at any point, but enter today to give yourself the best chance to take home the title. Click here to begin the chase!

Also, Yahoo is offering a massive $40K MLB Baller contest with a $5K Vegas Getaway bonus to first for Opening Day. With a $15 entry fee and only 3,000 entries to compete with, it’s the best bang for your buck across the daily fantasy industry on Thursday. Enter here now for your chance to win!

Let’s focus on three players — one pitcher, one infielder and one outfielder — to slot into your MLB DFS lineups for today’s Yahoo Cup and MLB Baller contests.

New to MLB DFS? Awesemo is the only site with projections from the No. 1 daily fantasy player in the world. We also have loads of free content, including Spotlight Hitters and Pitchers. Come visit the Awesemo MLB Home Page for all our content.

MLB DFS Pitcher: Yu Darvish — $49

The Yahoo nine-game main slate begins at 4:10 p.m. EST, with games spanning until 10:10 p.m. EST. With so many aces on the mound, as one would expect on any given Opening Day, it’s hard to go wrong. But Yu Darvish is drawing a weak Diamondbacks lineup in Petco Park for his Padres debut, so there seems to be a clear-cut best spot on the board.

Alex “Awesemo” Baker, the No. 1 daily fantasy player in the world, currently projects Darvish for 22.21 fantasy points. That makes him the third-highest projected pitcher on the Yahoo main slate. The Padres are also currently the largest Opening Day favorite at the BetMGM sportsbook (-230), which gives Darvish the best chance at the win among all of the elite starting pitchers in play on Thursday.

As if that isn’t enticing enough, Darvish is coming off the best season of his career. In his 12 starts last year with the Cubs, Darvish sported a sublime 2.01 ERA, 11.01 Ks/9 and a minuscule 8.8% HR/FB rate. That last stat is particularly important for Darvish, who struggled to the tune of a 22.8% HR/FB rate in 2019. With the friendly parameters of Petco Park, an elite left side of the infield in Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. and a Diamondbacks team that recorded the second-most strikeouts in the National League in 2020, all signs point toward Darvish being an elite play to plug into Yahoo lineups.

MLB DFS Infielder: Fernando Tatis Jr. — $22

If it weren’t for Corey Seager playing in Coors Field against regressing right-hander German Marquez, Tatis would be in a class of his own at shortstop on this slate. But with Seager’s salary all the way up to $27 for Opening Day, putting that $5 to work elsewhere in your lineup by locking in Tatis could be the prudent play.

Tatis is coming off an MVP-caliber year in 2020 and will be a huge part of the Padres’ push to usurp the Dodgers atop the NL West. His Statcast data was pure insanity last season, leading the majors in hard-hit percentage (62.2%), average exit velocity (95.9 mph) and barrels per plate attempt (12.5%). He also won’t get shorted in plate attempts, as his 22.1% swing rate was also tops in the league.

To poke holes in this play, one might look at his 2020 data and notice the reverse splits. In 185 plate attempts against righties in 2020, he slashed for .290/.378/.611; in 72 plate attempts against lefties, those numbers plummet to .242./.333/.368. While that might concern some heading into Thursday’s matchup against Diamondbacks lefty Madison Bumgarner, his ridiculous .419/.542/.726 slash line in 76 plate attempts against lefties in 2019 paints a completely different picture and should put you at ease. Buy into the Padres’ offense early and often this season, with Tatis being the core piece to lock into any stack.

MLB DFS Outfielder: Mitch Haniger — $16

Here is a name even the most diehard of fantasy baseball fans haven’t seen in some time. After an All-Star campaign in 2018, Haniger fought countless abdominal injuries and underwent multiple surgeries that rendered him ineffective in 2019 and forced him to sit the entire 2020 season. Reports were that he was healthy coming into the 2021 season, but his spring training numbers were going to go a long way in showing whether that was fact or fiction.

It is safe to say the Mariners were being truthful, as Haniger showed out with three homers and an .818 OPS over 47 plate attempts in the Cactus League. It was enough for manager Scott Servais to announce him the Opening Day leadoff hitter for Seattle, making him a contrarian one-off in Thursday night’s matchup against the Giants and righty Kevin Gausman. Gausman certainly surpassed expectations last season with a 3.62 ERA and a career-low 1.11 WHIP. But with a pitch arsenal that consists mainly of a fastball and a split-fingered variant, Haniger is in a sneaky-good leverage spot, as he crushed fastballs to the tune of a .417 xWOBA with only a 14% whiff rate in 2018.

Also, in the grand scheme of this year-long contest, it is imperative to be capitalizing on upside and consistency in every round. Targeting a leadoff hitter with pop — albeit little to no stolen base upside — feels like a way to level out the swings of a year-long points race contest that is the MLB Yahoo Cup. So while it has been a while since we’ve seen Haniger, don’t be afraid to take some shots on a possible resurgence from him in 2021.

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