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MLB Daily Fantasy Helper: Monday 4/17/17

John Lackey is off to a hot start, and it could continue in a matchup against the Milwaukee Brewers. Which other players should we consider on Monday's main slate?

The beauty of daily fantasy baseball is that the top targets are different each and every day. Whether it's the right-handed catcher who destroys left-handed pitching or the mid-range hurler facing a depleted lineup, you're not going to find yourself using the same assets time after time.

While this breaks up the monotony, it can make it hard to decide which players are primed to succeed on a given day. We can help bridge that gap.

In addition to our custom optimal lineups, you can check out our batting and pitching heat maps, which show the pieces in the best spot to succeed on that slate. Put on the finishing touches with our games and lineups page to see who's hitting where and what the weather looks like, and you'll have yourself a snazzy looking team to put up some big point totals. We've also got our Solo Shot Podcast, which breaks down the MLB daily fantasy slate each day. Here's today's episode.

If you need help getting started on that trek, here are some of the top options on the board today.

Pitchers to Target

High-Priced Pitchers

John Lackey ($9,600 on FanDuel): Among the two high-priced arms on this slate, John Lackey appears to be the safer, more conservative option. Lackey has a 2.85 SIERA through his first two starts of the year with an impressive 33.3% strikeout rate and 12.8% swinging-strike rate. The best sign for Lackey, though, is that he has held hitters to just a 20.7% hard-hit rate, the seventh-lowest mark among qualified starters. He's facing a Milwaukee Brewers lineup that ranks second in the league in strikeout rate, so Lackey's upside isn't as low as it may seem.

Danny Salazar ($9,800): Assuming you don't have any heart defects, you can absolutely pay for the top-priced arm in Danny Salazar in tournaments. He has been simply rude to opposing batters, striking them out 40.8% of the time with a scintillating 16.4% swinging-strike rate. The reason we should probably prefer Lackey in cash games comes down to walks. Salazar's 12.2% walk rate is even higher than last year's already-concerning mark at 10.8%, and he's facing a Minnesota Twins team with the highest walk rate in the league. Nobody can sniff Salazar's upside, but we should be wary of him in cash games, and we shouldn't be afraid to pivot in tournaments if it seems like he'll be the most popular option.

Value Pitcher

Jordan Montgomery ($6,600): Even though we don't have a ton of data on Jordan Montgomery, his MLB debut was spicy. Montgomery finished that outing with a 16.9% swinging-strike rate as he struck out seven and walked two over 4 2/3 innings. Montgomery was impressive in six Triple-A starts last year, posting a 25.7% strikeout rate, 6.3% walk rate, and 1.90 FIP. He faces a rebuilding Chicago White Sox team that ranks 26th in wRC+ and has a 22.9% strikeout rate early, so Montgomery's worth a roll of the dice in tournaments to see if he can duplicate what he did last week.

Hitters to Target

High-Priced Hitters

Freddie Freeman ($4,100): You probably don't need an excuse to plop Freddie Freeman on your rosters, but a matchup with Jered Weaver serves exactly that purpose. Weaver allowed a 34.7% hard-hit rate and 48.2% fly-ball rate last year, and his early 2017 numbers are largely in line with that. Although Freeman's .341/.438/.659 slash is tremendous, his 41.4% hard-hit rate and 10.3% soft-hit rate may be even more impressive because of how quickly those marks stabilize. With the Atlanta Braves holding the highest implied total, lock Freeman in and build from there.

Khris Davis ($3,400): As a shock to not a single breathing member of humanity, Khris Davis is crushing baseballs right now. Over his first 51 plate appearances, Davis has a 47.2% hard-hit rate and 11.1% soft-hit rate, both better than his numbers last year when he blasted 42 dingers. Most importantly, Davis has trimmed his strikeout rate to 23.5% thanks in large part to his chase rate, down to 22.2% from 31.3% last year. He's facing A.J. Griffin, who allows gobs of hard contact and fly balls galore, making Davis and his teammates an ideal, cost-efficient target.

Marcell Ozuna ($3,900): We'll focus on Marcell Ozuna here under the assumption that you know you need Giancarlo Stanton against a lefty. Ozuna is starting to creep into that realm, as well. Over the past calendar year, Ozuna's rocking a sickly 48.0% hard-hit rate and 41.0% fly-ball rate when facing southpaws, and it comes with just a 17.9% strikeout rate. Ozuna's 51.4% hard-hit rate overall to start 2017 makes him look like a fun target despite the increased price tag against lefty Ariel Miranda.

Value Hitters

Matt Carpenter ($3,000): After a slow start to the season, Matt Carpetner seemed to find his groove over the weekend at Yankee Stadium. Carpenter put six balls in play, four of which were hard-hit, including his first round tripper of 2017. With a 47.2% hard-hit rate and 46.6% fly-ball rate against righties last year, you know Carpenter can bruise once he finds his stroke. He and the St. Louis Cardinals are facing Ivan Nova, whose 3.4% swinging-strike rate is the lowest mark among qualified starters. We're not going to get Carpenter at this price often, so we've got to take advantage while that door is open.

Dansby Swanson ($2,800): As mentioned with Freeman, we want exposure to hitters facing Weaver. A quick glance at Dansby Swanson's early-season numbers may push you to look elsewhere, but they are certainly a bit deceiving. Swanson has churned out a fancy 13.5% soft-hit rate and a 43.2% fly-ball rate this year, and his situation is favorable as he continues to hold down the two hole in the Braves' lineup. The results are going to start to match the peripherals for Swanson eventually, so we should be investing in DFS for when that time comes.

Mitch Haniger ($2,700): Until Mitch Haniger's price gets above $3,000, we need to keep pounding him in when he has a plus matchup. He gets that today as the Seattle Mariners face Tom Koehler and his 5.61 SIERA through two starts. Our sample on Haniger as a big leaguer is now up to 184 plate appearances, resulting in a 37.3% hard-hit rate and 44.1% fly-ball rate. We'd be foolish not to give this dude a look with how well he's playing.

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