Welcome to the Saturday edition of MLB DFS Picks and Pivots, a fantasy baseball column focused on helping you find the best core lineup for this slate of DFS action!
For those of you finding us for the first time, the concept behind MLB DFS Picks and Pivots is to give you a first look at the day’s MLB DFS slate, including our top picks, plays and pivots, using FantasyDraft pricing as a reference, to help you build your best line-up and win big!
Picks and Pivots is not a simple “best plays” column but rather it focuses on slate strategy and roster construction to help give you insight into how I will look to play this slate.
Friday’s MLB DFS was way more pitcher heavy than Opening Day as four of the top five fantasy scorers on the night were SP’s with Masahiro Tanaka, Alex Wood, David Price and Sean Manaea all putting up between 27-30 fantasy points. Offensively it was really the Arizona bats of A.J. Pollock (26) and Nick Ahmed (28) that carried the day along with Kris Bryant (26) who used a solo home run to boost his fantasy performance on what was really a low scoring night across baseball.
Picks and Pivots is not a simple “best plays” column but rather it focuses on slate strategy and roster construction to help give you insight into how I will look to play this slate. The goal of this article is to dig through the slate, highlight our top plays and help you identify the best slate strategy across your MLB DFS line-ups.
Below you will see the scoring for FantasyDraft which is very similar to my experiences on DraftKings with perhaps the biggest difference being the roster build with allows for the most flexible roster construction across the major sites as you are required to roster two SP’s, 3 IF’s, 3 OF’s and 2 UTIL spots.
As always, we will look to update our final lineup thoughts throughout the day on our twitter account @FantasyCPR so make sure to give us a follow for all the late breaking lineup news.
Without further ado, let’s get into today’s slate!
MLB DFS – Early Slate Pitching:
Well my friends if you like pitching then this Early slate is going to be a fun one as we have seven games to choose from and a handful of aces taking the hill. In fact, we have four pitcher on the Early Slate that have a 28% K rate so there are going to be some big time scores put up on the mound in the Early Slate and targeting the high strikeout pitchers here looks like a must!
Jacob deGrom ($22.8K) and Stephen Strasburg ($22K) are the two biggest investments on the slate and considering they have the 1-2 K rates on this slate you cannot go wrong with either arm in this spot. Now the fact I am a die-hard Mets fan (and therefore despise the Nationals) needs to be disclosed here because if you are asking ME to choose I am going to go deGrom in this spot but trust me, it has more to do with metrics than my fandom (maybe).
deGrom throughout his career has simply been a force pitching at home as he as an ERA (2.34) over a full run lower at home and his K rate spikes 5% to a 29% rate which is simply a massive splits difference. Last year the ERA was a bit more balanced but the K rate at home (31%) was still a marked improvement over his road rate at 27%. Now let’s add in the fact today that the temperatures in New York ar 40-50 degrees and you tell me this doesn’t smell like a spot Jake simply comes out and deGrominates. Historically the Cardinals have been a team that does not strikeout often but we saw on Opening Day with Noah Syndergaard that elite strikeout arms are going to get theres in any environment as he struck out 10 Cardinals in that game.
The interesting dynamic on this slate is that we have SO many elite high strikeout arms and in general a ton of great pitchers to choose from so there is a question of whether or not you have to pay all the way up tonight and can instead pay down in what may be a bit contrarian of a move and target some high K arms at significant discounts off deGrom/Strasburg.
James Paxton ($16.1K) from a pure metrics perspective is every bit the ace of his significantly higher priced counterparts as his K rate at 28.3% matches that of Carlos Carrasco (on the other side of this game at $19.3K) and is within a percentage point of both deGrom/Strasburg. Paxton has a 12.5% swinging strike rate and a slate leading 7% HR/FB rate and will be pitching at home where he logged a 29% K rate and a 2.45 ERA last season.
There are reasons on the offensive side of the roster build on this slate that paying down makes sense and Paxton is the rare pitcher at this reduced price point who the metrics say has every bit the ability to match the big boys in terms of fantasy production today.
Luis Castillo ($12K) may not seem like the best play to the casual fan but just like with Paxton, Castillo has the metrics to stand toe to toe with SP options priced $10K higher than him today although the match-up with the Nationals and verses Mr. Strasburg is certainly not ideal. Castillo is a high K arm (27.3%) with a 12.7% swinging strike rate and a dominant 58% ground ball rate. Now let me be clear here – the metrics are great and his strikeout ability combined with his ground ball tendencies make him worth the risk as a GPP play but keep in mind that he struggled with the long ball at home last year at 1.4 HR/9 and will be facing a dangerous Nationals line-up.
In terms of which route you choose, locking either deGrom or Strasburg is obviously a great play but keep in mind there are some high upside options at much cheaper prices that are going to allow you to go all in on some offenses and I think that may be the optimal route today.
MLB DFS – Top Early Slate Offenses:
One of the reasons you can make the case to pay down at SP today is that the “great” offenses spots are simply few and far between and frankly the Houston Astros stand out so above and beyond the rest of the options that there is merit to building around them instead of high-end starting pitching.
Now I am not a run projection guy for MLB DFS but I do think it shows some interesting starting points as the Astros (5.4) have a run total nearly a full run higher than the next closest team on the slate in the Yankees and 4.6. With a soft tossing lefty in Matt Moore on the mound, this has the potential to be a slugfest for the right-handed heavy Astros and I want in!
Now when looking at Moores stats it is important to remember he pitched in some extremely pitcher friendly ballparks in SF and TB the last two seasons but now pitching for Texas, this does not seem like a great fit for him – unless you want to stack against him. Last season on the road versus RHB, Moore gave up 1.3 HR/9 with a near 40% hard contact rate and oh by the way struck out less than 20% of the batters.
If you don’t follow metrics like some of us dorks – let me simplify – Moore cannot strike people out, gives up a ton of hard hit balls and struggles with the home run ball. You know what the Astros have alot of? Really REALLY good RH bats.
George Springs ($9.8K), Jose Altuve ($9.7K), Carlos Correa ($9K), Alex Bregman ($8.1K) and Marwin Gonzalez ($7.8K) set up for an all-in kind fo stack and their match-up today makes them one of the prime reassons to think about paying down at SP in my opinion. Even if you do pay up for someone like deGrom/Strasburg – find a way to get at least 2 of these bats into your line-up today!
It seems like every day the top stacks are going to be the Astros and Yankees and honestly I am not all that sure today is much different. In fact with so many great pitchers going today and the Astros/Yankees facing arguably two of the worst – the case to stack them up could be even stronger on this slate.
Marco Estrada I am sure is a nice guy but this looks like a terrible match-up for him as he has limited K ability and his 1.5 HR/9 rate at versus hitters from both sides of the plate could spell trouble with the Yankees power. As I mentioned yesterday, Aaron Judge (9.7K) was top in the league last year in ISO and HR/FB rate against RHP with his teammate Giancarlo Stanton ($10.6K) also in the top 5.
One of the reasons I write-up how slates break as a starting point to each days Picks and Pivots is because I like to set the context and I think it is interesting to note that last night was all about pitching from a fantasy perspective and we start today’s slate with a ton of loaded options so is it possible that the masses flock to roster the “big time” arms and go cheaper at offense? From a GPP perspective, I kind of love the idea of paying down for Paxton and Castillo, taking their high K upside (with risk) and pairing it with an Astros and Yankees stack. Let’s see how it plays out Cotton!
MLB DFS – Main Slate Overview
For as much elite pitching as we have on the Early Slate, well the Main Slate leaves much to be desired as the only true ace on the hill is Yu Darvhish ($23.8K) who is not only the highest K arm on the slate but is also an absurd -200 favorite….on the road. Darvish is going to be the chalk of chalk on this slate against the Marlins but in the context of this slate I think it makes sense to eat the chalk and simply look elsewhere.
The SP2 decision is ugly, flat-out brutal and even more reason why locking in Darvish as your SP1 makes that much sense. There are players that each of us have a soft spot for in DFS and Luis Perdomo ($12.8K) is that guy for me as last year I was all over him on a slate where he pitched at home versus the Tigers and had by far my best night of the MLB DFS season and I remember going to him because of his metrics at home versus RH heavy teams. Last season, Perdomo sported a near 70% ground ball rate at home versus RH bats with a .57 HR/9 rate and a solid 21% K rate and tonight he will take on a Brewers team with at least 4 RH bats in the line-up and arguably their most dangerous ones in Ryan Braun and Lorenzo Cain.
We saw what a ground ball heavy pitcher like Clayton Richard could do to this Milwaukee team back on Opening Day as he went 7 IP, struck out 4 and got 17.5 FP while giving up only one run. That is basically what you are shooting for with Perdomo here – a run prevention performance at this punt price that allows you to spend up elsewhere.
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Offensively, although the Cubs have the highest implied team total I am not overly interested in attacked Odrisamer Despaigne how has a crazy low HR/FB rate of 4% and in that big Miami ballpark, this could be a spot where the Cubs bats underwhelm.
The Arizona bats have been red-hot to start this year and with the roof open again at Chase Field, I see no reason to avoid going right back to the big bats of Paul Goldschmidt ($10.2K), Jake Lamb ($8.4K) and David Peralta ($8.6K) who will take on a pitcher in German Marquez that this trio flat-out owns, going 17 for 42 (.404 avg) with 2 HR’s (both by Goldy) and 9 RBI’s.
The Orioles bats have an interesting match-up against Kyle Gibson, a reverse splits pitcher with a higher HR/9 and HC rate to RH bats throughout his career so a RH Orioles stack of Manny Machado ($9.3K), Trey Mancini ($7.5K) and Jonathan Schoop ($8.5K) could be interesting here and you can even pair them with “lead-off man” Chris Davis ($7.7K).
Honestly, the Main Slate to be is a bit underwhelming and if you are looking to allocate your bankroll today to MLB I would personally focus more on the Early Slate which has many more interesting options.
Best of luck in your MLB DFS contests across FantasyDraft, FanDuel and DraftKings and stay tuned to Fantasy CPR for all the latest DFS news and analysis!