MLB DFS Picks and Pivots – Thursday May 3

BOSTON, MA - MAY 02: Hector Velazquez #76 of the Boston Red Sox douses Mookie Betts #50 as he is interviewed after the Boston Red Sox defeated the Kansas City Royals 5-4 at Fenway Park on May 2, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. Betts hit 3 solo home runs. (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 02: Hector Velazquez #76 of the Boston Red Sox douses Mookie Betts #50 as he is interviewed after the Boston Red Sox defeated the Kansas City Royals 5-4 at Fenway Park on May 2, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. Betts hit 3 solo home runs. (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images) /
BOSTON, MA – MAY 02: Hector Velazquez #76 of the Boston Red Sox douses Mookie Betts #50 as he is interviewed after the Boston Red Sox defeated the Kansas City Royals 5-4 at Fenway Park on May 2, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. Betts hit 3 solo home runs. (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images) MLB DFS /

Welcome to the Thursday 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.

Wednesday’s MLB DFS action was a tale of two slates as our early slate success was met with an ugly main slate that ended before it even got started. On the early slate, our goal to stack up as many bats as we could including Mookie Betts and Edwin Encarnacion with a cheap pitcher like Fernando Romero paid big dividends as Romero put up a solid outing while both Betts and E5 hit THREE home runs apiece.

The main slate was much less forgiving as one of our favorite bats in Travis Shaw left after the first innings with an injury followed soon after by Jacob deGrom who after 4 dominant innings was forced to leave his start with an elbow injury. So goes DFS I guess – you take the good, you take the bad – and there you have? The Facts of Life?

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.

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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!

HOUSTON, TX – OCTOBER 27: Lance McCullers Jr. #43 of the Houston Astros walks to the dugout as he exits the game during the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game three of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 27, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

MLB DFS – Early Slate Pitching

Each night when the slates are released I do a first look – no stats, no Vegas info, just a gut first look and I make some notes on the slate and then I come back first thing in the morning and dig through the data and start to outline my plays. I follow the same process each day and you get in a groove where you typically have a good feel about a slate and how to approach it – but I have to be completely honest – I have no idea how to attack this early slate when it comes to the starting pitching.

Let’s step back for a second – we have five games on the slate and at first glance you may think this is an easy slate to step through with arms like Carlos Carrasco, Lance McCullers Jr. and Masahiro Tanaka all the mound, but in the context of this slate I am having a hard time talking myself into any of them.

Let’s start with Carlos Carrasco ($23K) as the clear on paper SP1 for this early slate as he steps to the mound as a -200 home favorite against the Blue Jays. I am sure Carrasco will be popular today just as a result of the money line but I am just not sure how I can endorse paying this kind of price for a pitcher with a 21% K rate this season who’s higher water mark for K’s is seven. Sorry but I need way more upside than that if I am paying this price – and by the way, Carrasco is pitching on four days rest after leaving his last start with back tightness – no thank you.

Lance McCullers ($17.9K) and Masahiro Tanaka ($14.9K) in isolation would be plays I would normally have interest in but do I really want to take two pitchers facing two of the best offenses in baseball in the Astros and Yankees? Yes I know the Astros have only scored 2 total runs in the three games so far against the Yankees and the Yankees outside of some Stanton homers have been pretty quiet thus far, but is this really where I want to plant my flag with an arm?

McCullers has the best pure K stuff on the slate with a 31% K rate this season which is the 8th highest mark in all of baseball and listen, I know it is the Yankees but if I have to take a risk anyways on this slate, why not take it with the highest upside strikeout arm? McCullers has had his two best starts this year at home, striking out 7 against the Padres and A’s and this is a trend that carries over from 2017 where his ERA was over 2 points lower at home while his K rate was 7% higher with a 29.9% K rate in Houston versus 22.9% on the road.

There are obviously dangerous bats in this line-up for the Yankees but there are also a ton of K’s as New York strikes out at a 24.7% clip against RHP this season which is the 6th highest mark in baseball. If you look at the projected line-up for New York, you have some lofty K rates with Aaron Judge (29%), Giancarlo Stanton (36%) and Tyler Austin (46%) which is balanced out by their .240 ISO as a team. This is a boom or bust play but every pitcher on this slate has risk today so if I am going for it, I’ll take the highest K upside arm against a strikeout prone team and hope the day game after a night game keeps the Yankees bats quiet.

Julio Teheran ($13.9K) left his last game with upper back tightness as well which makes me wary to roll him out today but this is a gut feel call against my beloved New York Mets. When deGrom went down last night, the Mets looked like all the wind was taken out of their sails and Sean Newcomb absolutely dominated them. Now on a day game after a night game, we could end up seeing that malaise carry over and it is not like Teheran has not had success against this Mets team already. Teheran faced the Mets two starts ago and pitched a 7 inning, 6 strikeout shutout at home and will now take the mound in Citi Field where he has had significant success in his career. Over 60 innings of work in New York, Teheran has pitched to a 2.39 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and .200 BAA while striking out 43 batters. Last season for as bad as Teheran was, he was still able to pitch well against the Mets in NY, going 6 innings in both starts with 2 combined runs and 10 K’s so within the context of this slate he makes for one of the better SP2 options.

CLEVELAND, OH – MAY 2: Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Cleveland Indians rounds the bases after hitting a three run home run during the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Progressive Field on May 2, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

MLB DFS – Early Slate Hitting

As a Mets fan, watching the young and talented Braves come into your building and take the first two games against Syndergaard and deGrom is tough enough to watch but when a beaten down team like the Mets now has to send Jason Vargas to the hill, I might as well make some DFS profit while I watch this beat down of my favorite team.

Jason Vargas is awful. Over the last two seasons this is a pitcher with who gives up a ton of home runs, hard contact and cannot strike people out. His 2018 debut for the Mets went about as expected where he surrendered 9 ER’s in only 3.2 innings pitched IN SAN DIEGO, one of the best pitcher’s parks in all of baseball. Today he has to face arguably the best offense in the National League right now with 88 degree temperatures and 15 MPH winds blowing out to right field. How is the Braves run total not a billion?

If you play for Atlanta than I have interest in stacking you today – left side or right side it simply doesn’t matter as Vargas as given up 30%+ hard contact and .180+ ISO’s to hitters from both sides of the plate. The Braves are priced up which could keep their ownership down but no matter to me – I want all of the Freddie Freeman ($11K), Ozzie Albies ($10.1K), Ronald Acuna Jr. ($8K) and Kurt Suzuki ($7.7K) and even Johan Camargo ($5.6K) or Charlie Culberson ($3.9K) are in play as every single player mentioned here has an ISO of .240 or greater versus LHP the last two years (yes Acuna as well in four PA’s versus a lefty – small sample size alert).

This is spot #1 for me in my roster build today and I will keep my eyes on the line-up as we could get some nice bottom of the order value with guys like Culberson/Camargo that give us salary relief and help differentiate us with a Braves wrap-around stack.

Is there any way you can fade Bryce Harper ($10.9K) or Matt Adams ($8K) right now? Seriously I think you almost have to plug them in cash games at this point and even GPP’s based off their recent play. Harper has been inserted into the lead-off spot and homered in each of his last two games while Matt Adams has three HR’s in the last two games and now they take on RHP Trevor Williams, a fastball/sinker pitcher which sets up perfectly for the profiles of Harper and Adams. Over the last three seasons, both players have ISO’s of .250+ versus the sinker and simpyl destroy fastballs in the 91 MPH range where Williams lives as they both have .440+ ISO marks. I get the fade in GPP’s for game theory and the variance of baseball but I am not sure on a small slate like this I want to get on board.

The Indians are a team I like a lot today but am finding myself struggling to fit them in with my focus being the Braves and the Harper/Adams mini-stack. The one thing to keep in mind for the Indians today – this is a double-header – so we could see some wacky line-ups here but against LHP Jaime Garcia you could certainly go back to Edwin Encarnacion and Francisco Lindor here and it is expected that Jose Ramirez ($8.6K) will return here for the Indians today.

WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 01: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals warms up in the batters circle before hitting a three run home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fifth inning at Nationals Park on May 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

MLB DFS Sample Line-Up and Slate Overview:

The line-up below is meant to be illustrative only to further back-up the logic laid out in previous slides and is not meant to be an optimal line-up or a roster you simply plug and play on your own!  

SP: Lance McCullers Jr. ($17.9K)

SP: Julio Teheran ($13.9K)

IF: Freddie Freeman ($11K)

IF: Ozzie Albies ($10K)

IF: Kurt Suzuki ($7.7K)

OF: Ronald Acuna Jr. ($8K)

OF: Bryce Harper ($10.9K)

OF: Jose Ramirez ($8.6K)

UTIL: Matt Adams ($8K)

UTIL: Charlie Culberson ($3.9K)

Slate Overview: This early slate is one that I am not sure I will feel comfortable with until I see line-ups out and locking in on any SP for this slate feels like you are rolling the dice. Although I do not LOVE any of the options, I do feel like I get the best combination with McCullers (K upside) and Teheran (price/match-up) and I still have the ability to stack the spots I want. I plan to attack the Braves and more so Jason Vargas in a big way early on and I am simply going to eat the chalk with Harper/Adams and move on. This is actually a pretty fun early five game slate but there is risk so be smart with your bankroll on slates like this and do not go crazy with cash games as the players you are rostering have entirely too much risk in my opinion (at least on the mound).

MESA, AZ – FEBRUARY 22: Sean Manaea /

MLB DFS – Main Slate Pitching:

If you thought the Early Slate pitching was bad, well just wait until you see the four game Main Slate! Sean Manaea ($21.4K) is the lone “ace” on the slate and although the price is fair, this is a pitcher with a 23% K rate that has one outlier game (10K, no-hitter) that is propping up his fantasy production  on the season. The Mariners, his opponent on this slate, have the second lowest K rate against LHP this season at 18.3% so I question whether the upside is really there in this match-up.  Manaea took on the Mariners earlier this season, striking out 4 batters in a 7 inning outing where he only surrendered 1 run and I think that kind of solid run prevention start is really the ceiling you are looking at with Manaea. On a short slate where he will likely be the chalk pitcher, I am going to 100% fade as I simply do not think this is a spot where Manaea has the upside to burn me.

Ok tough guy – you want to fade Manaea well then where are you going to plant your flag in this dumpster fire of options? This slate reminds me of the Early Slate on Wednesday where I want to bats to carry me and I simply want my pitchers not to hurt me but the biggest difference is that I have no Corey Kluber type arm that I have to really worry about. So let’s start with the Picks and Pivots punt play of the day – welcome to my roster Jaime Barria ($8K) – a pitcher who is priced so low that sixteen batters on a four game slate are priced above him!

The scouting report per paints a picture of a back of the rotation starter and his first start against the Rangers this season (his MLB debut) is about what we are hoping for here – 5 IP, 1 ER, 3K’s and a solid 16 fantasy points on FantasyDraft. This play is all about slate context and his price point – if he can deliver an outing like that at this price point and my bats can carry me, then he will have been worth every penny.

"Barria isn’t going to blow you away with velocity (our reports have him sitting anywhere between 88-91 and 90-92, touching 94) or vicious secondary stuff, but he’s a very advanced strike-thrower who pitched his way to Triple-A as a 20-year-old in 2017. His high arm slot creates a lot of downward angle on his pitches and enables his average changeup and fringey curveball (some call it a slider because it’s shape is something between the two) to play up, and Barria’s command makes him less likely to make a hittable mistake with his fastball. Some see Barria’s delivery and age and still think there’s more velo coming; others think his frame is maxed out and consider him a near-ready No. 4 starter."

David Price ($18.4K) is not nearly the pitcher he used to be as his 22% K rate over the last two years clearly shows but this match-up against the Rangers is one I have a lot of interest in today. The Rangers strike out at a 25% clip against LHP this season which is 7th in all of baseball so if you want to pivot down off Manaea, I think Price makes for an interesting SP1 option when you consider he is likely to get the win with his offense facing LHP Mike Minor.

Reynaldo Lopez ($14.6K) is a pitcher with a tidy 1.78 ERA so far this season as he has given up 2 or fewer runs in every single one of his five starts so far this season and has flashed some K upside as well with 10K’s against Oakland just a few starts ago. Now for the bad news – regression is coming as his 5.27 xFIP and 5 SIERA suggest so understand the risk but hope that the regression stays away for one more start.

Lopez in his career has been dominant against RHB with a 0.29 HR/9 rate and 25% hard contact rate and has a .113 ISO against RHB the last two seasons. The issue here is that outside of Brian Dozier, the Twins have the ability to load up with lefties so this becomes a line-up dependent play for me on this slate as Lopez has surrendered 1.87 HR/9 to LHB in his career with a 34% HC rate so if the Twins roll out 7-8 LHB, I may have to sit this one out.

BOSTON, MA – MAY 02: Mookie Betts #50 of the Boston Red Sox reacts to being doused after defeating the Kansas City Royals 5-4 at Fenway Park on May 2, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images) /

MLB DFS – Hitting Options for the Main Slate:

I spent way too much time talking pitchers for this slate when really it all comes down to hitting as we have a plethora of arms to attack and some pricey bats that could carry us across the cash line. The Red Sox look to be in a perfect spot for more runs today against LHP Mike MInor, a pitcher who is giving up a .244 ISO and 42% HC to right-handed hitters this season. Do you know what the Red Sox have a lot of? Power right-handed bats that simply crush bad lefties – so welcome back to my stack today Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez

Speaking of horrible pitching – Chris Tillman versus the Angels seems like a nice little spot to attack for hitting. Tillman thus far has a 11% walk rate equal to his 11% K rate (that is not good) while giving up 19 ER and 5 HR in only 24 innings of work. If you fade Manaea at pitcher you have all the salary room you could ask for so paying up for Mike Trout and Justin Upton today and pairing them with a Red Sox stack feels like a path to a big time hitting score!

The one team that may get overlooked here tonight with the second lowest run total on the board is the Oakland A’s which is somewhat surprising when you consider their opponent is LHP Wade LeBlanc. The former Friends star and best friend of Chandler Bing is a fly ball pitcher who has struggled with home runs to hitters from both sides of the plate and this Oakland team is simply loaded with home run upside.

Khris Davis and Matt Chapman each have .220 ISO against left-handed pitching this season and Jed Lowrie has a 47% HC with a .379 wOBA this year versus LHP so I think a stack here of the A’s could be a good way to differentiate yourself from the rest of the field that does everything to load up on the Red Sox bats (and rightfully so).

If you are fading Manaea, one interesting leverage play could be Nelson Cruz who is 6 for 16 with 2 HR’s against the A’s lefty and with so much ownership likely on Manaea, it would seem logical that Cruz will be over-looked as players rarely take a hitters against their pitcher. Not only could we get Cruz at lowe(er) ownership but it also is a nice leverage play against the chalk pitcher on the slate.


MLB DFS Sample Line-Up and Slate Overview:

The line-up below is meant to be illustrative only to further back-up the logic laid out in previous slides and is not meant to be an optimal line-up or a roster you simply plug and play on your own!  

More from FanSided

SP: David Price ($18.4K)

SP: Jaime Barria ($8K)

IF: Hanley Ramirez ($8.3K)

IF: Matt Chapman ($8.1K)

IF: Jed Lowrie ($9.1K)

OF: Mookie Betts ($10.9K)

OF: J.D. Martinez ($9.8K)

OF: Mike Trout ($10.7K)

UTIL: Justin Upton ($9.1K)

UTIL: Nelson Cruz ($7.6K)

Slate Overview: – First off – remember this slate kicks off at 8:05PM EST so you have extra time before lock tonight. This slate is all about loading up on bats that are in incredibly spots as the Red Sox and Angels bats are way too hard to pass on tonight and I like the A’s as a sneaky stack to differentiate yourself. Pitching is really more about building your line-up first and then working in the starters you feel comfortable with – if you have money left over and can get up to Manaea tonight then I get it but I think the strategic fade makes sense for a chalky pitcher without the K upside that will sink you if you do not have him. Good luck all.

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