MLB DFS Picks and Pivots – Wednesday May 23

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 15: Starting pitcher Jacob deGrom #48 of the New York Mets runs onto the field in the first inning against the New York Yankees during interleague play on August 15, 2017 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 15: Starting pitcher Jacob deGrom #48 of the New York Mets runs onto the field in the first inning against the New York Yankees during interleague play on August 15, 2017 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 22: The scoreboard warns the fans of in coming weather before a baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the against the San Diego Padres at Nationals Park at on May 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) MLB DFS /

Welcome to the Wednesday 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.

Tuesday’s MLB DFS slate was about as pitching heavy/offensively challenged a slate as I can recall as 8 of the top 10 fantasy scores on the night were from starting pitchers. Chris Sale put up the top performance with 7.2 IP and 9 K’s while the mid-tier arms like Caleb Smith and Kevin Gausman were not far behind, barely trailing Sale and outscoring Gerrit Cole, the other high-priced arm on the slate. Offensively, it was really all about which one-off plays you had as there was no must have stack and instead it was individual performances by guys like Scooter Gennett and Jose Ramirez that topped the scoring on a relatively lower scoring MLB DFS night.

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.

If you are looking to try out a new DFS site, head on over to FantasyDraft and enter my referral code for 10% rake back on your entries.

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!

PHOENIX, AZ – MAY 06: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros walks to the dugout for the MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on May 6, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images) /

MLB DFS – Early Slate Starting Pitching:

Welcome to a split slate Wednesday where we get a nice little five game afternoon/day slate with four games starting between 1-2PM EST and the line “late game” being the Nationals and Padres at 4PM EST. The one thing to note simply from a schedule perspective here – there is a chance we will not have Nationals and Padres line-ups before lock which is always an interesting game theory aspect of this day slates where the ownership could then be overly concentrated on the games with the earlier start times.

Justin Verlander ($25.1K) is the ace to pay for on this slate and it is really just that simple. The Astros right-hander has a slate leading 32.4% K rate this season and steps to the mound today as a -247 home favorite against a Giants team that strikes out at a top 5 clip in baseball against right-handed pitching. This is the exact same spot Gerrit Cole was in last night where he went 6 innings, giving up 2 ER and striking out 8, which honestly feels like the floor here for Verlander and outside of large field game theory, I see no reason to pivot off him as the SP1 on a short slate like this.

The question really is which SP2 are you going to lock in as this is really where rosters will start to differentiate yourself. My gut feeling looking at these pitching options – there isn’t any arm that feels like a must have and honestly they all feel like arms that will not get blown up, give up a few runs in the process and generally be mediocre.

With that in mind, I am going to approach this a different way – what offenses do I want to avoid picking on? As much as I respect Tyson Ross, I want no part of picking on the Nationals line-up and as much as I like Zack Godley, there is significant risk in using him in Milwaukee against the Brewers potent bats.

There are two offenses that I have basically no interest in today and that is where I am leaning towards finding my SP2 and that is with the Erick Fedde ($12.8K) at home against the Padres and LHP Brent Suter ($8K) against Arizona.

Fedde is one of the Nationals top prospects and a decent strikeout arm, posting low to mid 20% K rates throughout the minors. Fedde generates a ton of ground balls (50% plus at every level) and has been able to limit the HR ball (0.69 HR/9 in AAA this year) all while keeping a solid strikeout rate so he is a viable option here today against a Padres projected line-up with a 25% plus K rate. My interest in Fedde depends on bit on ownership as the fact he is facing the Padres at home could make him a buzzy SP2 that although I want to us him, I need to be mindful of ownership on this slate as well.

Suter is the pure punt on this slate to go super high/low with Verlander and he gets perhaps the best strikeout match-up on the board against an Arizona team striking out at the largest clip in baseball (28.6%) over the last two weeks and seeing that number climb to nearly 32% over the last week.

Suter is the definition of nothing special at SP2 as this is an arm that has gone 5 innings in every single one of his 8 starts this season, giving up on average under 3 runs per game and striking out a handful of batters. At $8K this “nothing special” is exactly what you need from your SP2 in a bend but don’t break mold that is set up as a home favorite facing a team with massive K potential that could boost his ceiling that much higher.

HOUSTON, TX – OCTOBER 29: George Springer #4 of the Houston Astros celebratres with Carlos Correa #1 and Jose Altuve #27 after hitting a solo home run during the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 29, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

MLB DFS – Top Hitting Spots for Early Slate:

I mentioned that many of the arms on this slate seem like mediocre options, arms that will not dominate but give up 3-4 runs in their 5-6 innings and move on – honestly outside of Verlander it feels like that is the tagline for every arm on this slate. That being said, there is no “obvious” stack spot so rather than pick on the pitchers, this could be a spot where you simply play the best and most talented bats and let the chips fall where they may.

No team stack on this slate has the upside/talent of the Houston Astros so stacking up the defending champs against Jeff Samardzija seems like a good place to start. The Shark has been simply brutal this season with a 16% K rate that is barely above his 13% walk rate and although he has limited the hard contact (under 30%), the volume of base runners combined with the lack of swinging strike ability is a dangerous recipe against an offense that is this talented.

Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and George Springer are the obvious top dogs here but the best play may actually be Josh Reddick ($7.7K) as the Shark has struggled mightily against left-handed bats this season to the tune of a .278 ISO with a 50% fly ball rate. The Astros pounded out 11 runs and 13 hits last night so I would not expect them to be an under the radar stack on a short slate like this by any means, but the talent level of this stack far exceeds any other stack I believe you can build around today and with Shark’s inability to strike guys out and the spike in walks, makes this an interesting stack that could put up crooked numbers quickly and get to a bullpen that threw 4 innings last night.

The Cardinals let a lot of people down last night so it will be interesting to see how many go back to them here against Jakob Junis. Junis has really struggled with the home run ball this year, giving up 2 HR/9 to RHB with a 1.4 HR/9 mark to left-handed batters and a 34% hard contact rate to hitters from both sides. Junis has exhibited reverse splits over the last two years specifically when it comes to power as this season right-handed batters have a .214 ISO against him while left-handers are sitting at .184 so it should not surprise anyone that the Cardinals opened with the highest implied team total (5) on the slate. All the usual suspects are in play here and they all sit in the same $7-$8K price range with Matt Carpenter, Marcell Ozuna, Jose Martinez and Tommy Pham setting up as a nice 1-4 stack against a home run prone arm.

I mentioned this earlier but the fact that the Nationals have the latest start and there is the potential we do not have a line-up before lock (or maybe it is only a few minutes before), the Washington bats could end up being the lowest owned stack with every bit the upside of the Cardinals and Astros.

Tyson Ross has been tremendous this year but let’s not overlook his 38% hard contact rate this season as I have no issue locking in Bryce Harper ($9.8K) and Anthony Rendon ($7.3K) at the core of this stack and do not overlook Matt Adams ($7.2K) who has been relegated to bench duty with a string of left-handed arms facing the Nationals in recent days, but I would expect him back in the line-up today.

Personally I love the idea of building a Nationals stack at the core of my build and having that line-up locked and loaded while we wait for line-up confirmation. My guess is most people will use the batters from the earlier games and simply have their line-ups on auto-pilot well before lock, so by waiting until just before lock and trying to cram in some Nationals bats, it could be a great way to land some low owned high upside hitters today.

If you need a one-off, and are not using Suter as your SP2 – I find it hard to pass on this price point for Paul Goldschmidt ($8.2K) who is typically an auto play against LHP and his price might be at the lowest we have seen him all year in a match-up as juicy as this one.

NEW YORK, NY – AUGUST 15: Starting pitcher Jacob deGrom #48 of the New York Mets runs onto the field in the first inning against the New York Yankees during interleague play on August 15, 2017 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

MLB DFS – Starting Pitching Overview – Main Slate:

Much like the Early Slate, the Main Slate pitching has one clear ace at the top I find it hard to pivot off of as Jacob deGrom ($25.8K) will get a home start against the Miami Marlins. deGrom is coming off his best game of the year, a 13K performance at home versus Arizona and although he is priced up tonight, deGrom is a pitcher who has historically dominated at home and gets to face the worst offense on the board. I think you need to start your builds with deGrom and simply move on.

Finding an SP2 on this slate is much like the early slate, where there is no option that feels like a must have and I am finding myself backing into my choices based off the bats I want to pair with deGrom. Chris Archer ($13K) would be the obvious choice if you just looked at the price point and the fact he is at home where he has a 5% K rate boost over the last two season but there is one little problem – he has to face the Red Sox.

From a pure talent perspective, Archer is just way too cheap when you consider his K upside and the underlying metrics this season are showing that positive regression is coming as his xFIP and SIERA of 3.9 are over a full run lower than his 5+ ERA. Now let’s be honest, hoping for that regression to start against this Red Sox line-up is probably not the smartest idea but it i worth noting that in his last two home starts versus Boston he has gone 6 IP, with 7K’s per game while giving up 3-4 runs per outing so there is some merit to using him here in his home ballpark.

The swinging strike rate (13.4%) is identical to last year and although his season long K rate of 22% is significantly below his 29% mark from last season, there is nothing to suggest this will not normalize as his velocity remains nearly identical to his pitches across the board last season.

This is one of those instances where I believe in the talent level of the pitcher and I have also been a believer in using Archer when he is home, so where I assume everyone will be scared away by the Red Sox match-up (rightfully so), I see an under-priced elite arm with more upside than any of the mediocre duds that are priced around him.

CINCINNATI, OH – MAY 22: Scooter Gennett #3 of the Cincinnati Reds celebrates with Tucker Barnhart #16 and Joey Votto #19 after hitting a grand slam in the fifth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park on May 22, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Reds won 7-2. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

MLB DFS – Top Hitting Spots – Main Slate:

Homer Bailey and Chad Kuhl in Great American Ballpark with 80+ degree temperatures – this total starting at 9.5 seems low my friends and I want in. If there is one thing these pitchers have in common, it is that they are generally awful against left-handed batters as Bailey is sporting a .311 ISO to left-handed hitters this season while Kuhl has a .296 mark with each of them giving up a 37% hard contact rate to LHB.

Basically my goal here tonight is to game stack this in every way possible with as many left-handed batters as I can. If you are in the line-up and hit from the left side you will likely be in my player pool.

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On the Reds side it all starts with Joey Votto ($8.5K) and Scooter Gennett ($8.4K) who had 6 RBI’s on Tuesday night after a Grand Slam paved the way for him to be one of the highest ppoint scorers on the night. Scott Schebler ($7.4K) has absolutely crushed RHP this season to the tune of a .257 ISO and with all three of these bats sporting a 35% hard contact rate or higher, this is a powerful three-man stack that would pay big dividends here tonight against a pitcher in Chad Kuhl who struggles with left-handed power.

On the Pirates side, they will likely be popular again after everyone wanted to stack them against Matt Harvey last night but I actually think tonight is the better spot against Homer Bailey. Bailey this season has a 12% K rate versus a 9% BB rate versus left-handed hitting, giving up tons of hard contact and fly balls and will be tasked with keeping the ball in the park in hot and humid temperatures in Cincinnati – yeah good luck buddy.

Gregory Polanco ($8.5K), Austin Meadowns ($8.3K), Corey Dickerson ($7.2K) and Josh Bell ($7.3K) are the top four bats to target here and much like the Reds, their price points make them easy to stack on this slate while still being able to pay up for deGrom. Polanco and Dickerson are both mashing RHP this season with .200+ ISO’s and although the sample size is small, Meadows has come up and put up a .375 ISO with a 62% HC rate – there is a reason FantasyDraft priced him at this level – the kid is a stud.

I understand we have the Yankees on this slate but if you want that high-priced stack you are going to have to pivot off deGrom and that is not something I am willing to do. In my mind, having the ability to get the clear best arm and the top game stack environment makes this an easy core to lock in on today and use for both cash games and tournaments. Enjoy your MLB DFS day folks!

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