MLB DFS Picks and Pivots – Thursday June 21

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 20: The tarp covers the field as the game into a rain daly after the fourth inning during a baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles at Nationals Park on June 20, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 20: The tarp covers the field as the game into a rain daly after the fourth inning during a baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles at Nationals Park on June 20, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /
WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 20: The tarp covers the field as the game into a rain daly after the fourth inning during a baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles at Nationals Park on June 20, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/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 split slates were a mixed bag for me personally and a frustrating day for many around the industry. On the early slate, Jon Lester continued his wizardry, spitting in the face of regression as the Dodgers had a 46% HC rate but continually hit the ball right at Cubs fielders (as evidenced by the .200 BABIP) and my Dodgers stack just never got off the ground. On the Main Slate, I completely faded the weather games and on this night that was a massive advantage as many took the chance on the Pirates and Brewers (Chad Kuhl was owned in 25%-30% of GPP’s on FantasyDraft as an example) and even though my arms (ie. Seth Lugo) were not great, they got positive points and helped push me past many of the dead line-ups littered with PPD induced goose eggs to help recover my early losses.

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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!


MLB DFS – Starting Pitching Overview:

We have a seven game Main Slate on FantasyDraft tonight with the 3 early games being ignored which is frankly OK with me as a three game slate with Coors Field on it is not something I would want to mess with anyways. The big thing tonight is going to be weather – AGAIN – as the game between the Cubs/Reds looks like a big time risk with rain expected all day/night and in Chicago we have flash flood watches which means the White Sox and A’s are at risk here tonight as well.

With so many people still reeling from the Pirates/Brewers PPD last night, my guess is most will simple steer clear of these games and that is typically my strategy as well – if I can find spots I like that have no weather issues than why take on unnecessary risk. We can control very little in DFS but the one variable we can control is where we focus our player pool so if there are risky games due to weather – just start your builds pretending those games aren’t available to you and let others absorb the risk.

The big decision on this slate is how you intend to handle Max Scherzer ($28.5K) against the Orioles as his price point is astronomically high and even though he did dominate this team earlier with 12 K’s over 8 shutout innings, you really almost need him to duplicate that outing to pay off this price tag. He is the best play on the board at pitcher without a doubt so this comes down to price/roster construction and whether or not we can find viable pivot plays. Mad Max is a -300 home favorite with the largest K rate by a WIDE margin and is facing a strikeout heavy Orioles line-up – its the slam dunk play IF you can afford it.

It has not been the best year for Carlos Martinez ($15.5K) and when you consider that he has failed to reach double-digit fantasy points in four straight outings, you can see why his price point is down to where it is on this slate. At a high level, the K rate and swinging strike rates are down from a year ago while his walk rate is up and it is that control that has really killed him in recent starts as he has walked 5, 6 and 7 batters in his last three outings. The argument for Martinez though is that he has the K upside to offset any control issues and has had success against this Milwaukee team already this year when he struck out 10 over 8 shutout innings for his best fantasy outing of the year.

C-Mart has had a ton of success historically against these Milwaukee hitters with a 28% K rate and .103 ISO in nearly 200 career at bats against him but you have to wonder if Martinez is still not 100% after his lat injury just three starts ago. Martinez is a guy I want to put into my player pool and see what the industry buzz is – if he is largely ignored than I think he makes for an interesting GPP play but if the name value and price drop make him a popular target, I will likely stay away entirely and could even argue for a Brewers stack against him (more on that in a minute).

I think you can make the case for guys in the mid-range today like Zack Godley and Tyson Ross who have solid run prevention match-ups and nice ballpark boosts with games against Pittsburgh and San Francisco and both sitting at price points just under $15K on FantasyDraft. Godley and Ross both represent really the kind of options you are looking at if you choose to pivot down off Mad Max on this slate – solid arms that will likely not hurt you but also that lack the ceiling to really excite you – which honestly is why Carlos Martinez‘s intrigues me at a similar price point just because of the K upside.

If you are going to “play it safe” and drop down, I actually think going nearly all the way down to Aaron Sanchez ($12.7K) is a viable strategy on this slate. Sanchez last season was a reverse splits arm, giving up a .200+ ISO to right-handed batters which against a right-handed heavy Angels team would seem like a stack spot but this year Sanchez has really had markedly different results with a .108 ISO and a 21% K rate to RHB as compared to only a 15% K rate against lefties. Sanchez already faced this Angels team earlier this year, pitching 5 innings of shutout ball while walking 5 versus only 2 K’s but also steps into this game on a nice roll having struck out 20 batters in his last three starts, going 6 or more innings each time out and three straight quality starts.

As I step back and look at this slate, if I like Sanchez as an SP2 than it makes the most sense to use the salary savings and simply pay up for Mad Max as my SP1 as I still have $7.3K per batter to fill out my line-up. I started out my pitching overview by saying Mad Max was the clear #1 but we needed to try to find pivots and the more I dig, the less I see the high K upside arms that make it worth dropping down from Scherzer and with only 3 teams with 5+ projected run total (but two being in the weather games mentioned), I am not sure I really need to prioritize offense on this slate and am finding myself looking at going high low with Max/Sanchez to start my pitching build.

Pitching Update: The Arizona line-up is out and considering Chad Kuhl‘s struggles with lefties, it is very odd that Jake Lamb is getting the day off. Kuhl is the same price as Aaron Sanchez (listed above) and makes for an interesting pivot as he sees his K rate jump 3% to 23% against LHB this year but the issue is always the .200+ ISO against left-handed batters. This is somewhat offset by the fact that Arizona has four left-handed batters with a .130 or lower ISO mark against RHP this season. If you are not sold on Sanchez – Kuhl could make for a nice SP2 pivot.

MILWAUKEE, WI – JUNE 15: Christian Yelich #22 and Lorenzo Cain #6 of the Milwaukee Brewers celebrate after Yelich hit a home run in the fourth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Miller Park on June 15, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

MLB DFS – Main Slate Hitting:

We already mentioned the boom or bust nature of Carlos Martinez and if you believe he is not fully back from his lat injury then I think you can attack him here with a Brewers stack. Since his return from injury three starts ago, C-Mart is giving up a ton of hard contact (41%) while sporting a 26% walk rate (yes you read that right) so this is a spot where you either stack it up or stay away as playing one-off’s could leave you with a mediocre line that includes one or two free passes. The one injury to watch here is the status of Ryan Braun ($7.5K) who underwent treatment for his thumb injury on Wednesday but is expected back in the line-up tonight for the Brew Crew. Eric Thames ($9.3K) is probably the bat I would prioritize here as he has a massive .387 ISO and 45% HC rate against RHP this season but locking in any of the 4-5 Milwaukee bats here is viable with Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain and Travis Shaw giving you a powerful stack that could put up a big time crooked number against Martinez here tonight.

If you want to pay up for Max AND get 2-3 Milwaukee bats into your build then you are going to need some value and the easiest spot for that on FantasyDraft is probably in Toronto with Justin Smoak ($6.3K) and Kendrys Morales ($6K). Now I respect the talent level of LHP Tyler Skaggs so this is less about picking on him and more about price enforcing two hitters that have .200 ISO’s against LHP over the last two years and giving me a path to getting Scherzer into my line-ups on this slate.

The one game I expect will get completely ignored for offense is the Padres and Giants but if we take the approach that the Reds and White Sox games are rained out/too risky than we are left with minimal options and my guess is most will skip over the bats on the Padres side when they see Madison Bumgarner opposing them. Normally I would want no part of the Padres in San Francsico against Mad-Bum but it is clear that he is not yet fully healthy as he has a 7% swinging strike rate with a massive 47% HC rate since coming off the DL so the Padres bats become a viable cheap stack with upside to pair alongside the pricey Mad Max tonight.

The heart of this Padres order with Hunter Renfroe ($6.7K), Christian Villaneuva ($7.3K) and Franmil Reyes ($6.6K) not only are a cost-effective trio but you also are getting three guys that have a .250+ ISO each against LHP over the last two seasons with each guy sporting a 39% or higher HC rate. Also for you BvP lovers out there, Renfroe has hit Mad-Bum well in his career going 5 for 10 with 2 HR’s and 2 doubles so even if just use him as a one-off, I think there is merit to getting some Padres exposure on this slate.

One thing to note – Wil Myers ($8.4K) could potentially be activated off the DL for this game (which could also mean Reyes gets demoted) so keep an eye on the news here for the Padres. Myers had a .207 ISO last year versus LHP and could be a nice low owned target tonight as most will likely overlook his return especially with Bumgarner on the hill.

HITTING UPDATE: Few key mid-afternoon notes and thoughts:

  • Wil Myers will in fact be activated tonight and Franmil Reyes will be demoted to make room for him. I love the idea of using Myers as part of a Padres stack here with Renfroe and Villaneuva and you can even add in value plays like Manuel Margot and/or Jose Pirela to fill out this stack.
  • The more I look at this slate the more I like the Cardinals on FantasyDraft as we can attack LHP Brent Suter and his .208 ISO and 32% HC rate to RHB. The three bats that really stand out to me are Jose Martinez (.307 ISO), Jedd Gyorko (.279 ISO) and Yadier Molina (.246 ISO) who have crushed LHP over the last two seasons. Gyorko and Molina are under $7K on FantasyDraft which makes them easy to fit in with Mad Max and J-Mart at $10.1K will likely be ignored with so many people paying up for Scherzer which makes him a really nice GPP target.
ATLANTA, GA – JUNE 16: Right fielder Hunter Renfroe #10 of the San Diego Padres looks into the crowd in the sixth inning during the game against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on June 16, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/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! 

More from FanSided

SP: Max Scherzer ($28.5K)

SP: Aaron Sanchez ($12.7K)

IF: Justin Smoak ($6.3K)

IF: Kendrys Morales ($6K)

IF: Christian Villaneuva ($7.3K)

OF: Hunter Renfroe ($6.7K)

OF: Franmil Reyes ($6.6K)

OF: Ryan Braun ($7.5K)

UTIL: Eric Thames ($9.3K)

UTIL: Christian Yelich ($9.1K)

Slate Overview: When I opened this slate initially my gut reaction was to fade Mad Max at his price point but the more I look at the rest of the options, I really struggle to see where I can use the salary to chase upside as we really do not have another high upside K arm and there is not a “must have” offense to stack. That really leads me back to a Mad Max core and what it will mean is finding some value but there are some viable paths to get there while still getting some of the best offensive stacks including the Brewers in a boom or bust spot. Keep an eye on the weather today – this is going to be key – as we could lose two games off a seven game slate which in my mind only furthers the case to force Scherzer into all your builds.

Next: DFS MLB Game by Game Breakdowns

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