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 slate has tournament winning scores on FantasyDraft pushing near 200 fantasy points which when you consider that two of the highest owned hitters on the night (Trevor Story and Shohei Ohtani) both went for 40+ fantasy points, certainly helped push the cash line higher. This was really a night driven by offense as the top 5 raw point performers on the night were all hitters, putting up 30+ fantasy points each while Zack Wheeler and Sandy Alcantara were there only arms able to crack 25 fantasy points on this night.
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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.
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:
What an odd slate we have tonight – not only is it limited to four games but take note of the earlier lock time – 6:40 PM EST which is when the Padres and Reds get underway from Great American Ball Park. I guess Major League Baseball knows that the NFL season kicks off tonight and is willing to take a back seat and let the boys of fall have all the fun tonight – however, that with so many people focused on NFL tonight and this weekend, being willing to put in the work for MLB DFS can help you pad your bankroll in a big way heading into Sunday so let’s dive in.
We have three top-tier strikeout arms sitting at the top of the pricing tiers tonight with Zack Greinke, Luis Castillo and Stephen Strasburg all priced between $17K-$17.5K and with no single offense sporting more than a 4.9 run total, this could be a night where you lock in two of these three top K arms and build around pitching – the question is – which two should we choose?
If we look at the season long numbers, Strasburg leads the pack with a 28.2% K rate, with Greinke at 24.9% and Castillo pulling up the rear with a 23.4% mark, however Castillo’s 13.9% swinging strike rate on the year is 2% higher than either of the other arms mentioned.
Over the last month, Greinke’s K numbers have actually dropped to only 20.7%, while Strasburg has dropped slightly to 25% over three starts since his return from the DL. It is Luis Castillo that really stands out however, sporting a massive 31.9% K rate over the last month while maintaining an impressive 14.1% swinging strike rate,
Castillo not only has the best recent form, but also has the best match-up on paper against the San Diego Padres and his splits say this is the perfect spot to unleash the Reds right-hander. On the season, Castillo has a K % over 8% higher at home with an ERA nearly 2 runs lower than his road marks and will face a Padres team that will likely only have 1-2 LHB in it. Castillo on the year has an ISO over .100 lower to RHB while seeing his K rate jump 2% to over 24% so when you realize this is a Padres team that will be mostly right-handed heavy with a 24.3% K rate against RHP in their projected line-up – this seems like a spot for a ceiling game from Castillo as my first arm in.
The question of Greinke versus Strasburg is where things get interesting – both have tough home match-ups with the Diamondbacks hosting the Braves and the Nationals hosting the Cubs – neither line-up frankly being one I want to go out of my way to pick on.
Strasburg has not faced the Cubs this season and in fact, you need to go all the way back to June 2017 to find his last start against the Cubs where he struck out 13 batters in 7 innings for a dominant 39 fantasy point day. Greinke has actually faced this Braves team recently, in Atlanta back in July, where he struck out 7 over 7 innings of work and racked up a ceiling game of 32.85 – his highest output game of any fantasy start in 2018.
Greinke has been stellar at home this season with a 2.16 ERA, a 25.2% K rate and a .72 HR/9 mark and as silly as it may sound – I feel more confident in him because Arizona, unlike Washington, has something to play for. We are getting to the point in the season where this need to be considered – think of it this way – why would Washington push Strasburg to go deep into this game when he has not gone over 100 pitched since his return from the DL and they are all but eliminated from the playoff race?
Meanwhile Arizona is 1.5 back in the division and 2.5 back in the wild card race and Greinke has gone over 100 pitches in three of his last five outings. Need more tie-breakers? Over the last two weeks the Cubs are one of the hottest offenses in baseball, scoring 66 runs which is the second most in baseball while the Braves have scored only 43 runs so you are getting two offenses, while both deep and talented, going in different directions.
With all that said – my going in position on this slate is to lock in Castillo and side with Greinke as my “SP2” – paying up for both arms on this short slate and leaving me over $8.1K per batter to fill out the rest of my line-up on FantasyDraft.
MLB DFS – Top Hitting Spots:
With a short slate and three top-tier arms we debated at pitcher, it really leaves our viable offensive stacking spots to only a few teams which means the few viable offenses on this slate will also likely be very chalky. So we can do a few different things – one being you pick the chalk offense(s) and instead of stacking the 3-4 top plays in the heart of the order, you take advantage of FantasyDraft allowing up to 6 batters from the same team and you simply go all-in on that team, maxing out the number of players you can roster. The other option, knowing that Castillo, Strasburg and Greinke are the three most highly owned arms (likely), is you look to pick on them and gain leverage on the field. Personally, especially on FantasyDraft where the contest sizes are not as large as FanDuel or DraftKings, I rarely try to get that cute and would rather simply play the best plays regardless of ownership.
The Reds look to be my favorite offense at first glance really as a result of LHP Eric Lauer being the worst arm on the slate. Not only does Lauer have the lowest K rate of any arm (18%), he has the highest SIERA (4.79), has the highest walk rate (9.3%) lowest swinging strike rate (8%) and generates by far the lowest number of ground balls (38%).
So add all that up, and now put this guy in arguably the best hitting park on the slate and going all-in on the Reds bats may be the way to go. Lauer has traditional splits in the sense that RHB have a higher HC rate but from an HR/9 perspective he is giving up nearly identical 1.3 HR/9 marks to hitters from both sides of the plate and LHB actually have a slightly higher ISO at .174 on the season.
If you are starting any Reds stack against a LHP it has to start with Eugenio Suarez ($8.4K) who has video game like numbers against lefties this season, sporting a .322 ISO and 57% HC rate – seriously, this is the easiest play on the day, Reds stack or not. The beauty of this Reds stack is that they all seem priced way too low, with only Scooter Gennett priced over $9K so this becomes a simple roster construction to pay up for two top arms and then stack the under-priced Reds against the worst pitcher on the slate.
All of, Joey Votto, Saurez, Gennett, Phillip Ervin and Scott Schebler have 40% or higher hard contact rate marks against LHP this season, and with rain expected ahead of the game – we have seen in similar instances where the ball flies out of this park when we have rain ahead of first pitch and we get high humidity and dewpoints as we are expecting today. As I said in the open – one of the ways you can try to be different today is to simply take a popular stack like the Reds and instead of just going with a middle of the order Suarez-Votto-Scooter stack – you extend it and get 6 Reds into your line-up when most will likely not go that deep.
If you are looking for a higher priced duo to build around, it is hard to argue with the tandem of Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez on this slate as they face off with Sam Gaviglio. Gaviglio throws his sinker over 53% of the time to LHB on the season and when you consider that Lindor (.565 ISO) and JRam (.318 ISO) both destroy that pitch type – it is hard to argue that either/both is not a priority play on this slate today.
If you are looking for a mini-stack today that may give you slightly less ownership than take a look at the Toronto lefties against Shane Bieber. On the season, the Biebs is giving up a .251 ISO and 50.4% HC rate to LHB which frankly is going to happen at the big league level when you rely nearly 60% of the time on a low 90’s fastball against left-handed hitters. On the season, LHB are hitting that pitch to the tune of a .257 ISO and his secondary offering, the curve, is being hit at a similar hard clip with a .265 ISO mark.
The Jays have three left-handed batters – Justin Smoak, Kendrys Morales and Billy McKinney who all have a .247 or higher ISO mark against RHP this season and every single one of these batters profiles well against Bieber’s combination of a low 90’s FB and CB. Smoak is sporting a .438 and .182 ISO mark against those pitch types, while Morales has a .308 and .214 ISO mark.
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!
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SP: Luis Castillo ($17.3K)
SP: Zack Greinke ($17.5K)
IF: Eugenio Suarez ($8.4K)
IF: Joey Votto ($8.3K)
IF: Jose Ramirez ($9.4K)
OF: Phillip Ervin ($7.3K)
OF: Scott Schebler ($7.4K)
OF: Billy McKinney ($7.6K)
UTIL: Justin Smoak ($8.5K)
UTIL: Kendrys Morales ($8.3K)
Slate Overview: This looks like a slate where you simply limit your player pool to 2 of the 3 top end arms and a handful of offenses but the reality is, that is going to be what everyone else does too so we cannot pretend like we are approaching this slate in some super contrarian way. I refuse to get too cute though and will keep my player pool focused on the best pure plays and ignore ownership – to a point. As I mentioned, if you want to try to get a bit different – going all-in on one offense like the Reds or Blue Jays and stacking up 6 batters when most will go with a more traditional 3-4 man stack, is a nice way to be different. Enjoy tonight’s MLB DFS slate while watching some NFL at the same time – this is one of the best times of the year for sports fan and DFS players so soak it up friends!
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 across all your favorite sports.