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 fantasy baseball 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 split slate MLB action proved once again that variance is king. Raise your hand if you had Carlos Rodon as the top play on the Early Slate and Mike Minor as the key piece of the Main Slate – liars all of you! Because these arms were essentially un-owned on such a small slate, the reality is that having these arms did not drive the cash line however it did prove how wacky it can get on these small slates – which leads us right into another split slate day with 4 games on the Early and 3 games on the Main. Let’s get weird.
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 – Early Slate Pitching:
It is unfortunate that today’s MLB DFS action is split into two tiny slates as if this were a full 7 game slate, it would actually be a pretty great one to play as we have a LOADED early slate of arms before we get to a Main Slate where I basically have to close my eyes and pray when clicking on two pitchers.
You can approach days like today in one of two ways – simply take the day off and live to fight another day, or understand the variance, go GPP only and take some shots on these small slates. We are all dealt the same hand, so rather than go with option 1, I am ready to dig in and attack these small slates.
There are three clear elite arms on this early slate with James Paxton taking on Baltimore (again) while we get a rematch of the first time around in DC as Stephen Strasburg and Noah Syndergaard battle in Citi Field for the Mets home opener.
Paxton ($21.6K) is a massive -180 road favorite who will take his slate leading K rate (32%) and swinging strike rate (14.2%) from 2018 into a rematch of his first start as a Yankee. In that outing, Paxton was able to go 5.2 innings, with 5 K’s on his way to 17 fantasy points – a solid day, but certainly not one worth his price tag.
While both Strasburg ($19.4K) and Syndergaard ($19.3K) were able to rack up K’s in their first outings (8 and 7 respectively), both the Mets and Nationals offense was able to knock them around a bit during that opening series as they combined to give up 8 ER.
On a short slate like this, I want to get at least one of these high dollar arms and all things considered, I want to anchor my early slate lineups on this Thursday to Thor back home in NY. Syndergaard has historically struggled in DC, it is backed by stats and game logs and even the Mets broadcast team said there is something about that park that seems to take him off his game. Back in NY though it is a different story as Thor in 2018 had a higher K rate and lower ERA and HR/9 when back in his home park.
With Trea Turner sidelined, that is a MAJOR boost to Syndergaard’s stock here today as it not only takes a strong bat out of the lineup but it also takes away the running game for Washington which is one of the best ways to attach Thor.
Jakob Junis ($15.3K) was a pitcher I wrote up his first time around this year as he was a completely different pitcher in the second half of 2018, as his ERA dropped from 5.13 to 3.35 while his HR/9 went from well over 2 to .9 HR/9 and his K rate jumped from 20% to 22%. Junis
struck out 6 or more batters in six of his last eleven starts and that success carried over into 2019.
Junis struck out 6 White Sox, put up over 18 FPTS and actually saw his price come down $500 to where it stands today against the Tigers. Speaking of the Tigers, two of Junis’s strong stars down the stretch of 2018 came against this Detroit team where he went 6 innings, 2 ER and 5 K’s and 9 inning, 2 ER and 7 K’s – racking up 33 and 15 fantasy points in those outings. With a projected lineup that has a 24% K rate against RHP since 2018, this is another great spot for Junis and he makes for the perfect mid-range SP2 complement to the higher dollar arms on this slate.
MLB DFS – Early Slate Bats:
If you opt to go with a Syndergaard/Junis combination as your pitchers today on FantasyDraft, you will have nearly $8.2K per batter for the rest of your build which will allow you to get some big time bats alongside your arms and with some high-powered offenses on this slate, you are going to need to make sure you get the right sticks to push into the cash positions.
The Yankees have the highest IRT at 4.65 on the slate in a match-up against Alex Cobb but the pricing on the Yankees matches their opponent as five of the projected nine batters are over $9K and with this Yankees team banged up, having Stanton, Didi, Hicks, Tulo and Andujar all on the IL, I am not sure this is a must have lineup at these price points.
The Red Sox while priced up – at least in the case of Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez ( $10.7K and $9.8K) – seem like a batter all around investment as stacking Boston is a bit more balanced with the rest of their roster far more affordable. The big news here is that Steve Pearce ($7.7K) is expected to make his season debut today and it sets up perfectly with LHP Brett Anderson on the hill for Oakland.
This Red Sox trio is going to be at the core of my builds today as Betts (.344 ISO), Martinez (.244 ISO) and Pearce (.255 ISO) all destroyed LHP in 2018 with Anderson surrendering 1.5 HR/9 to RHB in 2018, this is the kind of power stack that can win you a GPP on a small slate. Although expensive, even alongside Noah/Junis, you still have $7.4K per batter for the last 5 spots in your lineup.
With that salary construct in mind, I am not sure you need to go far – simply flip to the other side of this game where the A’s will take on Eduardo Rodriguez. Now E-Rod is certainly not a bad pitcher, in fact he does a great job of limiting HC to RHB historically but after giving up 5 ER, 8 hits and 3 walks in only 4.1 IP in his first start where he said he did not have confidence in his fastball and relied on his cutter/change-up over 50% of the time which is a massive jump from his 2018 numbers where he threw those pitches barely 40% of the time.
It is possible it was a one start blip for the talented lefty or maybe its our chance to exploit a larger problem and with a right-handed power lineup like Oakland on tap – I think we have our secondary stack to use around the Red Sox.
Khris Davis ($8.7K) and Matt Chapman ($8.1K) are the two big bats and the most expensive Oakland hitters which within the context of this slate is key as we can get the Boston studs with a top end ace and still have room for these A’s hitters. Guys like Stephen Piscotty ($7.4K) and Marcus Semien ($7.2K) provide you some nice salary relief and give you a powerful 1-4 stack at the top of this line-up.
MLB DFS – Main Slate Overview:
Did you enjoy that early slate pitching Hope so, because it is about to get all sorts of stinky here my friends. Who is excited for a three game slate headlined by Yu Darvish and a potentially chalky Matt Harvey?
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Rather than sit here and try to sell you on any pitcher on this slate – what if we take another approach and work backwards, build around our hitting and then back into our pitching?
If you take a step back and look at the offenses on this slate – Braves, Cubs, Rangers, Angels, Reds and Pirates – the one argument I can make is that when selecting hitters for this three game slate, the game I want to focus on least is Pittsburgh/Cincinnati in PNC Park. We have the lowest projected game total at 8 runs which likely says more about the ballpark and the weak offenses of the teams involved than the arms they are facing but why not simply take the approach of using the pitchers where we simply do not intend to use the batters?
Jordan Lyles and Tyler Mahle are the two arms from this game – guys with 21-22% K rates, nothing special but on this slate those may actually be passable numbers when you consider the alternatives and I think stacking them both, hoping for a low scoring game and stacking the bats in the other two spots is a perfect way to approach this three gamer in GPP’s.
If Matt Harvey is popular, then load up on the Rangers left-handed batters and target the ex-Mets numbers versus LHB in 2018 – .225 ISO and 41% HC rate. The Rangers are loaded with left-handed power – with 5 of their projected starters sporting a .200+ ISO mark in 2018 against RHP including Joey Gallo, Shin-Soo Choo, Rougned Odor, Asdrubal Cabrera and Ronald Guzman.
The Cubs/Braves have arguably the two most prolific offenses on this slate and although Yu Darvish and LHP Max Fried are two of the better arms on this slate, I think we side with the offense here and load up on the best pure talent offensively.
Fried was really strong against RHB in 2018, albeit in a small sample size, but with RHB like Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Wilson Contreras all sporting .200+ ISO marks against LHP – there is some massive power upside for him to deal with.
Even with all the salary we are allocation to stacks so far, the reality is with so much cheap pitching, you will be able to grab all these bats AND still have enough for a Mike Trout ($10.2K) one-off against RHP Edinson Volquez.
The strategy here is simple – all the bats, all the best bats and take the pitching against the lineups you do not intend to use. One other route, say you do not intend to use Trout or any other Angels – then double down and rock with Volquez. It may sound crazy but remember Mike Minor was the ace to have last night against the Houston Astros – embrace the variance kids.
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