Welcome to the Tuesday 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.
Monday’s MLB DFS slate was all about offense – quite literally – as 14 of the top 15 raw point scorers were hitters, with only Trevor Cahill ranking in the top 15 as a pitcher. It is very rare to see offense dominate a slate so much and while your first thought may be the game in Coors Field, only 2 of the top 15 players came from that game – Ronald Acuna and Trevor Story.
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 – Main Slate Pitching:
We have a bit of a split slate here on Tuesday with a three game early slate before we dive into a ten game main slate which is where my focus will be. The early slate is centered around a trio of arms in Chris Sale, Corey Kluber and Charlie Morton with really only one star offense in Boston which is essentially not usable price wise if you intend to play two of the three arms listed. I tried to make some builds and frankly, felt uneasy at every turn so I will simply make the responsible choice and opt to skip the three game slate and head to the main.
Let’s start at the top – Jacob deGrom ($22.4K) – let’s keep this one simple, he is the best pitcher in baseball, he is at home where he has always excelled, he has struck out 10 and 14 batters in his first two road starts this season and now gets a Twins team that will not be able to use their DH in Nelson Cruz. deGrom is a priority play – he is the best pitcher on the slate, in the game and on the planet right now – I am playing him and suggest you do too.
Joey Lucchesi ($17.6K) gets the prime SP2 match-up against the Giants in a match-up we will pick on all year and one in which he has dominated already in 2019. Lucchesi went 5.1 innings, giving up 0 ER and striking out 7 on his way to 27 FPTS in his first meeting with the Giants “offense” this year and he makes for an excellent SP2 pairing with deGrom.
Rather than spend a ton of time here on guys you know about, I am going to spend it on one you likely don’t know much about and someone we should give consideration to as our SP2 and that is the cheapest arm on the board – John Means ($9K).
Now, you may look at the Baltimore LHP and think, its warm in Camden Yards, the A’s have the highest implied run total outside of Coors (5+ right now) and they are loaded with right-handed power – why would I go this route – well, let’s have some fun.
If you look at Means minor league numbers, you will see a pitcher with a sub 20% K rate in AAA, mediocre minor league numbers and nothing is going to jump out at you until you dig a bit further and realize this is a pitcher who completely changes his approach in the off-season, moving from a fastball-slider pitcher to a higher velocity arm that relies on his change-up as his put out pitch.
Means is getting the spot in the Orioles rotation after a strong bullpen debut in 2019 including 3+ innings of relief where he struck out 5 Yankees, throwing just under 80 pitches and relied heavily on his change-up, throwing it nearly 40% of the time thus far in 2019.
Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun did a fantastic job of breaking down this strategic change in Means approach who recognized his ceiling was likely nothing more than AAA depth unless he changed his pitching approach and that all started with a focus on added velocity to his fastball and a commitment to learning the change-up.
In limited sample size, Means has seen his fastball velocity tick up 2 MPH while his change-up velocity has actually slowed 2 MPH which gives him a near 12 MPH difference between the fastball and change-up. The folks at Camden Chat also show you that according to Brooks Baseball, the release point on Means pitches has changed since 2018 and all that combined with his reliance on a nasty change-up have pushed him to rack up 17.6% swinging strike rate in the first 5 innings of work this year.
Now Oakland is loaded with right-handed batters but against the change-up this could actually benefit Means, as the projected A’s line-up has 6 batters of the 9 with a whiff % rate of 30% or higher against the change-up against LHP since 2016.
Playing Means today is likely not something people will wake up and rush to do on a ten game slate, especially when you look at his minor league numbers but the key to me is, this is not the same pitcher who was in the minors – Means has reinvented himself with a completely new approach and while everyone else is salivating over the A’s 5 IRT in Camden Yards, I think punting with Means as an SP2 gives you some serious low-owned upside if that change-up is working.
MLB DFS – Building Around Bats:
If you start this slate with deGrom, you may head into picking out your bats thinking you are shopping in the bargain bin, however if you pair deGrom with Mr. Means, you will have over $8.5K per batter to build your bats which means we get to go shopping for power.
Let’s start with the Brew Crew – we get a lefty heavy power line-up against Matt Harvey – start locking in those Brewer Bats! Harvey struggled in 2018 against LHB with a .2225 ISO and 41% HC rate and those struggles have carried into 2019 where he has allowed a .389 ISO and 57% HC rate to the first 24 lefties he has faced this year.
Christian Yelich, Travis Shaw and Mike Moustakas all had .230+ ISO marks against RHP in 2018 and so far in 2019 Yelich is sporting a tidy little .577 mark while Moose is about half of that with “only” a .320 ISO mark against RHP.
The Mariners continue to absolutely rake, scoring 13 runs last night and now have 98 runs and 32 HR’s in 2019 which leave every other offense in the dust statistically. Now Jakob Junis is a pitcher I actually plan to use a ton this year but this is a case where I am going to ride the red-hot offense of the Mariners until they fail me.
Jay Bruce now has 3 HR’s in his last two games, while Daniel Vogelbach has 5 HR’s in his last four games and will be on the right side of the splits with Junis giving up more HC to LHB in 2018. Junis is a bit reverse splits though when it comes to giving up HR’s as his career mark of 1.7 HR/9 is well above his 1.2 HR/9 mark to lefties and his ISO mark of .208 to RHB last season puts guys like Mitch Haniger and Edwin Encarnacion right back in play in a Mariners stack.
Another day – another Dodgers stack – this time against Cardinals RHP Dakota Hudson, who we picked on in his first start against Milwaukee and proceeded to give up 3 HR’s in 4 innings all to left-handed batters. Well, you know what the Dodgers have a lot of? Left-handed power!
The trio of Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy and Joc Pederson, all crush RHP with ISO marks of .240+ in 2018 and with Hudson having no track record of K ability and a reliance on generating groundballs, the fact that all three of these bats are fly-ball dominant against RHP spells trouble for the Cardinals righty.
MLB DFS – Sample Lineup and Slate Overview:
Please note – this sample lineup is meant to be illustrative and should not be used as a plug and play lineup.
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SP: Jacob deGrom
SP: John Means
IF: Cody Bellinger
IF: Travis Shaw
IF: Max Muncy
OF: Jay Bruce
OF: Christian Yelich
OF: Joc Pederson
UTIL: Mike Moustakas
UTIL: Daniel Vogelbach
Slate Overview: Taking a step back and looking at this build, I have the best arm in baseball locked in around three power stacks in the Dodgers, Mariners and Brewers. Obviously this all keys in around the cheap SP2 in John Means but I am hopeful that I at least made a compelling argument for him outside of “he is cheap and you can do whatever you want with him as your SP2.”
Stay tuned to Fantasy CPR each and every day for all the latest MLB DFS news and analysis across FantasyDraft, FanDuel and DraftKings.