Welcome to the Monday 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.
Sunday’s MLB DFS slate was honestly a fascinating one to watch unfold as we had a huge slate with a ton of top arms and no real “must have offenses” which made paying up for those arms an easy path to build. What really stood out to me was once we hit lock, I noticed James Paxton was just under 75% owned, in TOURNAMENTS. Not that Paxton was a bad play, but as an example – Stephen Strasburg was half the ownership at 36% so when Strasburg ends up getting the win while the Yankees pen blows it for Paxton, the 4-5 point swing in your SP1 really opens the door for you to jump over a huge portion of the field. It is always a reminder to listen to the industry, try to identify chalk, and extreme chalk in this case, and see where you can pivot!
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 – Monday’s Pitching Breakdown:
We have a ten game slate, a game in Coors Field and some big time rain risk which could take Chris Sale out of play in Boston and push risk on both Jake Arrieta and Steven Matz in New York, although rain could help prevent Matz from giving up 10 runs in the first inning this go round.
The reality is, this slate lacks pitching in a big way – the fact that Arrieta ($18.8K) is the ace to pay “up for” tells you everything you need to know. Now we have strikeout upside in a guy like Jack Flaherty, but this Brewers team has tagged him for 4 and 5 runs already this season and if you drop down even further you are entering the twilight zone as I never thought I would see Mike Minor ($17.2K) priced above Chris Sale ($17K).
The fact that the Red Sox game has serious PPD risk is fortunate and unfortunate, as I wanted to take the risk on an under-priced Chris Sale but the reality is, if this game was clear to play, I think the ownership on Sale at home as a -220 favorite against the Tigers would have been through the roof at this price point.
So where exactly does this leave us?
Joe Musgrove ($16K) feels like the safe mid-range option, a -140 home favorite against an Arizona team with the second lowest IRT, after a string of three starts to open 2019 were Musgrove has struck out at least 6 batters in each game with 19, 22 and 32 fantasy points.
Brad Peacock ($15.8K) has big time K upside in this mid-tier, having already struck out 6 in his first start in 2019 against Texas where he put up 26 fantasy points but then came crashing down in his second start against Oakland where he gave up 5 ER and struck out only 3 on his way to 2.45 FPTS. Peacock is a huge -180 home favorite against the Twins who have the third lowest IRT, so I could see Musgrove/Peacock bein a popular mid-range pairing on this slate.
What worries me about Peacock, is that I could see the ownership being somewhat high and this is an arm who was taken out of the rotation after the start in Oakland and bounced to the bullpen where he threw 3.1 innings and 1 inning back on 4/17. Peacock had failed to eclipse 90 pitches in either of his first two starts and now with this yo-yo of rotation/bullpen over the last 2 weeks, it could mean his routine is off and the arms strength is not ready to push for any material pitch amount (90+).
Do I feel great about going all-in on Musgrove and Peacock – honestly, no, so this may be a slate where I go GPP only and look to get a little weird, so let’s get weird kids.
MLB DFS – Pivot Arms:
Anytime I come across a slate like this where I feel like I have to sell myself on the pitchers in the upper to mid-range, I think it becomes a spot where you look to pay down, absorb risk in pitching and build around the bats.
Now, I am not going to try to talk you into David Hess or the arms in Coors Field, but I do think there are two intriguing arms in the bargain bin we can roll out in GPP’s tonight.
Adrian Houser ($11.K) is a former second round pick, acquired by the Brewers from the Astros in the Carlos Gomez/Mike Fiers trade – yes the same trade that netted the Brew Crew Josh Hader. Houser missed essentially all of 2017 after Tommy John surgery, but in 2018 he came back with 79 IP at AA/AAA, striking out 67 batters and ultimately getting a brief cup of coffee with the big league club, pitching 13 innings last season.
"Houser finally made it back to the majors in 2018 after missing significant time due to Tommy John. During that time, he remade his body into a lean, more flexible vessel and his velo was up a bit; instead of 92-95, he was sitting at 94-95 last year. His curveball didn’t have good finish during his brief big league time but it has been average and flashing above in the past. His changeup is now clearly his best secondary offering. Houser’s fastball plays down a bit due to lack of movement and it’d be nice to see the breaking ball bounce back, but for now he projects as a middle reliever – via FanGraphs.com"
Houser has started three games at AAA this season, striking out 6 batters in each start and racking up an impressive 18:2 K:BB rate. Now, trying to make a real determinations off only 13 innings at the ML level last year is about as difficult as making meaningful determinations off 3 starts at AAA this season – but my take with Houser is simple – this is a former high draft pick, with increased velocity and improved secondary offerings who is now two years removed from Tommy John surgery and the early returns in 2019 seem to show some promise. Houser has thrown 82 and 86 pitches in two of his three starts at AAA, so there is risk in how long he can go here tonight but the price point I think accounts for all of that risk on a night where I am willing to absorb some.
Speaking of risk and former high draft picks – yeah, I am rocking some Matt Harvey ($10.9K) tonight against the Yankees. No, this is not some sort of Mets nostalgia, with some corny “Dark Knight and Gotham” puns (although I considered it), but this is far more about an injury riddled opponent, having to fly cross-country and play in California, one day after a home game in New York on Sunday afternoon. The Yankees line-up without Aaron Judge, as shown here yesterday against the Royals, is one I think we can pick on despite the 7 runs they scored on Sunday.
Now Harvey has failed to make it out of the 5th innings in three straight starts, and has yet to notch double-digit fantasy points in any start this season, so let’s not pretend this is a slam dunk but I also recognize that Harvey has faced Milwaukee, Oakland and Texas (twice).
The one ting I will say about Harvey, is that he is relying on his slider much more the last two starts – throwing it 35% and 39% which is a huge jump from the 22% and 29% in this first two outings. This is meaningful because Harvey is getting a 40% whiff rate on his slider thus far, with a heavy reliance (40%) on it against RHB of which the Yankees should have 6 in their projected line-up.
What has killed Harvey this season is his over reliance on his fastball which is getting hammered by opposing batters to the tune of a 47% HC rate and near .300 ISO mark, so using his slider more heavily gives him a bath not only to limit damage (only a 30% HC rate on it), but also gives him some added K upside.
Going with a Houser/Harvey duo is going to allow you to get basically any and all the bats you want – and let’s be honest, you are going to need them to go off if you go this route – but on a slate where pitching seems ugly and without any “must have” ceiling arms, taking a punt approach and relying on your bats is not the craziest idea.
MLB DFS – Building around bats:
If you opt to pay down at pitching tonight, the obvious path to start with is in Coors Field with the Rockies and Nationals and with Jeremy Hellickson being one of the pitchers to choose from in this game, I think the Rockies bats are priority number 1.
Hellickson is a low strikeout arm with a sub 4% swinging strike rate this season, one who relies heavily on his curveball (which won’t get the same break in Coors Field) and who has been a fly ball pitcher throughout his career to left-handed batters. The Rockies bats are where I plan to spend some salary here today with Charlie Blackmon, David Dahl and Ryan McMahon all mashed around Nolan Arenado.
We are still waiting on Vegas data for this game as we await word of if Tyler Anderson will start for the Rockies, but it certainly sounds like the case.
Anderson has been a mess to start 2019, giving up 11 ER in only 9 IP with an opening start in Miami against the Marlins where he gave up 9 hits and 5 ER. With a match-up in Coors Field against a LHP, Anthony Rendon becomes a priority spend with his .308 ISO against LHP since 2018 with a 44% HC rate and massive 55% FB rate. The trio of Rendon with Juan Soto and Ryan Zimmerman gives you three hitters with .215+ ISO marks against LHP since the start of 2018, allowing you to build around the premium bats in this game assuming you drop down at pitcher.
MLB DFS – Sample Lineup and Slate Overview:
Please note – this sample lineup is meant to be illustrative only and should not be used as a plug and play build.
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SP: Adrian Houser
SP: Matt Harvey
IF: Anthony Rendon
IF: Nolan Arenado
IF: Ryan Zimmerman
OF: Juan Soto
OF: David Dahl
OF: Charlie Blackmon
UTIL: Ryan McMahon
UTIL: Mike Trout
Slate Overview: If you are one of those people who simply click to the sample lineup, and maybe are still just waking up – you will likely look at this and go – wow, Coors Field stack and a Mike Trout one-off, how “sneaky.”
Well, maybe you didn’t quite look at the pitching options I selected to get us there.
It is ugly and it is risky. Very ugly and very risky.
However, I will argue that every route you go here tonight for pitching holds risk and more importantly, I think lacks upside.
Is Jake Arrieta going to “break the slate?”
Jack Flaherty is averaging 1.5 FPTS/game in two starts against Milwaukee.
Joe Musgrove potential chalk due to the safety? Boring.
This feels like a slate where you simply want to survive pitching and hope your bats get you there and rather than just dip our toes into the water, let’s go all-in with our bats, taking the best bats in Coors and the best hitter in baseball and just hope our pitching can survive.
This is shaping up to be a GPP only night so have fun with it – sometimes you simply have to take what the slate gives you. Cross your fingers tonight and let’s hope the Dark Knight returns ( sorry I had to).
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