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Justin Verlander is, by far, the most talented pitcher on the early slate but isn’t necessarily in the best matchup as the Athletics are a Top 10 hitting team against right-handed pitching when looking at wOBA(.320), wRC+(104), and ISO(.176). Don’t get me wrong, I love the upside for GPP formats if enough value pops up when lineups are released but for cash games, I am going to go in a different direction. Enter Mike Clevinger who is having a very similar season to last as he has posted a 3.31 ERA(3.11 in 2017) and while the strikeouts are down in the mid seven per nine range, I fully expect that to come up as he posted a 10.13 K/9 last year and the swinging strike rate(11.1%) is right in line with last years number(12.4%). Tonight’s matchup presents a ton of K upside as the White Sox sit in the bottom half of the league in hitting against right-handed pitchers and strike out 24.5% of the time and have really struggled lately striking out just over 28% of the time over the last 14 days. The discount of Verlander also allows us to get some higher upside bats in our lineup and the upside also makes him a nice GPP play as well.
The four-game main slate has a little more of a GPP feel, at least on DraftKings where we have to roster two pitchers. Blake Snell tops the salary on both sites and has been consistent lately allowing two or fewer earned runs in five straight starts but draws a very powerful Yankees team. Instead, I will turn to David Price who, since being blasted by the Rangers at the start of May, has been very good lately averaging over six innings per start and has allowed just 12 earned runs in his last six starts(2.89 ERA) with a 9.64 K/9 rate. The matchup for Price isn’t anything to write home about either as the Mariners also hit lefties and don’t strike out a ton but you have to consider the other options after him and the discount from Snell allowing us to fit more upside bats in our lineups.
Gurriel is a great play no matter what pitcher you are rostering today as he comes at a discount on both sites. He has also been hitting in the middle of the order for the Astros which is a great spot considering the All-Star level players that hit ahead of him in the lineup. He hasn’t flashed a ton of power with just two home runs on the season but has been consistent with a .297 average and only striking out 10% of the time. Today he will face young Frankie Montas who has been very good with a 1.25 ERA through two starts but is overdue for some regression as he sits with a 4.07 xFIP, low .238 BABIP, and is giving up over 40% hard contact on the season. All things considered, Gurriel is a great play in all formats.
Also consider Yan Gomes(CLE) as a catcher pick as he has strong splits vs. left-handed pitching with a .390 wOBA and 148 wRC+
While I don’t mind Brandon McCarthy as a cheap SP2 on DraftKings for GPP formats, one hitter he will have to avoid will be Eric Hosmer. He is coming off a career year with the Royals where he hit .318 with a .385 on-base percentage and despite not quite reaching that level yet with the Padres has still been very consistent. Even more so lately as he is hitting nearly .400 over the last 14 days with eight multi-hit efforts for a 1.061 OPS. The matchup lines up for him today as McCarthy has been slightly worse against lefties with a .365 wOBA against(.352 vs. RH) with 36.8% hard contact(29.8% against RH).
Catcher consideration: Wilson Ramos(TB)
The good news if you are using Verlander on the early slate is that there is some value plays to make it a bit easier. One team I am targeting in those lineups with him is the Phillies and it starts with their leadoff hitter, Cesar Hernandez, who may not have the best average(.264) but has been consistently getting on base(.376 OBP) and has already scored 44 runs while adding 10 stolen bases. He is a switch hitter who has pretty even splits against both handedness of pitcher but has been slightly better against righties with a .343 wOBA and 116 wRC+. I always like targeting German Marquez at Coors as he has been much better on the road but on this small slate I am willing to take the sub $K price tag with Hernandez and plug him into my lineups in all formats.
Also consider Jose Altuve(HOU) if you are paying down at pitcher
Second base is pretty thin tonight unless you have the salary to pay up for Ozzie Albies or Gleyber Torres. Personally, I like punting the position and will do so with Eduardo Nunez who has been playing a ton more second base with Pedroia back on the shelf with an injury. He doesn’t provide much safety(.249 average on the season) but has been fairly consistent lately with hits in 12 of his last 16 games and comes in with 27 runs scored on the season which is very acceptable for a player hitting in the bottom third of the lineup most nights. I will take in a matchup vs. Felix Hernandez who is on his last legs in the league as his fastball velocity has dipped below 90 mph and he sits with a poor 5.70 ERA and 4.62 xFIP.
Also consider: Joey Wendle(TB)
I am playing a ton of Clevinger/Lynn at starting pitcher on the early, four-game slate and will be loading up on Indians bats for a couple reasons. First of all, they are ranked #1 when looking at implied runs on the entire day and get an elite matchup vs. homer happy Carlos Rodon. While Rodon was electric at AAA in three starts before being called back up, he fell right back into the same old groove in his first start in the bigs giving up two home runs to the Red Sox. He is also coming off a season where he averaged a home run per start(19% HR/FB rate) and recorded a 4.15 ERA, 4.05 xFIP. For Lindor, he leads the team in hitting against southpaws with an elite .424 wOBA, 172 wRC+, and .185 ISO.
Also Consider switch-hitting Eduardo Escobar(MIN) who has been stronger vs. right-handed pitchers with a .397 wOBA, 153 wRC+
The Diamondbacks have been running a rotation in their middle infield and it appears to be Ketel Marte who will get the start at second base tonight as they face a lefty. He comes in red-hot with hits in nine straight starts including multi-hit games three of his last four and has much stronger splits against southpaws with a .378 wOBA, 139 wRC+, and .233 ISO this season. He will face Steven Matz who hasn’t been terrible but he hasn’t been great either with a 3.53 ERA, 4.39 xFIP while walking over four batters per nine and has allowed 11 home runs in 12 starts(20.4% HR/FB rate). All things considered, I will be leaning on Marte in all formats tonight.
Also Consider: Xander Bogaerts(BOS)
I mentioned targeting the Indians above and will go right back there at third base with Jose Ramirez. He sits right behind Lindor in hitting against southpaws this season(among the regulars) with a hefty .375 wOBA, 138 wRC+, and .243 ISO. He also went into Wednesday night on a bit of a roll with hits in 17 of his last 20 games with six doubles and six long balls. Ramirez has been consistent all season with a .290/.385/.609 slash line and is in play in all formats today.
Also consider Scott Kingery(PHI) as a punt play to get the Indians into your lineups provided he is back in the top half of the lineup
After getting off to a hot start, Devers went through a slump in the month May but appears to be on the way out as he comes into tonight with at least one hit in nine straight games. He is getting an opportunity as a full-time third baseman with the Red Sox in his first full season with the club and while that average is down(.231) from what we saw in 2017 he is on pace with the power numbers with 10 home runs, 31 RBI, and 26 runs scored. Considering the small slate and his mid $3K price tag on both sites, he is a near lock in all formats with this matchup.
Also Consider: Matt Duffy(TB)
Another spot I don’t mind spending up on the early slate is with the Twins as they face off against a very inconsistent Michael Fulmer who comes in with a 4.40 ERA, 4.09 xFIP and has given up just over 39% hard contact on the season. Rosario is pricey on DraftKings but even on the small slate has seen his price drop on FanDuel which is good news for a hitter sitting in the two-hole of the lineup. He has been money for fantasy all season providing a high floor with a .312 average and .351 on-base percentage and has also provided a ton of upside with 14 home runs, 43 RBI, and 42 runs scored for a .903 OPS. Given all the other values on this slate, Rosario can be used in all formats.
If you are paying up for one bat on the main slate you really can’t go wrong picking one of the Red Sox outfielders. I lean in the direction of Benny tonight as he has been not only the hottest of the three but one of the hottest hitters in baseball lately with hits in 16 of his last 18 games including nine multi-hit efforts, six doubles, two triples, seven home runs, 16 RBI, and 17 runs scored. I feel bad picking on Felix Hernadez here as he has been one of my favorite pitchers throughout his career but he has really dropped off this season and sits with a 5.70 ERA and not much better .462 xFIP while watching his fastball velocity dip below 90 mph.
If it’s value you are after, you can do much worse than Jankowski who has been consistent this season with a .295 average and .359 on-base percentage while hitting primarily out of the leadoff spot for the Padres. Targeting the Padres isn’t going to be a profitable venture most nights but on a small slate where we will want access to some big bats(Red Sox, Diamondbacks) it makes sense to get some exposure to the value, especially on FanDuel where he comes at a sub $3K price tag.
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- David_Price_on_August_17,_2016: By Keith Allison on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons