The Rays and Jays are playing 20 minutes early so they won’t be joining our mega 12-game slate.

This is Plan of Attack. We’re here to provide advice and recommendations to help you build successful daily fantasy lineups. We’ll be loosely guided by the tenants of our DFS Manifesto – namely a single lineup build designed to improve your enjoyment of the game while giving you a chance to beat the rake.

Don’t be surprised if the column evolves. This is a living creature, and it’s sure to adapt in Darwinian fashion. If there are features you especially like or believe need tweaking to be actionable, please reach out to us. Since this is written early in the day, certain important details will be left for you to find on your own. In particular, weather, lineups, and umpires are all things you should verify within three hours of contest-lock.

For clarity, when I reference “value,” I’m referring to projected points divided by cost.

 

1. The RotoFanatical Challenge

 

We are hosting a daily 20-entry, $3 contest on DraftKings. It’s an excellent low-cost testing ground against fellow RotoFanatic fans. A level playing field is always nice. Today’s 12-game slate begins at 7:05pm ET. Reserve your spot for the contest.

 

2. Weather and Park Factors

 

Cincinnati, Baltimore, and Minnesota all have around a 30 percent chance for rain. Keep an eye on it. The wind is blowing in at Wrigley – only six mph.

We have quite a few important parks to consider. It’s hot at Coors Field. Early game conditions will be around 95 degrees before dropping to more temperate levels later on. Great American Ballpark, Camden Yards, Yankee Stadium, Citizen’s Bank Park, and Minute Maid Park round out the homer-friendly options.

We also have some pitcher-friendly venues, the most notable of which is Oracle Park. As we’ve covered in the past, the Giants home stadium suppresses most types of hits. Home runs are swatted down at every dimension. Right-handed hitters do get some help with singles (104 park factor, aka four percent more singles than a neutral park), but nobody wants that these days. Frankie Montas is visiting from across the Bay.

Check out our park factors HERE.

 

3. Building Block Bats

 

Elite values:

Joey Gallo ($5400 DK, $4000 FD)

Well this seems incredibly obvious. Gallo, Coors Field, and Texas temperatures could make this game a rocket show. Despite a strong no-hit debut for Ryan Castellani, he’s still a pitcher who has failed spectacularly in the minors. And, it should be noted, he only threw four innings and 60 pitches last time out. We’re going to see a lot of the Rockies bullpen. Gallo is incredibly likely to homer tonight with over a one-in-three chance to roll Yahtzee.

What is this FanDuel price anyway? Can we have an intervention?

The slate is crowded with expensive players at Coors Field and plenty of sea level stars against exploitable pitchers. We could talk about them for hours. Let’s… not.

Also consider: Shin-Soo Choo, Rougned Odor, Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon, Mookie Betts, Nick Solak, Willie Calhoun, Daniel Murphy, Garrett Hampson, Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario, Fernando Tatis, Nelson Cruz, Nick Castellanos, etc.

Unlikely heroes:

 

A.J. Pollock ($3400 DK, $2900 FD)

Remember Pollock? He sort of vanished from the viewfinder upon joining the Dodgers last season. His rebound this season has gone largely unremarked. He’s popped five home runs in 62 plate appearances (.286/.355/.643) – mostly while batting fifth or sixth in a potent Dodgers lineup. A peek under the hood calls this renaissance into question. He’s making softer contact than last season, but his launch angle is way up from 13.7 to 21.3 degrees. The best outcomes tend to happen in the 20 to 25 degree range. Whether this is due to an adjustment or just a small sample fluke will inform if Pollock is on his way to a career season.

 


(image: FanGraphs)

 

L.A. stacks usually exclude Pollock. There are so many more exciting members. He’s a little like the Michael Brantley of this offense. No, they aren’t comparable hitters, but they are both high floor, productive bats who can be incorrectly overlooked for shinier gems. A matchup against southpaw Patrick Sandoval is a positive pairing – especially if Pollock’s increased launch angle is real. Sandoval allows copious hard contact but gets away with it by keeping it on the ground.

 

Mike Tauchman ($3900 DK, $2500 FD)

With Coors Field and GABP on the calendar, the Yankees stack might slip through the cracks. It’s an expensive collection of bats set to face a Red Sox pitching staff coming off a 17-run debacle. They needed two position players to pitch yesterday. As we know, Yankee Stadium is a friendly venue for power outcomes. Tauchman is the best value of the bunch, but he’ll probably bat ninth. If he’s higher in the order, he’ll turn chalky.

Boston is expected to start Ryan Brasier followed by Colten Brewer. Both pitchers are exploitable. Brewer doesn’t throw a traditional fastball. He leans on a cutter, slider, and curve. He also lacks command. Tauchman brings a blend of traits to the table including power and speed. You’re mostly hoping for multiple hits and run production. He works either as a one-off or part of a wraparound stack.

Also consider: Nick Senzel, Trent Grisham, Hunter Dozier, Shogo Akiyama

 

4. Pitchers

 

“Safe” Picks: 

 

Gerrit Cole (DK $11000, FD $11000)

Cole leads the league in exit velocity allowed. As in, his is the highest among all starting pitchers. He was one of the best in the category last season. He’s currently working out some kinks. Last week, he seemingly rediscovered his strikeout swagger (10 strikeouts in 4.2 innings), but the cost was insanely hard contact as he tired. He credited better spin efficiency for the increased whiffs.

These are high prices to pay for a guy who’s still tinkering. A matchup against the Red Sox is a mixed bag. Cole likes to work at the top of the zone which generally feeds into their hitting strengths (some exceptions). They’re moderately strikeout prone. A projection of around six innings and seven strikeouts seems appropriate, but it’s not a stretch to imagine far better or worse results too. One thing is clear – no pitcher has a higher ceiling. For proof, think back to how he finished 2019 – double-digit strikeouts in nine straight outings.

 

Sonny Gray (DK $9600, FD $10800)

After yesterday’s fiasco (even though I recommended DeSclafani, I did warn you about home runs), the Reds need Gray to give them a long outing against the lowly Pirates. He’s the right guy for the job. Over his last 20 starts, he’s fallen shy of six frames only three times. That same period includes a 2.04 ERA, 11.31 K/9, and 11 wins. He’s been on fire since the middle of 2019. One of his greatest strengths is inducing soft contact. In a small sample this season, he has the 15th lowest exit velocity among qualified starters (excluding Cardinals). Last season, he finished 23rd lowest – a representative result for Gray. No pitcher can entirely escape the spectre of home runs at Great American Ballpark.

Also Consider: Jacob deGrom, Aaron Civale

 

Value Targets: 

 

Spencer Howard (DK $4000, FD $5500)

A minimum price on DraftKings is just ludicrous. Howard had a rocky introduction to the majors last week – the Braves dinged him for four runs in 4.2 innings. A couple home runs dampened the experience. On the bright side, he demonstrated command of a four pitch repertoire to go with plenty of swinging strikes (10 of 81 pitches). He’s set to face deGrom and the Mets today – another tough assignment. The Mets lineup has developed a certain tenacity. The team isn’t especially strikeout prone, and Pete Alonso seems to be heating up after a cold start. Still, Howard needs to return just 10 points to be a bargain. This pick is nothing but upside. He has around a one-in-four chance to deliver a quality start.

There is one downside to Howard – he’s so clearly the best second-pitcher bargain. The other very inexpensive pitchers either have terrible matchups (Kikuchi and Sandoval) or just aren’t playable types. Your next cheapest play is…

 

Frankie Montas (DK $8400, FD $8800)

Technically, Woodruff is slightly cheaper. I already teased this matchup in the weather section. It’s hard to walk away from a chance to tackle the Giants at Oracle Park. Even with their usual uncanny fast starts from notable nobodies (wave hello Donovan Solano and Austin Slater), the San Fran offense still rates among the bottom 10. Montas is coming off his best outing in which he held the Astros to just two hits in seven innings. The best news: zero walks. Free passes had forced him to throw too many fastballs earlier in the season.

One worrisome signal is downward trending velocity. He averaged 96.6 mph last season. His fastball sat at 96 mph in his 2020 debut. Since then, it’s steadily declined to 94.5 mph. It’s a possible sign of an injury. He might also be leaving some cheddar on the table in exchange for better command. Unless he says something to this effect, I’ll assume a less pleasant cause. You’d be surprised how few pitchers have a gear between playing catch and throwing full tilt.

Also Consider: Brandon Woodruff, Yusei Kikuchi, Patrick Sandoval

 

5. Connectors

 

Connectors are cheap guys who offer a tangible upside and enable you to explore top-heavy builds. FanDuel offers an embarrassing quantity of these players (their pricing model is drunk) so I’ll focus on DraftKings first and foremost.

 

Alec Bohm ($2100 DK, $2100 FD)

Bohm has a not-tasty matchup against deGrom. The attraction here is a blend of price versus ability. Bohm is built like a mountain, but his game reminds me of a less extreme DJ LeMahieu. Despite his size, he trades away most of his raw power for better contact outcomes. He’ll use all the field rather than relying on pull side pop. deGrom might be injured. He’s battled a blister recently, and he was visibly frustrated during his last outing. The Mets ace knows he has to try to gut it out for his team to stay afloat – their rotation is already on the cusp of rupturing. If the blister hasn’t healed – they’re notoriously finicky – then Bohm might actually be a $3,800 talent on a minimum contract.

 

Matt Davidson ($2500 DK, $2100 FD)

Davidson made the Reds roster on the strength of his Summer Camp then immediately missed time with COVID-like symptoms (he did not test positive). Through 21 plate appearances, he’s massively cut back on his strikeout and whiff totals while maintaining his signature power. He’s mostly faced weak opponents so it’s far too early to declare this a new Davidson. Then again, he’s set to face Chad Kuhl and whatever the Pirates can scrape together behind him. Davidson has upwards of a one-in-four chance to homer at the cost of, well, almost nothing.

Also Consider: Jake Cronenworth, Ben Gamel