We have a seven-game main slate this evening. The pitching marquee is extremely top heavy. We have an important choice – ride a double-ace with bargain bats or load up on Coors Field hitters and shakier pitchers.
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 seven-game slate begins at 7:05pm ET. Reserve your spot for the contest.
2. Weather and Park Factors
Make sure you check in on Kansas City and Colorado before using those games. KC has intermittent rain throughout the day. Denver has a perpetual threat of pop-up storms this time of year. Temperatures are resting in the mid-70s for nearly every venue with some slipping into the upper-60s. Home runs will be slightly suppressed.
The weather effects will be more than offset by the venues. Coors Field, Miller Park, Yankee Stadium, and Citizen’s Bank Park are notorious hitter havens. Fenway is difficult to characterize due to its many strange features. Target Field is neutral and Kauffman Stadium skews towards pitchers.
Check out our park factors HERE.
3. Building Block Bats
Ronald Acuna ($4800 DK, $4100 FD)
Fernando Tatis, Bryce Harper, and Trevor Story are the top hitters in the slate, but they’re priced accordingly. Acuna is right there with the best of them, and he comes at a relative discount. He’s presently day-to-day with a possible hamstring injury so you’ll need to make sure he’s in the lineup.
Facing Colten Brewer and the Red Sox shambling bullpen should make the Braves the most popular non-Coors stack. Acuna is known for ambushing first pitches. Brewer tends to fall behind hitters due to below average command. He’s allowed 2.08 HR/9.
Also consider: Christian Yelich, Rhys Hoskins, Freddie Freeman, Trent Grisham, Juan Soto
Didi Gregorius ($4200 DK, $3000 FD)
The Nationals have one of the worst pitchers on the docket: Erick Fedde. The right-hander is a ground ball pitcher who doesn’t induce any whiffs (5.1 percent SwStr%, 2.38 K/9). On the plus side for Washington, he tends to keep them in games by avoiding home runs (1.19 HR/9). The Phillies don’t match up perfectly with Fedde, but they do have a couple hitters who should enjoy the pairing. One is extreme fly ball hitter Rhys Hoskins. The other is Gregorius. He’s a powerful, high contact, fly ball hitter who is especially effective against ground-balling right-handed pitchers. The Nationals bullpen is almost entirely right-handed aside from Sean Doolittle. He had a shaky outing yesterday and probably won’t pitch today.
Howie Kendrick ($3900 DK, $2900 FD)
A matchup against inconsistent rookie Spencer Howard offers risk and reward. I’m convinced Howard’s command is going to click one of these days, transforming him from a sort of random number generator into a true fantasy asset. Of course, even if I’m right, that could just as easily happen in 2021 or 2022. In the meantime, he’s exploitable to opponents like the Nationals. Howard’s mistakes tend to miss out of the zone which means he falls behind hitters but doesn’t usually give in with cookies.
Kendrick isn’t quite lighting up the boxscores like he was last season, but he’s still hitting for a high average (.310/.354/.437). He typically bats fifth or third in the Nationals lineup. His high contact, high BABIP approach gives him a solid floor of production. His lineup role, opponent, and venue offers potential for a high ceiling too.
Also consider: Marcell Ozuna, Andrew McCutchen, Howie Kendrick, Didi Gregorius, Adam Duvall, Raimel Tapia, Avisail Garcia, Daniel Murphy
Shane Bieber (DK $11000, FD $12000)
Well this is easy, huh? Not only is Bieber the most talented pitcher in a contest loaded with pitching potential, he’s also visiting the most pitcher friendly venue opposite the second least effective offense (the Pirates are worse than the Royals). Of course, such choice morsels come at a cost. Bieber is nearly unrosterable on FanDuel except as a (probably not) contrarian pivot. He’ll cost 34 percent of your budget. Gerrit Cole (30%) and Lucas Giolito (30%) are affordable by comparison. This is less of an issue on DraftKings where Bieber (22% of budget) is a reasonable $1000 more than Cole (20%) and $600 more than Giolito (21%).
Gerrit Cole (DK $10000, FD $10700)
We probably need to have a word about Cole since it hasn’t been working out as planned. He’s coming off a five inning outing in which he scored just 15.1 DK points while coughing up three home runs. Overall, he’s allowed 2.20 HR/9 – more than double his career average. This smells all kinds of fluky. With an unjuiced baseball, regression should be on the horizon. Cole has continued to induce strikeouts – the lifeblood of DFS. He projects to easily lead the slate in punch outs – a clear path to also leading the slate in point production. The Rays offense has been tenacious of late.
Also Consider: Lucas Giolito
Max Fried (DK $9200, FD $8600)
Usually, I would place pitchers like Fried and Glasnow in the “Safe” column. However, there’s a clear enough distinction between the Tri-Ace and this next tier that it makes sense to treat them separately. I’ve also listed some cheaper options below.
Fried will probably be the most popular second pitcher on DraftKings – a modest discount from employing two of the aces without giving up much ceiling or floor. Fried has consistently worked between five and six innings. The Braves ace records about a strikeout per inning to go with a hefty ground ball rate. The Red Sox offense is susceptible to both left-handed pitchers (less so now that Mitch Moreland and Andrew Benintendi aren’t in the daily lineup) and ground ball pitchers.
Unlike the next guy below, Fried is sufficiently discounted on FanDuel to offer an obvious value proposition. For instance, switching from Bieber to Fried saves $3,400 which would cover an upgrade from Didi Gregorius ($3000) to Fernando Tatis ($4800) with money to spare. In that example, I’ve swapped roughly 10 projected pitching points for five projected hitting points with $1600 leftover to find the other five points.
Tyler Glasnow (DK $8400, FD $9500)
Glasnow has the same value prop as Fried except on DraftKings. Where Fried is a steady performer who rarely posts incredible outings, Glasnow’s silly 15.43 K/9 offers obvious opportunity for a contest-leading point total at a discount. He’ll face a floundering Yankees lineup. If you haven’t been paying attention, they’ve taken to starting both Jordy Mercer and Tyler Wade. Gio Urshela might return today to add some depth. Glasnow can be comfortably expected to record well over a strikeout per inning. What’s less certain is how long he’ll pitch. The Rays have only once let him exceed 90 pitches, but that might be a function of his ailing command as much as anything else. If he carries over his success from last week, another double-digit strikeout game is in the works.
Also Consider: Rich Hill, Eric Lauer, Brad Keller, Trevor Williams, Spencer Howard
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.
Sam Hilliard ($2700 DK, $3000 FD)
The Rockies have a challenging matchup against Garrett Richards. He’s a spin-rate god and thus relies on perceived pitch movement. His stuff translates well to altitude. Even so, this is a good spot to use a bargain Hilliard. His Statcast data reveals strange results, but a peek at his home and away splits call it all into question.
That’s an awful lot of blue. Mixed in is a high rate of hard, barreled contact along with top-end speed. If we temporarily set aside the low exit velocity as a possible small sample artifact, we’re left looking at high whiff and strikeout rates as the explanation for his modest .234/.319/.469 batting line. And this is where the home/road splits come into play. Hilliard has struck out in 42.9 percent of plate appearances away from Coors Field. At home, it’s just a 20.0 percent strikeout rate. He had a similar large split last season (22.0% K% at home, 32.4% K% away). Granted both have occurred in ludicrously small sample. The bottom line is, when at home, we can expect around 70 percent of his plate appearances to end in contact. And that’s a great thing for his DFS managers.
Roman Quinn ($2400 DK, $2300 FD)
Quinn is one of the fastest players in the league, but he doesn’t get to fully utilize his speed due to a 25.4 percent strikeout rate. Facing Fedde and his pathetic 2.38 K/9 offers an opportunity for Quinn to put some balls in play. While they’ll almost certainly be ground balls, his legs can do the rest. Nationals backstops haven’t been effective at limiting the running game. They’ve allowed the seventh most steals (20) with an 80 percent success rate. Quinn offers multi-hit potential and should get four plate appearances even though he’s batting ninth.
Also Consider: Victor Robles, Bobby Dalbec, Ben Gamel, Gregory Polanco