A seven-game main slate kicks off at 6:05pm ET tonight on DraftKings. Note the new time! Sadly, we won’t get a chance to use Coors Field or roster Jo Adell – four games will be played in the afternoon. FanDuel is running a tiny five-game contest starting a 7:07pm ET.
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 6:05pm ET. Reserve your spot for the contest.
2. Weather and Park Factors
Philadelphia and Atlanta should be monitored for low-risk pop-up storms.
After wading through a combined total of 16 pitchers yesterday – including most of their best relievers – the Yankees and Phillies are on fumes. They’ll play tonight at Citizen’s Bank Park, a notorious bandbox. Jordan Montgomery and Zach Eflin will be tasked to tame two potent offenses. In other words, expect more early bullpen intervention.
Over the last three years, Citizen Bank Park has played as moderately hitter friendly. This is most evident for right-handed power hitters who are eight percent more likely to homer. Over a full season, the venue also has small but notable effects on average, slugging, and RBI. That said, the park’s reputation for cheap home runs is largely overstated. I’ve noticed a few outlier years – perhaps due to weather events – fuel the bandbox myth. Despite this disclaimer, Yankees and Phillies sluggers should be roster en masse tonight.
3. Building Block Bats
In this section, we’ll look at top hitters with strong projections before moving on to a detailed analysis of deeper picks.
Kris Bryant ($4500 DK, $3700 FD)
An icy start to the season has Bryant priced relatively affordably. I’m not convinced of a mechanical- or injury-related issue just yet which means the preseason projections for Bryant should still be what informs our start/sit decisions. He’s a fly ball hitter set to face Brad Keller, an extremely predictable ground ball pitcher making his 2020 debut. Kauffman Stadium is viewed as a pitcher friendly park, but it can skew hitter friendly during the hottest months of the season. It’ll be warm with a 10 mph crosswind blowing from right to left tonight.
Also consider: Ronald Acuna, Freddie Freeman, Bo Bichette, Christian Yelich, Bryce Harper
Andrew McCutchen ($3900 DK, n/a FD)
Rhys Hoskins ($3700 DK, n/a FD)
The Phillies offense is probably still a little rusty after a lengthy layoff, but that didn’t stop them from piling up runs in the first game of yesterday’s doubleheader. Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery is an effective mid-tier, left-handed starter. More often than not, we’ll probably avoid using or stacking against him. Since this is a small slate with only a few obviously exploitable pitchers, we have to gamble.
Hoskins and McCutchen are off to slow starts which should serve to deter some of the DFS crowd. Hoskins in particular offers an interesting value proposition – he has nearly three times as many walks as hits. Eventually, this discipline will yield power outcomes. Consider him a high floor, high ceiling option. McCutchen, to my eyes, looks snakebit (i.e. unlucky). He’s making plenty of hard, low angle contact while working counts. He’s been rewarded with a .056/.150/.056 batting line and a .071 BABIP. Eventually, all these hard grounders will find holes.
Travis Shaw ($3100 DK, $2500 FD)
I’m finding myself drawn to the smallest of samples tonight. A personal matter sidelined Shaw for a few days. When he was ready to return, the Blue Jays series with the Phillies was cancelled. The result is we’ve seen only eight plate appearances. So far, so good – .333/.500/.500.
Shaw mysteriously lost the ability to make contact last season. It’s honestly one of the most baffling declines I’ve ever witnessed. Thus far, and I can’t stress enough that this doesn’t even qualify as a small sample, Shaw’s swinging strike rate is back near where it was during his 2017-2018 peak. Pessimists will note he’s faced soft-throwers with an average velocity of only 90.9 mph. Braves starter Touki Toussaint throws 93.9 mph and has a diverse if inconsistent four-pitch repertoire. The Braves also have several left-handed relievers with which to nullify Shaw.
Also consider: Jean Segura, Ben Gamel
The pitching pool tonight is ludicrously deep. Even some of the stack targets (i.e. German Marquez) are usable.
Luis Castillo (DK $9500, FD $NA)
Castillo is the top-projected pitcher. You won’t get to use him on FanDuel. In a tiny sample, the righty is featuring career-bests in velocity as well as strikeout, walk, and ground ball rate. Cleveland features a top-heavy offense with a 25.7 percent strikeout rate to date. Castillo should supply somewhere around six innings with seven strikeouts.
I’m sure there will be some consternation that I’ve not listed Castillo’s opponent, Carlos Carrasco, as a “safe” option. I consider Carrasco too homer prone versus this particular Reds lineup. They’re loaded with left-handed hitters, and Progressive Field is friendly to lefty home run power. With well over a strikeout per inning, Carrasco certainly has the potential to turn in the top performance of the night.
Zac Gallen (DK $8900, FD $8200)
This slate is awkward enough to consider Gallen against a scary Astros offense. Houston has a 130 wRC+ as a team, meaning they’ve been 30 percent better than the league average offense. Last season, the club finished with a 125 wRC+.
A word of warning: don’t use team wRC+ to justify decisions, especially in such small samples. I’m merely pointing out that the 2020 Astros are basically hitting just like the 2019 Astros.
Gallen is a potential ace with lethal offspeed stuff. He’s already tamed the Dodgers and Padres, two of the top five offenses. He very much reminds me of a freshly minted Carrasco. Offspeed stuff is his specialty. This season, he has a near-even 20 percent distribution between his cutter (baby-slider), curve, and changeup. His usage patterns are such that hitters need to be prepared for any pitch on any count. Thus far, this willingness to throw any pitch in any count has led to a high walk rate.
Nate Pearson (DK $7300, FD $7500)
The most exciting pitching prospect to reach the majors since Stephen Strasburg, Pearson has a true challenge tonight against a tough Braves offense sans Ozzie Albies. The flamethrowing righty leaned heavily on his fastball and slider in his debut. He flashed a good-looking curve and a change for which he didn’t have feel. His heater has attractive characteristics including a top-30 spin rate and vertical movement. The Braves offense has struggled with strikeouts in the early going and might just yield six punch outs over five frames for Pearson.
I foresee growing pains if he continues to rely purely on this two-pitch combo. In the short term, we can hope he’ll perform on par with other short-burst starters like Lance McCullers.
Also Consider: Brad Keller, Brandon Bielak, Josh Lindblom
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.
Phil Gosselin ($2400 DK, n/a FD)
Gosselin continued his hot start to the season yesterday with a double and two walks in four plate appearances. That puts him at .625/.727/1.500 through… a whopping 11 plate appearances. Still, taken with improvements to his hard contact rate last year, there is cause for mild optimism. At this price point even just a walk and a run is a victory. As a bonus, he’s 3B/OF eligible on DraftKings.
Beware, Gosselin is a substitution risk if/when Montgomery is replaced by a right-handed reliever.
Orlando Arcia ($2700 DK, $2200 FD)
To my eyes, Arcia is one of the more baffling of the “bad” hitters. He has a presence and swagger at the plate, yet the outcomes are that of a typical super utility guy. Part of the issue is a defect in his swing that creates a 50 percent ground ball rate. Perhaps a matchup against a new Gio Gonzalez could help Arcia lift the ball? Gonzalez appears to be making an concerted effort to work up in the zone, especially to right-handed hitters. Arcia is best when used against fly ball pitchers. To be clear, this is based on just two outings and could be completely wrong.
Gonzalez Pitch Locations vs. RHP:
Also Consider: Jason Kipnis