Welcome to Friday everyone. We have a 13-game slate tonight chock full of pitchers to use and abuse. Enjoy.
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 New York have around a one-in-five chance for pop-up storms. Otherwise, weather conditions are temperate leaguewide. It’s even a tad chilly in Oakland. Neutral weather leaves us with just park and umpire effects to influence tonight’s outcomes.
PNC Park and the Oakland Coliseum are the main pitcher friendly venues. T-Mobile Park also skews towards pitchers. Miller Park, Guaranteed Rate Field, and Citizen’s Bank Park are the most hitter friendly havens. Let’s dig into the White Sox home park today.
Guaranteed Rate Field is tough on left-handed hitters in every way but home runs. This basically comes down to center field being a bitch. It suppresses every type of hit which is frankly befuddling. Usually, we’d expect an inverse relationship between home runs and other types of hits. Basically, is the fence shallow (more home runs) or deep (more non-home runs)? While there is a feature (shown in this image) which increases the difficulty of homering, it’s odd that it doesn’t also help singles and doubles.
In any event, pull side power receives a big boost at Guaranteed Rate Field. All fields power hitters get a slight knock. The relative ease of hitting oppo-shots is offset by the deepness of center field.
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.
Cody Bellinger ($4800 DK, $4300 FD)
Is Bellinger the Trevor Bauer of hitters? He was a monster last season but felt the urge to change his mechanics anyway. He’s suddenly burdened under a mountain of soft contact. The good news here is his opponent, Jeff Samardzija, is pitching through a blister and possibly other issues. He’s made Bellinger’s struggles look like a hot streak in comparison. Even if he doesn’t fire off a home run, Bellinger almost can’t help provide some production as part of a meaty Dodgers stack.
Max Kepler ($4300 DK, $3700 FD)
The Twins the leadoff man likes pitchers who work down in the zone. Royals starter Jakob Junis checks all the right boxes – he pounds the lower quadrants, lacks swing-and-miss stuff, and is prone to home runs and hard contact. Kepler, with his hefty fly ball rate and pull-side tendencies, is the most-affordable target for multiple home runs.
Also consider: Mike Trout, Ronald Acuna, Max Muncy, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Nelson Cruz, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Cavan Biggio
Matt Davidson ($2400 DK, $2100)
Davidson is both a potential hero and a connector (see section 5). I wanted to highlight him in the more prominent section. The right-handed designated hitter was a hero of Summer Camp, homering practically every day. An illness – he denies having had COVID – prevented him from establishing a regular role. He’s back in action and has the platoon advantage against Eric Lauer. The left-hander is getting some hype for this spot start. Despite crazy numbers in one relief appearance (21.7 percent SwStr% among them), I see no evidence Lauer is any different from the mid-tier guy we watched in San Diego. As a result, Davidson is one of my favorite targets for a no-cost home run. Treat this as an all-or-nothing play.
Chris Taylor ($3100 DK, $2500 FD)
Wrap-around stacks often make for solid contrarian plays. Taylor should come to the plate at least four times – assuming he starts – so his place at the bottom of the order isn’t a death sentence. Taylor’s plate discipline has really taken a step forward (it’s likely a small sample artifact). He’s continued to hit an extreme volume of hard, low angle contact with a quarter of batted balls classified as line drives. Samardzija is extremely hittable, and the Giants bullpen flops more often than not. Collectively, they have a luck neutral 5.26 ERA. This is the premier stack of the night, and Taylor gives you a chance to have a slightly different look to yours.
Also consider: Jorge Polanco, C.J. Cron, Jay Bruce, Jonathan Schoop
Matt Boyd (DK $8900, FD $7900)
We might need extra quotation marks around “safe” with this one. Boyd is my top-projected pitcher in part because conditions are very favorable. The Pirates offense is tepid on its best days, and PNC Park helps to mute Boyd’s home run problem. A bevy of line drives (40 percent of contact against) has served to ruin his pitching line to date. The good news is his command looked sharper in his second outing. A fair median expectation is around six innings and six strikeouts with an above average chance to earn the win and quality start bonuses.
Julio Urias (DK $9800, FD $8100)
By virtue of having performed well in two starts, DFS players will feel more comfortable with Urias. He’s hosting the lowly Giants. Urias also projects for roughly six innings and six strikeouts. He’s the most likely pitcher to earn a win. The difference between Boyd and Urias comes down to potential longevity. Boyd, if he’s rolling, could go deep into an outing – or even finish it himself. Urias is unlikely to begin work on a seventh inning. So he has to pack his value up front.
Also Consider: Trevor Bauer, Aaron Civale
Yusei Kikuchi (DK $5000, FD $7200)
Kikuchi might well be the best value on DraftKings tonight. FanDuel, shockingly, comes in with a more competitive price. FanDuel never has the more rational pricing. The Mariners southpaw is up three-mph with his entire repertoire. His results reflect the improvement including a sharp uptick in whiff rates. He’ll face the sea level Rockies, a consistently exploitable opponent. One thing I’m concerned about is a reliance on his fastball and a new cutter through two starts. He’s yet to throw a curve while rarely turning to his slider or splitter. An unwillingness to use offspeed stuff could catch up to him. Still, even a modest 12 point outing is a value on DK. He projects for closer to 16 points.
This isn’t a day for half measures on the pitching side of the equation. Take one or two of the top arms and consider pairing them with Kikuchi. I don’t like any of the trio listed below enough to bother with a write up.
Also Consider: Luke Weaver, Griffin Canning, Daniel Ponce de Leon
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.
Ben Gamel ($2800 DK, $2600 FD)
Gamel batted leadoff last night and could be looking at a more valuable lineup role in the middle of the order tonight. Eric Sogard will probably return to the top spot. Even if Gamel returns to the eight-hole, he’s usable at this price. He is aping teammate Christian Yelich’s hitting mechanics this season with a corresponding uptick in power outcomes. He’s also whiffing more than ever. If a few more strikeouts are the price of some serious power outcomes, I think we’re all happy to pay that price.
Miguel Cabrera ($2700 DK, $2200 FD)
Righty Chad Kuhl is starting for the Pirates, but southpaw Steven Brault will probably sub in by the time Cabrera is set to make his second plate appearance. Kuhl himself isn’t a bad matchup for Cabrera. Brault is even better. The Pirates bullpen? Well, that’s the best possible outcome of all! Brault has long struggled with right-handed hitters. Although in steady decline, Cabrera has continued to handle southpaw pitchers. He hit .340/.414/.557 against them last season. There are rumors of a mechanical adjustment which has helped Miggy to handle pitches on the inner half. The primary source of his downfall has been an inability to catch up to inside heat.
Also Consider: Davidson, Matt Beaty (if starting), Chadwick Tromp