We have a 10 game slate tonight populated by… problematic… pitchers. Let’s dig in.

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 10-game slate begins at 7:05pm ET. Reserve your spot for the contest.

 

2. Weather and Park Factors

Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Boston have a non-zero risk of rain. Other east coast venues could also experience pop-up storms. You’ll need to monitor weather closer to contest lock. Coors Field is off the docket, but we still have a fun mix of hitting and pitching parks. On the bats side, Yankee Stadium, Citizen’s Bank Park, Miller Park, and Minute Maid Park are the best for home runs. PNC Park and Kauffman Stadium will buff associated pitchers.

Check out our park factors HERE.

 

3. Building Block Bats

Elite values:

Ronald Acuna ($4800 DK, $3900 FD)
Freddie Freeman ($5300 DK, $3900 FD)
Marcell Ozuna ($4300 DK, $3400 FD)

Now here’s a juicy stack. The Braves are set to face Mike Kickham, a 31-year-old journeyman who last appeared in the Majors back in 2014 (for a whopping two innings). I don’t have any updated information about Kickham’s traits. We do have some statistics from Triple-A. He pitched ably as a swing-man for the Marlins affiliate last season, recording a 4.27 ERA with 8.76 K/9 and 3.75 BB/9 (13.3% SwStr%) in 86.1 innings. I think we can assume the plan is for Kickham to limp through three innings at which point baseball’s worst bullpen will get a crack at handling the next six frames.

Acuna is nursing a grade 1 hamstring strain. He expects to return tonight or tomorrow. The Braves superstar has hit well since returning from a separate injury on August 26. Freeman is having a career year, posting more walks than strikeouts while continuing to hit for a high average. He doesn’t dip into power quite as often as other players at his price point, but he makes up for it with consistency and run production. He’s on a 15-game hit streak – not that those matter to DFSers. Ozuna is more dependent on home runs for his production. He’s quietly swatted 11 big flies. Kickham had a 44.8 percent ground ball rate at Triple-A, an indication that Ozuna might match up particularly well against him.

Also consider: Christian Yelich, Fernando Tatis, Javier Baez, George Springer, Kyle Schwarber, Joey Gallo

Unlikely heroes:

Trent Grisham ($4000 DK, $3200 FD)

Grisham is a well-rounded leadoff man with just a touch too much passivity. The Padres are visiting struggling Julio Teheran (9.17 ERA, ugly peripherals). The San Diego stack should be among the most popular. Grisham is also priced aggressively enough for those who want to focus on a different stack. The combination likely means he’ll be one of the top-rostered hitters.

Getting back to the “passivity” dig… Any time you find a hitter with a high strikeout rate, low whiff rate, and a big enough sample to rule out a fluke, you’re probably looking at somebody who takes too many strikes. Sure enough, his swing rate on pitches in the zone is 7.5 points below league average. The upshot is he doesn’t offer at many pitches out of the zone.

Josh Donaldson ($3200 DK, $2600 FD)

Prior to landing on the injured list with his annual calf strain, Donaldson was off to chilly start through 27 plate appearances. Besides the potential for rust, there’s no cause for alarm. He was just a couple strikeouts and a double below his projections. Assuming he’s A-OK, Donaldson has a one-in-four chance to homer.

The Twins are paired against random number generator Reynaldo Lopez. You never know what you’re going to get out of the White Sox righty. He’s pitched decently in two short starts since returning from an injury of his own. Outcomes for Lopez routine range from disaster to gem. He’s one of the most volatile pitchers in the league – much like his teammate Dylan Cease.

Also consider: Adam Duvall, Austin Riley, Ian Happ, Nick Solak

 

4. Pitchers

“Safe” Picks: 

Max Scherzer (DK $10400, FD $11200)

While this slate doesn’t lack for expensive pitchers, they all have problems. Dinelson Lamet, for example, would be usable for his double-digit strikeout potential. However, he’s overpriced for somebody who usually throws fewer than 90 pitches per start. Walker Buehler and Charlie Morton are returning from injuries. Buehler’s issue was a blister so it’s reasonable to gamble on it being fully healed. He probably has the same issue as Lamet vis-a-vis pitch count. Across the aisle lurks the most consistent fringe-ace, Zac Gallen. Too bad he’s facing the Dodgers.

That leaves us clinging to Scherzer like some kind of floating door off the bow of the Titanic. Scherzer is the most expensive arm, and he hasn’t quite been himself this season. Moments of glory have been interspersed with glimpses of mortality. Of his seven starts this season, two have scored DK 6.5 or fewer (ruinous), three ended between 22.5 and 24.7 points (fine), and two eclipsed 32.9 points. The Phillies at Philadelphia is a challenging matchup – they’re arguably the top offense in the east silo. When Scherzer has allowed contact this season, the outcomes have been roughly league average.

Also Consider: Dinelson Lamet, Zac Gallen, Walker Buehler

 

Value Targets: 

Triston McKenzie (DK $6700, FD $8000)

McKenzie is overpriced on FanDuel, but he’s one of the most interesting value propositions on DraftKings. He’s set to face the Royals – a bottom 10 offense with a 23.9 percent strikeout rate at the second best pitcher’s park in the slate. McKenzie wasn’t able to replicate his debut dominance of the Tigers in his second start. St. Louis managed to make him throw 84 pitches in just four innings. His command wasn’t as sharp, causing an overreliance on his fastball. We need to see his fastball usage in the 50 percent range and his curve usage over 20 percent, otherwise we can safely conclude he’s not yet ready for DFS prime time.

As a second pitcher, he has all the downside of the other scrubs in the slate with potential to go strikeout for strikeout with a Scherzer or Lamet.

Jose Berrios (DK $7900, FD $8800)

I don’t have strong takes about Berrios. He’s a solid mid-tier pitcher priced like a solid mid-tier pitcher. He’ll be pitching at Target Field against an aggressive White Sox offense. When the two met up on Opening Day, the Sox dinged Berrios for five runs in four innings. Now is his chance for revenge. He projects to throw around six innings with as many strikeouts. Bats will probably win this particular slate, making a middling performance from Berrios perfectly acceptable as a second pitcher.

Also Consider: Joe Musgrove (returning from injury), Jordan Montgomery (typically 70 or fewer pitches)

 

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.

Jay Bruce ($2500 DK, $2700 FD)

If you’re feeling contrary, you can take a potshot at Scherzer without investing in a Bryce Harper or Rhys Hoskins. Bruce carries a one-in-four chance to homer. Nearly all of his value is tied up in the long ball – it’s homer or bust for good ol’ Brucey. His stat line reflects this reality. He’s batting .241/.279/.621 with five home runs in 61 plate appearances. An extreme fly ball and pull hitter, strikeouts are common for this slugger. He both improves Scherzer’s strikeout projection and acts as a possible downfall for the ace.

Ke’Bryan Hayes ($2000 DK, $2000 FD)

Hayes filled up the boxscore in his Major League debut yesterday. While we shouldn’t expect a repeat against Kyle Hendricks tonight, Hayes still represents an obvious bargain. He’s a $3200-quality hitter with a minimum price tag. The Pirates third baseman is best known for his scintillating defense, but he is also a solid, well-rounded batter. He doesn’t have any glaring strength or weaknesses which in itself is a strength. He has adequate discipline, contact skills, and pop. He’ll use all of the field too.

Also Consider: Josh Naylor, Tyler Naquin, Victor Robles