MLB DFS Picks - Covering the Bases: Saturday

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Saturday, August 24th

Happy Saturday, Grinders! We have the usual full slate on tap for today, but it is unusually tilted toward evening starts. There are just three afternoon games on the docket, and they all start at different times. DraftKings is only offering two games on their early slate. FantasyDraft isn’t even offering an early slate. The only site that is offering a full three game early slate is FanDuel. That might give you some intrigue to play… until you actually look at the slate.

Early Slate Quick Hits

Here are the pitching options available in the early games:

Jose Quintana
Joe Ross
C.C. Sabathia
Tony Gonsolin
Zach Eflin
Jordan Yamamoto

Quintana is light years more expensive than any other pitcher on the slate, and he has to face the red-hot Nationals.

Ross has been terrible all year and is facing a good offense at Wrigley Field.

Sabathia is no longer a DFS option and is facing the Dodgers.

Gonsolin is not a DFS option and is facing the Yankees.

Eflin hasn’t thrown more than 75 pitches in almost 40 days.

Yamamoto has a 47% hard contact rate allowed and a 10% walk rate in his MLB sample size.

Really, there isn’t a single pitcher to like on the early slate. Quintana has the best profile of the bunch, but that’s also priced into his inflated tag. Eflin draws the Marlins, which will make him a popular option, and perhaps the Phillies will extend him a bit after somehow allowing 19 runs to the Marlins last night. Yamamoto is an intriguing risk/reward option. There’s no way I will touch Ross, Sabathia, or Gonsolin in difficult matchups.

Going cheap at pitcher with Eflin or Yamamoto will also give you the flexibility to spend up on bats this afternoon. That’s my preferred route. I like the power bats in the NYY/LAD game the most, and the Dodgers match up well with Sabathia, other than the fact that Sabathia throws left-handed. A.J. Pollock is a nice value if he leads off with his .397 wOBA against lefties this year. Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy still have elite power numbers, even in L/L matchups. Don’t be shy about loading up on some Dodgers today. All the Yankees have power upside and make for nice one-off plays, or you can use the full GPP stack.

I like the Cubs against Joe Ross, but they fall behind the Dodgers and Yankees on my wish list with a reasonably healthy wind blowing in from right field at Wrigley today. The Nationals have been the best offense in the league over the last few weeks and can be used as a super contrarian bunch if you are feeling frisky.

Don’t expect the Marlins to score 19 runs again. Who would have thought that the Phillies and Marlins would play a 29 run affair? Both teams need innings from their starters today.

My short answer is this: don’t bother with the early slate.

If you choose to ignore that advice, roll with some combination of Quintana, Eflin, or Yamamoto on the mound, and you can prioritize the bats in the NYY/LAD contest.

MAIN SLATE BREAKDOWN

All right, now we can get to the fun stuff. There are 12 evening games tonight, and that gives us a healthy slate to break down. It is also worth noting that tonight is the FanDuel live final out in San Diego, and they have limited their main slate to match the slate that will be offered for that event. As such, the three West Coast games are excluded, and that leaves us nine games on the FanDuel main slate. I will reinforce that throughout the analysis as needed. That’s not a bad thing, either, as there really isn’t a TON to love in those three games.

Let’s break things down!

Saturday Evening Arms – Limited Options

There really aren’t a lot of elite pitchers this evening, so that makes things fairly straight forward from this perspective. There are only seven viable arms in my player pool tonight, and I’ll lump them all into one section.

Mike Clevinger vs. Royals – You can make a case for both Clevinger and Gibson tonight, and they both rise to the top on a slate that leaves a lot to be desired from a pitching perspective. I’ll give a slight edge to Clevinger thanks to his matchup against a Royals team that has a .273 wOBA and 6.7% walk rate in the month of August. That wOBA mark is 17 points lower than any other team in the league. When you combine that with the impatient nature of the offense, this bodes well for Clevinger, since the biggest risk with him is often an elevated walk rate. Otherwise, his numbers are elite, and it’s amazing that he has a 3.11 ERA with a .338 opposing BABIP on the year. Really, he’s pitched better than those surface numbers show. The 2.63 xFIP and nearly 37% strikeout rate show off his potential, and he’s clearly the highest upside arm on the slate. It’s not even all that close.

Kyle Gibson vs. Tigers – Gibson doesn’t have the glitz and glamour of Clevinger, but he checks in as a similarly massive favorite on this large slate. The Twins currently sit as a -320 favorite in Vegas, though they were stunned by the Tigers on Friday. I would be surprised if lightning strikes twice. There’s nothing all that special about Gibson overall, but he’s a solid innings eater with average strikeouts, a respectable profile, and a 3.85 xFIP on the season. That’s generally good enough to get the job done as a RHP against the Tigers. Remember, this is a team that we’ve simply been streaming quality RHPs against for months. It’s for good reason, too, as the Tigers own the league’s second lowest team wOBA to go along with the highest strikeout rate against righties. Gibson is a very safe option tonight, and he also comes in at a substantial discount from Clevinger. On a slate where many players will want to prioritize bats, that has some value. Gibson is viable in any format.

Zack Wheeler vs. Braves – This isn’t me trying to disparage Wheeler, but his numbers would have to REALLY dazzle in order for me to prioritize him tonight. He carries a high price tag and a much more difficult matchup than the aforementioned two arms. The Braves are an elite offense from top to bottom, though they are a bit watered down right now with Swanson, Markakis, and McCann on the shelf. Still, the presence of Acuna, Albies, Freeman, and Donaldson at the top is something that you simply don’t see with teams like the Royals and Tigers. As for Wheeler himself, he continues to show upside potential with slightly above average strikeouts and a SIERA and xFIP around 4.00. At this point, though, he’s a 29 year old pitcher with years of an MLB sample similar to this. It’s not like we should expect a Jack Flaherty like surge from Wheeler. I don’t mind him, but I just can’t see a reason to prioritize him given the layout of this slate.

Dakota Hudson vs. Rockies – Hudson was pulled from his last start with a no hitter, as he had thrown over 100 pitches in 6 2/3 innings. It wasn’t an effortless, dominant performance, as Hudson walked four batters in that outing. He’s one of those pitchers that offers a lot more from a real life perspective than a fantasy perspective, and he’s certainly a valuable part of a St. Louis team that is making a playoff push. He still leads the league with an impressive 57% ground ball rate, and tonight’s matchup is a good one against a Rockies team that has Detroit-like numbers when they are hitting outside of Coors Field. The problem that I have is three-fold:

1) Hudson is likely to be over-owned tonight given his last outing.
2) The DFS price is elevated now, at $8,000 on FD, $8,500 on DK, and $16,200 on FDRAFT>
3) Lefties have better numbers against him, and Colorado will likely roll out quite a few LHBs tonight.

On top of that, how can we prioritize a pitcher with a 17% strikeout rate and a double digit walk rate at this salary? I love the Cardinals, but this just isn’t smart. I expect him to do a solid job of preventing runs, but I don’t think he can provide a GPP-winning type of performance.

Max Fried at Mets – Speaking of ground ball pitchers, Max Fried also enters the conversation. While he isn’t at Hudson’s level, Fried still ranks inside the top eight in baseball in GB% at 52.4%. He also has more upside than Hudson, as Fried owns a 24% strikeout rate to go along with 11% swinging strikes and a tidy 3.49 xFIP. He’s clearly a higher upside option than Hudson, and he checks in at a very similar price tag. That makes this decision easy. While Fried faces arguably a tougher opponent in a hot Mets squad, it’s not like this offense strikes a ton of fear into opposing pitchers. They rank 15th in the league in ISO against LHP this year, and they have the 12th highest strikeout rate. Essentially, it’s a neutral matchup, and I’ll side with Fried’s upside on a points per dollar basis.

Alex Wood at Pirates – It’s nice to see Wood pitching again at the major league level, and he has always had some fantasy potential when healthy. The health part has been the biggest question mark over the years. Thankfully, we don’t have to worry as much about that in a single day setting. While the surface numbers don’t look great, Wood’s advanced metrics don’t look too bad, and his 21/4 K/BB ratio over 24 1/3 innings inspires some confidence. This is also a good matchup with a great park shift against a Pirates team that has been abysmal since the All Star break. There is less appeal on DK where he is priced up a bit, but I like Wood as a risk/reward FD option at an affordable $6,600 price tag. If he helps get you a double stack of bats you like, there’s plenty of GPP intrigue.

John Means vs. Rays – First off, I will state that you 100% unequivocally do not need to do this on FanDuel in a single pitcher format. However, I also realize that in the top six arms that I offered up, none of them are priced below $8,000 on DraftKings. The salaries on DK/FDRAFT seem unnecessarily tight this evening, and it’s really hard to make a lineup that you feel comfortable with. I will repeat this in the summary. That puts John Means into the mix. He’s mega cheap, and punting with an SP2 option is certainly viable on a slate that offers tons of bats. Means draws a tough matchup with the Rays, but this Tampa Bay offense profiles much worse against left-handed starters. They rank a meager 20th in the league in wOBA against lefties, and they own the fourth highest team strikeout rate. Means doesn’t walk a ton of batters and allows hard contact at a sub-30% clip for the year. It’s not a ringing endorsement, but it’s about as good as it gets for cheap starters tonight.

Not Going Here

These pitchers might get some attention, but they are not in my player pool tonight.

Madison Bumgarner faces the A’s and carries an exorbitant price tag. Yes, he’s had a better season, but there is no way I am overpaying for him given that he will likely face a RH-heavy lineup with a lot of power hitters. I’ll touch on this more in the offense section. This isn’t a worry on FD with the game being excluded from that slate.

Dinelson Lamet rivals the top pitchers on the slate in terms of strikeout upside, but he’s overpriced on DK/FDRAFT, is not available on FD, and has to face the Red Sox. That’s an easy pass.

Zac Gallen has had an impressive second half as a rookie, but the command has looked wayward of late. He walked six batters in his last start and gets to face the Brewers in a hitter-friendly Miller Park. I’m not overpaying here.

Kolby Allard has long-term appeal and risk/reward upside, but he’s struggled so far in the big leagues. A matchup against the White Sox is a plus, but he’s a deep GPP dart at best.

Austin Pruitt might get some buzz as the probable long man for the Rays tonight, but he hasn’t been stretched out beyond 60 pitches. I don’t think he carries enough upside to win you anything on this slate, even against the Orioles. The risk seemingly outweighs the reward for me. The same goes for Brock Stewart against the Mariners, though I like him a little bit more than Pruitt.

Saturday Pitching Summary

You can poke holes in most of the arms on this slate. It’s not an issue to find one arm to like on FanDuel, and I wouldn’t get cute beyond the Clevinger/Gibson duo over there. I’ll try to get that pairing on DK/FDRAFT as well, but it’s harder to make the salaries work on those two sites.

I also realize that in the top six arms that I offered up, none of them are priced below $8,000 on DraftKings. The salaries on DK/FDRAFT seem unnecessarily tight this evening, and it’s really hard to make a lineup that you feel comfortable with. That gives John Means a little appeal as a punt option, as that might be necessary in order to get some high-end bats.

All told, I will try to prioritize Clevinger and Gibson as much as possible. I like the GPP appeal of guys like Wood and Fried, with Means sitting as a potential punt as needed on multi-pitcher sites.

Saturday Night Bats – Three Elite Spots

Twins vs. Edwin Jackson – If you want an in depth breakdown of Edwin Jackson, go back and read Cheese’s summary of him in Monday’s article. It was really a great synopsis of the narratives surrounding Jackson right now and why he isn’t “pitching better” as a member of the Tigers than he was for the Blue Jays earlier in the year. All of his success has largely hinged on favorable BABIP luck. Jackson allowed five runs (four earned) over five innings that night, and this is still a pitcher with a ludicrous 8.46 ERA for the year to go along with an awful overall profile. He’s allowing hard contact like it’s going out of style. The power hitters for the Twins are absolutely capable of teeing off here. I always side with Jorge Polanco and his .380+ wOBA against RHP for the year. He hits for average and should push for five at-bats tonight. In GPP formats, shoot for the moon with the power potential. Miguel Sano and Max Kepler don’t hit for much average, but both have elite power profiles. There’s upside throughout this offense, and I am intrigued to see where ownership will fall. If the Twins are not going to be chalk, they are my top stack. If they are going to be chalk, I’ll likely pivot to one of these next two squads.

Indians vs. Glenn Sparkman – Oh look, it’s Glenn Sparkman facing the Indians for the 653rd time this season. Really, it’s just the fourth time, but all have come in the last two months. Here are the Spark Man’s results in those first three head-to-head appearances:

June 25th – 5 2/3 IP, 5 ER, 7 H, 2 BB, 3 K
July 21st – 5 2/3 IP, 4 ER, 9 H, 2 BB, 1 K
July 27th – 5 IP, 8 ER, 9 H, 1 BB, 2 K

Overall – 16 1/3 IP, 17 ER, 25 H, 5 BB, 6 K

The accountant in me can do some math here. That adds up to a 9.37 ERA and 3.30 K/9. Is that good? No. No, it is not. Cue up the Indians. Our projections always love the CLE bats against Sparkman, and that continues tonight. None of the individual Cleveland bats have been truly elite against RHP this year, but they have been a better offense in the second half — and this is a case where the whole is better than the sum of the parts. I like this better as a full stack than trying to parse out individual bats, though Carlos Santana and Francisco Lindor would be fine cash game targets. They lead the team with wOBA marks of .392 and .371, respectively, against RHP this year. Though he has struggled of late, Yasiel Puig is another intriguing target here. His career splits are actually better against RHP, and his strikeout risk is limited against a pitcher that won’t miss many bats. He’s my favorite one-off GPP target from the Indians, though the entire offense is certainly in play.

Astros vs. Dillon Peters – The Astros are facing the best pitcher out of this trio, but it’s not really a ringing endorsement to say that Dillon Peters is better than Edwin Jackson and Glenn Sparkman. Is that really even a compliment? Peters does have reasonable surface numbers, but the onion is a bit stinky once you start to peel back the layers. He owns a 4.83 xFIP, below average strikeouts, and a whopping 42% opposing hard contact rate. That doesn’t bode well in this matchup.

Speaking of the matchup, it feels like the Astros are facing a weak pitcher and/or a lefty for about the 20th time this month, but here we are. Give me Bregman as my preferred target. His numbers against LHP have been on a steady climb, and they currently are downright impressive from top to bottom. While Houston has a ton of hitters that are elite against lefties, Bregman takes the cake with a .422 wOBA, .325 ISO, and 1.045 OPS to go along with a 14% strikeout rate and a 13% walk rate. That’s elite stuff. He’s my favorite overall bat on the slate. The rest of the offense also profiles well, as Houston simply mashes lefties. In addition to Bregman, four other regulars have wOBA marks above .400 against lefties (Springer, Alvarez, Chirinos, and Altuve). Brantley sits at .360. Yuli Gurriel has plenty of pop and has been much better in the second half. There really isn’t a weakness in this group from top to bottom, and I like the Astros a lot tonight.

Saturday Night Bats – Best of the Rest

Cardinals vs. Chi Chi Gonzalez – The Cardinals have been an enigma offensively all year long, epitomized by the fall from grace for Matt Carpenter (conveniently, right after he signed an extension for massive dollars). Carpenter has been in and out of the lineup and sports a batting average near .200 over the last calendar year. That’s not good. Outside of Carpenter, though, the offense has looked much better of late. The return of Marcell Ozuna has added pop in the middle of the order, and he cracked a first inning home run on Friday. Dexter Fowler has been taking better at bats out of the leadoff spot. Paul DeJong and Paul Goldschmidt offer power potential. The matchup is a golden one against a bad pitcher in Gonzalez, who has bad metrics across the board — from 13% strikeouts to 11% walks to 46% hard contact to a SIERA near six. Yikes. Outside of the “big three” offenses tonight, this is the most likely spot for an explosive game. Count me in as a homer this evening.

Blue Jays vs. Felix Hernandez – Oh my. Felix Hernandez is back in our lives, and it’s clear that he is nearing the tail end of his career as a viable major league starter. His numbers have been on a steady decline over the last several seasons, and he has an ERA of six and a half in his eight starts this year. Here are his hard contact numbers, as an indication of his overall decline:

2015 – 25.4%
2016 – 28.7%
2017 – 30.7%
2018 – 38.7%
2019 – 45.3%

The hit or miss Toronto lineup could very much do some damage tonight, and they won’t break the bank. Teoscar Hernandez has had a great second half. Vladimir Guerrero looks much more comfortable at the MLB level now. Bo Bichette has been great. Cavan Biggio has underwhelmed but offers plenty of power. Whoever starts at first base between Tellez and Smoak could be used as a cheap power source. Anything is in play here, from a full stack to going after high-end or value one-off plays. Fire them up as the late night hammer on DK/FDRAFT where they are available.

Rangers vs. Ivan Nova – What happens when a bad offense faces a bad pitcher? We’ll get another data point on this discussion tonight. The Rangers have been largely shut down by Ross Detwiler and Dylan Cease over the last two games, getting just a solo HR from Elvis Andrus on Thursday and a three run home run by Willie Calhoun on Friday to account for all their runs in this series. It will be interesting to see how they do against Nova, who owns an ERA, SIERA, and xFIP near five to go along with an absurdly low strikeout rate. Those low strikeouts are what give me some interest in the Texas bats, as their main problem generally is their inability to keep rallies going thanks to their high team strikeout rate. Danny Santana has an absurd 3% walk rate and 26% strikeout rate against RHP this year, but he offers plenty of power and matches up well against Nova. Shin-Soo Choo is the consistent option with the best overall metrics. You can also consider a full stack here, especially if ownership is very low. Would anyone be surprised to see Nova have a terrible game?

Padres vs. Nathan Eovaldi – We don’t have much 2019 data on Eovaldi, as he has pitched just 37 total innings this year. He has underwhelmed in that sample with an 11% walk rate, and that leads to the potential for blow up outings. The San Diego offense is much less exciting now that Fernando Tatis is out for the year, but there’s still power potential with the likes of Hunter Renfroe and Manny Machado. Josh Naylor has moved into the middle of the order against RHP since Tatis went out, owns a .220 ISO against RHP, and is still dirt cheap everywhere. The full stack is pretty far down my list tonight, but there’s plenty of one-off potential, particularly with Naylor if he hits in the heart of the order.

Diamondbacks vs. Chase Anderson – The Diamondbacks have scuffled a bit over the last two games, but this is still an offense that offers some pop. The potential for some long balls is there against Chase Anderson, a pitcher with a career 38% ground ball rate and a fair amount of hard contact allowed. It’s also worth noting that Anderson has also had strong reverse splits throughout his career. That has continued this year, as he has allowed a .383 wOBA to RHBs compared to just .247 for LHBs. That’s a bit of a problem for Arizona, as most of their power bats are lefties or switch hitters. Christian Walker is a sneaky target here given his pop from the right side, and he makes for a great one-off option. I won’t prioritize anyone else from this group, as Anderson is not the type of pitcher we love to stack against.

YOLO GPP Stack – A’s vs. Madison Bumgarner – Look, I am not going to sit here and tell you that you need to play bats against Madison Bumgarner. After all, he is a proven MLB pitcher with a long track record of success. He gets a solid amount of strikeouts and rarely beats himself with walks. However, it’s not like he CANNOT be beaten. RHBs have a wOBA over .300 against him this year to go along with a massive 45% hard contact rate. Bumgarner also has a meager 35% ground ball rate against RHBs. Basically, this comes down to BABIP mercy — and Bumgarner’s home park often does him favors in that department. The same thing could certainly happen in Oakland, but I like the potential here. After all, check out these DK price tags:

Semien – $4,100
Chapman – $4,100
Canha – $4,000
Pinder – $3,200
Piscotty – $3,500
Davis – $2,900

I know he’s had a terrible year, but this is DK just dangling Khris Davis at you. All of these guys are $500 to $800 cheaper than where you usually see them.

Stephen Piscotty is clearly my favorite target here. He owns elite splits against LHP this year, with a .428 wOBA, .274 ISO, and 1.043 OPS. He looks more comfortable now than he has for the last three years, and it’s nice to see him having some success in Oakland. You can also stack up the whole offense in an attempt to fit a Clevinger + Gibson SP combination, and I like that idea quite a bit. I’ve tagged Piscotty as a core value and don’t think you NEED to go anywhere else, but there’s low-owned appeal. Also, keep in mind that this decision isn’t even on the table on FD with this game not being included on the main slate.

Brewers vs. Zac Gallen – Gallen has looked very solid during his first major league season, and we certainly don’t need to go out of our way to target bats against him in cash games. I would just move right past the Brewers in those formats tonight. However, there are some signs of a potential blow up outing coming. Gallen walked six batters in his last start, and his walk rate is now bloated up to over 12% for the year. His SIERA is at 4.65. He has benefited from an abnormally low 6.7% HR/FB rate to this point. Buyer beware. Nobody is going to play the Brewers tonight, and the GPP potential is off the charts. Who is going to prioritize Christian Yelich when you can simply play any of the boppers from the Twins or Astros against weak pitchers? Yelich has the ability to hit home runs in any matchup, especially against a young righty with sketchy command. Don’t be afraid to play him in GPP formats for his multi-HR upside, and the same goes for really any of the hitters in the middle of this Milwaukee lineup.

Reds vs. Trevor Williams – The current state of the Reds offense is not great, and they are facing a capable pitcher in Trevor Williams. This would be an easy spot to just say “pass” and move along. However, I think it is at least worth a mention, as Williams has been absolutely scuffling of late. He owns an unsightly 8.03 ERA since the beginning of June, bringing his ERA to 5.65 for the year. His strikeout rate has dipped to 17%, and his SIERA and xFIP are now over 5.00. Bad luck might have something to do with his rough patch, but he’s been so bad for so long now that it has to be more than variance. The best way to attack this will be through attempting to find value. Josh VanMeter is still priced at a dirt cheap $2,700 tag on FanDuel, and he has been hitting at the top of the order often against RHP. He owns a solid .369 wOBA against RHP and is a key value piece on FanDuel tonight. You could also throw Derek Dietrich into the value mix given his cheap price tag now that he is healthy, but his numbers have lagged since the late spring. Of course, Aristides Aquino homers against everyone, so you certainly play him as well. I likely won’t go for a full stack, but the value pieces are intriguing as one-off plays.

Angels vs. Wade Miley – Miley has experienced a solid turnaround for the Astros this year, just like seemingly every other pitcher that gets thrown Houston’s way. His 12-4 record and 3.18 ERA make him look like an All Star. However, he has been hit hard over his last two starts, allowing 19 hits over nine innings. Perhaps he is wearing down late in the season. The Angels don’t profile well as a team against LHP, so this is a spot that is largely a risk/reward GPP stack. Of course, you can always use Mike Trout for his elite metrics across the board, but it makes more sense in cash games to pay up for the Bregmans and Lindors and Keplers of the world tonight. Nobody else on the team owns a .360+ wOBA against LHP for the year. Don’t go wild here unless you are stacking.

Saturday Offense Summary

I listed twelve potentially viable offenses tonight, and it’s rare to see such a large Saturday evening slate. The Twins, Astros, and Indians are clearly the top teams to target, and our projections always love the Indians against Glenn Sparkman. The power potential for these offenses is off the charts, especially since all of them are facing poor pitchers. Try to do your best to get some exposure in all formats. In terms of prioritizing a GPP stack, I’ll simply side with the team that is going to have the lowest overall ownership. There’s little to separate the matchups, so keep an eye out for our pOWN% numbers as roster lock gets closer.

There are also quite a few low-owned GPP squads out there. I like my Cardinals a good bit tonight, as they are playing much better baseball these days and have moved back into first place in the NL Central. From there, it’s all about low-owned leverage. On DK/FDRAFT, you can get the RH power bats for the A’s at super cheap prices against Madison Bumgarner, and that would be a way to be able to afford a Clevinger/Gibson pitching combo.

Since there are so many options tonight, there are also a few spots that I didn’t mention. I’m not really messing with the long relief spots tonight, and there’s no reason to prioritize bats from Seattle or Baltimore anyhow. I can’t see the Giants offense breaking a slate against Chris Bassitt — though anything is possible after the Marlins put up 19 on Friday. Boston and the Chicago White Sox could be used as deep GPP stacks against young pitchers, but I would have to be 50-60 entries deep before getting there on this slate.

Core Play Tags = Alex Bregman (all sites), Jorge Polanco (all sites for cash games — pivot to Kepler or Sano in GPP formats), Josh VanMeter (value – FD only), Stephen Piscotty (value – DK/FDRAFT/Yahoo)

Good luck tonight!

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Comments

  • Mr_tjRoto

    what do you mean?

    Boston and the Chicago White Sox could be used as deep GPP stacks against young pitchers, but I would have to be 50-60 entries deep before getting there on this slate

  • Steven1974

    • 965

      RG Overall Ranking

    • Ranked #79

      RG Tiered Ranking

    No Rays tonight?

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