FREE TODAY - Million Dollar Musings: Tuesday, April 23rd
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Tuesday, April 23rd
Happy Tuesday! Welcome to the Musings. If you’re new to the MLB Premium content and checking out the free articles each day, let me give you a quick rundown of what you can expect here. The Musings are designed to give you a breakdown of the slate from a big picture perspective, while helping you to understand the research and thought process that goes into MLB DFS. While I will be talking through who I am personally playing in different types of contests, the goal of this article is not to give you picks. It is for you to see the why behind the plays, so that you can make your own decisions on this and future slates within your own style of play. I will go through an analysis of the pitchers, followed by the top hitting spots on the slate. At the end of each section, you will find what we affectionately refer to as the Cliff Notes, where I will give a quick summary of my thoughts and preferences. Feel free to ask questions in the comment section, either in general or specific to tonight’s slate.
We’ve got a 13-game main slate tonight that is extremely light on pitching options. Adding to the intrigue of the slate, the best pitcher on the mound tonight is in Coors Field, which will lower both his ownership as well as the ownership of the Rockies bats. A majority of the games are being played in pitcher friendly ballparks, so as much as the pitching options themselves aren’t great, it’s also just an OK group of bats. Let’s jump on in and see what we can find.
Tuesday Night Pitching
Well, yuck. There just isn’t a lot here tonight, and this is probably the worst group of pitchers we’ve seen on a slate this size all season. But we’ve got to play somebody, so here’s what I’m looking at.
The Ace In A Tough Spot
Patrick Corbin at Colorado – Corbin is the ace of this slate before factoring in matchup, but that’s where this gets tricky. So far, 2019 Corbin has looked every bit as good as the 2018 breakout version of Corbin when he had a 30.8% strikeout rate and 6% walks. Through four starts this season, his strikeouts are back up over 30% and his walks have come down even further to just 4.9%. The issue with Corbin is that he is again allowing a concerning amount of hard contact, around 41% both this season and last. His strong control and strikeout ability have allowed him to dance around those hard hits, but Coors Field is not the place you want to see the ball getting hit hard. In Corbin’s favor is his pitch mix of mostly fastballs and slider, which are the two pitches generally least affected by the altitude in Colorado. He visited Coors Field twice last season and got by OK by Colorado standards, allowing five runs in 11 innings with 12 strikeouts. I am personally quite averse to playing pitchers at Coors Field in cash games, and even on a slate without a lot of great options, I would prefer not to land here. However, there is no pitcher on this slate that can touch his strikeout upside, and he has gotten such a discount for the matchup that he is my clear leader in points per dollar upside for tournaments. He is my top tournament pitcher on the slate on all sites, though if multi-entering, I would not want to be all-in on a pitcher at Coors Field.
Four Decent Pitchers, Four Tough Matchups
These are four of the best pitchers on this slate, though none are at the level of Corbin. With them facing each other and all backed by solid offenses, none of them are ideal choices for cash games, but we may need to end up here simply based on the weak pitching everywhere on this slate.
Kenta Maeda was a near-elite pitcher in limited innings in 2018, but so far this season, things have not gone as well. His strikeouts have dropped from 28.8% to 20.6% and his walks have gone up from 8.1% to 10.3%. However, we need to keep in mind that we’re only four starts into the season, and there are a lot of signs that things are going to be fine for Maeda. For one, his velocity is identical to last season, and while his slight change in pitch mix could explain the strikeout drop, it has also been accompanied by an elite soft contact rate of 30%, which would have been the highest mark in all of baseball last season. His swinging strike rate of 14.9% is ahead of his 2018 pace, which tells me there is nothing at all wrong with his stuff; he has just started out a little bit on the wrong side of variance so far. This Cubs team is not the best of matchups for his splits. He is a far better pitcher against right-handed batters. Take a look the splits since the start of 2018:
Maeda vs RHB – 31.5% K, 6.5% BB, 33% HH, .148 ISO
Maeda vs LHB – 23.3% K, 10.8% BB, 38% HH, .186 ISO
The Cubs should be able to send up five left-handed batters, with all five having walk rates above 10% against right-handed pitching. That is a lot of patience to make him work. As the highest priced pitcher on the slate, I just can’t get too excited here. He’s in the tournament mix, but this is too tough a matchup for me to want to pay this salary for him in cash games.
Jose Quintana has turned his season around in a hurry, although his back-to-back strong starts have come against the Pirates and Marlins, not exactly teams playing the same sport as the Dodgers. It’s hard not to be impressed by the 31.5% strikeout rate through his first four appearances, but there is nothing about his pitch type or velocity to explain this boost. He is pitching exactly the same as he has the past five years, four of which have come with a strikeout rate between 21-22%. If there is anything to this strikeout boost, I’m going to need to see it continue against some tougher competition. The only low strikeout team he has faced to this point was the Brewers, and they made him look foolish with eight runs in three innings. At this point, I can’t find any real reason to consider him anything more or less than the solid, above average, but unspectacular pitcher that he’s been for almost his entire career. The Dodgers are not quite as threatening against lefties as they are against righties, but this is still a very good team that will get at least six righties in the lineup, and just like the Cubs, it’s a very patient lineup. The strikeout rate of the projected lineup sits at 21.9%, which is close enough to average to allow Quintana to continue striking out a decent number of batters, but again, I don’t see any reason to expect this early season strikeout surge to continue. I’ve got him ranked just above Maeda, but he’s also too expensive to prioritize in this matchup.
Battle Of The Zacks, Or Zachs
Zack Wheeler at Zach Eflin – I really believe that Efron’s parents were the most correct, in just naming their son ‘Zac.’ Why do we need an extra letter if nobody even knows which letter it’s supposed to be? But whatever letter it is, these are two pretty good real life pitchers, a Wheeler who was great in the second half of 2018 and an Eflin who, despite two rough starts, has a solid 20:4 K:BB ratio for the season. Eflin’s numbers look similar to his teammate Nick Pivetta who was recently sent to the minors with a similar problem to what Eflin has seen – a high BABIP and too many home runs allowed despite an underlying skill set that looks as if this should not be a problem.
The thing I’ve noticed about Eflin early in the season is a big change in his batted balls to lefties. He has gone from 38% GB and 32% hard hits in 2018 to 47% GB and 26% hard hits this season. It’s a very small sample size, so those numbers may not hold, but it has been accompanied by a change in pitch mix, throwing his cutter 25% of the time to lefties vs just 2% last season. Given that most of the Mets threats (Mets Threats!) outside of Pete Alonso are left-handed, I am somewhat encouraged here. On any other slate, I would be off of him, waiting to see his HR/FB% and BABIP come down, but as it is, he is one of my favorite pitchers on this slate. The DK price is quite aggressive, but I would play him in cash games ahead of Maeda/Quintana. On FD, his price is down further where he’s one of my top tournament targets.
Long-time readers of the Musings will know that nothing bugs me more than high walks from pitchers. The only thing that is bugging me about Zack Wheeler so far this season are those walks. I am not concerned about the strikeouts; the vast majority of the walks came in one bad start early in the season. He had two very difficult matchups the past two weeks in Atlanta and in Philadelphia, and he’s come away with two quality starts, allowing five runs in 13 innings with a 13:6 K:BB ratio. The six walks are higher than I want to see, but he is once again showing a real ability to limit hard contact, which can make up for a lot of other issues. The Phillies are a tough opponent, but they are a little watered down right now, and this team is not any better than what Maeda and Quintana are facing in their game. The projected lineup has a 22.3% strikeout rate and basically four batters that I see as a big threat. As with Eflin, if this were a typical slate, I would not want to be near the pitchers in this game, but this is not a typical slate. I am planning to use Wheeler as a cash game pitcher at his reasonable DK salary. To be clear, there is no strong cash game option on this slate- it’s simply a matter of having to use someone.
Late Addition To Help The Slate
Domingo German at Angels – The Yankees have changed their plans as a result of last night’s extra inning game, and it now looks like Domingo German will be starting, with Jonathan Loaisiga available out of the bullpen.
German is similar to what we had originally with Loaisiga as the starter, except we’ve seen German throw near 90 pitches twice this season, so we don’t have to worry quite as much about the leash. He has struck out 31.6% of righties and 28.3% of lefties since last season. What the Angels lack in strikeouts they make up for with a lack of power and patience. German’s biggest issue is walks, and outside of Trout and Bour, these Angels batters like to swing the bat and mostly hit the ball lightly on the ground. German is the most expensive pitcher on FD, though still at just $9,300, he’s quite affordable in cash games. I still lean to Wheeler if you need the salary, but German helps this slate overall tremendously. On DK, he’s cheaper than Maeda, Quintana and Eflin, and I’m planning to use him in cash games there.
Good In Real Life Might Be Good Enough
Trevor Williams vs Arizona – We’ve just got to give this guy his due. The strikeout rate is not inspiring and his SIERA is again more than a full run above his ERA, but dating back to last season, he has 13 quality starts in his last 16 games, including all four starts this season. He continues to pile up soft contact, allowing just a 23% hard hit rate so far this season after back-to-back seasons of below 30% hard hits. His control has gone from good to great, with just 5.1% BB this season, and even his swinging strikes have come up enough to think there could be room to grow in strikeouts. There is nothing about this skill set that is going to wow you, but the guy is just a very good real life pitcher. His strikeouts are incredibly low against lefties, just 13%, and Arizona should use at least four lefties with solid contact skills, but he really piles up the soft contact to offset that. He is fairly priced to a point where there isn’t much upside, and this is not the kind of pitcher to go out of your way to roster. But the slate is so tough for pitching upside, that this may turn into one of those nights where the goal is not to win it at pitcher, but simply not lose it at pitcher. Trevor Williams is a ‘don’t lose’ kind of guy and he is on my list as a potential cash game option on two-pitcher sites.
Luke Weaver at Pittsburgh – We’ve got to discuss Williams’ opponent tonight as well. He was good in 2017, mediocre at best in 2018, bad in his first two starts of 2019, and then all of a sudden turned into an ace in the past two weeks, having struck out 17 batters in his last 11 innings. There’s been a subtle change in his pitch mix over the two good starts, slowly scaling back his fastball usage and trading them in for more changeups and cutters. After how long it’s been since he was good, I need to see more than two good starts before I fully buy in on this, but again, this slate is nonsense and I’m willing to chase a little more small sample than usual. The Pirates are not a high strikeout lineup against righties, but there’s also just moderate power and a good ballpark for pitching. I side with the better track record of his opponent as a primary option, but I will have Weaver on my list for multi-entry tournaments tonight.
Sample Size, Schmample Size
Honestly, what is happening here? We are only three weeks into the season and we are considering pitchers in this game that almost nobody had ever heard of three weeks ago. This is both an indictment of the Seattle and San Diego pitching staffs and an indictment on the state of the pitching on this slate as a whole. Let me pause here and mention that I am fairly certain I’ve never used the word indictment twice in the same sentence before. That was fun and exciting. Anyhow, about these jokers….Margevicius is a pitcher who had elite control at the lower levels of the minors, and he has carried that over to his jump to the majors, having walked just two batters in 20 innings. He’s even managed a 24.1% strikeout rate, although it’s hard to imagine it going anywhere but down, as that was his strikeout rate at Single-A, and a 9.8% swinging strike rate and an 88-mph fastball just don’t inspire a lot of confidence. While I generally love low walk pitchers, sometimes for young pitchers who lack strikeout stuff, throwing too many strikes can be a bad thing. This is evidenced by his 43% hard hit rate, which is bound to end up in a BABIP far higher than his current .245. Seattle has been a tough matchup this season, leading the league with a .253 ISO and .360 wOBA, and I’m not going to assume this low BABIP continues here tonight. His salary is low enough to keep him in the multi-entry discussion on DK, but I have no interest at all on FanDuel tonight.
We’ve seen even less from Erik Swanson, with just one major league start, although we do at least have some Triple-A numbers to compare. Like Margevicius, he is a low walk pitcher, but his 26.8% strikeout rate at Triple-A was higher than his opponents’ strikeout rate at Single-A, a clear edge to Swanson. Swanson is a fly ball pitcher, so throwing a lot of strikes will leave him at power risk, but should also lead to some easy innings in San Diego. The Padres have some right-handed power, but it comes with above average strikeouts and not much patience at all. The bottom line here is that we’re just guessing what we’re going to see in his second career start, but I’m setting his baseline around a league average strikeout pitcher with good control and hoping most of the fly balls stay in the park. If I have to side with one of these young starters, it will be Swanson, though this is not someone to prioritize. I wouldn’t argue with someone wanting to use Swanson as a cash game pitcher on DK, though for me, I’ll side with more known quantities in guys like Wheeler, Williams or Eflin.
Trent Thornton vs San Francisco – The magic that we saw in Thornton’s first two starts wore off quickly, and now we’re seeing more of what the scouting reports said, that this guy is just not anything more than a middle of the rotation major league pitcher, and maybe not even that. He has been hit extremely hard in his first four career starts, and the 26.6% strikeouts look to be a fluke, as his swinging strikes have dropped from their early high. It’s not that there is no skill here- it’s just that we’re likely looking at an average at best pitcher whom we just don’t know much about. The reason he is in play tonight is simply the lack of punch in the Giants lineup. There is only one batter in this lineup with even a league average ISO against right-handed pitching. There’s also just average contact and not much patience. We’re looking at a .133 ISO and .307 wOBA from the projected lineup, and if Thornton is even an average pitcher, he could get by here. Until we see something more, I’m sticking with the scouting reports that say this is just not a guy who is likely to be a good major league starter, so he will not be a priority in my lineups, though feel free to add him to the multi-entry SP2 mix on two-pitcher sites simply because of how bad the Giants are.
Viable Pitching Matchup Out West
Lynn vs RHB – 27.4% K, 8.2% BB
Lynn vs LHB – 16.% K, 12.8% BB
Oakland will likely only have three lefties, and only two of them with any power, so it’s not a terrible matchup to chase some strikeouts. However, the right-handed A’s come with a lot of power on hard hit fly balls, so I don’t love the risk/reward here, but on DK, his salary puts him right in the middle of the tournament mix.
Frankie Montas has similarly wide splits, with all of his trouble on batted balls coming against lefties:
Montas vs RHB – 18.8% K, 6.6% BB, 58% GB, 40% HH
Montas vs LHB – 14.6% K, 7.9% BB, 39% GB, 42% HH
His strikeouts have come up a bit this season, but the hard hits and fly balls to lefties are still a problem. Five of the top six batters in the Rangers lineup are lefties with hard hit ability, and that is more risk than I want to take on with an average at best pitcher. If I have to end up in this game, I’ll side with Lynn.
Jonathan Loaisiga at LA Angels
NOTE – After I wrote this, the Yankees have switched back to Domingo German as tonight’s starter. I am updating this now: German becomes a strong option on this slate, while Loaisiga is very likely to pitch at least a couple innings out of the bullpen.
The Yankees are calling Loaisiga back up for this start and his 30% strikeout rate in his brief 31 inning career shows some upside. He has shown that type of strikeout ability in the minors as well, but even at the lower levels, we’ve seen very few innings from him. We should be looking for five innings here, he has not been stretched past that even in Triple-A, but this low power Angels team makes for a nice matchup. While their strikeouts aren’t high, neither are their walks and neither is their power. I prefer Loaisiga in tournaments ahead of Thornton and Margevicius with his higher strikeout ceiling. He is very cheap on FD, and I’m most likely to use him there.
I am somewhat buying into the Homer Bailey resurgence, coming in with a 29.4% strikeout rate after being down in the 15-16% range the past couple seasons. Something to remember with Bailey is that as bad as he’s been the past couple years, this is a guy who was a top prospect and was a solid major leaguer in 2012-2014 before he was derailed by injuries. He has switched up his pitch mix this season, trading in some fastballs for more curves and splitters, and so far so good. The Rays are a good real life baseball team, but they still have a lot of high strikeout bats in this lineup, with seven batters above a 23% strikeout rate against righties the past two seasons. I’m going to have a lot of Bailey in DK tournaments tonight at this salary. Like, an uncomfortable amount. I don’t even think it’s completely crazy to use him in cash games, though it’s probably unnecessary.
If all of the pitching turns out to be as bad as I expect tonight, then it may not take much at all to compete tonight. I can make some case for a $5,000 Ryne Stanek on DK, but the problem here is that one inning is more likely than two, so we’re probably just taking something like 5 points here. He is good enough that he could get 3-4 strikeouts if they let him go two innings, and I will take a couple shots here on the lineups where I need this salary to load up on bats. The more interesting option would be Jalen Beeks if he is the primary pitcher after Stanek; the problem is that Tampa is unpredictable and just not into telling us who is pitching and for how long. Beeks is fully rested, having last thrown three innings last Thursday. The other issue besides not knowing for sure if he’ll pitch is that we don’t really know if he’s actually any good either. He had impressive minor league numbers, but so far he is a below average 19% K pitcher with high 10.4% walks in 65 career innings. This Royals team strikes out a lot against lefties, so I would be taking some shots here on DK if we get any sort of confirmation that he’s going to pitch tonight. But as it is now, I prefer Stanek, since I know he’ll pitch at least one inning and I can hope for two.
Pitching Cliff Notes
On slates like this, I always hope that when I dig into the analysis I’ll find some pitching that I like better than I did at first glance. Unfortunately, that is just not the case tonight. There is not a single pitcher on this slate that really fits the bill as an ideal cash game pitcher. I’m going to start with Zack Wheeler at a fair salary on both DK and FD.
Note that things have changed a bit since my first draft, with the Yankees turning to Domingo German tonight. I now feel best about a Wheeler/German pairing on DK for cash games, and bringing German to the top of the tournament list on FD. This next paragraph was written before the German news, but I’ll leave it here for the sake of the thought process.
I want to pause here for a deeper thought into my lineup construction. The way you construct your lineups on any given day will depend on how many sites, what types of contests, and how many lineups you are building. I talk in general terms of ‘cash play’ vs ‘GPP play’, but really there are more categories than that, based on tournament size and number of entries. Because I personally play both cash games and tournaments on both DK and FD, I’m going to be spreading out my pitchers on a slate like this. I am happy to go all-in on a top pitcher or a clear bargain in all different formats on some slates, but if that pitcher isn’t there, he isn’t there. So tonight, I will be getting exposure to different groups of these pitchers in different places. If I was only building one lineup on DraftKings, regardless of whether it was a cash game or a tournament, I would have Patrick Corbin as my SP2. But because I am going to be heavy on him in tournaments, I am going to leave him out of my cash games, as I don’t want to overexposed to a Coors Field pitcher. If someone asked me ‘whom should I play in DK cash games?’ my first answer would be Wheeler/Corbin. Except that is not who I am going to play in my cash games. I will be using Corbin as my main tournament pitcher, and therefore will be choosing from among Trevor Williams, Zach Eflin, Kenta Maeda and Erik Swanson. Corbin is a better pitcher than all of those guys, so please keep that in mind when making your personal decisions tonight. I would not go Corbin-less on this slate.
After Wheeler and Corbin, I can start spreading out a ton in tournaments, and that’s what I’ll be doing. On FD, I originally had Jonathan Loaisiga as the top cheap option, followed by Erik Swanson and Zach Eflin at the top of my list based on the points per dollar upside. Now I want to be sure to add Domingo German along with Corbin at the top of the list.
Kenta Maeda and Jose Quintana are both very much in the tournament discussion tonight, as outside of Corbin and Wheeler, these are the best pitchers on the slate. Salary may not end up being a big issue, but the matchups here make them seem overpriced at the top of the board.
I will post updates if my thoughts change later in the day, but for now, this is how my pitching pool looks.
Tuesday Night Bats
The hitting is spread out very evenly, and this is one of those nights where I could make a case to stack almost every single team in large field tournaments. I’ll talk through some of my favorites, but trust your own research tonight, and if it differs from mine, the margins are slim. Trust your process.
As discussed in the pitching section, this is a very interesting night at Coors Field. We have the best pitcher on the slate, but also in one of the only strong hitting environments on the slate. There is just too much strikeout ability from Corbin for me to consider any of these Rockies bats must plays in cash games, so it’s going to come down to deciding between individual right-handed power bats, full fades, or full stacks in tournaments. This is how I view it: Because Corbin has both high strikeouts and elite control, it is going to be difficult for Colorado to string together enough hits in a row for multiple big innings. It’s always possible here, but that is not the most likely outcome. However, because Corbin has seen so much hard contact allowed to right-handed batters the past two seasons, I do see a lot of merit to playing Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story in tournaments. Corbin strikes out 30% of righties, but Arenado is particularly tough to strikeout, at just 14.5% against lefties since the start of 2018.
The more obvious and certainly chalky side of this game will be the Nationals against probably Jeff Hoffman. The Rockies are still yet to name their starter officially as I’m writing this, but Hoffman looks like the most logical option. In his limited sample size for his career, Hoffman has struck out just 14.4% of lefties and 20.1% of righties, while allowing 36% hard hits to lefties and 32% to righties with average ground balls. He looks like simply an average at best pitcher to righties and a below average pitcher to lefties. This is going to make Juan Soto my top overall bat on this slate for cash games. His plate discipline has given him a .409 wOBA and .421 OBP against righties so far in his career, and Hoffman doesn’t appear to have any chance against him. Adam Eaton is priced a little too high for a hitter without power, but he’s going to be putting the ball in play here, and you’d certainly want him in your stacks. If Anthony Rendon is back in the lineup tonight, do not be concerned with the righty-righty matchup. Rendon has a .228 ISO, .398 wOBA and just 13% strikeouts against righties and has been one of the best hitters in the league so far this season. I would gladly play Ryan Zimmerman in this matchup, though it would also be welcome to see Matt Adams and his .253 ISO in the starting lineup. He would be a clear value on FD if he’s in the middle of the lineup. As much as the team overall comes in with the highest total of the night and is in an obviously strong spot, these are not batters that I’m going out of my way to target individually past Soto, Rendon and the first basemen, either Zimmerman or Adams.
This is a strange game. The teams are bad, the starters are mostly bad, and the bullpens are terrible, the ballpark is good. It’s difficult to ever get excited about Orioles batters, and with Ivan Nova pitching, it’s even tougher to get excited about the righties. Nova has elite control with close to average strikeouts and 50% ground balls to right-handed batters. Baltimore’s righties lean towards ground balls without much hard hit ability, so they are mostly off the list outside of full stacks. Where you can play against Nova is with lefties, where his strikeouts fall to just 12.1%. He doesn’t allow a ton of hard contact or fly balls, but as much as I hate to have to say this, a pitcher with a strikeout rate that low makes this a reasonable night to take a shot on Chris Davis. He is going to hit the ball in the air and it’s all about making contact. He is still priced as if he’s the worst player in the league, and he just isn’t. Rio Ruiz and Jonathan Villar would also be on my list, along with Dwight Smith if he’s able to get back into the lineup tonight. Ruiz joins Davis as the Orioles lefty with some ability to hit fly balls, and I’d mostly want to hunt for power here. The White Sox bullpen is bad enough to make it stackable, but they are not high on the list.
The White Sox have a more interesting lineup with more power than Baltimore, and the Orioles have an even worse bullpen that can lead to late game fireworks like we saw last night. Andrew Cashner is a pitcher who lives on the edge, literally and figuratively. Literally because he pitches to the edges of the zone which leads to a lot of walks, but also not much hard contact. Figuratively because with all the walks, he is constantly one hit away from a big inning. The White Sox’s biggest weakness is strikeouts, which is not much of an issue here, adding to the likeability of Yoan Moncada in particular. Generally, Cashner keeps the ball on the ground against righties, while allowing fly balls to lefties. This will put Yonder Alonso ahead of Jose Abreu at first base, but these are both strong options along with Moncada tonight. Catcher Welington Castillo is the only other White Sox regular with a hard hit rate over 36%, so there’s no one else I can go out of my to target in this game. Moncada and Alonso (or Abreu) can be used on their own, and after that point, I will just be looking at this as a full stacking option to take advantage of the Orioles bullpen.
These teams are just not good enough to garner too much interest, but I see a few individual batters with some tournament intrigue here. Anytime Brandon Belt gets out of San Francisco with his huge fly ball rate, he moves up my tournament list. He has a 51% fly ball rate and 39% hard hits against right-handed pitching, and this is a big ballpark upgrade for his power. His salary is useful on DK tonight. You could make a case for a dirt cheap Brandon Crawford on FD, but I don’t think we need to be chasing this much salary tonight.
The Blue Jays face Jeff Samardzija, who has looked better this season, but is allowing a huge 59% hard hit rate with 46% fly balls to right-handed batters in the early going. Those numbers are likely sample size flukes, but the hard hits and fly balls were well above average last season as well, and his strikeouts since the start of 2018 are just 14.5% to righties vs 20.5% to lefties. For hard hits and fly balls, I’ll start with the right-handed bats of Teoscar Hernandez (.201 ISO, 43% FB, 37% HH) and Randal Grichuk (.264 ISO, 47% FB, 35% HH) and then add in the lefties of Justin Smoak (.265 ISO, 49% FB, 41% HH) and Rowdy Tellez (.344 ISO, 39% FB, 40% HH). Going back to what we discussed yesterday with the power surge, these are the type of hitters I’ll be looking to filter into tournament lineups this season.
Brewers at Cardinals – Zach Davies at Daniel Ponce de Leon
The weather is not quite as favorable for hitting as we saw last night, but last night’s 13-5 game with 23 hits combined was a reminder that these teams are just really good. The starting pitchers are not great here, and while there are a couple good relievers on each team, these are not elite bullpens at this point. This is my way of saying I really like the hitters in this game.
Zach Davies has been great in real life to open this season with a 1.19 ERA. While he has shown ability to limit hard contact and get ground balls to righties, everything here screams regression. He has a low 16.1% strikeout rate with high 9.7% walks and a low .273 BABIP and 9.1% HR/FB rate. We’re also looking at a 22 inning sample of a 31% hard hit rate, where as he allowed 40% hard hits in 66 innings last season. I will say that his increased use of his changeup implies that he is doing something differently, so I’m willing to accept some improvement here, but a guy with this little strikeout ability against St. Louis is going to be in danger. It’s clearly Matt Carpenter on top of the list, with Davies having far less ground ball ability along with lower strikeouts to lefties. I would also look down to a wrap-around stack with Dexter Fowler and Kolten Wong as the other lefties lower in the order. Both guys are hitting the ball hard this season, and while Fowler’s .313 average is not likely to hold, a bounce back was in store after last season. The trick here is that the middle of the Cardinals order is filled with right-handed bats against the 55% ground balls of Davies. All of the righties hit the ball hard, but only Paul DeJong has a fly ball rate over 40% against righties, so he would be my first look here. Paul Goldschmidt is the other target with his 26% line drives and 35% fly balls. The trio of Marcell Ozuna, Jose Martinez and Yadier Molina lean further ground ball, although there early on, it looks like Ozuna has increased his launch angle, which would put him more into the DeJong/Goldschmidt camp. I would stack this team in multiple ways, with Carpenter being the key piece and someone I’d look to in cash games as well.
The Cardinals had to go exploring to try and find a pitcher for tonight and they discovered Poncedeleon in Triple-A. He pitched 33 innings in the majors last season and was decent, striking out 23.5% of batters with 9.9% walks and a fly ball lean. That looks similar to his minor league numbers, in Triple-A last season he had a 27% K rate but high 12% walks and a 50% fly ball rate. High strikeouts, high walks, high fly balls? While it’s not quite as bad and we don’t know if these skills will hold, this is the Robbie Ray, Freddy Peralta type of skill set that can lead to a wide range of outcomes. Given that the Brewers are a team with good contact and good power, I am going to be all over this team, and at first glance, it’s my top stack of the night. It’s dangerous, because the strikeouts could outweigh the walks here, but the Brewers are patient and so aren’t likely to swing at the bad pitches, and there are at least five batters in the middle of the lineup with hard hit rates near or above 40%. It would be great to see Mike Moustakas back in the lineup tonight, but even without him, take a look at these numbers against right-handed pitching:
Christian Yelich – .313 ISO, .442 wOBA, 20.4% K, 12% BB, 50% HH
Yasmani Grandal – .239 ISO, .362 wOBA, 23.6% K, 12.2% BB, 40% HH
Travis Shaw – .265 ISO, .369 wOBA, 20.6% K, 13.4% BB, 42% HH
Ryan Braun – .181 ISO, .316 wOBA, 23.1% K, 4.5% BB, 39% HH
Eric Thames – .269 ISO, .343 wOBA, 36% K, 10.1% BB, 47% HH
That’s a lot of patience and a lot of hard hits. With Christian Yelich crushing fly ball pitchers like he does, he can make a case for being the top hitter on this slate, but I also love Yasmani Grandal and Travis Shaw, with everyone coming into play with stacks.
Boston Red Sox vs Spencer Turnbull – This will be the second game of a doubleheader, so we’ll need to keep an eye on the lineups, but assuming this is a close to full strength Red Sox lineup, I will have some interest, especially if Detroit were forced to use it’s bullpen in the first game. Turnbull has been good in the early going, and I do think we’re looking at a guy who can stay around at least an average strikeout rate, but this will be the first real test he’s faced this season. His first four starts have been against Toronto, Kansas City, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Even with the slow start from Boston, this lineup is at another level in comparison to those four. It looks like he will have typical splits for a righty, so left-handed bats would be favored here, putting Andrew Benintendi (.181 ISO, .368 wOBA) and Mitch Moreland (.242 ISO, .355 wOBA) up alongside Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez. As bad as Jackie Bradley has been to start the season, this is a great salary, and his 37% hard hit rate shows that a .185 BABIP an 0% HR/FB rate are going to come up.
NY Yankees at Chris Stratton – As watered down as this Yankees lineup is, Stratton has been simply one of the worst pitchers in all of baseball this season. He has a horrendous 11:13 K:BB ratio in 18 innings and has not made it to the 6th inning in any of his starts. Since the start of 2018, he has been simply bad against both right and left-handed batters, walking 10.8% of lefties with just 15% strikeouts while allowing 45% hard hits to righties. I have a ton of interest in Luke Voit (.263 ISO) and Gleyber Torres (.170 ISO) in this game, and I would add the youngsters Clint Frazier (.247 ISO) and Mike Tauchman (.255 ISO) to the tournament mix as well. Those ISO numbers from Frazier and Tauchman are from a very small sample size, so don’t get too excited. They both have real power but have been priced up to a point where it’s not a bargain to chase it. I will have quite a few Yankees stacks in play tonight as an homage to my lack of confidence in Stratton.
As mentioned in the pitching section, this doesn’t line up ideally for the A’s bats against Lynn, whose biggest strength is strikeouts to righties. We do have some salary saving lefties in Kendrys Morales and Jurickson Profar, but I would still want to side with the big power here if I dig this far. Khris Davis (.307 ISO) and Matt Chapman (.252 ISO) have the hard hits and fly balls to overcome Lynn’s ground ball lean.
I am most interested in the Texas lefties in this game, with Frankie Montas striking out just 14.6% of lefties since the start of last season and not showing the ground ball ability that he has to righties. The strikeouts have come up this season, but there’s no sign of a slowdown with the hard hits and fly balls. There are five bats worth looking at here:
Joey Gallo – 33.5% K, .297 ISO, 51% HH
Shin-Soo Choo – 21.3% K, .217 ISO, 45% HH
Nomar Mazara – 19.1% K, .165 ISO, 40% HH
Asdrubal Cabrera – 21.9% K, .241 ISO, 38% HH
Danny Santana – 24.1% K, .163 ISO, 50% HH
Choo is on my cash game list out of the leadoff spot, though really any of these five are viable in all formats. I will have a stack or two, but I’m most interested here in one off power, starting with Gallo.
This feels like a game that will be overlooked tonight, despite two good teams and a 9.5 run total. Despite the big game last night, I am just never going to be thrilled about playing bats in Houston against this Astros bullpen. Add the ground balls of Wade Miley to the mix and it’s really just Nelson Cruz (.286 ISO, 53% HH, 39% FB) and maybe C.J. Cron (.243 ISO, 41% HH, 41% FB) making my list here.
The Houston side is more interesting, although we still don’t really know what we’ve got with Pineda. He looked very good in his first three starts before falling apart last week. He looks like he’s just worried about throwing strikes, but isn’t doing much of anything to control batted balls. It can be tough to stack against a low walk pitcher, but they only need to get one big inning to get into the middle of this bullpen. Alex Bregman (.249 ISO, .408 wOBA) is the only batter I can pull out as any sort of priority play here, but Houston belongs on the stacking list.
Dodgers Value at Jose Quintana – The Dodgers wouldn’t have really made the list here tonight, but their salaries on DK are goofy low. We’re looking at a $3,600 Justin Turner and $3,600 A.J. Pollock, so I just wanted to make sure to point those out.
Hitting Cliff Notes
This really is just one of the strangest slates we’ve had all season. The pitching is not good, and it’s very difficult to find anyone to like. But in spite of that, the offenses are all just sort of a mediocre blob as well. I will be multi-entering tonight and spreading out further than usual. I cannot nail down 2-3 teams to focus on, so I’ll be happy to take shots on my top 8-10 stacks. If you are going to stick to a tight core, or just build a couple lineups, I would say that Washington is the obvious top team, but I don’t love the upside of all the individual bats vs where I expect their ownership to be in tournaments. I’ll force Juan Soto into cash games, but I don’t see this as a must-stack. I will be keeping a close eye on the projected ownership tonight, but based on what I expect, I like the Brewers-Cardinals game as much as Coors Field tonight, and then I’ll jump to the Yankees to pick on what looks like the worst pitcher on the slate. Both sides of the White Sox-Orioles game are stackable, but I much prefer the White Sox.
Some of the teams that missed the cut in the breakdown were the Phillies-Mets, Rays, Mariners-Padres. All of these spots are worth exploring with the almost non-existent gap between the top and bottom of the ranks today. With no expensive pitchers, salary is not a huge issue tonight, but if you need some savings, here are some cheap options to keep an eye on:
Yahoo – Ryan Zimmerman, Yonder Alonso, Jose Abreu, Chris Davis, Teoscar Hernandez, Rowdy Tellez, Buster Posey, Gregory Polanco, Travis Shaw, Eric Thames, Jose Martinez, Justin Turner, Jackie Bradley, Kendrys Morales
DK – Yonder Alonso, Chris Davis, Teoscar Hernandez, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Robinson Cano, Joey Wendle, Matt Carpenter, Travis Shaw, Jackie Bradley, Justin Turner, A.J. Pollock, Gleyber Torres, Kendrys Morales, Jurickson Profar
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