The DraftKings MLB Short List (4-6-18)
This is the first running of the MLB Short List. The premise here is pretty straightforward. I’m going through the DraftKings player pool and identifying my favorite overall plays at each position. Narrowing things down can be tricky, especially on large slates. There are so many factors in play that it’s easy to lose your way when researching. So, I’m trying to find a way to simplify things.
Here are the plays I’m considering for Friday’s 6-game main MLB slate.
Lance McCullers Jr., Houston Astros ($12,300)
$12,300 is a lot to pay for Lance McCullers Jr., but he’s the clear top-tier ace of the slate. He’s a high-strikeout, high-ground ball type of pitcher that has enjoyed good success thus far in his home park. He can sometimes run a high pitch count that will limit how deep he can go into a game, but he racks up strikeouts, which is obviously what we want to see. The matchup also couldn’t get much better, as McCullers will be facing a relatively weak Padres offense without Wil Myers.
He’s expensive, but I don’t really see a way around playing LMJ in cash games.
Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs ($9,400)
We’ve had some ugly pitching performances early in the season, so paying up at both spots for tonight’s slate is a fine strategy. Kenta Maeda would be in play even at his own exorbitant price tag, but it sounds like that game is in serious jeopardy. Hendricks for $9,400 is more palatable, anyway.
The matchup against the Brewers stinks from a power perspective, but there are some strikeouts in the lineup. Hendricks doesn’t have the K upside of a guy like McCullers, but he’s also a guy that typically isn’t getting blown up. He led the majors in ERA in 2016 and he allowed more than 4 earned runs just once all of last season.
Hendricks just feels like a relatively safe play, despite having to pitch in a hitter-friendly environment tonight. He’s not the best point-per-dollar option, though, and there are some bats I’d like to spent on on this slate. As such, Hendricks probably isn’t making the cut as my SP2 tonight. Again, though, I wouldn’t talk you out of it if you wanted to play him.
Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds ($8,700)
Castillo was $6,000 flat the last time we saw him, and he went on to struggle against the Nationals at Great American Smallpark. That wasn’t entirely shocking, given the matchup. Tonight, we see Castillo again with a considerably heftier price tag. While he’s more expensive, he does get a more favorable matchup with the Pirates at one of baseball’s best parks for pitching.
Castillo was one of the Reds’ better pitching prospects before bursting onto the big league scene last season. In 15 starts at the big league level, the hard-throwing right-hander posted a stellar strikeout rate of 27.3%. Walks were somewhat problematic (8.9% BB rate), but he was overall effective against hitters from both sides of the plate (.284 wOBA vs. RHB, .267 wOBA vs. LHB).
The problem tonight is that Castillo will be dealing with a Pirates lineup that doesn’t whiff often. There isn’t a ton of pop here, but guys like Josh Bell, Starling Marte, Josh Harrison and Adam Frazier just don’t strike out very much. Corey Dickerson is a candidate to swing and miss, though, and I generally side with a high-strikeout pitcher in a tiebreaker scenario for DFS purposes.
I don’t think I’m going here, either, but there’s some logic to Castillo tonight. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the second-highest owned pitcher on DK tonight.
Kevin Gausman, Baltimore Orioles ($5,600)
Here is a list of pitchers that are more expensive than Kevin Gausman on DK tonight:
C.C. Sabathia ($7,900)
Trevor Williams ($7,100)
Matt Moore ($6,300)
Derek Holland ($6,100)
Parker Bridwell ($5,800)
Brandon Woodruff ($6,900)
That’s just silly. I know there are plenty of red flags with Gausman. First and foremost is the fact that he’s a pitcher pitching against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. That is…problematic. We also have to consider that Gausman was terrible in his first start of the season, which came against a powerful Twins lineup at hitter-friendly Camden Yards. Tonight’s matchup is arguably worse, which is scary.
Gausman’s velocity was also down against Minnesota, but his comments seem to suggest that he wasn’t throwing his hard fastball (97-98) very often. Instead, he was throwing his 92-mph sinker that just wasn’t sinking. Gausman has said that he plans to take a more aggressive approach tonight against the Yankees. That could obviously end terribly, but Gausman is a talented pitcher with tremendous upside. We saw it in the second half of last season when he posted a strikeout rate north of 26%.
It is a massive risk, I know. Still, for $5,600, Gausman feels like an elite value on this slate despite the huge downside. It also doesn’t help that Ed Hickox will be calling balls and strikes, as Hickox tends to favor hitters. Still, pairing McCullers with Gausman leaves you $4,012 to spend per bat, which is highly appealing.
Honorable mention: If you can’t stomach Gausman, I don’t hate Brandon Woodruff ($6,900) on this slate.
Brian McCann, Houston Astros ($3,500)
Brian McCann may not be the hitter he once was, but he’s still one of the better hitting catchers in the league. This position is awful, as usual. You can always pay up for Gary Sanchez, but since I’m leaning toward playing Gausman on the other side, I’m obviously not wanting to load up on Yanks. If you’re not playing Gausman, then Sanchez is the best option.
I’m more likely to take the discount on McCann. He hits fairly low in the Houston lineup, but that’s true for most catchers, anyway. He’ll be taking his hacks against Padres RHP Luis Perdomo. Perdomo isn’t some ace, but he has flashed excellent ground ball skills, especially against righties. Last season, Perdomo had a 66.5% ground ball rate against righties compared to a 57.1% mark against lefties. That’s still high, but attacking Perdomo with lefty sticks is the preferred route.
Last season, lefties hit .302 with a .377 on-base and a .349 wOBA against Perdomo, and he allowed 12 of his 17 home runs away from Petco Park. Minute Maid Park isn’t the hitters’ paradise some believe it to be, but it’s still a solid yard for power.
McCann’s skills have waned a bit as he’s gotten older, but he’s still one of the few catchers with legitimate home run potential. The Astros have the second-highest team total on the board tonight, so it’s not the worst idea to get some exposure here.
Robinson Chirinos, Texas Rangers ($2,900)
Robinson Chirinos wasn’t in the lineup yesterday after suffering a wrist injury, so we’ll obviously have to keep an eye on the Rangers’ lineup to see if he returns tonight. If he’s in there, he’s one of the better sources of salary relief tonight.
Rangers and Blue Jays will be popular tonight, and with good reason. We’ve got a pair of pitchers that will give up homers pitching in this game, and it also features some of the most favorable hitting weather of the night. It’s going to be warm in Arlington, and there’s wind blowing out with some gusto here.
If he’s in the lineup, Chirinos will be taking his swings against a reverse-splits fly ball right-hander in Marco Estrada. Estrada coughed up 31 homers last season, 16 of which came at the hands of right-handed hitters. He also had a 51.7% fly ball rate against RHBs with a below-average HR/FB of 10.3%.
Estrada is going to allow a dong or two tonight. Chirinos is a solid hitting catcher, and the Rangers have the third-highest team total tonight. For $2,900, he’s an easy play if he returns to the lineup.
Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers ($4,500)
The traditional way of thinking would tab Joey Gallo as a GPP-only type of hitter considering he’s either going to hit a home run or strike out the majority of the time. Since every hitter’s floor is literally zero fantasy points, though, I don’t really think of hitters as cash- or GPP-specific plays. As such, I’m fine with playing guys like Gallo in cash games.
I mentioned Estrada’s home run tendencies, and Gallo is one of the best bets on the board tonight to hit at least one ball over the fence. Gallo is the league’s premier fly ball hitter, as he led the majors among qualified hitters with a fly ball rate of 54.2% last season. It’s been even more pronounced early this season, as he’s got a FB% of 65.2% through his first 34 plate appearances of 2018.
Estrada is a decent strikeout pitcher, so there’s at least some chance Gallo doesn’t even make contact against him. If he does, though, it could be going a long way.
Devon Travis, Toronto Blue Jays ($3,100)
Sensing a theme here? You’re going to want as much exposure to the hitting side of that Texas/Toronto game as you can get. Travis is obviously not the prettiest roster, but he’s super cheap, second base is a weak position and he’s likely going to be leading off for a Jays team with the highest total on the board.
We don’t have a huge sample with Travis, but historically he has fared quite a bit better against lefties. He has a career wOBA of .339 against southpaws, and his split was rather extraordinary in 2017. He had a .423 wOBA last year against lefties compared to a .282 mark against righties. The reality is that he’s likely somewhere in between. Travis isn’t going to be mashing lefties quite that well, and he’s not going to be a complete butcher against RHPs, either.
Moore has shown reverse-splits, but it’s not like his numbers against right-handed sticks are excellent. They’re just slightly better than his awful numbers against fellow lefties. I think you can target anyone in the Jays’ lineup tonight, and it starts with Travis at the top. You can also play Rougned Odor on the other side of this game for the same price. Odor is another strikeout risk, but he’s got more dong potential than Travis.
Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays ($4,800)
MOAR JAYS. Donaldson was dealing with an arm problem when the season began, but he seems to be over it. He’s been smashing the ball over the last few days, so he appears healthy. You probably know the deal with Donaldson by now, anyway. He’s facing a bad lefty in great hitting conditions. He’ll be chalky, but the good kind of chalky. Just play him.
Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles ($4,200)
Fortunately, Manny Machado has 3B/SS eligibility on DK now, so we can play both he and Donaldson if we want. I don’t like going crazy with targeting bats against the pesky C.C. Sabathia, but you can pick your spots against the burly lefty.
Lefties are essentially a no-fly zone against C.C., but he can be vulnerable to righty bats. The splits aren’t egregious or anything, but the big man did serve up 21 dongs last season, 19 of which came off the bats of right-handed hitters. He’s good at keeping the ball on the ground, but he did allow 12 of those 21 dingers at Yankee Stadium.
Manny Machado is an elite hitter against pitchers of either handedness, but we obviously prefer him slightly more with a platoon advantage. He boasts a 45% hard-hit rate against southpaws and an ISO of .244. Suffice it to say, Machado is #good.
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels ($5,500)
Play Mike Trout.
Good luck tonight!