The MLB is officially on its All-Star break, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still get your DFS fix. Both DraftKings and FanDuel are offering large guaranteed prize pools for the 90th Midsummer Classic, with as much as $50,000 available for first place.
Let’s start by diving into the different formats.
FanDuel will use its traditional single-game format for the All-Star Game. That means you’ll have to roster one MVP, one All-Star and three utilities. Your MVP will get a 2x scoring bonus while your All-Star will get a 1.5x scoring bonus. You don’t need to pay anything additional to roster players in those premium spots.
FanDuel also only features hitters. You won’t have to worry about choosing between any of the pitchers on either roster, and can focus simply on which batters you think will score the most fantasy points.
The DraftKings format is a little more difficult. For starters, you have to roster six players instead of five, and you’ll have to choose between batters and pitchers. DraftKings also features a captain, who earns a 1.5x scoring multiplier, but will cost 1.5x their traditional salary. For example, Mike Trout costs $10,400 as a utility, but he’ll cost $15,600 if you want to roster him at Captain.
The scoring on FanDuel is simple enough. The batters will score fantasy points in the same manner and at the same rate as they do in the traditional format. You want to target batters who have the potential to rack up extra base hits, particularly guys who can hit the ball over the wall.
On DraftKings you’ll need to decide if you want to target pitchers, batters or a mixture of both. Last year’s single-game format on DraftKings placed a huge premium on relievers – they earned more points for innings pitched and strikeouts than starting pitchers – which made them an elite target in events like this.
That said, they’ve now closed that loophole. All pitchers are being graded as starters, and you can no longer earn points for saves and holds. You will still get four points for a win, but trying to figure out which pitcher is going to get that honor is nearly impossible.
Overall, most pitchers are going to be limited to one inning pitched, and the maximum amount of fantasy points a pitcher can earn in one inning is 8.25 (2.25 for one inning pitched, 6.0 points for three strikeouts). Batters have the potential to rack up significantly more fantasy points in just one at-bat, and most batters should receive multiple at-bats in this contest.
The American League will hand the ball to Justin Verlander to start tonight’s contest. He’s been phenomenal this season, pitching to a 2.98 ERA. That said, he been far from unhittable. He’s struggled in particular with the long ball, allowing a league-high 26 HRs. Some of his advanced metrics also suggest he’s been lucky when batters have kept the ball inside the stadium, and his 4.19 FIP is significantly higher than his traditional ERA.
Still, the fact that he’s starting this game makes him an appealing DFS option. Over the past 10 All-Star Games, 22 pitchers have logged more than one inning. Of those pitchers, 12 of them have started the game (54.5%). If Verlander gets more than just one inning, he has the potential to be the highest-scoring pitcher on the slate.
On the NL side, Hyun-jin Ryu will get the start. He leads the league with a 1.73 ERA, which made giving him the start an easy decision for NL manager Dave Roberts. The fact that Roberts is also Ryu’s manager on the Dodgers probably didn’t hurt matters either.
Unfortunately, Ryu doesn’t appear to have the same upside as some of the other pitchers in this contest. He’s not a strikeout pitcher – he’s posted a K/9 of just 8.17 this season – and strikeouts are going to be the primary source of fantasy points for pitchers during the All-Star Game. He’s the third-most expensive hurler on DraftKings, which makes him an appealing fade candidate.
After the starters, it’s hard to predict which pitchers are actually going to enter the game. As far as I can tell, neither manager has given any indication of whom they plan on deploying as relievers.
Still, some pitchers stand out as better options than others. Roberts has arguably the two best true relievers in this game at his disposal in Kirby Yates and Will Smith. Yates, in particular, has been absolutely dominant. He owns a 1.38 FIP, which is the best mark in the league among pitchers who have thrown at least 30.0 innings. His 13.85 K/9 is the ninth-highest mark. Yates is dirt cheap at $3,400 on DraftKings, which makes him an interesting punt play.
Jacob deGrom, Walker Buehler and Luis Castillo are also appealing given their potential to pitch multiple innings.
The AL doesn’t feature the same level of dominant relievers as the NL. Brad Hand and Aroldis Chapman have been the best of the bunch, with Hand owning slightly better marks in both FIP and K/9. He should also get a boost from the game being played in Cleveland since he pitches for the hometown Indians. Unfortunately, no bonus for a hold or save decreases the appeal for both pitchers.
As far as starters, Gerrit Cole, Chris Sale and Lucas Giolito all possess strikeout upside and have the potential to pitch multiple innings. Shane Bieber was a late addition to this game, but he also possesses big strikeout upside and should get the same hometown bump as Hand.
It’s tough to break down the hitters in this contest since we don’t know how many at-bats they’ll receive or which pitchers they’ll be facing. That said, there are still a few general guidelines you can follow to gain a slight edge.
- There isn’t a huge difference between starters and bench players
Over the past two seasons, each of the 36 starters has received multiple plate appearances. That said, 43 players have entered the game off the bench, and 34 of those players have received multiple plate appearances (79.1%). Overall, the starters will typically play around five innings or so, and the bench players will finish the game. The bench bats typically cost less than the starters, and they should command lower ownership as well.
- Pay attention to the rosters
The way these teams are constructed is going to play a huge part in which players get multiple at-bats. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to identify where each team is overweight. Last year, the AL carried three shortstops, so it’s not surprising that Francisco Lindor was one of the only bench bats to receive just one plate appearance. The NL carried three second baseman, so Ozzie Albies and Scooter Gennett both received limited playing time. These are the types of situations you’ll want to avoid.
This year, the AL seems particularly deep at the SS position. Jorge Polanco will get the start, while Lindor and Xander Bogaerts are available off the bench. Lindor and Bogaerts seem like prime candidates for limited playing time.
Whit Merrifeld is the wildcard. He can play in the outfield or at second base, and wherever he enters the game will create a logjam. There’s more risk with guys at those positions than elsewhere.
The NL side is loaded on the infield, carrying three catchers, three first baseman, three shortstops and three third basemen. The fact that it doesn’t have any designated hitters will space that out a bit – Josh Bell is starting there, and it seems likely that a reserve infielder will spell him – but the bench bats at those positions are a bit risky.
Conversely, the NL is carrying just three reserve outfielders, which could make that position a fantasy goldmine. Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger could each see three plate appearances given their spots in the lineup, and David Dahl, Charlie Blackmon and Jeff McNeil should each see multiple plate appearances off the bench.
- Position swaps usually occur at the same spot in the lineup
Double switching and lineup experimentation haven’t historically been used at the All-Star Game. Over the past two years, every substitution was like-for-like: Second baseman replaced second baseman, outfielders replaced outfielders and so on. Given that we know the starting lineup for each team, we can use this information to our advantage.
For example, when backup SS Trevor Story enters the game, he’ll probably be hitting second in the lineup. Lineup correlation probably doesn’t matter as much in the All-Star Game as it does during the regular season, but batters higher in the order will still have potential to earn a key third at-bat.
Good luck, and be sure to check out The Action Network if you’re looking for more in-depth MLB analysis. If you’re looking for sports betting info and when it will be legal near you, check out our updating post here.
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Pictured above (left to right): NL All-Stars Mike Moustakas, Christian Yelich, and Cody Bellinger
Photo credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports