The MLB Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each day’s slate using the FantasyLabs Tools and metrics to highlight notable players.
Friday features a nine-game main slate starting at 7:07 p.m. ET.
Today’s group of pitching options isn’t nearly as strong at the top as yesterday’s was, with only three starters priced above $10,000 on DraftKings:
Dallas Keuchel leads the group with an $11,800 salary and is a bit of an outlier for a stud pitcher. He doesn’t have elite strikeout stuff — his K/9 of 7.82 over the past 12 months is pretty pedestrian — but he excels by limiting the damage on balls put in play. He leads all pitchers on the slate in a variety of Statcast categories: Average distance allowed (172 feet), ground ball rate (67%), exit velocity (87 mph), and hard hit rate (24%).
His Vegas data are a mixed bag in today’s matchup vs. the Rangers. He’s one of the largest favorites of the day at -180, but his opponent implied team total of 3.9 runs is tied for only sixth. Putting it all together, pitchers with comparable salaries, moneyline odds, and opponent implied team totals have historically been mediocre values, averaging Plus/Minus values of just +0.06 and a Consistency Rating of just 56.7% (per the Trends Tool). He’s a much stronger option today on FanDuel, where leads all pitchers with a Bargain Rating of 98 percent.
Alex Wood will take the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is coming off an impressive 2017 season. He posted a 2.72 ERA and 9.06 K/9, culminating in an average Plus/Minus of +2.83 over 25 starts on DraftKings. He leads all pitchers on today’s slate with an opponent implied team total of 3.4 runs, and his moneyline odds of -155 make him the third-largest favorite as well.
But Wood also has some concerns at his current salary. He’ll likely have to be extremely efficient if he hopes to pitch deep into this ball game: He hit the 100-pitch mark just once last season, which limited him to six or fewer innings in all but five of his starts. Given those limitations, it’s not surprising that he struggled when his salary got above $10,000 last season:
David Price might be the most appealing option of the trio. He was limited to just 74.2 innings pitched last season, but he still managed to post a K/9 of 9.31 and an ERA of 3.38. The former Cy Young winner followed that up with an impressive spring training, allowing just three earned runs while striking out 13 batters over 12 innings pitched. He has an appealing matchup today vs. the Rays, who posted the second-highest strikeout rate vs. left-handed pitchers last season (25.9%). Assuming he’s not on any sort of pitch count, he has the potential to dominate.
Given that most of the studs have their question marks, it seems like a good day to pay down at the position. Luckily, there are some strong value candidates.
Robbie Ray isn’t a value on FanDuel, where he’s the most expensive pitcher on the slate, but his $8,700 salary on DraftKings makes him just the sixth-most expensive option. He was extremely impressive last season with a comparable salary:
He’s also the best strikeout pitcher on the slate by a considerable margin: He’s posted a K/9 of 12.55 over the past 12 months, trailing only Chris Sale among starting pitchers. His matchup vs. the Rockies should also be a good one for strikeout purposes, as their projected lineup has posted a K-rate of 28.5% against left-handed pitchers over the past 12 months.
Nick Pivetta was awful for the majority of 2017, posting an ERA of 6.02 and WHIP of 1.51 over his first 133 innings at the big league level, but he did show some signs of improvement down the stretch, going 3-1 with a 4.36 ERA and 1.36 WHIP over his final six starts. He followed that up with a solid spring training, which provides some optimism heading into 2018. He has excellent raw stuff, which he translated to a K/9 of 9.67 last year. If he can limit the baserunners — walks in particular have been an issue for him — Pivetta has the potential to be a nice value across the industry today vs. the Braves.
Masahiro Tanaka: He turned in by far his worst season as a pro in 2017, posting an ERA of 4.74 while allowing 1.8 home runs per nine innings, but he still racked up a bunch of strikeouts and is a -145 favorite today vs. the Blue Jays. He makes a lot of sense in guaranteed prize pools (GPPs).
Jhoulys Chacin: You probably won’t want to roster Chacin many times this season, but today’s slate could be an exception. He has one of the best matchups of the day vs. the Padres, whose projected lineup has posted a wOBA of just .287 over the past year against right-handed pitchers. Chacin also gets the luxury of facing them in San Diego, where he will benefit from a pitcher-friendly venue.
The Braves don’t exactly stand out from a Vegas perspective — their implied team total of 4.6 runs is tied for just fourth on today’s slate — but the above stack is underpriced at the moment. Only Freddie Freeman possesses a salary higher than $3,700, which is a large reason why their Team Value Rating of 80 is the top mark on the slate. They’re facing the aforementioned Pivetta, who posted a HR/9 of 1.73 last season.
Freeman is clearly the top individual member of this stack, but since he is highlighted in today’s Three Key Players piece let’s focus on some of the other options. No one outside of Freeman really stands out from a power perspective, but both Ender Inciarte and Ozzie Albies have shown the ability to steal bases. Speed can often be overlooked in daily fantasy baseball, and both players rank in the top 15 on today’s slate in terms of stolen bases per game.
On FanDuel, the top four-man stack belongs to the Oakland A’s:
They are tied with the Braves with their implied team total of 4.6 runs, and their FanDuel Team Value Rating of 86 is the top mark on the slate. They’re taking on Angels left-hander Tyler Skaggs, who posted a HR/9 of 1.40 last season. The above stack features three right-handed batters, and righties batting in the top five of the order crushed against Skaggs last season:
Khris Davis went yard in the first game of the 2018 season, and he’s hit at least 42 home runs in each of the past two seasons. He’s a nice source of power at $3,200 on FanDuel regardless of whether you choose to stack him with his teammates.
Brett Gardner opened the year as the leadoff hitter for the Yankees, which could give him immense value throughout the season. He’s posted a solid .364 wOBA vs. right-handed pitchers over the past year, and if he can get on base he figures to score a lot of runs batting in front of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez. The Yanks have an intriguing matchup today against Blue Jays right-hander Aaron Sanchez, who missed virtually all of last season with an injury but posted an ERA of just 3.00 in 2016.
The Boston Red Sox will take on Rays left-hander Blake Snell today, which should make J.D. Martinez very happy. He’s absolutely crushed lefties over the past 12 months, posting a .569 wOBA and .527 ISO. The result was an average Plus/Minus of +7.81 when facing a southpaw last season, and he’s currently projected for just 5-8% ownership.
Andrew McCutchen is another batter who has historically destroyed left-handed pitching. His .470 wOBA vs. lefties over the past 12 months dwarfs his .329 wOBA vs. righties, which could make him an intriguing option against Wood. Many more people will roster Wood than the batters against him, and as a result McCutchen is projected for 0-1% ownership.
Good luck on today’s slate, and be sure to check out The Action Network if you’re looking for more baseball coverage!
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Pictured above: Dallas Keuchel
Photo Credit: Rob Deutsch- USA Today Sports