The MLB Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each day’s slate using the FantasyLabs Tools and metrics to highlight notable players.
Monday features a split slate: There’s a five-game early slate starting at 1:05 p.m. ET and a nine-game main slate starting at 7:07 p.m. ET.
The top-end pitching options on today’s slate are pretty thin. Only three pitchers own salaries of $8,000 or greater on FanDuel, and none of them is priced above $8,500:
Charlie Morton is the priciest option on both FanDuel and DraftKings, and he’s coming off a wonderful year for the Houston Astros. He posted an earned run average (ERA) of 3.62 over 146.2 innings pitched while posting a K/9 of 10.18. His peripheral numbers suggest that his performance was no fluke either, which bodes well for his performance in 2018.
On today’s slate he leads all pitchers in three key categories: K Prediction (7.9), moneyline odds (-220), and opponent implied run total (3.8). Historically, pitchers with comparable marks in all three categories have been nice fantasy options (per the Trends Tool):
He’s facing the Orioles, who give him plenty of strikeout potential: Their projected lineup has struck out in 28.3% of at-bats vs. right-handed pitchers over the past 12 months. Morton is especially appealing today on FanDuel, where he owns a Bargain Rating of 99%.
Jameson Taillon could represent a nice value on DraftKings today. He’s the priciest option on the early slate on FanDuel, yet he’s just the fourth-priciest option on DraftKings with his $8,800 salary. Taillon is a former top prospect who has yet to realize his potential at the big-league level, but there is optimism that this will be the year he breaks out. His Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) of 3.48 was nearly a full run lower than his traditional ERA of 4.44, thanks in part to a ridiculously high Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) of .352. If that number regresses to a normal level this season, he could be in line for a nice year.
He has a favorable matchup on today’s slate vs. the Minnesota Twins, whose projected lineup has produced a wOBA of just .311 and a K rate of 28.3% against right-handers over the past 12-months. Their implied team total of 3.8 runs is the lowest mark on the early slate, while Taillon’s K Prediction of 6.8 ranks second. Historically, pitchers with comparable marks in both categories have been decent values:
Pitching in Pittsburgh also rewards him with a Park Factor of 82, which is the second-best mark on the slate.
Finally, Tanner Roark benefits from playing for the Washington Nationals, but that’s really the only positive attribute he has going for him on today’s slate. They’re currently implied for 4.7 runs, which makes him a slight favorite despite his opponent implied team total of 4.4 runs. He’s not much of a strikeout pitcher either, and his K Prediction of 5.8 is tied for just ninth on the main slate. He does possess a Bargain Rating of 95% on FanDuel, but so does virtually every other pitcher on the slate. It’s hard to get behind him as even a contrarian option for guaranteed prize pools (GPPs).
Mike Clevinger looks like one of the best values of the day on FanDuel. He’s currently priced at $10,400 on DraftKings, so his $7,700 salary on FanDuel comes with a Bargain Rating of 99%. Clevinger is coming off a fantastic 2017 season for the Indians for whom he posted an ERA of 3.11 and a K/9 of 10.45, but he’ll need to pitch well this season if he wants to keep his spot in the rotation when Danny Salazar returns from the disabled list, so the pressure is on him to start 2018 well.
On today’s main slate, he trails only Morton with a K Prediction of 7.6. He also is tied for third with an opponent implied team total of 4.2 runs, and pitching in Los Angeles rewards him with a Park Factor of 83. The big difference between him and Morton is his moneyline odds of just -113, which makes Clevinger a significantly smaller favorite on today’s slate. Still, he looks like a nice pivot for GPPs.
On the early slate, Miles Mikolas is an interesting option for the St Louis Cardinals. He spent the past few seasons pitching in Japan, where he posted an impressive 2.25 ERA and 9.0 K/9 last year for the Yomiuri Giants. It’s hard to tell how those numbers would’ve translated to the MLB, but Shohei Otani posted an ERA of 3.20 in the same league last season.
He is in a bit of a boom-or-bust spot today with his matchup vs. the Milwaukee Brewers. They ranked in the top 10 in both ISO and wOBA last season vs. right-handed pitching, but their lineup also posted the highest strikeout rate at 25.5%. They’ve made some changes to the lineup this season, adding two All-Star caliber outfielders in Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, but their projected lineup still has a K rate of 25.3% against righties over the past 12 months.
Tyler Chatwood: He’s the most expensive early pitcher on DraftKings at $10,100, and pitching for the Cubs rewards him with moneyline odds of -138, but he’s not a strikeout pitcher, owning a K/9 of just 7.48 over the past 12 months, and the projected Reds lineup has the lowest splits-adjusted strikeout rate on the early slate. His upside is limited.
Matt Harvey: His opponent implied team total of 3.8 runs is tied with Morton’s for the best mark on the early slate. Harvey turned in a disastrous 2017 season, posting a WHIP of 1.73 and a K/9 of just 6.64, but he has been a dominant pitcher in the past. He did manage to strike out 18 batters in 20 spring innings, so perhaps he’s getting closer to becoming the elite pitcher he was in the past.
Brian Johnson: The Red Sox left-hander is a bit of an unknown after logging just 27 innings at the MLB level last season, but he has one of the best matchups of the day vs. the Marlins. Their offense projects as the worst in the league this season after trading away Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton, and Marcel Ozuna this offseason, and their projected lineup has a wOBA of just .281 against southpaws over the past 12 months.
The Cards are facing Brewers right-hander Zach Davies, who turned in a solid 3.90 ERA last season. However, he posted a K/9 of just 5.93 over that time frame, so the Cards could put a lot of balls in play against him today. The Cards have significant power against right-handed pitching, with all five of the stacked batters possessing ISO marks of at least .196 over the past 12 months:
Miller Park was the eighth-friendliest stadium for batters last season, so the Cards can do some damage on today’s slate.
On the main slate, the top-rated FanDuel stack belongs to the Houston Astros:
The Astros are currently implied for 5.7 runs, which is the top mark on the slate by a pretty significant margin. That will undoubtedly make them a popular target on today’s slate, but stacking them in the above 1-4-5-6 manner should increase your chances of having a unique lineup. Avoiding No. 3 hitter Jose Altuve in particular should help, given his projected ownership of 13-16%.
The Astros are facing Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman, who has allowed a disastrous 2.40 home runs per nine innings of the past 12 months. Stacking against him was a wise decision last season, with batters in the top two-thirds of lineups posting an average Plus/Minus of +2.83 on FanDuel:
The Astros were first in wOBA by a mile against right-handed pitchers in 2017, so this sets up as a potential smash spot.
The Blue Jays are an interesting target on today’s slate for those looking to fade the Astros. They’re extremely affordable on DraftKings and implied for 5.4 runs, and that combination results in a slate-high Team Value Rating of 96. Justin Smoak was already covered in today’s Three Key Players piece, so let’s focus instead on Randal Grichuk. He’s posted an ISO of .258 over the past 12 months against right-handed pitching, and his Statcast results from early in the season have been promising. He’s projected for just 2-4% ownership, which could make him a useful member of a Blue Jays stack.
Anthony Rendon gets to face Braves left-hander Sean Newcombe on today’s slate, which should make him very excited. He’s posted a .457 wOBA and .333 ISO against left-handers over the past 12 months, which are both among the top marks on the main slate. The Nats were sixth in wOBA and seventh in ISO against southpaws last season, so they’re another potential pivot for those looking to avoid the Astros.
Jesse Winker is projected to occupy the leadoff spot today for the Cincinnati Reds against Chatwood. He’s worn out right-handed pitching in his young career, posting a wOBA of .438 and ISO of .275 over the past year. He’s very affordable at just $3,000 on DraftKings.
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: Justin Smoak and Curtis Granderson of the Blue Jays
Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports