The MLB Breakdown offers data-driven analysis using the FantasyLabs Tools and predictive metrics to highlight notable players.

Thursday features a split slate. Both sites feature three-game early slates starting at 12:10 p.m. ET. DraftKings features a five-game main slate starting at 6:35 p.m. ET, while FanDuel features a four-game main slate starting at 7:10 p.m. ET.

Pitchers

Studs

Two pitchers on today’s slates are priced above the rest on FanDuel:

  • Mike Clevinger (R) $11,800, CLE vs. DET
  • Jack Flaherty (R) $10,900, STL @ CHC

Clevinger has been limited to just 107.1 innings due to injuries this season, but he’s been absolutely dominant when he’s taken the mound. He’s posted a 2.68 ERA and 2.51 FIP while striking out an average of 12.49 batters per nine innings. He’s been particularly effective from a fantasy perspective over his past 10 outings, averaging a Plus/Minus of +8.90 on FanDuel.

Clevinger is in one of the best spots possible today vs. the Detroit Tigers. They rank dead-last in wRC+ and first in strikeout rate vs. right-handers this season, which makes this an incredibly juicy matchup for fantasy. Right-handers have unsurprisingly dominated when facing the Tigers this season, posting an average Plus/Minus of +5.87 on FanDuel (per the Trends tool).

Clevinger leads the slate in three key pitching categories: opponent implied team total (3.1 runs), moneyline odds (-345), and K Prediction (8.8). Historically, pitchers with comparable marks in all three categories have averaged a Plus/Minus of +8.72 on FanDuel.

The only red flag with Clevinger is his recent Statcast data. Opposing batters have averaged a batted ball distance of 247 feet over his past three starts, which represents an increase of +30 feet when compared to his 12-month average. Still, that’s a very minor concern against the Tigers. Their offense seems unlikely to take advantage of his subpar form.

Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Mike Clevinger (52).

Flaherty has been arguably the best pitcher in baseball over the second half of the season. He’s pitched to a 1.05 ERA and 2.26 FIP over his past 12 starts while averaging a K/9 of 11.52.

His Statcast data from his past two starts is also strong. He’s limited opposing batters to an average distance of 196 feet, exit velocity of 89 miles per hour, and hard hit rate of 31%, all of which represent decreases when compared to his 12-month averages.

Flaherty is in an interesting spot today vs. the Chicago Cubs. He’s a slight underdog on the road — which obviously decreases his appeal — but the Cubs’ projected lineup has been pretty mediocre against right-handers over the past 12 months. They’ve posted a .293 wOBA and 27.3% strikeout rate, which gives Flaherty solid upside. He should carry less ownership than Clevinger, which makes him an appealing pivot for guaranteed prize pools (GPPs).

Values

Kyle Gibson will return to the Twins rotation after serving as a reliever Sunday, and he’s a solid value at just $7,300 on FanDuel. He’s seen a price decrease of -$600 over the past month, and his current price tag comes with a Bargain Rating of 85%.

He also has a solid matchup vs. the Kansas City Royals. They rank 23rd in wRC+ against right-handers over the second half of the season, and they’re currently implied for just 3.9 runs. Gibson is also a -248 favorite, and pitchers with comparable salaries and Vegas data have historically averaged a Plus/Minus of +6.09 on FanDuel.

Kyle Hendricks is opposing Flaherty in Chicago, and he stands out because of his consistency. He’s very rarely going to put up a dominant performance, but he’s not going to get rocked very often either. He’s allowed two earned runs or fewer in 12 of his past 14 starts, and he’s allowed just one earned run in each of his past three.

He has a nice matchup today vs. the St. Louis Cardinals. Their projected lineup has been pedestrian against right-handers over the past 12 months, posting a .272 wOBA and 24.6% strikeout rate. There’s currently no over/under set for this contest, but expect Hendricks to own one of the lower opponent implied team totals on the slate.

Joe Musgrove stands out on the early slate, particularly on DraftKings given his Bargain Rating of 99%. He has an elite matchup vs. the Seattle Mariners, whose projected lineup has posted a dreadful .249 wOBA against right-handers over the past 12 months.

Musgrove is also coming off an excellent performance in his last outing. He recorded seven strikeouts over just five innings, and opposing batters couldn’t do much damage when they put the ball in play either. They recorded an average distance of just 176 feet, which represents a -37 foot decreases when compared to Musgrove’s 12-month average.

Fastballs

Masahiro Tanaka: He’s only available on DraftKings, but he warrants consideration given his matchup vs. the Los Angeles Angels. Their projected lineup is a lot less imposing without Mike Trout, boasting a .271 wOBA against right-handers over the past 12 months.

Mike Soroka: He’s an intriguing option on the early slate, particularly on FanDuel given his Bargain Rating of 79%. He’s posted a 2.57 ERA this season, and he has more strikeout upside than usual vs. the Philadelphia Phillies.

Eduardo Rodriguez: He’s posted a positive Plus/Minus in each of his past six starts on FanDuel, and he has an excellent matchup vs. the San Francisco Giants. They rank 24th in wRC+ vs. southpaws this season.

Notable Stacks

With the Lineup Builder, it’s easy to incorporate stacks into DFS lineups. On the early slate, the top five-man DraftKings stack per the Bales Model belongs to the Atlanta Braves:

  • 1. Ronald Acuña (R)
  • 2. Ozzie Albies (S)
  • 3. Freddie Freeman (L)
  • 4. Josh Donaldson (R)
  • 5. Nick Markakis (L)

Total Salary: $22,300

The early slate isn’t expected to be particularly high scoring. The Red Sox lead the slate with an implied team total of 5.2 runs, and the Braves rank second at just 4.5. They also have a difficult matchup vs. Aaron Nola, which could make them a slightly contrarian target.

That said, the Braves have fared well against right-handers this season, ranking ninth in wRC+. They’ve found some success against Nola as well, scoring 14 earned runs over 31.0 innings.

Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Atlanta Braves left fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (13), first baseman Freddie Freeman (5).

Nola also enters this contest in dreadful recent form. He’s allowed his past three opponents to post an average distance of 220 feet, exit velocity of 99 miles per hour, and hard hit rate of 58%, all of which represent significant increases when compared to his 12-month averages.

Acuña stands out as one of the best overall plays on the slate. He’s fared well against right-handers over the past 12 months, and his Statcast data from the past 15 days is outstanding. He’s posted a 15-day/12-month distance differential of +38 feet and hard hit differential of +16 percentage points, and leadoff batters with comparable marks have historically averaged a Plus/Minus of +1.38 on DraftKings.

Acuña is also just one HR and three steals away from joining the exclusive 40/40 club, so expect him to be extra aggressive on the base paths to close the season.

On the main slate, the top four-man FanDuel stack belongs to the Cleveland Indians:

  • 1. Francisco Lindor (S)
  • 2. Oscar Mercado (R)
  • 3. Carlos Santana (S)
  • 5. Jordan Luplow (R)

Total Salary: $13,500

The Indians are currently implied for 6.0 runs, which ranks second on the main slate. They’re in a solid spot vs. Tigers left-hander Daniel Norris, who has pitched to a 4.62 ERA and 4.76 FIP this season.

Luplow leads all batters with 10 Pro Trends on FanDuel, and his $2,800 salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 99%. He’s quietly turned into a lefty-killer this season, posting a 196 wRC+ against southpaws. To put that in perspective, only J.D. Martinez has posted a better mark among left-handers among qualified batters.

Luplow has also smoked the ball over his past six games. He’s posted an average distance of 279 feet, exit velocity of 100 miles per hour, and hard hit rate of 63%, which are numbers typically reserved for video games. He deserves to be in your lineup even if you aren’t stacking the Indians.

Other Batters

The Toronto Blue Jays are taking on the Baltimore Orioles, which automatically puts them on the DFS radar. The O’s pitching staff has been absolutely dreadful this season, allowing a league-worst 6.11 runs per game. They’ve struggled in particular with the long ball, and that is where Rowdy Tellez typically provides value. He’s expected to bat fourth at just $3,900 on DraftKings and $2,600 on FanDuel, which makes him a cheap source of HR upside.

Andrew Benintendi could fly a bit under-the-radar today in a lefty-lefty matchup vs. Madison Bumgarner. That said, Bumgarner has been bad on the road this season, and Benintendi has actually posted a better wRC+ against southpaws than traditional pitchers. He’s also expected to occupy the leadoff spot in the lineup, which increases his appeal.

After this piece is published, FantasyLabs is likely to provide news updates on a number of players. Be sure to stay ahead of your competition with our industry-leading DFS-focused news blurbs.

Pictured above: Indians OF Jordan Luplow (8)
Photo Credit: Denny Medley-USA Today Sports