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

Saturday features a split slate. There’s a five-game early slate starting at 3:07 p.m. ET and a 10-game main slate starting at 7:05 p.m. ET.

Pitchers

Studs

Three pitchers on today’s slates are priced above $10,000 on FanDuel:

  • Gerrit Cole (R) $12,000, HOU @ STL
  • Clayton Kershaw (L) $11,400, LAD @ WSH
  • Mike Clevinger (R) $10,700, CLE @ KC

It’s not a particularly strong day for pitching. None of these stud options stand out as a slam dunk.

Let’s start with Cole. He’s put together a dominant season for the Houston Astros, pitching to a 3.03 ERA and 2.56 xFIP. He also leads the league with a 13.50 K/9, while his 4.1 wins above replacement is tied for third.

He’s in a strong spot today vs. the St. Louis Cardinals, who have been pretty dreadful against right-handers over the past 12 months. Their projected lineup has compiled a .277 wOBA and 25.6% strikeout rate, and they managed just one run off Jose Urquidy in yesterday’s contest. With that in mind, their implied team total of 3.6 runs is a bit surprising. It’s still tied for the lowest mark on the slate, but it is slightly higher than expected.

Still, Cole gets most of his fantasy value from strikeouts, and he has plenty of upside in that department. He leads all pitchers with a K Prediction of 8.2, and pitchers with comparable K Predictions and Vegas data have historically averaged a Plus/Minus of +3.44 on FanDuel (per the Trends tool).

Cole is going to set you back quite a bit in terms of salary, but he’s the clear top option on the slate.

Kershaw continues to get the job done at a high level despite being past his prime. He’s pitched to a 2.84 ERA this season, and the Dodgers have won 13 of his first 17 starts. He’s been particularly dominant in two starts since the All-Star break, allowing just one run over 12 innings while striking out 17 batters.

Unfortunately, he’s in a difficult spot today vs. the Washington Nationals. They’re currently implied for 4.3 runs, which is high considering Kershaw’s salary. Historically, pitchers with comparable price tags and opponent implied team totals have averaged a Plus/Minus of -2.25 on FanDuel.

Kershaw also doesn’t provide much in terms of strikeout upside. He’s posted a K/9 of just 8.75 this season, and the Nationals own the fifth-lowest strikeout rate against left-handed pitchers. That makes him tough to roster in any format.

Injuries have limited Clevinger to just 42.1 innings this season, but he’s been dominant when he’s been able to pitch. He’s posted an elite 13.82 K/9 to go along with a 2.44 xFIP.

That said, he has given up a lot of hard contact over his past three starts. He’s allowed opposing batters to post an average distance of 206 feet, exit velocity of 99 miles per hour and hard hit rate of 55%. All three represent increases when compared to his 12-month averages.

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

Still, that’s probably not a huge red flag today given his matchup vs. the Kansas City Royals. They’ve been poor against right-handers this season, ranking just 21st in wRC+ and 27th in ISO. They also don’t strike out much – which limits Clevinger’s upside – but there’s still a lot to like about this matchup. Clevinger is a particularly strong target on FanDuel, where his $10,700 salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 79%.

Values

Marco Gonzalez has one of the best matchups of the day vs. the Detroit Tigers. Their offense has been abysmal this season, ranking just 29th in runs per game, and their projected lineup has managed a .296 wOBA and 27.8% strikeout rate against southpaws over the past 12 months. Gonzalez is far from a strikeout pitcher – he’s posted a K/9 of just 6.42 this season – but he has more upside than usual in this matchup.

He’s also posted impressive Statcast marks over his past two starts. He’s limited opposing batters to an average distance of just 196 feet, which represents a decrease of -18 feet when compared to his 12-month average. Gonzalez is definitely worth a look on FanDuel, where his $7,900 salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 93%.

Steven Matz is coming off a solid start in his last outing, and he’s in another appealing spot today. He’s taking on the Pittsburgh Pirates, who rank dead last in wRC+ against left-handers this season. Their implied team total of 4.2 runs is tied for the fourth-lowest mark on the main slate.

Matz is also capable of recording strikeouts, evidenced by a K/9 of 9.20 over the past 12 months. He’s a viable option at just $6,900 on DraftKings and $6,400 on FanDuel.

Fastballs

Anthony DeSclafani: He’s averaged a Plus/Minus of +4.89 over his past 10 starts on FanDuel and racked up 11 strikeouts in his last outing. He’s taking on a Rockies’ offense that has struggled against right-handers away from Coors this season, ranking 29th in wRC+.

Eduardo Rodriguez: He’s in a brutal spot today vs. the New York Yankees, but he’s been a reliable source of fantasy production recently. He’s posted an average Plus/Minus of +6.25 over his past 10 starts on FanDuel and has posted a positive Plus/Minus in each of his past four outings. The pitching options on the early slate are really limited, which increases his appeal.

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 Los Angeles Dodgers:

  • 1. Joc Pederson (L)
  • 2. Alex Verdugo (L)
  • 3. Justin Turner (R)
  • 4. Cody Bellinger (L)
  • 5. Max Muncy (L)

Total Salary: $23,500

The Dodgers are currently implied for 5.8 runs, which is the second-highest mark on the early slate. They’re taking on Nationals right-hander Joe Ross, and the Dodgers have absolutely destroyed right-handers this season. They rank second in wRC+ and ISO against right-handers and have averaged the fifth-most runs per game.

Ross has been abysmal this season, pitching to a 9.45 ERA over 20.0 innings. He’s been particularly poor against left-handed batters, allowing them to post a .565 wOBA and club two HRs in just 4.2 innings.

That could spell trouble against the Dodgers, who are expected to bat four left-handers in the top five of their lineup. Pederson in particular stands out. He’s crushed right-handers this season, posting a .306 ISO and 136 wRC+, and he’s made excellent contact over the past 15 days. He’s averaged a distance of 235 feet, exit velocity of 95 miles per hour and hard hit rate of 55%, all of which represent increases when compared to his 12-month averages.

On the main slate, the top four-man FanDuel stack belongs to the New York Mets:

  • 1. Jeff McNeil (L)
  • 2. Michael Conforto (L)
  • 3. Pete Alonso (R)
  • 5. Wilson Ramos (R)

Total Salary: $13,600

The Mets are implied for 4.9 runs today, which is tied for only eighth on the main slate. That said, they do look like a nice value on FanDuel. They own a Team Value Rating of 79, and McNeil, Alonso and Ramos each own a Bargain Rating of at least 51%.

The stacked batters also enter today’s contest in good recent form. Each player has exceeded his 12-month average in distance and exit velocity over the past 15 days, and only Ramos has failed to exceed his 12-month average in hard hit rate.

They have a nice matchup vs. Pirates right-hander Trevor Williams, who has pitched to a 4.96 ERA. He’s also surrendered a .384 wOBA to left-handed batters, which bodes well for McNeil and Conforto.

Other Batters

Ivan Nova has struggled with the long ball this season, posting a HR/FB rate of 19.5%. That could spell trouble against the Minnesota Twins, who lead the league in HRs per game. Max Kepler went yard last night, and he’s destroyed right-handed pitchers over the past 12 months. He’s an elite option on FanDuel, where his $3,700 salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 84%.

Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Minnesota Twins designated hitter Max Kepler (26).

Jose Ramirez got off to a rough start this season, but he’s been red-hot during the month of July. He’s posted a wRC+ of 169, including a wRC+ of 188 since the All-Star break. He’s also hit five HRs in his past 62 at bats, which nearly doubled his total from the first half of the season. He remains priced at a discount on DraftKings, where his $4,600 salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 87%. He also owns a favorable matchup vs. Royals right-hander Glenn Sparkman, who has pitched to a 5.64 FIP this season.

Travis d’Arnaud has found new life as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. He’s expected to bat leadoff today vs. Blue Jays left-hander Ryan Borucki, and d’Arnaud has excelled in that role. He’s posted an average Plus/Minus of +5.20 on DraftKings, which makes him an elite target at weak position.

Good luck, and be sure to check out The Action Network if you’re looking for more in-depth MLB analysis or how to bet on sports.

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Pictured above: Dodgers OF Joc Pederson (31)
Photo credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports