The MLB Breakdown offers data-driven analysis using the FantasyLabs Tools and predictive metrics to highlight notable players.
Thursday features a split slate: There’s a four-game early slate starting at 12:10 p.m. ET and a six-game main slate starting at 7:05 p.m. ET.
Two pitchers stand out above the rest on FanDuel:
- Gerrit Cole (R) $11,700, HOU @ CLE
- Clayton Kershaw (L) $11,400, LAD vs. SD
Cole continues to put up dominant fantasy numbers in 2019. He’s pitched to a 2.94 ERA while striking out a career-best 13.28 batters per nine innings. He’s been particularly dominant over his past 10 starts, posting an average Plus/Minus of +10.28 on FanDuel.
Cole is in an interesting spot today vs. the Cleveland Indians. They’ve been mediocre offensively this season, ranking just 16th in wRC+ against right-handers, and they’re currently implied for just 3.6 runs. That said, they did make two serious upgrades to their lineup before the trade deadline by acquiring Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes. Reyes in particular has done some serious damage against right-handers, posting a .306 ISO and 122 wRC+. Expect the Indians’ offensive numbers to increase over the final months of the season.
Cole still offers significant strikeout upside – his K Prediction of 7.7 ranks second on the slate – but he does have some downside in this matchup.
Kershaw seems like the preferred stud option for cash games given his elite matchup vs. the Padres. Their projected lineup has struggled against left-handers over the past 12 months, posting a .292 wOBA and 30.9% strikeout rate. Kershaw’s resulting opponent implied team total of 3.3 runs and moneyline odds of -196 both rank first on the slate. Historically, pitchers with comparable Vegas data have averaged a Plus/Minus of +3.62 on FanDuel (per the Trends tool).
Kershaw should also benefit from getting to pitch at home in Los Angeles. He’s posted an ERA of 2.30 at Dodger Stadium, and he’s historically posted an average Plus/Minus of +7.80 when pitching at home.
The only real concern with Kershaw is his recent Statcast data. His past two opponents have posted an average distance of 219 feet, exit velocity of 92 mph and hard-hit rate of 40%, all of which represent increases compared to his 12-month averages. Still, the fact that the Padres are so strikeout-prone makes his Statcast data less important than usual.
Zack Wheeler didn’t show any signs of rust in his first start following a brief stay on the Injured List. He racked up seven strikeouts over just 5.1 innings pitched, but a reduced pitch count ultimately limited his upside. Still, he was able to post a Plus/Minus of +3.66 on DraftKings, and he should see a larger workload on today’s slate.
He’s in an excellent spot this afternoon against the Chicago White Sox. Their projected lineup has struggled against right-handers over the past 12 months, posting a .311 wOBA and 29.4% strikeout rate, and they rank just 27th in wRC+ against right-handers this season. Wheeler currently owns a K Prediction of 8.3, which is the top mark on the early slate by a significant margin.
His Vegas marks are also solid. He owns an opponent implied team total of 4.3 runs and moneyline odds of -157, and pitchers with comparable Vegas data and K Predictions have historically averaged a Plus/Minus of +2.74 on DraftKings.
Jack Flaherty has a difficult matchup today vs. the Chicago Cubs, but he checks a lot of fantasy boxes. He has solid Vegas data – he owns a 3.8 opponent implied team total and -126 moneyline odds – and his K Prediction of 7.5 ranks third on the main slate.
His Statcast data from his past two starts is also solid. He’s limited opposing batters to an average distance of just 197 feet, which represents a decrease of 9 feet compared to his 12-month average. Comparable pitchers have historically been strong fantasy options, posting an average Plus/Minus of +2.55 on FanDuel.
Michael Pineda has one of the best matchups of the day vs. the Miami Marlins. They rank just 29th in runs per game this season, and their projected lineup has posted a .290 wOBA and 26.8% strikeout rate against right-handers over the past 12 months. He leads the early slate in both opponent implied team total (3.5) and moneyline odds (-170).
He also enters this contest in elite recent form. He’s limited his past two opponents to an average distance of 213 feet, exit velocity of 89 mph and hard-hit rate of 21%, all of which represent significant decreases compared to his 12-month averages.
He figures to be the highest-owned pitcher on the early slate.
Asher Wojciechowski: He’s been brilliant over his past two starts, striking out six batters while allowing just two earned runs over 14.1 innings. He has a favorable matchup vs. the Toronto Blue Jays, resulting in a K Prediction of 8.3, and his $7,100 salary on DraftKings comes with a Bargain Rating of 90%.
Trent Thornton: He’s opposing Wojciechowski in Baltimore, and the Orioles offense has struggled against right-handers. Their projected lineup has posted a .310 wOBA and 27.0% strikeout rate over the past 12 months, and they rank just 26th in wRC+ against right-handers this season. He’s very affordable at just $6,800 on FanDuel.
- 1. Jeff McNeil (L)
- 2. Michael Conforto (L)
- 3. Pete Alonso (R)
- 6. J.D. Davis (R)
- 8. Amed Rosario (R)
Total Salary: $22,600
The Mets are currently implied for 5.4 runs, which is the top mark on the early slate. They also represent one of the best pure values on DraftKings given their Team Value Rating of 77. Conforto leads the way with a Bargain Rating of 75%.
They’re taking on White Sox right-hander Dylan Cease, who has struggled through his first 21.0 MLB innings. He’s pitched to a 6.86 ERA and 5.56 FIP, and batters have averaged 1.71 HRs per nine innings. Left-handed batters in particular have teed off on Cease, posting a wOBA of .386.
Conforto deserves to be treated like an elite option on this slate, but Rosario serves as an important differentiator for Mets stacks. He’s expected to hit eighth in the order, which should result in reduced ownership, and he’s posted excellent Statcast data over the past 15 days. He’s posted an average distance of 237 feet, which represents an increase of +24 feet compared to his 12-month average.
On the main slate, the top four-man FanDuel stack belongs to the Boston Red Sox:
- 1. Mookie Betts (R)
- 2. Rafael Devers (L)
- 4. J.D. Martinez (R)
- 5. Christian Vazquez (R)
Total Salary: $15,200
The Red Sox lead the main slate with an implied team total of 5.6 runs against Rays left-hander Brendan McKay. McKay has a lot of potential – he was widely considered a top-15 prospect before being called up to the majors – but the Red Sox have destroyed left-handed pitchers recently. They’ve posted a wRC+ of 152 against southpaws over the past 14 days, which is the best mark in the league.
Betts in particular has absolutely raked against left-handers over that time frame. He’s posted a .502 wOBA and 217 wRC+ in his last 23 plate appearances vs. southpaws, including three HRs. Betts has historically been at his best when facing a left-hander at Fenway, evidenced by a dominant 273 wRC+ in that situation last season.
He also enters today’s contest in good recent form. He’s posted an average distance of 237 feet and exit velocity of 94 mph over his past 14 games, both of which represent increases compared to his 12-month averages. He’s tough to avoid on FanDuel at $4,300.
Ji-Man Choi is one of the best pure values on FanDuel, where his $2,700 salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 77%. He’ll also be on the positive side of his batting splits vs. Red Sox right-hander Andrew Cashner. Choi has posted a .374 wOBA and .205 ISO against right-handers over the past 12 months, and the Rays are currently implied for a strong 5.0 runs.
Ryan Goins is a nice source of savings on DraftKings’ early slate. He’s currently priced at just $3,100 and is expected to occupy the No. 2 spot in the White Sox’s lineup. It’s rare to find a batter with a premium lineup spot at a comparable salary, and those players have historically been strong investments. Goins has also been red-hot in his first 12 games with the White Sox this season, posting a wRC+ of 162.
Alex Bregman has struggled recently, posting an average Plus/Minus of -3.54 over his past 10 games, but his Statcast data suggests he’s still been making excellent contact. He’s posted an average distance of 223 feet, exit velocity of 95 mph and hard-hit rate of 61%, all of which represent increases compared to his 12-month averages. This is a nice opportunity to buy low on one of the most talented hitters in baseball.
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Pictured above: Red Sox OF Mookie Betts (50)
Photo credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports