The MLB Breakdown offers data-driven analysis using the FantasyLabs Tools and predictive metrics to highlight notable players.
Thursday features an eight-game main slate starting at 7:05 p.m. ET.
Today’s slate is light on stud pitchers. No one possesses a salary above $10,000 on FanDuel, and only three pitchers are priced above $8,500:
- Sonny Gray (R) $9,800, CIN vs. STL
- Yu Darvish (R) $9,400, CHC @ PHI
- Julio Teheran (R) $9,100, ATL vs. NYM
Gray has revived his career in his first season with the Cincinnati Reds. He’s pitched to a 3.10 ERA and 3.47 FIP, both of which are drastically better than his numbers from his last year with the Yankees. He’s also posted a career-best K/9 of 10.15, resulting in an average Plus/Minus of +4.73 on FanDuel through 23 starts. Gray has been particularly dominant over his past 10 starts, averaging a Plus/Minus of +11.47.
He’s in a nice spot today vs. the St. Louis Cardinals. Their projected lineup has struggled against right-handers over the past 12 months, posting a .274 wOBA and 27.1% strikeout rate. They’ve also been one of the worst offensive squads since the All-Star break, ranking just 22nd in wRC+ against right-handers. The Cards are currently implied for 4.2 runs, which is the second-lowest mark on the slate.
Gray also enters this contest in good recent form. He’s limited his past two opponents to an average distance of 193 feet, exit velocity of 86 miles per hour, and hard hit rate of 30%, all of which represent decreases when compared to his 12-month averages. He’s the closest thing to a slam-dunk on today’s slate.
Darvish possesses arguably the highest ceiling among today’s pitchers. He’s an excellent strikeout pitcher, posting a K/9 of 10.77 this season, and he has nice strikeout upside given his matchup vs. the Phillies. Their projected lineup has posted a 27.2% strikeout rate against right-handers over the past 12 months, and Darvish’s K Prediction of 6.9 ranks second on the slate.
His Vegas data in this matchup is also solid. His 4.4 opponent implied team total ranks fourth on the slate, while his -141 moneyline odds rank fifth.
Teheran rounds out the stud group, and he doesn’t provide much fantasy value. He’s been solid this season, pitching to a 3.35 ERA, but his advanced metrics suggest he’s gotten lucky in a variety of categories. Opposing batters have managed a BABIP of just .261, and Teheran has also posted a HR/FB rate of just 9.9%. His resulting 5.21 xFIP is considerably higher than his traditional ERA, which makes him a regression candidate moving forward.
He’s in a tough spot today vs. the New York Mets. They’re currently implied for 4.8 runs, which is merely the seventh-lowest mark on the slate. He doesn’t offer a ton of strikeout upside either given his K Prediction of just 5.5.
Andrew Heaney stands out as an elite value on FanDuel, where his $6,400 salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 99%. He has an excellent matchup vs. the Chicago White Sox, and Heaney leads the slate in both opponent implied team total (4.0 runs) and K Prediction (7.5). Historically, pitchers with comparable marks in both categories have averaged a Plus/Minus of +1.34 on FanDuel (per the Trends tool).
The only concern is his potential pitch count. He’s making just his second start since coming off the IL, and he was limited to just 3.2 innings in his first outing. He threw just 74 pitches, so it seems likely that he’ll be on some sort of pitch count today. He still deserves some consideration on a weak pitching slate, but his ceiling might not be as high as it seems.
Alex Young has one of the best possible matchups vs. the San Francisco Giants. They rank just 28th in wRC+ against left-handed pitchers this season, and their projected lineup has posted a 29.2% strikeout rate against southpaws over the past 12 months. Young’s resulting opponent implied team total of 4.3 runs ranks third on the slate.
His Statcast data from his past two starts is also excellent. His limited opposing batters to an average distance of 171 feet, which represents a decrease of -34 feet when compared to his 12-month average. That gives him the best 15-day/12-month distance differential on the slate.
Young hasn’t displayed a ton of strikeout upside at the MLB level — he’s posted a K/9 of just 7.34 through his first 38.0 innings — but he did post a K/9 of 10.54 in Triple-A. He checks a lot of boxes on today’s slate.
Marcus Stroman: He hasn’t been particularly impressive in his first two starts with the Mets, but his Statcast data suggests he’s been unlucky. He’s limited batters to an average distance of 174 feet, exit velocity of 89 miles per hour, and hard hit rate of just 30%, all of which represent decreases when compared to his 12-month averages. He’s a candidate for some positive regression vs. the Braves.
Jonathan Loaisiga: He was just recently activated for the Yankees and could be used in long relief today. The Yankees are -150 favorites, and the fact that Loasiga wouldn’t start the game actually increases his chances for a win.
- 1. Max Kepler (L)
- 2. Miguel Sano (R)
- 3. Jorge Polanco (S)
- 4. Eddie Rosario (L)
- 5. C.J. Cron (R)
Total Salary: $23,700
The Twins are currently implied for 6.7 runs, which is the top mark on the slate by nearly a full run. They unsurprisingly represent one of the best values of DraftKings as well given their Team Value Rating of 89.
They’re taking on Rangers right-hander Pedro Payano, who has pitched to a 5.21 FIP through his first 18.2 MLB innings. He’s also averaged nearly as many walks (5.79) as strikeouts (6.75) per nine innings. He’s struggled in particular against right-handed batters, allowing them to post a .455 wOBA and club two HRs thru 44 plate appearances.
That bodes well for Sano, who has recently moved up in the Twins’ lineup. He leads the team with 10 Pro Trends on DraftKings, and he’s absolutely smoked the ball over the past 15 days.
He’s posted an average distance of 262 feet, exit velocity of 96 miles per hour, and hard hit rate of 56%, all of which represent significant increases when compared to his 12-month averages. Historically, batters with comparable implied team totals and StatCast data have posted a Plus/Minus of +2.22 on DraftKings.
On FanDuel, the top four-man stack belongs to the Texas Rangers:
- 1. Shin-Soo Choo (L)
- 2. Danny Santana (S)
- 3. Elvis Andrus (R)
- 5. Nomar Mazara (L)
Total Salary: $13,100
The Rangers are opposing the Twins, and they have plenty of upside in their own right. Their implied team total of 5.4 runs ranks third on the slate, and their Team Value Rating of 88 ranks second on FanDuel. Both teams will benefit from the excellent hitting conditions in Arlington, resulting in a slate-high Weather Rating of 78.
The Rangers are taking on right-hander Michael Pineda, who has been up-and-down this season. That said, he was hit particularly hard in his last outing, allowing opposing batters to post an average distance of 249 feet and hard hit rate of 56%.
Choo is expected to occupy the leadoff spot in the lineup, and he’s historically thrived when batting first against a right-handed pitcher. He’s historically posted an average Plus/Minus of +1.52 in that situation, and that number increases to +1.75 when playing at home.
Joey Votto has been priced down to just $4,000 on DraftKings, resulting in a Bargain Rating of 82%. He’ll be on the positive side of his batting splits today vs. Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha, and Votto has posted solid Statcast marks over the past 15 days. He’s a nice buy-low option.
J.D. Davis has been a revelation for the Mets this season, and the injury to Jeff McNeil has allowed him to move up in the lineup. He’s currently expected to bat second vs. Teheran, and Davis has posted a massive 184 wRC+ since the All-Star break. He’s very affordable at just $2,900 on FanDuel, resulting in a Bargain Rating of 92%.
It’s unclear if Giovanny Urshella can continue to produce like a MVP for the Yankees, but one thing that is certain is he’s crushed the ball recently. He’s posted an average distance of 277 feet, exit velocity of 99 miles per hour, and hard hit rate of 57%, which are numbers that are typically reserved for video games. As long as he continues to make that kind of contact, there’s no reason to expect any decline in fantasy scoring.
Good luck, and be sure to check out The Action Network if you’re looking for more in-depth MLB analysis.
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Pictured above: Rangers OF Shin-Soo Choo (17)
Photo credit: Jerome Miron-USA Today Sports