The MLB Breakdown offers data-driven analysis using the FantasyLabs Tools and predictive metrics to highlight notable players.
Monday features a nine-game main slate starting at 7:05 p.m. ET.
Three pitchers on today’s slate are priced above $9,000 on FanDuel:
- Justin Verlander (R) $11,300, HOU @ MIN
- Patrick Corbin (L) $9,700, WSH vs. STL
- Mike Soroka (R) $9,200, ATL vs. SD
Verlander is the class of this group, but there are some concerns with him.
For starters, he has a difficult matchup against the Twins, whose projected lineup has done well against right-handers over the past 12 months, posting a .328 wOBA and 22.7% strikeout rate. They’re currently implied for 3.7 runs, which is higher than usual for a pitcher of Verlander’s caliber.
Verlander has also been hit unusually hard over his past two starts. He’s allowed opposing batters to compile an average distance of 249 feet, which represents an increase of 30 feet when compared to his 12-month average. That doesn’t bode well even for stud pitchers: Starters with comparable salaries, distance differentials and opponent implied team totals have historically averaged a Plus/Minus of -3.85 on FanDuel (per our Trends tool). He still has the highest upside on the slate, but he offers more downside than usual.
Corbin has had a tremendous start to his first season with the Nationals, pitching to a 2.48 ERA through his first five starts. He’s also managed a K/9 of 10.74, which ranks 17th among qualified starters this season. Unfortunately, he also has a difficult matchup against the Cardinals, who are implied for 3.9 runs despite being on the road.
Unlike Verlander, Corbin can at least rely on some elite recent Statcast numbers. He’s held his past two opponents to a hard-hit rate of just 24%, which represents a decrease of 18% when compared to his 12-month average. He’s worth consideration in all formats on FanDuel, where his $9,700 salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 90%.
Soroka doesn’t have the same track record as Verlander or Corbin, but he’s been excellent through his first two MLB starts this season. He’s pitched to a 1.69 ERA and 10.97 K/9, resulting in an average Plus/Minus of +8.11 on FanDuel. He’s also limited opposing batters to an average distance of 158 feet over those starts, which is the top mark on the slate by a considerable margin. Historically, pitchers with a comparable recent distance and salary have averaged a Plus/Minus of +4.55 on FanDuel.
He also has the best matchup of the stud trio — the Padres’ projected lineup has posted a .290 wOBA vs. right-handers over the past 12 months — but he still has doesn’t provide the same upside. He’s pitched just 10.2 innings through his first two starts, which is part of the reason why his K Prediction of 5.7 is so low. He’s better suited as an SP2 on DraftKings than an SP1.
Kenta Maeda owns the top Vegas data on the slate. He owns an elite matchup against the Giants, who have been absolutely abysmal vs. left-handers over the past 12 months. Their projected lineup has posted a wOBA of just .269, which is the worst splits-adjusted mark on the slate. The Giants are implied for just 3.4 runs, and pitchers with comparable opponent implied team totals have historically averaged a Plus/Minus of +1.14 on DraftKings.
Maeda has also posted elite Statcast marks over the past 15 days. He’s limited his past two opponents to an average distance of 187 feet, exit velocity of 84 miles per hour and hard-hit rate of 18%, all of which represent significant decreases when compared to his 12-month averages. He’s the top cash game option on the slate.
Zach Wheeler is another value option that could potentially provide stud-like production. His matchup isn’t as good as Maeda’s — the Reds have posted a strikeout rate of just 20.0% against righties over the past 12 months — but Wheeler has allowed just five earned runs over his last 20 innings. His opponent implied team total of 3.4 runs is tied for the lowest mark on the slate. He’s also thrown at least 105 pitches in each of his past three starts, which increases his floor for fantasy.
Yonny Chirinos: Ryne Stanek will draw the start for the Rays, but Chirinos should see the majority of the innings out of the pen. He’s pitched well this season, posting in positive Plus/Minus in three of the four appearances where he’s seen at least five innings.
Kyle Freeland: He has a tough matchup against the Brewers, but he should benefit from getting to pitch on the road. Freeland’s road ERA is nearly 2.5 runs lower than his home ERA this season, and he’s also averaged nearly three additional strikeouts per nine innings.
John Means: He’s posted a K/9 of 10.13 over the past 12 months and is in one of the best strikeout spots of the day against the White Sox, whose projected lineup has struck out in 27.1% of at bats vs. southpaws over the past 12 months, giving Means a strong K Prediction of 7.6.
- 1. Joc Pederson (L)
- 2. Corey Seager (L)
- 3. Justin Turner (R)
- 5. A.J. Pollock (R)
- 6. Max Muncy (L)
Total salary: $20,000
The Dodgers are in an interesting spot: They’re currently implied for just 4.1 runs, but they’re playing in an extremely pitcher-friendly park in San Francisco. That will probably make them a contrarian target, as none of the above batters are projected for more than 8% ownership on DraftKings.
That said, they collectively enter today’s contest in strong recent form. Seager, Turner and Pollock have all posted positive distance, exit velocity and hard-hit differentials over the past 15 days. The Dodgers have also still managed 4.64 runs per game on the road this season, so they have plenty of upside despite playing away from Chavez Ravine.
Perhaps most importantly, the Dodgers also represent one of the best pure values on DraftKings. Pederson, Seager, Turner and Pollock all command a Bargain Rating of at least 83%, and the above stack will still allow you to fit two expensive pitchers.
The Dodgers are nearly as strong of an option on FanDuel, so let’s focus on the Tampa Bay Rays instead:
- 1. Brandon Lowe (L)
- 3. Ji-Man Choi (L)
- 5. Avisail Garcia (R)
- 7. Mike Zunino (R)
Total salary: $11,800
The Rays are implied for 4.7 runs, tied for the fourth-highest mark on the slate. They’re taking on Royals right-hander Brad Keller, who has had an interesting start to his season. His 3.41 ERA is pretty good, but his advanced metrics suggest he’s due for some regression. He’s posted a K/9 of 7.05 and a BB/9 of 4.86, resulting in an xFIP of 4.92.
Facing a right-handed pitcher also puts each of the stacked batters on the positive side of his batting splits.
If you’re looking for a cheap batter with upside on FanDuel, Hernan Perez fits the bill. He’s priced at the absolute minimum, resulting in a Bargain Rating of 99%, and is expected to occupy the second spot in the Brewers’ lineup. He’s on the positive side of his batting splits vs. Freeland, and he’s posted a strong .367 wOBA and .233 ISO against southpaws over the past 12 months.
The Braves lead the slate with an implied team total of 5.1 runs, which will likely make them a popular team to target. One batter in particular who deserves your attention is Josh Donaldson. He’ll be on the positive side of his batting splits vs. Padres left-hander Nick Margevicius, and Donaldson has absolutely smoked the ball over the past 15 days. He’s posted an average distance of 247 feet, exit velocity of 94 miles per hour and hard-hit rate of 65%, all of which are sizable increases compared to his 12-month averages.
We have a metric at FantasyLabs called Recent Batted Ball Luck, which measures the difference between a player’s percentile rank in batted ball distance and fantasy scoring over the past 15 days. Matt Adams owns a Recent Batted Ball Luck score of +83 on DraftKings, which suggests he’s been one of the unluckiest hitters in baseball over that span. He’s posted an average distance of 254 feet, exit velocity of 96 miles per hour and hard-hit rate of 47%, and better fantasy results will follow if he continues to make that kind of contact.
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: Astros P Justin Verlander (35)
Photo credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports