The MLB Breakdown offers data-driven analysis using the FantasyLabs Tools and predictive metrics to highlight notable players.
Friday features a 13-game slate starting at 7:05 p.m. ET.
Today’s slate is loaded with stud pitchers. Five own a price tag of at least $10,200 on DraftKings:
- Gerrit Cole (R) $12,200, HOU @ KC
- Max Scherzer (R) $11,400, WSH vs. ATL
- Clayton Kershaw (L) $10,800, LAD @ NYM
- Charlie Morton (R) $10,600, TB @ LAA
- Luis Castillo (R) $10,200, CIN @ ARI
Cole has always been a good pitcher, but he’s become truly dominant as a member of the Houston Astros. He’s pitched to a 2.73 ERA and 2.80 FIP this season while striking out a career-best 13.72 batters per nine innings. His K/9 ranks first among qualified starters, which has unsurprisingly led to a ton of fantasy success. He’s posted an average Plus/Minus of +7.83 on DraftKings.
Cole has been particularly dominant over his past two starts. He’s recorded a whopping 29 strikeouts over 14 innings, and batters haven’t managed to do much damage even when they’ve put the ball in play. They’ve posted an average distance of just 164 feet, which represents a decrease of 50 feet compared to Cole’s 12-month average.
It’s tough to find a flaw with him today vs. the Kansas City Royals. His 2.9 opponent implied team total and -397 moneyline odds both rank first on the slate, while his 7.7 K Prediction ranks second. Combine those marks with his elite recent Statcast data, and comparable pitchers have historically averaged a ridiculous +13.31 Plus/Minus on DraftKings (per the Trends tool).
Cole is going to set you back a ton of salary, but he’s worth every penny.
Scherzer is still working his way back from an injury, and he’s been limited to 98 pitches or less in each of his past four starts. That said, he was still able to post 31.1 DraftKings points in his last outing.
He’s the only member of the stud tier who is pitching at home today, but he does have a difficult matchup vs. the Atlanta Braves. They’re currently implied for 3.9 runs, which is higher than usual for Scherzer. He’s had an opponent implied team total above 3.8 runs in just five previous starts this season, but he has still posted an average Plus/Minus of +10.11 on DraftKings in those contests. This could be an interesting opportunity to target Scherzer at reduced ownership for guaranteed prize pools.
Kershaw has had an up-and-down season by his standards. He was lights-out immediately following the All-Star break, but he’s been roughed up in his last two starts. He’s allowed eight earned runs over just nine innings pitched, and one of those starts came at home vs. the anemic offense for the San Francisco Giants.
Still, his Statcast data suggests there’s no real cause for concern. He’s limited opposing batters to an average distance of just 193 feet over his past two starts, which represents a slight decrease compared to his 12-month average.
He heads to Citi Field to take on the Mets, which is a pretty mediocre matchup. They rank fifth in wRC+ vs. southpaws this season and are merely middle of the pack in terms of strikeout rate. Kershaw has also posted a 3.61 ERA when pitching on the road this season, which is nearly a full run higher than his home ERA.
Morton is another pitcher with a tough matchup. He’s taking on the Los Angeles Angels, who rank ninth in wRC+ against right-handers this season. They’ve also been one of the toughest teams in the league to strike out, ranking just 28th in strikeout rate against right-handed pitchers. Morton’s Vegas data is still solid — his 3.7 opponent implied team total ranks third on the slate — but his reduced strikeout upside reduces his appeal in all formats.
If you are going to play him, it’s best to do so on FanDuel. He’s priced at just $9,600, resulting in a Bargain Rating of 87%.
Castillo rounds out the stud quintet, and he’s the best pure value on DraftKings given his Bargain Rating of 73%. His Vegas data is slightly higher than some of the other stud options — he owns a 4.2 opponent implied team total and -110 moneyline odds — but he makes up for it with solid strikeout upside. The Diamondbacks projected lineup has posted a 26.3% strikeout rate against right-handers over the past 12 months, and Castillo’s K Prediction of 6.5 ranks fourth on the slate.
Tyler Beede will likely be the chalk SP2 on DraftKings. He has an elite matchup vs. the Miami Marlins, who have been abysmal against right-handed pitchers this season. Their projected lineup has posted a .284 wOBA and 29.9% strikeout rate against traditional pitchers over the past 12 months, and they rank just 29th in wRC+ this season. Beede’s resulting opponent implied team total of 3.8 runs ranks tied for fourth on the slate, and he’s also a solid -163 favorite.
Beede should also benefit from getting to face the Marlins at home. Oracle Park in San Francisco has graded out as the No. 1 pitcher’s park in baseball this season, and Beede’s ERA has dropped by more than a full run when pitching there.
Adam Wainwright is another interesting value option. He’s taking on the Milwaukee Brewers, and their lineup looks a lot less imposing with Christian Yelich on the IL. Their projected starters have posted a .303 wOBA and 32.1% strikeout rate against right-handers over the past 12 months, and they’re currently implied for just 3.8 runs. Wainwright also owns solid Statcast marks from his past two outings, outperforming his 12-month averages in distance, exit velocity and hard-hit rate.
Yusei Kikuchi: He’s dirt-cheap at $5,300 on DraftKings, resulting in a Bargain Rating of 83%. He also has a solid matchup vs. the Chicago White Sox, whose projected lineup has posted a .317 wOBA and 28.7% strikeout rate over the past 12 months.
Andrew Heaney: He provides similar strikeout upside to the top tier of pitchers at a reduced salary. He’s posted a K/9 of 11.02 this season, and his 7.0 K Prediction ranks third on the slate.
- 1. Greg Garcia (L)
- 2. Nick Martini (L)
- 3. Manny Machado (R)
- 4. Eric Hosmer (L)
- 5. Wil Myers (R)
Total Salary: $23,000
The Padres are currently implied for 6.4 runs, which is the second-highest mark on the slate. They get one of the biggest park upgrades possible moving from Petco Park to Coors Field, and they haven’t been priced up as drastically as other visiting teams at Coors. Their top stack costs just $23,000 on DraftKings, and their Team Value Rating of 88 ranks first on the slate.
They’re taking on Rockies right-hander Jeff Hoffman, who has been nothing short of a disaster this season. He’s pitched to a 7.06 ERA, including a 7.33 ERA at Coors Field. He’s also allowed opposing batters to average 2.65 HRs per nine innings.
Garcia stands out as one of the best pure values at just $4,200. He’s expected to occupy the leadoff spot in the lineup, and leadoff batters with a comparable salary have historically averaged a Plus/Minus of +1.87 on DraftKings when playing at Coors.
If you’re looking for a cheaper option, consider the Detroit Tigers. They own the top non-Coors stack on FanDuel:
- 1. Harold Castro (L)
- 2. Jeimer Candelario (S)
- 3. Miguel Cabrera (R)
- 4. Christin Stewart (L)
Total Salary: $11,000
The Tigers have been far from an offensive juggernaut this season, ranking dead last in runs per game and wRC+ vs. right-handed pitchers.
So why are they popping in our Models? For starters, they’re taking on the Baltimore Orioles, who have been even worse at pitching than the Tigers have been at hitting. Starting pitcher Aaron Brooks has posted a 6.21 ERA this season, and they also own the highest bullpen ERA in the league. The Tigers are currently implied for 4.9 runs, while their Team Value Rating of 89 ranks fourth on FanDuel.
The Tigers also collectively enter this contest in good recent form. Candelario, Cabrera and Stewart have all outperformed their 12-month average distance marks over the past 15 days, and Cabrera and Stewart also own 15-day/12-month hard-hit differentials of +17 percentage points.
There are lots of expensive options worth considering on today’s slate, so finding value is more important than usual. That makes Mason Williams an interesting option on FanDuel. He’s priced at the absolute minimum and is expected to occupy the second spot in the lineup. The Orioles are also implied for 4.8 runs, and minimum-priced batters with comparable lineup spots and implied team totals have historically averaged a Plus/Minus of +2.95.
Aaron Judge isn’t exactly cheap at $4,400 on DraftKings, but he represents one of the best pure values. It results in a Bargain Rating of 99%, and the Yankees are currently implied for 6.3 runs vs. Blue Jays left-hander Anthony Kay. Judge has also been at his best when facing southpaws over the past 12 months, posting a .463 wOBA and .303 ISO.
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Pictured above: Tigers DH Miguel Cabrera (24)
Photo Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports