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 an eight-game main slate starting at 7:05 p.m. ET.

Pitchers

Studs

Three of today’s pitchers are priced at $10,000 or greater on FanDuel:

  • Trevor Bauer (R) $10,800, CLE vs. DET
  • Stephen Strasburg (R) $10,600, WSH @ ATL
  • Aaron Nola (R) $10,000, PHI vs. LAD

Bauer could very well be on the move before the July 31 trade deadline. He’s set to be a free agent after the 2020 season, and the Indians don’t figure to resign him. He’s struggled this season, pitching to a 3.65 ERA and 4.25 FIP, but he could still fetch a solid haul if the team decides to move him.

Bauer is in a solid spot today vs. the Detroit Tigers. Their projected lineup has posted a .287 wOBA against right-handers over the past 12 months, and their implied team total of 3.6 runs is tied for the second-lowest mark on the slate. Bauer is also a -194 favorite, and pitchers with comparable Vegas data have historically averaged a Plus/Minus of +2.88 on FanDuel (per the Trends tool).

Bauer also has considerable strikeout upside in this matchup. The Tigers own the second-highest strikeout rate against right-handers this season, and Bauer has averaged a K/9 of 10.44 over the past 12 months. He’s struck out at least nine batters in three of his past four starts, so his 7.6 K Prediction feels conservative.

Strasburg has been phenomenal in his past two outings, recording 20 strikeouts while allowing zero runs over 13.1 innings. His recent Statcast data is also excellent. He’s limited his past two opponents to an average distance of 174 feet, exit velocity of 85 miles per hour and hard hit rate of 13%, all of which represent significant decreases when compared to his 12-month averages. He’s also averaged 111 pitches in those outings, which gives him more upside than most of the other pitchers on the slate.

Stephen-Strasburg

Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Stephen Strasburg

Unfortunately, he’s in a difficult spot vs. the Atlanta Braves. They rank seventh in runs per game this season and seventh in wRC+ against right-handed pitchers. They’re currently implied for 4.5 runs, which is high for a stud pitcher.

Still, Strasburg’s combination of strikeout upside and recent Statcast data is appealing. He owns a K Prediction of 8.1, and pitchers with comparable K Predictions and distance differentials have historically averaged a Plus/Minus of +2.83 on DraftKings. His subpar Vegas data should also result in reduced ownership, which increases his appeal for guaranteed prize pools (GPPs).

Nola rounds out the stud group on FanDuel, and he’s the hardest of the three to recommend. He has a brutal matchup vs. the Dodgers, who have been one of the best offensive teams in baseball this season. They’ve been particular effective against right-handed pitchers, ranking first in wRC+ and second in ISO. They also own the fourth-lowest strikeout rate, so Nola doesn’t offer a ton of upside either. He’s a strong fade candidate.

Values

Noah Syndergaard is another pitcher who could possibly be on the move before the trade deadline, and he’s coming off one of his best starts of the season in his last outing. He limited the Marlins to just two runs over seven innings while racking up nine strikeouts. The strikeouts were particularly important given his pedestrian K/9 of 8.79 this season.

His Statcast data from his past two starts is also excellent. He’s limited opposing batters to an average distance of just 178 feet, which represents a decrease of -15 feet when compared to his 12-month average.

He’s in another wonderful spot today vs. the San Francisco Giants, who have been anemic offensively this season. They’ve averaged just 3.39 runs per game when playing at home, which is the second-lowest mark in baseball. Their projected lineup has also struggled against right-handers over the past 12 months, posting a .273 wOBA. Add it all up, and Syndergaard’s opponent implied team total of 3.5 is the lowest mark of the day.

Madison Bumgarner is opposing Syndergaard, and he’s another potential target on today’s slate. The Mets’ implied team total of 3.6 runs is only slightly higher than the Giants, and Bumgarner is also in one of the best strikeout spots on the slate. The Mets’ projected lineup has posted a 27.5% strikeout rate against southpaws over the past 12 months, and Bumgarner has increased his K/9 to 9.33 this season. His resulting K Prediction of 8.3 ranks third on the slate, and pitchers with comparable opponent implied team totals and K Predictions have historically averaged a Plus/Minus of +2.19 on DraftKings. He might command lower ownership than Syndergaard because he’s an underdog, but he’s arguably the better fantasy option.

Caleb Smith has one of the best matchups of the day vs. the San Diego Padres. Their projected lineup has struggled mightily against southpaws over the past 12 months, posting a .297 wOBA and 29.2% strikeout rate. Smith is a capable strikeout pitcher – he’s pitched to a 10.85 K/9 over the past 12 months – so he can do a lot of damage in this matchup. He owns a K Prediction of 9.3, which is the second-highest mark on the slate.

Smith has also outperformed his 12-month marks in average distance, exit velocity and hard hit rate over the past 15 days, so he checks a lot of boxes for fantasy.

Fastballs

Chris Sale: He’s the big X-factor on today’s slate. He’s posted a negative Plus/Minus in each of his past four starts, but no one can match his strikeout upside when he’s on his game. He makes for a nice buy-low option for GPPs.

Brad Keller: He’s dirt-cheap on DraftKings, where his $5,500 salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 100%. He also has an elite matchup vs. the Chicago White Sox, whose projected lineup has posted a .280 wOBA and 29.2% strikeout rate against right-handers over the past 12 months.

Kyle Gibson: He has a tough matchup vs. the Oakland Athletics, but he’s seen a price reduction of -$2,000 over the past month on DraftKings. He makes sense for GPPs if you’re looking to pay up for an expensive stack or two.

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 Philadelphia Phillies:

  • 1. Scott Kingery (R)
  • 2. Jean Segura (R)
  • 3. Bryce Harper (L)
  • 4. Rhys Hoskins (R)
  • 5. J.T. Realmuto (R)

Total Salary: $24,000

You don’t want to make a habit out of targeting the Dodgers’ pitchers – they rank second in baseball with a 3.40 ERA – but today could be an exception. The Phillies are currently implied for 4.5 runs vs. Ross Stripling, who has pitched to a mediocre 4.00 FIP as a starter this season. He’s also struggled with the long ball when starting games, allowing an average of 1.41 HRs per nine innings.

Kingery stands out as the projected leadoff hitter. He’s hit the ball well over the past 15 days, with his 238-foot distance representing an increase of +13 feet when compared to his 12-month average. Stripling has also fared worse against right-handed batters than left-handed batters this season, which further increases Kingery’s appeal.

On the main slate, the top four-man FanDuel stack belongs to the Milwaukee Brewers:

  • 1. Lorenzo Cain (R)
  • 2. Christian Yelich (L)
  • 3. Yasmani Grandal (S)
  • 5. Ryan Braun (R)

Total Salary: $14,000

The Brewers will likely fly a bit under-the-radar on today’s slate. They’re currently implied for 4.8 runs, which ranks merely tied for seventh. That said, they represent a solid value on FanDuel. Grandal and Braun in particular are underpriced, with each owning a Bargain Rating of at least 88%.

Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Ryan Braun

They’re taking on Diamondbacks right-hander Merrill Kelly, who has been up-and-down in his first big league season. He’s pitched to a 3.93 ERA, but his 4.78 xFIP suggests he’s been slightly fortunate.

The weather conditions in Arizona are also expected to be immaculate. The current forecast calls for a temperature over 100 degrees, resulting in a Weather Rating of 85. Historically, batters with a comparable Weather Rating have averaged a Plus/Minus of +2.06 when playing at Chase Field.

Yelich continues to put up absurd numbers and has a chance to lead the National League in home runs and stolen bases this season. He’s put both of those skills on display recently, logging three HRs and four steals over his past five games. He’ll be on the positive side of his batting splits vs. Kelly, and he’s averaged an absurd .511 wOBA and .413 ISO against right-handers over the past 12 months.

Other Batters

Is Tyler O’Neill a good hitter? That was a hotly debated topic on Twitter yesterday after he clubbed his fifth HR of the season. He’s undoubtedly been lucky – he owns a batting average on balls in play of nearly .500 – but he’s also displayed a lot of power. He’s very affordable at $2,500 on FanDuel, resulting in a Bargain Rating of 97%.

Jose Ramirez got off to a dreadful start this season, but he’s heated up since the start of July. He’s posted a 134 wRC+ since July 1, including a 156 wRC+ since the All-Star break. He remains affordable at $4,000 on DraftKings, giving him a Bargain Rating of 91%, but this may be one of your last opportunities to buy low on him.

Miguel Rojas doesn’t provide a ton of power, but he does own the eighth-highest batting average in the National League since the beginning of June (.343). He’s priced at just $3,500 on DraftKings and is expected to occupy the leadoff spot in the lineup, which makes him an excellent value option for cash games.

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

After this piece is published, FantasyLabs is likely to provide news updates on a number of players. Be sure to stay ahead of your competition with our industry-leading DFS-focused news blurbs.

Pictured above: Brewers OF Christian Yelich (22)
Photo credit: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports