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MLB DFS Early Picks Breakdown (Thursday, June 23): Risky Pitchers Could Pay Off

The MLB Breakdown offers data-driven analysis using the FantasyLabs Tools and predictive metrics to highlight notable players.

Tuesday features a six-game main slate starting at 12:10 p.m. ET.

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MLB DFS Pitching Picks

MLB DFS Stud Pick

Clayton Kershaw ($10,200) Los Angeles Dodgers (-225) at Cincinnati Reds

Kershaw stands out as the best on-paper option on a very thin pitching slate. Only two teams are implied for less than four runs on the early slate: the Reds against Kershaw and the Rockies against relative unknown Braxton Garret ($5,400).

Kershaw has been as good as ever in his 15th season, with a sub-3.00 SIERA and 27% strikeout rate. With those numbers against a bottom-tier offense like the Reds, it’s no wonder Kershaw is standing out. However, there’s some cause for concern as well.

Thursday will be just the third start back for the Dodgers ace, who missed more than a month due to injury. In his two starts back, he’s allowed three runs while striking out eight over nine innings. While his rate stats are great, we’ll need more than four or five innings at his price point.

He could last a bit longer in this one as he gets further away from his injury, but it’s no sure thing. It probably helps that his prior starts were against tougher offenses (San Francisco and Cleveland) as well — he should make quicker work of the Reds.

Kershaw is certainly the safest pick on the slate, making him an obvious cash game choice. He has some GPP appeal as well, but it might be worth fading if ownership condenses too heavily around him.

Either way, he’s the leader in both the FantasyLabs and THE BAT projection systems.


MLB DFS Value Pick

Braxton Garret ($5,400) Miami Marlins (-138) vs. Colorado Rockies

As alluded to above, Garret is the only other pitcher with an opponent run total below four as he takes on the Rockies. When adjusting for the ballpark, Colorado’s offense is essentially just as bad as the Reds. Colorado has a 91 wRC+, compared to 88 for Cincinnati.

That’s obviously good news for Garret, who has the best Vegas data outside of Kershaw and is roughly half the salary. Of course, he’s nowhere near the pitcher Kershaw is, with a 4.95 SIERA in 12 career starts. The third-year man has made improvements this year though, with a career-high in swinging-strike rate and a career-low SIERA coming into Thursday.

He’s also had a tough start to 2022 schedule-wise. He’s made three starts: against the Mets, Astros, and Giants. The fact that he’s had reasonably serviceable numbers against exclusively top-10 offenses is a good sign and should translate to better things today (and moving forward) for the former first-round pick.

Garret leads the FantasyLabs projections in Pts/Sal while coming in second in THE BAT.

He’s a solid play for both cash games and GPPs, with his current ownership projection in the middle of the pack.


MLB DFS GPP Pick

Hunter Greene ($9,600) Cincinnati Reds (+188) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

Paying Greene’s salary for a fairly large underdog never feels right, particularly with the Dodgers’ 5.5-run implied total against him. However, Greene has a certain appeal on Thursday’s slate. The rookie touched 103 mph on occasion with his fastball and has a 30% strikeout rate on the season.

He has arguably the best stuff on the slate, and good pitching can beat good hitting. While he has a 5.26 ERA on the season, his 3.62 SIERA paints a different picture. He’s averaging five innings per start but has gone at least seven frames twice this season, producing 40.15 and 29.49 DraftKings points in those games.

His odds of doing so against one of baseball’s best offenses are obviously lower than against lesser opponents, but it’s still a possibility. While I’d prefer to take chances like that on an $8,000 arm, the lack of quality Kershaw pivots keeps him in play today.

Greene is obviously GPP only but should come in at single-digit ownership.

His ceiling projection ranks third on the slate.

Alex Wood ($9,000) San Francisco Giants (+135) at Atlanta Braves

Wood is similar to Greene today in that he’s one of the better pitchers on the slate but has an exceedingly difficult matchup. He doesn’t have Greene’s strikeout upside, but his 3.53 SIERA is very solid, and he’s scored over 20 DraftKings points in two of his last three starts.

While we aren’t likely to see a huge number from Wood, we might not need it on today’s slate. While Atlanta has a top-10 offense, they do strike out at the second-highest rate in the majors this season. Like Greene, his ownership is expected to be in the high single-digits, and a 20-point score may just lead the slate.

That makes him worth considering in GPPs, despite the 5.4-run implied total against him.

He’s a bit pricier than he should be for his likeliest outcome, but he’s on my GPP shortlist on a weak pitching slate.

MLB DFS Hitters

Notable Stack

With the Lineup Builder, it’s easy to incorporate stacks into DFS rosters.

Also, don’t forget that for large-field tournaments, you can utilize our Lineup Optimizer to effortlessly create up to 150 lineups.

The top DraftKings stack in the FantasyLabs MLB Tournament Model when generated by rating belongs to the Los Angeles Dodgers:

  • Trea Turner (1) ($6,100)
  • Freddie Freeman  (2) ($5,900)
  • Will Smith (3) ($5,400)
  • Max Muncy (4) ($5,100)
  • Chris Taylor (5) ($3,800)

As mentioned above, Los Angeles is implied for 5.6 runs — the highest total on the slate — against Greene and the Reds. It’s no surprise they’re the top stack in the Tournament Model, even at their combined $26,300 salary. While Greene is a somewhat difficult matchup, he’s not likely to last deep into this one, and the matchup gets much easier from there. The Reds’ bullpen has a league-worst 5.21 ERA this season.

The Dodgers are also on the road, giving them a guaranteed ninth trip to the plate. It also helps that this game is in Cincinnati — right-handed hitters have the top Park Factor score on the slate at 68. Lefties aren’t much behind at 61, and both numbers are far better than when the Dodgers are at home.

The Dodgers are the obvious stacking option on Thursday’s earliest slate, with mini-stacks viable even if the full stack is too pricey. Greene has far worse splits against right-handed hitting, though, so pivoting from  Muncy or Freeman to Justin Turner ($4,300) is a viable option.

That would free up some additional salary and save on ownership as well.


Top Stacking Pick from THE BAT X

One of the great features of being a FantasyLabs Pro member is the option to purchase additional items in the FantasyLabs Marketplace.

A new addition to our MLB projections is THE BAT from Derek Carty of RotoGrinders. With this purchase, you can use his projections alone or create aggregate projections in our Player Models.

The top DraftKings stack from THE BAT when generated by ceiling (outside of the Dodgers), belongs to the Atlanta Braves:

 

The Braves have an essentially identical implied total as the Dodgers, as they play host to the Giants. The Braves being the home team explains why Los Angeles narrowly edges them out in overall projections, but the Braves may just be my preferred stack.

This version of the Braves stack comes in more than $2,000 cheaper than the Dodgers’ top-five hitters, which could be important on today’s slate. The idea is clearly to load up on right-handed hitting as they take on lefty Alex Wood. Both Ozuna and Duvall — the projected 6 and 7 hitters — have better numbers against southpaws than righties. Including the down-lineup Braves also keeps ownership at a reasonable level, which is important on a small slate.

While I prefer to stack visiting teams when possible, Atlanta might be too good to pass up. This game has the best Weather Rating for hitters on the slate as well.

They’re a solid pivot from the Dodgers.

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Other MLB DFS Hitter Picks

Nolan Gorman 2B ($3,600 DraftKings; $3,000 FanDuel) Saint Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers (Jason Alexander)

The rookie Gorman is a free swinger with big pop in his bat. He’s appeared in just 30 games this season and already has six home runs. His 45.9% fly-ball rate speaks to his general approach — as does his 33.6% strikeout rate. Today’s matchup should work in his favor with Jason Alexander ($6,500) of the Brewers.

Alexander has pitched 22.1 innings so far this season and has just an 8% strikeout and 5% swinging-strike rate. He’s yet to allow a home run, but his hard-hit rate of 38.6% is among the slate’s worst. Alexander has a 2.42 ERA on the season, but his xERA and SIERA are both over five.

That looming regression has me interested in the Cards in general, but Gorman profiles as a sneaky pick. He has a ton of upside for his reasonable (on DraftKings) salary.

Franmil Reyes OF ($2,800 DraftKings; $2,500 FanDuel) Cleveland Guardians at Minnesota Twins (Devin Smeltzer)

Reyes is another free swinger with a matchup in his favor today. He has a ridiculous 40% strikeout rate on the season but went yard 30 times last year in only 115 games. The power is obviously there when he can put the ball in play. His chances of doing so are much improved today, with Devin Smeltzer ($5,700) of the Twins on the mound.

Smeltzer has a 12.4% strikeout rate on the season, with a SIERA over 5.00. Like Alexander, he has a solid ERA — 3.52 in this case –, but the regression monster is sure to strike at any moment. Smeltzer is also a lefty, and Reyes hits 30 points better against left-handed pitching in his young career.

Willson Contreras C ($5,000 DraftKings; $3,600 FanDuel) Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates (Jose Quintana)

Contreras is pretty much always the top option at catcher when he’s on the slate, with a .887 OPS in 2022. He’s in an especially good spot today against Jose Quintana ($7,600) though. Quintana is a southpaw, and Contreras has a career OPS of .906 against lefties — compared to .783 against right-handed pitching.

Quintana is also a former Cub, with Contreras as his primary catcher for a few seasons. There’s a case that catchers have an edge against pitchers they’ve caught for, given their intimate understanding of the pitcher’s stuff. While I haven’t seen any data proving that, it’s certainly an angle to consider — especially when Contreras is such a strong play anyway.

The MLB Breakdown offers data-driven analysis using the FantasyLabs Tools and predictive metrics to highlight notable players.

Tuesday features a six-game main slate starting at 12:10 p.m. ET.

Start Your PRO Trial Today

Lineup builder and optimizer

Real-time DFS models

Data-driven analysis & tutorials

MLB DFS Pitching Picks

MLB DFS Stud Pick

Clayton Kershaw ($10,200) Los Angeles Dodgers (-225) at Cincinnati Reds

Kershaw stands out as the best on-paper option on a very thin pitching slate. Only two teams are implied for less than four runs on the early slate: the Reds against Kershaw and the Rockies against relative unknown Braxton Garret ($5,400).

Kershaw has been as good as ever in his 15th season, with a sub-3.00 SIERA and 27% strikeout rate. With those numbers against a bottom-tier offense like the Reds, it’s no wonder Kershaw is standing out. However, there’s some cause for concern as well.

Thursday will be just the third start back for the Dodgers ace, who missed more than a month due to injury. In his two starts back, he’s allowed three runs while striking out eight over nine innings. While his rate stats are great, we’ll need more than four or five innings at his price point.

He could last a bit longer in this one as he gets further away from his injury, but it’s no sure thing. It probably helps that his prior starts were against tougher offenses (San Francisco and Cleveland) as well — he should make quicker work of the Reds.

Kershaw is certainly the safest pick on the slate, making him an obvious cash game choice. He has some GPP appeal as well, but it might be worth fading if ownership condenses too heavily around him.

Either way, he’s the leader in both the FantasyLabs and THE BAT projection systems.


MLB DFS Value Pick

Braxton Garret ($5,400) Miami Marlins (-138) vs. Colorado Rockies

As alluded to above, Garret is the only other pitcher with an opponent run total below four as he takes on the Rockies. When adjusting for the ballpark, Colorado’s offense is essentially just as bad as the Reds. Colorado has a 91 wRC+, compared to 88 for Cincinnati.

That’s obviously good news for Garret, who has the best Vegas data outside of Kershaw and is roughly half the salary. Of course, he’s nowhere near the pitcher Kershaw is, with a 4.95 SIERA in 12 career starts. The third-year man has made improvements this year though, with a career-high in swinging-strike rate and a career-low SIERA coming into Thursday.

He’s also had a tough start to 2022 schedule-wise. He’s made three starts: against the Mets, Astros, and Giants. The fact that he’s had reasonably serviceable numbers against exclusively top-10 offenses is a good sign and should translate to better things today (and moving forward) for the former first-round pick.

Garret leads the FantasyLabs projections in Pts/Sal while coming in second in THE BAT.

He’s a solid play for both cash games and GPPs, with his current ownership projection in the middle of the pack.


MLB DFS GPP Pick

Hunter Greene ($9,600) Cincinnati Reds (+188) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

Paying Greene’s salary for a fairly large underdog never feels right, particularly with the Dodgers’ 5.5-run implied total against him. However, Greene has a certain appeal on Thursday’s slate. The rookie touched 103 mph on occasion with his fastball and has a 30% strikeout rate on the season.

He has arguably the best stuff on the slate, and good pitching can beat good hitting. While he has a 5.26 ERA on the season, his 3.62 SIERA paints a different picture. He’s averaging five innings per start but has gone at least seven frames twice this season, producing 40.15 and 29.49 DraftKings points in those games.

His odds of doing so against one of baseball’s best offenses are obviously lower than against lesser opponents, but it’s still a possibility. While I’d prefer to take chances like that on an $8,000 arm, the lack of quality Kershaw pivots keeps him in play today.

Greene is obviously GPP only but should come in at single-digit ownership.

His ceiling projection ranks third on the slate.

Alex Wood ($9,000) San Francisco Giants (+135) at Atlanta Braves

Wood is similar to Greene today in that he’s one of the better pitchers on the slate but has an exceedingly difficult matchup. He doesn’t have Greene’s strikeout upside, but his 3.53 SIERA is very solid, and he’s scored over 20 DraftKings points in two of his last three starts.

While we aren’t likely to see a huge number from Wood, we might not need it on today’s slate. While Atlanta has a top-10 offense, they do strike out at the second-highest rate in the majors this season. Like Greene, his ownership is expected to be in the high single-digits, and a 20-point score may just lead the slate.

That makes him worth considering in GPPs, despite the 5.4-run implied total against him.

He’s a bit pricier than he should be for his likeliest outcome, but he’s on my GPP shortlist on a weak pitching slate.

MLB DFS Hitters

Notable Stack

With the Lineup Builder, it’s easy to incorporate stacks into DFS rosters.

Also, don’t forget that for large-field tournaments, you can utilize our Lineup Optimizer to effortlessly create up to 150 lineups.

The top DraftKings stack in the FantasyLabs MLB Tournament Model when generated by rating belongs to the Los Angeles Dodgers:

  • Trea Turner (1) ($6,100)
  • Freddie Freeman  (2) ($5,900)
  • Will Smith (3) ($5,400)
  • Max Muncy (4) ($5,100)
  • Chris Taylor (5) ($3,800)

As mentioned above, Los Angeles is implied for 5.6 runs — the highest total on the slate — against Greene and the Reds. It’s no surprise they’re the top stack in the Tournament Model, even at their combined $26,300 salary. While Greene is a somewhat difficult matchup, he’s not likely to last deep into this one, and the matchup gets much easier from there. The Reds’ bullpen has a league-worst 5.21 ERA this season.

The Dodgers are also on the road, giving them a guaranteed ninth trip to the plate. It also helps that this game is in Cincinnati — right-handed hitters have the top Park Factor score on the slate at 68. Lefties aren’t much behind at 61, and both numbers are far better than when the Dodgers are at home.

The Dodgers are the obvious stacking option on Thursday’s earliest slate, with mini-stacks viable even if the full stack is too pricey. Greene has far worse splits against right-handed hitting, though, so pivoting from  Muncy or Freeman to Justin Turner ($4,300) is a viable option.

That would free up some additional salary and save on ownership as well.


Top Stacking Pick from THE BAT X

One of the great features of being a FantasyLabs Pro member is the option to purchase additional items in the FantasyLabs Marketplace.

A new addition to our MLB projections is THE BAT from Derek Carty of RotoGrinders. With this purchase, you can use his projections alone or create aggregate projections in our Player Models.

The top DraftKings stack from THE BAT when generated by ceiling (outside of the Dodgers), belongs to the Atlanta Braves:

 

The Braves have an essentially identical implied total as the Dodgers, as they play host to the Giants. The Braves being the home team explains why Los Angeles narrowly edges them out in overall projections, but the Braves may just be my preferred stack.

This version of the Braves stack comes in more than $2,000 cheaper than the Dodgers’ top-five hitters, which could be important on today’s slate. The idea is clearly to load up on right-handed hitting as they take on lefty Alex Wood. Both Ozuna and Duvall — the projected 6 and 7 hitters — have better numbers against southpaws than righties. Including the down-lineup Braves also keeps ownership at a reasonable level, which is important on a small slate.

While I prefer to stack visiting teams when possible, Atlanta might be too good to pass up. This game has the best Weather Rating for hitters on the slate as well.

They’re a solid pivot from the Dodgers.

Get Your First Deposit Matched Up to $100!

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Your deposit will be fully matched

New users only

Other MLB DFS Hitter Picks

Nolan Gorman 2B ($3,600 DraftKings; $3,000 FanDuel) Saint Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers (Jason Alexander)

The rookie Gorman is a free swinger with big pop in his bat. He’s appeared in just 30 games this season and already has six home runs. His 45.9% fly-ball rate speaks to his general approach — as does his 33.6% strikeout rate. Today’s matchup should work in his favor with Jason Alexander ($6,500) of the Brewers.

Alexander has pitched 22.1 innings so far this season and has just an 8% strikeout and 5% swinging-strike rate. He’s yet to allow a home run, but his hard-hit rate of 38.6% is among the slate’s worst. Alexander has a 2.42 ERA on the season, but his xERA and SIERA are both over five.

That looming regression has me interested in the Cards in general, but Gorman profiles as a sneaky pick. He has a ton of upside for his reasonable (on DraftKings) salary.

Franmil Reyes OF ($2,800 DraftKings; $2,500 FanDuel) Cleveland Guardians at Minnesota Twins (Devin Smeltzer)

Reyes is another free swinger with a matchup in his favor today. He has a ridiculous 40% strikeout rate on the season but went yard 30 times last year in only 115 games. The power is obviously there when he can put the ball in play. His chances of doing so are much improved today, with Devin Smeltzer ($5,700) of the Twins on the mound.

Smeltzer has a 12.4% strikeout rate on the season, with a SIERA over 5.00. Like Alexander, he has a solid ERA — 3.52 in this case –, but the regression monster is sure to strike at any moment. Smeltzer is also a lefty, and Reyes hits 30 points better against left-handed pitching in his young career.

Willson Contreras C ($5,000 DraftKings; $3,600 FanDuel) Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates (Jose Quintana)

Contreras is pretty much always the top option at catcher when he’s on the slate, with a .887 OPS in 2022. He’s in an especially good spot today against Jose Quintana ($7,600) though. Quintana is a southpaw, and Contreras has a career OPS of .906 against lefties — compared to .783 against right-handed pitching.

Quintana is also a former Cub, with Contreras as his primary catcher for a few seasons. There’s a case that catchers have an edge against pitchers they’ve caught for, given their intimate understanding of the pitcher’s stuff. While I haven’t seen any data proving that, it’s certainly an angle to consider — especially when Contreras is such a strong play anyway.