The MLB Breakdown offers data-driven analysis using the FantasyLabs Tools and predictive metrics to highlight notable players.
Thursday features a 13-game main slate starting at 7:05 p.m. ET.
MLB DFS Pitching Picks
MLB DFS Stud Picks
Max Scherzer ($10,400) New York Mets (-232) vs. Seattle Mariners
With six pitchers priced at $9,000 or higher, there are a ton of high-quality options on today’s slate. That’s nice in some ways, as ownership is unlikely to condense on any of them in particular. On the other hand, it’s also a challenge. Projection differences aren’t that great, and with multiple arms capable of 30-point games, picking one that “only” scores 20 can ruin your lineups.
Scherzer seems like the best bet of the group today, though. Among main slate pitchers, he has the highest strikeout rate and swinging-strike rate, as well as the lowest SIERA and ERA dating back to last season. It’s always nice when a pitcher’s underlying metrics — like SIERA and whiff rate — support their production, and Scherzer’s certainly do.
He also has the best Vegas data on the slate, as the heaviest favorite and with the lowest implied run total against him. The Mariners have performed as a top-10 offense so far this season, but betting markets are sending a strong signal that Mad Max has the edge here.
Scherzer has the second-best median projection in the FantasyLabs projection set while ranking first in The BAT’s. While he’s expected to be one of the slate’s highest-owned pitchers, it’s fairly close among the top options, so we can focus on just getting the most points from our arms.
Gerrit Cole ($9,600) New York Yankees (-169) at Chicago White Sox
Cole narrowly edges out Scherzer for the best projections in the FantasyLabs system while ranking just behind him in The BAT’s. His underlying metrics support that, with a whiff and strikeout rate just 1% lower than Scherzer’s and a SIERA within two-tenths of a run.
The case for Cole over Scherzer relies on the matchup, with the White Sox having a wRC+ of 91 compared to the Mariners’ 111. They’re also far worse against right-handed pitching in particular, with a wOBA about 40 points lower. While Vegas has the Sox implied for a slightly higher total, at 3.3 runs, there isn’t much of a difference.
There really isn’t much to split the two today, but Cole is coming in $800 cheaper and with less expected ownership. That makes him the slightly better GPP play in my mind, though Scherzer feels a bit safer for cash games. You can’t really go wrong with either, though.
Clayton Kershaw ($10,200) Los Angeles Dodgers (-223) vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Kershaw is the worst option of the top-end pitchers on Friday’s slate, namely thanks to a tough matchup with the Phillies. He’s still Clayton Kershaw, though, and deserves to be in consideration as a massive -223 favorite. Philadelphia is implied for just 3.1 runs, the lowest opponent total outside of Cole’s
Kershaw seems to be ramping up the innings as the season goes on, throwing seven innings in his last start for the first time since he was pulled after the seventh in a perfect game. His strikeout rate isn’t quite as strong as the other top arms on today’s slate, so he needs that longevity to have a chance to compete with them.
Presently, Kershaw is tied with Scherzer for the highest projected ownership on the slate in the FantasyLabs projections. Keep an eye on that throughout the day, though. I’d expect him to come in behind both Scherzer and Cole, making him a solid play if he does. (The BAT subscribers can also use an aggregate projection set that averages ownership projections — using multiple sources is likely the most accurate route.)
I’ll stay away from Kershaw if his ownership is as high as Scherzer’s, but roster him if I can get a discount.
MLB DFS Value Pick
Jordan Lyles ($5,400) Baltimore Orioles (+125) at Detroit Tigers
Nothing about Lyles numbers inspires confidence. He has a 4.63 SIERA, strikes out only 19% of the batters he faces, and allows above-average hard contact. He’s also playing the Tigers, one of — if not the — worst offenses in the MLB. With tons of expensive arms on the slate and a game at Coors Field, we have to save salary somewhere, and “pitcher against Detroit” is generally a solid way to do that.
Lyle’s opponent, Detroit’s Eduardo Rodriguez ($7,100), is also in the conversation as a salary-saver, but he’s a good bit more expensive. Vegas actually has this game with a fairly high total, but with two terrible offenses playing in a pitcher’s park, there should be at least one solid pitching score produced.
Lyles leads the FantasyLabs projections in Pts/Sal, with Rodriguez ranking fourth.
MLB DFS GPP Picks
Kevin Gausman ($10,000) Toronto Blue Jays (-122) at Tampa Bay Rays
Gausman appears to be the odd man out based on ownership projections, coming in well below the other pitchers mentioned so far. It makes sense, given that he’s the smallest favorite and has the toughest matchup (based on opponent wRC+) of the group.
Gausman has been just as good as any of the big names this season though, with at least 22 DraftKings points in every start and topping 29 in more than half of them. His current ownership projection is less than half that of Scherzer and Kershaw and still well below Cole’s. His odds of posting the slate’s best score are probably (well) higher than that, though, making him a very good GPP play.
In a high-variance sport like baseball, the field tends to overestimate how likely the best (on paper) option is to end up being the best performance. That seems to be the case today, making Gausman an attractive leverage play on Friday — with the added bonus of being a bit cheaper than Cole and Scherzer.
MLB DFS Hitters
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 Colorado Rockies:
- Connor Joe (1) ($5,400)
- Jose Iglesias (2) ($4,500)
- Charlie Blackmon (3) ($4,900)
- C.J. Cron (4) ($5,800)
- Ryan McMahon (5) ($4,500)
Earlier in the season, the price tags on Rockies bats was so cheap at home as to make them unavoidable. However, that isn’t the case anymore, as DraftKings as brought them back to their usual levels. That’s helpful in one way, though — Rockies stacks shouldn’t be too chalky with all of the top pitchers on the slate.
It’s also a plus-matchup for the Rockies, as they host the Royals and Zack Greinke ($5,200). Greinke is nowhere near the player he once was, with a 4.63 SIERA dating back to the start of 2021. He also profiles as a very bad fit for a game at Coors Field. He struggles to miss bats (16% strikeout rate) and has a below-average ground-ball rate. Not a great fit for the thin Colorado air.
If the price tag is a bit too much, there are also a couple of cheaper options further down the Rockies lineup. Garret Hampson ($2,700) batting 9th and Sam Hilliard ($3,200) at 8th are intriguing options for wrap-around stacks that save some salary and probably some ownership as well.
Top Stacking Pick from THE BAT X
The top DraftKings stack from THE BAT, when generated by ceiling belongs to the Kansas City Royals:
It should come as no surprise that the other team playing in Coors Field also shows up as a top option on Friday’s slate. Their first five hitters come in at just over $2,000 cheaper on DraftKings, though they’ll likely garner slightly higher ownership.
The Royals are implied for five runs today, trailing only the Rockies. Of course, that makes them the top road option on the slate, which is a slight boost to them. Their pitching matchup against the Rockies Kyle Freeland ($5,800) is slightly tougher on paper than Greinke, but it’s not a huge difference. Freeland has a SIERA three-tenths of a run lower — and a higher ERA — than Greinke dating back to last year.
Freeland is also a lefty, giving us opportunity to exploit platoon splits with our Royal’s selections. Freeland’s wOBA against right-handed hitting is roughly 30 points higher than against fellow lefties throughout his career. None of the Royal’s projected starters have extreme platoon splits, but a handful of them have noticeable edges against left-handed pitching.
Other MLB DFS Hitter Picks
James McCann C ($3,100 DraftKings; $2,200 FanDuel) New York Mets vs. Seattle Mariners (Marco Gonzales)
The Mets are taking on the slate’s second-worst pitcher by SIERA, who also happens to be a lefty. That’s a good opportunity to find cheaper options with solid platoon splits, given the salary pressures on today’s slate. McCann fits the bill, with a career OPS 170 point higher against southpaws. While he’s not quite a bargain on today’s slate, he’s cheap enough to give some flexibility elsewhere in your lineup.
Alfonso Rivas 1B ($2,300 DraftKings; $2,400 FanDuel) Chicago Cubs at Arizona Diamondbacks (Zach Davies)
Gonzales is the second-worst pitcher by SIERA on the slate, with Davies checking in as the worst. His is over five dating back to the start of 2021, making Cubs batters — especially cheap ones — appealing today. Rivas has a 94% Bargain Rating on DraftKings, where he frees up tons of salary for your lineups.
Through 66 career at-bats against righties, the left-handed Rivas has three home runs on 22 hits for a batting average of .333. While it’s an extremely small sample size, it’s worth taking a swing on, given his price tag and the (lack of) quality of the arm he’s facing. While using your first baseman spot on a cheap hitter doesn’t feel great, it might be necessary today. Rivas is expected to bat fifth for a team with an implied run total of 4.2, making him a solid choice.
Ketel Marte 2B ($4,500 DraftKings; $3,300 FanDuel) Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Chicago Cubs (Drew Smyly)
Marte is taking on the left-handed Smyly, putting him on the correct side of his platoon splits. His career OPS is more than 100 points higher against southpaws, and Smyly isn’t exactly a matchup to fear. This game has solid conditions for hitters as well, with a positive Park Factor and Weather Rating. He stands out on FanDuel, where he has a 76% Bargain Rating and also has outfield eligibility.
Brad Miller 3B/OF ($2,600 DraftKings; $2,700 FanDuel) Texas Rangers vs. Boston Red Sox (Nick Pivetta)
Miller is far too cheap for being an expected leadoff hitter for a team with a 4.4 run total. He also has a 94% Bargain Rating on DraftKings, where he’s a far better play than on FanDuel. It’s a mediocre pitching matchup against Pivetta, but this game features the best Weather Rating and best Park Factor outside of Coors on the slate. He’s listed as 1B/OF on FanDuel, but we shouldn’t be playing him there anyway.