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
Justin Verlander ($10,500) Houston Astros (-205) at Seattle Mariners
There are a whopping eight pitchers priced at $9,000 or above on Friday’s slate, leaving players plenty of choices at the high end. Verlander stands out, though, as the only one with a 20+ point projection in both the FantasyLabs and THE BAT’s projections for median.
Verlander’s numbers of slipped a bit relative to the rest of his Astros career, though. For the first time since joining Houston, he has a SIERA above three and a strikeout rate below 30%. With that said, his numbers are still excellent. A SIERA of 3.16 and strikeout rate of 26.3% are still borderline elite.
The matchup isn’t ideal, with the Mariners being an average-to-good offense by the numbers this season. It’s certainly not one to be avoided though, either. Vegas has the Mariners implied for just 3.0 runs — second lowest on the slate.
All in all, Verlander is probably slightly too expensive for his likely score/upside today, but he’s an extremely safe pick.
Sean Manaea ($10,000) San Diego Padres (-210) vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
Manaea is the only pitcher on the slate with better Vegas data than Verlander. Pittsburgh is implied for just 2.9 runs, while San Diego has the best moneyline odds tonight. That speaks to both his abilities as a pitcher and the ease of the matchup on Friday.
Manaea’s numbers this season are very comparable to Verlander’s, with a 3.38 SIERA and a roughly 1% higher strikeout rate. That would make his price (relative to JV) today about right if the matchups were neutral. However, that’s far from the case.
The Pirates are a bottom-five or so offense based on most metrics. They also strike out at a top 10 rate, at over 24% as a team. While they’ve been slightly better against left-handed pitching, they’ve still struggled — and the sample and effect size of the difference is small enough to chalk up to variance.
Manaea is the leader in THE BAT’s projections for median (by a significant margin) while ranking a close fourth in the FantasyLabs set.
Given the matchup and the salaries, I slightly prefer him to Verlander if paying up for pitching today.
MLB DFS Value Pick
Jon Gray ($5,500) Texas Rangers (-136) at Oakland A’s
Saving salary will be a tough challenge on today’s slate, with some high-powered offenses in good spots and a plethora of strong-but-expensive arms to choose from. Gray could be the key to unlocking salary savings, though, as he has an excellent matchup with the Oakland A’s.
The A’s are one of the most exploitable matchups for pitchers this season. They strike out at a top five rate and lead only Detroit (more on them later) in wRC+. They’re implied for only 3.4 runs tonight, which speaks more to their struggles than it does Gray’s abilities.
Though Gray has been very solid this year, with a 3.85 SIERA, that’s his lowest since 2018. Not having to start half of his games at Coors Field probably explains most of that, but it’s still an encouraging sign. He has generally average or slightly above average numbers across the board.
A reasonably solid pitcher against one of the worst offenses in baseball should be worth far more than $5,500, though. Every other pitcher with an opponent implied total of 3.5 or less costs at least $8,000 today.
This game also features the best pitching weather and a top five Park Factor on the slate. Gray leads both the FantasyLabs and THE BAT’s projections for Pts/Sal and is sure to be a popular SP2 choice today.
MLB DFS GPP Picks
Shane Bieber ($9,000) Cleveland Guardians (-160) at Detroit Tigers
Bieber could get lost in the shuffle a bit today, as his ownership projects to be a tier below both Manaea and Verlander. That alone makes him an interesting option, especially considering the salary relief he provides along with it. The real appeal to Bieber is the matchup, though.
He’s taking on the Tigers, who are probably the league’s worst offense and, at best, the second or third worst. While they’ve picked it up slightly as of late, they’re still a very bad hitting team. Bieber’s numbers on the season aren’t great, but most of that is due to getting blown up for seven runs a few starts back. If you remove that performance from the equation, he has a 2.70 ERA in the rest of his starts.
His strikeout rate is down somewhat as well, though, to 24% on the season. That’s still roughly the same as Verlander, though, and Bieber is considerably cheaper with a far better matchup. He leads the FantasyLabs projection set for median and ceiling projection and is my favorite GPP option today.
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 Los Angeles Dodgers:
- Mookie Betts (1) ($6,100)
- Freddie Freeman (2) ($5,700)
- Trea Turner (3) ($5,900)
- Will Smith (4) ($5,300)
- Justin Turner (5) ($4,900)
Outside of Justin Turner, each member of this Dodgers stack is slightly cheaper than they were yesterday, which is curious, given their 14-run explosion last night in Arizona. They’re in the desert again tonight for a juicy matchup with Madison Bumgarner ($6,400).
Bumgarner is a shell of his former self, don’t let his 2.76 ERA on the season fool you. His SIERA is 4.81, and his FIP is 4.65. Both metrics are leading indicators of ERA, meaning ERA should regress towards them, not the other way around.
Bumgarner has gotten lucky this season, with a sub-10% HR/FB ratio to start the season. That ratio was at least 12% each of the last three seasons. He’s also allowing the most fly balls of his career by percentage, with a meager 16.2% strikeout rate. He may have benefited more than any other pitcher from the dead ball at the start of this season. The ball seems to be flying a lot better now, though, as evidenced by the Dodgers box score yesterday.
If not rostering a full Dodgers stack, look to hitters with especially strong platoon splits against lefties. Among the group above, Trea Turner has the best splits. Outside of the first five hitters, Hanser Alberto ($2,700) has an OPS more than 200 points higher against southpaws. He could be mixed in to save some salary or make your stack less chalky.
Keep an eye on our Lineups Page, though. We currently have three left-handed Dodgers projected as starters today (including freeman). It wouldn’t shock me to see one or two of them given the night off in favor of a righty against Bumgarner.
Top Stacking Pick from THE BAT X
The top DraftKings stack from THE BAT, when generated by projected ceiling belongs to the Boston Red Sox:
THE BAT was high on the Red Sox last night, and they did not disappoint. As a team, they scored 16 runs, with Trevor Story leading the way with 32 DraftKings points. Boston stands out again today as they take on Baltimore’s Kyle Bradish ($6,000).
Bradish comes into this one with a 5.74 ERA and the worst hard contact allowed rate of any pitcher on the slate. Those numbers aren’t likely to get any better against a Boston team that’s been crushing the ball as of late, scoring 66 runs in their last seven games. They’re implied for another 5.6 today, the best mark on the slate.
It always feels a bit point-chasey to go back to the well with yesterday’s best stack, but it’s hard to argue with the Red Sox here. Their stack is still more affordable than the Dodgers, despite the higher implied total. They have a great matchup and are playing in a better hitter’s park than the Dodgers are.
With that said, I’ll likely let ownership projections pick which of the two stacks I roll with in tournaments today. Boston is the better cash game option, but their expectations are close enough that I want to be on the less popular side of things.
Other MLB DFS Hitter Picks
Lane Thomas OF ($2,700 DraftKings; $2,300 FanDuel) Washington Nationals vs. Colorado Rockies (Austin Gomber)
Thomas offers some much-needed salary relief today, particularly if building around expensive Dodgers or Red Sox stacks. It’s unfortunate he’s an outfielder, though, as there are much higher ceiling options at the position, and sacrificing a spot is tough.
Still, Thomas is just $2,700 while projected to leadoff for the Nats, who have a 4.7-run total against the Rockies today. Gomber is a fairly exploitable matchup; the lefty has ERA and SIERA numbers over four.
Thomas has only 124 plate appearances against southpaws, but he’s excelled in those chances. He’s hitting .306 with an .883 OPS when he has the platoon edge. Thomas leads all outfielders in Pts/Sal projection.
Daulton Varsho C ($5,200 DraftKings; $3,300 FanDuel) Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (Ryan Pepiot)
The Dodgers are giving the ball to Pepiot, a rookie with a 6.45 SIERA through two big-league starts. This game also features temperatures in the 90s and wind blowing out, creating an excellent hitting environment. All of which benefits Varsho, who’s consistently one of the top catcher-eligible plays on the slate.
Varsho has a .819 OPS on the season while mixing in three steals as Arizona’s leadoff hitter. It’s hard to find that production out of the catcher spot, so I generally want to fit him in when I can afford the salary.
He leads both FantasyLabs and THE BAT’s median projections. I strongly prefer him to the Dodgers Will Smith, who’s $100 more on DraftKings.
Jesus Aguilar 1B ($4,300 DraftKings; $2,700 FanDuel) Miami Marlins at Atlanta Braves (Ian Anderson)
Aguilar is projected to bat second for the Marlins, who have a four-run implied total against Atlanta. The case for Aguilar is mostly based on the matchup, as Anderson has a 4.5 SIERA dating back to the start of 2021. Aguilar is nothing special numbers-wise, but he’s a reasonably affordable option in a plus matchup.
He could make a sneaky mini-stack with teammate Jazz Chisholm ($5,300 DraftKings; $3,900 FanDuel), especially on FanDuel, where they both have strong Bargain Ratings.