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The MLB All-Star Break is here, but that doesn’t mean we get to take the day off. Both DraftKings and FanDuel are offering large guaranteed prize pools for the midsummer classic with $100,000 to first place. Predicting usage for batters and pitchers is tough, but there are still edges to be had. The All-Star Game starts at 8:00 p.m. ET.
On DraftKings, the roster has six utility spots, each of which can be occupied by a pitcher or batter. The big difference in scoring for the All-Star Game is that all pitchers will be accounted for as relievers, so they’ll get 3.9 fantasy points per inning pitched instead of the traditional 2.25. Plus, they’ll earn an additional fantasy point for each strikeout. Pitchers will also earn points for a win, hold or save.
On the surface, rostering a lineup full of pitchers is tempting. Assuming they get into the game, they offer significantly more safety than hitters at comparable salaries. However, if you want to win a GPP, you’ll need to lean on some hitters, who have significantly more upside. It’s tough to identify in advance the batters who will boom, but you probably won’t win first place without rostering a home-run hitter.
On FanDuel, you have to roster only five utility players, but you also have to choose one of them as your MVP, whose scoring will count at a 1.5 multiple. The MVP decision is important. Most people will probably lean on one of the starting pitchers in Max Scherzer or Chris Sale — they theoretically have the potential to go more than one inning — or maybe one of the premier batters like Bryce Harper. If you’re looking to win a GPP, you might be best off looking for home-run upside in a batter with a reduced salary.
Sale draws the start for the American League and is putting together a dominant season. He leads all starters with a K/9 of 13.1 this season, and he pitched two innings as the starter in last year’s All-Star Game. He probably has more upside than any pitcher in this game, but he also might have high ownership.
Scherzer is opposing him for the National League but appears to be in a much tougher situation. Scherzer only went one inning as the NL starter in last year’s game. Even if he goes two innings this year, he’s facing one of the most talented lineups in recent memory. The American League has Mookie Betts, Jose Altuve, Mike Trout, J.D. Martinez, Jose Ramirez, Aaron Judge and Manny Machado as its first seven hitters, which is downright terrifying for an opposing pitcher. Scherzer might be someone to fade given his slate-high price tag, likely ownership and matchups.
After the two starters, it’s impossible to predict which pitchers will actually get into the game. Trevor Bauer has expressed interest in taking the mound in his first All-Star Game despite pitching on Sunday, and he leads all pitchers in WAR this season. He also ranks sixth in K/9, which gives him plenty of upside if manager A.J. Hinch ultimate taps him.
Josh Hader should also be in consideration. He’s posted an unreal K/9 of 16.69 through his first 48.0 innings pitched, resulting in an ERA of just 1.50. And Edwin Diaz has arguably been even better than Hader, leading all pitchers on the slate with a 1.46 FIP. He has also posted a K/9 of 14.81 and could conceivably pitch in a save situation for the American League. Targeting relief pitchers in general could make sense: They typically strike out more batters per inning than starters, and (unlike the traditional starters who will be throwing in relief) they are already familiar with a bullpen role.
If you believe in the National League (currently listed as a +110 underdog), then Kenley Jansen makes a lot of sense. He’s an obvious candidate to serve as closer: He’s having a subpar year (for him), but he’s been arguably the best relief pitcher in baseball over the past three or four seasons, and Dave Roberts (his manager on the Dodgers) is the manager for the NL.
It’s tough to talk about the hitters in this contest. We don’t know how many at-bats they’ll see, which pitchers they’ll face or when the bench players will enter the lineup. Even so, here are a few items to keep in mind.
- There historically hasn’t been a big difference between starting and bench players.
All 18 starters in last year’s All-Star Game received at least two plate appearances, but 17-of-21 reserve players also recorded at least two plate appearances. Three of the four exceptions were third basemen (Miguel Sano, Justin Turner and Jake Lamb), which makes sense given that both teams carried three players at the position. Third base seems much safer this season with both teams rostering just two a piece, but there are some other potential trouble spots. The NL is carrying three second basemen, and the AL is carrying eight outfielders, so you might want to avoid the bench players at those positions.
- Target the AL infielders.
Given that the AL has eight outfielders, the team is a little thinner on the infield with just two players each for catcher, first base, second base, third base and shortstop. I expect those players all to see significant playing time.
- Position swaps usually occur at the same spot in the lineup.
Double switching and lineup experimentation haven’t historically been used at the All-Star Game. Last year, every substitution was like-for-like: Second baseman replaced second baseman, outfielders replaced outfielders, and so on. Given that we know the starting lineup for each team, we can use this information to our advantage. For example, when backup first baseman Joey Votto enters the game, he’ll probably be hitting fourth. Lineup correlation probably doesn’t matter as much in the All-Star Game as it does during the regular season, but batters higher in the order will still have potential to earn a key third at-bat.
Good luck, and be sure to check out The Action Network if you’re looking for more in-depth MLB analysis.
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Pictured above: Bryce Harper
Photo credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports