MLB DFS: DraftKings & FanDuel Main Slate Overview – Friday 4/28/23

The huge 11-game MLB DFS slate’s 7:05 ET start time is looming over our ability to type all of these words while still leaving enough time for you to read them and make meaningful decisions, which puts us in a bit of a crunch-time mode for today’s article after a late start. Some of the lower-end options will be presented in more of a quick summary format, and the games that are more likely to be postponed by rain may get a lighter touch. The slate is stuffed to the gills with quality options for pitching, which is deadening the power projections and overall potential for major offensive output across the league. This is, of course, baseball, so several of these spots will explode for run-scoring regardless of the pitchers involved, some of the aces will go bust, and Coors Field will do Coors Field things. With a lot of same-same across a good number of teams and pitcher projections, we can play the pricing and popularity game to some degree, but the overall focus should simply be on getting to a broad spread of quality options while making sure to differentiate the intra-stack combinations used from lineup to lineup as team combinations are shuffled.

Note: All analysis is written utilizing available projected lineups as of the early morning, pay close attention to confirmed lineups and adjust accordingly. This article is posted and updated as it is written, if a game has not been filled in simply check back in a few minutes. Update notes are provided as lineups are confirmed to the best of our ability, but lineup changes are not typically updated as lock approaches, so stay tuned to official news for any late changes.

MLB DFS: Game by Game Main Slate Overview – 4/28/23

Pittsburgh Pirates (-135/4.60) @ Washington Nationals (+125/3.99)

The game in Washington seems very likely to be postponed with a significant amount of rain in the forecast, and with the way that this organization typically approaches rainy days. Which is a shame, because the Pirates are pulling down one of the day’s better power spots and they looked very good against inept veteran righty Chad Kuhl, who has been a big target for power and run creation over the past few seasons. If this game happens to play, the Pirates are a good source of MLB DFS point-scoring upside that could potentially be under-owned at cheap prices. The team is benefitting from Kuhl’s aggressively bad 50.8% hard-hit rate and 92.1 mph of average exit velocity allowed on a 15.3% barrel rate and 20.9-degree average launch angle in 18.1 innings this year, as well as the 4.05% home run rate and 44.6% hard-hit rate he allowed with 90.5 mph of average exit velocity and a 9.7% barrel rate he gave up in 137 last year (it goes on like this). This is a highly targetable pitcher, if the game somehow plays clean, Pirates bats are on the board, with options like the obvious Bryan Reynolds and Andrew McCutchen, who have a combined 10 home runs and are creating runs 31% and 38% better than average with a .247 and .235 ISO respectively. Carlos Santana and Jack Swuinski have good power bats in the fourth and fifth spots in the lineup, while Ke’Bryan Hayes is more of a correlated scoring piece, who has struggled to do that, from atop the lineup. Santana has an 8.15 in our home run model, landing him third on the team behind Reynolds at 9.14 and the leader, Suwinski who is at 9.44. Pirate Jack has hit five home runs and stolen four bases this season, slashing .276/.397/.603 with a .328 ISO and a 165 WRC+ over his 73 opportunities so far, barreling the ball in 22.5% of his batted-ball events with a 50% hard-hit rate. Suwinski is a major bargain if this game plays, he costs just $3,200/$3,400. Connor Joe is another cheap play at $3,900/$3,200 with first base and outfield eligibility. Joe is slashing .304/.392/.580 with a .275 ISO and three home runs. Rodolfo Castro has created runs 35% better than average with three home runs in his 81 opportunities, Ji-Hwan Bae has two home runs but an 88 WRC+ and just a .113 ISO, and Austin Hedges rounds out the projected lineup. Too bad this one probably won’t play, but keep an eye on the weather just in case.

The Nationals delivered eight runs after our dive into their potential upside against left-handed pitching yesterday but still managed to lose to the Mets by one. With veteran lefty Rich Hill on the mound for the Pirates, if this game plays, most of the same notions from last night would hold for key Nationals bats. Hill has made five starts and thrown 26 innings, posting a 19.6% strikeout rate with a  4.94 xFIP and  4.85 ERA this season, and he has given up an awful lot of premium contact with his 14.8% barrel rate allowed drawing a straight line to an unsightly 6.25% home run rate in the tiny sample. Hill’s best years are probably behind him overall, but he has never been truly lousy for allowing power, this is either a hiccup or a sign that the pitcher is finally well and truly shot. Playable Nationals bats would include Alex CallJeimer Candelario despite his struggles against lefties so far this season in a short sample, Joey Meneses, and Keibert Ruiz from the top half of the batting order. Ruiz makes a good cheap catcher one-off on a lot of slates, he plays almost every day at a cheap price and low popularity and has a solid bat for a young backstop. Lane Thomas and Stone Garrett both have quality bats and can hit lefties, Garrett and Michael Chavis are pulling in mid-range power marks in the sixth and seventh spots in the projected batting order. Chavis has better than a .200 ISO for his career against lefties but has never truly put things together in extended stretches. Victor Robles has been good for speed and a minor amount of correlated scoring as one of three Nationals with an above-average WRC+ while last night’s grand slam man CJ Abrams rounds out the lineup and has now equaled last season’s home run output with two.

Play: This is most likely going to be a PPD, if it plays Pirates bats are a good option against Kuhl while Nationals bats should be a lightly-played lowish-owned option against Hill.

Update Notes: This game has been rained out. 

Seattle Mariners (-101/4.26) @ Toronto Blue Jays (-107/4.33)

A very good pitching matchup – at least in theory – is the story of the game in Toronto between the Mariners and Blue Jays tonight. The heavy-hitting teams are cutting just an 8.5-run total, with the home team only slightly favored. The Blue Jays will have Alek Manoah on the mound, the righty is inexpensive for his talent at $9,800 on FanDuel and he is in the DraftKings bargain bin at $6,900 tonight. This is because Manoah has struggled to find his form overall in 2023, he has made five starts and has thrown 26.1 innings, and did seem in fine form against the Yankees in his last outing. Manoah threw seven shutout innings while allowing just two hits and walking one in Yankee Stadium, striking out five in the effort. The righty also had a good first outing of the year, with almost the same stat line against the Royals. His two home starts against the Tigers and Rays did not go according to plan, but Manoah is a strong buy at the DraftKings discount even with the Mariners in town. Over 196.2 innings in 2022, Manoah had a 22.9% strikeout rate and a 6.5% walk rate with a 3.98 xFIP, the year before he posted a 27.7% strikeout rate over 111.2 innings. The righty projects in the upper-middle of a very strong pitching board, so it is important to not get carried away with shares, but at the extremely low price he is a smash SP2 on DraftKings, and he should be relatively unpopular due to the matchup and an abundance of other options on the blue site. The Mariners’ lineup is excellent, they have above-average run creators in five of nine spots with another two just slightly below the waterline. Julio Rodriguez costs $5,700/$3,800 with a scuffling triple-slash so far this season, but he has five home runs, five stolen bases, a .206 ISO, and a 102 WRC+ at the top of the lineup an he is still making very good contact when he connects. Rodriguez will be fine, take him at a bit of a dip in price and popularity if rostering stacks from this team. Ty France is slashing .258/.348/.381 with just a .124 ISO but he is a strong correlation play who has a 114 WRC+ hitting in front of the heart of the lineup. Jarred Kelenic is projected to be the team’s three-hitter tonight, he has kept the hot start rolling over 88 plate appearances, slashing .316/.375/.671 with a phenomenal .354 ISO while creating runs 90% better than average. The outfielder was written off by fantasy baseball fanatics across the country after failing to deliver on his prospect pedigree the last two years, but he just needed a bit more time in the oven. The souffle has risen, and Kelenic has arrived for real this time, not that DraftKings has noticed with its $4,100 price tag. $3,600 is a good buy on the FanDuel slate as well. Eugenio Suarez is having a really weird year. The slugger has just a .104 ISO but has still created runs four percent better than average while hitting only two home runs but getting on base at a .333 clip with a .260 average. His contact profile has dipped from a 14.8% barrel rate to a 9.2% and he is striking out a little less but still quite a lot at 29.8%. Whatever the hell is going on, the hitter is cheap at $4,300/$2,800, he can be used in Mariners stacks. Teoscar Hernandez and Cal Raleigh are an interesting late-lineup power duo, though it is Hernandez who has carried the weight so far this year with six home runs and a .214 ISO in his 104 plate appearances. The outfielder is a $4,300/$3,000 player tonight in a tough matchup, but that is a good price for a player who hit 25 home runs last year and 32 the year before. Hernandez has been slightly below-average with a 95 WRC+ this season but, again, his previous years have been better at 129 and 132 the last two seasons. Raleigh hit 27 home runs in 415 opportunities last year, he has two with just a. 176 ISO this year, but he has still barreled the ball with a 12.2% rate, the hard hits and home runs should come around. Meanwhile, he remains an inexpensive catcher at $4,000 on a good team in a good part of the lineup for run creation. A.J. Pollock has bumped along over 53 plate appearances, he has a 24 WRC+ and a .122/.170/.286 triple-slash and has obviously been better in years past. Kolten Wong has similarly struggled but provided significant years as a cheap later lineup piece with no popularity. Just last season, Wong hit 15 home runs and stole 17 bases in 497 tries. JP Crawford reminded MLB DFS gamers that he exists with a big game the other night, he is slashing .260/.393/.397 with a 135 WRC+ at the bottom of this lineup and is not off the board when playing this team.

The Blue Jays are slightly favored as the home team, but the loaded squad is pulling in a low implied total of just 4.33 runs with Luis Castillo getting the start for the Mariners. Castillo has a fantastic 30.4% strikeout rate with just a 5.4% walk rate over his first 29.2 innings and five starts this season. He has been pitching like the ace that he is all year, posting a 0.81 WHIP, a 2.94 xFIP with a 1.52 ERA on the surface, and a terrific 15.3% swinging-strike rate with a 31.2% CSW%, and he is yet to allow a home run. While that could change in this park against these hitters, Castillo is still very good and very unlikely to get beat up, which has a major limiting effect on the Blue Jays’ bats. The righty is expensive at $10,300/$11,000, which hopefully keeps him lower-owned with the difficult matchup, if that is the case in industrywide projections, Castillo becomes a dynamite tournament play at a high price. Toronto’s excellent lineup can be rostered against most pitchers, and they will also come up lower-owned in this spot, but Castillo is one of the few starters in the league with whom we truly do not like to tangle. Only Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is cracking even the 7.0 mark in our home run model, with a 7.91, the superstar has five home runs and a 166 WRC+ so far this season and is always an option. Guerrero hits behind George Springer and Bo Bichette, another pair of stars who start this lineup in style. Springer’s struggles to start the season have been mentioned, he has three home runs and four stolen bases but just a 72 WRC+ over his first 106 plate appearances in 2023, but will be fine. Bichette is slashing .340/.381/.528 with a 156 WRC+ and five home runs, he and Guerrero are an excellent expensive pairing at the top of this lineup on any given slate. Matt Chapman joins the group at $5,500/$3,900, he still has a 208 WRC+ over his 101 plate appearances, though his home run hitting cooled after the season’s first two weeks or so. Chapman has five long balls on the season with a .295 ISO and a terrific contact profile. The third baseman has barreled the ball at a 31.3% clip with a 65.6% hard-hit rate. Daulton Varsho is another play who has bumped along the bottom for the Blue Jays so far, he was a good power hitter last year with 27 home runs in 592 plate appearances and a .207 ISO but has managed just two homers with a .116 ISO and a 78 WRC+ to this point in 2023. Varsho is priced down at $4,300/$2,800, the lefty is a somewhat interesting option against Castillo if inclined to play contrarian Blue Jays, but it is a thin play. Alejandro KirkBrandon BeltWhit Merrifield, and Kevin Keirmaier round out the projected lineup, only Belt is below average for run creation on the young season with his 63 WRC+, the others are mix-and-match pieces at 111, 122, and 120 respectively, but each is limited in his counting stat contributions, the focus should be from 1-5 when rostering low-owned Blue Jays, if one can afford to do so.

Play: Luis Castillo, Alek Manoah aggressively at the DraftKings SP2 price, minor shares of low-owned Mariners & Blue Jays bats if looking for contrarian quality

Update Notes: The Mariners have Jose Caballero hitting eighth with Crawford seventh, Wong ninth, and Pollock out of the lineup, minor bump to Crawford, Caballero is a mix-and-match piece. The Blue Jays lineup is exactly as anticipated.

Cleveland Guardians (-124/4.50) @ Boston Red Sox (+114/4.10)

The visiting Guardians look like an option with their 4.5-run implied team total in a matchup with right-handed veteran Nick Pivetta. The Red Sox righty has a 4.46 xFIP and a 1.37 WHIP in 19.2 innings over four starts this year, putting him directly in line with the production of previous seasons in early returns for 2023. Pivetta has struck out a few more hitters in the first few games this year, he has a 26.1% strikeout rate after just a 22.6% mark last year, but in 2021 he was at 26.5% for the full 155 innings over 30 starts, so it will be interesting to watch that output over the long term this year. Overall, Pivetta is a league-average pitcher with potentially a bit more strikeout upside, he costs $7,800/$8,500 and a few darts are fine for Red Sox fans, but he is unlikely to post a big score against a Guardians team that is good at avoiding strikeouts and putting the ball in play. Leadoff man Steven Kwan is slashing .258/.357/.309 with just a .052 ISO and a 90 WRC+, he has not quite found the hit tool so far this year, last season he was an excellent correlation option with a .298/.373/.400 triple-slash and a 124 WRC+, but Kwan has put the ball in play regularly while striking out just 10.4% of the time, slightly up from the 9.4% from last year, and he has added walks boosting that mark from 9.7% to an excellent 13.9%. When a few more base hits start dropping in, Kwan’s run-creation mark should soar ahead of the quality bats in the Guardians lineup. Amed Rosario has had a similarly slow start and has missed games with ouchies to start the year, he is slashing just .250/.286/.369 with a .119 ISO and a 79 WRC+ but he is a good contributor who had 11 home runs and 18 stolen bases last season and he comes at a cheap $4,300/$2,900 at shortstop. Jose Ramirez has just three home runs in 112 plate appearances so far, but his .208 ISO and 121 WRC+ remain solid, though a little down from his typical quality. Ramirez leads the team with a 10.10 in our home run model and he is a strong option at third base against this pitcher. Josh Naylor is slashing just .197/.267/.329 with a 62 WRC+ and no power so far this year, which is not what fantasy gamers and Guardians fans were expecting. Naylor hit 20 home runs in 498 plate appearances with a .196 ISO and 117 WRC+ last year, which was around expectation coming into this season. On the plus side, Naylor has a good contact profile with a 10.9% barrel rate and 42.2% hard-hit, so he should come around and is cheap at $3,500/$2,700 for that level of connection. Josh Bell is a good switch-hitting first baseman who, like most of the Guardians, has not been in good form to start the year. Bell has two home runs in 105 opportunities while creating runs nine percent below average, he had a 123 WRC+ with 17 home runs in 647 plate appearances in 2022 and a 118 with 27 home runs in 568 tries the year before, he should hit and he is also cheap at $3,400/$2,800. Andres Gimenez hit 17 home runs and stole 20 bases with a 140 WRC+ in a mini-breakout last year, he has one home run and six stolen bases in a mini-disappointment to start 2023. Ultimately the infielder will be fine, but his contact profile is a concern with just a 1.4% barrel rate and 25.7% hard hits, down from a limited 6.2% and 37.6% last year. While the 2022 contact numbers were also not great, they are critical for Gimenez to distinguish himself as a producer rather than just another slap-hitting middle-infielder. He stays on the board with a tiny asterisk at just $4,200/$3,000, but we are watching. William Brennan and Myles Straw round out the lineup with mediocrity.

The Red Sox will be facing Shane Bieber, who projects as one of the better pitchers on the board at just $9,300/$9,600. Bieber has been searching for his strikeout stuff, he found it briefly against the Athletics, but who hasn’t? That second start of the season was his high point with seven strikeouts, he sat down just three Mariners the game before, then has had a run of three games with four strikeouts each against the Yankees, Nationals, and Marlins, amounting to a 17.6% rate over his 30.2 innings. Bieber had a 25% strikeout rate in 200 innings over 31 starts last year, which was down from his previous highs of 33.1% that he posted before his 2021 injury, but is still a good mark. We can probably expect an overall return to the mid-20s by the time this season is fully in the books, but the Boston lineup has not been easy to strike out this season. Bieber has otherwise pitched to relative quality, he has a 4.28 xFIP with a 3.23 ERA and just a 1.60% home run rate despite a 46.2% hard-hit and 92.5 mph of average exit velocity. A few sneaky Red Sox stacks may not be the wildest idea in the world, but the probability seems to be more with Bieber despite the early warts on his 2023. Alex Verdugo is slashing .311/.377/.466 with a 134 WRC+ over 114 plate appearances while striking out just 13.2% of the time, a slight improvement on his 13.4% rate from last year. Verdugo is a solid leadoff hitter and correlation play for MLB DFS at $4,600/$3,300, he hits in front of fellow lefty Rafael Devers. The third baseman is Boston’s best player and one of the best hitters in the league. He costs $6,200/$4,200 and has properly been kept expensive despite a .238/.282/.574 triple-slash. Bolstering his numbers, of course, is Devers’ titanic power, he has nine home runs and a gargantuan .337 ISO with a 119 WRC+ so far this year. Justin Turner has created runs 18% better than average and has struck out just 11.5% of the time. Turner has always had an excellent hit tool, he struck out at a 16.7% pace last season while hitting 13 home runs and generating a 123 WRC+ and is not done yet during his first year in Boston after a long run with the Dodgers. Masataka Yoshida has found his form a bit since we last visited him. Yoshida is now slashing .276/.371/.461 with a .184 ISO, four home runs, and a 130 WRC+, giving Boston a very good top-four if he keeps it up. Yoshida comes in at just $4,500/$3,300, which helps offset Devers asking price when stacking against Bieber. The bottom of the Red Sox lineup is lower-end, the go-to option would probably be a cheap Triston Casas for $2,200/$2,700 at first base, but he has struggled mightily this season. Casas has a .167 ISO and a 65 WRC+ over 88 plate appearances and is slashing .139/.284/.306 with three home runs and a middling contact profile. Enrique HernandezJarren DuranReese McGuire, and Emmanuel Valdez round out the projected lineup as mix-and-match pieces.

Play: Guardians stacks/bats, Shane Bieber, Red Sox stacks/bats in smaller doses, and minor shares of Pivetta are fine at low cost/ownership

Update Notes: The Guardians have Mike Zunino in the seventh spot in the lineup, the catcher adds home run upside to the lineup with an 8.04 in our home run model, he has just one in 61 plate appearances and the contact profile has not been there yet in 2023, but Zunino has two-homer upside in any given appearance. The Red Sox have Yoshida moved into the second spot in the lineup with Devers in the cleanup role in what seems like a smart swap of duties. Casas hit hitting fifth with Duran-Hernandez-McGuire-Valdez closing things.

Tampa Bay Rays (-153/4.75) @ Chicago White Sox (+140/3.86)

The Rays will visit the struggling White Sox again tonight, after pounding mercilessly on one of Chicago’s better starters last night. Tampa Bay draws another potential ace in righty Lucas Giolito tonight, but he has been simply average in early returns over his first five starts and the Rays lineup has been outstanding, making it a difficult proposition on the mound once again. Giolito has a 23.5% strikeout rate with a 4.67 xFIP and a 4.50 ERA over 28 innings this season, but he is an established talent with a good track record at this point. The righty struck out 25.4% over 161.2 innings with a 3.66 xFIP last year and he had a 27.9% mark for strikeouts over 178.2 innings with a 3.75 xFIP in 31 starts in 2021. He has allowed a 40.7% hard-hit rate this season, which aligns with the 39% from last year, as does his 88.6 mph of average exit velocity and his 3.36% home run rate, which were 88.8 mph and 3.44% last year. Most of the 4.67 xFIP to this point is probably just happenstance, Giolito seems fine which means he is probably a bit cheap, even against Tampa Bay, at $7,800/$8,800 from site to site. There is potential for risky tournament upside in this starter and, at worst, he typically pitches deep into ballgames. Giolito is facing a loaded extremely well-balanced lineup that just will not stop hitting. Everyone in the projected lineup for Tampa Bay is at least 34% better than average for run creation so far this season. Everyone. The low man is Jose Siri, who is projected to hit ninth and has made just 30 plate appearances, so the sample sizes have to be kept in mind, but Siri has been 34% better than average in the tiny sample, hitting two home runs with a .296 ISO and a 15.8% barrel rate. He is a power and speed prospect who hit seven home runs and stole 14 bases in 325 opportunities last year, and he comes very cheap and potentially unpopular at the bottom of the lineup. Siri is an interesting wraparound to Yandy Diaz at the top of the Rays’ lineup. Diaz has been scorching, he hit yet another home run and now has seven on the season with a .261 ISO and a 180 WRC+ on the back of a tremendous 14.3% barrel rate and a 58.4% hard-hit percentage. Diaz was very good last year and in 2021, he has been underrated so far in his career and is still a strong option at $4,900/$3,600 despite the outrageous start. Wander Franco is a star at $5,200/$3,700, he has four home runs, five steals, a .235 ISO, and a 156 WRC+ in 112 plate appearances. Randy Arozarena is arguably a brighter star, he costs $5,700/$4,400 for his five home runs and three steals with a .219 ISO and 67% better-than-average run creation over 111 opportunities this year. Franco and Arozarena were both great-looking options coming into the season and they are fully delivering on their promise, Franco created runs 16% better than average in 344 plate appearances in 2022, Arozarena had a 125 WRC+ with 20 home runs and 32 stolen bases, these dangerous players are just getting started in 2023. Brandon Lowe had another explosive game for MLB DFS last night, he now has seven home runs with a 167 WRC+ and a .324 ISO putting him just slightly ahead of the surprising .323 ISO carried by teammate Harold Ramirez over 72 plate appearances. Ramirez has always been a good hitter, but not that good, and particularly not that good for power. Last season he slashed .300/.343/.404 in 435 opportunities but had a .104 ISO with just six home runs. He has five long balls already this season, slashing .354/.417/.677 while creating runs 108% better than average when he gets his chances. Josh Lowe has similarly excellent production in a small sample of his own, he has created runs 85% better than average in his 73 plate appearances this year. So you say that Taylor Walls and Christian Bethancourt are the only two Rays you can afford? No problem, they’re creating runs 71% and 55% better than average with a .269 and .308 ISO in their 61 and 57 plate appearances respectively. Anyone else who lands in the Rays lineup is probably playable as well, but this version is a 1-9 option even against a good pitcher like Giolito, if they are under-owned again tonight, so much the better.

The White Sox, who have been bad, are facing Zach Eflin, who has been good. Eflin missed some time and has made just three starts and thrown 16 innings this season, but he has a strong 25.4% strikeout rate with a 3.11 xFIP and a 2.81 ERA. The righty has shown potential in his career and in the small sample he has bumped swinging strikes to a 12.1% rate and he has a 33.5% CSW% which would be excellent improvements if sustained. Eflin is interesting for MLB DFS on this slate, he has been noticed and does not come cheap at $9,000/$10,000 against the scuffling White Sox, but his projection keeps him in play even at the price and he seems less likely to be popular than some of the bigger names on the slate. Eflin is a good tournament option on both DraftKings and FanDuel. The White Sox have been baseball’s worst team that plays outside of Oakland when going by wins and losses. There is far more talent in this lineup than in that of the Athletics, however, and they remain dangerous in any given game. When all of their pieces are back in place this should be a better ballclub, and they might be interesting for tournaments tonight. Eflin is a good pitcher, not a great one, he can be gotten to by worse hitters than Luis Robert Jr.Andrew BenintendiAndrew Vaughn, and Eloy Jimenez. That group would represent the top options from the primary spots in the White Sox lineup, but they have a collective WRC+ of just 81 this season, though they did have a 123 last year as a group. Robert is projected to lead off, he has a .204 ISO and an 84 WRC+, Benintendi has not done much at the plate but he has put the ball in play and gets on base, and his 88 WRC+ should climb overall. Vaughn and Jimenez check in at 100 and 51 for run creation, Vaughn has one home run, Jimenez has two, but they are a powerful duo in the heart of the lineup and they have still hit the ball fairly hard at the outset. Robert remains expensive in this group, at least on DraftKings where he costs $5,300, he is a $3,200 outfielder on FanDuel. The other three cost $3,600/$2,800, $3,100/$2,800, and $3,500/$2,800, with the blue site seemingly pricing players in bunches this year. Yasmani Grandal is a playable catcher who is a good correlation piece with a 120 WRC+ and a .337 on-base percentage so far this year. Grandal has hit for power and gotten on base with aggressive walk rates in the past, if he is on form he is a good buy at $3,300 where catchers are needed. Jake Burger has hit for early power, leading this team with six home runs and posting a .440 ISO that defies expectation as much as it is sure to come down over time. Burger is fine to include at $3,200/$2,900, his 28.1% barrel rate and 56.3% hard-hit in the 59 plate appearances are encouraging as well. Oscar ColasElvis Andrus, and Lenyn Sosa have offered little from the bottom of the lineup.

Play: Rays stacks/bats, some Lucas Giolito, and a hopefully low-owned Zach Eflin

Update Notes: The Rays rolled out an alternate with Manny Margot hitting eighth in place of Josh Lowe, which is a bit of a ding to the bottom of this lineup. Margot is capable with the bat, he had a 106 WRC+ with four home runs and seven stolen bases in 363 plate appearances last year, but he is here more for his defense. Isaac Paredes is also in the lineup, replacing Walls, and adding another interesting power bat to the equation, despite a bit of a lack of production in that department in 88 plate appearances this year. Paredes has hit three home runs and underperformed in the batted-ball profile with just a 3.2% barrel rate and a 25.8% hard-hit, but he has a 7.99 in our home run model and should come around. The rest of the lineup is as anticipated. The White Sox have Grandal on the bench tonight with Gavin Sheets in his place hitting fifth, sheets is cheap and is slashing .289/.386/.447 with a 138 WRC+ so far this year, he has limited mid-range appeal overall, there is not much difference from Grandal to Sheets right now. The rest of the lineup is as expected.

Atlanta Braves (-133/4.04) @ New York Mets (+122/3.54)

This is another contest with rain in the forecast that seems likely to be headed for postponement, we will jump over it to gain ground in the writing and circle back if it seems likely to play. Overall, Max Fried and David Peterson would both be playable in small doses, and the Braves lineup would look better than the Mets, given Fried’s excellent ability to keep the ball in the park. The Braves would be a mid-range priority stack but not a must if the game plays.

It is looking like they will at least try to start this game, but rain is supposed to increase throughout the night, this should put a cap on expectations for starting pitchers who were already in tricky spots despite their qualities on the mound. Max Fried is very good at limiting premium contact, he has allowed just a 19.5% hard-hit rate with a 91.7 mph average exit velocity to opposing hitters in his 15-inning tiny sample this year, but was at just 31.9% hard hits over 185.1 innings last year. Fried does not rack up piles of strikeouts, but he is very likely to keep the Mets lineup in check while he is on the mound, the rain could limit any potential for MLB DFS upside for him though, at $7,700 if we think he gets five innings he can be a minor play, at $9,400 on FanDuel we just don’t see it. David Peterson has a good 25.6% strikeout rate in 25.2 innings this season, he struck out 27.8% over 105.2 innings last year and is typically not popular enough for cheap prices like tonight’s $7,200/$8,200. The Braves play into his strikeout upside, but they are deadly-good at the plate and the rain is coming. Like with Fried, if we expect five innings there is at least the idea of cheap shares of this pitcher on the two-starter site, his upside is capped on FanDuel. The Mets and Braves lineups are both capped by the opposing pitchers, the Mets in particular are not overly appealing for MLB DFS given Fried’s acumen for keeping the ball in the park. Nimmo-Marte-Lind0r-Alonso is always playable as a straight line, while mixing in McNeil and Canha to the more productive hitters. The bottom third that includes Pham-Baty-Alvarez is less appealing, though Baty got on the board for his first home run last night and could climb in this batting order in the coming days. The Braves loaded lineup is playable at any time, but not if we expect nothing to end up counting because of a rainout. The team is playable from 1-9 if going to shares aggressively, the lineup runs Acuna-Olson-Riley-Albies, cleanup Albies is a nice bump for the second baseman, he is a great play at a cheap price in stacks – Murphy-Grissom-Rosario-Pillar. The ninth spot is noteworthy, with the return of last year’s NL Rookie of the Year, Michael Harris II, who has made just 25 plate appearances this year but hit 19 home runs and stole 20 bases in 441 tries last season. Harris could be sneaky at $3,800/$2,700, he makes for the best wraparound on the board if this game happens to play in full.


Update Notes: the game is trending toward at least starting, see above.

New York Yankees (+191/2.88) @ Texas Rangers (-210/4.21)

Do you want to stack the Yankees without Aaron Judge against Jacob deGrom? Me neither. Even in a contrarian MLB DFS tournament sense, that just does not seem like a wise way to spend lineup shares tonight. deGrom is not just good, he is inarguably the best of his generation when he is healthy. The absurdly talented righty has a 42.2% strikeout rate over 26.2 innings and five starts this year. He has pitched to a 1.82 xFIP and has a 0.79 WHIP this year, all of which could be written off to small samples if they were not so damn consistent with previous efforts. In 64.1 innings and 11 starts last year, deGrom had a 42.7% strikeout rate and  1.54 xFIP with a 0.75 WHIP, in 92 innings and 15 starts in 2021 he struck out 45.1% of opposing hitters and had a 1.61 xFIP with a 0.55 WHIP. It is unfair to hitters when deGrom is on the mound, ’nuff said. The righty is very much an option, he is our highest-projected pitcher but he comes at an $11,500/$11,400 premium, which seems like a worthwhile spend. Playable Yankees for the sick in the head would include Anthony Volpe, who is overmatched facing deGrom at this point in his career, but so is everyone; Gleyber Torres, who should be hitting second or fourth, depending on how the Yankees handle him and DJ LeMahieu; and Anthony Rizzo, the left-handed first baseman. The rest of the projected lineup for the Yankees is made up of spare parts, defensive players, and guys who are on the roster seemingly as a mysterious favor.

The Rangers will be facing Clarke Schmidt, who is unlikely to win this game but has the talent to pitch his way to a quality start, were he to get enough leash from the Yankees’ frustrating manager. Schmidt comes cheap at $6,200/$6,900, he has made five starts this season but has only thrown 20 innings, he has a tendency to get pulled when he gets to the third time through the batting order or into a bit of a jam. In his last outing, Schmidt finally pitched in the sixth, after posting 3.1, 3.1, 4.0, and 3.2-inning outings. He was pulled with two outs in the inning, falling short of a quality start after striking out eight Blue Jays but allowing two home runs and three earned runs total. There is probably not enough reason to believe that he will repeat that type of performance or have enough trust to get through six full innings, but a few darts for the very low price are not entirely out of the question. Schmidt does have a 26.1% strikeout rate early this year and he had a 23.7% mark over 57.2 innings (three starts plus bullpen frames) in 2022. The Rangers bats are the more likely side of the equation though, there is plenty of run creation and power in this lineup. Marcus Semien has five home runs with a .198 ISO and a 136 WRC+ and is one of the few expensive options in this lineup, making it easy to build stacks around him. Travis Jankowski is a correlated scoring and speed option who has been hitting second in the absence of Corey Seager, he has four steals and a 147 WRC+ over 53 plate appearances and he remains very cheap at $2,800/$2,900. Nathaniel Lowe and Adolis Garcia are the team’s power core, they have three and seven home runs respectively and, if he plays, Josh Jung joins them in the heart of the order with five long balls. Jung was banged up earlier this week but is in a few projected lineups around the industry for tonight. That trio of players has a 113, 126, and 131 WRC+ over 112, 106, and 96 plate appearances respectively, this has been a very good lineup to start the season. Jonah Heim is a cheap catcher with power, he has a 13% barrel rate and a 48.1% hard-hit mark to start his season in 77 plate appearances from either side of the plate. The switch-hitter had 16 homers and a .172 ISO in 450 plate appearances last year and 10 home runs in 285 tries the year before. Ezequiel Duran has been productive from several spots in this lineup, he has one home run and two steals and has created runs 10% better than average in a small sample. Duran still might be a quad-A player in the long term, the jury has been back and forth a few times in his young career, but he has always had playable power and speed upside when available. Josh Smith and Leody Tavares round out a lineup that is primarily a 1-7 focus.

Play: all the Jacob deGrom in all the land, Rangers bats/stacks, maybe some low-owned cheap Clarke Schmidt with little faith for a QS

Update Notes: the Yankees lineup features another curveball, with no Volpe in addition to no Judge. LeMahieu is leading off ahead of Rizzo-Torres and cleanup hitter Willie Calhoun, which is exactly what Brian Cashman drew up this offseason when planning his $250 million lineup. Column favorite Kyle Higashioka will handle the catching tonight, which would normally be exciting news but he is still facing deGrom. Higashioka does have a 25% barrel rate and a 55% hard-hit rate so far in his 36 plate appearances this year and he has been an underrated option for premium contact through his young career. The 5-8 hitters run Oswald Peraza-Oswaldo Cabrera-Franchy Cordero-Aaaron Hicks, in what can only be seen as a sacrifice to the baseball gods on the altar of deGrom strikeout upside. Further boost to deGrom’s already massive potential for this one. The Rangers lineup is exactly as it was drawn up earlier.

Los Angeles Angels (+119/4.28) @ Milwaukee Brewers (-129/4.82)

The Angels lineup just feels like it should be flashing more power upside in a game against lefty Wade Miley, but the weak contact specialist and the general hitting conditions in Milwaukee this evening are not ideal for offensive production. Miley has made four starts and thrown 23 innings this year, he has a 4.58 xFIP and just an 18.7% strikeout rate, which aligns well with previous seasons. At $8,700 he seems like a bit of a stretch for quality on both sites, he is more of an innings eater and a decent real-life starter than an MLB DFS option unless pitching against a lower-end squad, even with the swing-and-miss available in the Angels lineup. At the same time, his 33.3% hard-hit rate and 86.6 mph of average exit velocity are a concern for the Los Angeles hitters. Miley has been good at limiting premium contact in an extended sample, he gave up just a 35.7% hard-hit rate with 86.7 mph of average exit velocity and a 1.86% home run rate last year in 37 innings and had a much larger sample of 163 innings over which he allowed only a 34% hard-hit rate with 85.7 mph of average exit velocity in 2021. This has a limiting effect even on hitters like Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, who sit at 8.78 and 7.77 in our home run model respectively, well below the “magic number” of 10 that only a few hitters on this slate are cracking. Of course, those stars can be played on any slate, but at $6,100/$4,300 and $6,300/$4,100, they may be a bit of a price trap in this matchup. Taylor Ward leads off for Los Angeles, he would be in play for correlated scoring but his power has already been out this season, which would be concerning against this pitcher. The same can be said for cleanup-hitting third baseman Anthony Rendon, but not for Hunter Renfroe, who has seven home runs with a .292 ISO and a 152 WRC+ this year. Renfroe has a 7.03 in our home run model and is in play as the third-best option in this lineup when going to the Angels. Brandon Drury has found his power stroke and now has five home runs and a .268 ISO with a 121 WRC+ in a quick turnaround over his 90 plate appearances this year. Luis Rengifo is another underrated option for power whose quality will probably be sapped by Miley, while Chad Wallach and Zach Neto round out the projected batting order. The Angels are a low-priority stack tonight and paying up to their stars as one-offs does not seem like a great idea against a pitcher who may give up a handful of runs while still capping big output games.

Milwaukee’s lineup looks better on the Vegas board, it is carrying a 4.82-run implied team total against lefty Tyler Anderson, despite a similar ability to induce weak contact over the past few seasons. Anderson had a terrific 28.5% hard-hit rate and just 85 mph of average exit velocity with a 1.98% home run rate allowed in 178.2 innings in 2022, pitching to a 4.11 xFIP and a 2.57 ERA. In 167 innings in 2021, he had a 4.60 xFIP and a 4.53 ERA but just a 33% hard-hit rate with 87 mph of average exit velocity. This season, Anderson has made four starts and thrown 20 innings, he has a 6.43 xFIP with a 5.43% home run rate on a 9.9% barrel despite just 86.9 mph of average exit velocity, which could just be some bad luck on his typical flyballs. This is not a go-to pitcher, but he could have a limiting effect on the Brewers, who may end up popular in the matchup tonight. Milwaukee’s hitters are playable and they are cheap on both sites, but expectations should be somewhat in check for a team with a number of players who have been well below average for run creation and power so far this year. Mike Brosseau is expected to lead off and is a platoon play against lefties who sees all of his success on this side of splits. Brosseau has three home runs and a .282 ISO to start the year over 43 plate appearances. Willy Adames is leading the team with a 7.30 home run mark in our model, he has four on the board this year with a 118 WRC+ and a .180 ISO. Christian Yelich has three homers while slashing .229/.321/.354 and creating runs 10% worse than average, but he hits everything squarely with a 56.3% hard-hit rate and should eventually round out to positive production. William Contreras is a good catcher option who could be somewhat viable as a one-off at the position in small doses across a full portfolio. He is slashing .309/.390/.412 with a 125 WRC+ but has not hit for power so far this year with just one home run despite a 47.3% hard-hit rate. Brian Anderson is a better right-handed hitter than Luke Voit, he has five home runs and Voit has zero so far this season, but Voit hit 22 while Anderson had just eight in two-thirds as many plate appearances last year. They are both affordable options from the lower-mid-range late in this lineup. Owen MillerJoey Weimer, and Blake Perkins round things out for the mid-priority stack.

Play: minor shares of Angels and Brewers bats(?) there’s not a lot to like here.

Update Notes: Gio Urshela is in for Rengifo again, which is a minor downgrade at the plate late in the lineup. This remains a weird spot for the Angels, the Brewers have Yelich leading off ahead of Adames-Contreras-Brosseau-Anderson-Voit with Rowdy Tellez sneaking into the seventh spot ahead of Miller and Weimer. Cleanup Brosseau is an interesting option, Tellez would be looking for late opportunities against righties out of the bullpen, but this version of the lineup is slightly more interesting than the projected one was, the spot is also odd for the same reason, both pitchers sap power on the mound while not being particularly good at anything else.

Philadelphia Phillies (+133/3.46) @ Houston Astros (-145/4.13)

The typically sturdy Phillies lineup is looking like one that will be kept in check by the excellent Framber Valdez tonight. Vegas has Philadelphia at just a 3.46-run implied team total against the southpaw who is excellent at limiting opposing home run upside. Valdez has made five starts and thrown 32 innings so far this season, dominating opposing hitters once again by forcing them to drive the ball into the ground with an average launch angle of -0.4 degrees. He was at -3.6 degrees last year and -5.5 the season before, resulting in a 1.33% and 2.10% home run rate despite 41.4% and 44.4% hard-hit rates those seasons. If balls are hit hard on the ground it does not have much of an impact on scoring, and it is very difficult to hit a home run without putting the ball in the air. This is why we ignore the 49.4% hard-hit rate and 92.7 mph average exit velocity he has given up this year. Valdez’s strikeouts are back so far this season as well, he has a 26% strikeout rate with an 11.6% swinging-strike rate, up from 23.5% and 11.3% last year and 21.9% with a 10.2% the year before. At $10,000/$10,500, Valdez is one of the top pitching options on tonight’s slate, he is a very good pitcher who will be dueling his equally talented opponent, righty Aaron Nola, in what looks like a pitching-focused game. Rostering Phillies could lead to a lot of disappointment tonight, Valdez is likely to keep them under wraps, even Kyle Schwarber has just a 6.06 in the home run model, although that basically doubles up everyone else on the team. Nick Castellanos has a 3.35, and Trea Turner has a 3.22. Bryson Stott is a good leadoff man, but the lefty is in a tough spot against this pitcher. J.T. Realmuto is a premium right-handed catcher bat, but his power will also be capped tonight. Alec Bohm and Brandon Marsh have had excellent seasons, Bohm is slashing .289/.355/433 with three home runs and a 117 WRC+ from the right side, and Marsh is at .338/.420/.675 with a 191 WRC+ and a massive .338 ISO with four home runs, but both players are limited against this pitcher as well. Edmundo Sosa and Christian Pache round out the lineup for Philadelphia, they are as low-priority as this stack is for MLB DFS tonight.

Aaron Nola has not been himself early this season, he has a 4.64 xFIP and a 5.40 ERA and has only struck out 18.6% of opposing hitters. The lack of strikeouts is becoming a bit of a concern, but Nola has at least been pitching deep into games, so there does not seem to be an injury concern in play. The righty threw seven innings of three-run four-hit ball against the Rockies in his last start, but he struck out only three from the lousy lineup and walked three. Nola’s fastball velocity seems to have dipped slightly, and he is throwing his cutter slightly more to compensate, which has been a mixed bag. Opposing hitters have a .500 slugging percentage against the cutter, but the pitch has a .301 xSLG and has generated a 34.3% whiff rate. In the full term, Nola should figure this out, he has more than enough track record to justify faith, in the short term, this is a dicey proposition against the loaded Astros at $9,600/$9,000. For the discount and what should be low ownership, we will take a few shots with Nola, who has been one of our more trusted starters in recent years, but one could not be blamed for running screaming from this play or rostering minor shares of Astros hitters against Nola, though the team is without Yordan Alvarez tonight, which boosts Nola’s outlook slightly. The confirmed Houston lineup starts with Mauricio Dubon who is now at .330/.355/.420 with a 118 WRC+ and two steals, Dubon has been a good correlation piece but he’s not exactly Lou Gehrig to Jose Altuve’s Wally Pipp. Jeremy Pena slots in second, with Kyle Tucker hitting third in the absence of Alvarez. Tucker is the most expensive bat, justifiably, at $5,600/$3,700 with five home runs and a .209 ISO to go with his 159 WRC+. Pena has created runs five percent better than average with a .190 ISO, four home runs, and six stolen bases. Alex Bregman and Jose Abreu slot in at a 113 and a 54 WRC+ so far this season, both are playable veteran bats at fair prices, Abreu is a bargain given his career track record at $3,500/$2,500, but neither is a great option against Nola, despite the starter’s struggles. Corey JulksJake MeyersRylan Bannon, and Martin Maldonado round out the Houston lineup with a fairly emphatic “meh,” anyone going to this team would do well to focus on the top five, with maybe some Julks mixed in. The rookie has a 107 WRC+ over 69 plate appearances.

Play: Framber Valdez, some Aaron Nola

Update Notes: Brandon Marsh takes a seat with Josh Harrison entering the Phillies lineup in the seventh spot, downgrading an already bad spot for Philly. The Astros lineup was confirmed on the first pass.

Arizona Diamondbacks (-125/5.83) @ Colorado Rockies (+115/5.29)

And then there is Coors Field. The Colorado game should be overwhelmingly popular on a slate where offensive output seems to be in somewhat short supply, with the top two implied team totals on the slate. The Diamondbacks’ frisky lineup checks in with a 5.83-run total against middling lefty Kyle Freeland, who has allowed a 5.31% home run rate and had a 5.11 xFIP this season. Freeland is not an option for MLB DFS on the mound, but the Diamondbacks bats can be played against him with fairly wreckless abandon if one chooses to ignore popularity concerns. On a slate of this size, the sheer force of combination variation makes popularity less of a concern, and the play is perfectly viable in conjunction with lower-owned secondary stacks or pitching. Ketel Marte is projected to lead off for Arizona, he has created runs exactly at league average in 99 plate appearances this year and was at 102 in 558 opportunities last season but had a 139 WRC+ over 374 tries the year before. Marte has been hitting the ball fairly hard, he has a nine percent barrel rate with a 41% hard-hit mark, two home runs, and a .183 ISO. Emmanuel Rivera slots in for $2,600/$2,400 with a 6.13 in our home run model, he hit 12 homers in 359 opportunities with a 9.3% barrel rate last year but has made just four plate appearances so far in 2023. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. costs $4,200/$3,200, despite his one home run and 83 WRC+ he is interesting because he has a 51.4% hard-hit rate for the season and has been a productive player in the past. Gurriel is a good bet to get involved in a Coors Field game, he should be justifiably very popular at his prices. Christian Walker and Evan Longoria land in the heart of the lineup as usual, looking good for power upside against the lefty. Walker has three home runs and a .159 ISO this year but mashed his way through 2022 and looks to be in a great spot to get things in gear with this weekend series. Longoria has two home runs and a .174 ISO with a 52.9% hard-hit rate in his 50 plate appearances this season, he hit 14 home runs in 298 opportunities with a .207 ISO and a 115 WRC+ last year and is not done yet. Corbin Carroll has been excellent to start the season, he should and will be highly owned even against the lefty. Carroll has four home runs and 10 stolen bases with a 151 WRC+ so far and seems likely to have a whole lot more in his ledger come Monday. Gabriel MorenoNick Ahmed, and Alek Thomas round out the projected lineup, they are all playable in a Coors Field game despite below-average run creation so far this season.

Merrill Kelly is not a bad pitcher, but rostering him in Coors Field on a slate like this seems somewhat futile. The fact that he has not been great so far this year makes it easier, the fact that his “not bad” amounts to mostly a league-average starter with flashes of slightly more over time locks in the fact that we can skip him and maybe play some Rockies bats against him. As we typically see in Coors games, it is reasonable to expect that the Rockies will be the lower-owned of these two teams, they are facing the better pitcher, they are the worse of the two lineups, and they are the home team, all of which work against them. Still, this is also a team at Coors, they have a few capable bats and a 5.29-run implied team total, and they cost less than their opponents. The Rockies lineup is confirmed with Charlie Blackmon leading off against the righty. Blackmon is slashing .276/.394/.414 with a .138 ISO and two home runs, he has been a good correlation play with his on-base percentage leading to a 115 WRC+ so far this season, though his power is mostly gone at this point. Blackmon makes sense in stacks, more so than Jurickson Profar, who is at a 59 WRC+ in 102 plate appearances, slashing .205/.287/.341 with a .136 ISO. Profar has managed three home runs but he has a 4.5% barrel rate and a 33.3% hard-hit and was not part of this team’s plans coming into the year until a late Spring panic around a few not-ready-for-primetime prospects. Kris Bryant and CJ Cron pick the quality baton back up, Profar can be played with these two and Blackmon in stacks, but otherwise, he is a lower priority than the star-caliber right-handed hitters. Bryant is slashing .312/.378/.452 with a 116 WRC+ and three homers. Cron got out to a hot start in the season’s first week and has cratered to a .221/.256/.430 but still has a .209 ISO with a 16.9% barrel rate and a 45.8% hard-hit percentage. At $4,900/$3,300 and with a dip in public faith, we should get Cron lower-owned than he should be tonight. Ryan McMahon is a strong option on the left side, he has hit four home runs with a .205 ISO but just an 85 WRC+ so far, his triple-slash does not inspire fair but his 20.4% barrel rate and 50% hard-hit mark are outstanding, and play very well against this pitcher in this ballpark. Elias Diaz is a good catcher play who is slashing .333/392/.486 with a 128 WRC+ in his 79 opportunities this year. The small sample is out of place with the last two years of production, but Diaz hit for power in 2021, posting 18 home runs in 371 opportunities, he is a moderately interesting option late in this lineup. Alan Trejo and Ezequiel Tovar occupy two of the final three spots, Tovar has done nothing this season but comes with the idea of speed, Trejo is a replacement part. The finals spot goes to Brenton Doyle, who has made 12 plate appearances in his major league career and has two stolen bases, and has made good contact in the entirely irrelevant sample. Doyle hit 23 home runs and stole 23 bases in 507 plate appearances in AA last year, adding three home runs in 41 opportunities at AAA. In 57 AAA plate appearances to start this season, he had five home runs and a stolen base with a .327 ISO and a 141 WRC+. Doyle is not a ranked prospect, but he is here instead of Elehuris Montero or Nolan Jones right now, so we take what we get and maybe score with an unexpected upside.

Play: bats and stacks, all day.

Update Notes: Arizona’s lineup is as anticipated, Colorado’s was confirmed when this was written.

Cincinnati Reds (+101/4.24) @ Oakland Athletics (-108/4.34)

The Reds’ lineup is unreliable and lousy, and they are in a gigantic ballpark in Oakland tonight, which is not ideal for hitting home runs. The team has three hitters in the projected starting lineup who have two home runs each, another three of them have hit one, and the other three have none. A go-to spot for power this is not. The team is flashing a few 8 and 9 marks in the home run model in their matchup against Drew Rucinski who the hardcore among us will remember from our KBO DFS days. Rucinski has been pitching for the NC Dinos in South Korea for the past few seasons, he is quite good in KBO terms, but whether that can translate to the Show for a now 34-year-old righty is a major question. Rucinski has not pitched in the Majors since 2018 when he saw 35.1 innings at age 29, which was his largest sample beyond a few spot starts in earlier years. Overall, Rucinski has a 4.80 xFIP and a 5.33 ERA in 54 Major League innings, and he has struck out just 17.9% of opposing hitters while walking 9.3%. He has thrown over 170 innings in each of the last four seasons as one of the Dinos’ top pitchers, posting a mid-threes xFIP and low-threes ERA with strikeout rates in the low 20% range, and he has been good at limiting power, but the KBO is somewhere between AA and AAA baseball overall, even a team like the Reds should be able to get to this starter. The highly-rated Cincinnati hitters in our home run model are Jonathan India who leads off and has one home run with a .124 ISO and a 118 WRC+ in 109 plate appearances, at 8.13; TJ Friedl, who is one of the back-to-back hitters with two homers on the board and sits at 8.37; and Spencer Steer at 9.53, the second-highest rating on the team. Steer has a .156 ISO, Friedl is at .143, and they both have been above average for run creation in the small sample. Tyler Stephenson is a cheap catcher who has no home runs but a respectable triple slash over 97 plate appearances while creating runs exactly at league average. He hit six home runs in 183 tries last year and 10 in 402 the year before, so expectations should be properly tempered. Jake Fraley leads the team at a 9.78 in the home run model, he has just one this season but hit 12 in 247 opportunities in 2022, though nothing about his contact profile the last few years has said “power hitter.” Henry RamosKevin NewmanNick Senzel, and Curt Casali round out the questionable lineup, Ramos leads that group with a 6.86 in the home run model, he has a .182 ISO with a 155 WRC+ but no home runs since his promotion 12 plate appearances ago, but this is not a hot flashy rookie prospect, Ramos is another former KBO roster member, he is 31 and has only shown moderate ability in his minor league and international career.

With Luis Cessa on the mound, the bad Athletics lineup is in one of those annoying spots where it seems like they should produce, so we get to them a little bit for MLB DFS, and then they won’t. Cessa has a hilariously bad 7.9% strikeout rate with a 5.9% swinging-strike rate in 16.2 innings which makes us wonder if we should try out for this team. The righty has a 5.83 xFIP and a 10.80 ERA with a 3.37% home run rate and 52.1% hard-hit rate so far. He has allowed an 11% barrel rate and 93.8 mph of average exit velocity to opposing hitters this season, just atrocious results across the board. Cessa was slightly better last year, he did post a 17.6% strikeout rate across 80.2 innings but still allowed a 9.3% barrel rate with 42.9% hard hits and a 4.17% home run rate while pitching to a 4.29 xFIP and 4.57 ERA. This is a side for which we don’t love either option. The Athletics lineup is loaded with lousy hitters who have overperformed their abilities and still don’t win ballgames or produce much at the plate. Against this pitcher, though, anything can happen and they have to be considered in full. Esteury Ruiz is slashing .258/.337/.312 and has created runs five percent worse than average so far, but he has stolen 10 bases in 107 plate appearances and his on-base acumen is respectable. Ruiz is a cheap $3,100/$2,900 piece of correlated scoring with a bit of individual upside. Conner Capel costs $2,100 on both sites, he has four stolen bases while slashing .288/.$344/.356 with a 106 WRC+ in 64 opportunities as one of this team’s better hitters so far. Capel is a moderately well regarded prospect and part of the youth movement in Oakland, soon to be Vegas, he can be played ahead of Brent Rooker. The slugger has made 72 plate appearances and has seven home runs with a run creation mark 105% better than average, he’s starting to make us look bad for saying that this will not last, but it will not last. Rooker costs $3,400/$3,300, he is an easy option to get to and he has a 7.11 in our home run model. Rooker has a top-notch 21.3% barrel rate and a 48.9% hard-hit rate so far this year, but we still have very little faith in the player day to day. He has to be included when stacking this team, but keep expectations in check overall. Jace Peterson has provided quality in spots throughout his career, he had eight home runs with 12 stolen bases in 328 plate appearances in 2022 and seemed to pop up with big MLB DFS days on occasion. Peterson has been bad to start this year, he is slashing .185/.289/.292 with a 73 WRC+, so naturally he is slotted into the cleanup spot in the projected Athletics lineup. Jesus Aguilar has four home runs with a .200 ISO and a 115 WRC+ this season, but his contact profile tells the truth of a flawed hitter with limited upside. Aguilar has just a 7.7% barrel rate with a 32.7% hard-hit in the small sample and was at a 6.7% barrel rate and  35.4% hard-hit over 507 opportunities, hitting 16 home runs, in 2022. Lefty Ryan Noda costs $2,200/$2,300 and he has two home runs with a 140 WRC+ in his 73 plate appearances. Catcher Shea Langeliers has hit six home runs to land second on the team behind Rooker, he has a .247 ISO and a 113 WRC+ this year and is a sneaky positional bat on DraftKings if nothing else. Tony Kemp and Kevin Smith have not been productive this year. Kemp was good in 2021 with eight home runs and eight stolen bases with a 127 WRC+ over 397 tries.

Play: Reds stacks/bats, Athletics stacks/bats both in smaller doses with limited expectations – bad teams vs bad pitchers, have a blast!

Update Notes: The Reds have Stuart Fairchild hitting eighth and Jose Barrero ninth, Fairchild is an interesting hitter who can barrel a ball but has not done much in 40 plate appearances this season. He hit five home runs in 110 opportunities with a .216 ISO and a 121 WRC+ last year, this year he has one home run with a .162 ISO but a good 12% barrel rate at $2,200/$2,400. Fairchild is not out of play if going to Reds bats, minor bump to the bottom of their lineup. The Athletics are shaking things up, leading off with Ruiz then Noda and Rooker, with Langeliers in the cleanup spot – bump to the catcher – followed by Capel, Jordan Diaz, Peterson, Smith, and Kemp. Langeliers is more interesting from higher in the lineup for certain, and Diaz is a cheap mid-range young hitter. We’re going to call this a minor upgrade to a bad lineup that we didn’t want but sort of do, in a good spot in a bad ballpark. Unwind that recommendation. Baseball!

St. Louis Cardinals (+119/4.05) @ Los Angeles Dodgers (-129/4.55)

The visiting Cardinals are carrying a low 4.05-run implied team total in Los Angeles tonight, but they are flashing for upside in our Power Index, in relative terms with a league-wide power outage tonight. St. Louis’ placement at the top of the board has far more to do with the team’s above-average quality from top to bottom in their projected lineup than it does the quality of their matchup against the talented Dustin May. The Dodgers’ right-hander has seen mixed results over his first five starts of the season, over which he has thrown 29.1 innings with a 3.07 ERA. The surface results for runs are fine, but under the waves is an uglier 4.89 xFIP with just a 16.7% strikeout rate, which does not jibe with the version of this pitcher we have seen in the past. May had a 22.8% strikeout rate in 30 innings last year and a 37.6% rate over 23 innings in five starts in 2021. The righty has gone through a long run of absences and may be pitching in an overall diminished form, which the pitcher seemed to cop to in a recent interview. May has said he has not been executing his pitches in quite the right way on the mound, which has led to his swinging-strike rate being nearly halved year-over-year. In a similar 30-inning sample from last year, May had a 12.9% swinging-strike rate, the season before it was 14.1% in 23 innings. This year that number has plummeted to 6.8% with a 23.4% CSW that is down more than five points from last year and more than 10 from 2021. This version of May is yielding too much contact, but hitters have not fully capitalized on it to this point, the righty has allowed just a 0.88% home run rate, which represents just one home run allowed in 29.1 innings. May did have a bit of a get-right outing in his last start, striking out six Cubs hitters but walking three in 5.1 innings, he may be coming around somewhat, but this is an interesting spot to look at the talented Cardinals lineup with the expectation that they might not be one of the most popular stacks of the night. Anyone who reads this site regularly can probably cite the Cardinals’ qualities from memory at this point, but the team is truly playable from top to bottom in almost any of its configurations. Tonight’s projected lineup opens with Lars Nootbaar, a good young left-handed hitter with power. Nootbaar has two home runs in 53 plate appearances, slashing .244/.415/.415 with a .171 ISO and a 133 WRC+ over the first 53 plate appearances of his season, he missed time out of the gate after an injury late in Spring Training but has so far delivered on the promise of his strong contact abilities. Nootbaar has a 10.7% barrel rate to this point, over a sample of 347 plate appearances last year he was at a 12.1% barrel rate with a 46% hard-hit percentage that amounted to 14 home runs and a .221 ISO. Nootbaar is inexpensive at $4,300/$3,500, he should be rostered in Cardinals stacks fairly aggressively from the top of the lineup and he is playable in any position in the batting order. Paul Goldschmidt had one big night already this week and he is leading the team with a 10.21 in the home run model tonight. Goldschmidt is now slashing .302/.407/.510 with a .208 ISO while creating runs 57% better than average in his 113 plate appearances. The first baseman has hit four home runs with two stolen bases, he hit 35 homers and had seven steals last year, and his contact profile has been as sturdy as ever to this point in 2023. Second baseman Nolan Gorman has a fantastic 17.5% barrel rate, the highest on a team full of high marks in the category, and a 54.4% hard-hit rate over his 95 plate appearances this season. He has hit six home runs and is slashing .289/.368/.566 with a .277 ISO while creating runs 53% better than average. The young power hitter mashed 14 home runs with a .194 ISO after his call up last season, he is a fully-formed masher of baseballs who is far too cheap at $4,200/$3,500. Nolan Arenado has been doing this for a long time, there are still no concerns about a somewhat slow start that has the third baseman at just .257/.303/.347 with a .089 ISO and an 80 WRC+. Arenado has barreled just 3.8% of his batted ball events and he has only a 34.6% hard-hit rate so far this season, when he gets in gear this offense will ascend to an even higher level. Arenado is still expensive on DraftKings at $5,300, the site has correctly kept him at a fairly high price on the back of his long track record of excellence, just last year he hit 30 home runs and created runs 51% better than average with a .241 ISO, for example. On FanDuel, one could add Arenado to their lineup for $3,000 at third base, which is the same salary they are asking for Elehuris Montero, who is in AAA, and $300 less than Josh Jung, who is injured. Arenado is a bargain on the FanDuel slate, he should be included in Cardinals stacks and is a viable one-off at the discount. Catcher Willson Contreras has a 12.7% barrel rate and a 50.8% hard-hit, improving on the 10.9% and 47.9% that he posted last year in early returns. The backstop is an established veteran bat who is one of the best hitters in the league at his position, he is always in play for shares where catchers are necessary, and he is one of the few who can be fully trusted for regular use as if he was a position player in this lineup on FanDuel. Contreras has created runs 26% better than average over his 92 plate appearances this year with a pair of home runs and a .370 on-base percentage that helps him correlate with others in stacks. Alec Burleson has a 6.50 in the home run model, trailing Paul DeJong at 6.92 for the lead in the bottom half of the Cardinals lineup tonight. Burleson hits from the left side and had three home runs on the board with a .208 ISO in his 81 opportunities this year, DeJong has two already in just 17 plate appearances since rejoining the team a week ago. The shortstop is very cheap at $2,200/$2,900, in his last fully relevant action, DeJong hit 19 home runs in 402 plate appearances in 2021, but that was while slashing .197/284/.390 with an 86 WRC+, so buyer beware. Dylan Carlson and Tommy Edman round out the projected lineup with quality, Edman has four home runs on the board in 91 plate appearances, adding three stolen bases, and he is getting on at a .367 clip so far this year, which makes him a very playable wraparound piece for MLB DFS on most nights. Carlson has made 52 plate appearances and not hit for much power, he hit 18 home runs across 619 plate appearances in 2021 and another eight in 488 opportunities last year, but he is just a mix-and-match piece on most nights.

St. Louis starter Jack Flaherty struck out nine Mariners on the road over six innings in his last start, which was an encouraging sign for a pitcher who had been bumping along trying to find his form early in the year. Flaherty has now made five starts this season, posting a 23.2% strikeout rate and an unsustainable 17% walk rate. He has a 5.20 xFIP but a 3.29 ERA for the year with a 1.35 WHIP and just a 27.6% CSW%. This will be a big test for the starter’s quality, he is coming back from a major injury that cost him most of 2021 and 2022, Flaherty made just eight starts last year, pitching to a 19.8% strikeout rate and a 4.93 xFIP, if he can find the form from his last outing he could be a bargain at $8,200/$8,400, but the Dodgers are a stiff opponent and the odds seem more in their favor. Flaherty darts can be thrown with low expectations, but taking hedge shares of Dodgers bats for each dart thrown in other lineups is probably a good idea. Mookie Betts leads off for this team, with most of the parts back from their paternity leaves. Betts is slashing just .233/.349/.411 but has a 114 WRC+ with three home runs and he will be completely fine soon enough. For now, he is somewhat cheap-for-him at $5,400/$3,600. Freddie Freeman is just always so excellent that, despite the fact that he is slashing .287/.371/.455 with four home runs and a 130 WRC+, we can say he has underperformed somewhat significantly. The star first baseman costs $5,100/$3,500, he is too cheap. Freeman slashed .325/.407/.511 with a 157 WRC+ and 21 home runs, adding 13 stolen bases in his debut in Los Angeles last year, he hit 31 homers and stole eight bases in his swansong in Atlanta in 2021. Max Muncy is back in the lineup and should be back to obliterating baseballs in short order. He has 11 home runs and a ridiculous .465 ISO over 90 plate appearances, creating runs 95% better than average. James Outman and Jason Heyward continue the run of lefties with outfielders on different ends of their careers. Outman is having a great start to his with seven early home runs in just 98 plate appearances, Heyward surprised early in what may be his final act, putting three home runs up in his part-time role with these Dodgers so far. Outman is too cheap at $4,100/$3,500 but he seems destined for popularity, particularly at the low DraftKings price. Heyward is cheap for a player who has a 13.2% barrel rate and a 60.5% hard-hit rate in 56 plate appearances, though he is slashing just .191/.291/.404. Miguel Vargas has not done much at the plate and the final three projected hitters have done less, they are David PeraltaMichael Busch, and Austin Barnes, who would all be mix-and-match pieces in this version of the Dodgers’ lineup.

Play: Cardinals bats/stacks, Dodgers 1-5 bats/stacks (if the lineup is confirmed as expected), minor shares of May and Flaherty for tournament differentiation on a big slate with low expectations.

Update Notes: an updated version of the unconfirmed Dodgers lineup adds catcher Will Smith, which would put a great positional bat on the board and be a bump to Los Angeles’ upside. Smith is a masher at his position.

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