My favorite pitchers, stacks and individual hitters on tonight’s DFS slate!
This article will have three parts:
1) Pitching Breakdown
2) Stack Breakdown
3) Favorite Hitters by Position and then some Hot Takes at the bottom.
Tier 1: The Core Pitchers (these are the pitchers that will be in a majority of my lineups)
- Gerrit Cole – Coming off a 13 K performance to start his 2020 playoff run, Gerrit Cole is once again the cream of the crop on Monday. The Rays 3.2-run implied total is by far the lowest of the slate and they are a team whose active hitters struck out at a whopping 26.4-percent rate versus right-handed pitching (RHP) this year. By comparison, only the Tigers active hitters at the end of the year had struck out at a higher rate in the split, so the upside is sky high for Cole in this spot…especially considering the positive park shift. When rostering Cole, the concern is always the propensity to allow the long ball, and everyone and their mother knows the outrageous batter versus pitcher (BvP) data Ji-Man Choi owns against Cole. Even so (.529 AVG, three HR in 17 ABs), his statcast numbers versus Cole are good (.372 xwOBA) but not great (.254 xBA), so one opposing hitter’s solid track record should not scare fantasy players away from Cole. Cole has the clearest path to double-digit strikeouts and has the longest leash of any pitcher on the slate as well. If mass multi-entering (MME) contests, fading him in some makes sense for potential leverage on the field, but it would take an epic fail for him not to be amongst the highest scoring pitchers on a two-game slate.
- Blake Snell – The matchup is significantly more difficult for Blake Snell than for Cole but he is still the clear second option. Not only has he struck out exactly nine hitters in back-to-back starts, but he has also lasted exactly 5.2 innings in each of those starts as well. It was a little disheartening to see him only last 82-pitches versus the Jays after topping the 100-pitch plateau in two of his previous three starts but the results were still tough to argue with. A fully healthy Yankees lineup features a scary number of powerful righties but it should be noted their active hitters struggled in the split during the regular season. There was not much of a sample size from Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge so the results can be taken with a grain of salt but the 22.7-percent K rate was essentially league-average and 19.5-percent team line drive rate ranked in the bottom 10. Targeting the Yankees with a lefty rarely feels optimal but Snell has historically pitched well at home (.294 wOBA allowed this year, .271 for his career) and his threat for a quick hook is significantly less than the next two pitchers. By default, he has to find himself in tier one as the logical alternative to Cole, albeit a much riskier alternative.
Tier 2: Not Quite Core Pitchers
- Lance McCullers Jr. – RHP with dominant breaking balls have given the Athletics fits this season but the pitch count is extremely uncertain for Lance McCullers Jr. Not only has McCullers Jr. not pitched since Sep. 26 but he only threw 61-pitches in that outing. He has all the feels of a pitcher that could get yanked at the first sign of the trouble and Manager Dusty Baker could just figure it out after that. However, if the danger does not come early, there is also massive potential upside in this spot for a pitcher that struck out 33.7-percent of opposing hitters over his final 23.2 IP. What changed for McCullers? Well, he dropped throwing a subpar changeup so much, and once again reverted back to using his curveball at an extremely high rate. McCullers will have to pound the zone to have success considering the Athletics monstrous 11.2-percent BB rate versus RHP so, as you can tell, there are lots of outs for McCullers to struggle. In playoff DFS contests, where the top pitchers could reach 80-percent ownership, everyone knows the risks of dipping down into the cheaper pitching tiers. One positive here is the fact that the Astros bullpen is subpar but some of their late season starters could pitch in long relief if McCullers Jr. truly does struggle. There are quite obviously a wide range of potential outcomes here so embrace the variance if feeling lucky.
Tier 3: Mass-Multi Entry Pitchers
- Chris Bassitt – Compared to other pitchers on this slate, Chris Bassitt misses bats at a low rate (lowest K rate in the split to RHHs) and he relies heavily on fly ball outs. Upside is tough to come by versus an Astros squad that strikes out at just a 19.7-percent rate in the split versus RHP and the names that increased that K rate during the year likely will not make the lineup. Bassitt has struck out lefties at a higher rate than righties but as few as two lefties may make the lineup and neither struck out at over a 21.3-percent rate in the split this year. In fact, Michael Brantley’s 13.6-percent K rate was second lowest on the team, so it is unclear where the potential upside would come from in this matchup outside of simply preventing runs. Bassitt lasted 7.0 innings in his first playoff start, so the team has shown a willingness to let him stay in a game if rolling, and it should be noted the Astros’ 3.9 implied run total is second lowest on the slate. If wanting to load up on expensive bats, Bassitt is not the craziest idea in the world, especially if trying to leverage the Snell fade by rostering Yankees.
Tier 1: The Core Stacks
- New York Yankees – With both Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge back, this lineup is a force to be reckoned with against LHP. Dating back to the start of last season, Aaron Judge and D.J. LeMahieu each own wOBAs in the .440s against the handedness and Giancarlo Stanton sits firmly in third on the team at .374. Beyond those three, Gleyber Torres, Luke Voit and even Clint Frazier have posted ISOs over .230 in the split, and all of them are finally all healthy at the same time. Snell has struggled with his control in the split against RHHs (double-digit BB rate) which means rallies are certainly possible against him. Snell rarely pitches much deeper than 5.0 innings, and the bullpen behind him is both solid and mostly right-handed, so it may not make sense to go crazy with any single stack on a two-game slate. Having said that, the talent of this lineup alone suggests they should be stacked against most lefties, and Snell allowed a 1.73-plus HR/9 rate to both sides of the plate this year. Basically, the Yankees are on red-alert to hit multiple homers, and it is tough to make that statement about any single other lineup on this slate. The power potential alone makes the Yankees the top stack of the slate and it should be noted they just hit quite well against an Indians starting staff that is one of the best in the league.
Tier 2: The Not Quite Core Stacks
- Oakland Athletics – The correlation that stands out as a huge positive for the Athletics is their massive BB rate in the split versus RHP. Although McCullers’ BB rate is down this year, it is still hovering around 9.0-percent (8.8), and his 10.3-percent barrel rate allowed this year was by far the highest of his career. Down the stretch, McCullers did improve upon his K rate, but still walked hitters at his typical, uncomfortably high rate. If McCullers were to struggle, Josh James and Cristian Javier will handle the long relief responsibilities, so basically a right-hander should be pitching until at least the sixth inning or so almost regardless. Consequently, the lefties are all excellent plays, beginning with Tommy La Stella and Matt Olson who will each hit in the top five of the lineup. Olson has been slumping a bit as of late, having failed to register a hit in 13 straight ABs. When he snaps out of it, he clearly possesses the ability to hit the ball out of the yard, although his numbers against right-handed curves this year were rather average (.313 xwOBA). The players with the massive numbers against right-handed curves this season were Sean Murphy, Stephen Piscotty, Chad Pinder and Tommy La Stella, although those are only extremely relevant as long as McCullers remains in the ballgame. It should be noted McCullers has been a reverse-splits pitcher in recent memory and that bodes well for the likes of Marcus Semien, Mark Canha and Murphy as well. Murphy pops in terms of both pitch correlation and splits correlation so he specifically needs to be started with confidence.
- Houston Astros – In his first postseason game of 2020, Athletics probable starter Bassitt threw a nice outing versus the White Sox, and he now has allowed one earned run (ER) or less in five straight starts. In his last start versus the Astros, which started this recent five game dominant stretch, Bassitt overcame seven scattered hits in seven innings en route to a scoreless gem. Pitching to contact is a scary proposition versus an Astros squad that is now fully healthy and rarely strikes out. The lefties are especially interesting considering Bassitt’s 1.57 HR/9 rate, 4.67 FIP and 44.2-percent fly ball rate allowed in the split since the beginning of 2019. Comparatively to all the other studs on the slate, Bassitt’s 36.3-percent hard hit rate allowed to RHHs dating back a year-plus also ranks worst on the slate, so working in the likes of Alex Bregman, George Springer, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel obviously makes sense in Astros stacks as well. Following a few days of the rest, the entire Athletics bullpen is rested, but Yusmeiro Petit and Frankie Montas are the likely long relievers if something horrible goes wrong with Bassitt. Basically, Kyle Tucker and Michael Brantley should enjoy the platoon edge for at least the first three quarters of the game under almost any circumstance, so they are the safest plays on the team.
Tier 3: Mass-Multi Entry Stacks
- Tampa Bay Rays – Do not get wrong here, there are a few Rays hitters that are viable options to play in the same lineup with Gerrit Cole if only due to his struggles with the long ball. Nevertheless, this section covers full stacks, and the probability still remains low that the full Rays stack wins the slate (as opposed just a mini-stack). Ji-Man Choi is the one with insane numbers in a small sample versus Cole but, as noted above, the sample is a bit noisy and he has not been quite as dominant against Cole as the surface numbers say. Other than Choi, Hunter Renfroe is the only other hitter on the squad that has posted an above-average xwOBA in his career meetings versus Cole, but it is really lefties that should be targeted against him. Since the beginning of 2019, Cole has yielded a hefty 1.67 HR/9 rate to LHHs and a massive 48.5-percent fly ball rate. Austin Meadows may return to the lineup to begin this series and Brandon Lowe has been one of the league’s top breakout hitters and those would be the two main targets after Choi. If looking for a potential under-the-radar gem, Kevin Kiermaier has produced a 94mph average exit velocity in 19 career ABs versus Cole, and no one ever plays him.
Top Players By Position
- Sean Murphy
- Kyle Higashioka
- Luke Voit
- Yuli Gurriel
- Ji-Man Choi
- D.J. LeMahieu (FD)
- Tommy La Stella (DK)
- Brandon Lowe
- D.J. LeMahieu (DK)
- Tommy La Stella (FD)
- Jake Lamb/Alex Bregman
- Marcus Semien
- Gleyber Torres
- Carlos Correa
- Giancarlo Stanton
- Michael Brantley
- Aaron Judge
- George Springer
- Mark Canha
- Kyle Tucker
- Aaron Hicks
- Austin Meadows
- Kevin Kiermaier
Highest Scoring Hitter: D.J. LeMahieu
Highest Scoring Pitcher: Gerrit Cole
Biggest Bust Hitter: Yoshi Tsutsugo
Biggest Bust Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr.
Top Value Plays: Ji-Man Choi/Jake Lamb/Sean Murphy
Slate Edge: Sean Murphy (FD where he will not be chalk)/Michael Brantley (both sites)