DOMINATE today’s DraftKings and FanDuel MLB GPP contests with these pitchers, stacks and one-off players!
Make sure you tune into the Core 4 Livestream at 5pm eastern for the latest news and thoughts leading up to lock!
Tier 1: The Core Pitchers (these are pitchers who will be in majority of my lineups)
- Aaron Sanchez – Early-on in Aaron Sanchez’s career, he was forcing ground ball rates of 54-percent and above, which led to a career-best 4.22 xERA in 2016. Since that time, the GB rate had been depreciating, all the way down to 46.9-percent in 2019. However, Sanchez has resurfaced with the Giants, which is a great setup for any pitcher, and he has once again induced ground balls at an elite rate to start the year (55.6-percent). Strangely, he appears to be a different pitcher than before, as he is relying more heavily on his breaking ball (32-percent curveball rate) than ever before but throwing his sinker at around the same rate as three-to-four years ago. Thus far, his curveball has an xBA of .218, xSLG of .190 and xSLG of .299, which would be his best numbers since his breakout 2016 season. Whatever Sanchez has done mechanically over the course of the past few years to get him from his 2019 version to the current version appears to be working, and the Marlins rank just 24th in wOBA against RHP (to go along with a 25.4-percent K rate and near league-worst wRC+). Consider him the top pitching play of the slate.
Tier 2: Not Quite Core Pitchers
- Walker Buehler – To begin the year, Walker Buehler’s velocity has been down to its lowest level since he joined the MLB, but it does appear to be slowly creeping back up. Oftentimes, pitchers take a while to get in “mid-season form,” so there is no reason to be overly concerned. Nevertheless, the velocity drop has led to a steep drop in K rate (17.1-percent versus 28.6-percent in 2020) and also a steep increase in barrel rate. Basically, if rostering Buehler, you would need to speculate that the velocity will continue to rise and, as it does, the skills normalize to career levels. Since that is not a given, and Buehler has not struck out any more than four in any start to this point, he simply cannot be included in tier one.
- Nick Pivetta – The Red Sox opened as -163 favorites, and that number has only crept up throughout the morning, which makes Pivetta the largest favorite not named Buehler. That being said, Pivetta’s matchup is tough given his career reverse-splits, as the Mariners should roll out a lineup with seven righties. This year alone, opposing right-handed hitters (RHHs) have posted a .398 xwOBA against Pivetta, and if you include the 2020 sample, then the number still sits at .356. Still, the reason to like Pivetta is because of the strikeout potential against an offense that has struck out at a 26.5-percent rate in the split to this point. Also, they rank as a league-average offense against righties in most statistical categories, but that was before Kyle Lewis returned (who will make his season debut tonight). While there is certainly double-digit strikeout upside, there is still significant downside.
- Alex Cobb – Targeting Alex Cobb versus an offense that almost never strikes out seems strange, but DFSers will have to resort to extreme measures on a slate lacking quality pitching options. The reason for the Cobb love is due to his recent commitment to the split-finger, which he is now throwing at by far the highest rate of his career. To be fair, he only developed the pitch in 2017, and the percent usage has been ticking up since that time (all the way up to 45.4-percent this year). Manager Joe Maddon was raving about his splitter after his last outing and understandably so: 5.2 IP, five baserunners, three earned runs (ERs) and a whopping 10 Ks. In fact, Cobb has struck out 17 batters in two starts, and his success will hinge on how well the split-finger is working. If he gets a feel for it early tonight, it could be a successful outing. But if last season is any indication, beatdowns could occur when that pitch is not breaking as much as he would like.
Tier 3: Mass-Multi Entry Pitchers
- Joey Lucchesi – Dominates lefties, but unfortunately, the Cubs will run out a mostly right-handed lineup in Wrigley Field with the wind blowing slightly (7.0 mph) out to right.
- Trevor Williams – Strikeout stuff is up slightly to begin the year, but so is the BB rate (10.6-percent), hard hit rate (38.6-percent) and line drive rate (23.8-percent). Only two teams have struck out at a lower rate against RHP than the Mets, so there is not a ton of upside to the matchup outside of an outlier shutout type outing.
- Daniel Castano – Likely does not exceed 85-pitches, which limits his upside, but he registered 10 ground ball outs in his last meeting against the Giants. As always, facing the same opponent in back-to-back starts is always a risky proposition, as the offense has seen the full arsenal recently.
- Ryan Weathers – Facing the Dodgers is never ideal, and he topped out at 79-pitches (3.2 IP) his last time out but is essentially free on FD (and the Dodgers run total has dropped nearly half a run since the open).
Tier 1: The Core Stacks
- Boston Red Sox – Probable starter Justin Dunn owns an xERA of almost exactly 6.00 since the start of 2020 (12 start sample), and that is largely due to his insane BB rates. After walking 15.7-percent of the hitters he faced a season ago, his BB rate sits at 23.8-percent in the early going of 2021. Somehow, someway his ERA only sits at 3.72, and that is because opposing hitters have produced just a .095 BABIP against him, which means regression is coming hard for Dunn soon. When it does, Dunn will implode, and the implosion is more likely to be fueled by lefty power bats. Essentially, Alex Verdugo and Rafael Devers are the cream of the crop from this Red Sox stack, given the fact that lefties have posted a .362 wOBA against Dunn for his career. Amazingly, they have done so while hitting just .178 but own a .390 OBP (because of the awful control). All it will take against Dunn is one rally to blow this game (and slate) wide open, which makes this team a scary fade in all formats.
- Chicago Cubs – Yesterday, the Cubs were aided by four Mets errors but finished the game with 16 runs on 13 hits. Notably, six of those runs came off left-handed starter David Peterson even though he was coming off arguably the best start of his young career. What does this mean? Well, the Cubs are a team that excels in the split against LHP, and it showed once again yesterday. For the season, the Cubs rank ninth in wOBA, 11th in wRC+ and second in ISO versus southpaws, which personifies the legitimate upside for the team once again tonight against Joey Lucchesi. The Mets lefty has always relied heavily on his changeup, and names like Javier Baez and Willson Contreras own .377-plus xwOBAs against the pitch type dating back to last year. By comparison, the league average against the pitch is .303 during the same span, so these two stand out from the pack. Furthermore, it would be difficult to have watched the Mets defensively yesterday and have any faith in that unit, so the defense certainly could lend the Cubs a run or two along the way. With the other side of this game likely to be more popular, the Cubs pack a ton of punch for an overlooked team.
Tier 2: The Not Quite Core Stacks
- Seattle Mariners – Looking for a perfect pivot off a tier-one offense? Look no further than the Mariners facing one of the chalkiest pitchers of the slate. As noted in the pitching section, Pivetta is a career reverse-splits pitcher, with righties sporting a .368 wOBA against him since the start of 2019 (highest of any active Red Sox pitcher not named Colten Brewer). Power hitter Kyle Lewis will return to the middle of the lineup for the Mariners tonight, which gives them six righties in the lineup versus Pivetta. Mitch Haniger, Ty France and Lewis will likely hit 1-2-3 in this lineup, and Haniger/France have each started the year with a .392-plus wOBA and 160-plus wRC+ against RHP thus far. In other words, this is a sneaky strong matchup for the top of this lineup, and they are the side that should go mostly unnoticed.
- San Francisco Giants – Wilmer Flores is hitting just .200 to start the year, and his struggles are part of the reason the Giants only rank 18th in wOBA versus LHP so far. They almost never strike out and have still put their power on display (.207) in the split, so something has got to give against Daniel Castano and his single-digit K rate since the start of last year (including zero strikeouts in his first start this season). In the minors, Castano posted ground ball rates up into the high-60s, but that number dropped drastically in 2019 at the Double-A level (which was the highest minor league level he reached before playing in the MLB). Since that time, Castano has relied heavily on contact to register outs and has not been anywhere near as ground-ball dependent. Tonight will mark the second straight start in which he is facing this potent Giants team in the split, and eventually, the contact will lead to production against him. Given his SIERA sits at 6.54 this year versus a 1.80 ERA, it is likely the regression starts sooner rather than later.
- New York Mets – Trevor Williams is not exactly synonymous with dominance, and the home plate umpire for tonight will favor the hitters. Of course, that will benefit the Mets as well as the Cubs, and the Mets are the -116 favorites here. Unlike some of the other pitchers discussed, Williams has been a bit unlucky this season, with a career-worst .364 BABIP against to this point despite a 57.1-percent GB rate. Williams control looks iffy to start the 2021 campaign, but otherwise, most of his numbers look respectable (including a 4.5-percent barrel rate and 3.94 SIERA). Lefties have had their way with him this year, although he is closer to a league-average pitcher in the split for his career. If there is something to that, then this lefty-heavy Mets lineup certainly could make him pay given names like Brandon Nimmo, Francisco Lindor, Michael Conforto and Dominic Smith hitting towards the top. Behind the starter Williams, the Cubs bullpen is nothing more than average, so it is not like the Mets should be expected to stop scoring once the starter leaves. If not for a bunch of other strong stack options on this slate, the Mets would rate higher.
- Los Angeles Dodgers – The implied run total for the Dodgers has dropped nearly half a run since the open, but Ryan Weathers is not likely to pitch deep into this game. In his one start this year, Weathers lasted 79-pitches, and his previous three outings had come out of the bullpen (and topped out at 38-pitches). Before long, the Dodgers should get to the Padres bullpen, which is not necessarily a good thing; they rank first amongst all teams in bullpen SIERA. Only the Red Sox and Reds rank ahead of the Dodgers in overall wOBA this year, so rostering the team is a bet on their overall potency regardless of opponent. Corey Seager looks like he could be amidst an MVP campaign, and the top of the lineup around him is loaded as well, so it is tough to make a truly compelling case against this team.
Tier 3: Mass-Multi Entry Stacks
- Houston Astros – Lineup is getting healthier, but Alex Cobb’s split-finger looks like it is for real, and this team is expected to be popular.
- San Diego Padres – While Walker Buehler’s velocity remains down, maybe he really is vulnerable?
- Los Angeles Angels – Lefties are typically the preferred option against Cristian Javier, but Mike Trout is surely up to the task, as well.
Top Players By Position
- Willson Contreras
- Buster Posey
- Will Smith/Christian Vazquez
- Dominic Smith
- Jared Walsh
- Anthony Rizzo/Evan White
- Ty France
- David Bote
- Wilmer Flores
- Kris Bryant
- Rafael Devers
- Evan Longoria
- Javier Baez
- Francisco Lindor
- Xander Bogaerts
- Mike Trout
- Shohei Ohtani
- Alex Verdugo
- Kyle Lewis
- Michael Conforto
- J.D. Martinez
- Mitch Haniger
- Brandon Nimmo
- Austin Slater
- Yordan Alvarez
Highest Scoring Hitter
Highest Scoring Pitcher
Highest Owned Pitcher by Me
Biggest Bust Hitter
Biggest Bust Pitcher
Top Value Play
Hit me up on Twitter @RSandersDFS or visit the MLB Chat Room with any lineup questions!