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)
- Lucas Giolito – Remember the back-to-back games with 13-plus Ks from Lucas Giolito that began with the start on Aug. 20 versus the Tigers? Well, Giolito gets to face that very team once again tonight that has struck out at a league-worst 28.3-percent against right-handed pitching (RHP) so the K potential for Giolito is yet again through the roof. The Tigers’ 2.9-run implied total is the lowest on the slate and their 6.6-percent BB rate in the split it the lowest of any team as well. Dating back to last season, Giolito has been absolutely lights out versus left-handed hitters (LHHs), holding them to a measly .244 wOBA, .175/.244/.319 slash line, 30.0-percent hard hit rate and 3.16 FIP while striking them out at a 32.7-percent clip. The Tigers projected lineup starts with three lefties in their first five hitters and the sky is the ceiling tonight for Giolito. Some targeting aces may go all the way up to the dominant Bieber on this slate but, since Giolito is in such a fantastic spot, spending up beyond him is simply not necessary.
- Brandon Woodruff – If needing more salary relief than Giolito offers, especially on FanDuel, Brandon Woodruff is the logical alternative. Heading into tonight, Woodruff is coming off back-to-back iffy starts against the Pirates and Indians which obviously is not overly encouraging. In his last start, the velocity was slightly down, which is something to watch for, but it also could be nothing considering he still struck out seven of the 20 batters he faced in that start (35-percent K rate). Despite his struggles this year, Woodruff’s SIERA (3.76) is identical to his career number and he is allowing less hard contact than ever. He has been slightly unlucky in the home run department but his K rate (28.8-percent) remains strong. Dating back to the start of last season, Woodruff has struggled a bit against LHHs (.315 wOBA allowed), but this year specifically he has held them to a .293 wOBA and 17.9-percent line drive rate. The Cubs will likely load their lineup with lefties but, other than the occasional homer, they have not given Woodruff a ton of trouble this year. There is enough strikeout upside at $7,600 on FD and $8,500 on DK to warrant playing him in all formats
Tier 2: Not Quite Core Pitchers
- Shane Bieber – Look, Shane Bieber has arguably been the most dominant pitcher in the league to this point, as he leads the league in K rate, SIERA, FIP and xFIP. The only issues with playing him tonight are the fact that he is priced as the most expensive pitcher on both sites and the Twins, even with their injury issues, still rank in the top 10 of wOBA, wRC+ and ISO against RHP. Having said that, they also strike out at the eighth highest rate in the split, so it is not like Bieber does not come equipped with his usual massive ceiling. Affording him means giving up an additional bat beyond what Giolito offers and that may prove to be an issue on this slate.
- Yusei Kikuchi – Active Diamondbacks hitters cumulatively rank dead last in wOBA, wRC+ and ISO against left-handed pitching (LHP) this season and Kikuchi has looked like a new man in 2020. While his ERA still sits above 5.00, his FIP and xFIP are both under 3.10 and he has drastically cut down on his homers allowed comparatively to his rookie season. The most important improvement has been in his K rate that is up to 27.4-percent this year after just 16.1-percent in 2019. The huge increase in velocity has been the reason for this jump and, this year specifically, his underlying numbers have looked solid versus both sides of the plate. Moving to Chase Field constitutes a negative park shift for Kikuchi but he is still an amazing contrarian option on FD at his mid-tier price point. On DK, Kikuchi is a building block, as he is the clear cash game SP2 option to complement with Giolito. Even in tournaments, Kikuchi has displayed recently that he has enough K upside if running pure that he can meet value at even a $7,900 cost on FD.
- Mike Fiers – Throughout the course of his career, Mike Fiers has produced reverse splits and this is a largely left-handed Rangers offense. By the way, this Rangers offense has struggled to hit all year long, ranking second to last in wOBA and wRC+ against RHP. He is not as talented as Kikuchi but has already has three quality starts in the book this year including one with seven strikeouts in his last matchup versus the Rangers.
- Kenta Maeda – No pitcher has held opponents to a lower hard hit rate than Kenta Maeda and the Indians have quietly produced just the ninth lowest wOBA of any team over the course of the past two weeks. Having left Coach Dave Roberts, Maeda now habitually pitches deeper into games, and he has struck out seven-plus batters in four straight starts.
Tier 3: Mass-Multi Entry Pitchers
- Luis Castillo – Not having anywhere near the season he had last year but the Cardinals are one of the worst teams at hitting the changeup so strikeout potential is sneaky good in this spot.
- Kris Bubic – Pirates prefer the split against LHP but that does not mean they are an upper-echelon offense in the split: .320 wOBA, 22.4-percent K rate, 99 wRC+ and a .146 ISO. Kansas City is not a great power park, and the Pirates generally lack power, so potential for Bubic to string together his second consecutive quality start.
- Garrett Richards – Two pitch pitchers always are at risk of implosion and Garrett Richards has been torched by lefties both at home and on the road this year (even though Petco Park typically limits left-handed power). The Giants lineup is extremely left-handed at the top and they rank second in the league in effectiveness versus the slider according to FanGraphs’ pitch type linear weights. Both those aspects are scary enough to move Richards out of tier two and into this tier despite coming off arguably his best start of the season.
Tier 1: The Core Stacks
- Milwaukee Brewers – On a slate that features Coors Field, a Jordan Lyles long relief appearance and several other gas cans, the Brewers may fly a bit under the radar tonight. However, Jon Lester is simply a shell of his former self as his 89.7mph average fastball velocity is over 2.0mph below his career average. Furthermore, his 5.02 SIERA is the highest it has been since his rookie season and his 42.9-percent hard hit rate, if it were to continue, would be by far the worst of his 14-year career. Miller Park enhances power to both sides of the plate and Lester is allowing more power than ever as well (2.01 HR/9 rate and a whopping 12.1-percent barrel rate). The last time the Brewers faced a lefty, they dropped seven runs on Matt Boyd and 19 runs in total, and it would not be surprising to see them keep that momentum rolling here against another aging starter who is looking every bit as washed up. The player on the Brewers with the best numbers versus left-handed cutters since the beginning of 2019 is Ryan Braun (.407 xwOBA) but all the righties (and Christian Yelich) are in play.
- Colorado Rockies – The Angels claim nothing is wrong with Griffin Canning but he is reportedly pitching through an iffy UCL in his pitching elbow that inevitably will require surgery at some point. Of course, that would explain why his K rate is down, BB rate is up and hard hit rate is way up this season…and now he is going to pitch in Coors Field. Both of Canning’s breaking pitches have graded as subpar pitches this season already and now the altitude of Coors Field will be working against them as well. Over the course of Canning’s last six starts, Canning has failed to finish five full innings five times, with a start at home versus the Mariners being the one exception. His four-seam fastball is straight and has also graded as a poor pitch this season and, unsurprisingly, all the Rockies usuals own excellent career numbers against right-handed four-seamers. With multiple high-end pitching options, this team will likely not garner its typical astronomical ownership, and they are in a fantastic spot to smash.
Tier 2: The Not Quite Core Stacks
- Chicago White Sox – Casey Mize is one of the top pitching prospects in the game but his pitching mechanics are far from perfected and his results this far at the MLB level have been downright ugly. In a limited sample, right-handed hitters (RHHs) have mashed Mize to the tune of a .424 wOBA, 26.3-percent line drive rate and 6.01 FIP while lefties have posted a .358 wOBA (and 5.49 FIP) against him. Essentially all bats 1-9 are in play from this stack and multiple homers are clearly within the realm of possibility versus the starter (and that is before even discussing the Tigers awful bullpen behind Mize).
- Seattle Mariners – Caleb Smith has always possessed the ability to miss bats but that has come with a susceptibility to the long ball. Last year, Smith posted both a FIP and xFIP over 5.00 and a HR/9 rate approaching 2.0 (1.94) despite playing half his games in a park that depreciated power. Behind Smith is one of the worst bullpens in the entire league, especially after trading closer Archie Bradley away at the deadline, so the Mariners are a fantastic low-owned team to target.
- Los Angeles Angels – Although the whiff rate is up is up on German Marquez’s slider this year, hitters are crushing the pitch when they put it in play. Overall, opposing hitters own a 33.3-percent line drive rate against his slider which is an extremely poor number for a breaking pitch. Furthermore, the ISO numbers against his fastball are up this year, so there are some concerning pitch-to-pitch numbers for a guy whose xFIP is up nearly half a run this year. Still, Marquez is not a gas can, so this will assuredly be the lower-owned side of the game. Behind Marquez, the bullpen is 100-percent right-handed, so the lefties are the safest bets. The problem with Shohei Ohtani is he is playing through a forearm injury so the left-handed options are extremely limited in this lineup.
- Oakland Athletics – Luis Garcia owns a career .341 wOBA in the split against LHHs to go along with a 1.72 WHIP in the split. In a tiny sample this season, lefties have managed a .373 wOBA against Garcia and that is before discussing that Jordan Lyles is the likely long reliever behind him. Lefties should feast on this duo but the ballpark has not played anywhere near as favorably as the old Globe Life Park. This is a tough park for power but Tommy La Stella and Matt Olson are clearly amongst the top hitting plays of the entire slate and are both worthy of cash game consideration.
Tier 3: Mass-Multi Entry Stacks
- San Francisco Giants – The reason to like the Giants tonight has been their effectiveness against Richards’ top put-away pitch and that is his slider. Since the beginning of last season, Brandon Belt leads the team with a .409 xwOBA against right-handed sliders and guys like Alex Dickerson (.395) and Donovan Solano (.323) are not far behind. As a team, they own the seventh worst xwOBA against right-handed sliders, so they are probably a better mini stack than full team stack.
- Kansas City Royals – Steven Brault rarely pitches deep into games which sucks because this is a pitcher with a career SIERA over 5.00 (including a career-worst 5.46 SIERA this season). His last time out, Brault threw a season-high 96-pitches, so there is actually some hope that he lasts longer than usual tonight. Brault is extremely wild (13.7-percent), gives up a healthy number of line drives (24.6-percent) and has been amazingly lucky in the home run department this year (5.6-percent HR/FB rate despite zero infield fly balls against him). Something has got to give eventually but, without Jorge Soler in the lineup, this team is just tough to trust.
- Cincinnati Reds – Adam Wainwright has always struggled against LHHs but Jesse Winker left the game last night and Mike Moustakas is hurting as well. If both make the lineup tonight, they would move up the rankings a few spots.
Top Players By Position
- Yasmani Grandal
- Austin Nola
- Luis Torrens
- Matt Olson
- Jose Abreu
- Edwin Encarnacion
- Mitch Moreland
- Brandon Belt
- Keston Hiura
- Tommy La Stella
- Ryan McMahon
- Nolan Arenado
- Anthony Rendon
- Yoan Moncada
- Jedd Gyorko
- Trevor Story
- Fernando Tatis Jr.
- Marcus Semien
- Erik Gonzalez
- Charlie Blackmon
- Mike Trout
- David Dahl
- Ryan Braun
- Avisail Garcia
- Christian Yelich
- Kyle Lewis/Hunter Dozier (elite one-offs tier)
- Eloy Jimenez
- Luis Robert
- Alex Dickerson
Highest Scoring Hitter: Charlie Blackmon
Highest Scoring Pitcher: Lucas Giolito
Biggest Bust Hitter: Shohei Ohtani
Biggest Bust Pitcher: Shane Bieber
Top Value Plays: Ryan Braun/Avisail Garcia/Dylan Moore/Erik Gonzalez
Slate Edge: Jedd Gyorko