4/21 MLB DFS Picks: K is for Kershaw
DailyRoto’s MLB Solo Shot Host, Logan Hitchcock, gets you headed in the right direction with his 4/21 MLB DFS Picks. Check out where his mind is at today when it comes to roster construction at FanDuel and DraftKings.
Where to Focus?
Thanks to an abundance of elite pitching in the early slate the focus of roster construction will be on fitting in viable bats. Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer won’t do you any favors in terms of salary relief, but the safety and reliability of the pair make them the premier options on the mound and thus worth their price.
When looking for value bats to pair with them, I’m looking to try and take advantage of top of the order hitters (1-5) in good run scoring environments. The Washington Nationals get a great matchup with weak right-hander Tom Koehler and Michael Taylor is still underpriced leading off in front of Bryce Harper and company. Harper makes for an elite play in all formats against a right-hander himself and I recommend fitting him into your cash games if you can afford to do so.
Koehler isn’t the only weak right-hander that I’ll be looking to take advantage of as both Ricky Nolasco and Taylor Jungmann should be targets, as well as southpaw John Danks.
Lots of value is present at the top of both the Brewers lineups with Domingo Santana and Eduardo Nunez boasting plus matchups and low price tags in the leadoff hole. Furthermore, a pair of left-handed bats, Oswaldo Arcia and Scooter Gennett should also be on your radar at slightly higher prices.
The Angels will deploy a full arsenal of right-handed hitters against Danks, much to the chagrin of Danks and White Sox fans. Danks has struggled with right-handers in his career and allowed a .353 wOBA to them last season. His flyball tendencies don’t mesh well with US Cellular and hopping on the Angels at the top of the order will be a preferred method of attack. Yunel Escobar and Craig Gentry will allow you to comfortably fit Kershaw and company.
Offense is a little more accessible in the late slate thanks to some great matchups in premier run scoring environments. I’m going to deviate from the format I used for the early slate to show you my favorite stacks, because I’m less concerned about finding isolated value and more concerned about getting exposure to the best offensive environments.
Camden Yards – Why single out one of these teams when you can have the best of both worlds? Both Marco Estrada and Chris Tillman are good signs for opposing offenses. The pair both possess extreme flyball tendencies and are pitching in a park that inflates power from both handedness (particularly from the left-side). Tillman is a reverse splits pitcher which sets up nicely for the Blue Jays squad that is primarily right-handed. Although I love deploying them against soft tossing lefties, you won’t find a much better matchup for the elite 2-3-4 of Donaldson, Bautista and Encarnacion.
Attacking Estrada is similarly enticing. Manny Machado is blossoming into a top five player and is in play in all formats thanks to his skills against right-handed pitching and I’d be remiss to not mention Crush Davis, who absolutely demolishes right-handed pitching and is in a top park for left-handed power.
I fully expect balls to be flying out of Camden tonight.
Houston Astros – Much like I was picking on Estrada and Tillman in part due to their flyball tendencies, using the Houston Astros against AJ Griffin follows suit. Griffin is a flyball pitcher facing a lineup loaded with power and speed upside from top to bottom. Most of the focus in this late slate will be centralized on Camden Yards, allowing you to grab a high upside team at lower ownership if attacking Griffin.
Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa all bring a speed and power upside that no other 1-2-3 possesses and when you throw in Colby Rasmus and Evan Gattis you’ve built a formidable stack. Their implied run total is hovering around five runs and they’ll have the slight bump that comes with being the road team and getting a guaranteed nine at-bats. Don’t be fooled by the 3.27 ERA that Griffin is sporting, his 6.27 xFIP tells a much different story.
Chicago Cubs – It’s been difficult to watch such a deep and talented offense struggle, but the Cubs keep finding ways to score runs thanks to timely contributions from a new player every night. Brandon Finnegan baffled them in his first start in Wrigley Field, but getting a sizable positive park shift to Great American Ballpark, I’m fully on board with using the Cubs as a stack tonight. Finnegan has struggled mightily with control in his early career (averaging over five walks per nine innings this season) and the Cubs team is the most patient in baseball (12.8% BB rate). Combine the possibility of free passes with the power potential of Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant as well as the assumed low ownership and there aren’t many cons. Dexter Fowler is my favorite cash game play from this lineup as he’ll swing around and hit from the right side, where he has posted a .369 wOBA against southpaws in his career.
Given the fairly evenly split slates, I’m going to offer up my pitching rankings in the same format I’ve been using, yet I’ll be splitting the pitchers to indicate their respective slates.
With the relative lack of offense in the early slate, it’s best to pay up for either Kershaw or Scherzer on one pitcher sites and a use a pair of the options from this quartet on two pitcher sites.
Kershaw gets a matchup with a hapless Atlanta Braves offense that is carrying an implied run total of just 2.5 runs. He doesn’t need much rationalizing, but his insane run prevention skills plus his strikeout baseline make him the best pitcher on any given slate. He is a heavy road favorite and is a great option for both cash games and tournaments, but his price is noticeably above that of the rest of the group.
Max Scherzer is a bit cheaper than Kershaw and draws a similar, but slightly worse matchup with the Miami Marlins. The Marlins possess a bit more of a threat than the Braves, but the savings on Scherzer might make him a slightly better per dollar value than Kershaw. Either way, the strikeout baseline here makes him a similarly play and a preferred option in all formats.
David Price and Johnny Cueto take a backseat to the first two options, but both have merit for usage in all formats today. Price gets a matchup with a Tampa Bay Rays team that is striking out the third highest percentage of the time in the league thus far. The Rays get a positive park boost, but the matchup with Price doesn’t help their cause. He carries a bit more volatility than both Kershaw and Scherzer, but presents a reasonable upside given his price tag.
Cueto on the other hand has a softer matchup with the Arizona Diamondbacks in the best park a pitcher could ask for. Of these four options though, his upside and strikeout baseline are the lowest. Nevertheless, he comes with the cheapest price tag and is even more of a favorite than Price.
This day was not one light on aces. Jake Arrieta has carried his dominance into this season and he draws a great matchup against a weak Cincinnati Reds lineup. The park isn’t great for Arrieta, but his price is accessible and he’s the clear top option on the slate. He projects at more than a strikeout per inning and is the biggest favorite on this slate. There is no reason to try and overthink this one.
Cole also draws a premier matchup, his with the San Diego Padres. We’ve seen what starting pitchers have done to this Padres lineup and I fully expect Cole to perform in the same light. He provides a bit less of a strikeout upside and baseline than Arrieta, but the Padres are striking out amongst the top five teams in the league (as opposed to the bottom half for the Reds). Cole also comes with a depressed price tag and is a road favorite squaring off against James Shields. He’s a solid standalone option and a great complement to Arrieta on two pitcher sites.
It seems silly that the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner falls third on the list of cash game pitching options, but that’s where Keuchel belongs against the Texas Rangers tonight. Keuchel is an elite groundball pitcher and has drastically improved his strikeout prowess in the last few years, but his price tag makes him less valuable than Cole and his matchup is less ideal than Arrieta’s. He’s struggled with his command so far this season but if he can dial it in he’ll make for a solid option tonight against the Rangers. I’ll probably be reserving him for tournaments.
I wanted to give you a fourth option on this slate, but again Volquez falls a bit more in the tournament realm for me. He’s shown a positive regression in terms of his strikeout skills so far this season and he gets to pitch in front of one of the game’s best defenses every time he toes the rubber. The Tigers are a stout offense, but they are heavily right-handed and Volquez will be neutralizing the platoon advantage on nearly all of their hitters. This is more or less an attack on his price and the fact that he’s a sizable favorite on the slate, but if he can continue getting strikeouts, he’ll make for a solid value.