Happy Friday out there in MLB DFS land. I hope your action this week has gone better than mine, although if I’m not killing it in a week the Yankees are just hitting all the home runs, I guess I’m not as big a homer as I thought. With a dozen games on the main slate tonight, we have a lot to choose from. There are quality pitching options and a few teams nice juicy spots. I wrote up the Yankees and the Braves overnight in Quick Hits based on their whopping totals.
The board has a nice wide section in the middle with a lot of teams ranked similarly but ownership distribution is scattershot. We should be able to weave among some very high-end teams without getting too common with our constructions. As always, put these recommendations or the top stacks tool alongside the individual ownership to find those pathways through the thicket of the most popular players.
MLB DFS Stack Slants | DraftKings + FanDuel | Sept. 18
Chicago White Sox – 9-1-2-4-5 – Madrigal – Anderson – Grandal – Jimenez – Encarnacion (Abreu if you can afford it)
It’s been at least a few days since we’ve talked about the White Sox. One of our favorite teams in this space this year is going overlooked again on this slate. They rank eighth on the stacks tool in a field of 24 teams that is extremely top heavy, and no one is on them.
The White Sox are taking on flamethrower Tyler Mahle, who has been pitching at a higher level from a “stuff” perspective and seeing good strikeout results but still not 100% putting everything together. In his 39.2 innings in 2020, Mahle has a 4.74 xFIP to go with his 28.9% strikeout rate and 10.2% walk rate. He’s getting swinging strikes at a 13.8% clip this season, which is way up for him. Mahle added a few hundred RPM of spin to his fastball in the offseason, and it completely changed the dynamic of his pitch mix. Still, if he’s putting too many runners on and allowing a fair amount of hard contact, this team should be able to get to him.
We know this White Sox lineup pretty much by heart at this point. The projected batting order kicks off with usual leadoff man Tim Anderson. The star shortstop is having another great year with a .365/.401/.582 slash, eight home runs and a .218 ISO. His WRC+ 68% above average is first at the position among qualified hitters in 2020.
Yasmani Grandal slides into the two spot in the projected order. The switch-hitter has a better track record on this side of his splits, hitting as a lefty. For his career, the backstop has a .241/.344/.452 slash with a .211 ISO and a WRC+ 18% above average against right-handed pitching. He costs just $4,600 on the DraftKings slate, somehow, and is the most popular player on this team. Still, at under 15% ownership and paired with some of the far less popular teammates, he’s playable in stacks. I’m not sure how much I would look to the popular catcher as a one-off, however.
Moving on to a trio of right-handed mashers, we have Jose Abreu, Eloy Jimenez and Edwin Encarnacion. Abreu is the most expensive of the bunch at $5,100, a price tag he has more than earned with his MVP-caliber .332/.374/.644 slash, 17 home runs, .312 ISO and WRC+ 73% above average in 2020. Over his 680 plate appearances against right-handed pitching since the start of 2019, Abreu has 37 home runs and a .280/.321/.517 slash with a .237 ISO. There is no reason to skip him for handedness reasons.
Jimenez has slipped below the $5,000 mark at just $4,800 on DraftKings. His $3,700 price tag on FanDuel is similarly generous. The outfielder is having a terrific season of his own with 13 home runs and a WRC+ 46% above average. He also has little issue with same-handed pitching, posting a WRC+ 29% above average in the split since the start of last year. Encarnacion comes in as the least expensive of the trio at $3,900 on DraftKings and a too-low $2,900 on FanDuel. The slugger might be past his prime, but he has hit the most home runs in baseball against right-handed pitching over the last 10 years, 263, eight ahead of Nelson Cruz in second place. Encarnacion has nine homers this year and is still a titanic power threat in any spot.
Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert bring some pop but some low-and-dropping slash numbers to the table later in the lineup. Both players are extremely high-caliber and should be rostered with litter concern. We aren’t really paying either for a .300 average or a .400 on-base. We want this pair to hit the ball out of the park or drive it into the gap. In that department Robert at least has still excelled in 2020, with his .240 ISO and WRC+ 12% above average. Moncada has struggled to generate power at just a .140 ISO with five home runs. For $4,700 the current-year numbers might turn people away, making it easy to get over the field on the player without going completely haywire including him in every lineup.
Our weekly Nomar Mazara power update unfortunately has to report that we are still waiting on the lefty’s first home run of the season. Mazara has brought very little to the table for the Southsiders, going just .217/.291/.264 with a .047 ISO and a WRC+ 41% below average from the bottom of this lineup. Considering what this team has done with a black hole like that in the bottom of the order, it’s frightening to think what they could have been with even league-average production from that spot. Mazara is a mix-and-match play for me. At some point he will hit one out, he costs just $3,100 on DraftKings and $2,500 on FanDuel and he’s drawing no ownership.
Nick Madrigal is a player who pops into crunches all the time with his relatively good projections for the low prices at which he’s constantly listed. Madrigal has a high-end hit tool that we’ve mentioned in this space several times. He’s good for getting on base and setting the table for the other hitters in the lineup, not at hitting home runs. This makes him ideal as a wraparound play. Madrigal is inexpensive, unowned and plays a position at which we can sacrifice a bit of power upside with a player like this in order to unlock the rest of this construction. The second baseman has a .324/.351/.352 slash so far this season, and we can expect him to be on base generating opportunities for the top of the lineup.
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Boston Red Sox – 1-5 – Verdugo – Devers – Bogaerts – Martinez – Vazquez
This one hurts. I was very nearly going to use the Rays in this space. They look like a fantastic choice tonight against Alex Cobb in Camden Yards with all the lefties they can throw at that gas can. Instead, for some reason, I’m choosing to write about the Red Sox in a matchup against the surging Yankees and middling lefty Jordan Montgomery. I covered the Yankees half of this game last night, and we could see one of those high-scoring AL East clashes again tonight.
Montgomery has been adequate this season, but he’s not a big strikeout pitcher, and he lacks the stuff to truly pitch his way out of trouble. The pitcher relies on his ability to limit hard contact and induce soft, something at which he has excelled this season. So far in 2020, Montgomery has a 28% soft contact rate and just a 29.9% hard contact rate. Against the top of this Red Sox lineup at least, that might be difficult to maintain.
Alex Verdugo is quietly having a dynamite season as a primary piece of the Red Sox return for superstar Mookie Betts. While he’ll never make Boston completely forget it’s former MVP, Verdugo’s lefty bat has been productive in an overall down year for the Sox. He’s carrying a .326/.381/.511 slash with six home runs and a WRC+ 38% above average for the year, typically hitting from the top of the order. Verdugo has been excellent against left-handed pitching since coming into the league as well, since the start of 2019 he’s carrying a .329/.371/.470 slash with a WRC+ 23% above average in same-handed matchups.
Verdugo is followed in the lineup by three extremely proven players among whom the highest ownership share on DraftKings tonight is the 2.3% projected for shortstop Xander Bogaerts. While the trio’s numbers are not exactly where they were projected this season, there’s still plenty to like and we’re getting them at a bit of a discount.
Rafael Devers hits second and is having the best year of the group at .293/.345/.550 with 11 home runs, a .257 ISO and a WRC+ 35% above average. He’s followed by Bogaerts, who costs just $4,700, which is comparatively cheap at the position since he’s one of the best at the shortstop spot. His follow-up to the gigantic 2020 has been a bit off pace, but is still ultimately fine at .284/.342/.500 with a WRC+ 22% above average and a .216 ISO. Dating to the start of 2019, Bogaerts has a .265 ISO and WRC+ 41% above average against left-handed pitching.
J.D. Martinez‘s struggles were forecast by some sharp baseball minds, but no one saw him completely bottoming out this quickly. I still chalk it up, at least in part, to a short sample. Martinez has just a .206/.294/.371 slash with a .165 ISO and a WRC+ 27% below average, dragging this whole team down from the middle of the lineup. Still, the slugger has .424 ISO and a WRC+ 112% above average against lefties since the start of 2019. That isn’t completely gone. If no one else is on Martinez, we can absolutely justify some shares.
The back end of the Sox lineup has less name recognition but is not entirely bereft of talent. Christian Vazquez costs just $4,000 at the catcher spot and is going completely untouched hitting fifth. The catcher hit 23 home runs in his 521 opportunities in 2019, a career year, and he has five so far in his 165 plate appearances in 2020. Dating to the start of 2019, Vazquez has a .259 ISO and a WRC+ 15% above average against left-handed pitching. In one lineup, I would prefer the unowned Red Sox catcher as a far less expensive catcher one-off than Yasmani Grandal, who we discussed above.
Bobby Dalbec is another name in play from the bottom end of the lineup. The highly regarded rookie has flashed some power over his first 59 plate appearances in the Show, with six home runs and a .352 ISO in his extremely small sample. Dalbec is expected to hit for a lot of power over his career, so this tracks with who we thought the hitter would be. Two of the big right-hander’s home runs have come in his 18 plate appearances against left-handed pitching. At just $3,700 on DraftKings and $3,300 on FanDuel, and no ownership on either, we can work Dalbec into MLB DFS lineups.
Michael Chavis has struggled to produce the quality we saw from him last season, which many expected to be somewhat illusory. So far in 2020 he’s managed just a .223/.273/.357 slash with three home runs. He’s nothing more than an expensive mix-and-match option on DraftKings. The $2,500 puts him slightly more in play on FanDuel. Christian Arroyo is a cheap mix and match, not much more.
Yairo Munoz could be a sneaky interesting option if he’s hitting late in this lineup. He’s not someone to get excited about or even roster in the majority of Red Sox stacks, but as a mix-in he works. Munoz is now 25 and getting a bit of a shot after seeing limited opportunities in the Cardinals organization. The outfielder has a reasonably well-regarded power tool and hit eight home runs while stealing five bases in 329 plate appearances in the Show for St. Louis in 2018. In his 45 plate appearances this season with Boston he’s already hit one home run and stolen two bases. As a $3,200 unowned lottery ticket, that works for me.
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