Thursday’s fantasy baseball slate was another low-scoring affair, as no bats went nuclear and pitching was rather steady up and down the board. It felt good to have so much Blake Snell after doing a deep dive on him in yesterday’s Slate Starter MLB DFS article, but Walker Buehler and Sean Manaea narrowly clipped him anyway at much higher ownership. But still, it came down to stacking the chalky Braves, which was never in the cards at their ownership. Fortunately, ownership should be rather spread out on today’s 14-game fantasy baseball slate due to no Coors/obvious standout spot. That should make it an incredible tournament night ahead, so it is time to get to work finding a few MLB DFS picks and strategies for DraftKings and FanDuel.
MLB DFS Slate Starter: Fantasy Baseball Picks | July 23
Finally, Some Serious Aces
There is no other way to slice it up: Pitching this entire week was atrocious. There were limited options to click on that felt remotely secure, and even the ones that stood out like a sore thumb found ways to disappoint (looking at you, Lance McCullers). The All-Star break is partially responsible for this, as game’s best pitchers were slated to work as soon as they could last weekend, leaving only barebones options for the duration of this week. Luckily, a few of the highlighted arms in this article put up some decent enough outings. But on the whole it is as scarce a pitching week as one could imagine for MLB DFS purposes.
Enter Friday, where aces are abundant at last:
Starting at the top with Gerrit Cole and working all the way down to Eduardo Rodriguez, there is a case to be made for rostering almost every pitcher in between. Going below Rodriguez it gets a little dicey, but that is the way it is supposed to work; better arms get priced up, worse arms get priced down. Be sure to check out the Top Pitchers tool religiously today, as finding slight points of leverage in the SP2 department could very well be the difference maker on this massive slate.
While mixing and matching these arms is an easy option on a two-pitcher site like DraftKings, rostering only one on FanDuel will be exponentially more difficult tonight. Let’s take a look at the top of their board:
Not listed above is Joe Musgrove at $7,900, who draws one of the best possible matchups in the Marlins. He will be an important talking point for FanDuel, but otherwise it is the same core of Cole, Zack Wheeler, Lucas Giolito and Freddy Peralta to decipher between.
There is no question Cole has the toughest matchup of the bunch, facing the red-hot Red Sox. But Cole has regained some form in his previous two starts, and both were in atrocious matchups with the Astros (12 strikeouts, complete game shutout) and these very same Red Sox (11 strikeouts, one earned run). If this is indeed Cole back to his spider tack form, Cole is matchup-proof and should be treated as such. Assuming he garners less ownership than Wheeler and Giolito, it is hard to imagine a better tournament play at pitcher today.
Wheeler draws the Braves at home, and without Ronald Acuna the road team obviously looks far less imposing. Wheeler has an astounding 28.8% hard hit rate this season, and he deals equally well to lefties and righties alike. That will come in handy against Freddie Freeman and Joc Pederson and should neutralize any potential power for the Braves. And while a 30.6% strikeout rate actually ranks behind the likes of Cole and Peralta, he feels more likely to work deeper into this game so long as he is rolling.
Giolito draws perhaps the best matchup of the bunch, as the Brewers strike out 25.6% of the time against right-handed pitching this season (fifth worst in MLB), along with just an 88 wRC+. While he might be a smidge below the others in terms of results this season, his 3.90 ERA compared to his 3.37 xERA shows he might be getting a bit unluckier than them as well. His 29.2% strikeout rate is actually down slightly from last season, but it is still a hefty number and clearly shows what kind of upside could be in store for Giolito if his changeup is on tonight.
Lastly, Peralta is the complete wild card of the bunch. That is not meant to imply he will not be owned (he absolutely will be), but rather he has not pitched since July 10 for rest purposes. Could that affect his pitch count? Unless Craig Counsell says something this afternoon, it is impossible to know for sure. And it is not like it is an easy spot against a White Sox team that only strikes out at a 23.0% clip against righties and generates a hefty 111 wRC+ against that same handedness. Still, Peralta has been dynamite in 2021 with his absurd 35.1% strikeout rate, 0.90 WHIP and mind-boggling .154 xBA. If it is all systems go for Peralta, he could be the best of the bunch to roster.
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Final Thoughts for MLB DFS Lineups
- Stacks on massive slates such as this one are impossible to break down before lineups come out and ownership reacts. Luckily, the MLB Top Stacks tool will be accounting for all of that news and make it easy to assess as lock approaches.
- A 14-gamer with no weather concerns? What a gift from the fantasy baseball Gods. If something pops up, the @AwesemoMLB Twitter account will let you know about it, but looks as though it is on clear in that department this evening.
- It is hard not to feel a little bad for Matt Chapman, the Athletics third baseman in the middle of nightmare season. After a career-high .535 xSLG in 2020, that telling metric has plummeted to a career-low .370. Even facing a lefty in Yusei Kikuchi, he is the most egregiously priced player on the entire DraftKings slate at $4,800.
- Just play Juan Soto.
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