This article is part of our FanDuel MLB series.
For the first time in the last few weeks, on my assigned days at least, pitching is a challenge.
Blake Snell was on a tight pitch count in his first start back from the DL last time out, making it fair to wonder if he'll be limited to 75-80 pitches against Toronto on Friday night.
The good news is, there are plenty of pitchers to target with one-off plays and stacks, but the battle with pitching might be to avoid overthinking it.
I'm making a concerted effort to indicate the type of contest I prefer to use players in – cash (50/50) or tournaments (GPPs) – which is generally an exercise in estimating ownership rates (or "finding the chalk") and making sure to have enough variation around the highly-coveted top value plays to have a dangerous lineup.
Remember, a strong cash-game play isn't necessarily a "bad" tournament play, but too many "chalky" players can create a limiting factor in big-field tournaments.
Your constructive feedback is appreciated, and always welcomed.
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Preferred Cash Play: Gerrit Cole, HOU vs. SEA ($10,500)
The Astros are -220 favorites on the moneyline Friday, and while the Yankees are sitting close to that mark at home against the Rangers, the trust in Cole compared to Masahiro Tanaka ($9,600) is worth paying up for on this slate. Cole has at least eight strikeouts in each of his last five starts, and while he hasn't pitching quite as deep into his starts in recent weeks he was to begin the season, he should be able to navigate the M's bats safely in this matchup.
Preferred Tournament Play: Masahiro Tanaka, NYY vs. TEX ($9,600)
Cole's price is low enough where I'm wrestling with simply using him regardless of format and accepting the possibility of a high-ownership rate.
Straight up, I prefer Eovaldi to Tanaka given the matchups, perhaps because I believe the Rangers still have enough quality bats to do some damage. Tanaka is playable, however, as the win probability is among the highest of the pitchers taking the ball for this slate, and it's easier than usual to push him into a lineup when he's in the midst of a stretch like his current one, which featured a three-hit, complete game shutout with nine strikeouts against the Rays on July 24. Moreover, the expectation here is that more lineups will be drawn to save money and play Eovaldi or Wheeler, so I'm inclined to pay the slightly higher price on what I figure to be a marginally less desirable option based on talent, with the hope of getting a lower-owned arm.
Wheeler has been pitching like a fringe-ace, strong No. 2 starter for the Mets over the past two months (72:24 K:BB, 77.1 innings, 2.91 ERA, 1.10 WHIP). It's far from a secret, and the Marlins' offense has been a regular target for DFS lineups all season long. The skills fully support the five-digit price he's carrying right now, and this is one of two games on the board with a 7.5 over/under total Friday night, which further solidifies the anemic state of the two lineups involved in the matchup (though it's somewhat surprising to me that Wheeler isn't a bigger favorite with Jose Urena pitching for Miami).
The Orioles, sans Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop, are going to be picked on frequently the rest of the way, and for good reason. Even with those two bats in the lineup for most of the first four months, they were well below average as a team in their output against right-handed pitching, and their propensity to strike out frequently made them an appealing matchup to seek out. Eovaldi has altered his pitch mix to the point where he's shaking off the label as a guy who had a big fastball, but lacked the strikeouts necessary to take down a tournament. Unfortunately, there is nothing sneaky at all about using him in this spot.
Matt Olson, OAK at LAA ($3,000) – Angels starter Felix Pena has struggled against left-handed hitters (.353 wOBA allowed), and he's been prone to allowing damage to same-handed hitters as well, which could allow the A's to pile up a nice run total in Anaheim on Friday night. With a slight improvement to his strikeout rate this season (25.1%), Olson can be considered in cash-game lineups, but it's still easier to justify him in tournaments. The blistering home-run pace Olson was on as a rookie last season was certain to fade, but he's well on his way to reach the 30-homer plateau by season's end, and he's a key piece of a red-hot Oakland lineup.
I'm very interested in Jose Abreu ($3,700), cap permitting, as he's reeled off a stretch of five multi-hit games in his last seven – including four home runs during that span. He draws Cleveland rookie Shane Bieber at home Friday night.
Scooter Gennett, CIN vs. ARI ($3,200) – Clay Buchholz is taking the ball for Arizona on Friday night, in game that features one of the highest over/under total on the board (9.5) outside of Colorado. While Buchholz's splits against lefties don't jump off the page as some of the worst on this slate, he's carried a sub-20% K% against hitters on both sides of the plate since the start of 2016. While Gennett is still looking for his first August home run, he offers a steady floor for cash-game lineups, and in instances like this one, brings enough upside to the table for the price to be used as a tournament option as well.
Jeff McNeil ($3,000) remains very interesting with another favorable matchup against Jose Urena and the Marlins. Both options in Colorado (Brian Dozier, $3,800 | DJ LeMahieu, $3,600) are very affordable.
Miguel Sano, MIN at DET ($2,600) – Even though I'm not planning on unveiling a full Minnesota stack against Jordan Zimmermann, I really like the low price on Sano right now. Elite power, even with a shaky approach, is always appealing in a tournament, and while an .805 OPS against same-handed pitching doesn't scream "must play", this is a bargain that either provides cheap upside in the UT spot, or fills third base in tournaments while allowing you to spend up elsewhere.
Alex Bregman, HOU vs. SEA ($3,800) – Bregman is carrying a career-high 148 wRC+ in 2018, he's walking as frequently as he's striking out (12.7% K% & BB%), and holding down a valuable spot in the Houston lineup. Carlos Correa is expected to return Friday, and while the lineup isn't as loaded without Jose Altuve and George Springer in it, Bregman should be priced much closer to Francisco Lindor ($4,900) and Manny Machado ($4,800) than he is Friday. Take advantage of the discount while you can.
Giancarlo Stanton, NYY vs. TEX ($4,900) – Mike Minor is nails against lefties, but he's very hittable for righties (.317 wOBA allowed, 1.34 HR/9 since the start of 2016), and Stanton might fly under the radar as an expensive outfield bat thanks to a few discounted options in Colorado (two of which are featured below). Stanton has an 1.172 OPS against left-handed pitching since the start of last season – the next closest split among outfielders on Friday's slate is J.D. Martinez's 1.042 mark against righties – plus he's at home, and the Rangers' bullpen has very little to fear in the late innings.
Charlie Blackmon, COL vs. LAD ($4,000) – Kenta Maeda is excellent against right-handed hitters, but lefties can get to him on occasion. The price is ridiculously low, even when you account for Blackmon not producing at the elite level we saw from him in 2017. Since 2016, Maeda has a sub-20% K% against left-handed hitters, while he's allowed plenty of homers in that split (1.30 HR/9) as opposing hitters have put together a .324 wOBA against him. It's not a Coors stack night for me, but I'm content to choose a spot carefully on each side of the matchup.
Joc Pederson, LAD at COL ($3,400) – Pederson appears to be falling into the large side of a platoon with Matt Kemp in left field, but it's important to double-check the lineup card each day to ensure that a surprise adjustment doesn't shake things up. Jon Gray is pitching very well since returning from a brief stint at Triple-A, but getting a lefty-righty matchup against Gray, and having the chance at a couple of at-bats against the struggling Colorado bullpen is enough for me to use Pederson as a cash-game option.