This article is part of our DraftKings MLB series.
This slate is one of the more balanced I've written up lately, where there are several useful arms, but plenty of good combos of bats to sprinkle in as well.
Tuesday marks the return of Robinson Cano from suspension, which comes at a great time for the Mariners as they continue an important road series with the A's.
The overall hitting matchups that stand out to me include (but are not necessarily limited to):
- Yankees against Jalen Beeks and the Rays
- Red Sox against Nick Pivetta in Philly
- Mets against Andrew Cashner
- Orioles against Jason Vargas (at Camden Yards)
- Lefty Cleveland bats against Sal Romano
- D-backs against Yovani Gallardo
- Angels against Brett Kennedy
- Tigers against Lucas Giolito
- Padres against Jaime Barria (righties)
- Dodgers against Andrew Suarez (especially righties)
It's the kind of night where not botching the pitching might be more challenging than finding a combination of suitable hitters.
As noted throughout the last month or so, I generally don't write up the most expensive bats, since it should be fairly obvious that the overwhelming majority of those players are fine plays if the budget allows you to utilize them.
As noted over the last couple weeks, 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.
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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Justin Verlander, HOU vs. COL ($12,600) -- Verlander's price might be slightly reduced thanks to an early exit in his last start. After getting shelled for six runs on seven hits over two innings by the Mariners, he was ejected by the home plate umpire after voicing his frustration with a balk call. In any case, he returns home to Houston, where the Astros are the biggest home moneyline favorite on the board (-225) in a game that has the lowest over/under total (7.0). The Rockies have been surprisingly bad against right-handed pitching all season (82 wRC+), while carrying a slightly elevated strikeout rate (22.8%) in that split.
Corey Kluber, CLE at CIN ($11,500) -- Kluber's strikeout rate (24.7% K%, 8.6 K/9) is still down at its lowest mark since 2013 (22.4%, 8.3), but he's never had a lower walk rate than he's posted in 2018 (3.2% BB%, 1.1 BB/9). The Indians are more heavily favored on the road (-255) against the Reds than the Astros, so while you might be giving up a small bit of strikeout upside with Kluber, he's facing a non-playoff contender with a near-league average offense (101 wRC+ vs. RHP).
Patrick Corbin, ARI at TEX ($11,900) -- Somehow, Corbin is pitching at a higher level in the second half (32.0% K-BB%) than he was in the first (23.2% K-BB%). He's been cutting out walks entirely during the latter split, and while that isn't sustainable, he's at least proven that his ability to miss bats an elevated clip thanks to a heavier reliance on his slider is an approach that will continue to pile up whiffs. Over the past 30 days, the Rangers are tied with the A's as the league-leader in wRC+ (124), and while there is an undeniable performance aspect of that surge, conditions in Arlington have been extremely conducive to hitting during that span. Corbin faces Yovani Gallardo on Tuesday, so the 10.0 over/under total can be largely shoved on the D-backs' side of the ledger, but there is enough risk here to limit use of Corbin exclusively to tournaments, and the near $12K price tag should also help steer most lineups elsewhere.
James Paxton, SEA at OAK ($11,100) -- Paxton's assignment is just as difficult as Corbin's, in terms of the A's offense being very strong, and particularly dangerous against lefties. With a 2.5-run difference in the over/under total (Mike Fiers is pitching for Oakland), it's a setup that should give Paxton a lot more attention in tournaments than Corbin, and one that may tempt you to consider him in cash games. I am much more comfortable using Paxton as an SP1 for tournament purposes.
J.A. Happ, NYY vs. TAM ($9,500) -- The Rays have a high strikeout rate against left-handed pitching this season (24.4% K%), but they have an above-average wRC+ (104) in that split, which leaves Happ with a solid enough matchup where he might get enough of a K-bump to pass for a lower-priced SP1 in tournaments, even though there is an instinctive "cash-game" only feel to him. The Yankees are -220 favorites at home, giving Happ a win probability in line with that of Verlander or Kluber in this matchup.
Jameson Taillon, PIT at MIN ($9,000) -- If you want to steer away from the top of the board, save cash, and have more flexibility to pay up for a higher-power stack or a few elite bats, Taillon is my second-tier arm of choice with a road matchup against Minnesota. The Twins have an 83 wRC+ over the last 14 days -- essentially, the time since Eduardo Escobar and Brian Dozier were traded away -- making them a frequent target for the final two months of the season. Taillon has a sub-3.00 ERA over his last eight starts, and while he doesn't miss a ton of bats (7.2 K/9 during that span, 8.0 K/9 in 2018), he's carrying a career-high 10.1% swinging-strike rate this season, and it's not unreasonable to think that he might be on the brink of a very strong finish after a disappointing start to the campaign.
John Gant, STL vs. WAS ($6,100) -- I'm beginning to think Gant might actually be a good back-end starter with strikeout upside. He's got a nasty changeup and a solid curveball, and the Cardinals have adjusted his fastball approach. Moreover, he's cleaned up the clunky delivery that he used throughout his time in the minors and upon arrival in the big leagues with Atlanta two years ago. Picking on the Nationals with a low-end arm isn't a strategy I employ often, but Gant is at home, the Nats are throwing Gio Gonzalez, and there is enough to like here to consider Gant as a bargain SP2 option in tournament lineups.
Blaine Hardy, DET vs. CHW ($6,800) -- If you're feeling like today is an Arby's day anyway, Hardy is cheap with a home start against the White Sox (Lucas Giolito). The Tigers are a -140 favorite, and Hardy has been surprisingly effective while spending most of the season in the rotation, posting a 3.63 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over 74.1 innings, thanks in large part to the significantly increased use of his slider. Instead of going for that second roast beef sandwich, consider Hardy in a similarly low-priced, big-field GPP setting. Even with his success this season, the strikeouts haven't come in large quantity very often, so there's a limited ceiling here.
Summary: In a perfect world, the cheap bats will come together when the lineups come out, and a Verlander-Happ combo will be possible. That duo only leaves $3,487 per bat, however, and that might be cutting things too thin on a 14-game main slate. For cash games, it's probably better to lean toward a Verlander-Gant duo, or a Happ-Taillon pairing. In tournaments, swinging for the fences with Corbin in a difficult environment along with your preferred cheap arm (mine would be Gant, but Hardy scratches the itch too) offers a mix of ceiling with potentially low-owned arms, and enough left in the tank to build a formidable a combo of bats.
Salvador Perez, KC vs. TOR ($3,500) -- Perez has been toting a low price for a while, so he's probably getting a lot of attention from optimizers and everyone else looking at the state of the position. At home with a righty-lefty matchup against Jays rookie Ryan Borucki, Perez works just fine in cash-game lineups and GPPs (I'm not worried about having a chalky catcher, the position is generally a dumpster fire.)
There are a couple of alternatives that stand out, if they're a part of their respective lineups.
Austin Hedges is a little bit pricey ($3,900), but the Padres are home against Angels rookie Jaime Barria, whose strong reverse splits (.402 wOBA, 2.45 HR/9 vs. RHP) this season are somewhat puzzling. The relatively high price on Hedges, and the lack of a platoon advantage should help him fly somewhat under the radar.
On the cheap front, Austin Barnes ($2,900) draws a righty-lefty matchup with Andrew Suarez, who has been horrendous away from AT&T Park in his rookie season, and generous against righties everywhere with a .373 wOBA and 1.79 HR/9 allowed to this point.
Kendrys Morales ($3,600) -- This game appears to have the greatest threat of inclement weather causing a delay, so you'll want to check in on the forecast in the early evening before locking in anybody on either side. Royals starter Heath Fillmyer is a mystery to me, but with Vegas putting a 9.0 over/under total on the Jays-Royals matchup in Kansas City, it's a game that deserves attention at least for potential one-off plays. Priced $700 below teammate Justin Smoak, Morales is one of the better value options at the position (again) Tuesday, and his career-high 55.3% hard-hit rate is deserving of a much better season line than the .240/.318/.409 he's carrying through 96 games.
If the weather in KC ends up being an issue...Carlos Santana ($3,700) is an option in tournaments against Rick Porcello, whose 1.26 HR/9 allowed to lefties is enough to make him susceptible to some damage with the road start in Philadelphia. (Similar logic could be applied to Justin Bour at $3,900 if Santana sits.)
Jonathan Villar, BAL vs. NYM ($3,900) -- Villar is still very affordable and the O's-Mets matchup at Camden Yards should have plenty of scoring on both sides with Jason Vargas taking the ball for New York and Andrew Cashner on the bump for Baltimore. Villar has shown significant pop from the right side in two of the last three seasons, with a 122 wRC+ against southpaws in 2018 and a 144 mark in his 2016 breakout with the Brewers around a woeful 56 wRC+ against lefties in his disastrous 2017 campaign.
Without question, Jeff McNeil ($3,800) is still finding his level, but I remain impressed by his approach (9.1% K%, 7.6% BB%) and ready to pounce any time a particularly soft matchup comes up for him at a sub-$4K price. O's starter Andrew Cashner has the sixth-highest wOBA allowed to left-handed hitters (.348) of the 30 starters pitching Tuesday.
Rafael Devers, BOS at PHI ($3,700) -- With a .243/.299/.427 line in his first complete season with the Red Sox, Devers has been a source of frustration for plenty of season-long players who thought he'd be a monster in his age-21 season. Keep in mind, that Devers' arrival to Boston last season may have been a full two years ahead of the initial schedule. The lineup placement and below average overall output (90 wRC+) limits him to tournament-only consideration, but getting a big park boost on the road in Philadelphia against a right-hander (Nick Pivetta) still finding his way is enough for me to take the chance if I'm looking to save up at the position.
Those looking for safer play for cash games should consider Kyle Seager ($3,700) against Mike Fiers and the A's, though it should be noted that Seager's splits against righties going back to the start of the 2017 season are very similar to the overall numbers that Devers has posted in 2018.
Carlos Correa, HOU vs. COL ($4,400) -- Since returning from the DL on Friday, Correa has been quiet. His splits against righties, since the start of last season, are the best in play at the position Tuesday, and the slightly deflated price makes him an easy play in cash games. Concerns about elevated ownership rates on Correa in tournaments might be well founded, though plenty of lineups will use Manny Machado ($4,500) against Andrew Suarez for $100 more (which is a fine play as well).
The slightly cheaper, likely lighter-owned tournament pivot for those who want to stay away from Correa and Machado is Paul DeJong at $4,200 with a righty-lefty matchup against Gio Gonzalez and the Nationals.
Nelson Cruz, SEA at OAK ($4,100) -- Cruz's splits against right-handed pitching since the start of last season include a .292/.355/.563 line -- giving him the 11th-highest OPS among all outfielders on the board Tuesday when accounting for each hitter's matchup splits. Mike Fiers is pitching well, and he, along with Marco Estrada, often makes me look like a clown when I try to leverage discounted bats against him. Fiers has a .344 wOBA against right-handed hitters since the start of 2016, along with 1.61 HR/9 in that split, making him a surprisingly nice target for those seeking a top-tier bat at a second-tier price Tuesday.
Matt Kemp, LA vs. SF ($3,700) -- The expectation here is that Manny Machado and Justin Turner will be heavily used (perhaps together) pieces in the Dodgers' lineup, while the less interesting Kemp gets less attention than his teammates in that same favorable matchup against Giants lefty Andrew Suarez. Kemp's splits against lefties have included a significant uptick in power (.548 SLG) compared to his results against same-handed pitching in 2018 (.439 SLG). Under $4,000, it's tough to find a bat with a 133 wRC+ in his matchup, especially against an inexperienced pitcher like Suarez.
Manuel Margot, SD vs. LAA ($3,700) -- As noted above, Jaime Barria has putrid splits against right-handed hitters, and if Margot doesn't yield his place in center field to Travis Jankowski, it might be a very-low owned GPP play with a higher ceiling than you'd expect for a player who has underperformed power expectations in 2018 after a strong finish to 2017. The prevailing logic here is that the favorable lineup position, paired with Barria's struggles against righties, and the potential for stolen bases if he gets on first base once or twice against the Halos right-hander opens up multiple paths for Margot to make value. Make no mistake about it, this is high-risk, high-reward tournament call, and mediocre cash-game punt in the outfield.
I'm not sure why Rhys Hoskins is still in the low-$4K range ($4,100), even against Rick Porcello. He's on my radar, along with the always cheap Marcell Ozuna ($3,800), and it seems like they're frequently considered when my slates come up Tuesday and Friday each week.