This article is part of our DraftKings MLB series.
DraftKings has decided to split up the afternoon and evening slates with five games apiece on Saturday, so I thought it would be helpful to give prospective players a few plays from each slate in order to cover as much ground as possible.
Zach Plesac ($9,800) has had a bit of trouble keeping the ball in the yard during his young career, but a swinging strike rate more in line with his minor league numbers (14.3 percent) contributed to a 28-percent strikeout rate to go along with just six walks in 55.1 frames last year. The Tigers finished the shortened 2020 season with the highest strikeout rate (28.2 percent) against righty pitching. And while the lineup doesn't look exactly the same, a hitter like Nomar Mazara should only add to the strikeout totals for the starting nine.
When we look at the pitching profile of Joe Musgrove ($8,600), we can see the breakout performance resulting in a whopping 33-percent strikeout rate coincided with the 28-year-old throwing his curveball 20 percent of the time - an increase of more than 10 percent from 2019. The D-Backs certainly added a valuable piece to their starting lineup when they acquired Asdrubal Cabrera, but nothing happened during the offseason that should meaningfully affect the bottom-10 wOBA they logged against righties in 2020.
Heading back to the early slate, the Royals will welcome Kohei Arihara ($5,500) stateside as he makes his major league debut. While it's true that a drop in his strikeout rate coincided with a sharp rise in ERA (3.46) during his final season with the Nippon Ham Fighters, the 28-year-old can throw groundballs and finished 2020 with a K/BB ratio of 3.53 over 132.2 frames. It's also worth noting that his average fastball velocity - which has either stayed the same or increased since 2015 - now sits at 92.1 MPH. The Royals have experienced a bit of a makeover since last season adding middle-of-the-order bats like Carlos Santana and Andrew Benintendi, but the bottom half of the lineup still leaves much to be desired and Arihara only needs to be his solid self to produce a decent return at this salary.
Our first target comes right off the top of the early slate. Jose Ramirez ($5,800) continued his bounce back from the second half of 2019 by absolutely hammering the ball to the tune of a .619 slugging percentage in 219 at-bats last year. There is no doubt some of what led to Julio Teheran's bloated 10.05 ERA last season – such as his 27 percent HR/FB ratio – was a product of bad luck. Having said that, we can't ignore numbers like a 14-percent strikeout rate paired with an 11-percent walk rate. It should also be noted that Teheran's xFIP, a statistic that tries to isolate the things a pitcher can control, was still unbelievably high at 6.35.
The 2.57 ERA that Caleb Smith kept in 2020 looks a lot worse with a 6.41 xFIP. 14 innings isn't much to go off of, but the high walk and home run rates that plagued that small sample have been present throughout Smith's four-year major-league career. Manny Machado logged a .250 ISO and .400 wOBA in his 64 at-bats against southpaws in 2020, but really put on a show the previous season when he notched an ISO of .370 against his opposite hand in nearly double the number of at-bats (127).
A year in the KBO gave Chris Flexen a new lease on his career, but there's no sugarcoating the fact his time in MLB has been disastrous as he has compiled an 8.07 ERA with a 16-percent walk rate across 27 games (68 innings). Mike Yastrzemski ($5,000) built on his rookie season in a big way in 2020 by logging a .297/.400/.568 slash line across 192 at-bats.
Bobby Dalbec ($3,900) gave us a glimpse of the power he showed in the lower levels of the minors last year by notching a .283 ISO as well as a .386 wOBA in 53 at-bats against right-handed pitching. Matt Harvey will seemingly never again reach the heights he once saw with the Mets. The veteran was absolutely torched by both sides of the platoon in 2020 allowing an .820 slugging percentage in 11.2 frames (65 batters faced).
Tanner Houck could be a popular low-cost option on Saturday thanks to the 0.53 ERA in 17 innings (three starts) last year, but the 24-year-old has struggled with walks his whole career and kept a whopping 96 percent strand rate in 2020. That should indicate a fair amount of regression will be coming his way this campaign. Meanwhile, Anthony Santander ($3,700) is fresh off a fantastic campaign that saw him log a .325(!) ISO against righty pitchers in 123 at-bats.
Mitch Haniger ($3,100) has missed the better part of the last two seasons thanks to a sports hernia and back issues, but the 30-year-old has produced whenever on the field - including 2019 when he tallied a .238 ISO against same-handed opposition in 189 at-bats. Logan Webb has done a solid job keeping the ball on the ground over his major league career, but that's about where the positive remarks end as he's also kept a 5.36 ERA in 94 innings.
Stacks to Consider
A game at Coors Field will leave us light on value options, but we can find bats affordable enough against Jon Gray, who was hit hardest by left-handed batters last season (.531 slugging percentage) but kept an xFIP over 5.50 against both sides of the platoon. This allows us to consider right-handed bats like Pollock, who produced a .220 ISO against right-handed hurlers in 141 at-bats last year.
None of the Cubs' heavy right-handed hitters had a particularly strong year against lefty pitching in 2020. But when one considers someone like Bryant saw only 28 at-bats against southpaws in the shortened year, it may be better to look at the .333 ISO he posted the previous season for a sense of how things will play out. Tyler Anderson only allowed a .371 slugging percentage against his opposite hand last season, but the 6.25 xFIP he kept in 42.1 innings tells us he is well past due for regression.