This article is part of our DraftKings MLB series.
We have a less-than-favorable main slate on Sunday at DraftKings. Nine games is plenty, but there's little way to pay up at pitching and that will be a major theme in the article. That leaves a lot of cash on the table to build expensive stacks, so this may be the slate to get a bit contrarian.
The other disappointing part is that the Atlanta-St. Louis matchup is part of a doubleheader, meaning a seven-inning game on the main slate and in turn less potential volume for hitters and pitchers alike. That's too bad because Bryse Wilson and Adam Wainwright have both been worthy of targeting throughout the season.
As mentioned in the intro, this is an ugly pitching slate. Sean Manaea ($10,100) carries the highest salary and the only pitcher valued in the top-seven at the position I have any interest in rostering. Yankee Stadium is a scary place to pitch, but the Yankees strike out at a league-average rate against southpaws and have produced a mediocre 98 wRC+ and .311 wOBA as a team. As for Manaea himself, he's maintained a solid but unspectacular 17.5 K-BB%. That's fourth-highest on the slate, which is more of an indicator of the state of pitching available to choose from than his exceptional skills this season. The strikeout upside isn't huge, but Manaea does offer the ability to limit walks and home runs.
JT Brubaker ($7,400) falls in line just behind Manaea with a 17.3 K-BB%, but that's been offset by a 1.4 HR/9. As for the matchup, Cleveland is roughly average in both wRC+ and wOBA against right-handed pitching, though they make a lot of contact. That limits Brubaker's upside, but he could still be in a solid position to earn the win.
Kenta Maeda ($6,300) could make his salary look silly if he can shake off some of the rust he displayed in his first start since being activated from a three-week stint on the IL. That outing Monday against the Mariners marked the first time during the season he walked more than two batters, but he also struck out seven across only four innings. If Maeda can work deep and efficiently, the Rangers are an exploitable matchup. That combination is fairly easy to foresee, which could make him chalky and more of a cash game target.
Weather and ball parks take on a growing importance as we move into warmer parts of the season. Trey Mancini ($5,700) has a matchup against lefty Hyun Jin Ryu in a strong hitter's park. He has also demolished left-handed pitching to this point with a .415 wOBA and .305 ISO.
Pete Alonso ($5,400) has yet to truly get on track in 2021, but he'll be in a prime position to produce Sunday. Despite a positive result his last time out, Patrick Corbin has been crushed for most of the season and his 1.5 HR/9 is one indication of that. Add in the strong hitting environment at Nationals Park and it's worth taking a risk on Alonso figuring things out at the plate.
Hunter Renfroe ($3,800) is on the borderline of being a bargain given his fairly hefty valuation. However, he's worth noting in this article due to how he's hit left-handed pitching both this season and throughout his career. Due to sample size, we'll refer to his career splits as he's posted a .305 ISO and 140 wRC+ against southpaws across 567 career plate appearances. Kauffman Stadium isn't particularly hitter friendly, one of the major reasons I'm not suggesting a full Red Sox stack. Even so, there's enough here to roster Renfroe.
Kyle Schwarber ($3,800) also isn't the cheapest, but this a slate to pay up for bats. He ranks 36th among all hitters with at least 20 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers with a .273 ISO. Taijuan Walker hasn't been a pitcher worth targeting, but Schwarber's worth a shot given his salary and profile.
Stacks to Target
This is about as straight forward as it gets. Quality hitters, hitter's park and strong matchup. The two deterrents to mindlessly rostering the Jays is value and roster rate. This is a very expensive stack, although it's easier to fit the pieces together from a salary perspective due to the near necessity to pay down at pitcher. However, that will also encourage a high roster rate making the stack less desirable for GPPs. In that scenario, be sure to mix in either contrarian pitchers or another contrarian stack (one suggestion below).
Keuchel doesn't offer the typical shortcomings of pitchers I typically look to target, but has does come in with the lowest strikeout rate among any pitcher on the slate. That provides a lot of opportunity for balls to get in play, when anything can happen. This is a high-end stack that's still better value than the Blue Jays and will likely be less rostered. Consider the Astros a viable pivot away from Toronto for leverage in GPP contests.
Stacking the Pirates hasn't been a strong cash game play since 2016. They're a viable stack, but become even more attractive when joined in one lineup with either the Jays or Astros. Sam Hentges is an easy pitcher to target as he struggles with both walks (11.1 BB%) and home runs (1.7 HR/9). That's a recipe for a stack to pay off, particularly one that is contrarian and cheap.