This article is part of our DraftKings MLB series.
I knew it couldn't last.
Since the All-Star break, I've had a surprisingly friendly run of pitcher-heavy slates, opening up plenty of arms to build around at several price points, and narrowing down the stacks and bats to play.
This slate is the opposite, as a slew of back-end starters will be taking the ball Friday night, which will should lead to some very high run-scoring totals in several places.
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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Gerrit Cole, HOU vs. SEA ($12,500) – 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 ($10,400) 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.
Zack Wheeler, NYM at MIA ($10,100) – 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).
Nathan Eovaldi, BOS at BAL ($9,700) – 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.
Masahiro Tanaka, NYY vs. TEX ($10,400) – 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. As a result, I'm more likely to consider a bat or two against him than to run him out as my SP1 on Friday night. He's 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.
Summary: This is a suboptimal arrangement for those who want to get heavily invested in Coors bats, since the cheap arms have more flaws than usual, and the mid tier offers very little to get excited about, especially in cash games. While I would love to build tournament lineups with Cole in them, I don't think it's actually going to work without digging well below those top-four arms for a cheap, contrarian option to offset his price. My plan is to pair up the two starters I like on the road – Wheeler and Eovaldi – and hope that the strikeouts are plentiful.
Mitch Garver, MIN at DET ($3,300) – Jordan Zimmermann might not be the broken-down gas can that many expected him to be entering the season, but even with his resurgence, he's been generous enough to opposing hitters to target him with value plays. The Twins' lineup as a whole might be a reasonably affordable stack, and the game's over/under total sits at an even 9.0 (Ervin Santana is starting for the Twins). Since the start of last season, Garver is hitting .276/.351/.448 against same-handed pitching, and the Tigers' bullpen has been a tick below league average this season, thanks in large part to Joe Jimenez, Shane Greene and Drew VerHagen. In any case, Garver is a bat-first catcher in a favorable enough situation, at a low enough price, to save the cash behind the plate Friday, assuming that he's back in the lineup after yielding a start to backup Bobby Wilson on Thursday.
At $3,700, I'm also intrigued by Salvador Perez. He's home against St. Louis rookie lefty Austin Gomber, who looks like a solid enough arm for the Cards, but isn't a pitcher that has shown he should be avoided entirely in limited chances at the big-league level this season.
Matt Olson, OAK at LAA ($4,200) – 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 genuinely unsure of what to do with Ian Desmond ($4,000). The price is fair, but the matchup is surprisingly tough despite the Rockies being at home against Kenta Maeda. Maeda's excellent against right-handed hitters, paired with Desmond's extreme groundball tendencies make this a matchup that I'm content to fade, at least as a one-off play.
Jeff McNeil, NYM at MIA ($3,500) – Bargain hunting in the second-base pool isn't always easy, but until the price on McNeil ticks up $500+, he's one of my first reads at the position on any given slate. Jose Urena has improved slightly against left-handed hitters, posting a career-best 17.6% K% in that split, but he's still very prone to the long ball (career-high 1.6 HR/9), and McNeil's appeal continues to be founded on a very good approach. He's carrying a 10.0% BB% and 12.0% K% through 50 plate appearances with the Mets, and while correction (even if it's only temporary) is on the horizon, Urena looks like another pitcher that he matches up very well against.
Adrian Beltre, TEX at NYY ($3,300) – I'm guilty of frequently using Beltre if I need to save money at third base as a result of paying up for two pricey arms. (I'll probably be running in circles all afternoon considering the merits of Beltre vs. Justin Turner at Coors at $4,200 on this slate). In any case, Beltre and the Rangers are on the road at Yankee Stadium against Masahiro Tanaka, and while a righty-righty matchup doesn't jump off the page, consider that Tanaka has a 1.50 HR/9 against right-handed hitters since the start of 2016 – seventh worst among the 30 starters taking the ball Friday – and a rate that is absolutely high enough to target.
Alex Bregman, HOU vs. SEA ($4,500) – Sure, a $4,500 player isn't a bargain in the basic sense, but Bregman should easily cost $5,000 or more with a home matchup against Mike Leake. 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 he's eligible at a position on DraftKings that is often limited to a small handful of good plays. This is a very easy call when you consider that Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story and Manny Machado are all priced north of $5K on Friday night.
If you're looking for slight savings, I'm still interested in Paul DeJong ($4,000) against Burch Smith and the Royals. He's playable with Bregman if you opt to use Bregman at third base instead of shortstop.
Rhys Hoskins, PHI at SD ($4,500) – The Padres are bringing up Jacob Nix for his major-league debut Friday, and while Hoskins loses quite a bit in terms of park factors with the Phillies being on the road at Petco in this series, that should be enough to drive ownership rates down on him for tournaments. Hoskins' OPS split against righties ranks fifth among outfielders in the pool, and his elite power (40 homers in 155 career MLB games) won't get dragged down as much as a right-handed hitter in Petco as it would if he were a lefty. During his time in the minors, Nix has done a great job of keeping the ball in the park and avoiding walks, but he's logged just 85 innings above High-A, and there may be some growing pains as he gets his first exposure to big-league hitters.
Marcell Ozuna, STL at KC ($3,900) – Ozuna's massive step back in 2018 has been a puzzle for me all season. A sub-.400 slugging percentage in early August for a player who swatted 37 homers a year ago? The breakdown in Ozuna's production has occurred despite an improved strikeout rate (a career-low 17.3%) and a hard-hit rate (42.7%) that hasn't fallen off a cliff. Burch Smith has allowed a .332 wOBA to right-handed hitters since the start of 2016 (sixth-highest on the slate), and the Royals' bullpen is woeful. Even if Ozuna is playing hurt (or was earlier in the year), this is a risk worth taking at the price given the setup.
Matt Kemp, LAD at COL ($3,800) – The Dodgers' increased depth could put Kemp on the bench against righties over the final two months (he's sat each of the last two games against a right-handed starter**), but I would rather take my chances on Kemp in a same-handed matchup against Jon Gray, than use Ian Desmond against Kenta Maeda. Cheap Coors exposure is generally very chalky, but in this particular case, I'd take the chance since there aren't a ton of interesting sub-$4K outfielders.