This article is part of our DraftKings MLB series.
As my DFS write-ups go for 2018, this is my swan song.
I hope you've found the suggestions this season to be helpful in your bid to be a profitable DFS player.
My final slate assignment has a little bit of everything – a Coors game, aces, bad weather to worry about – which should leave plenty of paths to building suitable lineups.
As noted throughout the season, 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.
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.
For those interested, we've started an MLB DFS Slack channel for paid RotoWire subscribers. (There is a season-long one as well.) To join those channels, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Max Scherzer, WAS vs. MIA ($12,800) – As win probabilities go, Scherzer's -370 moneyline status against the Marlins will be difficult to top, as David Price and the Red Sox (-310) are the only team in the neighborhood as of Tuesday morning. Scherzer is making his penultimate push for the NL Cy Young award, getting one final home turn before a weekend road start in Colorado against the Rockies, and a pair of opportunities to finish the season on a high note after he's posted a 5.06 ERA over his last five starts. Given the current state of their latest rebuild, it hardly surprising that the Marlins have been among the league's worst offenses over the last 30 days, posting a 78 wRC+ (tied for 26th in MLB) while carrying a 24.4% K%. Scherzer already has a career-high 290 strikeouts this season, and without question, he'll be aiming to eclipse the 300-strikeout mark for the first time in his career with a big performance Tuesday.
Walker Buehler, LAD at ARI ($11,700) – Buehler has made his case to be considered an ace for 2019, and the only thing holding up back is a slight workload restriction next season (he'll likely finish around 160 innings in 2018 including the postseason). Over the last 60 days, Buehler has posted a 79:18 K:BB in 62.2 innings, carrying a 1.58 ERA and 0.86 WHIP during that span. The over/under total for Tuesday's Dodgers-D-backs matchup in Arizona is 8.0, but that's simply the impact of Matt Koch getting the start for Arizona. Given the discounted price compared to Scherzer, it's easy to see the case for saving cash with Buehler to save for upgrades elsewhere (specifically, Coors bats).
Josh James, HOU at TOR ($8,100) – It's a Coors night, so saving a lot on the mound creates stack opportunities with the Phillies and Rockies, and James is the rare affordable, young pitcher capable of piling up a high strikeout total and a win, making him an option for tournament lineups as the Astros go on the road to face the Blue Jays. Over 16 innings with Houston, James has overpowered hitters en route to 24 strikeouts. In his last start, James threw 87 pitches and went 5.1 scoreless innings against Seattle, finishing with seven strikeouts. He shouldn't face any workload restrictions Tuesday, giving him a shot at getting deep enough for a quality start bonus as well.
David Price, BOS vs. BAL ($9,500) – Price's start might be postponed, as rain is in the forecast in Boston throughout gametime. If things improve and the game is played without concern of a lengthy delay, he'll face a bottom-10 offense at home (the Orioles have an 86 wRC+ over the last 30 days) and carry the second-highest win probability on the slate. Skills-wise, he's in line with his recent career norms, with the only red flag coming in the form of a career-worst 1.21 HR/9.
Noah Syndergaard, NYM vs. ATL ($10,200) – Keep an eye on the Braves' lineup Tuesday night against the Mets, as rest for some of the key regulars could significantly increase the appeal if using Syndergaard in cash games. The assumption here is that the bulk of the regulars will be back in the saddle after the off-day Monday, which makes me comfortable with him as a tournament option.
Luis Severino, NYY at TAM ($11,100) – Severino allowed just one extra-base hit in his last outing against the Red Sox, which marked back-to-back turns in which he did not allow a home run after a two-month stretch in July and August in which he allowed 13 homers in 52.2 innings (6.32 ERA, 1.56 WHIP). He seems to be righting the ship now, however, and the risk Tuesday comes from a matchup against the league's hottest offense on the road, as the Rays have the best wRC+ in MLB (127) over the last 30 days.
Note: Be sure to avoid Trevor Bauer on this slate, as he'll likely be capped around 50 pitches after he recorded four outs and threw 34 pitches in his first start back from the DL on Friday against the Red Sox.
Summary: Yet again, getting to a lot of Coors bats requires the use of pitching cheaper than my preferred options. For tournament purposes, a pairing of James with Mike Montgomery or Robbie Erlin would be the route I would take if I were adamant about heavy Rockies-Phillies exposure. My initial read on this slate is that you can probably find enough favorable matchups elsewhere to avoid going that cheap with arms, mix in a Coors bat or two, and come away with something more balanced, but still capable of taking down a tournament. Pairing Scherzer or Buehler with Price would be ideal in cash games, but the uncertainty about the weather in Boston could eliminate that option. Instead, it might be necessary to use James as the base SP2 in cash games in order to have enough money left over for a suitable group of hitters.
Gary Sanchez, NYY at TAM ($3,800) – I can't explain it, other than to guess that he may still be hurt. Sanchez enters Tuesday's game with one hit in his last eight starts, and a season line that has fallen to .180/.280/.386. The Rays are using Jake Faria to open, and lefty Jalen Beeks is the expected follower, and while that combo might be optimally effective the way the Rays are using them, I'm having a difficult time giving up on Sanchez after a disappointing campaign where he's dealt with multiple injuries.
Jose Martinez, STL vs. MIL ($4,100) – Cardinals-Brewers is another game with some rain in the forecast, so this will require keeping tabs on the situation closer to lineup lock. Martinez struck out looking on a Corey Knebel curveball to end Monday's game, but that plate appearance followed a long ball against lefty Josh Hader earlier in the contest. Martinez is extremely dangerous against left-handed pitching, with a .322/.402/.550 line against southpaws since the start of last season, and it's simply not fully reflected in his price.
Matt Olson ($4,200) is a GPP pivot to consider if you're looking to find a similar high-power upside bat with a lower ownership rate. He'll match up against Mike Leake and the Mariners in Seattle, while Luke Voit ($4,100) is another option to get exposure to the Rays' Faria-Beeks tandem if you're not willing to roll the dice with Gary Sanchez behind the plate. Tyler White ($3,900) isn't a lock to start against Jays right-hander Sam Gaviglio, but he's a strong consideration if manager A.J. Hinch pencils him into the lineup.
Rougned Odor, TEX at LAA ($3,900) – The Rangers' offense takes a hit going on the road most places, especially when you consider the extra boost Arlington's hot, humid temperatures have afforded their bats this season. Nevertheless, Odor is one of the few sub-$4K options at second base worth considering, as he draws a lefty-righty matchup against Matt Shoemaker. Even with a quiet September, Odor carries a career-best .331 OBP into Tuesday's matchup, and his power-speed combo gives him multiple paths to make value.
Reasonably priced alternatives include Jed Lowrie ($3,900) against Mike Leake, Jedd Gyorko ($4,200) against Gio Gonzalez, and Jonathan Schoop ($3,200) on the off-chance that he starts against Cardinals rookie Austin Gomber.
Matt Chapman, OAK at SEA ($4,100) – Maybe I'm stacking A's on DraftKings? Chapman is a nice relative value compared to the other top options at third base, but it might be worth paying the premium for an upgrade even though there is nothing to fear in his righty-righty matchup against Mike Leake and Seattle. Anthony Rendon ($5,000) will likely cruise a bit under the radar with Alex Bregman ($4,900) positioned with a good matchup, Nolan Arenado ($5,200) reasonably priced at home relative to past prices, and Justin Turner ($5,100) also having an excellent matchup at a high price. Chapman's $800-$1,100 discount compared to those option should leave him with the highest ownership rate of the lot.
Jean Segura, SEA vs. OAK ($4,100) – Since the start of last season, Segura has posted a .317/.370/.432 line against lefties, often giving him one of the more favorable matchups on the board when he draws a southpaw. Brett Anderson has pitched Dipping into the second-tier price point at shortstop is necessary for those paying up to get top options elsewhere, or for those trying to get multiple hitters from the Rockies-Phillies tilt at Coors. Brett Anderson's surface numbers aren't bad (3.96 ERA, 1.23 WHIP), but he's done that with a 4.7 K/9 in 2018, making him prone to a huge meltdown if he's not commanding his arsenal with precision.
Orlando Arcia ($2,800) is extremely affordable for tournament purposes with a righty-lefty matchup against St. Louis rookie Austin Gomber if he's included as part of the Brewers' infield mix again Tuesday.
Max Kepler, MIN vs. DET ($3,900) – The Twins continue to hit Kepler fifth or sixth most days, a reflection of the current state of their lineup, and not necessarily indicative of his overall output this season (.224/.319/.407). The interest here is tied entirely to the opposing pitcher, as the Tigers are starting Spencer Turnbull on Tuesday. Even though the slash line is underwhelming, Kepler is showing a good eye at the plate (11.7% BB%, 15.9% K%), marking a step forward from his first two campaigns with the Twins.
Kole Calhoun, LAA vs. TEX ($3,400) – Another day, another discounted price on Calhoun, whose recent slide is reminiscent of his early-season struggles. The hope here is that Yovani Gallardo cures all for a slumping bat, but the discounted price accurately reflects the magnitude of Calhoun's September slide. Even though he's cooled off from the pace he was on from June through August, Calhoun has been locked in as the Angels' leadoff hitter against righties since early August.
There are a few other outfielders I'm considering, and the remaining cap along with the contest type will likely steer the final call.
- Nick Martini, OAK at SEA ($3,400) – Ideal for cash games, where his limited pop and speed are less important than this top-of-the-order placement and ability to get on base.
- Franmil Reyes, SD at SF ($3,500) – He has the raw power necessary to overcome the road trip to AT&T Park, and as a righty, he's less impacted by the park than a lefty would be. Reyes will square off against Chris Stratton if he's given the start by manager Andy Green.