This article is part of our DraftKings MLB series.
Friday's big slate brings a few unique challenges, thanks to a few ace-on-ace matchups with Gerrit Cole and the Astros hosting Chris Sale and the Red Sox, while Jose Berrios and the Twins host Carlos Carrasco and the Indians.
It's also a Coors Field night, with the Dodgers heading to Colorado for a game featuring an 11.5 over/under total.
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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Cash: Chris Sale, BOS at HOU ($11,000) – Sure, there is always risk messing with one of the league's better offenses, but getting an elite source of strikeouts at this price on DraftKings is rare, and while Sale has to go on the road to face Houston on Friday night, this should serve as a reminder of Minute Maid Park's pitcher-friendly lean. Win probability is dicey for Sale and Gerrit Cole on Friday with the duo providing one of a few excellent duels to watch on this slate, but Sale has delivered eight or more strikeouts in nine of his first 12 starts this season – including his most recent outing, which was easily his worst of the season (4.1 IP, 6 ER vs. Atlanta).
Also consider: Nick Pivetta, PHI at SF ($10,000), Carlos Carrasco, CLE at MIN ($10,700), Jose Berrios, MIN vs. CLE ($9,100), Gerrit Cole, HOU vs. BOS ($11,400), Stephen Strasburg, WAS at ATL ($12,100).
Optimally, you will pair one of the many aces above with a cheaper option to free up ample cash for bats on this slate.
Cheap 2nd SP Consideration: Sonny Gray, NYY at BAL ($5,800) – The deflated price paired with the Yankees being heavily favored at Camden Yards on Friday night should bump up ownership rates on Gray, despite his ongoing struggles in 2018. If you're not comfortable with him in cash games, I understand. The appeal of targeting the Orioles is two-fold: First, the offense has underperformed in a big way, carrying an 84 wRC+ against right-handed pitching this season. Second, the strikeouts have come in bunches, and the Orioles' team 25.3% K% against righties is among the highest marks on the board Friday night.
Also consider: Miles Mikolas, STL vs. PIT ($8,700)
Tournaments Only: Tyler Mahle, CIN at SD ($7,900) – Friday features a strange top-heavy slate where several top-end arms are in difficult matchups. Picking on the Padres continues to be an option, but Mahle's last five starts have results in a 5.33 ERA and 1.54 WHIP thanks to an 18:11 K:BB.
James McCann, DET vs. TOR ($2,900) – #JMDL = James McCann Destroys Lefties. Since the start of 2017, McCann is hitting .291/.364/.547 against southpaws. He's posting elite numbers in that split for his career as well: .286/.346/.536 (135 wRC+). Other than a lower lineup placement compared to the top-hitting catchers on the board most days, there's rarely a reason to look elsewhere when the matchups break this way for McCann.
Matt Skole, CHW vs. MIL ($3,000) – Maybe it's the byproduct of spending this week in Minnesota, but Skole has been hitting fifth for the White Sox since getting called up to replace Matt Davidson on the roster earlier this week, and he'll draw Chase Anderson with warm temperatures at the park formerly known as The Cell on Friday night. Anderson's struggles with the long ball have returned in a big way this season, perhaps in part because his velocity has dropped back to pre-2017 levels. It's a tournament-only consideration, thanks to Skole's modest .259/.360/.442 line (.803 OPS) to begin his age-28 season at Triple-A Charlotte. I'm writing him up mostly to call your attention to a player that will likely be ignored at the position with some useful tournament appeal.
Devon Travis, TOR at DET ($3,100) – Blaine Hardy has been a pleasant surprise for the Tigers while stepping in for three starts this season. He'll make his fourth start of the season Friday, and while it's possible that a completely new baseline is being established as he's throwing his slider nearly 35 percent of the time in 2018 (his previous career-high rate was 19 percent in 2014, and he threw it 13.7% of the time last season), he's still working with a high-80s fastball. Travis has gone 7-for-24 with a homer in the seven games he's played since returning from Triple-A Buffalo, and in the Jays' last matchup against a left-handed starter, he inched up to the No. 6 spot in the order. With a career 109 wRC+ against lefties, Travis doesn't carry the automatic lefty-masher tag at this point, but his wide range of injuries has likely led to erratic production overall, as he's fluctuated a lot in that split with wRC+ marks as high as 166 and 168 in 2015 and 2017, sandwiching a 59 mark in 2016. Nevertheless, I'm intrigued at this price, at least for tournaments.
Jake Lamb, ARI vs MIA ($3,900) – The humidor has worked as predicted at Chase Field, but there will still be matchups worth taking advantage of, and that is the case for Lamb on Friday with young right-hander Elieser Hernandez making the start for Miami. With wRC+ marks of 128 and 133 in 2016 and 2017, respectively, it's easy to look past the 70 he's posted in a tiny 52 plate-appearance sample to begin 2018. In addition to the favorable matchup against Hernandez to begin the game, the Marlins are one of three teams with a below-replacement level bullpen through the first two-plus months of the season.
The pricing on DraftKings narrows down the list somewhat, but if I need to save a little bit of money at third base, Adrian Beltre at $3,500 goes up against the surprisingly effective Jaime Barria in Anaheim. With a little more flexibility to pay up, targeting Justin Turner at Coors for $4,600 against a lefty is my optimal play, as my undying love for the damage that Turner does to left-handed pitching is well documented.
Chris Taylor, LAD at COL ($4,500) – Shortstop is a dumpster fire Friday night. Ownership rates will likely be high on Taylor, since the alternatives at the top of the price list have more difficult matchups. Andrelton Simmons ($4,400) is a solid play, albeit in a righty-righty setup against Bartolo Colon, and it seems likely that he and Didi Gregorius ($4,300 against Andrew Cashner) might be overlooked. Taylor has hit .273/.355/.459 against lefties since the start of last season, and he gets the biggest park boost possible for a road matchup against Tyler Anderson at Coors Field. Manny Machado ($5,200) should be popular, and for good reason, among those who are not using Sonny Gray in their lineups Friday.
All three of these options should play just fine in both cash and GPP scenarios...
Nick Castellanos, DET vs. TOR ($4,300) – Castellanos has a 135 wRC+ against lefties since the start of 2015, and that mark is even higher when you narrow the split to the last two seasons. A Tigers stack is very much in play, especially with Miguel Cabrera's potential return to the lineup Friday night, but even if you are simply considering Castellanos as an alternative one-off play from the Detroit lineup because you want to go away from James McCann behind the plate, he's an excellent target matching up against Toronto's Jaime Garcia, whose .342 wOBA allowed to righties is the sixth-worst split among the starting pitchers taking the ball Friday.
Nelson Cruz, SEA vs. TAM ($4,200) – Sergio Romo will start, and the Rays should have Austin Pruitt available for several innings after the right-hander pitched 5.2 scoreless innings and recorded the save in his last relief appearance Sunday. In any case, Cruz's splits are good enough against lefties and righties to pounce when the price is fair in a generally favorable spot. The Rays' approach with "The Opener" and long-relief outings has been interesting, while yielding some impressive results along the way, but Cruz looks like one of the best all-around values (again) on the board with a price just above $4K on Friday.
Juan Soto, WAS at ATL ($3,800) – The Nats haven't hit Soto lower than sixth in his first 10 MLB games, including his chances against lefties. He'll face Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz on Friday, getting the platoon advantage against a pitcher whose ongoing flaw has been occasional meltdowns against left-handed bats (.350 wOBA allowed since the start of 2016). Moreover, Soto gets a park boost with the series taking place in Atlanta, as SunTrust park boosted homers for lefties nearly as much as Coors Field in its first season.