This article is part of our DraftKings MLB series.
Welcome back to full-slate baseball DFS as the "second half" of the season gets underway!
There is one matinee (Cubs/Cardinals), leaving us 14 games, a slate that includes the debut of Manny Machado for the Dodgers at Miller Park and several players returning from injury.
Generally, I 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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Trevor Bauer, CLE at TEX ($13,600) – With seven of the top-nine projected scoring starters on the road, the easy pitching calls are lighter than expected for the first full day of games following the All-Star break. The Rockies are on the road, so the Coors stack money isn't necessary this week, but it's still going to be a challenge to pay up for Bauer without finding a cheap SP2 salary-cap counterweight. The matchup is a good one for Cleveland's ace, as he will face a Rangers club with a low wRC+ against right-handed pitching (89, 24th in MLB) with a strikeout rate above 25 percent in that split this season.
Stephen Strasburg, WAS vs. ATL ($10,300) – Strasburg is making his first start since going on the DL, facing a Braves team that continues to temper strikeouts (20.5% vs. RHP in 2018), but one that has actually been a tick below league average (93 wRC+) is terms of its overall offensive output against righties this season. Strasburg went five innings while striking out seven and allowed three unearned runs in his final rehab start, so the shred of uncertainty about his workload cap Friday bumps him out of cash-game consideration despite the extremely reasonable price.
David Price, BOS at DET ($8,000) – Using Price will require an improvement in the forecast, which as of Friday morning was calling for 30 percent chance of rain (or higher) throughout the evening from first pitch on in Detroit. If things clear and the necessary weather experts sign off on the game getting in without a lengthy delay, Price will face the league's worst offense over the last 30 days (67 wRC+), and one that we'll frequently target throughout the final two-plus months of the season. I can't emphasize this enough. Check. The. Weather. Before. Using. Price.
Robbie Ray, AZ vs. COL ($8,800) – The Rockies on the road are an easier lineup to pick on with right-handed pitching, but the very low price on a high strikeout ceiling lefty in Ray puts them under the microscope again. With a near league-average wRC+ mark against southpaws (97) and a 21.9% K% that also ranks near the middle of the pack, using Ray hinges on how much you trust him to avoid being himself up with free passes, which have been an issue throughout the season. In four starts since returning from an oblique injury, Ray has a 28:10 K:BB in 20.2 innings. While there is considerable risk, there is even more upside, though the price might drive up his ownership rate slightly.
Jake Arrieta, PHI vs. SD ($8,500) – I thought the days of recommending Arrieta might be over during the first half of 2017. He's at home against a San Diego lineup with the request combination of a high strikeout rate (25.9%) and punchless offense (81 wRC+, tied for the second-lowest mark in MLB) that we covet. He's eclipsed 20 DraftKings points in six starts this season, failed to crack 10 in seven starts, and finished somewhere in between in the other five. Even as somebody who sees a very different pitcher than the one who was dominant atop the Cubs' rotation a few years back, there is enough left in the tank to make Arrieta viable when he draws a bottom-five offense at home.
Nathan Eovaldi, TB vs. MIA ($8,200) – Eovaldi dropped a -15 on owners in his final start before the break last week – and he was the first pitcher that didn't make the cut for this piece on that Friday. The Rays have been letting him pitch deep into his starts, and a home matchup against the Marlins after a complete disaster start is a path to get back on track. The Marlins have a subpar 90 wRC+ against righties this season, while they've fanned at an above-average 22.5% clip.
Danny Duffy, KC vs. MIN ($6,100) – Duffy has a 34:13 K:BB, with just two homers allowed over his last 31 innings. He's averaged a robust 21.5 DraftKings points per game during that span (five starts), and he draws a soon-to-sell Twins lineup at home Friday night. The big difference appears to be the return of his curveball, which he stopped throwing after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012, and has been throwing at a 19 percent clip in July according to Sam McDowell of the Kansas City Star. The Twins rank 21st in wRC+ against lefties this season (90) while striking out at a steady 23.8% clip. In many ways, Duffy is a bargain-hunter's Robbie Ray given the current circumstances.
Summary: The lineups with Bauer will almost certainly require Duffy, or one of the other cheap pitchers to make the remaining cash for quality bats viable. At first viewing of the slate, that is my preferred tournament duo on this slate, though a Strasburg-Ray pairing could also offer a similar ceiling for the price. If the weather in Detroit ends up being OK, David Price is quickly moves toward the top of the list for cash games as a discounted SP1, and it's tempting to simply pair with Arrieta against the Padres given the futility of those two opponents.
Unless it's a tournament contrarian path (Gary Sanchez, $4,000 vs. Noah Syndergaard), I want to save up as much money as possible behind the plate. Making that call at 11am on Friday morning isn't exactly easy, since that generally requires relying on a guy who isn't a lock to start for his club.
Here are the discounted catchers I'm most interested in for Friday…
Jose Abreu, CHW at SEA ($3,400) – At least in cash games, Abreu at this price is a free square. He was mired in a terrible slump for a prolonged stretch leading into the All-Star break. Moreover, the supporting cast around him is as bad as ever, but he's put up great numbers poor circumstances before. I remain a skeptic of Wade LeBlanc, and Abreu's output against southpaws since the start of last season is elite (.335/.391/.601), which will get plenty of lineups to build around him Friday night. Tournament consideration requires having a few unique angles elsewhere in the lineup.
A cheap Ryan Zimmerman ($3,600) against Anibal Sanchez in his return from the DL, Brandon Belt at $4,100 against Edwin Jackson, and Matt Olson for $4,000 against Dereck Rodriguez are among the alternatives, along with a very reasonably priced Carlos Santana ($3,700) against Clayton Richard and the Padres.
Jose Altuve, HOU at LAA ($4,400) – Since bottoming out with a season-low .760 OPS back on May 14, Altuve has gone on a tear with a .353/.423/.526 line, seven homers, 27 RBI, 40 runs, 12 steals and a 25:28 BB:K over his last 56 games. I can't diagnose the specific issue that caused Altuve to struggle (relative to the lofty expectations he's set for himself) during those first six weeks, but when other first-round players are commanding $5,000-6,000 on every slate, Altuve at $4,400 at a reasonably thin position, even against a good lefty like Tyler Skaggs, is worth paying up for regardless of format.
Kyle Seager, SEA vs. CHW ($3,300) – Seager is getting the Justin Bour/Lucas Duda treatment from the DraftKings pricing algorithm, thanks to a .235/.303/.434 line against right-handed pitching since the start of last season. James Shields is starting for the White Sox on Friday night, and his low K% against left-handed hitters (16.0% K% since the start of 2016) paired with an inflated home-run rate (1.74 HR/9) in that split (third-worst among Friday's starters) opens the door to use him even if he's no longer the same player he was for the better part of the last six years.
Brandon Crawford, SF at OAK ($3,700) – Dollar for dollar, Trea Turner is the best option at shortstop on Friday night at $4,100. In cash games especially, I would lock him in and move along. If you're fearing a high ownership rate in tournaments, Crawford offers a modicum of relief in that regard, squaring off against Edwin Jackson in Oakland. The tricky aspect of picking on an A's pitcher is knowing that the bats need to come through against the starter to avoid the best arms in one of the league's top-10 bullpens (Blake Treinen, Lou Trevino, Yusmeiro Petit). Tim Anderson ($4,000) draws lefty Wade LeBlanc in Seattle for those looking at GPP-friendly alternatives of the high-risk, high-reward ilk.
Juan Soto, WAS vs. ATL ($4,200) – Anibal Sanchez is one of the biggest surprises in the league this season, carrying a sub-3.00 ERA and an elite WHIP through the first half. While he's made a few adjustments to his arsenal, it seems highly unlikely to continue at this clip, and as a result, he's still going to be a frequent target of one-off plays and mini-stacks as someone more likely to pitch to a low-4.00s ERA the rest of the way. Soto's first 51 games with the Nats have been nothing short of spectacular for a 19-year-old rookie, as he's toting a .301/.411/.517 line with nine homers, 28 RBI, and a 33:41 BB:K.
Rhys Hoskins, PHI vs. SD ($4,100) – A month from now, Hoskins might be flirting with a $5,000 price tag. Clayton Richard and the Padres are headed to Philly, which makes Richard significantly more vulnerable to the long ball, which he's more prone to serving up to right-handed bats anyway. Add in a sub-15 percent K% since the start of 2016, and you have one of the easier starting pitchers to target of the 28 on the board Friday night. It's also worth considering that the Padres' bullpen is bound to take a step back following the trade of Brad Hand and Adam Cimber to Cleveland.
Michael Conforto, NYM at NYY ($3,900) – The possibility of Conforto still being broken following offseason shoulder surgery is increasingly real. A four-day break for the All-Star Game might get him closer to 100 percent, however, and buying in at a discounted price now for a day or two – especially with a big park boost at Yankee Stadium – is more appealing that chasing him at an elevated price if the production begins to tick up. Domingo German has struggled to keep the ball in the park against left-handed hitters (1.57 HR/9), but Conforto's overall struggles this season limit him to tournament consideration.