If you play season-long fantasy baseball I am willing to bet you lost a pitcher to the IL in the last 10 days. Did you spend early-round draft capital on Shane Bieber or Jacob Degrom? Did you have Max Scherzer and Tyler Glasnow on the same team? If so, your season is probably sunk from a pitching perspective. But that’s the beauty of DFS! We start our stacks over every day. Did you want to roster Gerrit Cole and fade Toronto on Tuesday? He’s yours. Think Bailey Ober is a great play against Seattle at $4,600 and his manager should AT LEAST LET HIM PITCH FIVE INNINGS?! Forgive me, still not over that one. Either way, it’s a clean slate every day. So if you have the Bieber/Bellinger blues, come join us in the DFS streets.
This biweekly DFS piece will look ahead to upcoming series with an eye towards which bats to Stack (rostering multiple players from the same lineup, a key to DFS success) and which bats to Fade (recommended spots to avoid, based on the data). I will also look at pitchers with Potential (high-upside hurlers who might save you a little salary) and arms to Avoid (perhaps pitchers who look promising on the surface but have difficult waters to navigate in the games ahead).
On Friday we have good pitchers in bad spots and bad pitchers in great spots. We have the Brewers at Bugatti-level prices against Antonio Senzatela in Coors and a likely Toronto onslaught coming against Bruce Zimmerman. What else is flying under the radar? Let’s look at what might be signal and what might be noise as we build our rosters this weekend.
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MLB DFS Look Ahead: June 18–June 20
Bats to Stack
Washington Nationals (vs. NYM) – Let’s see, a three-game set against the Mets where the Nationals will not see Jacob DeGrom or Marcus Stroman? Sign me up. These first two games against languishing lefties like Joey Lucchesi and David Peterson should offer huge potential for a cheapish right-handed stack of Trea Turner, Josh Harrison, Starlin Castro, and Yan Gomes. Toss in Juan Soto and his career 130 wRC+ against lefties and you’ve got yourself a recipe for offensive success.
Load up your Soto and Kyle Schwarber on Sunday against Taijuan Walker who serves up 1.3 HR/9 to lefty batters in his career. Schwarber especially looks enticing on Sunday with his 114 wRC+ and .506 slugging percentage this year when he has the handedness advantage.
The Nationals also have the park factor in their favor this weekend, as Nationals Park ranks as the ninth-best run environment over the last three years.
Bats to Fade
Cincinnati Reds (@ SDP) – Speaking of park factors, the Reds are about to take a Mike Tyson-type hit in that regard this weekend. Great American Ballpark has been the second-best run environment over the last three years, including the best overall park for home runs in that time frame. Unfortunately, the Reds will be far, far away from there starting Friday and will need to be considered a fade.
Cincinnati will give up all that offensive goodness this weekend to travel to San Diego’s Petco Park (25th in park factor the past three years) and then have to see Chris Paddack, Dinelson Lamet, and Yu Darvish on the opposite lineup card each of the three days.
When they pitch at home, the Padres have the highest strikeout rate in the league (30.5%), the sixth-best FIP and the eighth-lowest walk rate in the league. The Reds may have a top-ten offense this year (at least by metrics like wRC+, wOBA, and slugging percentage), but I fear there will be several facsimiles of Thursday night when Joe Musgrove shut out Cincinnati over seven strong innings.
Pitchers with Potential
Los Angeles Angels (vs. DET) – This section was going to be the Tampa Bay Rays against Seattle for a hot minute, but then I started looking at the history of Michael Wacha (Friday’s pitcher) and Josh Fleming (Saturday) and didn’t like what I saw. Wacha is only serving as an opener and Fleming has pitched five innings or less in eight of 11 starts. Pivoting to the Angels, even with no Ohtani this weekend, is not a bad play.
Even though the Tigers are getting the back end of the Angels rotation (plus Dylan Bundy), I still think this is a spot where the Angels can provide some phenomenal value. Alex Cobb (Friday’s pitcher) is priced at Erick Fedde/Bruce Zimmerman levels on FanDuel: VERY cheap. Yes, he struggled against Arizona in his last turn but gave up only six earned runs in his previous four starts. He also holds the highest strikeout rate and swinging-strike rate of his career this year, thanks to a new pitch mix that has him throwing his changeup almost as much as his fastball.
Cobb, Patrick Sandoval, and Bundy square off with the Tigers who rank 27th in the majors in wRC+ (86) and have the worst strikeout rate in the league (27.7%). Sandoval and Bundy both bring in strikeout rates over 22% this year, which should be a benefit all weekend long against Detroit and their league-worst contact rate (72.6%).
Arms to Avoid
Chicago White Sox (@ HOU) – I saw more than one devoted Dylan Cease fan out on Twitter early Thursday saying some version of, “this is a real test tonight; if he can pitch well against the Astros it will solidify his inclusion among the great pitchers this year.” Well if Thursday was a test, Cease failed it miserably, and I fear the same fate awaits several of his pitching compadres this weekend.
You see, the Astros – even when short-handed – have been relentless this year. They simply do not strike out – just 18% as a team which is 4% lower than any other club. In fact, the only two teams with a better strikeout rate than the 2021 Astros the last five years were the 2017 and 2019 Astros, who may or may not have had some garbage-aided guidance.
Their wRC+ this year (123) is 11% better than any other team in the majors and they just wear pitchers down with the fifth-best outside zone swing percentage (28.8%) and a league-best zone contact percentage (88.6%).
I will be absolutely fascinated to watch Carlos Rodon against the Astros on Friday; he has been simply masterful in four of his last five starts. But I certainly can’t pay $10,200 for him on FanDuel when Trevor Bauer and Robbie Ray cost slightly more in exponentially better matchups. Lance Lynn and Dallas Keuchel will similarly get fades from me this weekend as they try to navigate the treacherous Houston lineup.
Data Sources: Fangraphs, Baseball Savant
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