Even though it may seem more complicated with all of the roster call-ups, waiver transactions, and injury management, theoretically this is the month if you want to all-in on MLB DFS. One week from now, many DFS grinders will be head over heels for NFL, chasing the allure of huge prizes and Week 1 fame. But it is paramount you understand one thing in MLB over these last four weeks: motivation. Who needs to stretch out their starters versus resting them? Who needs a win in the standings and makes a good stack and who might be comfortable pulling players in the sixth inning? What stacks and fades makes the most sense? Simply put: What are teams playing for, if anything?
Just like in late-season NFL or NBA, MLB teams have certain desires and incentives that guide their lineups and in-game moves. I will be paying extra attention to teams like the Reds, Padres, Braves, Red Sox and Athletics as they have significant incentives to squeeze what they can out of every last at-bat and inning pitched.
DFS THIS WEEK
This biweekly MLB 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).
Rosters and expanded which means time is running short to claim those DFS prizes. Let’s dig in and look at what might be signal and what might be noise as we try to differentiate our rosters this week.
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MLB DFS Look Ahead: Stacks and Fades for September 3-5
Bats to Stack
Los Angeles Angels (vs. TEX) – I watched the Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer recently, so I’m more familiar with Otto Octavius than I am with Glenn Otto at this point. Apparently, he pitches for the Rangers. Similarly, Taylor Hearn and Kolby Allard don’t inspire a lot of confidence either in their ability to slow down the Angels’ stacks that excel at home.
It’s actually laughable to look at the Angels’ OPS at home this season (.768) compared to their road numbers (.687). At home, they are essentially the 2021 Red Sox (.769) while they are the Rangers on the road (.672). Fortunately, they get some home cooking this week against a mediocre-at-best staff that should allow for plenty of offensive fireworks.
The Rangers’ pitching staff has allowed the third-highest HR/9, the sixth-highest WHIP, third-highest BB/9, and the highest SIERA in the second half this year. But forget all the fancy ratios and indicators – it comes down to the simple fact that Texas can’t prevent runs. They have allowed the sixth-most earned runs in the second half while ranking 29th in strikeouts. Expect a lot of contact, a lot of men on base, and a lot of runs this weekend for the home team at Angel Stadium. Perfect for DFS stacks.
Bats to Fade
San Diego Padres (vs. HOU) – Somehow, the Astros have been able to dodge, dip, duck, dive, and dodge their way to an extremely effective starting rotation in 2o21. Even after losing Justin Verlander at the start of the year, they rank fifth in WHIP and have allowed the seventh-fewest earned runs this year. How are they doing it?
It’s not by way of the strikeout, necessarily. Their starters are only 14th in K% at 23.5% (and their top starter, Zach Greinke, ranks 43rd out of 45 qualified pitchers in strikeout rate). It’s not through an elite walk rate; the Astros are bottom half of the league in BB/9. Basically, they are doing it by rarely allowing hard contact. Houston’s staff only allows 1.16 HR/9 (sixth-best), they induce the seventh-most ground balls and have the ninth-most soft contact allowed on the year. On the Statcast side, they allow the fourth-fewest barrels in the league and have the eighth-lowest launch angle allowed.
And now they get back Jose Urquidy for this series, he of the sixth-lowest hard contact rate among starters with at least 75 innings pitched. I don’t suspect that Houston will completely silence Fernando Tatis and Co., but I believe we should temper our expectations this weekend and think about fading the Padres.
Pitchers with Potential
Cincinnati Reds (vs. DET) – Speaking of motivations, the Reds have it in spades and are all lined up to have their most dominant pitchers mow down the Tigers this weekend at home.
The Tigers will see an intimidating trio of right-handers in Vladimir Gutierrez, Tyler Mahle, and Luis Castillo, which has been an Achilles heel for Detroit all year. The Tigers rank 26th in OBP against righties, plus they rank just 20th in team SLG. It all adds up to the Tigers having the sixth-worst wRC+ against right-handers this season.
Much of the Reds’ surge in the second half can be attributed to the offense, but their pitching shouldn’t be overlooked. Cincinnati ranks 11th in K/9 in the second half of the season and has seen surges from all of Gutierrez, Mahle, and Castillo who now form one of the more intimidating trios in the National League.
Arms to Avoid
San Francisco Giants (vs. LAD) – What’s the old saying? “DeSclafani and pray for rain?” The Giants didn’t exactly line up their aces against the Dodgers in this crucial series to determine the leader in the NL West, and it might just provide us a stacking opportunity in DFS.
Anthony DeSclafani only went four innings in his first start back from injury on Sunday and he will be followed by Sammy Long and Jose Quintana. Kevin Gausman and Logan Webb will take their next turns in Colorado, which is just baffling to me.
The Long and Quintana decisions are especially puzzling, as the Dodgers rank 12th in SLG against southpaws and have the second-best ISO in the league against them. And if that isn’t enough, the Dodgers have the highest hard hit% against lefties this year at more than 36%. Still not quite sure what the Giants are doing.
The Dodgers did it the right way, lining up David Price, Julio Urias, and Walker Buehler on the road against their bitter division rivals. I would much rather stack Dodger bats and roster their pitchers than rely on any San Francisco starter this weekend. Full fade for me.
Data Sources: Fangraphs, Baseball Savant
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