This article is part of our DraftKings MLB series.
Welcome to another season of MLB DFS for DraftKings. Readers of these columns from past seasons may recognize a bit of a shift in format. Rather than simply listing nine picks at specific positions, these articles will consist of three sections: a pitching overview, a look at the key value plays, and a selection of some of the best stacks on the board. The idea here is to give the reader a better sense of how the overall slate looks to the general public. This will allow prospective owners to follow the crowd when they like a chalk play, as well as deviate where appropriate in order to get leverage against the field.
We will be taking a look at the nine-game featured slate to kick off this article series, which begins at 4:00 PM ET. Without further ado, let's get to it.
There are three bona fide aces on this slate in Justin Verlander ($11,000), Corey Kluber ($10,500), and Blake Snell ($9,400), which should help to make ownership percentages more evenly distributed. It would hardly be surprising, however, to see many players pay up for Verlander against the Rays. Not only did Verlander post a spectacular 2.52 ERA with 290 strikeouts in just 214 innings last season, he was also frequently a DFS behemoth, as evidenced by the fact that he logged five starts of 30 or more DraftKings points in his last 10 outings. Even more enticing is that the 2019 Rays' Opening Day lineup is likely to feature just two hitters who posted an OPS above .800 last season.
Those looking for more of a matchup play will likely favor options such as Kyle Freeland ($9,000) vs. The Marlins and Madison Bumgarner ($8,800) vs. The Padres. Both of these pitchers have certain trouble signs in their peripheral stats but they are facing teams who were among the worst in the league against left-handed pitching according to wOBA in 2018. What makes Bumgarner particularly interesting is that San Diego also held the third-highest strikeout percentage against lefties (24 percent). Though it must be noted that the addition of players such as Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. give the offense more firepower than it had a year ago.
Those looking for real savings may want to key in on Brad Keller ($4,800) vs. the White Sox. Keller was something of a revelation for the Royals last year, notching a 3.28 ERA in 118 innings. While he may not bring much value in terms of strikeouts, Keller is facing a largely unchanged White Sox lineup from 2018, when they were a bottom-10 team in terms of wOBA against right-handed pitching. On a slate that will carry aces and proven quality arms, Keller may end up with a fairly low ownership percentage, but he doesn't need to do much to return value in cash and has some upside for GPPs.
When speaking of values, we must start the conversation with Fernando Tatis Jr. ($3,300). He is likely to be the team's everyday shortstop now that Luis Urias has been optioned to Triple-A El Paso, and that should be enough to make DFS players around the globe lick their chops. The team's top prospect slugged .507 and notched a .379 wOBA in 353 at-bats with Double-A San Antonio in 2018, and while we still have no idea how he will perform at the highest level, he will be almost impossible to go past at that price, particularly given the shallow nature of the position.
As was the case for most of last season, Mike Trout ($5,600) will likely be someone who finds his way on plenty of rosters unless he is facing elite pitching. Mike Fiers didn't quite fall into that category last year when he allowed 1.8 HR/9 against right-handed hitters in 83.1 innings.
Eloy Jimenez ($4,300) will be another new toy prospective owners will be keen to take out of the box, as he destroyed Triple-A Charlotte to the tune of a .597 slugging percentage in 211 at-bats last season. This should be enough to get most of the DFS-playing world on the hype train. While both Jimenez and Tatis Jr. unquestionably have ability, they also make for interesting fades in GPP formats due to their likely high ownership rates as unproven commodities.
Khris Davis ($4,900) logged an otherworldly .315 ISO against right-handed hurlers last year and is one of the few elite power hitters on the slate that can be had for under $5,000.
As we have seen, DFS players who want to invest in the Cubs will need to fork over a pretty penny, but it may be worth it when we consider that they will be performing in a friendly hitter's park, against a pitcher in Minor who kept a 4.83 xFIP against right-handed hitters last season. I expect that some may find it difficult to pay up for Contreras after what can only be called a down season in 2018 but he still held a respectable .196 ISO and .356 wOBA against lefty pitchers in 112 at-bats.
There's a little bit of everything to be had in this group in terms of production against lefties, as Mondesi showed above-average power (.233 ISO) to go along with his stolen base threat, Merrifield featured a .406 wOBA, and Soler notched 10 extra-base hits in just 54 at-bats. They will be facing a pitcher in Rodon who finished the year with a 5.44 xFIP against righty hitters.
This will qualify as my "GPP only" stack. There is no denying that Castillo seemed to turn a corner at the end of 2018, but it's worth noting that his opposing BABIP (.246) and LOB percentage (81 percent) could portend a bit of regression. In the end, what we have here is three talented hitters (with some question marks) in a small ballpark against a hurler who has been known to serve up homers. That, to me, has "contrarian stack" written all over it.