The start of Wild Card weekend in Major League Baseball brings a stacked four-game slate to DraftKings, which gets underway at 12:07 p.m. ET. The four series get underway in Cleveland, St. Louis, Toronto and New York as teams try to advance to the Division Series, which get underway next Tuesday.
Leading up to the first pitch, make sure to keep up with all the latest news and monitor starting lineups by installing the DK Live app and following DK Live on Twitter (@dklive). I’m also on Twitter (@ZT_Sports), where you can keep up with my picks for the rest of the postseason.
Yu Darvish, San Diego Padres at New York Mets ($8,400) – Darvish and the Padres visit the Big Apple to start what should be a great series against the Mets. Since Max Scherzer ($9,800) and Shane Bieber ($9,300) both had a few rough outings down the stretch, I like Darvish as my top pay-up play at SP. Darvish went 6-1 over his past seven starts with a 2.15 ERA, 3.20 FIP and 9.78 K/9. He beat the Dodgers and the Mariners (two playoff teams) in road starts during that run, and he’ll look to step up and help the Padres continue the Mets’ late-season fade.
Darvish also has postseason experience and usually steps up with good performances, outside of a couple of matchups against the Astros in 2017, when trash cans were involved. He beat the Mets twice this season, allowing only one run on six hits while striking out 15 in 14 innings.
Other Option – Max Scherzer ($9,800)
Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies at St. Louis Cardinals ($7,200) – There are no “soft” matchups to try and attack for value plays now that we’ve reached the postseason. There is still a good value play with Wheeler, though, even though he will have to face a stacked Cardinals lineup.
Wheeler has allowed just one earned run on nine hits over his past three starts while striking out 15 in 15 innings. He has only allowed more than two earned runs twice in his past nine starts and both those outings were against the Mets. In his other seven starts during that span, he has averaged 23.8 DKFP per outing. He went 12-7 on the season with a 2.82 ERA, 2.89 FIP and 9.59 K/9. He faced the Cardinals in back-to-back games this season in early July and threw 14 shutout innings while striking out 10 and going 1-0.
Other Option – Alek Manoah ($6,900)
Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Seattle Mariners ($4,700) – Bichette enters the postseason after a scorching September. In his 32 games since Sept. 1, he hit .406 with seven homers, 11 doubles, four stolen bases, a .473 wOBA and an impressive 217 wRC+. Bichette has better splits against righties like Luis Castillo ($7,700) than against lefties, and he’ll be locked into a premium lineup spot against the M’s in the series opener.
Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies at St. Louis Cardinals ($4,600) – Hoskins hit .286 this season against southpaws with eight of his 30 homers and a .404 wOBA. While Jose Quintana ($5,300) may not be around for too long, Hoskins should get a couple of at-bats against him in this favorable matchup. He is 3-for-10 with a home run and five walks in his past matchups with Quintana.
Other Options – José Ramírez ($5,900), Vladimir Guerrero Jr. ($5,000)
Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Phillies ($3,400) – Pujols went back to St. Louis for a final storybook ending to his career, but no one could have predicted such a good season for the 42-year-old veteran. He hit 24 homers to get to 703 career home runs and surged to the finish with eight dingers in his past 21 contests with a .471 wOBA and 213 wRC+. Not only is Pujols’ big postseason a trip down Narrative Street, but he would demand attention at this salary given his recent performance regardless of his career stats.
Whit Merrifield, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Seattle Mariners ($2,800) – Merrifield joined the Jays at the trade deadline but didn’t make much impact until Santiago Espinal (oblique) was sidelined. He went 22-for-55 (.400) with five doubles, four home runs and a .477 wOBA in his 18 games since the middle of the month. He usually bats low in the order, which costs him some at-bats but also puts him in a good spot to score runs if he gets on base with his speed before the meat of the order comes up. He’s not quite as hot as Bo, but he comes at a very low salary for his high upside.
Other Options – Josh Bell ($3,600), Carlos Santana ($2,600)
Julio Rodríguez, Seattle Mariners at Toronto Blue Jays ($5,800) – The dynamic rookie is the most expensive OF on the slate, which shows how outstanding his first MLB season has been. He’s come a long way since he was hitting just .136 after his first 12 games of the season without a home run. He turned things around in a hurry, though, and finished hitting .284 with 28 home runs, 25 stolen bases, a .225 ISO and a .366 wOBA. The only thing that slowed him down late in the season was a back injury that landed him on the IL. When available, he’s been hot, going 28-for-71 (.394) in his past 19 games with seven homers, two stolen bases and a .508 wOBA. Rodríguez will try to bring that sizzling fantasy production to the postseason, and he may be under-owned since people don’t want to pay all the way up for him.
Steven Kwan, Cleveland Guardians vs. Tampa Bay Rays ($4,700) – Kwan also put together an impressive rookie season, and his late-season surge helped the Guardians put away the AL Central. Since Sept. 2, he hit .316 (42-for-133) with four doubles, two triples and three home runs to go with seven stolen bases. Although he doesn’t bring as much power as Rodríguez, he still has a high ceiling with his speed and good batting average. He can serve as a catalyst even in a lefty-lefty matchup vs. Shane McClanahan ($6,300).
Other Options – Randy Arozarena ($5,200), Teoscar Hernández ($4,400)
Harold Ramírez, Tampa Bay Rays at Cleveland Guardians ($3,500) – Ramírez will be taking on his former team after playing 99 games last year in Cleveland. He finished his first year in Tampa, he hit exactly .300 with six home runs, 21 doubles, a .327 wOBA and 6.1 DKFP per game. He wasn’t in his best form at the end of the season, but he has a great hit tool and usually finds ways to produce.
Myles Straw, Cleveland Guardians vs. Tampa Bay Rays ($2,500) – Straw lost his leadoff job but still found ways to contribute during the Guardians’ run. Straw stole 21 bases in 22 attempts, including 14 straight to end the season. He hit .221 on the year but finished by hitting .330 (32-for-97) with six stolen bases over his final 28 contests. Like Merrifield, he often gets run-scoring opportunities once the lineup flips and can be a good value play.
Other Options – Lars Nootbaar ($3,600), Raimel Tapia ($2,300)
TEAMS TO STACK
Cleveland Guardians vs. Tampa Bay Rays – The Guardians provide plenty of great options in their balanced offensive attack against Shane McClanahan ($6,300). McClanahan was outstanding early in the season, even starting the All-Star game, but he stumbled after the All-Star break, as his ERA was 4.20 with a 3.81 FIP after posting a 1.71 ERA and 2.41 FIP in the first half. McClanahan gave up five runs over 4 1⁄3 innings in a loss during that stretch, and the Guardians will hope to get to the lefty again on Friday. Straw went 2-for-4 in that game while eight of the nine starters had a hit.
José Ramírez ($5,900) is always the big bat to build around while Kwan (discussed above), Amed Rosario ($4,400) and Andres Giménez ($4,900) stand out as midrange options. The Guardians also have some promising young players who could join Straw (discussed above) as value plays. Gabriel Arias ($3,300), Will Brennan ($3,000) and even Bo Naylor ($2,400) could be on the roster and in the lineup, so keep a close eye on places to play especially right-handed values against the lefty McClanahan.
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Seattle Mariners – The Blue Jays will take on Luis Castillo ($7,700), who can be hit or miss from start to start, but this is less about the matchup and more about Toronto’s recent form. The Blue Jays lead the Majors with a .347 wOBA since Sept. 1 and have scored an MLB-high 175 runs with 42 homers. Bichette and Merrifield are a good place to start based on their individual form and potential, and you can also consider including Vladimir Guerrero Jr. ($5,000), George Springer ($4,900), Teoscar Hernández ($4,400) and Matt Chapman ($4,000) to round out the stack.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is z.thompson) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups. I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.