Friday MLB slates are normally loaded on DraftKings, but since opening day was yesterday, scheduled off-days have been built in as a backup for postponements, which has created an unusually light Friday slate.
The idea of this fantasy baseball rankings page is to rank the top DraftKings options in each salary range, helping you make quick decisions when debating which players to roster for the upcoming main DraftKings MLB slate. Players are sorted from top to bottom in order of preference.
The players listed in the tables below are players that I’m considering rostering based on their price and matchup. If a player is not listed in these rankings but is in the lineup, that just means I am not focused on paying for this player today due to the combination of their matchup and price. They might still be a viable option—a wise sage once said, “you know, you just can’t predict baseball, Suzyn”—but I’m looking to spend my DraftKings capital elsewhere today.
One of the best ways to find hitter value in DraftKings MLB contests is through lineup slot upgrades after pricing has been set. These lineup slot upgrades often do not happen until teams release lineups a few hours before the game locks. Check back before lock to see potential updates to the rankings.
DraftKings Sportsbook Betting Odds
|NY Yankees||-121||Over 10.5|
|TOR Blue Jays||+106||Under 10.5|
|WAS Nationals||+110||Over 8.5|
|STL Cardinals||-127||Under 8.5|
|CHI Cubs||+143||Over 7.5|
|MIL Brewers||-167||Under 7.5|
|LA Angels||-136||Over 9|
|KC Royals||+117||Under 9|
|BOS Red Sox||+128||Over 6|
|MIN Twins||-148||Under 6|
|CIN Reds||-113||Over 8.5|
|SF Giants||-103||Under 8.5|
|SD Padres||-215||Over 8|
|PIT Pirates||+185||Under 8|
|SEA Mariners||+110||Over 9|
|BAL Orioles||-132||Under 9|
|DET Tigers||+210||Over 9|
|HOU Astros||-265||Under 9|
|PHI Phillies||-118||Over 8|
|NY Mets||+102||Under 8|
|TEX Rangers||+163||Over 8.5|
|TB Rays||-195||Under 8.5|
|MIA Marlins||+205||Over 8.5|
|ATL Braves||-265||Under 8.5|
|CLE Indians||+107||Over 7.5|
|CHI White Sox||-129||Under 7.5|
|COL Rockies||+240||Over 8|
|LA Dodgers||-286||Under 8|
Trevor Bauer, Los Angeles Dodgers ($10,500)
Bauer had a surge in production last season in part due to a huge increase in backspin on his fastball. Bauer’s average spin rate rose to just under 2,800 RPM in 2020, a giant spike from about 2,300 RPM in 2018 and 2,400 RPM in 2019. The difference in 400-500 RPM in backspin on a fastball can be the difference between a swing and a miss or contact, or the difference between a harmless fly out and a home run.
Why is this notable for today’s slate? MLB is apparently going to rigorously test baseballs this season to see if foreign substances are being used to increase spin, sending the baseballs to independent labs to be inspected. Bauer wrote an essay in The Players’ Tribune before the 2020 season calling out most of the league for using foreign substances to increase spin and estimated that 70% of pitchers use some sort of technically illegal substance on the ball. This is what he wrote in The Players’ Tribune:
“I’ve been chasing spin rate since 2012. For eight years I’ve been trying to figure out how to increase the spin on my fastball because I’d identified it way back then as such a massive advantage. I knew that if I could learn to increase it through training and technique, it would be huge. But eight years later, I haven’t found any other way except using foreign substances.”
Bauer’s sudden and dramatic increase in spin rate has led to speculation that he grew frustrated with the league not enforcing this rule and decided to take advantage of the loophole. If Bauer used foreign substances to increase his performance in 2020 and cannot use those same substances in 2021, there’s a good chance his fantasy production is going to decline. We have to wait and see how this unfolds by monitoring Bauer’s spin rate via MLB’s tracking system, and since that information is not public for spring training, we won’t have a clear picture until Bauer’s first start of the regular season.
As far as today’s matchup goes, Bauer is in a brutal spot at Coors Field, baseball’s most difficult park to pitch in. I don’t have a huge appetite to pay for Bauer today given the park and uncertainty with his skills, but there are a very limited number of stud options given the small slate, and if Bauer’s skills stay in tact from 2020, he has upside.
Blake Snell, San Diego Padres ($9,700)
The Rays are notoriously aggressive in yanking starting pitchers early to prevent opposing batters from seeing them three or four times in the same game. This was most infamously on display in the World Series when the Rays yanked Snell during a gem, allowing him to throw just 73 pitches despite allowing only two of the 18 batters he faced to reach base. Snell failed to complete six full innings in any start in 2020 and cracked 90 pitches in only one of his six postseason starts.
If Snell has been freed from a quick hook in his new home in San Diego, he could pitch deeper into games, which would give him more opportunities at generating fantasy volume. Snell is also getting a park and league upgrade at Petco in the National League, where he will not have to face the designated hitter. Petco is also one of the best parks for run prevention.
Snell is one of baseball’s best at missing bats, generating a swinging strike rate of 15% in each of his last three seasons. Snell’s swinging strike rate of 16% since the start of 2018 is third best among all starting pitchers, and his 32% strikeout rate is sixth best.
Friday’s matchup against the Diamondbacks is strong. Arizona is projected to be a bottom-third offense, and the soft pitching environment combined with Snell’s bat-missing ability makes him my favorite stud to pay up for on this slate.
Yusei Kikuchi, Seattle Mariners ($6,000)
Kikuchi is the cheapest pitcher on this slate, and he is someone that stands out to me as having excellent value on a per dollar basis. Kikuchi’s 5.17 ERA was ugly in 2020, but his peripheral statistics show that he probably has better days ahead.
Kikuchi limited batters to an expected wOBA of .283 based on the exit velocities and angles of their batted balls, much better than the league average of .322. Kikuchi stranded just 60% of baserunners, which is unsustainably low—the league average is about 72%, and Kikuchi’s strand rate in 2019 was 71%. A low strand rate suggests that Kikuchi had bad luck with sequencing, especially given his strong contact quality metrics. Kikuchi’s 3.37 FIP from 2020 is also excellent, and it’s fueled by a better-than-average 24% strikeout rate and strong home run prevention.
Kikuchi enjoys a soft matchup today against a poor Giants offense that is projected to be one of the worst in baseball, and Seattle’s home park is a good pitching environment. Kikuchi can easily turn in a strong outing and provide big fantasy value on Friday. I like the idea of pairing him with Snell, which creates some breathing room to pay for hitting.
Merrill Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks ($6,700)
Many of Kelly’s peripheral statistics from last season were better than average, including a contact quality derived expected wOBA allowed of .301, a 3.85 FIP, and a 19% strikeout minus walk rate. His matchup isn’t great against a Padres offense that is projected to be good, and Arizona will likely struggle to score against Blake Snell, but playing at pitcher-friendly Petco Park gives Kelly a good park environment at a cheap price. Something to note is that Kelly is coming off thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, which can often be a horrible injury to recover from, so there’s some uncertainty if he will return to pre-injury form.
|Fernando Tatis Jr.||SS||ARI||$6,000|
Salary Relief ($3,900 and under)
Los Angeles Dodgers stack
The Dodgers are an obvious hitting stack in Coors Field, the greatest hitting environment on earth. Rockies SP Antonio Senzatela does not miss many bats, so we can expect plenty of balls to be put into play to potentially find grass in Coors Field’s spacious outfield. Mookie Betts ($6,200), Cody Bellinger ($5,700) and Corey Seager ($5,800) are the top high-priced options, but anybody in the Dodgers’ lineup today is worth considering. Gavin Lux ($4,100) is an affordable midrange play, and Will Smith ($5,200) is expected to be in the lineup today after sitting out on opening day. Choosing Kikuchi at the cheapest price for pitchers allows more flexibility to roster Dodgers bats.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is timfinn521) 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 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.
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