It appears that weather won’t be much of an issue for tonight’s 14-game MLB featured slate on DraftKings, and in a way, there isn’t a more fitting end to April. While we had a few games rained out — and a few more postponed due to snow — the first month of the 2021 campaign has gone pretty smoothly, especially when compared to last year.
Here’s hoping the good times continue on Friday. Let’s go position-by-position and break down everything you’ll need to know for this evening’s action.
Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers, $10,500 - Try as I might, I really don’t think there’s a way to avoid Cole on tonight’s slate. He’ll be popular, but this matchup with the Tigers is just too juicy to ignore. Across the past 14 days, Detroit has a wRC+ of 40. To put that in perspective, within the same span, San Diego ranks 29th in the category with a 76 wRC+. Essentially, the Tigers’ offense has been twice as anemic as any other in baseball over the last two weeks and it starts and ends with a league-leading 32.6% strikeout rate. That figure isn’t going to get any better with Cole taking the mound for the Yankees, as the RHP has managed a 42.0 K/BB ratio in his four most recent outings. He’s a machine.
Pablo Lopez, Miami Marlins at Washington Nationals, $7,800 - It might be time we start looking at Lopez as an elite pitcher in this league. The sample size isn’t massive — just 16 starts and 85.0 innings — but going back to the beginning of 2020, Lopez’s resume holds up with the best in the game. In that span, the right-hander’s 3.08 FIP is the 11th-lowest qualified mark in baseball, while only six pitchers have allowed fewer opponent home runs per nine (0.74). Add in a more than respectable 25.9% strikeout rate, and you’ve got yourself the makings of an ace. With the Nationals ranking dead-last in MLB with a 72 wRC+ against RHPs, I’m a little surprised that Lopez’s price tag isn’t higher this evening.
Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati Reds, $5,400 - Contreras has cooled slightly after a scorching start to the season, yet at no point in 2021 has he been unhappy to see a left-handed pitcher on the mound. To wit, in the backstop’s first 26 plate appearances within the split, he’s slashing .318/.385/.864 with a 213 wRC+. Those are the types of numbers four home runs in 22 at-bats can produce. Obviously things will regress as time goes on, but Contreras has amazing career numbers versus LHPs, too. This is the situation you want to own him, and Wade Miley ($7,400) better be careful.
Austin Nola, San Diego Padres vs. San Francisco Giants, $3,600 - After pinch-hitting in his return from the IL on Wednesday, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Nola back in the starting lineup this evening. To be clear, it’s lefties that Logan Webb ($8,000) has had his issues with so far this season, but Nola’s viability is less about matchup than it is his own talent. Between San Diego and Seattle, Nola posted a .361 expected wOBA in 2020 — an elite figure for this position. Under normal circumstances, he’d be priced well above $4K, so I’ll just blindly invest in the dip.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays vs. Atlanta Braves, $5,700 - There’s no question that Guerrero has started to live up to the hype in 2021, as the 22-year-old has posted a .480 wOBA through 97 plate appearances that is the sixth-highest qualified mark in baseball. It doesn’t really matter who’s opposing the slugger right now — as Tuesday’s performance against Max Scherzer showed — but that doesn’t mean we can’t jump on a tempting opportunity. Drew Smyly ($7,700) comes into Friday in possession of a 57.8% hard hit rate, a figure that places him in the bottom 2% of the league. Teams have been teeing off on the lefty, and his struggles should continue against the Jays.
Matt Duffy, Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati Reds, $2,600 - Even with Javier Baez ($4,900) back in the lineup on Thursday, Duffy once again hit in the three-spot for David Ross and the Cubs, finishing the victory with two hits, two walks, two runs scored and 16.0 DKFP. With that type of positive reinforcement, I have a difficult time seeing Ross making a switch on Friday. Granted, the veteran doesn’t really bring a lot of power to the plate, but this is a bargain basement price for access to a premium batting order slot.
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DJ LeMahieu, New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers, $5,400 - It finally seems like LeMahieu is starting to heat up at the plate, as the veteran has racked up five hits in his past three games. Now, you might just point to the quality of the Orioles’ pitching staff, but things don’t get any harder this evening against Tarik Skubal ($6,100). The young lefty has allowed 3.46 home runs per nine to opposing RHBs through his five appearances this season, while his strikeout rate within the split is a microscopic 13.8%. New York has the highest implied total on tonight’s slate and it’s really easy to see why.
Ty France, Seattle Mariners vs. Los Angeles Angels, $3,900 - France comes into Friday with some impressive offensive numbers. Not only does the infielder possess a 172 wRC+ in his 23 plate appearances against LHPs so far in 2021, but for the season as a whole, France is hitting .301 with a .396 expected wOBA. Andrew Heaney ($6,800) has pitched really well since a rocky first start — he’s actually a very viable option as your SP2 — but France has a lot of potential batting out of the top-third of Seattle’s lineup.
Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox at Texas Rangers, $5,300 - There have been reports that the Rangers recently addressed the possibility that Kohei Arihara ($5,500) has been tipping his pitches in 2021. To be fair, that would help explain the rookie’s 7.38 expected ERA or that fact that Arihara’s surrendered a barrel in 9.9% of plate appearances — the fifth-highest qualified mark in baseball. Still, even if that was an issue that’s been fixed, it doesn’t change the fact that Arihara doesn’t induce swings and misses. A zone contact rate of 92.6% is blood in the water in DFS, and Devers could be in store for a huge evening.
Gio Urshela, New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers, $3,600 - The aforementioned Skubal comes into this start conceding a barrel on a whopping 15.5% of the batted ball events he’s induced — the highest mark of any qualified pitcher in the AL. On the other side of the ledger, Urshela, who’s been batting cleanup for the Yankees the past few days, is red-hot at the dish. Dating back to Apr. 20, the infielder owns a .323 ISO and a 166 wRC+ across 35 plate appearances. Small sample, but Urshela’s seeing the ball really well right now and Skubal is struggling like few others in baseball.
Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Atlanta Braves, $5,700 - Bichette broke out of a long slump with a home run and a double in Wednesday’s loss to Washington, but it’s what he’s done versus LHPs in his brief career that gets my attention this evening. In 111 plate appearances, the young SS is slashing .343/.387/.558 with a .404 wOBA. In fact, while Bichette’s low walk rate is sometimes held against him in real-life, it’s a boost in DFS, as you’d prefer someone this expensive get his cuts in. Bookended in the lineup by Guerrero and George Springer ($4,500), look for Bichette to do some damage off Smyly.
Gleyber Torres, New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers, $4,200 - Torres has to hit a home run at some point, right? ...Right?! As mentioned above, Skubal has been giving away long balls to RHBs in 2021 like they’re free samples at Sbarro. Meanwhile, Torres has been looking slightly better in the batter’s box of late, coming into Friday’s slate with an extra-base hit in each of his past three games. Maybe tonight’s the night something finally goes over the fence, but even if that’s not the case, Torres is an affordable asset in what can generally be an expensive stack.
Alex Verdugo, Boston Red Sox at Texas Rangers, $4,700 - While he might never live up to the man he was acquired for, Verdugo has been putting together a fantastic April in Boston, specifically when it comes to hitting RHPs. In 71 plate appearances within the split, the outfielder owns a 1.006 OPS and a 177 wRC+. Due to his high contact rate, Verdugo also comes into Friday night with an expected batting average in the 97th percentile of the league. Any stack against Arihara should begin with Boston’s 24-year-old slugger.
Brad Miller, Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Mets, $3,400 - Miller has hit leadoff the last three times the Phillies have faced a right-handed pitcher. He’s had a pretty good start to the season, too, posting a .333 average with a 143 wRC+ so far in April. Honestly, Miller’s lone issue in 2021 has been strikeouts, and that’s not exactly Marcus Stroman’s ($8,400) strength. I’d look for Miller to return value on his minimal salary in an opposite-hand matchup.
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