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MLB DFS Picks and Pivots – Saturday, April 4, 2020

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MLB DFS Picks and Pivots:

Well hello friends, it has been three weeks since Picks and Pivots was last fired up on that potentially final night of the NBA season and since then we have seen our daily lives turned upside down as we navigate through some seriously wild times. I hope you are all staying safe, healthy and sane during this quarantine and I often think how much different this would all feel if we simply had sports.

Honestly, being required to work from home and told I cannot leave my house during the NCAA Tournament and then into MLB Opening Day? That sounds like a dream. However, as we know, life is far from that right now and many of us have turned to video game simulations, eSports and a variety of insane fantasy contests including a Fantasy Drone League to help us keep some sort of normalcy in an otherwise bizarre time.

I have to give sites like FanDuel and DraftKings credit – they are doing everything they can to keep us engaged during this time and allowing us to win actual money in these free contests. The DraftKings Madden simulations are weirdly fun to watch and tilt alongside others in the YouTube chat and seeing FanDuel break out MLB DFS simulations has been an awesome addition to pass the time.

All that being said, I miss writing – I miss the interaction that comes with DFS both in our Slack chat at DraftManager and on Twitter – and I miss freaking sports. Like A LOT. So why not have some fun and break down these FanDuel MLB contests and see if we can win pad our bankrolls before real sports come back into our lives!

MLB DFS FanDuel Free Plays:

Before we can make any decisions on how to attack these slates, the key after a few days of these being around is to see exactly what it takes to win some of that sweet sweet FanDuel Bonus Cash.

On the Opening Day slate, the winning lineup dropped 260 fantasy points, a 30 point lead over the next closest team while scores on Friday’s slate were at the top with just 220 fantasy points. The biggest common denominator on these slates, and something that has always been key on a one pitcher site like FanDuel, is you have to nail your Starting Pitcher pick as we have seen guys like Shane Bieber and Blake Snell anchor the winning builds with their hefty price tags and high K outputs.

Offensively, the winning builds have been home run hunting with very little correlation (if at all) as the batters seem to be all one-offs which is a far cry from the high correlation stacking approach we typically see employed in MLB DFS.

FanDuel has actually hooked us up with two slates today – one at 1:05 PM EST and another at 4:05 PM EST and you get 5 free entries into each so let’s have some fun today! Let’s dive into the early slate and see what we can isolate to help us build our best lineups.

MLB DFS Picks – Pitcher (Early):

On the 1 PM EST slate, there are two very clear arms to build around that bring you elite K upside and I think you simply limit your exposure to Luis Castillo ($10K) and James Paxton ($9.3K). 

Castillo finally had the breakout season in 2019 that many had expected, seeing his K rate jump from 23% to 28.9%with a 15.9% swinging strike rate which ranked behind only Cole, Scherzer and Verlander last season. Castillo maybe three starts against Pirates last season, striking out 7 and 8 batters in two of those three games with 39 and 48 FanDuel points in those outings. With FanDuel taking into account home/road splits in these simulations, I think Castillo being on the road in a pitcher-friendly park in Pittsburgh gives him the advantage when trying to decide on your arm. On the road last season, Castillo had a 4% increase in his K rate, sporting just under a 31% K rate on the road so this could be a spot where the simulation takes those numbers into account and we see a ceiling K game from the Reds right-hander.

Paxton’s 29.4% K rate in his first season in the Bronx rivals Castillo while also sporting a 14% swinging strike rate so there is merit to making Paxton your SP pivot, especially when we get 5 entries to mix and match with on FanDuel for free.

Paxton gets a SIMULATION REVENGE GAME against Toronto and if FanDuel was run by me, narratives would be the most important metric they weigh in – so I can only assume he gets added points for REVENGE! Paxton faced Toronto four times last year with his first three starts all being big time flops, failing to top 30 fantasy points in a single game. It was not until the 4th game where Paxton flashed his upside, striking out 7 for 49 FanDuel points against the Jays in Yankee Stadium.

Considering the opponents – Pittsburgh clearly has the far less potent lineup, but they also strike out at one of the lowest clips, at just a 19% rate last season which was second-lowest in the entire league. The Jays meanwhile are a far more dangerous lineup with their young core, but they also strike out at a much higher rate, in fact their 24.9% K rate was 6th in baseball last season.

MLB DFS Picks – Hitters (Early):

Paying up for arms on this slate means you need to be a bit more judicious with your hitter’s salaries but there are two teams on this slate that have high upside and reasonable pricing that makes them easy to fit with either Paxton or Castillo.

The Oakland A’s face-off with one of the worst arms on the slate in Homer Bailey, a pitcher with a low K rate, a 40% plus hard-hit rate and one who just two years ago had a single-digit swinging-strike rate and a near 2 Hr/9 rate. Marcus Semien ($3.5K) is the lone “spend up” leading off for this team while the 2-5 stack that follows is littered with cheaper option including Ramon Laureano, Matt Chapman, Matt Olson and Khris Davis.

I love the 3-4-5 stack of Chapman ($3.3K), Olson ($3.3K) and Davis ($2.7K) which has massive power upside against one of the worst SP’s this slate has to offer and they offer you significant price flexibility on a slate where I think locking in a high dollar arm is critical.

So, this quarantine life is likely going to change things for many when we get out on the other side of this – life will likely look and feel very different and maybe we will look at daily life a bit differently – maybe we will be a bit nicer, make healthier decisions and take time to stop and smell the roses.

I hope personally, that I come out of this a better person, a better husband and a better father.

But you know what I hope I don’t change – my insane irrational hatred for Jon Lester.

Yeah, that’s right – it is JON LESTER DAY and it may or may not have been a main driving force in me writing this article. You can force me to stay inside, home school my kids, play eSports DFS but you can NEVER MAKE ME MISS A LESTER DAY!

Look at that Arizona line-up today – You can rock a little Starling Marte/Ketel Marte double stack and start your day off with a Marte Party! Eduardo Escobar, David Peralta and Christian Walker make another inexpensive 3-4-5 stack which again works perfectly in a construct where you need power upside at reasonable price points to afford Castillo/Paxton.

MLB DFS Picks – Final Thoughts:

I would start each and every line-up with Castillo/Paxton at SP – there are simply no other arms with the K upside these two have and as these first few slates have shown – you need to get the 50+ type outings from your arms to have ANY chance.

Offensively, while I understand that “one-offs” have been the key the first two days – my MLB DFS brain cannot simply ignore the high correlation approach of stacking that drives upside and with dumpster fires like Homer Bailey on the mound, why try and predict the “one guy” who will have a big game and instead stack up the A’s and get multiple shots (you can stack up to four batters from one team) to get big box scores from your bats.

And stack against Lester. Always. Forever.

#StayAtHomeAndStackAgainstLester.

Stay safe all – have some fun with this and let’s all win the free moneys!