A shortened slate and a lack of quality pitching complicates matters for Monday's DFS contests. Fortunately, our experts are here to point you to the best building blocks and sleepers at the plate ... and one pitcher not named Max Scherzer.
Today's panel features Leo Howell, Joe Kaiser, Derek Carty and Kyle Soppe.
A leadoff hitter in Coors Field should always be on your daily fantasy radar, but when it’s a speedy .319 hitter with 14 extra-base hits in 113 at-bats this season, the upside is too good to pass up. Without top-tier aces to trust, go cheap on pitching and load up on Washington bats, starting with their spark-plug rookie, who is a good bet to swipe a base and drive a double into the gap against weak lefty Jorge De La Rosa.
Padres starter Luis Perdomo has a 6.80 ERA on the season, and it hasn’t been much better on the road (6.16) or in his past three starts (6.23). Sounds like a great time to build around Longoria, who has mashed 23 home runs and 21 doubles against righties this season, putting up an impressive .882 OPS. Longoria is also swinging a very hot bat, with 10 hits in his past six games.
Derek Carty -- Drew Smyly, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
Smyly has absolutely struggled at times this year, but today he's my top pitcher and the one I'm building around. Historically, Smyly's worst pitch has been his changeup, and he used it just 2 percent of the time when he was so dominant last year. This year, however, it has been up over 10 percent, with increased reliance in the periods where he struggled most. Over his past four starts, however, he has thrown just three total (less than 1 percent) and posted a 2.52 ERA. Not only is avoiding his worst pitch a good thing on its own, but it could be an indicator of overall health and confidence. Smyly dealt with arm issues in the past and fatigue this year (at least publicly that's all that has been said, but arm issues wouldn't have surprised me), but decreasing reliance on the changeup and increasing his breaking ball usage is a good sign. I'm still not convinced he's the Smyly we used to know, but this is enough for me to roster him on a day that is terrible for pitching, because he is facing a weak, strikeout-prone Padres offense at home in Tropicana.
Ozuna is ripping the cover off the ball against southpaws this season, and with a slugging percentage that is more than twice his batting average, you can sign me up. It also doesn’t hurt that his first-pitch numbers are downright silly (.421 with a slugging percentage that more resembles T-ball than professional baseball) and that the homer-prone Brandon Finnegan has coughed up 63 percent of his bombs on the first three pitches. Again, nothing wrong with going pitching-heavy, but in a tournament setting where Scherzer figures to be as heavily owned as any player in recent weeks, a Marlins stack is an alternative option. Or … maybe go all-in on the Fish tonight and start David Phelps (nine strikeouts and eight hits allowed in his two starts this season) and roster Scherzer on sites that allow two pitchers? I’m not sayin' … I’m just sayin'.
To say that Saunders has struggled recently would be an understatement, as the Blue Jays’ outfielder is batting .163 this month with 18 strikeouts in 43 at-bats. But Monday’s matchup with Chad Green could help him find his swing again, as Green has allowed a 1.138 OPS to lefties this season with six homers allowed in 52 at-bats. He’s a cheap bat to help you afford Washington hitters ... or as a way to differentiate your lineup in tournaments from those going with chalky stacks of Nationals and Rangers.
Joe Kaiser -- Nick Franklin, 1B/2B/OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Franklin is a better bargain on FanDuel than on DraftKings, so keep that in mind before rostering him, but either way, he’s a solid value against the struggling Perdomo, given how well he has swung the bat against righties in 2016 (20-for-68, 3 HR, .860 OPS). Make sure he’s in the Rays’ lineup before rostering him, though.
Ian Kennedy is about to come crashing down. He has been testing his luck all year with the Royals, but this is a below-average pitcher we're dealing with. He gets a park downgrade into Comerica today, where it's both hot and humid, and he's supported by a weak bullpen. Upton is a fine play on FanDuel, but he's close to a must-play at his DraftKings price. He's just too talented to cost that little in a solid matchup.
Kyle Soppe – Martin Prado, 3B, Miami Marlins
He may cost a little more than you’d expect, but assuming that you’re paying up for Scherzer tonight, this may be your only way to get exposure to the Marlins. Finnegan has been on a nice little run of late (1.50 ERA during his stretch of three consecutive quality starts), but you’re talking about a Cardinals offense that can’t hit left-handing pitching at all and a Padres batting order that really isn’t all that good. Now, the Marlins may not be world-beaters themselves, but with a powerful right-handed bat in the middle of the order (see Ozuna, Marcell), they project as the type of offense that gives Finnegan fits (over 41 percent of his hits allowed to righties have gone for extra bases, including a whopping 23 home runs). Prado not only has been better than you think (every part of his slash is better than that of Adrian Gonzalez), but he is obliterating southpaws. With one of the five best contact rates in all of baseball, the floor is as high for Prado as anyone on tonight’s slate, and you’re never going to find him in a more advantageous matchup. Whether you skimp on pitching or elect to spend big, I’d make every effort to get Prado into your lineup this evening.