When there is a game in Coors, that's an automatic target for hitter selection. Pitching has two versions of that: arms facing Atlanta and San Diego. Tragedy hits the DFS landscape for a few days as the two teams are facing each other for three in San Diego starting Monday. By the way, if you really think you'll watch any game at any time, lock in for the full nine on any of those three games.
It's the Baseball Lover's Challenge. I'm busy re-lacing my shoes on Monday so I can't watch that sweet, sweet Williams Perez-Christian Friedrich match, but I'm taking the #baseballloverchallenge on Tuesday when Aaron Blair and Colin Rea square off. Honestly, Wednesday's day game is the easiest of the bunch to watch with Julio Teheran dueling versus Drew Pomeranz so to really qualify for the #baseballloverschallenge, you need to watch the Monday or Tuesday game. Sorry, but my dumb game, my dumb rules.
OK, let's talk about the guys we're actually going to use. There are a handful of lockdown studs (two of which stand out above the rest) and then a sharp dropoff from there so expect some massive usage rates for those guys. There are a few contrarian picks to lock in on, but your best bet is to pay up.
Yesterday's rain out with the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Mets will be made up this afternoon with last night's scheduled starters, Jonathon Niese and Steven Matz, working in the opener. The contest isn't available for DFS. In terms of seasonal formats, Matz is a strong start while Niese is solid start, especially if you need strikeouts. Other pitching changes include Cody Anderson taking Carlos Carrasco's spot for the Cleveland Indians, which aids Seattle Mariners hitters along with southpaw David Huff making a spot start for the Los Angeles Angels against the New York Yankees.
Jacob deGrom fanned 6+ in 70 percent of starts last year, but managed the feat just once in his first six starts this year causing some panic. He's now done it in his last three with 7, 7, and 10 (24 Ks in 19 IP) alleviating the otherwise minimal panic. His swinging strike rate in the first six starts was 11 percent and said the strikeouts were coming. It's been at 13 percent over these last three. The Pirates are no rollover offensively, but deGrom is a bona fide stud.
For being a stud, I think Cole Hamels is regularly underused in DFS. Although this year has a more of a case than previous seasons. He has allowed homers in five straight, including three multi-homer games, sending his season rate to 1.7 HR/9. He did face Houston in this run, but they only got him for one homer as he went eight strong with 11 strikeouts. His HR/FB ratio has to come down from the obscene 25 percent he's at now, which is more than twice his career mark. The homers aren't just a byproduct of bad luck, but there is definitely some mixed in. I see better days ahead, starting on Tuesday.
Don't look now, but Zack Greinke has his ERA under 4.50 for the first time all year thanks to a 2.14 ERA in 21 innings over his last three starts with 20 K's and just two walks. He crushed the Cardinals in St. Louis, survived one bad inning versus San Diego, and then obliterated the Astros in Houston. Honestly, his four starts before that were pretty good, too, yielding a 3.06 ERA in 47 IP all told. It looks like he is finally finding his footing with the Diamondbacks, a must if they want to get back into the race. The homer-happy Rays can jump a guy if he's off, but they also have the second-highest strikeout rate against righties (26 percent) so I think we have a good chance of seeing Greinke's second double-digit strikeout effort of the season.
Joe Ross doesn't get the hype of a Max Scherzer or Stephen Strasburg, but he's been fantastic at the back end of their rotation in his first full season. His 19 percent strikeout rate is down compared to last year's debut, but he's a couple big outings from matching last year's 22 percent rate. He keeps the ball down, goes deep into games, and gets the sputtering White Sox, which sit 27th in wRC+ against righties this year.
The entire Cubs rotation has been tremendous this year with all five starters carrying a sub-3.00 ERA so far. Kyle Hendricks gets the least fanfare of the group and might be a little off the radar when it comes to being a DFS play. The 26-year old righty has been fantastic this year, amplifying his groundball rate to 58 percent while maintaining an average strikeout rate at 21 percent. He is primarily fastball-changeup which is more like four pitches the way he can manipulate both. He is inducing loads of soft contact, too, as his 29 percent rate is second to only Tanner Roark this year (31 percent).
Spot starters and streamers
Aaron Sanchez is quietly having a breakout season, but draws a tough matchup at Detroit so I couldn't quite recommend him in a higher tier. Sanchez has gone into the seventh inning in each of his last seven starts and leans on a 59 percent groundball rate to go with his solid-average strikeout and walk rates. The 24-year old throws hard and has a filthy curveball and even with the strong start, it feels like he's just scratching the surface of what he can do. Walks can be an issue at times, but some of that is due to his killer stuff. He has walked 4+ three different times this year, but two of those were 7 IP/1 ER outings so walks aren't automatically a death knell for him.
Adam Conley and Sean Manaea are very volatile arms, but the payoff could be substantial if they are on in their start. Conley just ripped through a Pirates team that usually crushes lefties with six scoreless and nine strikeouts while Manaea has shaved five-plus runs off of his ERA of his last four starts. Of course, he was working from an 11.37 ERA so he almost had no choice but to improve. That said, three of the four have been really good including two of 6+ IP and just 1 ER. He had a career-high eight strikeouts his last time out and gets the Brewers, owners of the highest strikeout rate versus righties so far this year.
Mike Leake is a total "water finds its level" guy for better or worse. Last year he reeled off a 2.36 ERA in his first nine starts and looked like he could be headed for a career year. He wound up with a 3.70 ERA in 192 IP. This year, he has a 6.03 ERA through his first six starts before putting together a 1.59 ERA in his last five to get his season mark down to 3.82 - right in line with his career 3.88. The volatility obviously adds risk, but with his highs being really high, he becomes DFS viable in favorable matchups as opposed to if he just went 6 IP with 2-3 ER every time out.
Jerad Eickhoff has looked good for most of his 11 starts this year, but he still has a sharp platoon split with lefties clocking an .856 OPS off of him. With that glaring issue, I'm not exactly looking to start him against the Cubs. First off, that lineup is scary enough for a pitcher without a platoon problem, but you know the Cubs will overload with lefties/switch-hitters to exploit Eickhoff's weakness. Miguel Montero will likely get a start behind the dish and Tommy La Stella could even find his way into the lineup which would give them six of eight from the left side. Pass.
Just read that Eickhoff Avoid section as a pro-Cubs stack section. Dexter Fowler (164), Anthony Rizzo (162), Ben Zobrist (154) and the aforementioned La Stella (137) are all toting wRC+ totals north of 130 against righties this year. Hell, Kris Bryant is at 143 himself so I wouldn't be averse to a righty-righty play there.
Look at the Dodgers pulling a 10 rating against the Rockies even without going to Coors. Eddie Butler has shown some flashes, but ultimately remains too inconsistent to trust or in this case to worry about facing with DFS hitters. Corey Seager will be a super popular pick, but that doesn't make it wrong. Butler is yielding an .880 OPS to lefties this year and a 1.052 (!) over his career. Butler is allowing an .837 OPS to righties, too, but lefties are the play with Adrian Gonzalez, Joc Pederson, and Chase Utley joining Seager as the best plays.
The early season excitement that Matt Moore might finally be arriving has waned as he's just too hittable to be a consistent pitcher. He has a 7.34 ERA over his last six starts with eight home runs allowed. A righty-heavy lineup like Arizona's (in Chase Field, too!) is not the best spot for him to get right. The best bets here are Welington Castillo, Yasmany Tomas, and Chris Owings. Paul Goldschmidt still has a 127 wRC+ against lefties year, but it's built more on his gaudy 25 percent walk rate.
Washington only pulled a 5 rating, but they get Mat Latos so that feels like a typo of some sort. I feel like they probably should've gotten a 40, but I'm told the scale does in fact stop at 10. Latos has a 6.54 ERA with 45 hits allowed in his last 31.7 innings. Both righties and lefties are in play against Latos with Daniel Murphy being foremost among the options. Obviously, Bryce Harper is always a consideration, even in the midst of his struggles, but I'd also look at Wilson Ramos and Anthony Rendon.
John Lamb has been either really good or really bad this year. He has three starts with 1 ER and then three others with a combined 16 ER. Comically, one of the 1 ER outings was in Coors Field. The Cardinals are doing their best work against righties, but they are still 11th in wRC+ against lefties. Top considerations are Stephen Piscotty, Matt Holliday, and Aledmys Diaz, with Randal Grichuk being a sneaky option even though he has struggled some against lefties this year.
The Orioles, Red Sox, Royals, and Yankees are worthwhile targets to pluck pieces for your lineup as well. Yordano Ventura's home run issues won't sit well against Baltimore. The Royals still have some strong options even after the rash of injuries and frankly, almost anyone is worth a look against Ubaldo Jimenez. The Angels haven't named a starter yet, but short of bringing back Nolan Ryan, there's no one that will scare us from rostering a Yankee or three.
Most likely to go yard: Stephen Piscotty
He's having a fantastic season and the demolition of lefties has been the driving force. He has a 1.221 OPS against them in 60 PA and a 1.041 in 126 PA dating back to last year. Look for him to club his fifth career homer against lefties on Tuesday.
Most likely to swipe a bag: Melvin Upton Jr.
Six teams draw a 10 rating in the steal column so there are plenty ways to go here, but I'll go with Upton as Tyler Flowers is just 2-for-21 against base runners this year.