Well, the first slate of the year was a disaster from the standpoint that three key cogs in the slate were scratched prior to game time, two of which came from our lineup.
Clayton Kershaw was scratched from his start with a tight back while DJ LeMahieu was withheld from the starting lineup, although we knew that was a possibility as per yesterday’s piece.
Additionally, Juan Soto was scratched due a positive COVID test, although he was not in our lineup.
As a result, the lineups I ended up rolling with last night were far different than the one I released yesterday as there were simply too many wrenches thrown into the slate.
I was sure glad to grab Dodgers infielder/outfielder Kike Hernandez who enjoyed a four-hit, 5-RBI night including a homer to put his name atop the scoring list last night.
Nonetheless, let’s take a look at our first big slate of the MLB season as we have 11 games going down on the FanDuel main slate tonight!
FanDuel MLB DFS Picks – July 24, 2020
P – Jack Flaherty (STL) – $10,500 vs. PIT
Few times have we seen such a mid-season turnaround such as the one put forth by Flaherty last season as he stamped his place among the best in the game after the All-Star break a season ago.
We knew he was loaded with talent after he spun a 3.34 ERA/3.86 FIP in his rookie season to go along with a 10.85 K/9 clip, however Flaherty came out of the gates a little slow in 2019, posting a first-half ERA of only 4.64 while yielding an opponent’s batting average of .313.
That’s when the magic happened.
In the second half, Flaherty was the best pitcher in baseball as he turned in a 0.91 ERA to go along with a 2.22 FIP and 11.23 K/9 all while dropping his walk rate to 2.08 BB/9.
The opponent is perhaps the most favorable one on the board and can certainly be included in the safest to target. The Pirates ranked 21st in terms of wOBA last season, but also lost Starling Marte from that lineup. While they’re a group that actually struck out the second-fewest in baseball, this pick here is as much about safety as it is anything else.
At the end of the day, we have one of the game’s best against what should one of baseball’s weakest offenses, so don’t be afraid to pay up for Flaherty in this one tonight.
C/1B – Rhys Hoskins (PHI) – $3,400 vs. MIA
The Phillies open up their season with a home set against the lowly Miami Marlins and they’ll take on young right-hander Sandy Alcantara to open things up.
Alcantara was just fine as a 23-year-old a season ago, posting a 3.88 ERA while taking the ball 32 times, however his peripheral 4.55 FIP and 5.17 xFIP weren’t as kind to the youngster. Besides, on a day where most clubs are rolling out their aces, pitchers to pick on are few and far between while the Phillies are projected to score 5.3 runs, as per FantasyLabs, so we should be in good hands here.
We’ll kick off a four-man stack with the slugging first baseman Hoskins coming off a 29-homer season in which he posted a .228 ISO and .347 wOBA. He hit lefties better than righties, but still boasted a .213 ISO versus right-handed arms and a .248 ISO at home against right-handed pitching.
He’s also enjoyed some mild success against Alcantara in his career, going 3 for 12 against him with all three hits coming in double form. After what could be described as a subpar 2019 season, look for Hoskins to slug his way into a rebound campaign in 2020.
2B – Cesar Hernandez (CLE) – $2,500 vs. KC
I would keep an eye on the Indians lineup until we see a confirmed group, but for now I am seeing Hernandez projected as the Tribe’s leadoff hitter, giving him real nice value considering his price, matchup and the bats that will follow him in the Indians’ batting order.
After several years with the Phillies, Hernandez latched on with the Indians in the offseason, although his bat has slipped in consecutive seasons after posting a career-high 111 wRC+ in the 2017 season.
Still, he remains an intriguing DFS option if he’s atop the lineup thanks to some pop (at least 14 homers in back-to-back seasons) and speed (at least 15 steals in four of the last five seasons). That said, Hernandes owns a career on-base percentage of .352, a solid mark that could give him everyday reps atop the Indians’ lineup.
Of course, that would be a wonderful placed to be with slugger Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor – the team’s two best bats – hitting directly behind him with Ramirez projected in the two-hole and Lindor third.
Royals southpaw Danny Duffy takes the mound for the rival Royals tonight and while his lefty/righty splits were fairly even last season, he did allow an increased 1.51 HR/9 to right-handed bats, so Hernandez will be leading off my right-handed stack tonight, although three of them – including Hernandez – are switch hitters.
3B – Jose Ramirez (CLE) – $3,500 vs. KC
After reading the Hernandez portion, you could probably see this one coming from a mile away.
One of the most shocking aspects to the first half of the 2019 season was the futility at the plate from Ramirez coming off an MVP-caliber 2018 and 2017 seasons. He hit just .218 with a brutal .126 ISO and .652 OPS to go along with a 68 wRC+ that represents a figure 32% below league average.
However, the turnaround was special as Ramirez went on to hit .327 with a massive .412 ISO, 1.105 OPS and 176 wRC+ in the second half, going directly back to the superstar player we had witnessed over the two previous campaigns.
On top of the big and powerful bat, Ramirez also brings stolen base upside to the table as he has swiped 58 bases over the last two seasons with a career-high of 34 in the 2018 campaign. While the upside is lesser against a left-hander starter, it’s worth noting that seven of his 24 swipes from last season came against southpaw pitching.
I expect Ramirez to come out of the gates swinging this time around and perhaps put forth another MVP-type performance here in 2020.
SS – Francisco Lindor (CLE) – $3,800 vs. KC
Moving on with our four-man Indians stack is Lindor, who like Ramirez, is an obvious inclusion in this stack and a big reason why I’m seeing notable value in Hernandez if he indeed hits out of the leadoff spot tonight.
The subject of plenty of offseason trade rumors (that aren’t likely to stop until the trade deadline), Lindor remains one of the game’s elite shortstops and has a fine matchup on tap tonight.
In 2019, Lindor hit 32 home runs while stealing 22 bases as part of his .234 ISO, .349 wOBA and 114 wR+ at the dish. It was a step back from his dominant 2018 season, but nothing to scoff at from a DFS perspective, either.
There’a also some good and bad news to be had, and I’ll start with the bad.
The bad news is that the switch-hitting Lindor hit right-handers better than he did lefties last season as he posted a .177 ISO, .775 OPS, .330 wOBA and 101 wRC+ against southpaws in 2019, although it’s nice to see that eight of his 22 steals came off of lefties.
The good news is actually two-fold. One, Lindor has actually hit lefties better for his career as a whole, posting a .184 ISO, .804 OPS, .342 wOBA and 115 wRC+ versus southpaws, all of those numbers superior to his numbers against righties, save for the ISO figure. Secondly, Lindor has enjoyed success against Duffy in his career by going 7 for 24 (.292) with two home runs off of him, good for a .250 ISO, .912 OPS and a .393 wOBA against the veteran southpaw.
OF – Jordan Luplow (CLE) – $2,200 vs. KC
I had $2,300 to work with after getting my Phillies stack and three-man Indians stack in, and couldn’t believe that I could get Luplow at this price to complete a four-man Indians stack this evening against Duffy.
All due respect to the three men ahead of him in this stack, but not one of them held a candle to Luplow’s unworldly production against lefties last season.
In 2019, Luplow absolutely obliterated left-handing pitching to the tune of an enormous .472 ISO, 1.245 OPS, .494 wOBA and a gigantic 212 wRC+, the latter of which represents a number 112% above the league average versus southpaw pitching.
Now, the 2019 season was a clear breakout for the 26-year-old and in baseball there is zero guarantees that type of production can repeat itself, but it’s worth nothing that Luplow also hit lefties for a quality .211 ISO in the 2018 season with the Pirates, so we can see the power was developing.
Additionally, despite a small sample, Luplow has enjoyed success against Duffy in the past, going 2 for 4 with a home run against him while also drawing a pair of walks as part of his six plate appearances against the veteran.
At the end of the day, we can’t ignore Luplow’s 2019 production against lefties and certainly not to complete a four-man stack at a near-minimum cost.
OF – Bryce Harper (PHI) – $3,900 vs. MIA
Now that we’ve dealt with our Indians stack – a team almost projected to score 5.3 runs tonight – let’s move back to our Phillies group and let you know why they’re worth your backing this evening.
Of course, 2019 did not go according to plan for both Harper and the Phillies in the first season of his megadeal, however I’m bullish on the idea of a bounce back for both parties in 2020.
It’s not like Harper was terrible by any means in 2019 as he hit 35 home runs, stole 15 bases and posted a .250 ISO to go along with a .365 wOBA and 125 wRC+. He’s held to an MVP-caliber standard, however, and we didn’t see that last season.
Perhaps the most interesting thing from those numbers is that they lean towards left-handed pitching as the lefty-swinging Harper had a reverse-splits 2019 season. That’s far from the career norm, however, as Harper has hit right-handed pitching far better over the course of his career, likely making 2019 the exception to the rule.
On top of some mammoth production versus righties in his career, I’m enjoying the fact that the slugger has had success against Alcantara in the past, going 6 for 12 with a double and also a stolen base off the young righty. Let’s look for the former NL MVP to make a statement to open the Phillies’ season.
OF – Jay Bruce (PHI) – $2,100 vs. MIA
Another player that we’ll look to get some big-time value out of tonight, I’m seeing Bruce as the club’s projected clean-up hitter tonight, hitting two spots behind Harper but a spot ahead of Hoskins as well.
Bruce has made a career off of bashing right-handed pitching and 2019 was no exception. While his .218 batting average against righties drags down plenty of advanced stat departments including OPS, wOBA and wRC+, I’m looking at his massive .310 ISO against them dead in the face and focusing solely on that. I’m not rostering Bruce to hit singles and hope he scores runs, but rather hit the ball out of the ballpark and net us some big-time value, and Bruce hit 26 home runs in just 98 games a season ago.
There is a lack of production against Alcantara that sticks out as he’s gone 0 for 9 with three strikeouts against him, but once again Bruce is the type of player that changes games with one swing and I’ll look for him to do that to our lineup tonight at just one tick above the minimum price.
UTIL – Didi Gregorius (PHI) – $3,000 vs. MIA
Completing our lineup and my four-man Phillies stack tonight is Gregorius who will make his Phillies debut this evening after coming over as a free agent in the offseason.
Gregorius missed the first half of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, and he returned midway through the season to hit 16 homers in 82 games while posting a .204 ISO in the process. The home runs were fine, but he also hit just .238 and most of his numbers were well below where we’ve seen him in the past.
With plenty of time to round into form, I’m looking at his 2018 season as more of the bar as he hit 27 home runs with a .226 ISO, .350 wOBA and 122 wRC+, although those numbers are all career-highs.
He also posted a .256 ISO, .854 OPS against right-handed pitching that season, and I’ll look for him to approach those numbers in his first season with the Phils.
With Gregorius projected to hit sixth in the lineup we could have a 2-4-5-6 stack going here, something I’ll take with a team sporting a high projected run total.