It what was the most awkward slate of the 2021 MLB season — especially with the PPD of the Indians/White Sox game from Chicago — our picks largely missed.
I mean, our Mets mini-stack of Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso crushed it as each homered on the night while Lindor had himself a three-hit night.
Our Braves mini-stack missed, but man it was frustrating to see our D-backs stack miss. The D-backs got to the Reds’ bullpen as I expected and scored eight runs on the night. However, Kole Calhoun posted a zero and Pavin Smith simply scored one run on an 0 for 6 (!!!) night. David Peralta and Asdrubal Cabrera had solid nights, but it just wasn’t enough and it’s really too bad as we had these guys between 0.5% and 3.3% owned. You give me eight runs from their team at that ownership and I’m usually laughing, but it was the remainders of the team that did the heavy lifting. Smith and Calhoun going a combined 0 for 11 is just infuriating.
It’s a lighter day in Major League Baseball with just eight total games on the schedule, and we have ourselves a five-game main slate as well. Let’s dive into some cash-aimed picks and see if we can bounce back!
FanDuel MLB DFS Picks – April 22, 2021
P – Walker Buehler (LAD) – $9,800 vs. SD
There really isn’t much at all in terms of pitching on this slate, so the best bet in any cash or GPP format tonight is to just roster Walker Buehler as the Dodgers and Padres get back together for an NL West clash tonight.
Many will remember the Padres mashing their way to the top of the leaderboards last season, but that has not been the case so far here in 2021. Entering this one, the Padres ate tied for 16th with a .307 wOBA on the season, but more surprising is the complete lack of power as they also sit 29th with a tiny .124 ISO. They are tied for the league lead with 18 steals and it’s a healthy roster at the moment, but they just aren’t producing.
Now, I do recognize the fact they haven’t struck out much as their 21.3% K-rate on the season is the second-lowest in all of baseball. That mark actually drops to just 20.1% against right-handed pitching. Still, they have the lowest projected run total on the slate at just 3.3, so we still have something to work with here.
Besides, Buehler brings plenty of strikeout upside himself. He enters this one sporting a tiny 6.00 K/9 on the season, but heads up for the positive regression given his 10.13 K/9 career mark while he also owns a 2.00 ERA on the season to boot. He’s put impeccable command on display by way of his minuscule 0.50 BB/9 on the season and he’s gone six innings in all three starts this season, giving us the potential for a quality start and a win.
There is risk all over the pitching ranks on this slate, so using Buehler would appear to be the best bet, especially with that positive strikeout regression on the horizon.
C/1B – Pete Alonso (NYM) – $3,400 vs. CHC
I mentioned in the opening that Alonso rewarded us with a home run last night, but I believe a home-run binge could have begun as he is just crushing the ball this season.
His homer last night marked his third of the season, but there is going to be plenty more moving forward. After all, Alonso’s monstrous 66.7% Statcast hard-hit rate ranks in the league’s 99th percentile while he also ranks in the 100th percentile in terms of average exit velocity. Add in a huge 21.2% barrel rate that ranks in the 97th percentile and we have a guy absolutely mashing the baseball at the moment.
It doesn’t appear he’s going to hit for much average, but the power is huge. He owns a career .302 ISO and a .229 mark this season, adding a pair of doubles to his three homers. The good news is the damage has come against right-handed pitching as both doubles and two of the three homers have come off a righty as he gets set to take on right-hander Trevor Williams of the Cubs.
This has little to do with Williams, however, as he’s been solid in turning in a 3.94 xERA, 3.16 FIP and 4.12 xFIP. However, home-run regression is on the horizon as he’s yet to allow a homer in 14.1 innings this season despite yielding a huge 2.44 homers per nine innings last season and a big 1.67 mark in 2019. He’s due to surrender some gopher balls moving forward.
Add it up and going right back to Alonso makes plenty of sense here.
2B – Wilmer Flores (SF) – $2,100 vs. MIA
As you’ll see, we have plenty of high-priced bats in this lineup, so we needed some cost-efficient ones as well, and I have a Giants mini-stack going here with a couple of guys that mash left-handed pitching which is what they will see against Marlins southpaw Daniel Castano.
The opportunity here is huge against Castano. He owns a 2.86 ERA through the first 34.2 big-league innings of his career between this season and last, but also a 4.73 FIP and 5.63 xFIP. Additionally, he deserved a 5.24 ERA in his 29.2 innings last season and also owns a career 6.02 SIERA at this point.
Enter Flores who likes himself some left-handed pitching. The production has been superior against righties in a small 2021 sample, but here’s a guy that crushed left-handed pitching for a monster .387 ISO, .975 OPS and 149 wRC+ last season. In 2019, it was another monstrous .279 ISO, .982 OPS and 150 wRC+. For his career, he owns a .228 ISO, .816 OPS and 116 wRC+ against left-handed pitching, but clearly the production has been superior of late as he sits in the prime of his career.
I also like the fact that he hit his first homer of the season two games back, and followed that up with a double as part of a two-hit game yesterday. Previously, he had just two hits — both singles — across his last 28 trips to the plate. His slump had relegated him to bench duties, but he got a start yesterday following that pinch-hit home run and clearly made the most of it.
So, we’ll see if he can stay hot as he takes on a left-handed starter in this one.
3B – Rafael Devers (BOS) – $3,400 vs. SEA
It’s usually difficult on left-handed hitters hitting home runs at Fenway Park unless you hook it right down the line, but that could be different today.
Reason being it appears there is a 14 mph wind blowing out towards right field in this one, but aside from the wind, this is an elite matchup for the Red Sox whose 5.4 run projection is the most on the slate.
Mariners right-hander Justin Dunn has just struggled mightily in the early stages of his big-league career. Dunn got away with a 4.34 ERA in his 10 starts last season as he also posted a 6.09 xERA, 6.54 FIP, 6.23 xFIP and 6.07 SIERA. He struggled big-time with walks in the form of an enormous 6.11 BB/9 and home runs with a big 1.97 HR/9.
This season has been identical. Dunn owns a nice 3.72 ERA on the season, but also a 5.95 xERA, 5.98 FIP, 6.79 xFIP and 6.83 SIERA. Again, walks have been a major issue with an even bigger 9.31 BB/9 in his 9.2 innings of work, and while he own a solid 0.93 HR/9, he’s also allowing 45.3% Statcast hard contact and a massive 54.5% fly-ball rate.
With the short porch Green Monster in left and a stiff breeze blowing out to right. Walks and hard-hit fly-ball are not going to work for him in this one.
For his part, Devers enters this one with five home runs and a .270 ISO on the young season. He owns a 3.79 wOBA as well, but his .483 xwOBA ranks in the league’s 98th percentile while he also ranks in the 89th percentile in hard-hit rate, 92nd in average exit velocity, 97th in barrel rate, 94th in xBA and 98th in xSLG. Add in the fact he owns a monster .326 ISO and .908 OPS against right-handed pitching and this is a guy you want in your lineup tonight.
SS – Francisco Lindor (NYM) – $3,100 vs. CHC
It took some time, but Lindor notched his first home run as a member of the Mets last night, and I’m going right back to him again tonight as he’s going to be hot moving forward as his stats regress positively to the mean.
FRANCISCO LINDOR HAS HIT HIS FIRST HOME RUN AS A NEW YORK MET!!! 💥 pic.twitter.com/YyYREhJgcW
— SNY (@SNYtv) April 21, 2021
I mean, he clearly hasn’t hit the ball well as he owns some poor Statcast metrics on top of his .222 average, .304 wOBA and 95 wRC+. That said, he also owns a .359 xwOBA that is right in line with his .341 actual career wOBA while his current .089 ISO is going to start trending towards his .201 career mark. Remember, this is a guy that hit between 32 and 38 homers in each of his last three full, 162-game seasons while he also stole at least 22 bases in each of his last two full seasons.
I’ll also note that both of his extra-base hits this season — a double and a homer — have come against a right-handed pitcher like Trevor Williams.
In addition to his homer last night, Lindor tacked on a pair of singles and an addition run scored. He had gone hitless in his previous 12 trips to the plate spanning three games and had just four total hits in his previous eight games and 33 trips to the plate, so I like the fact that he enjoyed himself a three-hit night in addition to the power as he is certainly boasting more confidence right now than he did enter last night’s affair.
Let’s see if this Alonso/Lindor mini-stack can deliver similar results tonight.
OF – Darin Ruf (SF) – $2,000 vs. MIA
I’ll go ahead and complete this Giants mini-stack here with another lefty-masher in Ruf as he is raking so far here in 2021, mostly against left-handed pitching.
Ruf spent parts of five years with the Phillies before he went overseas for three seasons in Korea’s KBO. In those three seasons, Ruff launched 31, 33 and 22 homers to rejuvenate his career before he came back to the big last season with the Giants. He would club another five homers in 100 trips to the plate last season with San Fran, posting a big .241 ISO in the process.
Here in 2021, Ruf has nearly matched that 2020 total with three homers in just 23 trips to the plate with an outrageous .450 ISO in the process. Two of the three homers have come against a lefty after he posted a huge .290 ISO, .890 OPS and 137 wRC+ versus left-handed pitching last season.
Even in his Phillies days he raked lefties. In 2015 he hit .371 with a .289 ISO, 1.107 OPS, .466 wOBA and 201 wRC+ versus lefties. In 2014, it was a .295 average, .230 ISO, .916 OPS, .398 wOBA and 157 wRC+ off lefties. Obviously, that was a while ago, but since returning to the bigs he has continued to terrorize left-handed pitching.
He and Flores have monstrous value upside at these prices against a left-handed starter.
OF – J.D. Martinez (BOS) – $4,500 vs. SEA
We’ll complete this lineup and four-man Red Sox stack with a trio of bats that should give us big nights tonight.
Martinez’s season-long 2020 slump was well documented, but he was blatantly one of the league’s top bounce-back candidates and he’s proving his doubters wrong in a big way so far here in 2021.
All he’s done so far this season is smoke six homers with a sky-high .382 ISO, but he’s also cleaning up across the board with a .368 average, 1.177 OPS, .495 wOBA and 223 wRC+. Is that good? Well, according to Statcast, Martinez ranks in the league’s 87th percentile in average exit velocity, 91st in xwOBA, 86th in xBA, 94th in xSLG and 89th in barrel rate. Of course, his current pace is unsustainable, but the underlying metrics are fantastic, as is the matchup on deck here.
There’s simply no reason to be leaving Martinez out of any cash lineups tonight.
OF – Alex Verdugo (BOS) – $3,300 vs. SEA
Next man up in this stack is Verdugo as the lefty-swinging outfielder will technically lead off this stack out of the projected two-hole tonight.
Mookie Betts is clearly one of the game’s best player, but the Red Sox have a player here in the key returning piece in that trade. Verdugo hit .308 with six homers, four steals, a .362 wOBA and 126 wRC+ in his Red Sox debut across 53 games last season at the age of 24. This season, he’s hitting .288 with three homers, 14 runs scored, 13 RBI, a .212 ISO, .358 wOBA and 129 wRC+ across the first 18 games of the season.
He’s also crushing right-handed pitching. Verdugo has touched up righties for a .341 average, .227 ISO, .983 OPS, .412 wOBA and 165 wRC+ so far here in 2021 and owns a career .190 ISO, .826 OPS, .349 wOBA and 119 wRC+ against right-handers as those numbers are only going to improve moving forward.
Now, there’s excellent stolen-base potential here in addition to the power upside. In just 62 big-league innings here so far, Dunn has already allowed 20 (!!!) steals! I mean, that’s a stolen base every three innings, an astonishingly poor rate. Devers and Martinez don’t run much, but Verdugo does on occasion with eight steals across 159 games between the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
The all-round matchup here is elite against Dunn.
UTIL – Xander Bogaerts (BOS) – $3,000 vs. SEA
The price here with Bogaerts here is fantastic considering the matchup on tap.
After all, Bogaerts enters this one hitting .385 with two homers, a steal, 1.014 OPS, .434 wOBA and 181 wRC+ on the season. He has a whopping seven doubles to his credit already, a mark that ties him for second-most in the league so far. By the way, the co-leader in doubles this season just so happens to be J.D. Martinez alongside the White Sox’s Luis Robert.
Also, he’s red-hot entering this one, Both of his homers on the season have come over the last two games while he’s added a double in that time. In fact, all four of his hits over the last three games have come in extra-base form as he also doubled three games back while he’s knocked in four over his last two.
He’s also raking both lefties and righties. While the wind is blowing out to right today, the short porch in left is consistently targeted by Bogaerts’ bat while his stolen base upside is the best of the stack. He doesn’t run a ton, but does have a steal this season and had eight in just 56 games last season. That’s nine bags over his last 73 games, a 20-steal pace over a full 162-game season.
To me, this is completely a cash slate as there are too many high-end hitters in excellent matchups with this Red Sox stack leading the way in that department.