The 60-game sprint to the finish line is complete and the MLB playoffs have arrived.
The unique 2020 season brought many challenges and changes in Major League League baseball, but the league has done well to get this far as there were certainly enough speed bumps earlier in the season that had many doubting the longer-term outlook for the league this season.
Nonetheless, I hope you’re looking forward to the plethora of MLB baseball that lies ahead over the next couple of days, beginning with a four-game American League slate to get things started tonight!
FanDuel MLB DFS Picks – September 29, 2020
P – Gerrit Cole (NYY) – $10,900 vs. CLE
Of course, there is a loaded pitching slate here to kick off the postseason as some of the game’s best are toeing the rubber today. That said, Cole is my pick of the litter.
The right-hander was signed to a record-breaking deal by the Yankees this past winter after a couple of lights out seasons with the Houston Astros, and Cole delivered a 2.84 ERA/3.89 FIP with an 11.59 K/9 in his first season in the Bronx. Perhaps those numbers don’t match up to his work with Houston since heading there for the 2018 and 20-19 seasons, but it’s pretty darn good and the matchup here is excellent.
The Indians are almost entirely due to their elite pitching staff and perhaps Jose Ramirez as well. Containing Ramirez will be Cole’s toughest challenge, but as a team the Indians tied for 23rd with a .305 wOBA on the season against right-handed pitching and their 23.8% K-rate against them is smack-dab in the middle of the pack.
However, there’s two factors that need to be brought your attention on tap of everything else mentioned above. First, current Indians hitters have combined to hit .100 with a .341 OPS and .167 wOBA in their careers against Cole across 69 plate appearances. Not huge individual samples here, but it’s telling nonetheless. Second, backup catcher Kyle Higashioka is catching Cole in this one. That’s important because Cole posted a 1.00 ERA in 27 innings with Higashioka this season and a 3.91 ERA with Gary Sanchez in 46 innings. He also owns a 6.80 K/BB with Higashioka and a 5.00 mark with Sanchez.
Add it up and let’s get Cole atop our lineup tonight.
C/1B – Nate Lowe (TB) – $2,700 vs. TOR
The players sporting attractive lower-end prices are going to be popular tonight as the pitching is so expensive, but the Rays look like the top stacking option on the slate despite the White Sox seeing a lefty. At least we could fade the Sox as they’ll be targeted too.
The Rays were solid if unspectacular against right-handed pitching with most numbers sitting in the top half of the league but closer to the middle of the pack, but we’re going to get the Rays’ best bats versus right-handers into this lineup.
Lowe appeared in just 21 games this season with the Rays, but he made them count, at least against righties such as the Jays’ Matt Shoemaker. Lowe posted a big-time .269 ISO, 858 OPS, .352 wOBA and 128 wRC+ on the season against righties and raked them for a .400 ISO, 1.189 OPS, .473 wOBA and 210 wRC+ at home this season where this one will be tonight.
He’s never faced Shoemaker to this point in his career, but Lowe makes for an excellent look at a more than reasonable price considering the damage done versus righties this season.
2B – Brandon Lowe (TB) – $3,700 vs. TOR
He’s certainly on the expensive side, but Brandon Lowe (pronounced differently), was an MVP candidate for much of the season and has not only raked righties but also lefties too, making him matchup-proof moving forward.
The Rays’s second baseman crushed right-handed pitching for a .238 ISO, .838 OPS, .355 wOBA and 129 wRC+ on the season. In fact, those numbers actually fell well below his .420 ISO, 1.137 OPS, .467 wOBA and 206 wRC+ on the season versus lefties, giving the lefty-swinging Lowe some serious reverse splits in the small sample season of 2020.
He’s also had his way with Shoemaker in a smaller sample as well. Lowe has gone 3 for 7 with a homer in his career off the veteran, albeit he’s struck out in his other four at-bats against him. Shoemaker gave up only two steals in 28.2 innings this season but he’s also surrendered steals at an elevated rate in the past, so give Lower – he of three steals this season – a sliver of stolen base potential in this matchup to boot.
3B – Josh Donaldson (MIN) – $3,100 vs. HOU
The Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins get together for their AL Wild Card series this afternoon and the Twins take on right-hander Zack Greinke in this one, a pitcher that faded down the stretch of the truncated 2020 regular season.
Greinke allowed at least three earned runs in each of his last seven starts, going five or fewer innings in four of them. Over that seven-start stretch, Greinke posted a 7.26 ERA and went just 4.2 innings while allowing three earned runs on eight hits in his final regular-season start in Seattle.
As a result, I believe a Twins offense that raked righties this season should be able to get to him and a beat-up Astros bullpen that’s a shell of its former self.
Enter Donaldson who did plenty of raking off righties this season despite missing all of August with a calf injury that’s propped up again over the season’s final weekend, although it’s been indicated he will DH in this one tonight. He punished righties for a .258 ISO, .890 OPS, .379 wOBA and 141 wRC+ on the season while struggling mightily versus lefties – another example of a reverse-splits hitter this season.
Donaldson is 2 for 6 in his career off Greinke but the matchup is certainly in the veteran slugger’s court here against the struggling righty tonight.
SS – Jonathan Villar (TOR) – $2,500 vs. TB
The shortstop position is a curious one to me as there’s obviously some high-end options in the likes of Tim Anderson, Francisco Lindor and Bo Bichette, but also some reasonably priced options in Carlos Correa, Marcus Semien, Willy Adames, Gleyber Torres and Jonathan Villar.
Simply put, I didn’t have a ton of cake to work with for my shortstop, but considering Villar’s success in the past off Rays left-hander Blake Snell, I feel pretty good about this punt here.
Against lefties in general this season, the switch-hitting Villar struggled, but he struggled against both lefties and righties this season on the heels of a big 2019.
While he’s proven capable with the bat in the past, Villar is here for his work on the bases. Snell gave up just one steal in 50 innings this season, but also a whopping 15 in only 107 innings last season. That was tied for the most in baseball for a lefty and tied for the fifth-most overall among pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched. Going even further back, his 28 steals allowed between 2018 and 2019 is tied for eighth most overall and second-most by a lefty with at least 250 innings pitched for both samples.
Villar swiped 16 bases this season despite his struggles to reach base and swiped five off a lefty. Add in the fact he’s 3 for 4 off Snell and I think we have some solid value potential with the veteran utility man tonight.
OF – Yoshi Tsutsugo (TB) – $2,700 vs. TOR
Let’s pick up with our Rays stack here as Tsutsugo has taken over leadoff duties in the absence of Austin Meadows, at least against right-handed pitching.
He hit just .197 in his first season in the big leagues, but he also posted an excellent 14.1% walk rate but more importantly displayed pop with eight homers as part of his .197 ISO as well.
Once again, however, we have some reverse-splits here. His bat was superior versus lefties from an overall basis, but the lefty-swinging outfielder/DH hit for more power against righties with an even .200 ISO on the season against them with a superior walk rate off them as well, something that takes on more importance as the leadoff hitter in a four-man stack as it should lead to run-scoring opportunities as well.
He’s homered six times this season against a righty, and one of those long balls indeed came off of Shoemaker. He is otherwise hitless off him in an additional six at-bats, but nonetheless his position as the leadoff hitter makes him an attractive play in this stack at an attractive price tag.
OF – Randy Arozarena (TB) – $3,000 vs. TOR
Completing this four-man Rays stack is Arozarena who came up to the big club late but absolutely raked down the stretch and is now hitting in a prominent spot in the Tampa Bay lineup – presumably the No.3 spot.
He appeared in only 23 games with the Rays this season, but displayed a wildly effective power/speed combination, clubbing seven home runs in that time while stealing four bases as well.
Now, the righty-swinging outfielder absolutely demolished lefties for numbers that even make video games look silly, but he also hit righties quite well too as he posted a .250 ISO, .817 OPS, .349 wOBA and 126 wRC+ on the season off right-handers. His minor league numbers are traditional as well as he raked lefties in the minors last season, but it’s tough to argue with those numbers against righties, especially in the three-hole.
Of course, the stolen base potential here is superior versus righties as he swiped all four bases off them this season and all six of his big-league steals have come against a righty.
With the way Arozarena produced down the stretch, it’s awfully tough to leave him out of this lineup tonight.
OF – Max Kepler (MIN) – $3,000 vs. HOU
Leading off our Twins three-man stack tonight will be Kepler who brings plenty of power to the table and some stolen base potential all while destroying right-handed pitching this season.
Kepler clubbed nine homers this season and stole three bases as well. That’s not too bad considering he missed 12 games this season – otherwise known as 20% of the year.
The damage came almost exclusively against right-handed pitching. Kepler raked righties for a .274 ISO, .904 OPS, .383 wOBA and 144 wRC+ on the season while all three of his steals came off a righty. Admittedly, we probably shouldn’t expect much in the stolen base department. Greinke allowed just one steal in 67 innings this season and just four over the 2018 and 2019 seasons in a combined 416.1 innings and Martin Maldonado is one of the best behind the plate defensively.
Still, don’t sleep on the power and overall quality of this bat against a struggling right-hander as Kepler remains one of the more underrated leadoff men in the game.
UTIL – Eddie Rosario (MIN) – $3,300 vs. HOU
Believe me, I didn’t want to leave Nelson Cruz out of this stack and I don’t recommend it, but the high-end pitching handcuffs you some and in GPPs he could be worth fading to differentiate our Twins exposure.
Besides, when it comes to right-handed pitching, it’s Rosario who has the slight advantage in the numbers.
The veteran outfielder raked righties for a .284 ISO, .882 OPS, .365 wOBA and 132 wRC+ on the season while he too stole three bases as well. Rosario hit 13 home runs overall this season, but all 13 of those long balls came against a righty, as did five of his seven doubles. It would appear you don’t want to roster Rosario against left-handed pitching, at least not this season.
I also like the fact that’s he’s posted a .269 ISO, .926 OPS, .380 wOBA and 142 wRC+ on the season at home off righties and was a run-producing machine down the stretch, driving in nine runs over his last seven regular-season games.
He’s going to hit behind Cruz in this lineup, but if Cruz leaves runners on base for Rosario, look for the 29-year-old to take advantage.