Following a day off from yesterday’s early slate, we’re back to tackle this six-game main slate as we look to hit some GPP picks and get our weekend started on the right note!
FanDuel MLB DFS Picks – April 9, 2021
P – Joe Musgrove (SD) – $9,700 vs. TEX
There have been plenty of big-time pitching performances so early in the season, but one of them certainly belongs to Musgrove who carved up the Arizona Diamondbacks last week.
Musgrove worked six innings of shutout ball in his Padres debut, allowing just three hits and no walks while punching out eight. That’s certainly what the Padres were looking for following an offseason trade with the Pirates that certainly didn’t garner as much attention as the deals for Blake Snell and Yu Darvish, but could pay big dividends nonetheless.
The matchup here with the Rangers is similar to that of the D-backs. Texas is actually swinging it decently so far with a 114 wRC+ on the season, but they’ve still struck out at a 27.6% clip on the season while their .153 ISO is right there with Arizona’s .154 mark in the middle of the pack.
There are certainly some bats in that Rangers lineup that can do damage in Joey Gallo, Nate Lowe and Nick Solak to name a few, but this would seem to be a breakout year in the making for Musgrove. At 28 coming off a 3.86 ERA/3.42 FIP from last season with the Pirates, Musgrove is entering the prime years of his career and should certainly get then offensive support to garner a win in this one tonight.
C/1B – Freddie Freeman (ATL) – $3,600 vs. PHI
I’ll be interested to see what type of ownership Freeman brings to the table in this one as some may be scared off by the fact that Wheeler carved the Braves up for just one hit with 10 strikeouts in seven innings last week, but we’re getting an elite bat here and someone who has mashed Wheeler in their history against one another.
Of course, the reigning NL MVP will see some sort of ownership, but believe me, we have more than enough GPP in this lineup to counteract it if his ownership comes in higher than expected. Freeman is coming off a 2020 campaign that saw him rake to the tune of a .341 average, 1.102 OPS, .456 wOBA and 187 wRC+ while playing in all 60 regular-season games for the Braves.
He homered 13 times and seven stole a pair of bases in that campaign, and while he is hitting just .111 in the early going, he still has a homer and a steal to his credit.
Of course, dude rakes righties. Freeman raked righties to the tune of a .373 average, .360 ISO, 1.228 OPS and 215 wRC+ last season and owns a .307 average, .235 ISO, .938 OPS and 150 wRC+ for his career against right-handed pitching.
Finally, all he’s done in his career against Wheeler is go 17 for 38 (.447) with two homers and four doubles, good for a 1.287 OPS and .263 ISO against Wheeler. That’s not a small sample, either, while his 13 walks bests his 10 punchouts against him to boot.
2B – Mike Moustakas (CIN) – $3,500 vs. ARI
We had plenty of money to work with given the low cost of our four-man GPP-aimed stack, so I’m also firing up an expensive Reds stack as they take on right-hander Taylor Widener of the D-backs in this one.
Widener pitched well in his season opener with the Padres, allowing three hits and three walks while striking out five across six scoreless frames. He’s pitched just 26 career MLB innings between his start with San Diego and 20 frames from last season, and owns a fine 3.46 ERA in the process. However, thanks to benefitting from a tiny .197 BABIP against and an elevated 89.7% career strand rate — not to mention a big 5.19 BB/9 clip — and he also owns a 5.81 FIP, 5.50 xFIP and 4.71 SIERA for his brief big-league work to this point.
For good measure, his huge 46.2% fly-ball rate is going to get him hurt sooner than later. When factoring in his 8.10 ERA/5.90 FIP across 100 Triple-A innings from 2019 and it’s probably a good idea to target Widener in this one.
For his part, Moustakas is off to white-hot start at the plate, hitting .412 with a 1.266 OPS, .521 wOBA and 232 wRC+ in 25 trips to the plate. He’s homered once and scored eight runs in that time, but also laced a pair of doubles as well, giving him a .294 ISO on the 2021 campaign so far.
The power is not in question. Moustakas has homered 35 or more times twice in the last three full, 162-game seasons and homered eight times with a .237 ISO in just 44 games last season, a 29-homer pace in a full season. The lefty-swinging veteran clobbered righties to the tune of a .278 ISO, .860 OPS, .360 wOBA and 122 wRC+ last season with a .264 ISO, .831 OPS, .342 wOBA and 109 wRC+ in the 2019 campaign.
Add it up and there would appear to be plenty of power potential in this favorable matchup.
3B – Jeimer Candelario (DET) – $2,500 vs. CLE
Here’s where the low-owned GPP plays kick in as I am indeed rolling out a four-man Tigers stack tonight against the Indians in Cleveland.
The Tigers will take on right-hander Zach Plesac in this one after they faced him in his first start of the season, scoring a pair of runs on six hits and two walks in six innings in that one. While Plesac posted a 2.28 ERA last season with solid peripherals, his career 4.39 FIP, 4.59 xFIP, 4.59 SIERA, 1.37 HR/9 and 39.5% career fly-ball rate doesn’t exactly spell superstar. He’s still just 26 and is coming off a a real nice, but shortened, 2020 season, but I think he can be targeted here on a short slate.
There appears to be a 13 mph wind blowing out towards center field in this one, so the elevated home run and fly-ball numbers could come back to bite him, and the Tigers sit 11th with a solid .166 team ISO on the season.
Candelario is probably the team’s best all-round hitter at this point as he’s coming off a career-year that saw him hit .297 with an .872 OPS, .373 wOBA and 136 wRC+ in the shortened 2020 season. He homered seven times with a career-high .205 ISO that season as well.
The switch-hitter was better against lefties last season, but still posted a .193 ISO, .808 OPS, .348 wOBA and 119 wRC+ versus righties.
Let’s see if he can produce some runs out of the cleanup spot tonight.
SS – Willi Castro (DET) – $2,500 vs. CLE
Next man up in our stack is Castro who was a nominee for AL Rookie of the Year in 2020 alongside the White Sox’s Luis Robert and Seattle’s Kyle Lewis, the latter of whom took home the hardware.
Castro enjoyed a big season in 2020, hitting .349 with a .931 OPS, .393 wOBA and 150 wRC+ across 36 games and 140 trips to the plate. Now, he posted a powerful .202 ISO and six home runs, but the batting average was certainly elevated thanks to a bloated .448 BABIP that is simply unsustainable in a full season. He interestingly didn’t steal a base either after swiping 17 at the Triple-A level in 2019, but there isn’t much stolen-base upside here with Plesac allowing all of two steals so far in his career.
Nonetheless, there are high hopes for the 23-year-old this season, and while he slumped to begin the season, he’s coming off a big game that saw him collect a trio of base hits, all of which came off the bat in excess of 100 mph. His average exit velocity ranks in the league’s 71st percentile so far this season, as per Statcast, and his 73rd ranking in sprint speed helps his ability to stretch singles into doubles.
It certainly appears he’s heating up and he’s hitting the ball hard regardless, so let’s look for him to get into the extra-base department in this one tonight.
OF – Nomar Mazara (DET) – $2,300 vs. CLE
The Tigers’ leadoff hitter is Robbie Grossman and he gets on base plenty, but he’s hitting just .125 on the season despite already drawing nine walks in just six games. Rather, I’m going to go with Mazara here who has more raw power in his bat than Grossman, not to mention some elite Statcast figures to boot.
He’s off to a fine start after joining the Tigers as a free agent this winter, hitting .278 with a homer with a decent 97 wRC+. However, that doesn’t tell the story. According to Statcast, Mazara ranks in the league’s 89th percentile in average exit velocity, 87th in hard-hit rate, 92nd in barrel rate and 88th in expected slugging rate. Not too shabby.
He’s hit the ball on the screws plenty in the early going, but he’s played all six of his games so far this season at the pitcher-friendly Comerica Park, a venue that swallows fly-balls into the center field gaps.
With a more hitter-friendly venue here in Cleveland to Mazara’s pull field along with the wind blowing out to center, Mazara could be in for far more success if he can continue to hit the ball hard in the air, something he’s done given the Statcast numbers, but also a huge 57.1% fly-ball rate.
OF – Akil Baddoo (DET) – $2,500 vs. CLE
The story of the Tigers’ season so far and one of the feel-good stories across the league has been Akil Baddoo who has ascended from Rule 5 draft pick to fan favorite in a hurry.
If you hadn’t heard, Baddoo was selected by the Tigers in this year’s Rule 5 draft after hitting all of .214 at High-A ball before undergoing Tommy John surgery. However, he absolutely raked in spring training with five homers and four steals and went on to homer on the first MLB pitch he saw, followed that up with a grand slam the next day and laced a walk-off single the day after that in his lone plate appearance of the game.
.@AkilBaddoo ARE YOU SERIOUS?!
He homers on the first pitch of his MLB career. pic.twitter.com/JKI5goelHQ
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) April 4, 2021
Add it up and we have a player with two homers, a steal, a .455 average, a 1.637 OPS and .681 wOBA through his first 11 trips to the plate. Of course, it’s a tiny sample, but it’s his approach that works as he’s shown a mature eye at the plate despite being just 22 and skipped the Double-A and Triple-A levels all together. He recognizes pitches and has hopped on the ones he’s liked in the very early stages of would could be a promising big-league career.
If there’s one player I still believe has stolen-base upside against the difficult Plesac/Roberto Perez battery, it’s this guy. He stole 24 bases at A-ball in 2018 and another six in just 29 games the following season at High-A. Between spring training and his 11 trips to the plate in the 2021 season, he already has five.
The power/speed combination has reared its head early, so let’s see what he can do in this one tonight.
OF – Ronald Acuna Jr. (ATL) – $4,100 vs. ATL
Like I said, the Tigers stack has allowed us to get some high-priced stars into this lineup, and I’ll simply pair Acuna with Freeman against Wheeler as they look to make adjustments in the rematch tonight.
Clearly, Acuna’s ability needs little introduction as one of the best players in the game at the ripe age of 23 years old. There’s also the fact he’s off to a white-hot start to the season, hitting .304 with a 1.012 OPS, .428 wOBA and 172 wRC+ with two homers and two steals across six games so far, boasting a big-time .348 ISO in the process.
I just mentioned Baddoo’s power/speed combination, but it can be argued Acuna’s ability in that department leads all of baseball. He came three steals away from a 40-40 2019 season as he homered 41 times and swiped 37 bags that season. He followed that up with 14 homers and eight steals in just 46 games in the shortened 2020 season. Across just 319 big-league games, Acuna has launched 83 long balls and swiped 63 bases with a 137 wRC+ at the dish.
Like Freeman, he’s also gotten to Wheeler in the past. The sample is obviously smaller, but Acuna has gone 6 for 22 (.273) but with two homers and two doubles in his career against the right-hander, good for a .941 OPS and .364 ISO off of him. Wheeler as allowed just one steal over 78 innings between his lone start this season and 71 innings last season, but did allow a decent amount of steals prior to that, so we certainly have stolen-base potential here.
We’re getting two of the game’s very best bats into this lineup thanks to the low-cost Tigers GPP stack.
UTIL – Nick Castellanos (CIN) – $4,200 vs. ARI
Completing this lineup and a Reds mini-stack is Castellanos who is off to a hot start in the 2021 season after doing just that in 2020 before tailing off as the season moved along.
So far this time around, the veteran has hit .435 with a 1.610 OPS, 658 wOBA and 321 wRC+ with four homers, nine runs scored and seven RBI across 25 trips to the plate. Is that good? Yup, but also vastly unsustainable, but it’s interested that his .353 BABIP on the season isn’t too far above his .330 mark for his career.
While his work isn’t going to last at those levels, keep in mind he’s also ranking in the league’s 100th percentile in all of xBA, xwOBA and xSLG. He’s also ranking in the 94th percentile in hard-hit rate and 95th in barrel rate, so his four homers in six games don’t appear to be a fluke.
He’s long been a quality hitter and while the bat slowed last season, he still hit 14 home runs and posted a career-high .261 ISO. He’s posted an ISO of at least .212 in four of his last five seasons, but he’s hitting far more home runs now that he’s escaped the aforementioned pitcher-friendly venue at Comerica Park in Detroit where he spent parts of seven seasons to begin his career.
He and Moustakas should have some fun in this one tonight.