MLB DFS Pitching Preview: June 1, 2021

Our MLB DFS lineups don’t start and end with pitching. I’m not saying to punt pitcher every night or even every now and then. I’m just stressing that each and every slate does not rest upon our pitching. That said, the pitcher position is so vital because it’s the slot where we can get the most accurate projection in an extremely volatile wing of DFS.

Our pitching isn’t just a source of fantasy points. The price tags on pitchers make it so they shape they dictate the freedoms and restrictions of building our lineups. Before reading this article, it’s highly suggested that you read my article, “DFS Pitching Primer,” so the concepts discussed here make more sense.

That we’re not selecting the best players. We’re constructing the lineups which carry the most leverage without sacrificing many projected fantasy points.

There is a lot more to like than to hate on this slate at pitcher. I only play about three-to-six lineups on each site, so I run a tight pitcher pool. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play other pitchers. There are other plays, especially for MME, but I’m looking at this to build my lineups:

June 1, 2021 Pitcher Pool
Opp FD DK SIERA K/9 BB/9 HR/9 Barrel% Opp wRC+ Opp K%
Tyler Glasnow @ NYY $10,700 $9,800 3.01 12.69 2.82 1.15 7.5% 113 23.9%
Sonny Gray v PHI $7,700 $8,900 3.91 10.82 3.72 0.89 5.9% 98 23.8%
Matthew Boyd @ MIL $8,500 $6,500 3.94 10.24 2.58 1.69 8.6% 94 25.2%
German Marquez v TEX $8,200 $6,700 4.03 8.89 2.61 1.18 6.3% 86 26.3%
Alex Wood v LAA $9,900 $8,700 3.96 8.88 2.43 1.78 7.5% 102 21.1%
Robbie Ray v MIA $9,100 $8,500 4.16 11.75 4.60 1.85 11.0% 98 23.7%
Chris Bassitt @ SEA $9,300 $9,100 4.22 8.77 2.60 1.04 5.1% 92 25.9%

The first thing to notice is that I only have one real ace on the list. Stephen Strasburg is broken and I can’t play him until Geppetto does some work. Aaron Nola is a great play in most parks, but his power prevention — though strong — isn’t elite, and same goes for his groundball rate. In Cincinnati, we want at least one of those things going for us. Or we want leverage, but Nola projects to be have about the same ownership as Tyler Glasnow on both sites, so there’s no leverage there.

TIER ONE: THE ACE — Tyler Glasnow

If I’m gonna play an ace in big-time homer-friendly ballpark, I’m gonna gravitate toward the best talent and that’s clearly Glasnow — especially since 2020.

Since 2020, Glasnow has a 2.93 SIERA to Nola’s 3.24 and 13.36 K/9 to Nola’s 11.33. This season, Glasnow’s had a slightly longer leash, going 70 innings through 11 starts to Nola’s 65.1, including 59.1 across the nine starts where he’s given up three or fewer runs. This volume is extremely valuable when the strikeout rate is extremely massive.

Though Yankee Stadium is about equally crappy for pitching as the Great American Ball Park and Reds have an about equal strikeout rate and are the softer matchup than the Yankees, the better-skilled pitcher wins out for me to beat the biggest foe: the environment.

That said, we don’t have to play an ace. Glasnow and Nola are gonna gobble up about half of the ownership on FD and about 40% on DK. There are plenty of good spots to differentiate at pitcher.

The place I likely won’t go from my list is Robbie Ray. I trust the resurgence, have always loved his stuff, and have stopped stacking against him, but we can find more leverage elsewhere, as he projects to be 18-to-25% owned. Excellent matchup and a solid spot for FD leverage. But where we play two pitchers on DK, his ownership has a very high ceiling. On FD, it’s capped by the aces.

TIER TWO: LEVERAGE — Chris Bassitt, Sonny Gray, Matthew Boyd, Alex Wood

Chris Bassitt is such my favorite leverage play on the slate that he’s in play for my main single-entry lineup. Even on FD. He’s just too cheap.

Since 2020, he has a sub-4.00 SIERA and 0.74 HR/9 on a 5.6% barrel rate. In 2021, the K/9 is up to 9.51, his BB/9 is way down to 2.06, and the HR/9 is down to 0.64 on a 5.4% barrel rate. And he has a leash.

He’s also pitched 70 innings across his 11 starts.

When we look at his matchup against the lowly Mariners, this play is a no-brainer. They have a 92 wRC+ and 25.9% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching. To oversimplify, they’re a mash-or-crash ballclub — homers or whiffs. Given that Bassitt eliminates the homers, that leaves us with one outcome. At under 10% ownership on DK and under 5% on FD, we have to exploit this.

We should be so high on Bassitt and enough on Glasnow that it’s hard to play anyone else on FD, but if there are two others, they would be Sonny Gray and Matthew Boyd. Gray has that elite power prevention and the high-enough groundball rate that we can play in Cincinnati with a great price tag on FD and an affordable one on DK; but he’s a far better FD play. Boyd — like Ray — is a gas can who’s turned into a really good pitcher. If his strikeouts were more consistent, he would be right up there with Bassitt, but his elite 0.47 HR/9 power prevention this season has come with only 7.34 K/9, depending mostly on the near-21% soft contact rate and — wait for it — 15.9% (!!!) popup rate. Boyd is probably the better play on DK where he’s basically free, easy outs.

Bringing us to — admittedly — one of my favorite guys in DFS history: Alex Wood.

Wood seemed to be back to his 2016-18 form when he had a 3.69 SIERA after 8.70 K/9, 2.42 BB/9, and 0.84 HR/9. The K/9 are up to 9.38 this season with the BB/9 down to 2.06. The only problem is that the home runs of his immediate post-injury woes are still around. But, still, only 1.13 HR/9 allowed on a totally fine 6.3% barrel rate. The Angels have a ton of power in Shohei Ohtani, Jared Walsh, Anthony Rendon, Justin Upton, sure, and they don’t strike out much and he’ll be 15-to-20% owned on DK, but the rest of that lineup suh-hucks and he’ll be under 5% owned on FD because of his price tag. At FD, I’m a fan of spending up at pitcher to be contrarian on a slate or two per week where the run prevention projects to be strong and we can still get a strikeout per inning.

Outside of Boyd, all of these plays are fairly expensive for our SP2 slot, leading me to the guy I’m likely pairing up with Bassitt or Glasnow the most at under $7,000.


German Marquez is a good Coors Field pitcher. Sounds like something stupid a broadcaster would say, but it’s true.

What if I told you we could get a 3.84 FIP, 9.33 K/9, 2.84 BB/9, 1.23 HR/9, 49.9% groundball rate, and only a 25.5% flyball rate across 329.2 career innings pitched against a Rangers team with an 86 wRC+ and 26.3% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching for $6,700? Those are Marquez’ career numbers at home. That’s his opponent. That’s his salary. We have to take the deal to some degree.

Is he a 100% lock? No. But at 5% ownership, we should definitely consider going overweight. It won’t take many lineups to do so. I’ll put my money where my mouth is and play Marquez in at least one of five DK lineups.


Without having built even a dummy lineup, my thoughts are that I’m going with: Bassitt in two FD lineups — including my single-entry lineup; then, Glasgow in two; and Wood in one. On DK, I’m trying to go Glasnow-Bassitt in every lineup. Where I have to spend down, I’ll concede down to Gray or Marquez before surrendering a bat. It’s a night to be more stubborn with the bats and have optionality at pitcher.

Stats cited are since 2019 unless otherwise noted. Ownership projections via Rotoginders.

Alex Sonty is a professional DFS and poker player, while contributing to RotoGrinders and FanGraphs, as well as serving as a part-time political science professor in Chicago, IL. He’s been playing fantasy sports since 1996 and entered the DFS realm in 2014, currently playing high-stakes MLB and NFL cash games and GPPs. He is a Chicago Tribune and SB Nation alum, while holding a J.D./M.A. and L.L.M. from DePaul University.

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