MLB DFS Pitching Preview: June 15, 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.

Tonight’s slate is a bit of a mess. The better pitchers are in bad places, the decent pitchers have been volatile, and some of the best matchups are drawn by the worst pitchers. It’s early in the day. A lot will change, but we’ll discuss these pitchers for now:

Pitcher Pool
Name FD$ DK$ SIERA K/9 BB/9 HR/9 Barrel% Opp *Opp wRC+ *Opp K%
Yu Darvish 9000 9400 3.41 11.17 2.40 1.24 6.8% COL 77 25.1%
Trevor Rogers 10000 10000 3.61 11.11 3.30 0.78 5.0% STL 106 21.3%
Luis Castillo 7300 8000 3.91 10.40 3.60 1.00 4.8% MIL 96 25.3%
Mike Minor 8800 9200 4.31 9.11 2.97 1.41 8.0% DET 98 25.4%
* – vs SP handedness

TIER ONE: THE PROJECTION PLAY — Mike Minor

I was pretty disappointed to see that Mike Minor had the best projection on the slate because I was most intrigued by him when I glanced at the slate last night. Now, he’s gonna be high-owned.

It’s a rough slate, so we shouldn’t be picky about the negatives, but what stuck out to me is what sticks out to the algorithm: nearly double-digit K/9 since 2020 against one of the best teams in the league for strikeouts. His Achilles’ hell is that his power prevention is bad, but Kauffman Stadium has the lowest home run factor at 81 and the Tigers don’t have much right-handed power after Eric Haase anyway.

Minor is a bit pricey on DK, but relative to the slate (did I mention that it’s a rough slate?), he’s adequately priced. On FD, he’s free. And we can still do just about whatever we want with bats on DK by rostering him.

The concern isn’t the long ball, so much as the fact that we might need to go 40-to-50% on a bad full slate to go overweight on him.

TIER TWO: THE PIVOT PLAY — Luis Castillo

I told you it was a rough slate.

Luis Castillo has been terrible this season, but his 6.47 ERA is miles north of his 4.02 xERA this season. With a barrel rate of only 5.4%, his usual issue of inconsistent control has been consistently bad control. Luckily, he draws a Brewers team that has a long history of striking out a ton. The ballpark is a bit home run-friendly, but — again — power isn’t the issue.

What we should like about Castillo’s run prevention projection here is that the Brewers need the long ball to put runs on the board and his power prevention has actually improved this season.

At lower ownership than Minor, we’re getting about the same play in terms of median outcomes. Just a much wider range of outcomes.

TIER THREE: THE LEVERAGE PLAYS — Yu Darvish and Trevor Rogers

It’s odd that the two best pitchers on the slate are the leverage plays. They’re normal in tier one of this piece as the aces. But no one’s gonna play them because Yu Darvish is in hot-hot Coors Field and Trevor Rogers is a lefty facing a Carindals team stacked with right-handed power.

It’s gonna be in the mid-90 in Colorado, but Darvish draws one of the best matchups on the slate. Definitely the best for run prevention. It’s the environment that we’d have to battle — not to accumulate fantasy points, but — to keep Darvish in the game, as pitch movement and stamina are always added concerns to pitchers in Coors Field. The fact that the Padres have a bullpen that warrants keeping the starters on short leashes doesn’t help the matter.

Darvish isn’t just a great pitcher. He’s also a very smart pitcher with 47 different pitches. If he can find three that work during warmups, he can break the slate with a gem at single-digit ownership.

Playing Darvish isn’t a play for a high success rate. Playing Darvish is to play for a success rate greater than his ownership and our exposure to him.

Rogers is a really tough play against the Cardinals boppers, but he’s only allowed a 5.0% barrel rate, and Busch Stadium has an 88 home run factor. Like Darvish, he probably will not succeed often in this spot, but ownership under 5% is highly exploitable. If we played him in one out of ten lineups, we double the field’s exposure and don’t need his success rate to be high. This is baseball. Good pitchers dominate powerful teams in good ballparks all the time.

CONCLUSION

Our pitching plays tonight aren’t going to be aided by the stats so much as the range of outcomes pitchers have, relative to their ownership. Seeing average pitchers top the ownership projections and the best pitchers bottoming out in those same projections is where we should attack the field.

I, personally, really like Minor, but I don’t 50%-like him, so I’ll be underweight, using my exposure on Castillo, Darvish, and Rogers.

We didn’t discuss them here, but Hyun-Jin Ryu against the Yankees, Andrew Heaney against the Athletics in Oakland, Patrick Corbin against the Pirates, and maybe even Dallas Keuchel against the Rays or Casey Mize against the Royals in the same power prevention environment as Minor are all other options I’m considering for my pitching pool.

The best approach is probably to reverse what we normally do. Normally, we tighten up our pitcher pool and diversify our stacks because pitching is less volatile than hitting. Tonight, I wanna have a tight pool of stacks and diversify my pitching.

Stats cited are since 2019 unless otherwise noted. Ownership projections via Rotoginders at 9:00 a.m. CST; park factors via EV Analytics through June 15, 2021.





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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good stuff!