MLB DFS Pitching Preview: June 3, 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.

Smaller eight-game slate, but there’s some good pitching challenging the great plays up top worth discussing. Let’s measure some cheaper plays against the two ace-level expensive plays:

June 3, 2021 Pitcher Pool
Name Opp FD DK SIERA K/9 BB/9 HR/9 Barrel% wRC+ K%
Yu Darvish NYM $11,500 $10,700 3.40 11.23 2.41 1.23 6.8% 104 22.1%
Lance Lynn DET $11,000 $9,700 3.86 10.23 2.58 0.99 6.2% 85 25.1%
Elieser Hernandez PIT $6,800 $7,600 4.08 9.95 2.53 2.12 7.9% 86 22.2%
Griffin Canning SEA $8,400 $9,400 4.37 9.50 3.42 1.54 7.7% 92 26.0%


Yu Darvish is the best pitcher on the slate and it isn’t really close, but he and Lance Lynn are tight in early projections because Darvish has a more challenging matchup, to say the least. The Mets are still a bit banged up, but this version of them is still far better than this version of the Tigers, as the Tigers are among the best matchups for a starting pitcher to have.

Breaking the tie most of all is the price tags on the two, but it’s only a few hundred dollars. Darvish has more baked-in strikeouts, fewer walks, and elite power prevention to Lynn’s simply better-than-average numbers regarding all three.

What Lynn has, on top of the elite matchup, is the leash to go seven or eight innings — even if he gives up a couple of runs. Lynn’s strikeouts are incredibly inconsistent, but this is a ceiling game for him in every category and he is capable of more than a strikeout per inning.

None of this is top secret information. Everyone is looking at what I just told you. I’m led to believe that the field will gravitate toward the matchup and salary savings in Lynn, so I’m gravitating toward Darvish for leverage.

Darvish’s per inning numbers are too fantastic to not be the top-owned pitcher on the slate, so I’m gonna zig where the field zags. He’s only gone six-or-more innings in two of his last five starts, but went six-plus in the prior five starts for seven of 11 starts on the season. Of the four starts where he was cut short, he got shelled for four runs in two, one was in Colorado, and the other was an oh, so close 5.2-inning start. I don’t trust his volume as much as Lynn’s, but I’m willing to gamble on it, unless the projected ownership swings hard toward Darvish. In which case, I’ll probably just split the difference.

TIER TWO: VALUE — Elieser Hernandez

On FD, we’re largely sticking to Darvish or Lynn, but we have options on DK. The field is highly likely to try to jam in the two studs, so only playing one of them automatically gives us leverage. The best leverage spot might be Elieser Hernandez, who’s way too cheap for his skillset and the cush matchup.

The Pirates don’t strike out a ton, but his 11.89 K/9 in his 28.0 2020 innings gave us a lot of optimism for baked-in strikeouts. The leash is most questionable, but reports are that it’ll be long. 100 pitches is probably a stupid thought, but 85 or 90 might be in the cards after throwing 79 over 4.2 innings in his rehab start.

Hernandez’ issue is power prevention. He’s given up 2.12 HR/9 through a 7.9% barrel rate, but the Pirates ain’t got no damn power, so who cares? If Gregory Polano and Bryan Reynolds rip solo shots, we’re probably fine.

If Don Mattingly announces Hernandez as the starter, he’s the first name I’m plugging in on DK. If I find that I can jam in the two studs after building my bats, sure, I’ll go double-stud. If there’s still a lot of money on the table, there’s another option to which we can pay up.


Griffin Canning is about as average as it gets. There’s nothing sexy about him and he’s probably about $1,200 too much on both sites. But he faces the Mariners, which means a ceiling game is in play for him.

The Mariners’ strikeout rate automatically makes an average pitcher into a great DFS option. On FD, Canning is more of a 10% MME dart throw, but there’s an argument to pay up for him on DK at SP2 where we can’t afford to double-ace and don’t wanna take the risk on a player coming back from injury in Hernandez.

That said, going back to Hernandez, the field hates playing pitchers in their first start coming back from injury, so we should temper our fears. The Marlins-Pirates game also has weather risks that will scare people away. In MME, we should have exposure to both Hernandez and Canning above the field, tracking weather and ownership on all four throughout the day.

EDIT — The Rotogrinders model is surprisingly projecting Darvish to carry heavier ownership than Lynn, so I’m flipping the script on toward whom I’m leaning. Lynn is the right play where we’re seeing a 10-to-15% gap between the two in favor of Darvish. They’re too close for there to be a significant gap. Zig where they zag.

Stats cited are since 2019 unless otherwise noted. Ownership projections via Rotoginders; park factors via EV Analytics through June 1, 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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2 years ago

I think Lynn is a no-brainer tonight at that price tag. Hernandez, DeSclafani, or Anderson are some options I’m looking at to pair with him.

2 years ago
Reply to  Alex Sonty

Good point!