We have a six-game MLB Tiers fantasy baseball slate for Friday. Something to always remember when playing Tiers is with a player pool so limited, it is likely a large portion of the field is aware of who the “best plays” are. But in a sport such as baseball, where variance reigns supreme, you will need to avoid the chalk in a few spots in order to take down a GPP. Stacking in Tiers where you can is another thing to take advantage of.
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Tier 1SS Francisco Lindor, CLE vs. LAA
OF Mike Trout, LAA at CLE
OF Starling Marte, PIT vs. NYM
3B Rafael Devers, BOS at NYY
DraftKings decided to split tonight’s Tiers action, and it works out that most of the higher-scoring games for Friday baseball ended up on the night one. Also, since this slate is smaller than we usually see, that means there will be more opportunities to stack. Eight different teams on this Tiers slate have at least three players representing them. That doesn’t necessarily have to impact who you select in Tier 1, but it should be in the back of your mind throughout lineup construction.
What makes this tier particularly interesting is that each player appears to be facing a difficult pitching matchup. Lindor’s Indians take on Dillon Peters and his 3.06 ERA. Trout faces Mike Clevinger and his absurd 2.18 xFIP and 37.5% strikeout rate. The Pirates are up against a red-hot Steven Matz, who has allowed two or fewer runs in six straight starts. And the Red Sox are underdogs to James Paxton.
Of the available matchups, the one against Paxton appears to be best, but don’t be fooled. While he has a 4.72 ERA on the year, his xFIP is almost a run lower than that at 3.83. Paxton has gotten a bit unlucky this year, and fantasy gamers are sure to notice his seven earned run performance in his last start against Boston, and ignore the eight shutout innings with 12 strikeouts he had earlier against them this year. The reality is that while Boston is one of the top teams in baseball against righty pitching (115 wRC+, third), they are about a league-average lineup when facing a lefty (101 wRC+, 12th). I have no issue with avoiding Devers here, as well as other Sox lefties.
Peters’ performance so far this season appears to be built upon a house of cards. Though he has the aforementioned low ERA, Peters has a 5.48 xFIP in those same appearances. Even more telling is that he has a 5.71 xFIP over the past two seasons. Peters may just not be a very good pitcher. To that end, Lindor is a certified #good hitter, with a .218 ISO and .398 wOBA against lefties the past two seasons. He had a 139 wRC+ in July. I like stacking Cleveland in this spot and leading it off with their leadoff man in Lindor.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Taylor Cole will serve as the opener for Peters tonight vs. the Indians.
Tier 3OF J.D. Martinez, BOS at NYY
3B Jose Ramirez, CLE vs. LAA
1B Freddie Freeman, ATL vs. CIN
OF Andrew Benintendi, BOS at NYY
OF Anthony Santander, BAL vs. TOR
I mentioned fading the lefties for Boston against Paxton, but serious consideration has to be given to the righty Martinez here in Tier 3. He has a .500 ISO this season against lefties (not a typo), and his wOBA is .473 against them the past two seasons. Paxton has given up a .261 ISO and .370 wOBA to righties in 2019, 165 and 34 points higher respectively than against lefties.
Ramirez allows us to continue our Cleveland stack against Peters, but he is also a good stand-alone play. Those looking at season-long stats will be disappointed by Ramirez in 2019. He has just a .328 wOBA and .158 ISO against lefties after posting .357 and .209 respectively in those statistics last season. Ramirez was slumping hard in the first three months of the season, but he appears to be over it now. Since June 20th, he has a .396 wOBA and .313 ISO. His wRC+ is 146. This is the player that we saw in 2018 as an MVP candidate.
Dickerson should be in the lineup tonight with the platoon advantage, and that makes him a very tantalizing target as a one-off play in Tier 3. He has a .393 wOBA and .266 ISO against righties this season, and a 146 wRC+. Nova has been abused by everyone this year, but he has been worse against lefties. He has a 5.09 xFIP against them to go along with a .358 wOBA and 1.68 HR/9 allowed. Nova is also a heavy sinker-baller, using the pitch 39.3% of the time, more than twice that of any other pitch. Dickerson has a .425 wOBA, .224 ISO, and 181 wRC+ against sinkers for his career.
Tier 42B/SS Jonathan Villar, BAL vs. TOR
OF Shohei Ohtani, LAA at CLE
1B Carlos Santana, CLE vs. LAA
OF Michael Conforto, NYM at PIT
OF Oscar Mercado, CLE vs. LAA
1B Josh Bell, PIT vs. NYM
1B/3B Renato Nunez, BAL vs. TOR
This tier is loaded with more players that I am avoiding than targeting. Ohtani faces the same tough matchup as Trout against Clevinger. Baltimore currently looks to be facing the Blue Jays in a bullpen game, which likely isn’t good for them. Toronto’s bullpen has a 4.16 SIERA, which would be tied for seventh-best in baseball for overall team SIERA. This is a good pitching staff out of the pen, which means you won’t really gain an edge by using the Baltimore hitters. Conforto is a decent hitter with the platoon, but he doesn’t excite me enough to use him in bulk.
Bell continues to be overlooked in Tiers. Yes, he faces Matz, who has been excellent of late, but if someone is going to get to him, it is likely to be the Pirates All-Star. Bell has a .252 ISO this year against left-handed pitching and, more importantly, is strong against Matz’s pitch type. The Mets lefty throws his sinker over 50% of the time. Bell has a .333 ISO and .498 wOBA against lefty sinkers, and he has hit .230/.423 against all sinkers for his career.
If you are looking to continue the Indians stack, my recommendation is Santana, though I don’t think Mercado is a terrible option either. Santana has a .398 wOBA against left-handed pitching in 2019. He also matches up well with Peters’ pitch selection. The young lefty throws his fastball about 48% to righties, and his changeup 30%. Santana has a .364 wOBA and .214 ISO against fastballs, and a .354 wOBA and .213 ISO against changeups since 2016.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is amicsta) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.