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A DFS player can profit greatly by exploiting early-season panic.
Last week, DraftKings dropped Blake Snell‘s price to $9,500 following a tough Opening Day shelling against the Astros. He recovered to defeat the Rockies with 13 strikeouts over seven dominant shutout frames.
While Matt Shoemaker has looked sharp over his first two starts, Chris Sale has stunk. We all still know which pitcher is better heading into their scheduled showdown on Tuesday. It’s important to keep tabs on early trends and stats. Just be sure to place them in proper context while remaining rational.
Let’s examine how DFS players should handle some risers and fallers entering the 2019 season’s second weekend.
Yoan Moncada (3B, Chicago White Sox)
It’s too early to get overly excited. Probably. Maybe. But what if this is just the first chapter in Moncada’s ascent to stardom? A breakout would hardly shock anyone, as the 23-year-old had superstar written all over him when entering the majors in 2016. He didn’t play a full season with the White Sox, however, until batting .235/.315/.400 with a 33.4% strikeout rate last season.
This new campaign is still in its infancy, but Moncada has struck out just four times in 27 plate appearances. Through five games, he has gone 11-for-24 with four doubles and two long balls.
Although it’s still too soon early to expect any long-term correlation, his improved contact and swinging-strike rates in the opening week could catapult Moncada into All-Star standing. He has spent most of his time batting second, so give him a close look with the White Sox opposing vulnerable righties Mike Leake and Wade LeBlanc this weekend.
Matt Shoemaker (SP, Toronto Blue Jays)
It might be time to take Shoemaker’s resurgence seriously. He shielded both Detroit and Baltimore from the scoreboard, working seven frames and allowing two hits in each start. The 32-year-old righty, who returned from a five-month absence to record a 3.24 FIP (but a 4.97 ERA) last September, has already hoarded 15 strikeouts with a 33.0% CSW rate. He now has 44 strikeouts in 39.1 innings since coming back from a right forearm strain.
Shoemaker has never lasted more than 160 innings in a season, and he has never reached the heights teased by 2014’s 3.04 ERA. Yet he’s an intriguing option when healthy who wields a career 16.2 K-BB% and 11.4% swinging-strike rate.
Some readers probably stopped reading at “Detroit and Baltimore.” Although he handled cupcake opponents with aplomb, he’s slated to face a far steeper test Tuesday at Boston. It’s going to take much more prolonged success against tougher adversaries before considering Shoemaker in such a treacherous spot. Maybe a fall from grace would deflate his price for his next scheduled outing at Minnesota.
Christian Walker (1B, Arizona Diamondbacks)
Walker’s rapid start stings for DFS players. If still an unpolished player stuck in the short end of a platoon, Walker would be a sharp play whenever Arizona opposes a southpaw. Good luck getting a reasonable price now.
With Jake Lamb (quad) on the injured list, Walker will play every day from the fourth or fifth slot. The 28-year-old has quickly made his mark, clubbing all three of his long balls against right-handed pitchers. Next week will prove an interesting barometer of his current value, as the Diamondbacks are in line to face three lefties (Mike Minor, Eric Lauer, and Joey Lucchesi).
Boston’s Starting Rotation
Well, the Red Sox had a good run. Better luck next year.
Over a long season, every team goes through a rough patch where seemingly the entire squad catches a case of the awfuls. The defending champions happened to have suffered theirs right out of the box. They have allowed 67 runs in nine games, and despite louder—and still valid—concerns about the bullpen entering the season, the rotation has collectively laid an egg in two turns apiece.
- Chris Sale: 2 GS, 9 IP, 9 H, 8 ER, 4 HR, 4 BB, 5 K
- Nathan Eovaldi: 2 GS, 12 H, 9 ER, 4 HR, 6 BB, 6 K
- Eduardo Rodriguez: 2 GS, 8 IP, 16 H, 11 ER, 2 HR, 6 BB, 7 K
- Rick Porcello: 2 GS, 7.1 IP, 16 H, 11 ER, 3 HR, 7 BB, 8 K
While David Price fared fine (6 IP, 4 ER, 9 K) in his lone start, he also ceded three long balls. Perhaps the organization failed at readying its staff for Opening Day. Sale and Rodriguez, who each dealt with injuries late last season, have particularly endured troubling velocity dips. It’s also possible they merely encountered two red-hot AL West lineups (Seattle and Oakland) at the wrong time.
There’s a clear buying opportunity here. The Red Sox return home to host the Blue Jays and Orioles, two anemic offenses to target often throughout the season. If Sale’s salary is slashed like Snell last week, he’s a fine cash and GPP play on Tuesday afternoon. While the others haven’t earned the same benefit of the doubt, they’re all usable if the price is right.
Ian Desmond (OF, Colorado Rockies)
So, Mr. Desmond, what would you say you do here? Since the Rockies signed the shortstop to play first base for reasons beyond a layman’s understanding, he has posted -1.8 fWAR following an astounding -0.3 start just six games into 2019. Picking right off from last year, in which he posted an 81 wRC+ despite banking his fifth 20/20 campaign, Desmond has gone 3-for-23 with one walk and 10 strikeouts.
Just wait until he plays in Coors Field, one might say with a glimmer of hope. Only one problem: He posted an identical .315 wOBA at home and on the road last season. He fared even worse (.275 wOBA) inside the hitter’s paradise in 2017. All the altitude in the world can’t help someone with a 62.0% ground-ball rate, his MLB-worst clip last season.
At what point do the Rockies throw in the towel on their free-agent flop and bench him? Raimel Tapia could take his spot in the outfield, or Ryan McMahon could slide over to the grass to make room for Mark Reynolds and Garrett Hampson at first and second base, respectively. Either way, it’d take a feeble opponent and a notable discount to even entertain using Desmond at any venue.
Miles Mikolas (SP, St. Louis Cardinals)
Although never the most popular DFS choice during his breakout campaign because of a middling 18.1% strikeout rate, Mikolas twirled a 2.83 ERA and lasted over six innings per start. An average fastball velocity of 94.7 mph and overall 9.6% swinging-strike rate also provided hope for a few more punchouts.
He has instead backpedaled in every facet through 2019’s opening pair of starts. Lasting just five innings each time, Mikolas has relinquished a dozen hits and eight runs (four homers) with five strikeouts and three walks. His four-seam speed dipped to 93.8 mph, resulting in just one swing and miss in 36 tries.
There’s a microscopic margin of error for a contact pitcher who pounds the strike zone, and he’s feeling it in full force. It’s not a cause for long-term panic just yet, as he served up four runs to Milwaukee in back-to-back starts to begin 2018. Yet a rough schedule makes him a clear fade next week.
Stay away from Mikolas in Monday’s scheduled start against the scorching Dodgers, who have already delivered 21 long balls in eight contests. Sunday’s turn at Cincinnati isn’t particularly enticing either. These early struggles, however, could turn him into a bounce-back value down the line.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is akgould4) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games on which I offer advice. Although I have expressed my personal views 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.
(Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire)