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MLB Slate Preview: DraftKings Fantasy Baseball Picks, Pitching Analysis and DFS Strategy for October 16

Matt Meiselman gives his fantasy baseball picks and DFS analysis for Friday’s DraftKings MLB slate.

League Championship - Houston Astros v Tampa Bay Rays - Game One Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Astros stayed alive yet again in Game 5, keeping the series going with a walk-off solo home run by Carlos Correa ($4,400) in the bottom of the ninth inning. That gives us another two-game slate, and it could be the last one of the season and maybe even the last slate overall for the LCS, as the Rays and the Braves are both on the cusp of clinching World Series births. Today begins with the American League again, with the Astros and Rays scheduled to start at 6:07 p.m. ET.

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Starting Pitchers

Framber Valdez ($8,300) - After a day off from this trend — where the Astros used Luis Garcia as an opener instead of a traditional starting pitcher — we’re back to talking about Astros starting pitching as they once again look to keep their series alive against the Rays. Today’s Game 5 is the same matchup from Game 1, with Valdez taking the hill against Blake Snell ($8,700). Snell is perhaps the better pitcher, but the Astros are still the superior offense and it makes Valdez the preferred choice, especially with a slightly cheaper price tag.

Depending how you analyze the game, it’s easy to argue that Valdez was the superior pitcher in Game 1 even though he allowed two runs compared to Snell’s one. Snell generated just two strikeouts (two walks) while Valdez had eight strikeouts (four walks). Snell also allowed six hits, while Valdez allowed four, but the Rays had more timely hitting and ultimately won the game 2-1.

In the regular season, Snell was actually the better strikeout pitcher, but exhibited less control, and it led to a slight edge in ERA (3.24 to 3.57). Valdez was fairly unlucky, however, and his .312 BABIP against and 67.5% strand rate kept him from what would have otherwise looked like an elite pitching season. Valdez is generally thought of as a volatile pitcher — and his strikeout and walk rates in 2019 definitely illustrate that — but in 2020 he actually ranked 11th among pitchers with at least 30 IP in K/BB ratio, while Snell was just 89th. Snell is certainly a good pitcher and should have decent results today as well, but given the matchup disparity, Valdez appears to be the better choice.

DraftKings Slate Strategy

Reading through the analysis above, it seems like the obvious strategy for this slate would be to play Framber Valdez over Blake Snell. The problem is that the starting pitchers in the other game are going to be hard to count on, with Dustin May ($7,200) possibly just serving as an opener for the Dodgers, and the Braves deploying a bullpen game with A.J. Minter ($4,000), as well. Pairing Valdez with Snell and going with hitters against the Braves’ and Dodgers’ bullpens clearly makes for the easiest set up, but it also figures to be the most popular strategy chosen by the rest of the field.

The easiest way to ensure a somewhat unique lineup construction would be to use just one of Valdez and Snell and play hitters against the other, and given the breakdown above, that probably means focusing on the Houston Astros. The Astros should have some popular hitters at the top of their lineup, but a full stack against Snell figures to be an off the board strategy, especially if it uses some of the bottom of the order hitters. Players like Kyle Tucker ($3,700), Yuli Gurriel ($3,200), Aledmys Diaz ($3,400) and Martin Maldonado ($3,600) should all contend for the lowest owned guys at their respective positions.

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All views expressed are my own. I am an employee of DraftKings and am ineligible to play in public DFS or DKSB contests.