After a Wild Card round full of surprises and a subsequent weekend off, the MLB Playoffs return on Monday with the two American League Division series getting underway. The Yankees and Rays both won, as expected, in the Wild Card round and will begin their series at 8 p.m. ET. The Astros, after a 2-0 sweep to upset the Twins, will take on the A’s at 4 p.m. ET.
Gerrit Cole ($8,600) - The top pitcher on today’s slate by a substantial margin is Gerrit Cole. Not only is Cole the best overall talent, but he also has somewhat of an easy matchup against a Rays offense that was only slightly above average by wOBA and wRC+ this season. The quality of the opponent will largely be determined by whether or not Austin Meadows ($4,200) makes it back into the lineup tonight, but either way, Cole always has immense potential for strikeouts. He’s only the highest-priced pitcher by a small margin, and the only meaningful reason to avoid him would be his ownership in GPPs.
Houston Astros - Chris Bassitt ($8,100) isn’t a bad pitcher, but he’s easily the worst starter on this short slate and the Astros shouldn’t have too much trouble scoring a few runs against him. Bassitt managed a 2.29 ERA this season, but there was a lot of luck involved as he escaped jams at a disproportionately high rate (85.6% left on base percentage). Bassitt made significant improvements to his control in 2020 (just a 3.6% walk rate) but his strikeout numbers were modest and the overall picture is probably more like a mid-rotation starter rather than a strong Game 1 option.
The Astros’ offense, on the other hand, had a mediocre season and was right around league average by most metrics. Whatever you think about their cheating scandal, it’s pretty clear that they underachieved in 2020 and they have a lot more talent than what they showed during the regular season. Part of the reason for optimism is that while they still don't have Yordan Alvarez, who’s out for the season, they did go through several other injuries and everyone else besides Alvarez is now healthy. The Astros also appear to be underpriced for this slate, with guys like Alex Bregman ($4,500), Jose Altuve ($4,400), Kyle Tucker ($4,100) and Michael Brantley ($3,900) most notably looking to be too cheap.
DraftKings Slate Strategy
Starting a GPP lineup with Cole, Lance McCullers ($7,600) and/or Blake Snell ($8,000) plus a bunch of Astros hitters should provide the highest potential for points, but that’s also likely to be the most popular route that the field is taking. The obvious way to differentiate would be fade Cole and play the Rays’ offense against him and that definitely becomes a more viable strategy if Meadows is in the lineup. Short of fading Cole, the only other sensible way to have a unique pitcher combination is to roll with Bassitt, but Bassitt’s lack of strikeout potential with a tough matchup against the Astros isn’t very appealing.
In order to have a unique lineup while playing Cole with McCullers or Snell, some lower-owned hitters will be necessary and there seem to be a few decent candidates on the board. One option would be to play a couple of Rays hitters in the same lineup as Cole and hope that he gives up a homer or two while also racking up a bunch of strikeouts. The outfield positions probably make for the greatest source of leverage on this slate, as guys like Aaron Judge ($5,200), Giancarlo Stanton ($4,900), George Springer ($5,400) and the aforementioned Tucker and Brantley should dominate most of the ownership. Pivoting in the outfield to lower0tier Yankees and Astros or some even more contrarian Rays and A’s could be the best way to maneuver away from the field on this challenging two-game slate.
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