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Fantasy Baseball Picks: Giants vs. Dodgers DraftKings MLB DFS Showdown Strategy

Garion Thorne preps you for Thursday’s 10:08 p.m. ET baseball contest between the Giants and Dodgers with DraftKings lineup strategy and captain’s picks.

Editor’s note: Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw (back stiffness) has been placed on the injured list and will not start tonight vs. the Giants. P Dustin May will start in place of Kershaw.

There’s been so much uncertainty in the world the past few months, but here’s something we do know: tonight, in Los Angeles, there will be Major League Baseball. Specifically, the Dodgers will host their hated cross-state rivals, the Giants. In fact, if you were hoping for some marking of normalcy, how does Clayton Kershaw ($10,800) starting the season off at Dodger Stadium on primetime television sound? Pretty darn basic, right? However, that’s not to suggest there haven’t been massive changes to each roster since we last saw these teams. There will be debuts, there will be injury replacements, but, mostly, there will live sports. Let’s dive into it.

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SHOWDOWN STRATEGY

San Francisco Giants

Editor’s note: Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw (back stiffness) has been placed on the injured list and will not start tonight vs. the Giants. P Dustin May will start in place of Kershaw.

We haven’t seen much of Johnny Cueto ($8,800) the past two seasons, but we did get a four start sample from the 34-year-old back towards the end of September. The results were of small sample, yet they were also exceedingly ugly. Cueto posted a 5.06 ERA and a 5.71 FIP across 16.0 innings of work, a span of time where the RHP seemingly couldn’t find the strike zone with any regularity. In fact, Cueto’s zone rate was just 35.9% which, when paired with an anemic 25.9% chase rate, lead to a robust 13.4% walk rate. Again, this could be nothing more than a blip on the radar or the result of rust, though a dip in zone rate is sometimes more symptomatic of a lack of overall confidence than anything else. Pitchers who don’t trust their stuff or are losing velocity tend to rely on nibbling at the edges of the strike zone. Use the past three seasons of Felix Hernandez to get an idea of what I mean. Could 2019 have been the beginning of the end for San Francisco’s former All-Star?

Whatever the case may be, it’s hard to see Cueto as anything more than a variance option on this slate. The Dodgers’ lineup is stacked from top to bottom and it’s led by a pair of MVP candidates in Cody Bellinger ($10,600) and Mookie Betts ($10,200). The main red flag I have with Cueto - aside from the underwhelming cup of coffee that was 2019 and a possible pitch count around 80 - is the issues he’s had with left-handed hitters dating back to the beginning of 2017. Within that stretch, the right-hander has faced 474 LHBs and he’s allowed them to compile a .488 slugging percentage and hit an eye-popping 1.58 home runs per nine. Considering the amount of left-handed power that Los Angeles possesses, that appears to be bad news for Cueto.

The one nice thing about the Giants on this slate is that they’ll be providing a ton of value when it comes to positional assets. They also have more than a couple right-handed bats who have shown the ability to hit left-handed pitching, even if said southpaw is the decorated Kershaw. In particular, there are four men that I would like to single out: Wilmer Flores ($7,200), Pablo Sandoval ($6,400), Donovan Solano ($6,000) and Austin Slater ($5,000). By this point, we know the book on Flores, but it’s worth noting his 151 wRC+ and .279 ISO in his 109 plate appearances against LHPs in 2019 with the Diamondbacks. Sandoval is a switch-hitter whose .936 OPS was 140 points higher as a RHB last season; Solano hit .339 off of lefties with a 44.6% hard contact rate; and Slater managed a .379 expected wOBA within the split - which led all members of San Francisco with at least 75 at-bats. You won’t need to play all four, however each will have value depending on where they end up batting in the Giants’ order. Additionally, Hunter Pence ($9,600) registered a huge .309 ISO off of southpaws this past year, but his price tag might be tough to swallow.

UPDATE: 6:30 p.m. ET

Obviously, Dustin May’s presence changes the viability of many of the Giants’ positional pieces. Where we were once looking for affordable platoon splits against LHPs, we’re now mostly searching for left-handed hitters; especially considering May limited the 84 RHBs he faced in 2019 to a paltry .210 wOBA. Conversely, lefties managed to give the rookie a bit of trouble, compiling a .379 wOBA. Could much of this issue to chalked up to May owning a ridiculous .460 BABIP within the split? Definitely. However, someone like Alex Dickerson ($5,800) saw his wOBA shoot from .235 versus a southpaw to .354 when squaring off with a RHP, so handedness does matter. He and Mike Yastrzemski ($8,000) now appear to be the most enticing options San Francisco has rostered.


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Los Angeles Dodgers

Editor’s note: Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw (back stiffness) has been placed on the injured list and will not start tonight vs. the Giants. P Dustin May will start in place of Kershaw.

UPDATE: 6:30 p.m. ET

Dustin May ($10,600) has been re-called from Los Angeles’ player pool to start Thursday’s game in place of Clayton Kershaw (back). The rookie excelled in his 34.2 innings of MLB work in 2019, posting a 2.90 FIP to go along with a more than respectable 6.40 K/BB ratio. Much like it was for Kershaw, this looks like a nice spot for May, as the Giants finished last season with the league’s third-worst wRC+ (83) and will be without Brandon Belt (heel) and Evan Longoria (oblique). Still, with Los Angeles carrying such a deep bullpen, May’s longevity is up for debate. The RHP has also never thrown more than 5.2 innings in a big leagues.

There’s little debate that Kershaw is coming off the worst season of his career since his rookie campaign, but it wasn’t like the veteran suddenly fell off a cliff. I mean, it’s all juxtaposition. Was Kershaw’s ERA the highest it’s ever in a year where he surpassed 125.0 innings? It was, yet a 3.03 ERA would be perfectly fine for every other pitcher on the planet. Still, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a couple warning signs about the 32-year-old. Kershaw did see his average fastball velocity continue to plummet, sitting at 90.5 mph in 2019 after being at 93.2 mph as recently as 2017. As you might expect, that dip led to opponents compiling a hefty .214 ISO off of the pitch, and Kershaw surrendered a career-high 1.41 home runs per nine. Still, there will be other days to worry about the future Hall of Fame pitcher’s faults, days where Kershaw doesn’t get the gift of facing the Giants.

While San Francisco does have more than a couple decent platoon bats at their disposal, we’re still discussing a club that FanGraphs projects to score the second-fewest runs per game of any team in the league (4.27). We’re also discussing a roster that will be without both Brandon Belt (heel) and Evan Longoria (oblique) to begin 2020. The Giants finished 2019 with a microscopic .294 wOBA versus LHPs - the third-lowest figure in MLB.

As for positional players, it’s simply impossible to overlook how well Los Angeles’ LHBs fared against RHPs in 2019. In fact, among players with at least 200 at-bats within the split, the aforementioned Bellinger led the league with a .437 expected wOBA, while Max Muncy ($9,400) also broke the top-10 with a .392 mark of his own. Joc Pederson ($9,000) hit all 36 of his home runs last year in his opportunities against right-handers; Corey Seager’s ($8,600) wRC+ went from 88 against southpaws to 126 against righties; and even the RHB duo of Justin Turner ($8,200) and A.J. Pollock ($7,600) appear to be at a discounted price with their ample amount of upside. Basically, you’d be hard-pressed to find a member of the Dodgers’ lineup that isn’t viable. It’s just going to be about how many of Los Angeles’ bats you can fit within your budget.


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THE OUTCOME

There’s clearly a couple of different ways you can go when it comes to a Captain’s pick. While it’s expensive, I’d assume both Clayton Kershaw ($16,200 CP) and Cody Bellinger ($15,900 CP) will justifiably be among the more popular plays on the slate. On the other hand, depending on who ends up drawing the more high-leverage spot in the order, I could see myself trying to save a little salary with the likes of Wilmer Flores ($10,800 CP), Pablo Sandoval ($9,600 CP) or Austin Slater ($7,500 CP). If any one of that trio finds themselves hitting second or third for the Giants, it’s a game-changer.

Final Score: Los Angeles 7, San Francisco 3


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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theglt13) 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.