It’s here. The one-game Wild Card games are over. It’s time for the real MLB Playoffs to begin. On Thursday, we’ll get Game 1 of both ALDS series, with the White Sox and the Astros getting things going at 4:07 p.m. ET.
Let’s go position-by-position and break down everything you’ll need to know.
Lance Lynn, Chicago White Sox at Houston Astros, $7,500 - Understandably, this is a weird slate for pitching. Not only do we have limited options, but no one has a particularly good matchup, as all four teams in action ranked in the top six in wRC+ this season. Still, it feels like Lynn has the best combination of both ceiling and floor. Even if you want to say the veteran has struggled in his past five outings — he’s pitched to a 5.13 ERA — Lynn’s peripheral numbers are flawless within that same span. To wit, Lynn has posted a 3.19 xFIP thanks to a 28.7% strikeout rate and a 6.2 K/BB ratio. The RHP has also registered a 2.59 xERA in 2021 — the lowest mark of any AL pitcher with at least 150 innings thrown. Simply put, he should have the highest salary on Thursday.
Eduardo Rodriguez, Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays, $6,700 - By now, we all know the deal with Rodriguez. The ERA estimators love him, yet at the end of the day, a 4.74 ERA hasn’t helped too many DFS owners. “Inconsistent” is probably the best way to describe Rodriguez, and his outings against the Rays in 2021 reflect that sentiment. In September alone, E-Rod registered 26.5 DKFP across six scoreless innings versus Tampa, only to follow that performance up with a -2.55 DKFP effort in his very next start. Still, Rodriguez is viable in his spot due to his strikeout upside. He struck out a career-best 27.4% of opponents this season and, for their part, the Rays led the AL with a 25.6% strikeout rate when facing LHPs.
Yasmani Grandal, Chicago White Sox at Houston Astros, $4,500 - Grandal was activated from a lengthy IL stint back on Aug. 27. Since that day, the backstop is slashing .337/.481/.673 with a 209 wRC+ over 129 plate appearances. The term “red-hot” might not even be enough to describe the run he’s been on. However, this isn’t small sample magic, either. For the season as a whole, Grandal sits in 97th percentile in expected wOBA (.412).
Mike Zunino, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox, $3,700 - Zunino’s numbers against LHPs this season are staggering. The All-Star managed to hit .342 with a .526 ISO and a 243 wRC+ in his 129 plate appearances within the split. He’s a threat to go deep at any time, which makes him a high-upside asset on every slate.
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Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox at Houston Astros, $4,800 - First base isn’t really a position where I would recommend spending lavishly on Thursday, but it’s never a terrible idea to get Abreu into a lineup. The reigning AL MVP really turned things on after the All-Star break in 2021, posting a 140 wRC+ across his 303 plate appearances.
Bobby Dalbec, Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays, $3,300 - It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Dalbec isn’t in the lineup on Thursday night, especially with J.D. Martinez ($5,200; ankle) likely unavailable. The Red Sox will be facing lefty Shane McClanahan ($7,700) and, in 190 plate appearances within the split in 2021, Dalbec has managed an .877 OPS and a 129 wRC+. The 26-year-old also has a massive .396 wOBA since the Midsummer Classic.
Jose Altuve, Houston Astros vs. Chicago White Sox, $4,600 - Lynn doesn’t throw his fastball quite as much as he used to, but at 62.5%, it’s still by far his favorite pitch. That’s not a great formula against Altuve. In 2021, the diminutive infielder hit .317 with a .596 slugging percentage versus four-seam fastballs. Maybe that’s why, for his career, Altuve has posted a 1.029 OPS in his 34 at-bats with Lynn on the mound.
Christian Arroyo, Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays, $2,400 - Red Sox fans are pretty disappointed that Jose Iglesias is ineligible for the team’s postseason roster; however, Arroyo’s actually in a nice spot in Game 1 against McClanahan. In his 74 plate appearances against LHPs in 2021, the former member of the Rays organization slashed .329/.359/.529 with a 137 wRC+. That plus a revenge game? What’s not to like at this price?
Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays, $5,500 - McClanahan has a 2.41 FIP against LHBs in 2021, so this isn’t exactly an ideal time to use Devers. Yet, that’s almost the reason he’s viable. Devers is the lone third baseman priced above $4K and he’s in a tough matchup. Even on a four-game slate, his ownership might be lower than you expect. Also, if history is any indication, McClanahan won’t face this Boston lineup a third time, so Devers should get a crack or two against a right-handed reliever.
Yoan Moncada, Chicago White Sox at Houston Astros, $3,500 - There aren’t really any weaknesses in Lance McCullers ($8,000) game, but he does tend to struggle more with left-handed bats than their right-handed counterparts. Well, that’s good news for Moncada, as the switch-hitter definitely prefers hitting from the left-hand side. In 2021, Moncada’s posted a 129 wRC+ against RHPs, compared to a much more modest 99 wRC+ versus LHPs.
Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox, $4,500 - Franco put up nothing but eye-popping numbers in his rookie campaign, yet none are as impressive as his dominance of left-handed opponents. In 110 plate appearances as a RHB, Franco slashed .357/.418/.602 with a 181 wRC+. The 20-year-old also struck out in just 9.1% of those PAs, which negates the biggest strength in Rodriguez’s skill-set.
Carlos Correa, Houston Astros vs. Chicago White Sox, $4,000 - Correa being the least expensive of the four starting shortstops on this slate really speaks to how stacked this position is. Since the beginning of August, Correa is hitting .293 with 136 wRC+. The former first-overall pick has also shown more power in right-on-right situations in 2021, posting a .230 ISO.
Randy Arozarena, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox, $4,900 - Are we getting “Playoff Randy” for a second-straight October? Arozarena set the world on fire this time last season, but all he’ll have to do on Thursday is keep hitting lefties as well as he did from April to September. In 2021, the rookie had 233 plate appearances against LHPs, finishing the year with a .921 OPS and a 153 wRC+. At a price tag below $5K, it’s worth going back to the well with Arozarena.
Michael Brantley, Houston Astros vs. Chicago White Sox, $2,900 - It’s basically a running joke that Brantley is always too cheap in DFS, but this is getting a little ridiculous. Like his aforementioned teammate Altuve, Brantley has crushed fastballs of all shapes and sizes in 2021 and, also like Altuve, Brantley has had success specifically versus Lynn. In 26 at-bats, the veteran has 10 hits and a 1.025 OPS. Considering Lynn’s had his issues with LHBs this season, I’m willing to buy into these BvP numbers.
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