The divisional round of the MLB Playoffs got underway on Thursday, but after showcasing only the American League clubs, we’ll get all eight teams in action on Friday. Just make sure you get your lineups in early. First pitch between the White Sox and the Astros is set for 2:07 p.m. ET. Still, that’s an easy price to pay for a full say of baseball goodness.
Let’s go position-by-position and break down everything you’ll need to know.
Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Atlanta Braves, $9,100 - While it’s certainly been established that there’s better pitching on the NL side of the bracket, the offenses are also considerably worse than in the AL. Take the Braves as a perfect example. After losing Ronald Acuna Jr. for the season to injury, Atlanta scrambled at the deadline to add help in the outfield, and though it did lead to a division crown, it was an imperfect solution. Dating back to Sept. 1, the Braves registered the league’s fifth-highest strikeout rate (24.4%) and its fourth-highest swinging strike rate (12.5%), thanks primarily to the likes of Adam Duvall ($3,600) and Joc Pederson ($2,900). That’s an enticing lineup profile to run out against Burnes, who led all qualified pitchers in strikeout rate (35.6%), xERA (2.01) and FIP (1.63).
Charlie Morton, Atlanta Braves at Milwaukee Brewers, $7,800 - Speaking of underwhelming lineups, let’s just say that the Brewers didn’t win the NL Central because of their run-scoring abilities. Across the final month (and three days in October) of the regular season, Milwaukee posted the fourth-lowest wRC+ (85) and the fifth-lowest wOBA (.301) in all of baseball. That’s the recipe for a pretty nice matchup, and Morton is more than capable of taking advantage. After a rough start to 2021, the veteran picked up right where he’d left off the past half-decade, posting a 2.96 ERA and a 3.05 FIP across his final 27 outings. Morton also registered a 28.8% strikeout rate within that span, so it’s not like he lacks upside, either. Shout out to the massive potential of Shane Baz ($6,300), but Morton is the value play you want more exposure to on Friday’s slate.
Yasmani Grandal, Chicago White Sox at Houston Astros, $4,400 - Grandal has been on absolute fire since being activated from the IL in late August and a lot of the recent success has been at the expense of left-handed pitchers. To wit, the backstop finished 2021 with a 1.031 OPS and a 184 wRC+ in his 96 plate appearances within the split. Framber Valdez ($7,500) also isn’t exactly in peak form coming into the playoffs, as the LHP has registered a 4.99 FIP in his last five starts.
Mike Zunino, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox, $3,800 - 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. It didn’t take Zunino long to showcase this skill-set in the playoffs, either, as he produced a 402 ft. barrel in his first plate appearance in Game 1 against Eduardo Rodriguez. Chris Sale ($6,700) is always scary, but so is Tampa’s catcher.
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Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox at Houston Astros, $4,100 - Things are trending well for Abreu’s viability. The reigning MVP was a question mark for Game 1 on Thursday due to an illness, yet Abreu played and ended up collecting a pair of hits. Despite that, his salary has fallen $700 on Friday. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be taking advantage of this opportunity to save. This season, against left-handed pitching, Abreu managed a .309 ISO and a 161 wRC+. This is the split you want for the veteran first baseman.
Matt Beaty, Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants, $2,200 - I have a feeling that after his late-game heroics on Wednesday, Chris Taylor ($3,600) might find his way into the Dodgers’ lineup over Beaty; however, if the 28-year-old does end up getting another start at first, I’d give him a look. Over 74 plate appearances in the second half of the regular season, Beaty produced a 133 wRC+. As you might expect, even Los Angeles’ bench assets are good.
Trea Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants, $5,400 - There really aren’t many negative things I can say about Logan Webb ($8,200), though he did pitch to an underwhelming 4.50 ERA over his final six starts of 2021. No, this is simply about Turner’s individual value as a DFS asset. In 128 plate appearances since the beginning of September, the former National is slashing .353/.406/.638 with a 177 wRC+. He also has six stolen bases within that span. Just because he can.
Kolten Wong, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Atlanta Braves, $3,300 - When dealing with second baseman priced below $4K, you basically have two options on this slate: Wong and Tommy La Stella ($3,800). Both hit leadoff for their respective teams (which is nice) and both are in incredibly tough matchups (not so nice). I’ll side with Wong, as his matchup is slightly less intimidating and because he’s $500 cheaper.
Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays, $5,500 - Baz has lived up to his prospect pedigree through his first three starts in the majors, yet he has shown a willingness to concede the long ball. In fact, in a small sample, Baz has surrendered 2.03 home runs per nine. Well, Devers managed an eye-popping .366 ISO off of right-handed four-seam fastballs in 2021, so he makes for a pretty good candidate to take advantage of Baz’s flaw.
Yandy Diaz, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox, $3,500 - Diaz was at the top of his game in 2021 when getting the opportunity to face a left-handed opponent. In 218 plate appearances within the split, the infielder registered an .812 OPS and a 126 wRC+. Diaz also hit fifth in Tampa’s batting order against the left-handed Rodriguez on Thursday, so I’d expect him in that same high-leverage slot versus Sale.
Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox, $4,600 - Franco’s 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, as well. As for Sale, he’s looked somewhat shaky since returning from Tommy John, as he’s surrendered 1.59 home runs per nine to opposing RHBs.
Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, $4,000 - I really think you should be spending up at shortstop on this particular slate, and Crawford is the absolute cheapest I’m willing to go. The veteran had a phenomenal season, slashing .319/.401/.560 with a 156 wRC+ against right-handed pitching. Now, Walker Buehler ($8,500) isn’t your average RHP; however the 27-year-old did give up six earned runs in three innings the last time he pitched in San Francisco. Not great stuff.
Luis Robert, Chicago White Sox at Houston Astros, $5,100 - The sample size isn’t as big as you’d like it to be, but Robert was arguably the hottest hitter in baseball after returning from his lengthy IL stint. The young outfielder specifically crushed every left-handed pitcher in his wake, resulting in Robert finishing 2021 with a slash line of .397/.441/.794 in his 68 plate appearances within the split. That’s a 231 wRC+ for those interested. Good luck, Framber.
Andrew Vaughn, Chicago White Sox at Houston Astros, $2,800 - The rookie really scuffled at the plate down the stretch, but he’s on the ALDS roster for once simple reason: Vaughn can hit lefties. In 141 plate appearances within the split during the regular season, the former first-round pick managed a .286 ISO, a .397 wOBA and a 156 wRC+. He should be in the lineup on Friday, and he’s dangerous if he is.
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