DFS Primer – April 9

Gus Elmashni breaks down the DFS slate for Saturday.

At long last, MLB is back! Hopefully, you enjoyed Opening Day. Now buckle up for Opening Weekend. On this glorious Saturday, we have all 30 MLB teams on tap. There are a few slates you can play. Typically you can expect DFS articles to focus on just the main slate, but if you are a DFS addict like me, you will want action all day. Is there any other way to make it through a Saturday?

No matter what site you play for DFS, you will have plenty of slate options. For example, both DraftKings and FanDuel have five games for the Very Early slate (10:10 AM PT), four games for the Early slate (1:05 PM PT), and 5 for the Main slate (4:05 PM PT). Let’s break down each slate so that you have a reliable pitcher and a core stack for your DFS roster construction.


Very Early


I always find it funny how FanDuel calls the first slate on Saturdays Very Early. Really? Clearly, whoever came up with that title does not have kids. The games in that slate start at 10:10 AM when I have already finished feeding my kids breakfast, cleaned the kitchen, showered, and we are off to some four-year-old’s birthday party. Still, I am grateful for the early action since how else are you going to survive a morning with dozens of toddlers kicking and screaming?!

So who do we roster for the first slate of the day? For starting pitchers, don’t overthink it. Grab Brandon Woodruff and Dylan Cease on DraftKings and flip a coin between the two for FanDuel. Last year both the Cubs and Tigers struck out at a high rate. In fact, both offenses ranked in the bottom 4 in strikeouts. In case you forgot, Ks are King when playing MLB DFS, especially on FanDuel. Looking at the depth charts for both teams’ positional players, neither made significant improvements in the offseason.

Meanwhile, Woodruff and Cease are both in the prime of their careers and made leaps and bounds last year. Each of them made at least 30 starts and whiffed over 200 batters. There is no reason why they don’t maintain those impressive numbers with both of them under the age of 30. Furthermore, they both pitched great against today’s opponents last year. It can be tough to pay up for two stud pitchers on DraftKings, but I believe we have enough value with the bats to justify the salaries for both Woodruff and Cease.

So how about the bats? We should attack the two weakest links on this slate: Jordan Lyles and Mitch Keller. Check out the table below showing some possible stacks for Tampa Bay and St. Louis.


Batter Stats (2021)


Clearly, these bats are not cheap on DraftKings, so you might need to get creative or potentially punt at another position, but don’t do so at pitcher. You could get 30+ DraftKings points each from Woodruff and Cease.

On FanDuel, where pricing offers more flexibility, you could jam in most of the bats listed above and roster either Cease or Woodruff. The OPS and Barrel/PA % are strong for at least two batters on each team, so do your best to get some combination of these hitters and stack the other pieces who bat ahead of them.


Early Slate


Hopefully, if we cash with the Very Early slate or if it looks like we are going to cash, we will have some cheddar to spend for the afternoon slate before going big on Saturday night. However, play small since the options look a bit bleak.

If there is one pitcher I feel confident in starting, it would be Carlos Rodón. During 24 starts last year, Rodón went 13-5 for the White Sox with a superb 5.14 K/BB ratio. The 2.37 ERA and 0.96 WHIP were also Cy Young worthy. One other reason to love Rodón is his new team. The Giants did wonders with Kevin Gausman. Just imagine what they can do with Rodón.

Bats will be tricky, so consider smaller stacks or some one-offs. This is where Statcast is your best friend. The top of the lineups for both the Yankees and Phillies look solid.


Main Slate


Now that you have survived the day with whatever it is you do on Saturdays, it’s time to sit back and relax while following some evening baseball. So who do we root for in the main slate?

Joe Musgrove is your guy. Much like the other pitchers discussed in this article, Musgrove demonstrated tremendous growth last season with 31 starts and 203 strikeouts. That is to be expected whenever a ballplayer reaches the age of 28. What we can also expect is a masterful performance by Musgrove, especially against a Diamondbacks team that went 52-110 last year.

By now, you can tell I am a fan of paying for quality pitching. If you want to build a quality DFS lineup, you get the best pitchers possible, within reason, of course.

With a game at Coors Field, the masses will flock to some combination of the Dodgers and Rockies. Good. Let them. There is a quote I love from Warren Buffett, “Be fearful when others are greedy. Be greedy when others are fearful.” That is so true in DFS.

Rostered rates will be high for the top L.A. and Colorado bats. Given their high salaries, you will have to hit the bargain bin for pitching. However, there is great hitting value elsewhere.

For example, Atlanta is a -170 favorite at home with a game total of 10 runs. You can roster the defending champion’s 1-3-4-6 hitters (Eddie Rosario, Austin Riley, Marcell Ozuna, and Adam Duvall) for a very good price. The Reds are throwing Vladimir Gutiérrez, who was quite erratic last year, giving up 20 HRs in 114 innings pitched with an awful 1.91 K/BB ratio. Also, none of his final six starts of the 2021 season lasted more than five innings, which means the bullpen will likely work another four innings. This is an already taxed unit that’s pitched more than nine innings from a combination of eight relievers on Thursday and Friday.

After your Reds stack, you can do some one-offs. Jake Cronenworth and Jose Altuve are reasonably priced and have some pop in their bats. You can also build a mini-stack with the Washington Nationals facing Chris Bassitt, who might be due for some regression.

There you have it! Paying up for pitching is the theme for Saturday, and be prudent with your offense. If our stacks pop off, especially at low rostered rates, we will have a nice bankroll by the end of the evening. Good luck, and enjoy the return of baseball!


Design by J.R. Caines (@JRCainesDesign on Twitter and @caines_design on Instagram)

Gus Elmashni

Gus Elmashni is a San Francisco Bay Area native and an avid fan of the NBA, NFL, and MLB. He has played fantasy sports since 1993 when a few high school friends and he would tabulate daily NBA results from the San Jose Mercury News and draft new teams every month. Gus has been with Pitcher List since April 2022 writing DFS articles and the Best Bets column. Additionally, Gus works full-time as an educator in Northern California and resides in Sacramento with his wife and two young children.

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