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Daily Games

MLB DFS Plays: Saturday 4/17

by Brad Johnson
Updated On: April 17, 2021, 10:49 am ET

This article outlines the best daily fantasy MLB plays of the day at every position. We take a comprehensive look to uncover these core recommendations, factoring respective salaries into the analysis.

Please note, these player picks were organized early in the day. For MLB contests, always check lineups and weather closer to game time. Rain, wind, or unexpected managerial decisions could open up additional sources of value. Be sure to keep an eye on the MLB Headlines and Injuries desk.

There are two slates today, a six-game afternoon contest and a five-game evening showdown. In my opinion, these columns are more successful when they focus on one slate. We’ll narrow our vision to the night crew today. If you disagree and prefer picks from both slates, let me know @baseballateam on Twitter.

PITCHER

Top Play: Yu Darvish – San Diego Padres (vs Dodgers)

Clayton Kershaw is visiting Darvish for the rubber match of the contest. Darvish has a tougher matchup but checks in with an ever-so-slightly better price tag. He also has the benefit of home field advantage (it’s small in baseball but does exist), and he’s a superior pitcher to Kershaw. Our DFS Projections consider him the top-projected pitcher AND the best value.

Honestly, my inclination is to fade this game entirely.

Pivot: Chris Flexen – Mariners (vs Astros)

Flexen is a workaday right-hander who can be expected to deliver around five to six innings per start with as many strikeouts and a 4.00 ERA. The Astros offense is currently without Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, and Jose Altuve as they go through COVID-19 protocols. What remains of the Houston attack is still decent – it’s just not nearly as intimidating.

Also Consider: Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Matt Shoemaker, Dane Dunning

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CATCHER

Top Play: Jacob Stallings – Pirates (at Brett Anderson)

Stallings has a modest track record of lefty mashing. In particular, he’s produced better launch angles with the platoon advantage. That’s potentially important against a ground ball machine like Anderson. Aside from Josh Hader, the Brewers bullpen isn’t very intimidating. Stallings is expected to bat sixth – a decent lineup role for a cheap catcher.

Pivot: Luis Torrens – Mariners (vs Greinke)

Torrens has recently taken up residence in the heart of the Mariners limp offense. He doesn’t project to be especially potent, perhaps topping out as a league average batter in the future. The matchup with Greinke subtracts a sliver of value too. Still his price is affordable for the role. If he’s down in the order, consider switching gears.

Also Consider: Kurt Suzuki, Mitch Garver, Victor Caratini

FIRST BASE

Top Play: Shohei Ohtani – Angels (vs Shoemaker)

Ohtani and Jared Walsh both match up brilliantly against Shoemaker. They’re also outfield eligible on DraftKings so you’ll have flexibility with how you use them. Ohtani in particular is locked in, dropping moonshots on a near-daily basis. He’s already set a career-high with a Stantonian 119 max exit velocity – a sign he could be in line for a serious power surge. It’s not all good news - he’s also whiffing more than ever.

Pivot: Keston Hiura – Brewers (vs Trevor Cahill)

The book on Hiura is he’s susceptible to fastballs up in the zone. Cahill generally uses a classic low-and-away approach to pitching which could help Hiura to avoid strikeouts. Many Pirates relievers rely on high fastballs so this recommendation is very much dependent on a home run against Cahill.

Also Consider: Walsh, Nate Lowe, Jose Marmolejos, Trey Mancini, Miguel Sano

SECOND BASE

Top Play: Nick Solak – Rangers (vs Dean Kremer)

I’m generally not a proponent of the hot hand in DFS. They tend to be oversubscribed, and there’s overwhelming evidence that recent escapades do not predict continued success. Fading is a more profitably approach. That said, the second base pool is thin tonight, and Solak is inarguably an above average hitter set to face a below average pitching staff.

Pivot: Ty France – Mariners (vs Greinke)

France is a BABIP machine. He produces vast quantities of contact at launch angles optimized for hits (i.e. line drives). He also comes with playable power upside. You can think of France as someone who makes his own luck – for himself and for you. This isn’t a friendly matchup for the Mariners two-hole but neither is it one to avoid.

Also Consider: Hiura, David Fletcher, Jorge Polanco

THIRD BASE

Top Play: Josh Donaldson – Twins (at Jose Quintana)

There’s a chance Donaldson won’t crack the lineup tonight. They’re being very careful with him. Assuming he starts, this is a juicy matchup. Donaldson might be one of the rare “true” lefty-mashers in the league. His plate discipline and batted ball outcomes improve dramatically with the platoon advantage.

Pivot: Phillip Evans – Pirates (at Anderson)

This is practically the inverse of the Hiura recommendation. Evans puts a lot of well-hit balls in play, but his low launch angle pairs poorly with Anderson’s ground ball tendencies. The Brewers have a mix of ground ball and fly ball pitchers in their bullpen. The right relief matchup could unlock a positive situation for Evans. A little BABIP luck could save the day too.

Also Consider: Justin Turner, Manny Machado, Abraham Toro

SHORTSTOP

Top Play: Corey Seager – Dodgers (at Darvish)

Use Seager anytime you find yourself holding extra cash without an obvious way to use it. Seager is expensive for this difficult matchup and will likely face Drew Pomeranz later too. He’s also an elite hitter who can outburst against any opponent.

Pivot: Isiah Kiner-Falefa – Rangers (vs Kremer)

IKF is making frequent hard, low-angle contact. Kremer induces around a 15-degree launch angle which should help Kiner-Falefa deliver some line drives. Like several other picks today, this all about BABIP-driven multi-hit potential. Power outcomes are unlikely.

Also Consider: Carlos Correa, J.P. Crawford

OUTFIELD

Top Plays: Byron Buxton – Twins (at Quintana)
Mike Trout – Angels (vs Shoemaker)
Nelson Cruz – Twins (at Quintana)

The top plays are beyond obvious, and they cost a mountain. If Buxton returns from his mild hamstring strain tonight, his extreme fly ball tendencies match up well against Quintana’s preference for working down in the zone. Cruz is launching missiles and has a 10-game hitting streak. If you can only pick one from this Twins stack, I prefer Cruz to Buxton. Across the aisle, Trout is a classic low-ball masher. Shoemaker is a splitter specialist who has hung several offerings this season.

Pivots: Mitch Haniger – Mariners (vs Greinke)
Adolis Garcia – Rangers (vs Kremer)
Ronnie Dawson – Astros (at Flexen)

We can save some serious cash in the outfield tonight. Haniger is the mid-tier option. Even with a challenging assignment, he’s well-priced considering his projection and expected role. Garcia remains underpriced for his cleanup role and power potential against below average pitchers. Dawson is a strikeout prone outfielder who also has above average power and speed. The scouting report on him is liable to be sparse, creating an opportunity for a bargain bin explosion.

Also Consider: Ohtani, Walsh, Justin Upton, Joey Gallo, Mookie Betts, Tommy Pham, DJ Stewart, Avisail Garcia

Brad Johnson

You can read more from Brad Johnson on NBC Sports Edge, FanGraphs, and RotoFanatic. Find him on Patreon and Twitter @BaseballATeam.