MLB DFS Plays: Friday 4/9

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Brad Johnson
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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.

HITTING STACKS

Reds at Taylor Widener – Widener is a future middle reliever whose decent three-pitch repertoire has prevented the Diamondbacks from fully embracing that eventuality. He projects for around a 5.00 ERA and has traits associated with an elevated home run rate. The Reds have one of most powerful offenses in the league with three sluggers who project for 30-40 home runs and several others who could easily exceed 20 home runs.

Padres at Kohei Arihara – The San Diego offense hasn’t quite fired on all cylinders in the early going, but all the peripherals are in place for future fireworks. Even without Fernando Tatis Jr., they should benefit from network effects more often than not – there are no weak links in the chain. Arihara has not yet evinced an ability to miss bats, making this outing an exercise in BABIP. The Rangers defense has shortcomings – especially at second and third base – and their bullpen is well below average.

Astros vs Sean Manaea – Manaea is a command and control artist who simply wasn’t hitting spots in his season debut last week. It took him four turns through the rotation last season before he hit his stride, and he might require a similar adjustment period this season. Even if Manaea is at his best, the Astros offense is capable of decisively winning the matchup.

PITCHER

Top Play: Joe Musgrove – Padres (at Rangers)

Musgrove was masterful in his season debut against the DBacks, working with a career-best 93.5-mph fastball to complement his deep and effective repertoire. All five pitches were working last week, and he’ll be tough for the middling Rangers offense to best if that’s the case again tonight. Musgrove has recorded over 12.00 K/9 since the start of 2020. The Padres held him to just 78 pitches last week – hopefully he’s allowed over 90 tosses tonight.

Pivot: Tyler Mahle – Reds (at DBacks)

While probably not a true pivot, Mahle could be the least popular of the “good” pitchers tonight. His fastball velocity has already spiked as high as 98-mph this season. He averaged 95.1-mph on the gun in his first start after setting a career-best last season at just 93.9-mph. He’s returned to throwing a cutter and slider after ditching the cutter last season. As yet, it’s unclear if this is a positive development. His swinging strike rate improved last season without the cutter. Although he recorded nine strikeouts in five innings versus the Cardinals, he induced only six swinging strikes.

Perhaps a deeper Pivot is Steven Matz who appears poised to follow T.J. Zeuch tonight. His velocity was also up in his first start, and his command was sharp.

Also Consider: Zack Wheeler, Charlie Morton, Lance McCullers, Zach Plesac, Andrew Heaney

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CATCHER

Top Play: Tyler Stephenson – Reds (at Widener)

One of the best-hitting catcher prospects in the league, Stephenson’s modest defensive abilities have left him stuck watching Tucker Barnhart far too often. It’s not yet clear if he’ll start tonight. Barnhart hasn’t played since Tuesday and is still considered the starter. Stephenson produces optimized launch angles along with frequent hard contact. That matches up well against Widener. The DBacks starter allows a similar launch angle on average.

Pivot: Wilson Ramos – Tigers (at Plesac)

While Plesac is by no means an easy matchup, Ramos is still one of the best values at the catcher position. He’s scalding the baseball with nearly all of his batted balls over 100-mph. The downside is the Tigers have him batting in the latter-third of the lineup, and he’s posted eight strikeouts in just 20 plate appearances.

Also Consider: Luis Campusano, J.T. Realmuto, Alejandro Kirk

FIRST BASE

Top Play: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – Blue Jays (vs Heaney)

While Guerrero has raised his launch angle and should be considered an elite hitter for this season, a little extra launch boost won’t hurt. Heaney is a bizarre southpaw who specializes in sinkers at the top of the strike zone. Vladito comes fully equipped with potential for multiple extra base hits, run production, and one of the top home run projections for the slate.

Pivot: Shohei Ohtani – Angels (at Zeuch/Matz)

Ohtani is arguably the most electric player in the early going, pulling off impressive feats as a hitter, base runner, and pitcher. With a southpaw on the bump, the smart money leans away from Ohtani. After all, he’s a career .240/.325/.388 hitter without the platoon advantage. Of course, that’s built upon 284 plate appearances with various injuries at play too. He’ll likely see at least two plate appearances against right-handed pitchers. He’s currently dealing with a finger blister which may or may not affect his hitting.

Also Consider: Joey Votto, Jared Walsh, Freddie Freeman

SECOND BASE

Top Play: Marcus Semien – Blue Jays (vs Heaney)

Semien is attractive for much the same reasons as Guerrero. Statcast indicators line up as favorable for the hitter. He also has a much-vaunted reputation as a lefty masher. A closer perusal of the available data – beyond the basic triple-slash - suggests he’s qualitatively identical against lefties and righties. It’s still a good day to use him, but you might have to share with a few too many other entrants.

Pivot: Eduardo Escobar – DBacks (vs Mahle)

Escobar was supposed to be in better shape this season, but it hasn’t translated to on-field results yet. This early in the year (i.e. 25 plate appearances), it’s far too soon to bail. He’s made an unusual amount of ground ball contact and has an .071 BABIP (career .291 BABIP). His strikeout rate is also elevated despite signs of improved plate discipline. Perhaps he needs to be more aggressive. Mahle has a bit of a home run problem, although it’s mostly confined to Great American Ballpark.

Teammate Josh VanMeter would be an even better value if he’s starting.

Also Consider: Jose Altuve, Jake Cronenworth, Cesar Hernandez, Ha-seong Kim, Jonathan India

THIRD BASE

Top Play: Jose Ramirez – Indians (vs Julio Teheran)

Although he has pitched well since the start of Spring Training, a fully maximized Teheran is at best a mid-tier starter. This is a juicy matchup for Ramirez who carries an equally juicy DFS Projection and a price to match. In addition to opportunities against Teheran, the Tigers bullpen is one of the worst in the league.

Pivot: Mike Moustakas – Reds (at Widener)

Third base is stuffed to the gills with top plays tonight. Moustakas has a mid-tier price tag and just as much home run potential as the big guns. His better than one-in-four chance to homer narrowly trails Ramirez and Machado and comes in ahead of Bregman and Rendon. Of course, Moustakas doesn’t often produce well in games when he doesn’t homer. He fits both as a stacking target or a contrarian one-off.

Also Consider: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Manny Machado, Anthony Rendon, Alex Bregman, Josh Rojas, Escobar, VanMeter

SHORTSTOP

Top Play: Carlos Correa – Astros (vs Manaea)

Correa is one of the darlings of our DFS Projections tonight. He stands head and shoulders above his fellow shortstops. The Astros cleanup hitter is off to a fiery start in his contract season including his highest batted exit velocity since 2016. He’s priced like a mid-tier asset despite an premium ceiling versus a potentially (temporarily) broken southpaw.

Pivot: Ha-seong Kim – Padres (at Arihara)

Kim remains a bit of a mystery as we gather more information. What we know thus far is that he makes a lot of contact, potentially at the expense of contact quality. He’s inexpensive for what should be a highly favorable matchup in Texas.

Also Consider: Bo Bichette, Eugenio Suarez, Geraldo Perdomo, Rojas

OUTFIELD

Top Plays: Mike Trout (at Zeuch/Matz)
Eddie Rosario – Indians (vs Teheran)

A Trout recommendation isn’t very inspired. There’s no getting around the fact that he’s the top-projected player by a landslide in a thin slate. Even with a high rostership, we have every reason to use the best hitter in baseball tonight in a neutral matchup. The use case for Rosario is nearly as compelling. Progressive Field is friendly to left-handed power, and the specific matchup against Teheran portends well-struck fly balls and liners. I consider him the top outfield target tonight, combining a top-end projection with a mid-tier price tag.

Pivots: Jesse Winker – Reds (at Widener)
Nomar Mazara – Tigers (at Plesac)

Winker, if recovered from illness, finds himself in an auspicious situation. Widener is prone to fly ball contact while Winker tends to skew towards the ground. The pairing should help Winker to lift the ball. In such circumstances, his home run rates spike. Mazara is a classic punt. He’ll bat in the heart of the Tigers offense and has the platoon advantage at a left-friendly ballpark.

Also Consider: Ohtani, Kyle Tucker, Yordan Alvarez, Nick Castellanos, Nick Senzel, Franmil Reyes, Robbie Grossman, Josh Naylor, Tommy Pham, Jordan Luplow