MLB DFS Plays: Friday 5/21

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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.

PITCHER

Top Play: Carlos RodonWhite Sox (at Yankees)

Pitchers are tautly priced tonight, meaning you’re getting a similar “value” with most of the options. That makes this a good day to solve your offensive priorities before fitting in your preferred arms. All of the top arms have a small red flag – Bauer is facing a hot Giants lineup, Nola is in Philly against a tough Red Sox unit, Glasnow is visiting tiny TD Ballpark, and Ian Anderson has earned his price tag in just one of eight starts.

Rodon checks in as slightly cheaper even though he has his own issues. While the Yankees offense is a touch banged up in the outfield, it’s still an intimidating lineup. What’s more, Yankee Stadium adds risk of home runs. Rodon projects for the second-best strikeout rate so it’s a simply a matter of him lasting six or more innings. The good news is Chicago lets him throw at least 90 pitches per start. The bad news is he’s still finished six frames in just two of five appearances.

Pivot: Randy Dobnak – Twins (at Indians)

Randy “The House Elf” Dobnak really struggled out of the Twins bullpen earlier in the season, allowing five runs on two occasions. He was demoted to Triple-A where he’s since been stretched out for a normal workload while performing… acceptably. His 3.38 ERA, 7.43 K/9, and 4.05 BB/9 were hardly thrilling, but it’s his 60 percent ground ball rate about which we most care. For a minimum investment, Dobnak is a pretty good bet to survive five or more innings against a terrible Indians offense. Toss in a few strikeouts and we have a recipe for a steep bargain – albeit with a low ceiling.

Also Consider: Trevor Bauer, Aaron Nola, Tyler Glasnow, Ian Anderson, Stephen Strasburg, Mike Minor, Marcus Stroman, Jose Quintana

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CATCHER

Top Play: Yermin Mercedes – White Sox (at Jordan Montgomery)

Mercedes is a sort of discount Salvador Perez. He makes a ton of high value, hard contact and ends around three-quarters of his plate appearances with a ball in play. He has more than sufficient power to escape Yankee Stadium and even has some multi-homer potential. While his launch angle isn’t an ideal match for Montgomery, I’d label this as a merely neutral matchup rather than a tough one.

Pivot: Daulton Varsho – DBacks (at German Marquez)

Varsho isn’t guaranteed to start, but there’s a decent chance he squeezes a start at Coors Field. This is a straightforward recommendation of an above average left-handed hitter at baseball’s friendliest venue for hitters. Varsho has yet to make good on his offensive promise, but he’s showing star-caliber exit velocities and launch angles. Despite the venue, I expect him to be skipped due to tepid statistical output.

Also Consider: Stephen Vogt, Salvador Perez, Omar Narvaez, Mike Zunino, Elias Diaz

FIRST BASE

Top Play: C.J. Cron – Rockies (vs Seth Frankoff)

While the Rockies offense leaves much to be desired, the home town is the better stack tonight. I honestly don’t have a good read on Frankoff. He hovered between passable and terrible during his original stateside tenure, pitched two superb seasons in the KBO, and has yet to really land on both feet upon returning to the Majors in 2020. He has a history of elevated ground ball rates. His repertoire mostly consists of a sinker, cutter, and changeup. We’re going to see a lot of balls in play, and the rarefied air is likely to sap his already fringy pitch movement. Even if Frankoff succeeds, the DBacks bullpen is one of the worst in the business.

As for Cron specifically, he makes plenty of barreled, pulled contact. This gives him potential for multiple extra base hits to go with his valuable lineup role. Since he’s priced so cheaply, he’ll be chalky.

Pivot: Andrew Vaughn – White Sox (at Montgomery)

Vaughn is on the cusp of an offensive explosion. According to Statcast, over half of his batted balls can be classified as hard contact. He also has a 114.1-mph max exit velocity – well above average. Although he has a low launch angle which limits his expected rate of extra base hits, the fly balls he does hit should be of a high caliber. Let’s not forget, Vaughn skipped the upper minors altogether. It’s not surprising he’s needed a little time to find his stride. Montgomery sometimes tries to sneak high fastballs past hitters which could help Vaughn produce a home run.

Also Consider: Shohei Ohtani, Austin Meadows, Freddie Freeman, Vladimir Guerrero, Rhys Hoskins, Josh Bell, Pavin Smith

SECOND BASE

Top Play: Ryan McMahon – Rockies (vs Frankoff)

The two Coors Field second basemen are far and away the top plays. I prefer the McMahon side of the equation for a couple reasons. Visitors to Colorado tend to be oversubscribed and have been shown to experience fewer benefits from elevation. McMahon also has an aggressive approach with an all-fields batted ball profile skewed slightly to fly balls. He should match up relatively well with whoever the DBacks call upon after Frankoff.

Pivot: Josh Harrison – Nationals (vs Jorge Lopez)

Honestly, I never expected to recommend Harrison so many times in 2021. He’s been reasonably priced all season, usually bats second or sixth, and has useful DFS traits. Roughly 80 percent of his plate appearances end with a ball in play – usually a fly ball. The downside to this is that his quality of contact is below average. It still gives him a fighting chance for multiple extra base hits and even a home run on any given day. Facing a bad ground ball pitcher like Lopez improves the expected outcomes.

Also Consider: Eduardo Escobar, Domingo Leyba, Whit Merrifield, Marcus Semien, Ozzie Albies, Nick Solak, Jake Cronenworth

THIRD BASE

Top Play: Jose Ramirez – Indians (at Dobnak)

While I think Dobnak will largely survive this pitiful Indians lineup, Ramirez stands out as having an exceptional matchup. A fly ball hitter by trade, he should feast upon the barrage of hittable sinkers Dobnak peppers in the zone. He’s my top pick for multiple home runs tonight with around a one-in-three chance to go yard at least once.

Pivot: Jonathan Villar – Mets (at Jordan Holloway)

The Mets “leadoff” hitter is a decent bargain opposite the Marlins in a bullpen game. Holloway was pitching well as a normal reliever, but he’s backslid since being asked to finish three-inning “starts.” He’s proven to be both hittable and a tad wild. While a home run can’t be discounted entirely – after all, he’s homered in back-to-back games – multiple hits and stolen bases are the main path to value for Villar. The Marlins are expected to start Sandy Leon tonight. The veteran has proven stolen base prone throughout the last four seasons (24 percent caught stealing).

Also Consider: Escobar, McMahon, Eugenio Suarez, Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, Anthony Rendon, Starlin Castro

SHORTSTOP

Top Play: Trevor Story – Rockies (vs Frankoff)

Obviously, if Cron and McMahon were top plays, then so to is Story. Because he’s only hit four home runs this season, he’s unreasonably affordable in a nitro situation. It’s true his launch angle and hard contact rates have plummeted. The former could be a good thing for his overall contact rate and success in a post-Coors Field life after season. The latter may be a symptom of this change or simply a small sample fluke. He’s still a threat to fill the boxscore tonight.

Pivot: Willy Adames – Rays (at Anthony Kay)

Although a 36 percent strikeout rate has rendered Adames rather inconsistent since the start of 2020 (347 plate appearances), the increased whiff rate is accompanied by higher quality of contact. He’s morphed into an extreme fly ball hitter who matches up well against Kay. TD Ballpark helps his projected outcomes too. This is an excellent GPP stab for a low-rostered, multi-homer performance. I suggest taking just one of Adames, Zunino, or Meadows rather than making a stack of them. The use case is the same for all three, but it’s witheringly unlikely they’ll all pop on the same night despite the positive indicators.

Also Consider: Trea Turner, Fernando Tatis Jr., Tim Anderson, Suarez, Francisco Lindor, Luis Urias

OUTFIELD

Top Plays: Christian Yelich – Brewers (at Jeff Hoffman)
Charlie Blackmon – Rockies (vs Frankoff)
Ketel Marte – DBacks (at Marquez)

Hoffman and several Reds relievers are fly ball pitchers which should help Yelich finally hit his first home run of the 2021 season. Power outage aside, it’s not as if he’s slumping. He’s still an extreme ground ball hitter. Too many of his plate appearances are ending in a walk or strikeout this season.

On the surface, Blackmon’s .237/.333/.344 batting line is disappointing. His peripherals are as juicy as ever. This is a classic buy-low opportunity. Marte is very much full-priced after missing much of the season with a hamstring injury. Around 80 percent of his plate appearances end with a ball in play. The frontline matchup against Marquez isn’t ideal – they’re both ground ball guys.

Pivots: Josh Rojas – DBacks (at Marquez)
Avisail Garcia – Brewers (at Hoffman)

There are plenty of high potential bargains this evening, but most of them are unlikely to start. Until we have lineups, we’ll be missing this nifty plays. Rojas will be a popular part of the DBacks stack and thus is more of a bargain than a pivot. Since a multi-hit game on April 18, he’s batting .340/.386/.596 with a slew of extra base hits. Garcia is a discount, right-handed version of Yelich. He makes hard, low-angle contact and thus has close to a one-in-three chance to homer tonight against Hoffman and friends.

Also Consider: Ohtani, Jared Walsh, Ronald Acuna, Juan Soto, Meadows, Randy Arozarena, Avisail Garcia, Garrett Hampson, David Peralta, Max Kepler