This article is part of our DraftKings MLB series.
We had an exciting and pitching-dominated first day of the Wild-Card round. We're guaranteed another four games Saturday, so let's jump in with a brief overview of each matchup to try and identify areas to attack and for potential leverage over the rest of the field.
Tampa Bay at Cleveland
On a typical slate, McKenzie would stand out as a strong pitcher to potentially roster. But when measured against the best pitchers in the game, he doesn't stand out. He carries the seventh-highest strikeout rate and second-worst SIERA among Saturday's starters. The Rays are arguably the best matchup among the eight teams playing in this round that keeps McKenzie from being a total cross-out, but there is better value available.
Glasnow is one of those better values having posted a 38.5 percent strikeout rate in his limited 2022 sample. Workload is a concern, but he threw 64 pitches his last time out and 75 could be in play Saturday. His salary more than accounts for his decreased workload. The one word of caution is that Cleveland was the best team at making contact by a sizeable margin during the regular season, which will limit Glasnow's ability to rack up Ks. Even so, he'll almost certainly project as the best point-per-dollar play of the day.
I wouldn't be particularly eager to pick a lot of bats. Glasnow is likely to be rostered at a high rate given his value. Stacking against him isn't a bad move in larger-field tournaments because the Guardians are capable of stringing together hits – particularly toward the top of their order. It's not a game to attack based on the statistics.
Seattle at Toronto
By many of the statistical measures we use to evaluate pitchers, Gausman stands out as a value. He's posted the fourth-highest K-BB% and matches Blake Snell at suppressing home runs (0.8 HR/9). There are a few reasons to at least pause before pressing the button on Gausman as he left his start with a laceration on his finger. Prior to that premature exit, he allowed five earned runs in two of four September starts.
Relative to others on the slate, Ray has a home run (1.5 HR/9) and walk (8 BB%) problem. He was particularly poor away from the pitcher-friendly confines of his home park (1.8 HR/9, .357 wOBA on the road). Even at Ray's relatively depressed salary, I have little interest in him.
I'm more likely to roster hitters than pitchers. I'd prefer to stack Toronto bats for the reasons laid out above. There could also be some recency bias after the Jays' offense fell flat in Game 1. The 4-5-6 hitters – Teoscar Hernandez, Alejandro Kirk and Matt Chapman – can be stacked for only $12,700. The top of the order would obviously be more expensive, but I also like the upside of combining George Springer ($5,100), Bo Bichette ($4,700) and Vladimir Guerrero ($5,200).
While I prefer the hosts, Seattle is also in a decent position to produce. At the very least, they have a positive hitting environment and are facing a pitcher with questions. The middle of the lineup is cheap enough that they could be a secondary stack. Consider the power potential of Eugenio Suarez ($4,100), Cal Raleigh ($3,900), and Mitch Haniger ($4,400), a combo that only goes for $12,400.
San Diego at New York Mets
On paper, this represents the best pitching matchup of the day. DeGrom is the highest-valued pitcher and coming off a partial regular season where he posted a massive 42.7 percent strikeout rate. The Padres have been an above-average lineup since their aggressive moves at the trade deadline, but they aren't elite. After watching Max Scherzer get hit surprisingly hard Friday, there's some natural bias against deGrom. There's no factual basis for that as his skills are excellent across the board, with the only slight issue being the blister he's currently managing.
Speaking of bias, it's easy to want to avoid Snell based on his control struggles. However, he maintained a 6.4 BB% and 0.7 HR/9 across the second half of the season, and his numbers for the season aren't much worse. The Mets are a very strong lineup, which makes Snell a tournament-only option in my player pool.
I have little to no interest in Padres' bats on paper. The two arguments for them are: 1) deGrom isn't fully healthy, and/or: 2) they'll be extremely under-rostered. The Mets are a bit more complicated. The quality of their lineup makes them a difficult team to dismiss with such a limited pool and positive matchups. My guess is that they'll be a popular team to stack. And if that's the case, I'll likely look elsewhere because the public is underestimating how good Snell is. If they seem swayed by the Mets' poor offensive showing Friday and looks elsewhere, I'm more inclined to stack the top of the order.
Philadelphia at St. Louis
Nola is the second-highest pitcher on the slate due to the safety he presents. Across his 32 starts this season, he only posted single-digit DK points twice in outings not cut short by rain. There's a lot going for him Saturday. Besides Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt, individual hitters in the Cardinals' lineup aren't particularly imposing (admittedly the sum of the parts has performed well). Busch Stadium is also a favorable park for pitchers. Nola's a fine play, but his striking similarity from a statistical perspective to Kevin Gausman is notable given the significant gap in salary between the two.
Miles Mikolas should be the lowest-valued pitcher on the slate. He offers the lowest strikeout rate by over six percentage points and faces a Phillies' lineup that boasts some of the league's best power hitters. That's a bad combination for him, and a good one for us to stack.
A Phillies stack slots in the same tier with a Blue Jays stack for my favorite of the day. The Jays get the better hitting environment and may come out slightly ahead, but combining the top of the Phillies lineup looks to be a very comfortable play. Rhys Hoskins ($4,500) stands out as the value of the top-four hitters.