This article is part of our FanDuel MLB series.
All four best-of-three Wild Card matchups get going Friday, having me planning enjoying some fresh air on the porch and watching as much as possible. As of now, there is no such thing as paying down for pitching, with Seattle's Luis Castillo ($9,200) the cheapest of options. St. Louis has not made their pitching plans known as of yet, but have their full slate of options. We'll assume Jordan Montgomery gets the nod for the purpose of this column, having last pitched on October 1, but will be ready to adjust if/when they do. Two games have run totals at a low 6.0 with aces on the mound, and the highest total sits at 7.5, not ideal for our offensive builds.
I'm expecting Zack Wheeler ($10,000) to be the slate's most popular option. He's at a minor discount, is in reasonable form, and faces a Cardinals lineup that struggled down the stretch, resulting in nine losses across their last 15 games. Wheeler also faced them twice during the regular season, throwing 14.0 shutout innings, striking out 10 in route to 46 FDP both times.
So, how can we differentiate? Shane Bieber ($10,600) is my favorite option to do so. He's almost assuredly overlooked when sitting at the same price as Max Scherzer, and this game comes with a similar 6.5 run total (which I don't really get, but more on that later). The Rays did get him for four runs across six innings two starts prior, so there's volatility, but he did fan six. In an earlier meeting, Bieber threw seven innings of one-run ball, fanning eight.
Finally, there's Castillo, who faces a tough Blue Jays lineup that we wouldn't target often during the regular season. But this isn't that. He's arguably got a similar upside to anyone on this slate, and can certainly be as volatile as Bieber, so I absolutely don't hate just rolling with him in order to pay more for bats.
With pitching so expensive, grabbing multiple top targets is going to be challenging, and you can't miss with those choices either, so we'll need a stable floor to go with upside. Julio Rodriguez ($4,200) fits that bill. He'll get ample plate appearances atop the lineup, and has power and speed, allowing him multiple paths to impact the game.
Cost is going to prevent stacking Toronto bats, but if they scratch against Castillo, the top of the order is likely involved. One of Vladimir Guerrero ($4,100), Bo Bichette ($3,800) or George Springer ($4,100) make sense. I find Springer more volatile, lending preference to the other two.
I initially assumed Jose Ramirez ($4,300) would fit the section of this column above, but he's far better against righties, so we save that for Saturday. I then wanted to stack Guardian bats against Shane McClanahan, who is in poor form, having allowed 11 runs across his last three starts, spanning 14.0 innings. And while I still believe in Cleveland in this spot, the stats against lefties don't support it. The exception is Andres Gimenez ($3,200) who sits with a .389 wOBA and 158 wRC+. Keep an eye on Cleveland's lineup, because if Oscar Gonzalez ($2,800) hits clean up, he'd be a cheap option in a run producing slot, though lacking statistical recommendation.
Jeff McNeil ($2,800) is simply a tough out that puts the ball in play often, fanning just 10.1 percent of the time. His .374 wOBA against righties is decent, and he's white hot, riding a 10-game hitting streak that has him go 20-for-43, hitting two of his nine homers in that stretch while scoring nine times.
If you're a BvP guy, take a peek at Josh Bell ($2,900) against Max Scherzer. He's 5-for-12 (.417) with a homer, three doubles and three walks, leading to a 1.479 OPS. Wil Myers ($2,600) homered in two of the Padres final three games, and is 7-for-25 (.280) with two homers and a .988 OPS off of Scherzer, should he feature in the lineup. One additional BvP oddity; Toronto's Raimel Tapia ($2,500) is 7-for-11 off of Castillo.
Finally, if Montgomery does indeed start for the Cardinals, it opens up opportunities to target Alec Bohm ($2,700) and/or Rhys Hoskins ($3,500), both of who mash lefties. Bohm sports a .398 wOBA, 158 wRC+ and .189 ISO, while Hoskins sits at .404/162/.272.
Stack to Consider
Yes, I'm aware I targeted Bieber above. No, I'm not suggesting using him and stacking the Rays too. Pick one path or the other. For me, stacking on Friday is virtually impossible because of the pricing structure. Philadelphia/St. Louis have five bats priced at $3,800 or higher, Toronto/Seattle five at $3,700 or greater, and San Diego/New York six at $3,700 or more. To stack any of them, you're going to have to be pretty non-traditional and not have consecutive parts of the batting order. This game features only Arozarena and Ramirez priced above $3,400, so it's the only real option. Perhaps we get playoff Randy here, Franco has made solid contact of late and Diaz has all year. This should give us the top portion of the Rays lineup at an average of $3,333. I don't love it, but it's what was dictated. I absolutely prefer a few two-man mini-stacks.