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MLB DFS: Nolan Arenado and the best/worst plays for Thursday, July 1st

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Heath explores the first DraftKings slate of July.

Arizona Diamondbacks v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images

It’s a seven-game main slate on DraftKings tonight, highlighted (in my opinion) by Nolan Arenado’s return to Coors Field. Let’s all get the bitter taste out of our mouths from last night, eh? Anyone else pair Ozzie Albies with Shohei Ohtani? Ouch.

Pitching

Best play: LHP Framber Valdez @ Cleveland

Framber is sandwiched in between a pair of electric arms in Jacob deGrom ($11,500) and Corbin Burnes ($9,200). I’m hoping that contributes to people moving all the way up for deGrom or feeling like they are getting a deal by dropping to Burnes. Not saying either of those is a bad play. But the Braves have seen deGrom a LOT given that they are NL East rivals, and Atlanta is coming off of a smoking hot 20-2 victory last night. Sure, deGrom could perform his role as stopper exceedingly well. But I would rather chase Valdez in a safer matchup.

Over the last two weeks Cleveland’s 23.7% K-rate is bottom third of the league, ranking 18th (i.e. 12 teams have struck out more over that stretch). Cleveland’s .208 ISO ranks fourth over the same stretch, however. A lot of that is Bobby Bradley (5 HR, .372 ISO), Harold Ramirez (3 HR, .286 ISO), and Eddie Rosario (2 HR, .178 ISO). Bradley and Rosario are lefty bats, though, and should be mostly nullified in the LvL matchup. Bradley (.222 BA, .389 ISO) has shown power, but strikes out at a 27.3% clip versus lefties. And Eddie Rosario (.268 BA, .093 ISO) is nothing scary.

As a unit, Cleveland has a 23.1% K-rate (13th) versus southpaws, and the .160 ISO (18th) is middling. I like Valdez to have the edge here. Jose Ramirez is always gonna do his thing, and Amed Rosario and Harold Ramirez have been better than advertised. But this isn’t a matchup that scares me. Framber has an ABSURD 64.3% ground ball rate for his career, and a whopping 71.0% mark this year. And while he’s been right at average with a 22.6% K-rate this year, his 5.8% walk rate is above-average and he’s as good a bet as any to log a healthy seven innings and snag a victory tonight. One last bit on his strikeout rate—his 11.2% swinging strike rate and 31.3% chase rate are both career-highs if they stick, so it wouldn’t surprise me if his K-rate crept up juuuuust a bit moving forward, closer to last year’s 26.4% mark.

Worst play: RHP Tony Gonsolin @ Washington Nationals

I don’t care how good anyone thinks he is or wants him to be. The Dodgers are simply not letting him pitch deep into games. Here are his innings pitched by start this year: 1.2, 3.2, 3.2, 4.0. So maaaaybe we’ll see him get to five innings tonight. MAYBE. I’m not paying $8,800 to find out. His pitch counts are similarly annoying: 66, 81, 46, 69. I was the donkey who played him in his third turn (after his 81-pitch outing) when he was yanked after only 46 pitches against the lowly Diamondbacks. He was my worst play in his last appearance, and despite racking up 19.2 DK points over four innings against the Cubs, I still say he’s not worth it today. I would rather play a pitcher at Coors Field. At least there’s some theoretical ceiling there based on length. But really what I’ll do is drop down to either Johnny Cueto @ ARI or Ian Anderson vs. NYM if I’m digging deeper for an SP2.

I should add that the Nats have been one of the hottest teams over the last two weeks. Even if Juan Soto (a tweaked hamstring?) misses, Kyle Schwarber and Trea Turner have been wrecking balls lately, while even Josh Bell has shown signs of life. Hard pass on Gonsolin.

Hitting

I’m looking for a team that ISN’T the Cardinals, who should be chalk based on “Vegas” lines. The Redbirds have been one disappointment after another this year, and I don’t think I can bring myself to be overweight on them (despite signs of life from Paul Goldschmidt yesterday). More on Nolan Arenado in the conclusion, for now let’s consider another team...

Best play: Los Angeles Dodgers @ LHP Patrick Corbin

I’m a fan of picking on Corbin, though it hasn’t panned out much lately. Just being transparent. But on a small slate I’m attempting to be a bit different, though the ownership game is admittedly a fickle one. Anyway, I can’t see many people dying to build with an expensive Justin Turner, though the man just RAKES against southpaws. He’s got a .253 ISO, .384 wOBA, and 149 wRC+ in the split, as well as a mere 18.6% strikeout rate. Max Muncy (.276 ISO, .431 wOBA, 180 wRC+) and Chris Taylor (.286 ISO, .398 wOBA, 157 wRC+) have also been stellar—though Taylor’s numbers do come with a 30.7% strikeout rate. I think you can leave off Will Smith (.122 ISO, .251 wOBA, 61 wRC+) if you have to, but I think you MUST play Cody Bellinger at only $3,700 in salary. It’s just way too cheap for a player of his caliber, and I’ll keep infusing some Belly into my lineups until it pays off. He’s coming off of a pair of underwhelming performances, but prior to that he had double-digit DK points in three straight. After a quiet Mar/April (.211 BA, 0 HR) and May (.000 BA, 0 HR), he’s beginning to wake up in June (.260 BA, 3 HR). His first two months were small samples, but you get the idea. In his 62 June plate appearances, he’s slashing .260/.387/.440 with a .180 ISO, .358 wOBA, and 131 wRC+. If Belly is indeed back, you need him in your lineups.

Worst play: St. Louis Cardinals @ RHP Antonio Senzatela

I’m going to contradict myself. While I can talk myself into a small St. Louis stack, I can’t bring myself to get behind them given their offensive woes this year. Besides, Senzatela is pretty good at home, with a 3.91 ERA and .307 wOBA against, and a .267/.339/.435 slash.

The Cardinals have a .147 ISO against RHP this year, with about the best thing you can say being that they don’t strike out much (22.1% ranks third-best in MLB). Outside of a two-man stack with Goldy and Arenado, I just can’t get into it.

Speaking of Arenado, his career slash line outside of Coors entering the 2021 season was .263/.322/.471, compared to a .322/.376/.609 slash at home. So far this year he is slashing .267/.320/.513, so basically right at what you would expect for him based on his new home environs. He’ll get that Coors Field boost today, plus probably have a little extra energy and focus behind his swings. That’s a narrative that I will buy into today, and when I’m not playing Dodgers I’ll have to sprinkle in some Arenado...call me a sucker, but I like to have fun with this game, and rooting for a huge Arenado day in his return to Colorado is FUN.

Who are you playing today, ladies and gents? And are you buying the Cardinals as a unit, or just Arenado and/or Goldy?