The 2018 DFS MLB season is almost here. The MLB offseason has been interesting, as some of the league’s top free agents are still sitting on the market as Spring Training kicks off. But plenty of moves have been made, including Giancarlo Stanton’s departure from Miami and Yu Darvish’s arrival in Chicago. Let’s examine the players landing in new places for the 2018 season and how the change in environment impacts the movers from a DFS perspective.
Today, well take a look at pitchers and how the change in scenery could help or hurt their daily fantasy baseball production at DraftKings, FanDuel, and FantasyDraft.
2018 MLB DFS: Best Pitchers on New Teams
Previous Team: Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers
New Team: Chicago Cubs
DFS Upgrade: Yes
As a Cubs fan, I find the Yu Darvish move mostly satisfying but still somewhat terrifying. The polarizing ace failed to surpass six innings in one out of every three starts on average last season. He’s also 31, meaning his six-year, $136 million deal requires immediate ROI for Theo Epstein and company. And the Cubs essentially choosing Darvish over Jake Arrieta is not a trivial decision. Arrieta was 14-10 in 2017 compared to Darvish’s 10-12, split between the Rangers and Dodgers.
Where Darvish clearly stood out over Arrieta was in strikeouts. He notched 209 in 31 starts, while Arrieta had 163 in 30. And that’s why Darvish is very much an elite DFS option this season. He’s also playing in the National League now. Last year against NL clubs, Darvish was 8-6 but closed out with three consecutive wins. Those included postseason victories against the Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks, with at least seven strikeouts in each of those games. He has a very high strikeout floor, especially now that he gets to consistently face opposing pitchers at the plate. Darvish also packs massive upside since he is capable of racking up double-digit strikeouts. Playing for a contender should only help raise his floor more with added wins. With Darvish, the Cubs will likely wind up with a projected win total in the low- to mid-90s.
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Previous Team: Pittsburgh Pirates
New Team: Houston Astros
DFS Upgrade: Neutral
Pittsburgh apparently thinks Gerrit Cole doesn’t fit into their long-term plans, and Houston took advantage. The Astros swiped up Cole in a deal that saw them part ways with Joe Musgrove and a bunch of other prospects. Now, Cole is playing for a true contender and a team that can score runs. Last season, he saw the 12th worst run support out of all starters. The Astros scores 896 runs last year, the league’s best. With this, he should see a drastic improvement over his 12-12 record last year, giving him a higher Cash floor with the win bonus. His 200+ strikeout potential gives him every-start appeal in GPPs as well.
That said, he did sport a 4.26 ERA last season in a much more pitcher-friendly park than he’ll get in roughly half his starts now that he’s in Houston. The move to the AL also means regularly facing a DH as opposing to getting the other squad’s pitcher 2-3 times a game. Some of this should be neutralized by cupcake divisional opponents he should see in several starts, as well as the cavernous ballparks in Seattle and Oakland.
Previous Team: Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (Japan)
New Team: Los Angeles Angels
DFS Upgrade: By Default
Shohei Ohtani has good height and length and can hit mid- to high-90s. He’ll be a hitter’s nightmare if and when he gets acclimated to MLB life. While I anticipate some bumps as he ramps up, the Japanese star is just 23 and provides ridiculous strikeout upside. You’ll need to watch his price at the start of the year, as it will almost certainly be inflated to account for hype.
I’m still not sure how DFS sites plan to handle his batting, but I assume he’ll be available as a hitter. His price, again, will likely be inflated, as he has impressive power and a penchant for the long ball. He’s also lightning quick on the base paths, though it’s hard to imagine the Angels will look to steal bases with him.
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Previous Team: Colorado Rockies
New Team: Chicago Cubs
DFS Upgrade: Inherently
Tyler Chatwood is a player who sees a bump thanks to his move from one NL ballpark to another. Sure, there will be windy days in Chicago when popups drift into the outfield seats, but getting out of Coors Field and thin air is a boost for any pitcher. Playing in Colorado, the 29-year-old never really solidified himself as a reliable option, but he’s shown promise away from Coors Field. Over the past three seasons, he is 7-16 at home (again, being Coors Field) with a 6.07 ERA, while earning an away record of 13-8 with a 2.57 ERA. We’ve seen guys like Kyle Hendricks thrive behind the likes of Jon Lester and previously Jake Arrieta. Chatwood is primed to see some positive regression thanks to a much-needed change in environment. Where you can take advantage is rostering him on shorter slates, especially those without any clear stud matchups. He’ll also get you major salary relief.
Previous Team: New York Yankees
New Team: Minnesota Twins
DFS Upgrade: Probably not this year
After the NYY-Michael Pineda relationship never gained traction, the former Yankee is in a great position to thrive in Minnesota. The Twins have a scary offensive team led by the massive power of Miguel Sano. They racked up the fourth-most runs in all of baseball last season. But Tommy John surgery is always a red flag, and with Pineda, wait-and-see is the only approach to take. We likely won’t see him until much later in the year, and as such, the Twins acquired righty Jake Odorizzi from the Rays. Odorizzi went 10-8 with a 4.14 ERA and 127 strikeouts in 143 1/3 innings over 28 starts in Tampa last season.
Other Pitchers on the Move:
Andrew Cashner (BAL)
Jaime Garcia (TOR)
Doug Fister (TEX)
Mike Fiers (DET)
Joe Musgrove (PIT)
Top Remaining Free Agents:
Jake Arrieta (previously CHC)
Lance Lynn (previously STL)
Alex Cobb (previously TBR)