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Daily Games

MLB DFS Plays: Wednesday 7/21

by Brad Johnson
Updated On: July 21, 2021, 12:46 pm ET

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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: Lance McCullers – Astros (vs Indians)

This might be a slate to pursue low-ceiling value pitchers rather than safety. McCullers is the top-priced starter available and also happens to be a decent dollar-for-dollar value. He’s expected to throw over six innings with around seven strikeouts. Only Adam Wainwright projects for a longer outing albeit with far fewer strikeouts. Robbie Ray has a similar strikeout projection but figures to fall a couple outs short of McCullers. Ray’s matchup against the Red Sox is much more difficult than McCullers hosting the Indians. Minute Maid Park offers a small deterrent.

Pivot: Jordan Lyles – Rangers (at Tigers)

Don’t get me wrong, a stack against Lyles makes perfect sense. He’s usually one of the most exploitable pitchers in a slate although this one happens to have a number of weak arms. Lyles is also frequently asked to finish six innings regardless of how it’s going. When it goes right, as it did versus the Royals and Mariners near the beginning of July, he’ll post something like six innings with as many strikeouts. As we know, the Tigers are excessively strikeout prone. It’s a risky play, but this looks like a slate for such gambles.

Also Consider: Adam Wainwright, Robbie Ray, Julio Urias, Kyle Hendricks, Michael Pineda, Jordan Holloway, Cristopher Sanchez

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CATCHER

Top Play: J.T. Realmuto – Phillies (at Asher Wojciechowski)

The Yankees have recalled Wojciechowski for a spot start. He’s not stretched out for more than around three innings. The Yankees bullpen was leaned upon yesterday so Albert Abreu and Nick Nelson will have to provide the bulk of the relief. The late-inning trio is likely all available. They’re also slightly overworked. Chad Green and Zack Britton threw over 40 pitches in the last three days while Aroldis Chapman has been called upon three times in five days. Such usage patterns increase the risk of a flop.

Realmuto also happens to match very well against Wojciechowski. The right-hander is a fly ball pitcher, a profile against which Realmuto excels. Look for the Phillies to jump on the board early and twist the knife.

Pivot: Mitch Garver – Twins (at Cease)

Since the grip enhancement rules went into effect, Cease has a 5.50 ERA with 1.75 HR/9. Garver was heating up prior to his injury and already has a two-homer game since returning. He’s extreme fly ball approach isn’t perfect for a matchup against Cease, but there’s enough multi-homer upside here to overlook the strikeout and fly out risk.

Also Consider: Gary Sanchez, Will Smith, Willson Contreras, Eric Haase, John Hicks

FIRST BASE

Top Play: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – Blue Jays (vs Garrett Richards)

Richards is a mid-tier pitcher who likes to use the upper quadrants of the zone – where Vladito most-thrives. Guerrero is an early favorite to lead all hitters this evening.

Pivot: Ryan Zimmerman – Nationals (vs Holloway)

In an effort to inject more offense into their flailing roster, the Nationals have begun using Josh Bell in left field. On such days, Zimmerman plays first and bats cleanup. Holloway seems to skew towards fly ball contact while Zimmerman piles up low-angle line drives. The combined traits increase his home run potential. Consider him a mid-tier first baseman with a bargain basement price tag.

Also Consider: Rhys Hoskins, Jose Abreu, Jonathan Schoop, Jesus Aguilar, Yuli Gurriel, Anthony Rizzo, Gavin Sheets

SECOND BASE

Top Play: Jean Segura – Phillies (at Wojciechowski)

Segura is a ground ball machine, but he actually has impressive pop in the right matchups. Wojciechowski is a near-perfect opponent for chasing power outcomes from Segura. Between the stadium and matchup effects, Segura has a nearly one-in-four chance to homer despite a reputation for more modest power. He projects nearly identically to Jose Altuve at just two-thirds the price.

Pivot: Brad Miller – Phillies (at Wojciechowski)

Depending on your platform, Miller might be hidden behind Segura. He’s a lower floor, higher ceiling alternative to the Phillies regular second baseman. Not unlike Zimmerman, he’s another mid-tier play priced like a bargain. His one-in-four chance to homer is partially offset by substitution risk. It’s possible the Yankees will use up to three southpaw relievers.

Also Consider: Jose Altuve, Marcus Semien, Enrique Hernandez, Jonathan Schoop, Jorge Polanco, DJ LeMahieu

THIRD BASE

Top Play: Josh Donaldson – Twins (at Cease)

Third base is a weak link in this contest. The best options are overpriced for merely decent expectations – Donaldson included. He matches well against Cease with a better than one-in-four shot at a home run. His typical launch angles mirror those of Cease in a way that usually favors the hitter. Still, this isn't the most efficient use of resources.

Pivot: Abraham Toro – Astros (vs Eli Morgan)

Toro sells out for contact which has led to a low average exit velocity despite a better than average maximum. He should be a player who does a bit of everything, but he’s hurting his outcomes to avoid strikeouts. In any event, he matches well against a Triple-A caliber starter and a mid-tier bullpen. If it’s Robel Garcia’s day, he’s a deep bargain option.

Also Consider: Jose Ramirez, Jeimer Candelario, Patrick Wisdom, Cavan Biggio, Jon Berti

SHORTSTOP

Top Play: Trea Turner – Nationals (vs Holloway)

As always, Turner projects to fill the boxscore with multi-hit, home run, run production, and stolen base potential. Holloway’s slight skew to fly ball contact further benefits Turner.

Pivot: Gleyber Torres – Yankees (vs Cristopher Sanchez)

Torres is having a bizarre season. Since his breakout 2019 campaign, he’s taken a more disciplined approach while cutting down on his strikeouts. Usually, this would lead to an offensive surge. For Torres, he’s making more soft contact, bleeding value in the process. He still hits plenty of fly balls and his best exit velocities this season are career-bests. Eventually, something will click with Yankee Stadium serving as a boost for any “just enough” contact. Sanchez is an interesting bulk reliever. However, most of their pitching staff is some degree of exploitable.

Also Consider: Didi Gregorius, Chris Taylor, Tim Anderson, Bo Bichette, Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa

OUTFIELD

Top Plays: Juan Soto – Nationals (vs Holloway)
Bryce Harper – Phillies (at Wojciechowski)
Andrew McCutchen – Phillies (at Wojciechowski)

Soto is on a power binge, but the real draw is the frontline matchup. Holloway has an effectively wild feel to him on his best days, a trait Soto’s discipline neuters. Any time Soto gets a little help lifting the ball is an extra bonus.

The Phillies stack continues into the outfield where Harper and McCutchen have near ideal contact profiles for disfiguring Wojciechowski’s already bloated ERA. Harper is on the shortlist for top play of the day, and he’s at a slight discount too. He has better than a one-in-three shot at a home run. Cutch figures just shy of one-in-three dinger odds. He’s perhaps the best value in the entire slate. That could make him chalky, although Phillies stacks tend to be unpopular.

Pivots: Andrew Vaughn – White Sox (vs Pineda)
Michael Brantley – Astros (vs Morgan)

While Astros stacks are among the most common, I’ve found they often eschew Brantley’s high floor, modest ceiling output. Given his lineup role and frequency of balls in play, he’s one of the top choices for a multi-hit game with run production.

Despite skipping the upper minors, Vaughn has performed as a league average hitter with favorable peripherals. This is a neutral matchup for which Vaughn is considerably underpriced. While he only projects as a core performer, any discount is worth pursuing, especially when it looks like the player in question might have a low rostership.

Also Consider: Adam Duvall, Starling Marte, Nelson Cruz, Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker, Michael Brantley, Joey Gallo, Giancarlo Stanton, J.D. Martinez, Teoscar Hernandez, George Springer, Adolis Garcia, Tyler O’Neill, Hunter Renfroe

Brad Johnson

You can read more from Brad Johnson on NBC Sports Edge, FanGraphs, and RotoFanatic. Find him on Patreon and Twitter @BaseballATeam.