MLB DFS Picks, Spotlight Pitchers & Top Stacks: Bobby Witt Jr. + KC Bats (May 18)

Saturday has wall-to-wall baseball, with two waves of games, culminating in 1:05 p.m. ET and 7:10p.m. ET first pitch times on DraftKings, FanDuel and Yahoo. Before we get to our MLB DFS picks, as always, we will use Stokastic’s tools to help identify today’s MLB DFS stacks, key pitchers and daily fantasy baseball lineups. Look to Zac Gallen and Seth Lugo on the main slate as the aces to build around, with differentiation available on the early slate, courtesy of Kyle Harrison. The Cubbies are in the mix at home this afternoon as one of the better offenses, while the later action boasts the Dodgers and Royals as deep lineups.

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MLB DFS Picks: Spotlight Pitchers and Top Stacks | May 18

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MLB DFS Picks: Spotlight Pitchers

Main Slate Primary Pitching Target: RHP Zac Gallen (ARZ v. DET)

Diamondbacks vs. Tigers — 3.5 implied runs
First Pitch: 8:10 p.m. ET
$9,400 at DraftKings
$9,900 at FanDuel
$48 at Yahoo

The Stokastic Top Pitchers Tool is not worried that the Motor City Kitties posted a 13-0 victory last night in Arizona. That was against RHP Ryne Nelson, who is not even half the pitcher that teammate and staff ace RHP Zac Gallen has proven to be. Though he is not quite at the same level he was last year when he was third in the NL Cy Young Award voting (or the season before when he was fifth), the 28-year-old is an unquestioned frontline starter.

All five of Gallen’s home runs allowed on the season have come in the last four games, but he has ceded just 10 runs in those 22 innings. Detroit is not as anemic on offense as the team has been over the last few seasons and the Tigers are closer to league average now than the dregs, where they resided over the last couple of years. The projected lineup still offers ample strikeouts and slightly below-average power against right-handed pitching, so we can feel good about tabbing Gallen as the DFS ace for our lineups.

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Main Slate Secondary Pitching Target: RHP Seth Lugo (KCR vs. OAK)

Royals vs. Athletics — 3.7 implied runs
First Pitch: 7:10 p.m. ET
$9,000 at DraftKings
$10,300 at FanDuel
$50 at Yahoo

Gamers looking for a cheaper alternative to RHP Seth Lugo will likely settle for RHP Justin Verlander. Lugo converted into a full-time starter last year in his lone season with San Diego, which accounted for the usual reduction in strikeout efficiency. That rate took a hit at the beginning of this year as the 34-year-old tallied only 14 in his first five starts over 31 innings. However, in his last four, he has 34 in 28.2 innings, including a career-high 12 last Sunday in Anaheim.

Lugo currently has the fourth-best ERA (1.66) in the league with a top-10 WHIP (0.961). Of course, this will regress, but it portends good things ahead for the MLB vagabond.

The Athletics are on a six-game slide and have lost 11 of their last 13 games. Only four times in this span has the team plated four or more runners, which is sad. The top of the lineup is not awful, with switch-hitter Abraham Toro, JJ Bleday, Brent Rooker and catcher Shea Langeliers, but they have little beyond that quartet. 

Seth Brown will be 32 years old in July and has just one extra-base hit in his last 13 games with a paltry .103/.161/.207 slash line. Zack Gelof looks like he couldn’t hit his way out of a wet paper bag, and young Tyler Soderstrom has flashed talent, which of course was why the team selected him in the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft, but he only 163 plate appearances in The Show and some holes in his swing have been exposed.

While Lugo is commanding a premium salary today, it is worth it for the matchup and his current form. Gallen still grades out better due to his higher floor.

Early Slate Wild Card Pitching Target: LHP Kyle Harrison (SFG vs. COL)

Giants vs. Rockies — 3.4 implied runs
First Pitch: 4:05 p.m. ET
$8,300 at DraftKings
$9,000 at FanDuel
$29 at Yahoo

For the early slate, LHP Shota Imanaga at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates and RHP Luis Gil facing the Chicago White Sox in Yankee Stadium are the clear leaders in the Stokastic Top Pitchers Tool. There are some larger contests this afternoon than we typically see on a Saturday, so this analysis from yesterday for LHP Kyle Harrison is still valuable since differentiation is key — and he saw a significant salary reduction on Yahoo.

The one worry is that he has 12 walks in his three May starts, including two games with five. His strikeout potential is not quite as strong as the other duo; however, his run prevention is, and it would appear he is trying to get more ground balls. That could be noise in the recent data, but, at a minimum, it has helped with his home run-allowing tendencies.

Ten days ago, Harrison authored seven scoreless innings in Coors Field, which was good to see. He has six quality starts and allowed three or fewer runs in every appearance, save for ceding four runs to the Dodgers in Los Angeles. It has been five outings since Harrison last allowed a longball, which is impressive, considering he had a career-worst 2.08 per nine last season, although he did throw just 34.2 innings.

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MLB DFS Picks: Top Stacks

Main Slate Primary Target: Kansas City Royals

Royals vs. Athletics — 5.3 implied runs
First Pitch: 7:10 p.m. ET
Opposing Starter: RHP Ross Stripling
Top Stack%: 12.6%

The Stokastic Top Stacks Tool has the Kansas City Royals and Houston Astros as the offenses to target on the main slate. Ultimately the Royals win out for their matchup against RHP Ross Stripling, as it is going to be in the mid-80s, with an 8-to-12 mph breeze out to center field for this late-afternoon game. Stripling is in his age-34 season with his best days well behind him.

Oakland is Stripling’s third team in the last three years, and, in his last two stops, he ultimately ended up being moved to the bullpen as a long-reliver or spot-starter. The Athletics need pitching, so he’ll continue getting the ball every five days or so in yet another lost season for the franchise looking to escape Southern California.

Kansas City has been stuck in an every-other-game is a win pattern for the last week, but after besting the A’s 6-3 last night, the Royals can break that pattern today. The team has benefited from good health and none of the key hitters missing too much action. This has resulted in the offense being ranked in the top-10 for scoring and home runs while sliding inside the top six for extra-base hits and steals.

Bobby Witt Jr. is a borderline superstar and probably would be in the eyes of the media if he was playing his trade in a different market. Vinnie Pasquantino is healthy this year and thrives with the platoon advantage, posting a .334 wOBA and .206 ISO in his last 326 lefty/righty matchups. Veteran Salvador Perez was 3-for-3 last night, with a double, a run scored and an RBI. Not too shabby for a 34-year-old who is also the everyday catcher and hitting a personal-best .335 through 158 at bats.

Second baseman Michael Massey poked one over the fence last night and he has decent pop from the left side of the plate along with MJ Melendez. Righties Nelson Velazquez and Hunter Renfroe will strike out a fair amount, but they are a threat to go yard anytime they make solid contact. Both of these sluggers profile well against Stripling’s pitch mix.

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Main Slate Secondary Target: Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers vs. Reds — 4.9 implied runs
First Pitch: 9:10 p.m. ET
Opposing Starter: RHP Graham Ashcraft
Top Stack%: 7.8%

The recent schedule has been rough for RHP Graham Ashcraft, starting off with a game in Texas against the World Champion Rangers at the end of April, then with a start in San Diego against the Padres, followed by home and away matchups against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Tonight he faces the Dodgers in Chavez Ravine, which is never a fun scenario for opposing pitchers.

Ashcraft has decent strikeout stuff, but he prefers to lean on groundballs and his defense. He also has an above-average home run rate of 1.43 per nine innings over his last 34 starts, with 6.94 strikeouts per nine in this same timeframe.

Shohei Ohtani leads the league with a .358 average and his home run last night moved him into a tie with Kyle Tucker atop the leaderboard. He alone is a fierce bat, but when he has two fellow MVPs in Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman hitting in front of him, it just isn’t fair. 

Max Muncy was placed on the injured list Friday, so that is one power bat out of the lineup, but Will Smith and Teoscar Hernandez round out a fabulous first five. Gavin Lux, Andy Pages and veteran Jason Heyward provide discounted differentiation, though they are best employed on the two-game late slate.

Early Slate Primary Card Target: Chicago Cubs

Cubs vs. Reds — 5.1 implied runs
First Pitch: 2:20 p.m. ET
Opposing Starter: LHP Bailey Falter
Top Stack%: 13.6%

According to the Stokastic Top Stacks Tool, it looks like the Yankees against RHP Brad Keller and the ChiSox bullpen will be the most popular stack on the early slate. The Cubs will not be overlooked, but we can still find some differentiation by looking outside of the Bronx for some bombers.

Leadoff man Nico Hoener (hamstring) is day-to-day, though not expected to suit up this afternoon and fellow infielder Dansby Swanson (knee) is on the injured list. Fortunately Cody Bellinger and Seiya Suzuki missed minimal time with their respective maladies, and they dovetail nicely with Christopher Morel, Patrick Wisdom and switch-hitter Ian Happ.

This season LHP Bailey Falter has done a good job of limiting walks, but he has allowed home runs in five consecutive games and has two outings where he suffered a pair of round-trippers. The lack of strikeouts for a fly ball pitcher is always alarming and Falter has a career-low 5.61 per nine through his 43.1 innings this season. It is going to be in the mid-70s today at Wrigley Field, with a light 7-to-12 mph breeze out to left field, which is a slight boost to bats.

Tonight, RHP Bryce Elder is someone to target in the sports wagering world for the under on his 3.5 strikeouts prop, which is currently available at -120 on BetRivers, Unibet and HardRock.

OddsShopper shows this bet has -131 “true odds,” so the -120 line still brings a desirable 4.0% expected ROI. We can also see how crucial it is to shop the odds, as sportsbooks tend to vary wildly with their offerings. This can be seen with PointsBet offering -145 by way of comparison.

Elder was an All-Star last season, but strikeouts are not a regular part of the 24 year old’s standard repertoire. Control can be an underlying issue and he has a pair of four-walk outings among his quartet of appearances. He projects for right around 3.2 strikeouts, but of course, these are not fractional events.

In his four starts, he has six, four, four and two whiffs and last year failed to clear the threshold of four in 12 of 31 starts.

Though the projected lineup for San Diego is light on power, they also have a collective 18.5% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching since the start of last year, with Fernando Tatis Jr. (23.1%) being the only hitter who strikes out higher than the league average and he is barely above that baseline. Between Elder’s modest pitch count range (80-to-88) and a slight chance of in-game precipitation, this looks like a solid wager to target.

Final MLB DFS Picks & Thoughts for Saturday, May 18

Baltimore has late afternoon rain, though Camden Yards looks clear this evening. Philadelphia has a similar precipitation outlook, though with the later start time, there will be less of a delay for fans, if any at all. Atlanta of course is starting to heat up, which means roving afternoon and early evening thunderstorms, so be sure to check in with your favorite MLB Weather Report page closer to first pitch for updates.

Before you finalize your MLB DFS picks, check out today’s Stokastic MLB Live Before Lock Show, at 12:00 p.m. ET brought to you by Sleeper – new users, use this link to receive a $500 first deposit match! Full details here.

Eric "EMac" MacPherson won the 2007 Fantasy Baseball grand prize (trip for two to the MLB All-Star game) in the Roto format on ESPN. He won again in 2008, this time in the H2H format. As one of the early adopters of daily fantasy sports, EMac has been providing content for baseball and basketball as well as both professional and college football since 2012 for a variety of websites including DraftKings Playbook, FanVice, RotoWorld, Daily Fantasy Bootcamp, and RotoGrinders. He is well into his third decade of fantasy sports and has a wealth of knowledge and experience. Follow him on Twitter @EMacDFS or contact EMac by emailing [email protected].

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