MLB DFS Punt Plays For DraftKings and FanDuel (March 29)

A safe and balanced lineup does not bring the same energy as a gutsy, stars-and-scrubs-type build. In order for us to roster aspirational names like Yordan Alvarez and Shohei Ohtani, we will need to take some shots at the underbellies of the batting order, colloquially referred to as the “punt plays.” This is why we are introducing our MLB DFS Punt Plays series to do just that.

A quality MLB DFS punt play is not only cheap to roster but crucially carries an upside worth pursuing. In baseball, that often translates into an inconsistent batter with power-hitting or stolen base potential. Or it could be a volatile pitcher offering strikeout upside and the ability to pitch deep into ballgames. Whatever the reason, there is enough rationale to believe that punt plays exceed the value of their price tag, and recognizing a great punt play is critical to success in MLB DFS.

This article will highlight the top punt plays available on Friday’s eight-game MLB main slate, locking at 6:50 p.m. ET on both DraftKings and FanDuel.

MLB DFS Punt Plays Today – March 29

A.J. Puk – SP, MIA vs. PIT

MLB DFS DraftKings: $7,000

MLB DFS FanDuel: $7,000

If A.J. Puk sticks around as a starter this season, he may end up being one of 2024’s early fantasy breakouts. The 28-year-old posted a strong 3.97 ERA across 58 appearances out of the bullpen last year, but the underlying numbers suggest the upside of a truly dominant pitcher. Those figures include a .271 xwOBA, 32.2% hard-hit rate, 87.3 mph average exit velocity, .209 xBA, 32.8% whiff rate and an outstanding 32.2% strikeout rate. All this amounted to a 3.04 xERA and 3.02 xFIP. We have not seen Puk’s ceiling yet. He’s the top-graded overall value play on both DraftKings and FanDuel today by a considerably wide margin.

The primary concern with Puk is the unknown surrounding how he will perform as a starting pitcher. He has a 3.46 xFIP for his career, spanning four major league seasons, but every single appearance has been out of the bullpen. Today marks his first career start in the big leagues, and the associated risk is apparent. Fortunately, Spring Training granted us a glimpse into what Puk, the starting pitcher, might look like – a 1.32 ERA across four preseason outings. He also worked up to 5 1/3 innings in his final spring outing, suggesting he’s ready to assume a full starter’s workload today.

Puk draws a favorable matchup with the Pittsburgh Pirates today. The Pirates ranked near the bottom of the league last season, plating only 4.3 runs per game. They did not perform well against left-handed pitchers either, producing a weak 90 wRC+ and a generous 24% strikeout rate against southpaws. Having Oneil Cruz back in the lineup is certainly a boost, but Pittsburgh remains a desirable matchup for opposing pitchers.

Yainer Diaz – C, HOU vs. NYY

MLB DFS DraftKings: $2,900

MLB DFS FanDuel: $2,600

Yainer Diaz’s price tag feels like a misprint. He posted a .282/.308/.538 slash line and 23 home runs across 104 games played last season. The surface stats are beautiful, especially for a catcher, yet the underlying figures are even more encouraging. Diaz harassed opposing pitchers to the tune of a .360 xwOBA, .288 xBA, .543 xSLG, 12.2% barrel rate, 90.3 mph average exit velocity and a 36.9% sweet-spot rate. Diaz has much greater upside and consistency than his salary suggests, and it’s no wonder why he’s the fourth-highest-graded value play on DraftKings today.

Carlos Rodon still has some name-brand value, but he’s coming off a brutal campaign. The lefty generated a 5.34 xERA and 5.30 xFIP across 14 outings in 2023. Power was a major problem for Rodon, as he surrendered a .471 xSLG, 91.6 mph average exit velocity, 41.8% hard-hit rate and a gratuitous 12.2% barrel rate. Right-handed hitters were particularly effective against Rodon, slugging .510 against him and posting a .363 wOBA.

Avisail Garcia – OF, MIA vs. PIT

MLB DFS DraftKings: $2,600

MLB DFS FanDuel: $2,300

The low end of outfielders is a bleak place to be today, but if you find yourself needing to fill out a spot for cheap, you can do worse than Avisail Garcia. Injuries have plagued the 32-year-old over the last two seasons, so it’s hard to know what he still has in the tank at this point, though memories of his 29-home run campaign in 2021 still resonate.

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Garcia managed only 37 games last year, and the surface stats were ugly. Still, the underlying numbers tell us there is still pop in that bat, including a 49.3% hard-hit rate, 11.3% barrel rate and a 90.4 mph average exit velocity. However, we should not expect Garcia to play his way into an everyday role. It seems that he is on the Marlins roster to do one thing – hit lefty pitching. Garcia has a career .448 slugging percentage and a 116 wRC+ against southpaws for his career. There’s added pinch-hit risk here, though Garcia is the fifth-highest-graded DraftKings value play among hitters, suggesting he can make the most of his plate appearances.

Martin Perez presents an excellent opportunity for Garcia to pop off. Perez struggled through 35 appearances in 2023, concluding with a 4.90 xERA and 4.96 xFIP. That includes ugly metrics like a .272 xBA, .447 xSLG, .338 xwOBA and a 17.2% whiff rate. Right-handed hitters slugged .460 against Perez last season, part of a .448 career mark.


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