MLB DFS Daily Fantasy Rundown – April 13th, 2015
Welcome to Monday’s edition of the Daily Fantasy Rundown with “leonem”, “dinkpiece” and “thenumbersguy”. Each day throughout the MLB season our daily MLB scouting reports will highlight the best top, value and cheap plays of the day based on the Daily Fantasy Industry’s pricing for salary cap games. The goal of our analysis is to help you improve consistency and become a better player long-term.
Weather: The two main games we’ll have to keep any eye on in terms of rain are ATL-MIA and LAA-TEX. Please see Meteorologist Mark Paquette’s game by game weather forecasts below the Analysis.
If any weather situations shift drastically, we will keep you updated with lineup alerts so make sure to check your email inbox up until roster lock.
Chris Iannetta (LAA) – The Angels bats are in the best spot of any team today with a team total likely to settle in at 4.5, but with the money odds indicating it’s close to being bumped up to 5. They’ll face Ross Detwiler who is great against LHBs. Unfortunately for Detwiler, the only left handed bat he may see is leadoff man Kole Calhoun. The rest of the lineup will be right handers, and Detwiler has allowed a .341 wOBA to RHBs since 2012 with a really low 13.7 K percentage. He got roughed up in his first outing of the year, walking as many as he struck out en route to five earned runs in just 4.1 IP. Iannetta’s spot in the lineup (likely seventh) dings his value but on a short slate, he’s still the prime value play target, especially on FanDuel where he is near minimum price. Iannetta has demonstrated both patience (15.8 BB rate) and power (.183 ISO) against LHP the last few seasons, leaving him with a healthy 136 wRC+ against it.
Stephen Vogt (OAK) – Opposing pitcher Scott Feldman turned in a quality first start and has back to back sub-4.00 ERAs, but it doesn’t mean we are buying into him at all. He’s pedestrian at best and that’s evidenced by his inability to miss bats. Feldman posted a very poor 14.0 K percentage last season, achieving swinging strikes just 6.1 percent of the time. Not much changed in his first outing, aside from the result, as he generated swinging strikes on only 6.8 percent of his pitches. With Oakland getting a nice park shift, their team is in the second most favorable spot tonight. I prefer Iannetta to Vogt, but if Vogt sneaks his way into the top five or six lineup spots, he will represent the better value on DraftKings.
Additional catcher notes: Devin Mesoraco (CIN) rates as an okay option in our model. I generally don’t like picking on our top pitcher or ending up in a situation where I’m taking a hitter against a pitcher I own. However, with just eight games on the schedule tonight, that may be unavoidable in cash games, especially on DraftKings where they’ve priced out some of the values in good parks. Mesoraco has a career .298/.383/.476 triple slash against southpaws. Depending on lineup spot, Russell Martin (TOR) could be a secondary value. He’ll face a good pitcher in a same handed matchup but his park and surrounding offense make him usable in cash games. Yasmani Grandal (LAD) (primarily due to lineup spot) is a secondary value but better used in tournaments, while the ice cold Evan Gattis (HOU) can be used in tournaments in hopes of capturing a homerun.
Albert Pujols (LAA) – Pujols has been rather disappointing against LHP the last few seasons (.335 wOBA), but the power has been there (.220 ISO) and ZiPS projects the overall production to come back (.357 wOBA). With a big park shift playing in Texas for the highest expected scoring team of the night, Pujols is the top option on the night and clear cut top value on FanDuel.
Ike Davis (OAK) – On DraftKings the LAA first basemen are priced more aggressively as they take into account park factors and opposing pitcher more so than perhaps any other site. As a result of that and the lack of strong cheap options across all positions, Ike Davis sticks out as the best source of salary cap relief on that site. Davis is certainly a boom or bust player, but he has a few things working in his favor. For starters, Feldman is not a strikeout pitcher, which should allow Davis to put the ball in play and for his power to take over. Davis has a career .201 ISO against RHP, homering once every 25.5 plate appearances, despite playing a lot of home games in pitcher’s park. Playing in Houston (ninth best park for LH HRs) should aid Davis this evening.
C.J. Cron (LAA) – If you want to stick with the Angels theme but can’t afford Pujols, Cron is your guy. Cron has horrific plate discipline (.25 EYE) but decent power (.194 ISO as a rookie). He’ll have the platoon edge, an uptick in park factor and a nice lineup spot (fifth) where he should get multiple chances to drive in runs.
Additional first base notes: Chris Davis (BAL) ranks as a similar value in our model to the written up first baseman. Since opportunity cost is high at the position, he’s best used where third base eligible and is written up as our top third baseman. Edwin Encarnacion (TOR) is a great tournament option. We’ll stray away from him in cash games with Odorizzi being right handed and good overall, but in his home park against a fly ball oriented pitcher, Encarnacion still has plenty of power upside. The best tournament options include Mark Teixeira (NYY), Prince Fielder (TEX) and Yonder Alonso (SD) (if top six in lineup).
Top Plays: Ben Zobrist (OAK), Jose Altuve (HOU) and Robinson Cano (SEA) all rank similarly in our model. The order I listed them in is my order of preference, price aside. Zobrist gets a nice park shift and is hitting in the middle of our second favorite offensive team on the night. He’s particularly a strong value on FanDuel, where he’s meaningfully discounted to Altuve/Cano. Altuve made big strides overall at the plate last year, cutting down his K rate to post an elite contact rate of 92.5 percent. While he’s young (24 years old), this is already his fifth season and Altuve has always hit LHP well (.348 BA). Cano has the least favorable matchup of the group as I’m a big Brandon McCarthy fan. Still, on DraftKings where all three second basemen are priced equally, Cano needs to be considered. His production against RHP has always been elite, and McCarthy has allowed a .325 wOBA and 24.2 LD rate to LHBs since 2012.
Additional second base notes: Howie Kendrick (LAD) is a viable option where he offers a meaningful price discount to the top plays. He’s been hitting cleanup and will have the platoon edge on Paxton. Teammate Alex Guerrero (LAD) is underpriced (especially if we see him move up in the order against a southpaw). Guerrero is definitely an option on DraftKings for just $2,800. He hit his first MLB homer yesterday, and it’s important to keep in mind that he flashed a ton of power at AAA for a second baseman (.284 ISO last season but poor plate discipline). Johnny Giavotella (LAA) is a tournament option due to the expected success of his team and the low price tag he carries.
Jose Reyes (TOR) – Reyes is the top play and a cash game option across the industry due to the low opportunity cost at the position. Reyes is running less as he ages but the plate skills are still there. In back to back seasons with the Blue Jays, he’s posted contact rates right around 89 percent. That, along with consistently above average line drive raters, makes Reyes a legit .290 hitter. With still some speed upside and leading off for a good team in a good hitter’s park, Reyes is a solid option.
Erick Aybar (LAA) – On sites that don’t price for ballpark/matchup, Aybar is the clear cut best value. He should hit sixth for an Angels team that is by far the highest expected scoring team on the evening. Aybar isn’t overly impressive as an offensive player. In fact, he’s bad, with a wOBA expected of just over .300. Still, he’ll make contact, hold the platoon edge throughout and has some stolen base upside. Ultimately, this suggestion is more about the low opportunity cost at shortstop combined with the Angels expected team success.
Additional shortstop notes: Starlin Castro (CHC) is an option on DraftKings, coming in at a meaningful discount to both Reyes and Aybar. Asdrubal Cabrera (TB) continues to be a secondary value due to lineup spot and holding the platoon edge. While we aren’t real high on him, the price is right considering the park shift and Dickey’s underwhelming numbers against LHP. Marcus Semien (OAK), before taking into account lineup spot, ranks as one of the best values in our model. Feel free to utilize him in tournaments. Alex Guerrero (LAD) has shortstop eligibility on DraftKings and is by far the best cheap option at the position on that site.
Chris Davis (BAL) – Pineda looked really sharp in his first outing and a strong second half last season means you likely don’t want to pick on him too much. Still, this is one of the more favorable hitting environments this evening that doesn’t have hitter prices escalating too high on DraftKings. Pineda was, well, spectacular against LHBs last season, completely dominating them (.233 wOBA allowed). While ZiPS expects him to continue to be good against LHBs, he’ll likely regress and could yield more power (just a career 37.4 GB rate). Well, Chris Davis‘ value is locked up into his power. He’s posted an incredible .384 wOBA and .284 ISO against RHP since 2012. He’s worth taking a chance on given his power upside, particularly where he’s third base eligible.
Next in line: Evan Longoria (TB) (nice upside given park shift and facing a mediocre pitcher in R.A. Dickey but bad lineup around him)
Additional third base notes: On sites where Davis isn’t third base eligible, the value play options are rather muddled. David Freese (LAA) benefits from a great lineup spot, solid splits (140 wRC+ against LHP since 2012) and a favorable team situation. Chase Headley (NYY) and Alex Rodriguez (NYY) are in a favorable hitting environment, holding the platoon edge on the pedestrian Wei-Yin Chen. Brett Lawrie (OAK) gives you cheap exposure to the Athletics offense, but ideally we’d like to see him hitting sixth (not seventh) if we are going to utilize him in cash games. Kyle Seager (SEA) is a nice tournament option on DraftKings as his pricing there is favorable given that they are accounting for the difficulty of the matchup.
Mike Trout (LAA) – Simply due to the complexion of the slates early in the year, Mike Trout has found his way into my cash game lineups at a much higher rate than last season. This will be the third time in eight days I’ll look to use him in all formats. We’ve already outlined how much of an elite matchup this is for the Angels RHBs (ballpark, platoon edge, bad opposing pitcher), and Trout is clearly the most likely to benefit. He’s the best overall Fantasy player and rather easy to fit in tonight with some middling offensive environments and affordable high end pitching.
Next in line: Jose Bautista (TOR) and Giancarlo Stanton (MIA) both have elite homerun upside, but, even at a lower price, are worse DFS values than Trout due to R/R matchups against solid pitchers.
Yasiel Puig (LAD) – Opposing pitcher James Paxton‘s .263 wOBA allowed to RHBs over 82 innings pitched looks like something to avoid at first glance. However, it’s pretty misleading when you factor in an unsustainably low BABIP (.240) and perhaps HR/FB rate as well (8.5 percent). What Paxton does do well is keep the ball on the ground, which will limit Puig’s power upside. Ultimately, though, you’ve got an underpriced stud (ZiPS projected .376 wOBA, .202 ISO and 20/15 upside) across the industry who holds the platoon edge against a pitcher likely to regress. He’s a fine option in all formats.
Alejandro de Aza (BAL) – As much as I said I don’t want to pick on Pineda too much, it may be a necessary evil on DraftKings where the Orioles hitters are underpriced due to Pineda’s talent. De Aza is just $3,000 over there, and you’ll be hard pressed to find another leadoff hitter at that tag, especially one with the platoon edge at home in a favorable park. Despite the risk in this matchup, the value is too good to pass up on, and Vegas seems to think the Orioles offense will do alright (7.5 total, pushing 8 with Orioles as slight favorites). On sites like FanDuel where the Orioles hitters are priced more expensive relative to the Angels hitters, they become easier to fade.
Wil Myers (SD) – Myers has a favorable tag on both FanDuel and DraftKings. Despite the poor hitting environment, which may keep pricing down, the Padres offense has a shot at a good offensive day given the volatility of opposing pitcher Rubby de la Rosa. De la Rosa has a career 4.51 ERA with 3.61 BB/9 and 1.10 HR/9. He’s coming off a blowup start (more earned runs than innings pitched), which makes me feel more comfortable targeting him a bit in all formats. Myers has power/speed upside as do teammates Justin Upton/Matt Kemp (SD). The pricing on the latter two isn’t as friendly and even though I view them more as tournament options, I’ve got no qualms filling an outfield spot or two with one of them if they so happen to fit.
Additional outfield notes: Chris Young (NYY) makes for a nice industry wide value if he sneaks into the top six in the lineup. My only concern here would be the prospect of him getting pinch hit for when facing a RHP out of the pen, but he has great splits against LHP. Teammate Carlos Beltran (NYY) is a nice tournament option. While I think Scott Kazmir is one of the better pitching options this evening, opposing hitters George Springer (HOU) and Chris Carter (HOU) carry plenty of upside. Springer has HR/SB skills while Carter is boom or bust but carries some of the highest HR upside on the night. Shin-Soo Choo (TEX) has an affordable price tag. If he returns to the lineup, he’d be a secondary value play option at home with the platoon edge. Steven Souza (TB) gets an upshift in park factor. While Dickey is an okay overall pitcher, I think his style aids both the HR/SB upside that Souza carries (went 18/26 in HR/SB in just 96 games at AAA last season). Craig Gentry (OAK) isn’t someone we normally target in same handed matchups but deserves consideration if leading off due to his low price and our fondness of the Oakland offense tonight.
Rankings (price not considered):
1) Jon Lester (CHC)
2a) Scott Kazmir (OAK)
2b) Brandon McCarthy (LAD)
2c) Andrew Cashner (SD)
5a) Michael Pineda (NYY)
5b) Shelby Miller (ATL) (severe weather risk)
7) R.A. Dickey (TOR)
8) James Paxton (SEA)
9) Jake Odorizzi (TB)
10) Mat Latos (MIA) (severe weather risk)
Jon Lester (CHC) – While I did my best to tier the starting pitcher rankings, the gaps from one guy to the next aren’t huge today. It’s a consistent, gradual drop in expected production as you move down the rankings, 1-10. The top starting pitcher is Jon Lester, and he’s someone I’ll look to have exposure to in cash games, especially considering it’s not overly difficult to fit the stronger offensive hitting values and still spend on pitching. This will definitely be the case if LAA-TEX gets cancelled and removes those hitters from consideration.
While this Reds offense should be better against LHP than it was last season (assuming Joey Votto health, some Billy Hamilton improvement and a Jay Bruce bounce back), they finished last year ranked 26th against LHP in terms of wRC+, which is park adjusted. Aside from that, the biggest reason Lester is the top ranked starting pitcher on the day is simply the skills gap between him and the other starters. Lester was phenomenal last season, as simultaneous improvements to his K and BB rates buoyed a 2.46 ERA (3.10 xFIP). A full repeat likely isn’t on tap but an ERA sub 3.30 with a solid K rate as he moves to the NL will keep him very valuable, as will his 6.85 innings pitched per start.
Next in line:
Scott Kazmir (OAK) – Kazmir is ranked second along with two other pitchers, but his range of expected outcomes probably varies the most. On the negative side, he gets an unfriendly park shift pitching in Houston and faces an Astros team that is much better equipped against LHP (third in MLB in wRC+ against LHP last season). On the positive side, Kazmir’s K potential is massive. The Astros struck out 23.3 percent of the time against LHP last season, and ZiPS projects this current lineup to strike out closer to 25 percent of the time this season. Most of the other teams in action today project to strike out closer to 20-21 percent of the time. Kazmir is coming off back to back solid seasons and a dominant effort to open up the season. I might not embrace this risk on FanDuel where he’s priced higher than McCarthy and Cashner, but on DraftKings he’s by far the cheapest of the top four starting pitchers and utilizing multiple starting pitchers makes the risk factor a touch less concerning.
Brandon McCarthy (LAD) – It’s best to throw out the 7.20 ERA McCarthy posted in start number one. He was left in one inning too long and he yielded two homeruns despite allowing just four fly balls total. Rather, you should focus on the velocity somehow being up from last year. In his first start McCarthy averaged 93.7 mph on his fastball, which is an increase from the by far career best 92.9 average he had last season. The velocity increase likely means McCarthy’s K rate increase from a year ago holds. He generated a whopping 13.4 percent swinging strikes in start number one with gaudy overall peripherals (32 K-BB%, 53.3 GB rate). The only concern with McCarthy is facing a Mariners team with some good LHBs, but losing the DH (Seth Smith sits?) certainly helps McCarthy. If rain clears up in Texas and you want to stack the Angels, McCarthy’s low price on FanDuel allows you to do so.
Andrew Cashner (SD) – Cashner’s lower K upside and poor first start have him third in this group but he still belongs in it. He’s at home in pitcher friendly Petco Park and facing a Diamondbacks team that is better suited against LHP. Cashner’s main issue has never been talent but the ability to stay healthy. He’s got a career 3.32 ERA, mostly due to his great GB skills (50.8 percent for career) as the K and BB rates are average. Vegas likes Cashner the most (or at least the Diamondbacks offense the least) on the night, pegging him as the highest favorite (-150) in the game with the lowest total (6.5).
R.A. Dickey (TOR) – With injuries to John Jaso and James Loney, this already suspect Rays offense is horrid right now. From a team skill standpoint, ZiPS has this as the most favorable lineup to face in terms of wRC+ and second most favorable in terms of strikeout percentage (Astros). Dickey’s not worth using in cash games given the skill gap between him and the other written up pitchers, but I don’t mind firing him in tournaments based on the upside the Rays current lineup allows for opposing starting pitchers. While Dickey isn’t dominant, when his knuckler is on he can work quickly and pitch deep into a game.
Additional starting pitcher notes: Michael Pineda (NYY) is a tough pitcher for me to get a grasp on. There’s huge potential here but the peripherals weren’t all that great last season and he’s forced to pitch in some tough environments against some good lineups in the AL East. Tonight is no different as he’s away in Camden Yards against the Orioles. I’m letting Vegas guide me here a bit. They expect the Orioles to score around four runs, pushing Pineda to tournament status for me. Shelby Miller (ATL) has a great matchup and Vegas has him as a favorite in a very low total game. However, due to skills and weather risk, he’s also someone I’d prefer any exposure to come in tournaments. Jake Odorizzi (TB) was phenomenal in his first start and the K upside shouldn’t be completely ignored, but he’s facing a very good hitting team in a hitter’s park. Mat Latos (MIA) will likely be low owned due to his blow up the first time around and the weather risk. I could see tossing him on a tournament team if multi-entering, but that’s about it.
Macro Thinking, Stacks, and Tournament Notes:
This is a new section we’ve created to try and offer more dedicated macro thinking to our analysis and hopefully add more value to those playing tournaments. The format is a bit of a work in progress and we welcome feedback (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have suggestions.
Top Tournament Stacks/Cash Game Mini Stacks:
The Angels and Athletics stacks have been covered throughout the content. Both teams see a nice uptick in park factor against the two worst starting pitchers on the night (the Angels in particular).
2) Blue Jays
The Padres stack could go underowned due to ballpark, but as mentioned in Wil Myers‘ blurb, the team carries some nice power/speed threats and opposing pitcher Rubby da la Rosa is volatile and coming off a blow up start. On sites that price for park factors, there’s added value in this stack.
The Blue Jays won’t be underpriced due to park factor like the Padres, but the overall talent of this lineup and offensive home park make them liable to score 6-plus runs on any given night. Anytime you can grab them at lower ownership levels in a GPP, it’s a plus-EV move and that may be the case tonight if people are scared away due to Odorizzi’s great first start.
We hit on the Braves last time they faced Mat Latos and the reasoning is the same this time around. Latos’ velocity and K rates have been down both last season and this Spring. Throw in a disaster first start, and there’s no reason to not take a shot on this stack hitting for the second time in as many weeks. Weather could drive down ownership.
Sometimes when we think about stacks, we worry too much about probability of success and not value. Well, the Rays stack provides a lot of value. You can get guys at the top of the lineup with platoon edge for cheap (Kiermaier, DeJesus, Cabrera) and Evan Longoria, Steven Souza and Desmond Jennings all carry either HR or SB upside or both. The steals could rack up against a knuckleballer, and the Rays benefit from an uptick in park factor.
I probably stack the Astros too often, but they are a boom or bust team with lots of upside, especially against LHP. Their three highest upside players are Jose Altuve (most steal upside on the slate), Chris Carter (top five homerun upside on the slate) and George Springer (one of the best HR-SB combo players on the slate) and each of them will hold the platoon edge against Scott Kazmir.
MLB Game Weather Forecasts
NYY at BLT 7:00: Dry. Temps in the mid 60s falling into the upper 50s. Air density is neutral. Winds south-southwest 10-20 mph to start lessening to 5-10 mph, which blows out to center.
TB at TOR 7:07: Retractable roof. There will be thunderstorms around to begin the game so the roof will be closed.
MIA at ATL 7:10: Rain. Highly unlikely to play. Will update on this game later in the day but I would say avoid these players.
ANA at TEX 8:05: Thunderstorms around. This is another tricky game. The thunderstorms will not be a steady band so they may be able to get this one in. A 40-60% chance of delays, 40% chance of a cancellation. Temps in the upper 60s to the middle 70s depending on how much rain there is. Air density favors the batter. Winds northeast 10-20 mph, which blows from left to right.
CIN at CHC 8:05: Dry. Temps in the lower 60s falling into the lower 50s. Air density neutral. Winds west 8-16 mph lessening to 5-10 mph, which blows from left to right.
OAK at HOU 8:10: Retractable roof. Showers and thunderstorms around so the roof will likely be closed.
SEA at LAD 10:10: Dry. Temps in the middle 60s falling to near 60. Air density neutral. Winds west-southwest 7-14 mph becoming calm, which blows out to right.
AZ at SD 10:10: Dry. Temps in the mid 60s falling to near 60. Air density is neutral. Winds west-northwest 4-8 mph ,which blows from left to right.
*Source Photo Credit for Featured Image: Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons