MLB DFS Daily Fantasy Rundown – April 16th, 2015
Welcome to Thursday’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.
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Weather: No major issues tonight. 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.
Top Play: Buster Posey (SF) (less than ideal matchup at home and R/R but a fine option in tournaments if going cheaper at pitcher)
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (MIA) – On a short slate, you’ll want to spend on pitching and a good way to get the salary cap relief to do that is to pencil in Salty at catcher. The switch hitting Saltalamacchia is much better from the left side of the plate, where he has a solid career .338 wOBA, much better than his lowly .265 mark as a RHB. Salty will be hitting from the left side of the plate today against RHP Dillon Gee who has allowed a .341 wOBA and 1.30 HR/9 to LHBs since 2012.
Additional catcher notes: Russell Martin (TOR) has a decent price tag around the industry so if he slides into the top five or six of the order, he’d be an alternative value play (primarily due to park and surrounding lineup, not so much matchup). Travid d’Arnaud (NYM) is in a R/R matchup in a poor park against a GB pitcher, but his move up to second in the lineup with David Wright out and Jarred Cosart‘s inferior overall skills make him a tournament option.
Top Play: Edwin Encarnacion (TOR) (ballpark, power and surrounding lineup give him tournament upside but seems to be an unnecessary spend today given the emphasis on paying for pitching and a matchup against Chris Archer, who can be tough on RHBs)
Next in line: Paul Goldschmidt (ARI) (a great tournament option as he kills LHP, especially on DraftKings because the matchup and park are factored into his pricing leading to a reduction in it)
Brandon Belt (SF) – The 26 year old top prospect has a lot of upside coming into this season. At various points in his career he’s displayed both contact and power skills, just not at the same time. In 2012, Belt posted a .51 EYE along with a great 25.6 LD rate. Last season, his ISO was a career best .206 thanks to more fly balls and improved raw power. However, the fly balls came at the expense of line drives (not ground balls). For that reason along with a reduced EYE (.28), Belt’s BA was disappointing (.243). Now, it’s not a lock that Belt is able to reconcile these two skills together, but if he’s able to do so to any extent, there’s .275-25 upside here. Even if we scale expectations down a bit, Belt is underpriced currently in matchups where he holds the platoon edge. Opposing pitcher Archie Bradley can be wild and has a ZiPS projected .336 wOBA allowed to LHBs, which sets up nicely for Belt. The only concern I have here is that Belt’s big home park, the wind blowing in and Bradley’s ground ball ways do limit the power upside, although he can still be valuable in other ways.
Allen Dykstra (TB) – Dykstra probably isn’t an option on FanDuel, given that Belt is just $200 more, but on DraftKings the cap relief he offers is pretty valuable (Belt is $900 more). Let’s not pretend Dykstra is something he isn’t. His MLB offensive prospects are very bleak. It’s the 27 YO first go around at the MLB level and despite some solid AAA numbers last season (.411 wOBA, .224 ISO), multiple projection systems are calling for a horrid .300 wOBA with a .150 ISO or less at the MLB level. Despite the negative long term outlook though, Dykstra is in a decent spot today. He’s been hitting sixth against RHP, and the Rays are tied for the highest expected team total on the day. Opposing pitcher Aaron Sanchez is a top prospect but he may have been moved along a touch too quickly. He was roughed up in his debut start. The disturbing part was he generated a combined one strikeout plus pop out but walked two. There are going to be some really good flashes for Sanchez but some growing pains as well. Both Steamer and ZiPS project him to post an ERA in the high 4s.
Additional first base notes: The best option for cash games outside Belt and Dykstra is Lucas Duda (NYM). He’s hitting clean up and coming off back to back strong outings. I almost wrote him up as a full value play but the reverse splits Jarred Cosart has demonstrated thus far in his career and his ability to keep the ball on the ground make me feel he isn’t worth spending the extra cash on. Tournament options at the position include Michael Morse (MIA) and Justin Smoak (TOR).
Dee Gordon (MIA) – If you’re paying up for any offensive players today, the two positions where it makes the most sense are with Giancarlo Stanton and teammate Dee Gordon. The latter’s value is boosted by the scarcity of his position in general. Gordon has upside that no other second baseman can match today. For Gordon to have a repeat of last season, he needs to make improvements as the 4.8 BB% and 16.5 K% likely aren’t going to lead to the same strong results again. While it’s a very small sample and the early season schedule has been kind, Gordon is off to a good start. His patience likely is what it is, but if he can lower the K rate (that’s the adjustment Jose Altuve made last season to solidify himself) and improve hard contact, he can keep the BA and OBP just high enough. That’s what has happened so far. Gordon has struck out in only 7.5 percent of his plate appearances and is smoking the ball (30.3 LD rate). Against a below average RHP, today is a great day to ride Gordon’s hot streak and get that big stolen base upside in your lineup.
Additional second base notes: The truth of the matter is, you may not be able to fit Dee Gordon in your cash game lineups. If that’s the case, it’s best to simply punt the position and take the cheapest guy in a remotely reasonable lineup spot. Here are the punt options I am eyeing: Logan Forsythe (TB) (bad lineup spot hitting seventh but team total and park environment are good), Joe Panik (SF) (platoon edge against a wild pitcher and second spot in the lineup make him a very viable punt) and Devon Travis (TOR) (horrible lineup spot but most HR/SB upside of the punt options and best surrounding lineup/park). Note that Martin Prado (MIA) needs to be considered at a similar price point on DraftKings; he’s hitting cleanup.
Top Play: Jose Reyes (TOR) (legit .290 hitter who will lead off for a good Blue Jays lineup at home; like the matchup but not the overall value)
Asdrubal Cabrera (TB) – Admittedly, we can rely on Cabrera too much from time to time, but he’s perfect for a short slate like today since he’ll always hold the platoon edge and hits third. Today it just so happens that Cabrera also has the best matchup. He’ll face Aaron Sanchez whose ZiPS projected splits against LHBs (.335 wOBA, .145 ISO) are the worst of any pitcher in action tonight. Throw in a positive park shift and the highest team total, and Cabrera is the logical value at shortstop, particularly on FanDuel.
Additional shortstop notes: Ian Desmond (WAS) is a great tournament play, especially on DraftKings. While he faces a really good pitcher in Cole Hamels, Desmond will have the platoon edge and he has 20/20 season long upside, which really differentiates himself from his peers in action tonight. Pure punt options at the position are Brandon Crawford (SF), Wilmer Flores (NYM) and Tim Beckham (TB).
Evan Longoria (TB) – Outside of the two Marlins studs we like today, Evan Longoria is the best offensive player to spend on, and he actually fits into cash games easier than Gordon/Stanton. I don’t think we see 2009-13 Longoria again, but he’s a strong bet to have at least a partial rebound on his disappointing 2014 campaign. Longoria’s ISO took a nosedive last season. It was a combination of some bad luck (BABIP and HR/FB rates below career averages) and skill issues (high GB and IFFB rates). It’s obviously a very small sample right now, but Longoria is generating loft and harder contact thus far this year, which lines up with him partially rebounding. Enough with the macro view on Longoria though. Form a micro view, he’s simply the best third baseman in action today and getting a park shift against a young pitcher coming off of a disaster start. The possible exception is Josh Donaldson, but he’s got a tough matchup against Chris Archer and is a worse same handed hitter than Longoria is.
Additional third base notes: There’s really no other option I’m targeting on FanDuel (for cash games) outside of Longoria. On DraftKings, Martin Prado (MIA) is very cheap. He represents one of the better punt options on the day given that he hits cleanup and opposing pitcher Dillon Gee projects to serve up the most power of any of the starting pitchers in action. Cody Asche (PHI) is a tournament option simply due to a very low price and holding the platoon edge, but overall this isn’t a matchup we are looking to exploit.
Giancarlo Stanton (MIA) – Stanton is heads and shoulders above any other hitter in our model today both in terms of raw projected output and value. Dillon Gee isn’t horrendous but he’s consistently below average. He has a below league average K rate and has posted a 10-plus HR/FB rate in four consecutive seasons. As a result, he’s the most HR prone pitcher in action today. It logically follows to target not only the best HR hitter on the slate but in all of baseball. Stanton has a career .267 ISO and his raw power is elite (24.6 career HR/FB rate). If he starts to elevate the ball a bit more, look out! Did I mention he’s only 25 years old? An odd concept in MLB DFS (and other sports too) is that sometimes the single best value in a vacuum doesn’t lead to optimal lineup construction. I’d still prioritize pitching over Stanton, meaning I may have to leave him off my roster on a site like FanDuel but will be able to make it work on a site like DraftKings.
Next in line: Jose Bautista (TOR) (unnecessary outside of tournaments)
David DeJesus (TB) – DeJesus has hit first and second in Tampa Bay’s past two games against RHP. That’s a great lineup spot for a salary cap relief guy and outside of that lineup spot, DeJesus ranks well in our model. Aaron Sanchez‘s splits against LHBs project to be the worst of any starting pitcher’s splits that is in action today. On top of that, DeJesus gets a positive shift in park factor and is an underrated offensive player against RHP. For his career, DeJesus has a 118 wRC+ against RHP (above average) thanks to a solid EYE at the plate (.67) and consistently strong contact (21.7 LD rate). He’s the exact opposite of what we’d call an “event” player (very limited HR/SB upside), but DeJesus is a solid bet to chip in a few points for a low cost. On the flip side, teammate Steven Souza (TB) is an “event” player. He was a little banged up last night but said he’ll play tonight and is a high risk/high reward guy to target. If Kevin Kiermaier (TB) finds himself in a good lineup spot, he’d be a similar value to DeJesus (a bit more expensive but carries more upside).
Curtis Granderson (NYM) – If spending up on pitching as we suggest, one way to compensate for lowered offensive upside is to keep targeting salary cap relief options in top of the order lineup spots in order to maximize your potential plate appearances. Despite the matchup against a GB oriented pitcher, Mets leadoff hitter Curtis Granderson has reasonable HR upside this evening. He’s also a very patient hitter (walk rates at 11 percent-plus in four consecutive seasons), which meshes well with Jarred Cosart‘s subpar walk rate (12.7 BB percentage against LHBs). There’s a nice mix of safety (at bats, walk potential) and upside (Granderson is a 20/10 candidate over a full season) here, coming at a low cost.
Additional outfield notes: It doesn’t look like Christian Yelich (MIA) will be back today, but if he is, he’s an excellent cash game option (top of the lineup spot, stolen base upside, good matchup) if you’re able to spend a bit more than you would on DeJesus/Granderson. While it’s a really bad matchup, AJ Pollock (ARI) is underpriced for a contest in which he holds the platoon edge. Angel Pagan (SF) strikes me as a touch overpriced, but he’s got a good lineup spot and the platoon edge. I’d prefer teammate Gregor Blanco (SF) for cheaper, but he’d need to move up to the top five or six in the order to be cash game viable. Jayson Werth (WAS) has a very fair price and absolutely mashes LHP; he’s a great tournament option and will probably carry low ownership. Surprisingly, Cole Hamels has pretty even splits. As a result, I don’t mind sneaking Bryce Harper‘s (WAS) power upside into tournaments (price on DraftKings is nice), even though he’s bad against same handed pitching. Marcell Ozuna (MIA) has power upside worth targeting in tournaments and perhaps even cash games.
Rankings (price not considered):
1) Madison Bumgarner (SF)
2) Cole Hamels (PHI)
3) Doug Fister (WAS)
4) Dillon Gee (NYM)
5) Chris Archer (TB)
6) Archie Bradley (ARI)
7) Aaron Sanchez (TOR)
8) Jarred Cosart (MIA)
Madison Bumgarner (SF) – While our top two pitchers actually have two of the worst matchups on the day, the skills gap between them and the other options is too large to pass up on such a short slate day. In cash games, it’s really important to play it smart with starting pitching and the best way to go is to simply slot in Bumgarner or Hamels on one SP sites and both of them on multi-SP sites.
Bumgarner faces a Diamondbacks team that is well suited to face LHP, particularly if the recently promoted Yasmany Tomas grabs a start, which would likely eliminate a LHB from the lineup and give the team an entirely right-handed lineup. It’ll be a tough task for Bumgarner, but his skills and the environment should be up to the test. Bumgarner posted a 2.98 ERA last season, fully supported by his first ever sub-3.00 xFIP (2.99). His K-BB% grew from a really good 17 percent or so to a great 20.2 percent. Some people will warn you about Bumgarner’s home/road splits as despite posting a 2.98 ERA on the season, his home ERA sat at just 4.03. I’m here to tell you those people are dumb. Home/road splits over the course of a single season can sway drastically due to a small sample size. What we really care about is that parkfactors.com has this as the friendliest pitcher’s park in all of baseball. Moving forward, Bumgarner is more likely than not to pitch better at home than on the road.
While I do have some concerns over the Arizona lineup and slightly reduced velocity from Bumgarner in his first two outings (about one mph less than last season, half a mph less than career mark; threw a ton of pitches last season), ultimately the skills gap between him and everyone else, the favorable home park and optimistic Vegas forecast (by far the largest favorite at -170 and the total is just six) trump those concerns. With pitching, especially on a short slate, we are less concerned with getting bang for our buck and more concerned with identifying the highest raw total scorers.
Next in line:
Cole Hamels (PHI) – Like Bumgarner, I’m far from ecstatic with Hamels’ matchup, especially with Jayson Werth returning to the Nationals. Also like Bumgarner, Hamels’ skills and the park shift are more meaningful in the context of today’s short slate. Hamels goes from pitching in Philadelphia (sixth best park for right-handed HRs according to FanGraphs) to pitching in Washington (16th best). While he’s been a little wild in his first two starts, Hamels is forcing a lot of weak contact and the velocity is right in line where we’d expect it to be. Hamels is one of the game’s most consistent performers, posting an ERA of 3.06 or better in four of the past five seasons with the outlier season still being a respectable 3.60. He’s the second largest favorite on the night slate (other two games are pick-ems) in the game with the second lowest total (6.5).
Additional starting pitcher notes: Perhaps the most important reason to use Bumgarner and Hamels tonight is the lack of opportunity cost in doing so. The alternatives options all leave a lot to be desired, and there’s not a need to spend a ton of money on offense. Doug Fister (WAS) is the next safest option, but a lack of K upside and pitching against Cole Hamels hurts him, even though we’re expecting a quality start. Dillon Gee (NYM) faces a bad Marlins offense versus RHP, especially if Christian Yelich remains out. Chris Archer (TB) is the most talented SP on the slate outside of the top two but a big negative park shift and a tough Blue Jays offense makes him a risk. Archie Bradley (ARI) has some upside (no runs allowed first start, K per inning, great ballpark), but he’s not risk free. Bradley is wild (walked four in his debut in six innings) and while this Giants lineup isn’t very good, it’ll also make a lot of weak contact. I like Aaron Sanchez (TOR) a lot for tournaments. He was absolutely crushed in his first start so you’ll want to stay clear in cash games, but this current Rays lineup (no Jaso, no Loney) isn’t very good against RHP and has a ton of Ks in it. The last starter is Jarred Cosart (MIA). While Cosart is a safer bet to give up less runs than Sanchez and perhaps Bradley, he’s last in our rankings due to a horrendous K rate and high BB rate that limits any sort of upside unless he’s extremely BABIP fortunate.
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 (email@example.com) if you have suggestions.
Top Tournament Stacks/Cash Game Mini Stacks:
1) Tampa Bay Rays
2) Miami Marlins
In Ron Shandler’s Baseball Forecaster it’s stated that pitchers coming off disaster starts (more earned runs than innings pitched) are more than likely to post a below average next start. With that in mind along with Sanchez’s youth and ZiPS projections, the Rays are our top stack of the day. Remember, stacks are about value as much as they are about probability of success and this Rays lineup sees a big uptick in park factor at some very friendly pricing.
The Marlins stack has two of the highest upside players on the slate in Dee Gordon and Giancarlo Stanton. Outside of those two, you can grab some salary cap relief here with Martin Prado and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Also, guys such as Michael Morse and Marcell Ozuna carry HR upside, especially given Dillon Gee‘s issues with allowing power.
1) Arizona Diamondbacks
Madison Bumgarner is a core cash game option. That doesn’t mean I’m 100 percent confident he’ll have a dominating outing. This lineup is almost entirely right handed with a lot of good splits plays (Pollock, Goldschmidt, Trumbo) that carry upside, despite the downtick in park factor. With just a hint of doubt surrounding Bumgarner (bad first start, slightly lowered velocity, threw a ton of pitches last year), I’m willing to take a chance on a Diamondbacks stack in a tournament. With such a small slate, it makes sense to prey on the variance of the situation, especially given the extremely low ownership you’ll find here.
On such a small slate, realistically any stack is feasible in tournaments. For example, the Nationals are a similar stack to the Diamondbacks in the sense that they have a really good lineup versus LHP but will be low owned due to the strength of the opposing pitcher. More times than not, this stack fails, but it’s not doomed from the start given all the RHBs and the power upside carried by Ian Desmond, Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos and Bryce Harper.
MLB Game Weather Forecasts
On the scales used, a 1 strongly favors the pitcher, a 10 strongly favors the hitter, a 5 does not favor either.
PHI at WASH 7:05: A 10% chance of showers. They will play this game. Temps in the lower 60s. Air density is a 5. Winds southeast 6-12 mph to start, becoming 4-8 mph, which blows from right to left. Wind is a 5.
TB at TOR 7:07: Retractable roof. A threat of a few showers means they will likely close the roof. Temps in the lower 50s is another factor that makes me believe the roof will be closed.
MIA at NYM 7:10: Dry. Temps in the upper 50s to start falling into the middle 50s. Air density is a 5. Winds southeast 5-10 mph, which blows from right to left. Air density is a 5.
AZ at SF 10:15: Dry. Temps in the lower 60s falling into the middle 50s. Air density is a 5. Winds west 10-20 mph with gusts past 25 mph to begin the game, dropping to 8-16 mph late. Wind blows in from center. The wind is a 3 becoming a 4.