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4/20 MLB DFS: A Mile High with Norris

4/20 MLB DFS: A Mile High with Norris
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MLB DFS Daily Fantasy Rundown – April 20th, 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: 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.


The Play:

Derek Norris (SD) – Norris ranks as a Top 20 hitter in our model and by far the highest ranked catcher. Norris is a very good hitter against LHP, posting a .380 wOBA and .192 ISO against LHP as a big leaguer. He gets a premier lineup spot, typically second, and a huge park shift in his favor playing in Coors Field. Early in the season we’ve seen some sites bump pricing on Coors Field players, but Norris’ price point remains low around the industry. Jorge de la Rosa is a tricky pitcher to pick on because he induces ground balls (47.7 percent to RHBs since 2012) at an elevated rate and specifically to the left side of the infield which is manned by two elite defenders in Troy Tulowitzki and Nolan Arenado, but he has allowed a .343 wOBA and 1.11 HR/9 to RHBs since 2012. On a shorter slate, without much competition at the position, Norris is a foundation of cash game lineups.

Additional catcher notes: Jonathan Lucroy (MIL) is the only other healthy catching option that ranks inside the Top 70 hitters in our model. Carlos Santana (CLE) ranks inside our Top 10 hitters which makes him a viable alternative on sites that he has catcher eligibility. The same can be said for Victor Martinez (DET) who ranks alongside Derek Norris inside our Top 20. There is some opportunity cost in cash games in using either of these options as Norris is such a strong value play. As a result, Monday is one of the rare days I’d rather get exposure to Martinez or Santana at first base rather than catcher. If you’re using them at catcher, I think its best done in tournaments where Norris’ ownership levels will likely rival the highest owned player overall. There aren’t many great options to fade Norris in tournaments, but those two are very viable on sites they have catcher eligibility. The other tournament options are power hitting catchers in poor environments against strong starters. Evan Gattis (HOU) has a tough matchup but Hisashi Iwakuma has been homer prone to RHBs (1.26 HR/9 since 2012). Given Iwakuma is likely high owned, this creates a nice spot for leverage in tournament lineups. If Gattis does get a hold of one, you get positive points for Gattis and take points away from a lot of your opponents. Stephen Vogt (OAK) is the other tournament option for similar reasons. Shoemaker has yielded 1.13 HR/9 to LHBs as a big leaguer and Vogt typically gets a good lineup spot and has adequate power.

First Base

Top Play:

Miguel Cabrera (DET) – Cabrera edges out Trout as our top overall hitter on Monday’s slate. Cabrera’s great against LHP (.421 wOBA, .243 ISO) but he’s great against all pitching. The reason Cabrera gets a boost against LHP is how much better his supporting cast is against LHP. Kinsler (.371 wOBA) and Rajai Davis (.374 wOBA) have huge platoon splits ahead of Cabrera while J.D. Martinez, Victor Martinez, and Yoenis Cespedes also hit better against LHP behind him. The boost in overall lineup value is what pushes Cabrera ahead of Trout when the Tigers face a LHP. CC Sabathia has been tremendous early on, but we’re still skeptical of the small sample given the velocity remains down. The Tigers are an attractive overall target and Cabrera leads the way.

Next in line:

Joey Votto (CIN)/Jose Abreu (CHW) – Votto and Abreu rank inside our Top 10 overall hitters. Both are playing in great hitting environments and face favorable matchups. Votto will get Wily Peralta who has allowed a .344 wOBA and 1.19 HR/9 to LHBs since 2012. Abreu will face Trevor Bauer has allowed a .323 wOBA and a 42 percent fly ball rate to RHBs since 2012. Most will emphasize spending on Coors Field in cash games (and rightly so), which makes both Votto and Abreu really nice options in tournaments. Their ownership levels should be suppressed.

Value Plays:

Carlos Santana (CLE) – Santana ranks right behind Abreu and Votto in our model, but often comes at a slightly discounted price tag relative to those two options. He’s been a better hitter in his career against LHP (.372 wOBA, .175 ISO, 1.03 BB/K Ratio vs. .345 wOBA, .188 ISO, 0.83 BB/K Ratio against RHP), but a better Fantasy asset against RHP because of the increased power (ISO) and the Indians supporting cast fares better against RHP. The ballpark boost and a matchup with John Danks (.349 wOBA, 1.48 HR/9 allowed to RHBs since 2012) are what feed Santana’s value in this matchup. His price tag on FanDuel is particularly compelling.

Justin Morneau (COL) – Morneau actually ranks a bit behind the other value plays in our model rankings (Top 35) but I think he makes sense on sites that he’s priced below those options to get more exposure to Coors Field. Morneau has demonstrated wide splits the last few years (.374 wOBA, .203 ISO against RHP since 2012) and they’ve been even more exaggerated at Coors Field (.416 wOBA, .219 ISO against RHP in Coors last season). Odrisamer Despaigne is a bit of a mystery. He’s posted an impressive 3.08 ERA in 108 big league innings but he doesn’t miss any bats (15.5 percent K Rate). Pitching to contact is a dangerous recipe in Coors Field and one we’d like to take advantage of on Monday night.

Additional first base notes: Adam Lind (MIL) and Adam LaRoche (CHW) are both Top 25 options in our model. They essentially rank the same with LaRoche having a higher home run score and Lind the better all-around hitter against RHP. They both play in an elite offensive environment with the platoon advantage this evening. I think they’re both better options in tournaments on most sites as pricing often reveals a superior value (Santana on FanDuel, Morneau or Victor Martinez on DraftKings).

Second Base

Top Play:

Robinson Cano (SEA) – Cano is our top ranked second baseman and a Top 15 hitter in our model. Asher Wojciechowski has been tormented by LHBs in his brief major league career (.408 wOBA, 1.69 HR/9) and ZiPS projection system isn’t optimistic (projected .356 wOBA allowed). Seattle isn’t a great hitter’s park but the Mariners are loaded with left handed bats to attack Wojciechowski. Second base has some limited depth on Monday which will likely force most to punt or take a shot on Jedd Gyorko for Coors Field exposure in cash games. As a result, I think paying up for Cano is a phenomenal tournament strategy.

Value Play:

Jedd Gyorko (SD) – Gyorko is a good hitter against LHP (.340 wOBA, .188 ISO since 2012) and he gets a huge boost in park shift playing in Coors Field this evening. We’ve touched on de la Rosa’s struggles against RHBs and Gyorko’s power potential should play up substantially in Coors. The lineup spot isn’t great (typically seventh) but Gyorko is one of the few second baseman on the slate with any semblance of upside at a modest price point. Gyorko ranks as a Top 35 hitter in our model.

Additional second base notes: Ian Kinsler (DET) is the next best option at second base and ranks just outside our Top 30 hitters, but the pricing gap between him and Gyorko makes him better used in tournaments as part of a Tigers stack or mini-stack. Skip Schumaker (CIN) could earn punt consideration if he’s hitting leadoff again. Schumaker isn’t a good hitter (.303 wOBA, .081 ISO against RHP) but the leadoff spot in a good hitter’s park against a pitcher that struggles against LHBs is a fine opportunity to punt. Mike Aviles (CLE) ranks in our Top 60 hitters and if he hits second, he’s a fine value play in the middle infield. His eligibility varies around the industry, but on sites with second base eligibility he’s fine.


Top Play:

Troy Tulowtizki (COL) – Tulowitzki is a Top 10 overall hitter in our model and with the lack of depth at shortstop he’s a viable cash game option even with an exorbitant price tag. Despaigne has really held down RHBs (.236 wOBA, 52.6 percent GB Rate) but a .233 BABIP has exaggerated some of the strengths and pitching to contact in Coors Field is a dangerous strategy. If you’re not using Tulowitzki, punting is likely your best strategy at the position.

Value Play:

Mike Aviles (CLE) – Aviles is another opportunity to pick on John Danks wide splits (.349 wOBA, 1.48 HR/9 allowed to RHBs since 2012) with a cheap price point in a friendly lineup spot (typically second). Aviles isn’t a good hitter against LHP (.287 wOBA, .112 ISO since 2012) so this is more of a play on Danks, the great hitting environment in US Cellular, and the price point.

Additional shortstop notes: Jean Segura (MIL) and Danny Santana (MIN) are other shortstops hitting in premier lineup spots, but they’re not particularly adept hitters (Segura – .302 wOBA, .098 ISO against RHP/Santana ZiPS projections are for a .300 wOBA against RHP) and they’re facing better pitchers than Aviles. I’d rather just save the money on sites that Aviles is available. If he’s not available at shortstop, they’re viable secondary options but I’m more likely to pay up with Tulowitzki or use a pure punt like Orlando Calixte (KC) or Alexi Amarista (SD).

Third Base

Top Play:

Kyle Seager (SEA) – Seager owns a .357 wOBA and .187 ISO against RHP since 2012. Wojciechowski is likely the weakest starter on this slate and his projected split against LHBs is also among the weakest on the slate. The overall scoring environment is the only reason holding the Mariners bats down modestly in our model. Seager ranks as a Top 30 hitter in our model.

Value Plays:

Will Middlebrooks (SD) – Middlebrooks has been an adequate hitter against LHP in his career (.327 wOBA, .185 ISO) but the power really plays in DFS. He gets a big park boost and a slightly better lineup spot than Jedd Gyorko (typically sixth) to attack the favorable splits of Jorge de la Rosa.

Nick Castellanos (DET) – Castellanos actually ranks higher in our model than Middlebrooks, but that gap is narrowed when lineups come out and Middlebrooks typically hits sixth versus Castellanos hitting seventh. It’s a small gap but when accounting for home/road differences in expected plate appearances it’s enough to close the gap in our rankings. Castellanos hasn’t been great against LHP in his career (.305 wOBA, .127 ISO) but ZiPS projection system is really optimistic on his skill growth, projecting a .345 wOBA against LHP this season. I think Castellanos is better suited as part of Tigers stacks or mini-stacks in tournaments, but he’s an acceptable option to drop down from Middlebrooks if you’re in need of salary relief.

Additional third base notes: Alex Rodriguez (NYY), Todd Frazier (CIN), and Kris Bryant (CHC) all have tournament appeal. Rodriguez and Frazier are both priced up and have below average matchups against RHPs, but have a great lineup spot and enough power upside to generate consideration. Bryant has an awful matchup for RH power as AJ Burnett has limited RHBs to just a .282 wOBA while generating a 56 percent GB Rate since 2012, but Bryant’s all field power makes him less susceptible to Pittsburgh’s cavernous left field.  The challenge with a lot of these options is they’re priced similarly to Kyle Seager who I think is a superior play and will have modest ownership anyway this evening. I’d rather just attack Seager in tournaments. Nolan Arenado (COL) is noticeably absent from our recommendations. He ranks poorly in our model because Despaigne has dominated RHBs and to this point in his career Arenado hasn’t been great against RHP (.319 wOBA, .161 ISO). I do believe that is changing but he’s fully priced and I think resources are better spent on hitters with the platoon advantage or at very scarce positions.


Top Play:

Mike Trout (LAA) – Trout’s our second ranked player overall for Monday’s action and he barely edges out the five Coors Field outfielders that fill out the rest of our Top 15 hitters. Kendall Graveman hasn’t shown any ability to miss bats early in his major league career. He does a good job at keeping the ball on the ground but he’s a weak overall starter. With Trout priced well ahead of most of the Coors Field outfield options and the gap very small in our model rankings, I think he’s a less compelling play on Monday.

Next in line:

Rockies/Padres Outfielders – Justin Upton (third), Carlos Gonzalez (fourth), Matt Kemp (fifth), Corey Dickerson (12th), and Wil Myers (13th) are all strong options on Monday night. They all have the platoon advantage in Coors Field with great lineup spots. Upton is battling a quad injury that kept him out on Sunday but it’s not considered serious. Gonzalez is hitting a lot of ground balls early in the season which isn’t a great match for Despaigne’s ground ball tendencies, but he’s also got the most favorable price point of the group. I’m comfortable deploying him in cash games even if I wish the matchup were a bit stronger. Corey Dickerson is my favorite option of the group, but that will inevitably change once the lineup comes out and he’s hitting sixth. I’ve listed our model rankings to help give some guidance, but as you can see all the decisions are really tight. I’m leaning on price as the decision-maker when looking for exposure to this game in the outfield.

Yoenis Cespedes/J.D. Martinez (DET) – The Tigers duo ranks just behind the Coors contingent. They’re great tournament options, but with CC throwing so well and the high likelihood of lots of contact in Coors Field, I’d rather take my chances with Coors Field cash game exposure.

Value Plays:

Rajai Davis (DET) – Davis ranks just a few spots behind Martinez in our rankings and just outside our Top 20 hitters overall. Davis is a really good hitter against LHP (.374 wOBA, .171 ISO) and he gets to hit leadoff for an elite offense. The price tag sort of encompasses his overall profile instead of his skill set just against LHP, which makes him a great value. Brian McCann is a below average catcher when it comes to defending the running game. He’s posted a -3 rSB for his career according to though he’s been better with the Yankees.

Seth Smith (SEA) – We’re hoping Smith hits second against Wojciechowski on Monday night. Smith has dominated RHP in his career (.362 wOBA, .204 ISO) and Wojciechowski projects to have wide splits against LHBs. If he’s in the second spot in the lineup, he’s a really nice value play in front of Cano, Cruz, and Seager.

Adam Eaton (CHW) – Eaton is off to a terrible start (.136/.174/.182) and he’s hitting a ton of ground balls (63.5 percent) and very few line drives (10.5 percent). It’s frustrating to invest in players that are really struggling but in Eaton’s case it’s come with a severely discounted price point. Trevor Bauer is also a good matchup for Eaton. Eaton projects for a slightly above average BB Rate and another big component to his value is speed. Bauer has walked 11.3 percent of hitters in his career and even with a dominant start this year, he’s walked 18.4 percent. Bauer also allowed 26 stolen base attempts in 26 stars last year with base-runners going 19-27 overall. Teams like to run on Bauer so if Eaton can work a walk, there is some meaningful upside on the base paths. Bauer also gives up lots of fly balls, which can enhance power. In the leadoff spot, Eaton is a nice value in a favorable matchup for his skills. Eaton and Smith rank just two spots apart in our model and both inside our Top 50 hitters.

Additional outfield notes: Jay Bruce (CIN) ranks well in our model (Top 25) given Wily Peralta‘s struggles against LHBs (.344 wOBA, 1.19 HR/9). If you can find a nice discounted price point on Bruce, he’s worthy of consideration in cash games. Otherwise, he’s a nice tournament play especially when paired with Joey Votto. John Danks lack of dominance against LHBs, the Indians LHBs make sense in tournaments as part of stacks. The park shift is strong and Michael Brantley (CLE) still ranks inside our Top 35 overall hitters. If the game gets out of hand you’ll likely see a few plate appearances against RHP which would amplify his value. He’s a nice tournament play. Charlie Blackmon (COL) always gets a great lineup spot but he’s typically overpriced for his skill set. I like him better as a part of mini-stacks or stacks in tournaments.

Starting Pitcher

Rankings (price not considered):

Tier 1

1) Hisashi Iwakuma (SEA)

Tier 2

2a) Jake Arrieta (CHC)

2b) Matt Shoemaker (LAA)

Tier 3

4) A.J. Burnett (PIT)

Tier 4

5) Wily Peralta (MIL)

6) Trevor Bauer (CLE)

7) Edinson Volquez (KC)

8) Anthony DeSclafani (CIN)

Top Play:

Hisashi Iwakuma (SEA) – The Astros lead the league in strikeout rate against RHP (25.3 percent) and they’re getting a big negative park shift playing in SAFECO Field on Monday night. Iwakuma hasn’t quite been himself through his first two starts but the velocity is in line and the swinging strike rate isn’t far off his averages the last few years. Strikeouts are king in Daily Fantasy Baseball and the Astros amplify strikeout rates for opposing starters. Iwakuma is the biggest favorite (-165) on the board in the game with the second lowest total (7.5).

Next in line:

Jake Arrieta (CHC)/Matt Shoemaker (LAA) – This is somewhat similar to Saturday night when we had two similar starting options (Greinke/deGrom) rank almost identically in our model, but one pitcher was substantially cheaper than the other on most sites. Arrieta is the better starter (3.24 xFIP vs. 3.30 xFIP and 24.3 vs. 23 percent K Rate) and he’s pitching in a similar park environment but we project the Pirates as an above average offense against RHP and the Athletics as a well below average offense against RHP. The gap in matchup mitigates much of the skill advantage for Arrieta and the discounted price point for Shoemaker makes him the better play on most sites.

Additional starting pitcher notes: The list of starting pitcher targets is relatively thin on Monday. I’d try to keep it among the top three starters even on multiple starting pitcher sites. Trevor Bauer (CLE) is the starter with the most upside in this range and best utilized in tournaments. He’s demonstrated the elite strikeout stuff (38.8 percent K Rate) early this year but control issues (18.4 percent BB Rate this season, 11.3 percent career BB Rate) and fly ball tendencies (42.9 percent this year, 40.8 percent career) are a difficult combination in US Cellular which rates as the second best offensive environment in all of baseball. Edinson Volquez (KC) is sort of a less volatile (odd to think of Volquez as less volatile) version of Peralta. The Twins currently rank 29th in wRC+ against RHP and we project them as a below average against RHP with an above average strikeout rate. If you’re dipping down below them, the Reds-Brewers game has two compelling options. With Carlos Gomez, Billy Hamilton, and Devin Mesoraco all likely missing from the lineups the Reds and Brewers are struggling offensively. Anthony DeSclafani (CIN) has more strikeout upside as he’s flashed dominating skills against RHBs (.274 wOBA allowed, 20 percent K Rate) and the Brewers lineup typically includes six RHBs. While DeSclafani has more upside, Wily Peralta (MIL) is the safer and more established starter. Peralta has really wide splits so the lineup could alter his value, but the Reds have typically been running out six RHBs.

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 ( if you have suggestions.

Top Tournament Stacks/Cash Game Mini Stacks:

1) Colorado Rockies

2) San Diego Padres

3) Detroit Tigers

Contrarian/Secondary Stacks:

4) Chicago White Sox

5) Cleveland Indians

6) Seattle Mariners

Coors Field will always take precedent in cash games stacks. Both pitchers in that game generate an unusually high number of ground balls (Despaigne – 52.6 percent, de la Rosa – 51.6 percent last season) which can restrict some of the upside with stacking. In cash games, I think they’re the right play but there is likely more value in fading Coors in tournaments on Monday. There are some other elevated team totals in the neighborhood of the two Coors teams and I expect heavy ownership on Padres and Rockies.

The Tigers lineup against LHP projects for a 112 wRC+ which is as high as any lineup in baseball. CC Sabathia has pitched exceptionally well early on (1.73 xFIP) and to his credit the swinging strike rate is back up (12.4 percent) and the line drive rate is back down (10 percent). It’s a very small sample but it’s enough to pause before loading up on Tigers in cash games. I’m still not afraid to pick my spots and get some exposure, but I’d prefer stacks and mini-stack exposure in tournaments.

The White Sox-Indians game is one to target heavily in tournaments. US Cellular is a tremendous hitting environment, the wind is blowing out, and both Danks and Bauer are fly ball oriented starters. The Indians have struggled of late against LHP but Danks isn’t dominant against LHBs (10.4 percent K Rate last season) and left on left will come with exceptionally low ownership. The White Sox have a lot of power in the middle of the lineup that plays well in their home park and in DFS tournaments. I like the White Sox side more than the Indians (slightly) because of the power aspect and I’m thinking Bauer’s first two starts will help drive down ownership. In addition Bauer is a starter that is susceptible to stole base attempts (allowed 26 in 26 starts last year), power (41 percent career fly ball rate), and walks (11.3 percent career BB Rate). Those are basically the holy trinity for stacking against. Bauer’s K Rate is what most will focus on, and granted it’s elite, but he’s very vulnerable to big innings which is great for stacking.

The Mariners are the last mini-stack I’d consider in tournaments. ZiPS projects Asher Wojciechowski for a 5.50 ERA rest of the season with a strikeout rate below 15 percent. The lefty bats early in the order make for a nice mini-stack.

MLB Game Weather Forecasts

In these scales, a 10 strongly favors the hitter, a 1 strongly favors the pitcher while a 5 means that it should not influence the weather.

NYY at DET 7:00: A 10% chance of a shower. No worries about a delay or cancellation. Temps in the lower to mid 50s falling into the middle to upper 40s. Air density is a 3 falling to a 2. Wind west-southwest 15-25 to start lessening to 10-20 mph which blows in from left. Wind is a 3.

CHC at PIT 7:05: A 10-20% chance of a shower at any time. They will play this game with a 10% chance of a delay. Temps in the lower 60s to start falling into the upper 50s. Air density is a 4. Wind southwest 8-16 mph which blows out to left. The wind is a 6.

CIN at MIL 7:20: Retractable roof. Dry but very chilly. I will assume the roof will be closed.

CLE at CHW 8:10: A 10% chance of a shower at any time that should not cause a delay. Temps near 50 to start falling into the middle 40s. Air density is a 3 becoming a 2. Wind west 10-20 mph with gusts past 25 mph to begin falling to 8-16 mph which blows out to left-center. The wind is a 7 becoming a 6.

MIN at KC 8:10: Dry. Temps in the middle 50s falling to near 50. Air density is a 4 becoming a 3. Wind west 10-20 to start lessening to 7-14 mph which blows out to right. The wind is a 7 becoming a 6.

SD at COL 8:40: Dry. Temps in the lower to middle 50s falling into the lower to middle 40s. Air density is a 7. Wind northwest 6-12 mph to start becoming southwest 7-14 mph. The wind begin blowing from left to right and then out to right. The wind is a 5 becoming a 6.

OAK at LAA 10:05: Dry. Temps in the lower 60s dropping into the upper 50s. Air density is a 5. Wind west-southwest at 7-14 mph to start lessening to 5-10 mph which blows out to right. The wind is a 6 becoming a 5.

HOU at SEA 10:10: Retractable roof. Dry. Temps in the lower 70s dropping into the middle 60s so the roof will likely be open. Air density is a 6. Wind north at 5-10 mph which blows in from left. The wind is a 4.

MLB Daily Analysis