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4/23 MLB DFS: (Max)imize your pitching on Thursday

4/23 MLB DFS: (Max)imize your pitching on Thursday
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4/23 MLB DFS: (Max)imize your pitching on Thursday

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.

Weather: 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.


Additional catcher notes: I’m not a fan of how today’s slate was broken up. The catcher position is very ugly and that’s exaggerated due to a couple of factors. First, there’s a quick turnaround for most of these teams since they just played last night. Second, the first game starts at 12:35 EST and that means we might not get all lineups in time. I’m sure most of the catchers that started last night will rest today, which will likely open up value in some situations. The most intriguing situation this afternoon is Coors Field (shocker). Wil Nieves (SD) and Nick Hundley (COL) will likely draw the start for their respective teams and even though they will likely not have a favorable lineup position, they will be my preferred cash game options. The Rockies and Padres once again have the highest team totals today and I will consider both of these catchers since they give me a cost-effective route into the main offensive environment on this slate. They won’t have the platoon advantage but the offensive environment is enough to consider them viable cash game plays at a position that carries almost no opportunity cost. Yasmani Grandal (LAD) will likely start and be blessed with a top-five lineup position. If that’s the case, he becomes my preferred catcher option for cash games on FanDuel. The offensive environment is poor (AT&T Park) but the lineup position as well as good offensive skills (when obtaining the platoon edge) warrants enough attention at a barren position. Jarrod Saltalamacchia (MIA) is very likely to draw the start for the Marlins. He’ll be hitting from his better side (the left side) against a shaky pitcher in Dustin McGowan with a big park shift in his favor. He’s a cheap alternative to the Coors Field punts at catcher.

First Base

Top Play:

Joey Votto (CIN) – Votto is ranked second in our model (only behind Stanton) and now that he looks well past his knee injury, the power is already starting to come back (six home runs this month). Votto’s wOBA is projected to be right in line with his career average (according to ZiPS) and his elite ability to get on base (incredible plate discipline skills) makes him one of my favorite players in the league. Don’t feel forced to squeeze him into your cash game lineups today but having the platoon advantage in a good hitting environment (comparable to his home park) gives him enough upside to be considered in all formats.

Value Play:

Yonder Alonso (SD) – This slate is weird. First base is usually stacked with high upside options but today that’s not the case. Alonso is by far an option I’m actively seeking to play in cash games around the industry. He’s not a great hitter, even when he has the platoon edge (.320 wOBA in the last few seasons) but he has solid plate discipline skills (0.67 EYE) and the matchup against Jordan Lyles (.358 wOBA, 22 percent line drive rate and 1.13 home runs per nine allowed to LHBs since 2012) at Coors Field provides him with enough contextual factors to be considered the top value play at first base (not taking into account that he hits fifth, which is a great lineup position for RBI opportunities and boosts his value). He could be faded in tournaments (in favor of a high upside option like Joey Votto) but it’s not ideal to fade this type of cost-effective value in cash game formats (gives you exposure to the main offensive environment at a great price tag on most sites)

Additional first base notes: Adrian Gonzalez (LAD) and Freddie Freeman (ATL) deserve your attention in tournaments. Both Gonzalez and Freeman will be playing in very poor offensive environments but they will have the platoon edge against pitchers with wide splits (Bartolo Colon and Ryan Vogelsong struggle against LHBs). Their skills and individual matchups give them enough upside to warrant tournament consideration. Even in a tough matchup, Miguel Cabrera (DET) remains among the top ten hitters in our model. He deserves tournament recognition due to his incredible skill set but the matchup and hitting environment drags him down a bit in our model (he’s usually a top five hitter on most days). Adam Lind (MIL) is a viable secondary value (platoon advantage in a great hitting environment). Homer Bailey isn’t a bad pitcher but Vegas believes that the Brewers will find some success against him today (team total set at four runs). Pedro Alvarez (PIT) is a tournament option at first base but he can be considered for cash games on sites where he has third base eligibility. Kyle Hendricks doesn’t have good strikeout skills, which bodes well for Alvarez (boom or bust profile due to his high K rate but big time HR upside).

Second Base

Top Play:

Dee Gordon (MIA) – On FanDuel, it’s difficult to not pay up for Gordon (unless cheaper values open up). The next in line option to Gordon is Chase Utley, who should only be considered as a secondary value (well past his offensive prime years). I always like to take speedsters like Gordon on FanDuel since points aren’t taken away for players getting caught stealing. The Marlins have a solid team total of four runs today and this offense faces a favorable park shift. If cheaper values open up (like Justin Tuner), Gordon becomes less of a necessity in cash games on FanDuel but until then, he remains the best play with awesome upside due to his ability to rack up steals.

Additional second base notes: Second base is another barren position in terms of value plays but Yangervis Solarte (SD) has second base eligibility on DraftKings, making him the best value play (at both second base and third base) on that particular site. Solarte may hit second for the highest projected offense on this slate (Padres have a team total pushing 5.5 runs) and he’s the best middle infield value around the industry (third base eligibility on FanDuel where he’s also an elite value). Justin Turner (LAD) will emerge as a fine value play if he’s able to hit in the top six. He doesn’t have the platoon advantage and the hitting environment isn’t favorable but Ryan Vogelsong isn’t a good pitcher. Chase Utley (PHI) will have the platoon advantage in a good hitting environment but his best years are behind him (that’s the case for most 36 year old middle infielders). I’d consider him as a secondary value for cash games where his price point is fair.


Top Play: Troy Tulowitzki (COL) (by far the top option at the shortstop position and remains cash game viable but my priority is to fit the top starting pitchers and get cost-effective values from this unique hitting environment)

Value Play:

Jean Segura (MIL) – The shortstop position lacks value plays today but a constant around the industry was Segura. He has speed upside and the Brewers have a solid team total of four runs. Segura has been leading off (not factored into his pricing), which boosts his value (used to hit towards the bottom of the lineup). His speed upside becomes more significant if Brayan Pena starts (Tucker Barnhart was very good at controlling the run game in a small sample last season). Segura is the shortstop that offers the best combination of price, lineup spot and a hint of upside (speed, decent offensive environment).

Additional shortstop notes: Alexi Amarista (SD) is a pure punt play on a site like FanDuel where he’s minimum priced. He won’t have a top six spot in the lineup but I’m usually willing to take minimum priced players at Coors Field, especially at a barren position. Paying up for Tulowitzki or punting the position with Amarista is the ideal route to take in cash games on FanDuel. Starlin Castro (CHI) will have the platoon advantage in an awful hitting environment (drags him down in our model). He should only be considered for tournaments, as his price tag remains too high to be an acceptable value for cash games. In general, the shortstop position, like the catcher position, is one where we’ll be monitoring lineup cards closely in hopes of finding a cheap option emerge.

Third Base

Top Play:

Kris Bryant (CHI) – It doesn’t make sense to evaluate Bryant on what he’s done so far in 24 major league plate appearances. However, it’s interesting to see how ZiPS projects him this season. Bryant is projected to have a slugging percentage over .500 and a 135 wRC+. That makes sense if he had prior experience at the Major League level but he doesn’t. This is Bryant’s rookie season and he’s already projected to be an offensive juggernaut. It’s not normal to see ZiPS call for such aggressive projections for rookie players but Bryant is likely an exception to the “norm.” He was probably Major League ready last season, when he led the minors in home runs (accumulated 43 home runs in less than 140 games). Today he gets the platoon advantage against Jeff Locke (projected ZiPS ERA of 4.14 this season) and even though the hitting environment is awful, Bryant’s power upside is still meaningful on a site like DraftKings (power is weighed heavily), where he’s cash game playable.

Value Play:

Yangervis Solarte (SD) – As mentioned earlier, Solarte has second base eligibility on DraftKings and he’s an elite middle infield value due to position scarcity (middle infield is barren today and it’s likely exaggerated due to a shorter slate). Solarte isn’t a great hitter (.307 wOBA against RHP in his last 351 plate appearances) but he’s demonstrated great plate discipline skills (1.20 EYE) and his matchup against Jordan Lyles (susceptible to LHBs) at Coors Field makes him a can’t miss value around the industry. He’s only solidified as a cost-effective value when taking into account his likely awesome lineup position (second) and his switch-hitting ability (will have platoon edge even when the game goes into the bullpen).

Additional third base notes: Todd Frazier (CIN) has the best home run score out of all the third base options on this slate. He’s a next in line option to Kris Bryant and even though the price point is a bit high for cash games and he doesn’t have the platoon advantage, he deserves tournament recognition (playing in a good hitting environment). Martin Prado (MIA) deserves consideration as a viable secondary option for cash games. He’s usually blessed with a good lineup position (usually hits anywhere from second to cleanup) and a positive park shift boosts his value. He’s not a great hitter but the contextual factors are enough to put him in the cash game conversation. Other options are Will Middlebrooks (SD) (anyone in Coors at the right price is playable on this slate), Cody Asche (PHI) (platoon edge at home, good start to the season, now hitting fifth) and Aramis Ramirez (MIL) (slow start and age are worrisome but if desperate can be a source of salary cap relief).


Top Plays:

Giancarlo Stanton (MIA) – Stanton is our top ranked hitter and he has the biggest home run score on this slate. He doesn’t have the platoon advantage but the park shift is massive and he’s accumulated a 142 wRC+ and .258 ISO against RHP since 2012. Opposing pitcher Dustin McGowan has projected FIP of 5 this season (according to ZiPS) and his fly ball tendencies tend to be problematic in favorable hitting environments. It’s difficult to play the top pitchers and fit in Stanton but if more value opens up, I’m willing to fit Stanton across my cash game lineups.

Next in line:

San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies – Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Corey Dickerson and Carlos Gonzalez are all top 12 options today according to our model. Vegas still believes this is the game to target for offense (only game remotely close to a 11 run total today) but these outfielders are pricey around the industry. The best “value” among these outfielders is Wil Myers and Carlos Gonzalez. Myers doesn’t offer the same power upside as fellow teammates Justin Upton and Matt Kemp but his price point is the most accessible around the industry. Gonzalez dropped to sixth in the Rockies lineup last night (hurts his value in cash games) but if he’s able to climb back to the top of the lineup, I consider him an awesome value (especially on FanDuel, where his price point is declining rapidly). I believe the best way to obtain Coors Field exposure is to go after cost-effective values today (top starting pitchers are a priority in cash games). In tournaments, seek the power that Dickerson, Kemp and Upton provide regardless of their high price points.

Value Plays:

Jay Bruce (CIN) – ZiPS projections are encouraging for Bruce. His power is projected to come back to his career norm (around .214 ISO) after falling to .156 last season (had a career low .269 BABIP). Bruce has the platoon advantage today in a comparable hitting environment to his home park (Miller Park is one of the best hitting environments for LHBs) and his price tag is fair around the industry. I would rather choose Wil Myers or Giancarlo Stanton as my high-end outfield options for cash games but Bruce serves as a next in line option to the written plays above. Bruce is ranked among the top 15 hitters today according to our model but his price tag isn’t reflecting this on most sites.

Ryan Braun (MIL) – The Brewers have been disappointing DFS owners since the season started. Jonathan Lucroy is now on the disabled list and Aramis Ramirez has been dropped to sixth in the lineup. Braun is still in the middle of this lineup and his price tag is dropping on a daily baisis, giving DFSers an opportunity to invest in cash games. Despite not getting off to a hot start, ZiPS projects a triple slash line of .284/.348/.488 and a .363 wOBA for Braun this season. Those are below his career norms but are still well above average skills and they’re an improvement over Braun’s terrible season in 2014. Braun has an accessible price tag on most sites (particularly FanDuel) and he remains among the top 20 ranked hitters in our model.

Additional outfield notes: Khris Davis (MIL) hit fifth last night and his price point on FanDuel is nearing the minimum. On that particular site, I view Davis as a great cash game option (despite his boom or bust profile). Ichiro Suzuki (MIA) is obviously nowhere near the offensive player he once was during his prime years. If he obtains a solid lineup position, I’m willing to consider him for cash games (salary relief can be used to pay up for top pitchers, especially on DraftKings). Eric Young Jr. (ATL) will likely leadoff for the Braves offense and Bartolo Colon‘s struggles against LHBs are enough to get Young Jr. in the cash game conversation. Young Jr. has a price tag nearing minimum levels on FanDuel, a site where he can take full advantage of his speed upside (points aren’t taken away for caught stealing). The Tigers outfield (J.D. Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes) might be an interesting contrarian stack for tournaments. As I mentioned earlier, I remain bearish on Tanaka (did very well in his last start but it was a great matchup away from Yankee Stadium). The Tigers will likely be under owned in tournaments and that’s not a situation that happens every day. Michael Morse (MIA) is a good value on sites where he has outfield eligibility. Morse usually hits cleanup for the Marlins, an offense that’s projected to do well today (team total set at four) in a good hitting environment (Citizens Bank Park). If teammate Marcell Ozuna (MIA) hits fifth, I also view him as a good value play even though he won’t have the platoon edge. Our model has Morse and Ozuna ranked very closely to each other.

Starting Pitchers

Tier 1

1) Max Scherzer (WSH)

Tier 2

2) Michael Wacha (STL)

3) Julio Teheran (ATL)

4) Anibal Sanchez (DET)

5) Masahiro Tanaka (NYY)

Tier 3

6) Bartolo Colon (NYM)

7) Homer Bailey (CIN)

8) Kyle Hendricks (CHI)

Top Play:

Max Scherzer (WSH) – It’s fairly simple today: Scherzer doesn’t have a good matchup (Cardinals project to be an above average offense against RHP and they don’t provide much strikeout upside) but the Cardinals have a team total of three runs (lowest on this slate) and Scherzer provides the best combination of a high floor and ceiling out of any starting pitcher today. He has by far the best skills (2.62 projected ZiPS ERA, 28 percent K rate) and the other alternatives aren’t very attractive on sites where you can only start one pitcher (Scherzer is also the biggest favorite on this slate). There are plenty of barren positions today and starting pitching is one of them. Scherzer is in play in all formats and should only be faded in multi-entry tournaments.

Value Play:

Michael Wacha (STL) – We keep picking on this game from a pitching perspective and Vegas agrees (game total stands at six and a half with the under being hit). Wacha doesn’t offer the same skills as Scherzer but yet again, Scherzer deserves his own tier (strikeout artist and now he moves to the National League, a friendlier environment for pitchers). Wacha does offer an above average strikeout rate, walk rate and has a 2.92 ERA/3.19 FIP in 185 IP at the major league level. The Nationals project as an average offense against RHP but we don’t care much about that this afternoon. Wacha is the second best cash game option (after Scherzer) in all formats.

Additional starting pitcher notes: After Scherzer and Wacha, there are some options worth considering but they don’t deserve a full write-up. Julio Teheran (ATL) deserves some attention on multiple starting pitcher sites. The Mets don’t project to strikeout much against RHP but they also project as an average offense at best. Teheran’s skill set is closer to Wacha’s than it is to Scherzer’s but he’s priced as if he was much better than Wacha on some sites. He’s a viable secondary value. Bartolo Colon (NYM) has an absurdly high price point around the industry. He’s priced as if he had the same strikeout upside as Tanaka, Wacha and Sanchez and we know this isn’t the case (career 6.80 strikeouts per nine). He’s a fine secondary value on FanDuel and that’s mostly because the Mets are the second highest favorites on this slate and that particular site weighs pitcher wins heavily. Anibal Sanchez (DET) is a secondary value around the industry and a matchup against the Yankees (facing a negative park shift) is acceptable. Sanchez can be grouped with Wacha and Teheran (similar strikeout upside). Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) was outstanding during his last start but I remain bearish. He had a great matchup against a below average Rays offense outside of Yankee Stadium. The velocity remains down (will likely continue to be down due to a partially torn UCL) and a matchup against the Tigers isn’t exactly favorable. Vegas concurs, giving the Tigers a team total of four runs even though they’re not in a favorable hitting environment. Tanaka remains a better option for tournaments due to his strikeout upside but the matchup and injury concerns are enough to take him away from cash game consideration.

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) San Diego Padres

2) Colorado Rockies

Contrarian/Secondary Stacks:

1) Cincinnati Reds

2) Detroit Tigers

3) Miami Marlins

Not surprisingly, the Padres and Rockies are the top stacks of this slate. Both teams have team totals of five runs and no other offensive environment challenges Coors Field. Tyson Ross is a good pitcher but we’ve seen pitchers with good skills come into Coors Field and struggle due to the unique offensive environment it offers. If picking against Ross, I would mostly use LHBs (Corey Dickerson and Carlos Gonzalez) and keep my RHB exposure to a minimum (Troy Tulowitzki). On the flip side, every single Padres offensive player is in play against Jordan Lyles, especially LHBs (Yangervis Solarte and Yonder Alonso).

The Reds are a fine mini stack for cash games and tournaments, particularly Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. If looking to pick on Kyle Lohse a bit more, Todd Frazier has the best home run score out of all third basemen in action today despite not having the platoon advantage. While we try not to go overboard with hot and cold streaks in cash games, the fact that Lohse has allowed more runs than innings pitched gives this stack more appeal in tournaments.

If looking to deviate away from the heard, the Detroit Tigers are an interesting contrarian team for tournaments. Masahiro Tanaka is certainly a difficult matchup but his velocity is down (partially torn UCL) and the Tigers have a team total of four runs. I would only utilize the middle of this lineup (Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes) and they’re better tournament selections than cash game options. Due to the Tigers high prices and a game in Coors Field, this is a good chance to stack them at low ownership levels.

The Marlins get a favorable park shift and a good matchup against Dustin McGowan (his projected FIP this season stands at 5.00 according to ZiPS). The first six hiters in this lineup are particularly intriguing to me and most are in play for cash games due to their favorable price tags (positive park shift wasn’t included in their current price tags). If there’s a game for the Marlins offense to break out it should be this one.

MLB Game Weather Forecasts

CHC at PIT 12:35: A few scattered rain or snow showers, chilly and breezy. Temps in the low 40s. Air density is a 2. Wind west-northwest 12-25 mph which blows out towards center. The wind is a 8. Less than a 10% chance of a delay.

MIA at PHL 1:05: A few sprinkles, chilly and breezy. Temps near 50. Air density is a 3. Wind west-northwest 12-25 mph which blows out towards right. The wind is a 8.

NYY at DET 1:08: A few sprinkles or flurries, breezy and chilly. Temps in the low 40s. Air density is a 2. Wind northwest 10-20 mph which blows out to center. The wind is a 7.

ATL at NYM 1:10: Dry, chilly and breezy. Temps in the mid to upper 40s. Air density is a 3. Wind west-northwest 8-16 mph which blows out right. The wind is a 7.

CIN at MIL 1:40: Retractable roof. Chilly outside so I will assume the roof will be closed.

SD at COL 3:10: Dry. Temps in the middle 60s to near 70. Air density is a 9. Wind southwest 8-16 mph which blows out to right. Wind is a 7.

LAD at SF 3:45: Dry. Temps near 60. Air density is a 5. Wind west-northwest at 8-16 mph becoming 12-25 mph with gusts to 30 which blows out to center. The wind is a 7 becoming an 8.

STL at WSH 4:05: Dry and breezy. Temps in the middle to upper 50s. Air density is a 4 to 5. Wind west-northwest 10-20 mph which blows out to right. The wind is a 7.

MLB Daily Analysis