MLB DFS Daily Fantasy Rundown – April 6th, 2015
Welcome to the Opening Day edition of the Daily Fantasy Rundown with “leonem” and “dinkpiece”. 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 concerns in regards to precipitation, game forecasts by Meteorologist Mark Paquette beneath 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.
Buster Posey (SF) – Posey is our highest ranked catcher in our hitter model. He gets a significant park shift in his favor and is facing a contact oriented fly ball pitcher in Josh Collmenter. Posey owns a .351 wOBA against RHP since 2012 with a healthy .153 ISO. With an emphasis on front line pitching on opening day, Posey’s price point is a bit restrictive for cash games, but we think Posey is a really nice tournament option especially when paired with other Giants offensive players.
Jonathan Lucroy (MIL) – Lucroy ranks a bit below Posey and comes at a more favorable price point. He’ll represent a popular option as the Brewers take on one of the weaker opposing starters in Kyle Kendrick. Kendrick has allowed a .334 wOBA and 1.11 HR/9 to RHBs since 2012. He’s shown very neutral splits and he’s one of the weaker starters going on Opening Day, so it makes sense to attack with the Brewers collection of above average RHBs. Over the last few years, Lucroy has been the third best Brewers bat against RHP, posting a .351 wOBA and .164 ISO. Posey’s boost on park advantage is the only thing keeping him ahead of Lucroy.
Brian McCann (NYY) – We were hoping for slightly warmer conditions in New York but high fifties and low sixties isn’t prohibitive. Yankees Stadium is a great environment for LHBs with the short porch in right field and Drew Hutchison has struggled with lefties in his career. He’s allowed a .347 wOBA and 1.44 HR/9 to LHBs as a big leaguer. The Yankees lineup projects to have seven or eight regular left-handed bats which makes it a very difficult matchup for Hutchison and one of the better lineups to target for power. McCann’s performance against RHP has dropped off in recent years due to the effects of the shift, but the skills are very strong. He’s posted a 0.69 EYE, .183 ISO, 21.2 percent LD Rate, and 44.8 percent FB Rate. A .227 BABIP has held down the performance (.317 wOBA), but we project that to regress over time. McCann actually ranks ahead of Lucroy in our model and comes at a substantially cheaper entry point. He’s our top value play at the catcher position.
John Jaso (TB) – Jaso is a great platoon player to target and the move to Tampa in the offseason helped his value. Although he’s catcher eligible, he’ll play DH and hit leadoff. It’s a bump in projected plate appearances for Jaso and it helps ensure three of his plate appearances come against RHP. He’s posted a .371 wOBA against RHP since 2012 with a .172 ISO and 0.85 EYE. Chris Tillman hasn’t shown much of a platoon difference in his career but he’s a fly ball pitcher without much strikeout ability. It’s a plus matchup for Jaso who is discounted for his skill set against RHP.
Additional catcher notes: Yan Gomes (CLE) also rates well in our model, but the matchup with an extreme ground ball pitcher in Dallas Keuchel isn’t ideal to maximize Gomes best skill set against LHP: power. Devin Mesoraco (CIN) has crushed LHP as a big leaguer (.184 ISO, .378 wOBA) and gets to hit in a premier hitting park. Liriano does a good job limiting power, but his command struggles against RHBs and the Pirates are a team that used their bullpen in a divergent pattern last year. In games they were well behind they often used the weakest relievers, which makes them a compelling team to attack in tournaments when a questionable starter is on the mound. Yasmani Grandal (LAD) could represent a viable value play with a nice spot in the Dodgers lineup. He’s a switch hitter with good skills against RHP, albeit in a low scoring environment. We’ll be on the lookout for pure punt plays in our lineup alerts. Catcher is often a place you can free some salary by choosing a pure punt, but on Opening Day they’re often tougher to come by.
Miguel Cabrera (DET) – Cabrera has posted an incredible .417 wOBA against RHP since 2012 with a .263 ISO. He has very little platoon split and he’s facing Phil Hughes who has actually struggled more against RHBs than LHBs in his career. Even last year, in a career year, Hughes allowed a .321 wOBA to RHBs and surrendered 0.84 HR/9. Cabrera’s price tag is elevated and like most of the Top Plays on Opening Day is prohibitive if emphasizing dominant starters. He, along with many other high end first basemen, is better suited for tournaments.
Adam Lind (MIL) – Lind ranks as our top overall value play on Opening Day. Lind faces Kyle Kendrick, the weakest pitcher on the slate, and he’s always hit RHP very well (.386 wOBA, .202 ISO since 2012). Lind will hit fifth and has four strong on-base options in front of him. The Rockies do have two left handers in the bullpen so I expect one of Lind’s four or five plate appearances will come against a lefty, but the other three should represent great opportunity.
Brandon Belt (SF) – Belt gets a big park shift for left handed power. According to FanGraphs park factors, Arizona plays nine percent above the league average for LHBs while San Francisco plays one percent below the league average. He also gets a great matchup against Josh Collmenter who has allowed a .324 wOBA and 0.81 HR/9 to LHBs since 2012. Belt has posted a solid .357 wOBA and .177 ISO against RHP in his career and he should hit in a premier lineup spot (ideally third or fourth, but possibly fifth). He’s a secondary option, if you’d like to play someone other than Lind who should be highly owned.
Additional first base notes: First base is always loaded, so pairing the position down for our content requires leaving off a bunch of viable names. I’ll quickly list off some of the better options in our opinions for tournaments at different price points. Paul Goldschmidt (ARZ) is an elite tournament option if paying up at the position. He’s hitting in a great home park and his history against LHP (.438 wOBA, .282 ISO) requires attention even against a great pitcher like Madison Bumgarner. Justin Morneau (COL) is a mid-tier option we like as a secondary value or tournament play. Both have the platoon advantage against good, but not great, pitchers. Ike Davis (OAK) and Ryan Howard (PHI) are cheap power fliers. They have a low probability of delivering, but with one swing can provide all they value you could ask for.
Robinson Cano (SEA) – Cano has posted an incredible .419 wOBA against RHP since 2012. Some of those numbers are inflated by Yankee Stadium but he posted a strong .382 wOBA against RHP last season, including a .166 ISO. The matchup with Jered Weaver isn’t a great one, but as far as Opening Day goes, it’s neutral. Weaver has held LHBs to a .286 wOBA since 2012 but he gives up plenty of line drives (22.1 percent) and fly balls (44 percent), which provides opportunity for power. Like the other top plays, you probably won’t want to spend up for him, but he ranks as the top second basemen in our hitter model and a Top 25 overall play.
Jace Peterson (ATL) – Peterson is likely going to hit second for the Braves and he comes with a near minimum price tag across the industry. Middle infield is a great place to save funds in order to afford top tier pitching and second base is probably the position with the least opportunity cost. Peterson was a good hitter in AAA last season with the Padres (.306/.406/.464) and most importantly he runs. In 389 career minor league games, he racked up 192 stolen base attempts. Cheap speed is a theme of our content on Opening Day for a few reasons: 1) With so many strong starting pitchers on the mound, we need to save money 2) the overall scoring environment is down and 3) colder temperatures = fewer home runs, which makes speed scoring a bit more valuable. Peterson fits the profile as a cheap option to target against Henderson Alvarez who has allowed a .338 wOBA to LHBs since 2012.
Joe Panik (SF) – Panik is similar to Peterson but without much speed. Panik posted a .321/.282/.447 line in AAA for the Giants last season and is slated to hit second on Opening Day. Josh Collmenter is a starter we’re targeting because he gives up lots of contact (15.1 percent K Rate vs. LHBs) and is one of the weaker overall starters going. Panik is another way to get cheap exposure to a top of the order bat with a platoon advantage against a weak starter.
Additional second base notes: Dustin Pedroia (BOS) is cheap on DraftKings and generally discounted after a difficult season last year. He historically has hit LHP very well (.405 wOBA and .168 ISO from 2011-2013) but slipped to a .322 wOBA against them last year with just a .151 ISO. If Pedroia’s fully recovered, there is a nice opportunity given the relatively warm conditions in Philadelphia and our expectation that the wind is blowing out. Brandon Phillips (CIN) typically gets a nice lineup spot in a great ballpark. He’s not a very good hitter (.307 wOBA vs. LHP since 2012) and he’s not particularly cheap, but he makes some sense as part of a Reds stack in tournaments. Scooter Gennett (MIL) ranks as one of our stronger platoon advantages on the day, but hitting seventh limits the opportunities and he’s fairly priced. Stephen Drew (NYY) is in a similar position hitting towards the bottom of the Yankees order. The chance at the short porch makes him a worthwhile tournament target as parts of Yankees stacks.
Troy Tulowitzki (COL) – As long as Tulowitzki is healthy, he’s likely going to fill this slot. Unfortunately, like many of our other top plays, he’s not a great option for cash games on Opening Day. Tulowitzki is an elite player, but for his career on the road against RHP he owns a more modest .347 wOBA. This is very good for a shortstop, but he’s priced more on his career .383 wOBA. Milwaukee is a great hitting environment, but it’s not Coors Field and Tulowitzki is priced on most sites as if he’s in Coors Field.
Additional shortstop notes: Jace Peterson (ATL) qualifies as shortstop on a few sites and he’d represent one of the better salary relief options. Stephen Drew (NYY) and Xander Bogaerts (BOS) both have the platoon advantage on deep lineups, but hit in unappealing lineup spots. I think they’re acceptable options. Brandon Crawford (SF) is less skilled, but would also qualify for this group. If he got a better than expected lineup spot, he’d earn consideration. I don’t really love Jose Reyes (TOR) or Ian Desmond‘s (WAS) matchups, but both are fairly priced and in peak lineup spots if you feel the need to find a balance between pure punt and paying up for Tulowitzki. Everth Cabrera (BAL) is an interesting name to track for lineups. With J.J. Hardy sidelined, Cabrera could emerge as a salary relief option at shortstop if he hits near the top of the lineup. It’s not a great matchup, but platoon advantage and against a RHP helps the speed component Cabrera relies on.
The top of the third base group is really bunched. Todd Frazier (CIN) has a .345 wOBA and .206 ISO against LHP since 2012 and should occupy a premier lineup spot in the Reds lineup. Evan Longoria (TB) has one of the higher home run scores in our model against Chris Tillman. Longoria has been ordinary against RHP (.331 wOBA , .182 ISO since 2012) but Tillman has allowed 1.37 HR/9 to RHBs since 2012. Kyle Seager (SEA) has the platoon advantage against a fly ball pitcher but the park environment isn’t great and the Mariners have a team total of just 3.5 runs. He ranks among this tightly clustered group of top plays.
Aramis Ramirez (MIL) – Ramirez is the hitter that ranks a bit below our top plays in our model, but is an option I’m gravitating towards in cash games to get more exposure to the Brewers lineup. The Brewers and Yankees are the two teams with the highest team run totals on Monday’s slate and Ramirez is slated to hit cleanup. Ramirez has posted a solid .343 wOBA and .158 ISO against RHP since 2012. He’s an aging player that we’re projecting for some decline which is why he rates below the other options above, but on Monday I think he’s one of the better targets for cash games.
Additional third base notes: Chase Headley (NYY) rates as well as any other third basemen in our model, but we’re concerned about lineup positioning impacting his value. If he’s in the first five slots, he becomes our best value play at the position. If he’s sixth, he’s a viable play but still behind Ramirez. If he hits seventh, he’s more of a tournament option. Casey McGehee (SF) is a potential way to cheap exposure to a Giants stack, but I’d really want confirmation of his lineup spot before utilizing him. We love Nolan Arenado (COL) as a breakout player this season, but he was below average against RHP last season (.311 wOBA, .149 ISO). He falls down our list of preferences a bit. Pablo Sandoval (BOS) is considerably worse from the right side in his career as a switch hitter (.309 wOBA vs. LHP, .363 wOBA vs. RHP) but the park environment is a strong boost over where he’s accumulated most of his plate appearances in his career and he’ll likely have a strong lineup spot. He makes more sense as part of a contrarian stack.
Carlos Gomez/Ryan Braun (MIL) – If you’ve made it this far into the Rundown, one thing should be evident: Kyle Kendrick is by far the worst starting pitcher in action today. He’s generally someone to pick on, but that is amplified by the ballpark (Milwaukee), the plethora of aces on the mound today and the matchup (although Milwaukee is heavily right handed, they have a very deep lineup against RHP). Kendrick has posted 4.50-plus ERAs in back to back seasons and has a ZiPS projected 4.99 ERA this season. He doesn’t miss bats (career 12.6 K percentage) and had just a neutral GB rate last season after a couple of seasons with an above average one. Gomez surprisingly did not regress last season, following a breakout year as his wRC+ actually grew from 129 to 132. He made some strides in terms of plate discipline and continued to display both power and speed. Braun did not have the same success, but he’s one of my favorite targets to bounce back this season. A lot of his poor year will surely be chalked up to PEDs, but count me in the group that feels his thumb injury played a much larger role. By all indications that injury is finally behind Braun. Also keep in mind that this is one of the best hitter’s parks being utilized today. Only Cincinnati and New York (AL) are better hitter’s parks and Milwaukee inches pretty close to even with them early in the season (dome unaffected by cooler temperatures).
Additional top options: Andrew McCutchen (PIT) is a much better option than at first glance (R on R matchup against Johnny Cueto) due to his overall skill level and a massive park shift in his favor. He’s an excellent tournament option. Mike Trout (LAA) is of course in the conversation due to his elite talent, but we aren’t a big fan of him (even as a contrarian option) since the price is so high and matchup so poor (no platoon edge, against Felix Hernandez in a pitcher’s park). Jacoby Ellsbury (NYY) (power/speed combination, short porch in right, Hutchison’s poor history against LHBs), Giancarlo Stanton (MIA) (poor park but better surrounding cast and high HR probability despite below average matchup) and Jose Bautista (TOR) (good ballpark, Tanaka may not be the same pitcher he was if changing style) all make for good tournament options.
Carlos Gonzalez/Corey Dickerson (COL) – While both CarGo and Dickerson are out of Coors Field, they’ll still play in one of the best hitting environments of the day. Kyle Lohse is a much better pitcher than popular perception, posting ERAs the past four seasons of 3.39, 2.86, 3.35 and 3.54 thanks to really good control and an ability to outpitch expected ERAs that I can’t quite explain. With that said, he’s far from dominant (career 14.9 K percentage) and both Gonzalez (.396 wOBA against RHP past three seasons) and Dickerson (.398) hold the platoon edge.
Bryce Harper (WAS) – Bartolo Colon has a really tough time keeping the ball on the ground versus LHBs, forcing a GB rate of just 33.1 percent against them the past three seasons. That certainly plays into the hands of Bryce Harper‘s power. Harper, who has a very solid .212 ISO and .374 wOBA against RHP for his career, should continue to develop this season. It’s important to keep in mind how young Harper is (yet to face a pitcher younger than him at the MLB level) and that development is not always linear. The numbers he’s put up thus far in his career may have disappointed based on unrealistic expectations, but they are phenomenal given his age. A huge power breakout is on the horizon for Harper. His value is higher on DraftKings than FanDuel due to a lower price and a scoring format that benefits him relative to some of the other speed options we like today (negative points for caught stealing on DraftKings).
Brett Gardner (NYY) – I’m hesitant to use too many Yankees on the day as Drew Hutchison has some overall upside that isn’t yet reflected in his numbers. However, given the lack of strong matchups, a Yankee bat or two becomes a reasonable risk in cash games. Yankee Stadium is one of the best parks to target offensively (particularly for LHBs), and Hutchison projects to be merely average against LHBs. In fact, if using historical numbers, Hutchison’s splits against LHBs, both in terms of HRs and wOBA allowed, are by far the worst of any pitcher on the day. Gardner may not run as much he used to, but his power took a step forward last year. I’m not expecting a duplicate of it this year but do feel his ISO will likely settle in above his career mark of just .125 (.143 and .166 past two seasons).
Eric Young Jr. (ATL) – A theme this Opening Day is targeting cheap speed as it’s one of the best ways to get upside in your lineup while keeping enough cap space to play it safe with starting pitching given the elite options there today. Young continues that theme as he should lead off for Atlanta and is low priced across the industry. Young stole 30 bases despite just 310 plate appearances last season and is particularly enticing on sites like FanDuel where there are no negatives for caught stealing. The issue for him is obviously getting on base. He has a career .320 OBP but that has dipped to just .310 and then .299 the past two seasons. Luckily for him his lack of overall offensive talent doesn’t look as bad with so many hitters in awful matchups. Young faces the efficient but underwhelming Henderson Alvarez. Alvarez’s low K rate and high GB rate should allow Young to put the ball in play and make use of his best asset: speed. He’s also less affected by the poor park factor (Miami) since his game isn’t built on power.
Angel Pagan (SF) – Pagan is really cheap on FanDuel. The San Francisco offense is underwhelming in general but the team gets a huge park shift in their favor as Chase Field makes for a nice hitting environment. They’ll also face another of the day’s starting pitchers who doesn’t deserve to be called an ace. Don’t be fooled by Collmenter’s solid ERAs the past couple of seasons as his xFIP is consistently around 4.00 due to a very heavy FB tilt and inability to miss bats. Pagan will of course have the platoon edge and was actually quite effective when healthy last season, putting up a triple slash of .300/.342/.389.
Mookie Betts (BOS) – Expectations are high for Betts entering the season. He’ll be underpriced early on the season and can be considered a value despite a tough matchup against Cole Hamels. He’ll have the platoon edge and lead off for a Boston team we anticipate improving quite a bit against RHP this season. Betts enters the season with 15/30 upside in SB/HR. Aside from an impressive Spring, the 22 year old Betts showcased some really nice skills his rookie year, especially in light of his age. He showed a combination of plate discipline (9.9 BB percentage, 14.6 K percentage), okay power for a speed threat (.153 ISO) and an evenly balanced batter ball profile that should allow him to post solid all-around numbers (20.9 LD rate, 1.05 GB/FB ratio).
Additional outfield notes: Alejandro de Aza (BAL) is a secondary value option. It’s not a great ballpark but de Aza has one of the better splits matchups on the day and is a touch underpriced given his expected leadoff role with Baltimore. Michael Taylor (WAS) doesn’t have the platoon edge but his leadoff role and Colon being one of today’s bottom third starting pitchers makes him useful in all formats where the price tag is near site minimum. Billy Burns (OAK) fits our cheap speed profile and faces one of the worse starting pitchers in action today (Yovani Gallardo). If Burns leads off, he’d be one of our preferred targets in cash games and if at the bottom of the lineup a great tournament options/viable cash game punt if needing the cap relief. Marlon Byrd (CIN) (platoon edge against Liriano in great hitting environment) and Khris Davis (MIL) (home versus the worst starting pitcher in action) make for great tournament options but projected lineup spots below the top 5-6 we target hurt their value in cash games. UPDATE: Early lineup release has Davis hitting sixth for Milwaukee, which makes him cash game playable. The Diamondbacks RHBs (AJ Pollock and Mark Trumbo) are nice tournament options. Madison Bumgarner is a great pitcher but gets a negative park shift, won’t have the platoon edge against them and may have some carry over effects from the amount of postseason innings he threw.
Rankings (price not considered):
1) Clayton Kershaw
2) Max Scherzer
3) Corey Kluber
4) Felix Hernandez
5) David Price
6) Johnny Cueto
7) Madison Bumgarner
8) James Shields
9) Julio Teheran
10) Chris Archer
11) Francisco Liriano
12) Masahiro Tanaka
13) Sonny Gray
14) Jeff Samardzija
15) Cole Hamels
16) Yordano Ventura
17) Jered Weaver
18) Dallas Keuchel
Clayton Kershaw (LAD) – Kershaw is probably a better tournament option than he is a cash game play due to a combination of factors, from San Diego’s improved lineup to his price and finally the strong amount of other elite starting pitchers that have good matchups on Opening Day. With that said he’s an option in all formats. As much as San Diego improved, they still project to strike out an awful lot against LHP as ZiPS has almost the entire lineup versus LHP projected to strikeout more than 20 percent of the time. When you factor in the high probability of Ks with the skill gap between Kershaw and the rest of humanity (back to back sub-2 ERAs supported by elite peripherals such as a 31.9 K percentage last season), Kershaw is both the safest starting pitcher in action and has the highest ceiling. I’ll probably focus on saving some money on the next in line starting pitcher options (at least on two starting pitcher sites) in order to get some semblance of pop in my lineup on a day where strong offensive values aren’t numerous due to the number of aces throwing. However, if some of the cheap guys we are targeting end up in good lineup spots, clearing some salary space I may change my mind, particularly on a one starting pitcher site, such as FanDuel.
Next in line:
Max Scherzer (DET) – While there’s certainly a gap between Kershaw and Scherzer, it’s not as wide as most days. Scherzer gets a home start against a lowly Mets lineup with really only one bat we are scared of (Lucas Duda) along with a couple of okay players in decline (Wright, Granderson) and one solid hitter with the platoon edge (Daniel Murphy). Scherzer has posted elite K rates in three consecutive seasons: 29.4/28.7/27.9. Now he moves to the National League where competition is softer and the pitcher spot in the batting order adds an extra out and likely boosts his K percentage. ZiPS is certainly buying Scherzer’s move to the National League, projecting him for a career best 2.64 ERA. He’s tied as the largest favorite on the day (-195), and he’s worth utilizing over Kershaw in cash games if the savings allows you to meaningfully upgrade your lineup.
Corey Kluber (CLE) – Kluber’s breakout 2014 season was not a fluke as he experienced a combination of positive regression (BABIP dropped 13 points, HR/FB rate 5 points and LOB% rose 5.7 points) and skills improvement (GB rate grew 2.5 points and K-BB% went from 16.9 to 22.9). Kluber has mastered the two seam fastball over the past two seasons and is pitching accordingly. According to Pitch/FX he threw his four seam fastball around 40 percent of the time his first two seasons before dropping that to 24.1 percent in 2013 and just 3.4 percent last season. Meanwhile his two seam fastball usage has been on the rise: 3.8/29.1/48.8 percent usage last three seasons. This fueled both the positive regression and skills increases Kluber experienced as he gave up softer contact (drop in LD and HR/FB rates, rise in IFFB rate) and set career highs in first strike percentage (64) and swinging strike percentage (11.9). He’s a top three pitcher on the day facing an Astros team that finished last season ranked 21st in wRC+ against RHP to go along with the highest K percentage. The upside is huge, and he’s actually right on Scherzer’s heels in our rankings (Scherzer carries a touch less risk but that’s about it). He’s a prime target on DraftKings due to his pricing and the two starting pitcher requirement.
Chris Archer (TB) – The opportunity cost is too high to use Archer on one starting pitcher sites but he’s a solid cash game option on multiple starting pitcher sites given his price point. He has one of the better matchups on the day from a team wOBA projection standpoint, and some of the only handful of pitchers with better matchups in that regard come with much sketchier skill sets (Alvarez, Gallardo, Tillman, Buchholz). This is before taking into account that Chris Davis will serve a one game suspension, taking away the best LHB in the Oriole lineup. He may be indirectly replaced by Delmon Young in the lineup, which is a huge offensive downgrade and is particularly beneficial for Archer given his wide splits. Archer was definitely a bit lucky last season (6.9 HR/FB rate), but his K and GB skills form a nice base. If he’s able to build on that base and have his control settle in somewhere between the 7.2 BB percentage he posted in 2013 and the 8.8 percent one he posted last season, the skills improvement for the young pitcher will compensate for any regression he’s hit with. Note that Archer is at home. Tropicana Field is underrated as a pitcher’s park since it’s a dome, but it’s actually the sixth best pitcher’s park in MLB according to parkfactors.com.
Francisco Liriano (PIT) – A lot of people will probably stay away from the volatile Liriano in a hitter’s park given the opportunity cost. That’s certainly the wise move in cash games, but Liriano’s worth taking a shot on in tournaments where we aren’t as concerned about his floor. Rather, the focus shifts to his ceiling. When healthy he still has the potential to dominate in any outing. His combination of K rate (strikes out more than a batter an inning) and GB rate (more than half of batted balls are ground balls) form an elite combination. There’s risk here (the ballpark, Liriano’s wildness, a decent Reds lineup against RHP, and the loss of pitch framing extraordinaire Russell Martin ), but if Liriano can limit the walks the K+GB skills give him meaningful upside at a mid-tier price.
Additional starting pitcher notes: Felix Hernandez (SEA) and David Price (DET) are the best alternative options to Scherzer and Kluber. King Felix enjoys a home start in his friendly pitcher’s park, and the Angels have one of the lowest run totals on the day. The Mariners are -145 favorites in a game with just a 6.5 total. Price is tied as the largest favorite on the day. He’ll go up against a Twins team we project to have a slightly above average K percentage and well below average wOBA relative to the other teams in action today (based on handedness of pitchers the teams are facing). Price is an absolute rock due to his high innings pitched and K rate that form one of the higher pitcher floors night in and night out. In the mid-tier range, both James Shields (SD) and Julio Teheran (ATL) are safer cash game options than Francisco Liriano, but both have their drawbacks as well. Shields moves to the NL and faces a Dodgers team that has downgraded offensively, but his win probability takes a big hit squaring off against Clayton Kershaw. Teheran has a safe matchup in a great park but be aware that the Marlins have upgraded offensively and that Teheran’s peripherals weren’t as strong as his surface stats last season (2.89 ERA but 3.72 xFIP and just 7.57 K/9). Teheran should be very solid but on a day with so much opportunity cost, fading him in lieu of a more dominant starting pitcher may put you behind the eight ball even if it does allow you to spend a bit more money on offense. Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) makes for a logical contrarian tournament option. He’s overpriced, has recent bad press (velocity/style/health concerns) and a bad matchup (strong Blue Jays offense, in Yankee Stadium), which will drive the ownership levels very low. However, if the health concerns are overblown and he’s able to return to last year’s form (2.58 xFIP, 26 K percentage) he’s got as high of a ceiling as anyone outside of the top three starting pitchers. Oddly, both he and a Blue Jays stack make for smart tournament options (although obviously not together). The other options in Tanaka’s tier all have contextual factors that have me holding back on a day with a ton of opportunity cost: Sonny Gray (OAK) (Rangers offense will be much better with health, wasn’t as dominant last season as surface stats indicated), Jeff Samardzija (CHW) (moves to AL and faces a team that lacks pop but also makes a ton of contact) and Cole Hamels (PHI) (expect this Boston lineup to be much better against LHP than their 22nd ranking in wOBA last season indicates). Both Clay Buchholz (BOS) and Henderson Alvarez (MIA) (particularly on DraftKings) are tournament options as they face two of the worst projected offenses versus RHP. Buchholz benefits from facing an NL team in an NL park while Alvarez is at home in his pitcher friendly park. Buchholz also is coming off a solid spring where his K Rate was significantly stronger (22 K in 19 IP). Buchholz’s strikeout rate has been volatile in his career, which allows us to dream on the spring training stats a little bit. Despite the nice tags and matchups, opportunity cost is simply too high to utilize either in cash games when you factor in Buchholz’s risk level and Alvarez’s low K upside.
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.
- Milwaukee Brewers
- New York Yankees
- San Francisco Giants
Contrarian Tournament Stacks:
- Toronto Blue Jays
- Boston Red Sox
- Cincinnati Reds
- Colorado Rockies
The Brewers are likely the most popular stack on Opening Day. They’re facing the weakest pitcher, in a great hitting environment, and have their five best hitters all in the first five slots. There is likely some value in fading the chalk in tournaments and opting for secondary stacks. The Yankees are projected for a similar team run total as the Brewers but their individual players don’t stand out as tremendous value plays, so I think their stack is going to fall considerably behind the Brewers in ownership. The same can be said for San Francisco. San Francisco’s lineup has a bit less power potential than the Yankees, so they may go even more under owned relatively to their likelihood of success. Both San Francisco and the Yankees will be represented in tournaments, but I think they’ll fall far enough behind Milwaukee that there is still some value.
If you want to aim for deeper contrarian stacks, I think Toronto and Boston represent strong options. Both are on the road in friendly hitting environments, but against strong pitchers. The Blue Jays get Tanaka who is dealing with decreased velocity and already struggled some with RH power last season (1.17 HR/9 allowed to RHBs). The Blue Jays offense is built on power and they’re in a great park for it, even if they come at steep price points (this will help keep ownership lower). The Red Sox have a deep offense that has strong skill against LHP and if the wind blows out to center field, there is the potential to chase Hamels early, specifically with power. The Phillies bullpen behind Hamels projects as one of the weaker units in the league, so there is some nice upside here.
The last mini-stack that I think deserves mention for tournaments is Arizona. Pollock, Goldschmidt and Trumbo all hit LHP well and with power and Bumgarner is getting a meaningful shift down in park environment. The depth of the entire lineup isn’t good enough to fully stack, but those three will come with low ownership and significantly strong platoon splits.
MLB Opening Day Weather Forecast
First and foremost, it doesn’t look like there is any threat of cancellations. The threat for delays is low as well, though if the game goes long in Oakland it could happen.
My two “watch” games for adverse weather are in KC and in Oakland. I am less impressed with both locations as I was yesterday (ie. the forecast looks better than I thought yesterday).
Let’s go game by game:
All times EST. NOTE: When referencing air density as favoring hitters or pitchers, keep in mind that that is relative to the other outdoor environments specifically for today.
Blue Jays at Yankees, 1 PM: No rain. Mild temperatures, near 60 during the game. Light south-southeast wind with no changes during the game. That is a wind blowing from right to left. Air density looks slightly favorable to hitters, especially righties with the ball being pushed ever so gently towards left.
Twins at Tigers, 1:08 PM: No rain. Mild temperatures, near 60 during the game. Southwest wind at 10-15 mph to begin the game, lessening to 5-10 by games end. That wind is blowing in from right. Air density is slightly favorable for hitters.
Rockies at Brewers, 2:10 PM: Retractable roof. No rain. Temperatures in the low 50s. Wind east-southeast at 6-12 mph with no changes during the game. That wind is blowing in from center field. Density is neutral.
Red Sox at Phillies, 3:05 PM: No rain. Mild temperatures near 70 to start, falling to the mid 60s late. Wind south-southwest at 15-20 mph to start with gusts to 25 mph lessening to 10-15 mph by game’s end. This wind is blowing out to centerfield. Air density and wind favors the hitter.
Orioles at Rays: Dome.
Mets at Nationals, 4:00 PM: No rain. Mild temperatures near 70, start falling to mid 60s late. Wind south-southwest at 15-20 mph with gusts to 25 mph, lessening to near 10 mph by game’s end. This wind is blowing out to centerfield. Wind and air density favor the hitter.
White Sox at Royals, 4:10 PM: A 20 percent chance of showers and 15 percent chance of thunder. Mild temperatures near 70, falling into the mid 60s. Wind south at 15-20 mph with gusts to 25-30 mph throughout the game, no dropoff in the winds. This wind is blowing from right to left. Air density favors hitters, wind blowing to left favors right-handed hitters.
Angels at Mariners, 4:10 PM: Retractable roof. 40 percent chance of showers so the roof will probably be closed? Anyways, temperatures in the low 50s, wind southwest at 5-10 mph and not changing during the game. Air density favors the pitcher, wind is blowing out to center.
Pirates at Reds, 4:10 PM: 10-20 percent chance of showers early, 20-30 percent chance of showers late. Should not even cause a delay. Temperatures in the mid 60s to start falling to near 60. Winds south-southwest at 7-14 mph throughout the game. That wind is blowing in from right. Air density favors hitters, wind favors pitchers.
Padres at Dodgers, 4:10 PM: No rain. Temperatures in the mid 60s falling to the lower 60s. Winds west at 15-20 mph throughout the game. Air density is neutral (air is dry while temperature is mild), wind is blowing from left to right.
Braves at Marlins, 4:10 PM: Retractable roof. No rain. Temperatures in the low 80s falling into the upper 70s. Moderate to high levels of humidity. Wind east at 8-16 mph throughout the game. Air density favors the hitter. Wind is blowing from left towards the 1st base line.
Indians at Astros, 7:00 PM: Retractable roof. No rain. Temperatures in the low 80s to start falling into the mid to upper 70s. Moderate humidity. Wind southeast at 10-20 mph throughout the game. This wind is blowing in from center. Air density favors the hitter, wind blowing in favors the pitcher.
Giants at Diamondbacks, 10PM: Retractable roof. Should be open? Temperatures in the mid 70s to start, falling to near 70. Very low levels of humidity. Winds west at 5-10 mph. Air density is neutral (low humidity levels generally lessen how far a baseball can travel by a little bit). Wind is not a factor.
Rangers at Athletics, 10:05 PM: Dry to start the game. Should remain dry throughout the game. Rain looks to begin after 2 AM THEIR time. They should get this in without any delays. Temperatures in the mid 50s. Wind west, becoming south, at around 10 mph. This wind starts as blowing out to right and ends as blowing from right to left. Air density favors the pitcher as does the wind.