4/9 MLB DFS: Strasburg is your man
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.
PIT-CIN: I’ve included players from his game in the content, but there’s a chance we see a cancellation here as scattered thunderstorms are projected all afternoon.
MIN-DET: Currently avoiding this game. The rain looks terrible as thunerstorms are projected all afternoon. If this one clears up, we’ll hit on plays from this game in alerts.
NYM-WAS: Chance of rain currently around 20 percent so not yet an issue for pitchers, but we’ll definitely be monitoring.
BOS-PHI: Terrible conditions for hitters again with wind blowing in and low 40s temperatures. Small chance of rain but doesn’t look like anything to worry about at the moment.
TOR-NYY: Similar to PHI forecast but the rain looks like it might hit the area a little earlier, making a mid-game delay possible.
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.
Yan Gomes (CLE) – Gomes, and the Cleveland offense in general, were a disappointment last night (I swear Scott Feldman is such a tease). However, it’s tough to not go back to the well with them tonight given the nice hitting environment, which once again gets added value as a result of the handful of outdoor venues with less than desirable hitting conditions around the league today. Gomes has power upside, posting ISOs of .188 and .194 in his two professional seasons and is in his prime hitting years (27 years old). His batted ball profile was really encouraging last season as he mad hard contact (24 percent LD rate) and was able to elevate the ball (.93 GB/FB rate). His weakness is plate discipline as his .20 EYE from a year ago is rather awful. Behind the Tigers (severe rain risk), Cleveland lines up to be the highest expected scoring team on the day, facing rookie RHP Asher Wojciechowski, who is making his MLB debut. The right handed Wojciechowski struggled at AAA last season, posting a 4.74 ERA and 4.85 FIP along with 1.18 HR/9 allowed. ZiPS is projecting a 5.33 ERA and 1.27 HR/9 in his rookie campaign.
Jason Castro (HOU) – Castro is a pretty solid hitter against RHP, posting a .339 wOBA and .184 ISO against it the past three seasons. He gets a favorable hitting environment in his home park and has some upside against Trevor Bauer. As much as I like Trevor Bauer (see pitching write ups), there’s no doubt he’s volatile. When things go bad, it’s usually due to wildness, HRs and an inability to handle LHBs. In 90.2 career innings against LHBs, Bauer has yielded a huge 25 percent LD rate, 1.19 HR/9 and a 13.0 BB percentage. Castro may be a necessary risk in early contests as the cap relief he offers will make it a bit easier to roster Strasburg and/or Harvey.
Additional catcher notes: Russell Martin (TOR) ranks in line with Yan Gomes in our model, but I’ve downgraded him due to the less than stellar hitting conditions (rain, low temps, wind blowing in). Still, he’s the top catcher for those of you playing the night slate only as he hits second in a good Blue Jays lineup and will have the platoon edge in Yankee stadium against CC Sabathia (more on him later). Salvador Perez (KC) is the best alternative value play option. ZiPS isn’t terrible optimistic on his forecast for this season, but the three year numbers against LHP are favorable (.292/.332/.482). Opposing pitcher John Danks has been really bad against RHP over the same span (.347 wOBA and 1.49 HR/9 allowed), and the Royals are one of the highest expected teams on the night. Evan Gattis (HOU) will pop up in the tournament section at catcher quite a bit due to his DH role and big HR upside. That’s the case again today against the volatile Trevor Bauer. Ryan Hanigan (BOS) serves as a punt option if going very cheap at catcher.
Edwin Encarnacion (TOR) – Encarnacion has absolutely mashed LHP over the past three seasons, compiling an elite .401 wOBA, .287 ISO and 1.20 EYE. In general, Encarnacion is one of the safest bets for HR totals and power because of three things: 1) he puts the ball in play (15 percent K rate is very low for someone with these power totals) 2) he hits the ball in the air (consistently has mid to high 40s FB percentages) and 3) he has stable raw power (three straight years of a HR/FB rate within a point of 18 percent). He’ll face CC Sabathia tonight. While Sabathia could rebound, he certainly offers a lot of upside to RHBs. Sabathia has far underperformed his xFIPs the past two seasons, but it’s actually skill related, not luck. As his velocity has dropped (four year fastball mph of 93.8/92.3/91.1/88.8), hard contact has risen. Three of the four highest LD rates Sabathia has allowed in his career have occurred over the past four seasons and not coincidentally he’s set career highs in HR/FB rate three straight seasons. About the only concern for Encarnacion and the Blue Jays offense is the weather. The poor hitting conditions has led to a surprisingly low Vegas total (7.5, heavily pushing 7), so you may want to be careful not to overexpose yourself here.
David Ortiz (BOS) – Ortiz is always a risk to be in lineups in NL parks, but if he’s in there he’s a great cash game option. Again, this is a situation where the weather sucks for hitters, but it’s tough to completely avoid that tonight. More importantly, despite aging, Ortiz continues to put up elite numbers year after year. The last three seasons Ortiz has post wOBAs of .433, .449 and .364 against RHP, with ISOs of .296, .314 and .248. There was a slight drop off last season, but those are still stellar marks. Ortiz gets a nice park boost tonight as Boston is the fourth toughest park for LH HRs but Philadelphia is the seventh easiest. Of course the main reason we like Ortiz is the matchup against RHP David Buchanan who struggled to miss any bats last season (5.43 K/9) and should regress against LHBs this season (2.39 ERA but 4.47 xFIP).
Brandon Moss/Carlos Santana (CLE) – ZiPS projects Wojciechowski to allow a .356 wOBA to LHBs and to struggle keeping the ball in the park. In a hitter friendly home park, that could spell trouble as he’ll have to face the very powerful Brandon Moss (66 HRs in 1,130 PAs against RHP from 2012-2014) and the solid all-around hitting Carlos Santana. If choosing between the two, I’d side with Moss’ power upside, but on a site like DraftKings, addition positional eligibility allows you to be flexible (Santana at C, Moss at OF).
Additional first base notes: Jose Abreu (CHW) dominated the league in his rookie season and may be under owned in tournaments due to a R/R matchup in a poor hitting environment. Pedro Alvarez (PIT), whether he’s first or third base eligible, once again has big time power upside. We love the park shift playing in Cincinnati, especially for someone with his power skills and the matchup against Antony DeSclafani suits those power skills well (below average at both missing bats and keeping the ball on the ground). If saving money at first base, my preferred option is Ike Davis (OAK). He has some power upside (unsure where he settles between 2012’s awesome power numbers and the disappointing ones the past two years), and quite frankly opposing pitcher Nick Martinez is horrendous against LHBs. Since 2012, Martinez has surrendered a .366 wOBA and 1.28 HR/9 to LHBs. The underlying peripherals suggest it’s really that bad: 12.1 K percentage, 11.5 BB percentage, 72.2 LD+FB rate.
Neil Walker (PIT) – Without any top tier or bottom tier options popping out on a short slate with weather issues, the second base values remain the same as yesterday. Neil Walker, who has good pop for a 2B, will benefit from a park shift (Cincinnati is one of the most favorable parks for HRs) and facing Anthony DeSclafani. As mentioned above, DeSclafani struggled to keep the ball on the ground (35.5 GB rate) and to miss bats (7.09 K/9) in his first 33 MLB innings last season. The switch hitting Walker is much better from the left side of the plate where he owns a .357 wOBA and .201 ISO since 2012.
Jason Kipnis (CLE) – With Walker potentially getting derailed by rain, Kipnis is the best alternative. He’ll continue to hit second, and we like to pick on the rookie Wojciechowski with so much unknown elsewhere due to weather. Quite frankly, Kipnis is a pretty average all-around hitter, but his lineup spot, expected team scoring and just enough power/speed upside make him a viable option.
Additional second base notes: Ben Zobrist (OAK) is a slightly cheaper alternative to Walker/Kipnis. Just as we mentioned yesterday, Zobrist’s switch hitting ability and lineup spot keep him in play at a scarce position, especially given our distaste for opposing pitcher Nick Martinez. Devon Travis (TOR) won’t have a good lineup spot, but if paying up for Harvey/Strasburg you may have to suck it up and use a heap player outside of the to six somewhere. Unlike a lot of cheap middle infielders hitting towards the bottom of the order, Travis carries some upside. He projects to go 15/15 in a full season and is an acceptable punt option in both cash games and tournaments. Jose Altuve (HOU) has elite stolen base upside, which he may be able to showcase against the wild Trevor Bauer. His high salary isn’t worth utilizing in cash games, though.
Shortstop notes: Shortstop is an absolute nightmare today and our model has it by far the worst position. Hanley Ramirez (BOS) is in a same handed matchup and poor weather, but David Buchanan is bad and showed no mastery of same handed batters last season. He’s worth taking a look at over on DraftKings where he has SS eligibility and there aren’t many high priced pitching options to spend on for the night slate. Jose Reyes (TOR) is a cash game option simply due to talent relative to the other options, but quite frankly (at least in all day slates), I’d prefer to spend less money at a position I’m not comfortable with, not more. Alcides Escobar (KC) is not a good hitter, make no mistake about it. For someone of his skill set, we’d really like to see a contact rate at 90 percent. However, he still lines up as the most logical mid-tier value on the slate. He’s got a nice lineup spot (unlike a lot of cheap shortstops), stolen base upside and his ability to make hard contact (around 23-24 percent LD rates the last few seasons), should match up well against John Danks (21.1 LD rate allowed to RHBs). Jose Ramirez (CLE) found himself hitting second for Cleveland with Michael Brantley getting scratched late last night. If that’s the case again today, he’d be my preferred punt option at the position. Jed Lowrie (HOU) has a poor lineup spot but has decent power potential in a good park and is cheap. Marcus Semien (OAK) is another cheap option given our disdain for Nick Martinez and a very low salary. On DraftKings, Odubel Herrera (PHI) has 2B/SS eligibility and is just $3,000, a very tempting price tag for a number two hitter with the platoon edge on Justin Masterson.
Josh Donaldson (TOR) – This Blue Jays lineup is absolutely stacked against LHP, and the power potential of the Bautista-Encarnacion-Donaldson grouping is scary to think about. As mentioned in Encarnacion’s blurb, Sabathia has struggled the last few seasons due to consistently declining velocity. That has particularly affected his numbers to RHBs as Sabathia has allowed a .330 wOBA and 1.24 H/9 to them since 2012. Meanwhile, Donaldson has been crushing lefties and doing it in Oakland, which is not a favorable hitting environment. His .411 wOBA and .296 ISO against southpaws since 2012 are actually better than either Encarnacion or Bautista (however, they hold elite numbers against same handed pitching keeping them as superior overall options given the expectation of seeing at least one PA against a RH reliever).
Josh Harrison (PIT) – For all day slates, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to afford Donaldson due to the amount of the cap you’ll have to devote to pitching. Look to Josh Harrison in the mid-tier if that’s the case. Our reasoning for utilizing Harrison today is the same as yesterday, simply against a worse pitcher: good BA skills, good park shift, stolen base upside.
Pablo Sandoval (BOS) – While Sandoval is a switch hitter, his splits suggest he really only holds an “edge” when facing RHP. Against RHP, Sandoval posted a .293/.350/.456 line. The BA holds steady because he’s able to consistently put the ball in play (sub-14 percent K rate three straight seasons) and makes solid contact (20-plus LD rate three straight seasons). The power from the left side is a bit disappointing, but keep in mind he played half his games in spacious San Francisco. As mentioned in Ortiz’s blurb, Philadelphia is the seventh friendliest park for LH HRs. Sandoval squares off against the underwhelming David Buchanan, and the biggest concern here is the poor hitting conditions.
Additional third base notes: Lonnie Chisenhall (CLE) has nice power upside for a cheap bat that can be utilized in tournaments, but the cap relief he offers isn’t worth taking him at such a low lineup spot in cash games. Luis Valbuena (HOU) has seen his power steadily grow the last couple of seasons, and the growth in FB rate suggests it’s sustainable. He’s in a good park, in a good lineup spot and facing a pitcher in Trevor Bauer who has had some issues with LHBs in the past. I’m a Bauer fan so hesitant to pick on hi too much, but Valbuena is an option where the cap relief he offers to Harrison/Sandoval is meaningful.
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) – McCutchen is one of the safest Fantasy assets out there as he has posted BAs over .300 and OBPs over .400 in three consecutive seasons, thanks to sub-20 percent K-rates, 10-plus percent walk rates and a mix of hard contact and power to stabilize things. He then separates himself with the HRs and SBs, combining for at least 43 in four straight seasons. He doesn’t have the platoon edge today, but a nice park shift against a below average pitcher will do the trick. With all that said, he’s difficult to fit in in the early slate due to the emphasis on pitching.
Jose Bautista (TOR) – Bautista has the same matchup and positive and negative (weather) contextual factors as Encarnacion/Donaldson. I think he’s a bit more reliable than those two due to his consistent EYE (thanks to high walk rates and a low K rate not often seen with players of his ilk) and mastery of same handed pitching.
Michael Bourn (CLE) – I’m a bit torn on Bourn. The big questions is: will he run? Bourn has stolen just 33 bases over the past two seasons, and his speed is essential to his value. The 40-plus steal days are gone, but with renewed health Bourn will likely steal at a 30-35 base pace over a full season. I’m willing to take the risk today given the lack of opportunity cost (not many strong, cheap outfielders) and contextual factors (park, opposing pitcher, expected team success).
Gregory Polanco (PIT) – If McCutchen is out of your price range, Polanco offers nice upside at a more affordable tag and will hold the platoon edge. ZiPS projects DeSclafani to allow a high .335 wOBA and .171 ISO to LHBs. Polanco has 15/30 upside over a full season and should build on his rookie season as we expect both his K rate to drop and BABIP to rise as he makes adjustments in his second season. There’s a lot of upside here today for a pretty reasonable cost.
Additional outfield notes: Ben Revere (PHI) is a better player in a similar mold to Michael Bourn but he comes at a steeper price, on a worse team and in bad weather. Still, keep him in mind as his biggest asset is his speed and he should be able to get on base to utilize it given Justin Masterson’s forever ongoing issues with LHBs. Billy Hamilton (CIN) has elite upside night in and night out due to his speed game (stole four bases last night and AJ Burnett walks about 11 percent of LHBs). Jay Bruce (CIN) is a nice tournament option in a home game against a RHP and a reasonable price tag following a disappointing 2014 campaign. Daniel Nava (BOS) doesn’t offer much HR/SB upside but consistently gets on base against RHP and is very cheap. Teammate Mookie Betts (BOS) won’t hold the platoon edge but has solid upside for his mid-tier price tag, especially with the team facing a subpar pitcher. I’m hoping Billy Burns (OAK) will finally draw a start. If so, he’d be an elite punt option given the huge speed upside and Nick Martinez‘s struggles against LHBs. UPDATE: Mental lapse. Burns was sent down with Cody Ross signed. Sam Fuld may be a punt speed option if avoiding bad weather games.
Rankings (price not considered):
1) Stephen Strasburg (WAS) (weather should be okay but still needs to be monitored)
2) Matt Harvey (NYM) (weather should be okay but still needs to be monitored)
3) Ian Kennedy (SD)
4) Trevor Bauer (CLE)
5) Daniel Norris (TOR) (potential weather risk)
6) Tim Hudson (SF)
7) A.J. Burnett (PIT) (severe weather risk)
Stephen Strasburg (WAS) – With a small slate and poor hitting condition/weather issues around the league, it makes sense to simply lock in as many pitching points as possible and build whatever lineup you can around it. Strasburg (assuming the weather is okay, which it looks like it should be) will be in all my cash game lineups. Strasburg had one of the best seasons of his career last year (2.56 xFIP), but it went under the radar due to lofty expectations and some bad luck (13.1 HR/FB rate, .315 BABIP). With some improved luck and hopefully a better job by Strasburg at limiting line drives (22.7 percent last year), he should post an ERA below 3.00 this season. The 27.9 K percentage is absolutely elite and tacks on to his ceiling when things go well and boosts his floor when they don’t. Strasburg is a -130 favorite in the game with the lowest total (6). While the Mets don’t strike out a whole ton, they are a pretty punch less group and quite frankly, there’s just no reason not to play Strasburg given the alternative options.
Next in line:
Matt Harvey (NYM) – On one pitcher sites, you could make the case for Harvey over Strasburg, but there’s almost no reason to dip outside the top two. I’d even try to play both of them on multiple starting pitcher sites. There’s a bit of an unknown surrounding Harvey in his first regular season start since undergoing TJS. That unknown factor and the Vegas line is what has me giving Strasburg the edge, but I’d still expect a great outing from Harvey. He had an extra six months to recover from TJS than a lot of others have (simply due to the timing of the injury), and I think that will help him avoid some of the rust issues that many TJS recoveries first face. The velocity this Spring has been very encouraging, and Harvey was as elite as they come prior to TJS: 2.01 FIP led league and struck out 191 batters in 178.1 IP. This Nationals team isn’t that threatening when you replace Rendon with Espinosa/Escobar and strangely hit Escobar second. With the weather conditions favoring the pitcher, load up on pitching in this game and just make it work – at least in your cash games.
Ian Kennedy (SD) – Kennedy is really the only sane option for the late slate. He’ll face a Giants lineup that is without an injured Hunter Pence and lost both Pablo Sandoval and Mike Morse from a year ago. The only issue with the matchup is there aren’t a ton of projected Ks in the Giants lineup, but Kennedy’s safety trumps that concern. He’s at home in spacious Petco Park and listed as a -135 favorite in a game with a total of 7, heavily pushing 6.5.
Trevor Bauer (CLE) – If you don’t want to devote the cap space for both Strasburg and Harvey in early lock contests or want a tournament option, Bauer is your man. While he’s certainly volatile, he has meaningful upside. We’ve picked on the Astros all week so far due to their strikeout happy ways and poor overall offense against RHP. Bauer strikes out just under a better per nine and managed a 4.18 ERA (4.14 xFIP) over 153 innings last season, despite some ups and downs. Heading into his second full season with a solidified role, I’d expect to see some improvement out of the former top prospect. He’s a high upside option and while he certainly carries risk, it’s mitigated by the fact that the Ks should offset a lot of damage.
Additional starting pitcher notes: For the night slight, Daniel Norris (TOR), Justin Masterson (BOS) and CC Sabathia (NYY) are secondary options to Ian Kennedy. All could hold opposing offenses down in really unfavorable hitting conditions, but there’s overall weather risk here as well (threat of delays and/or cancellations).
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 Stacks/Cash Game Mini Stacks:
1) Cleveland Indians
2) Oakland Athletics
Contrarian Tournament Stacks:
1) Pittsburgh Pirates
2) Chicago White Sox
3) Toronto Blue Jays
It might make sense in cash games to mini-stack Cleveland and Oakland. These are two teams facing poor starting pitchers in two game environments that should be unaffected by weather. Let others take on the weather risk elsewhere while you spend on pitching and surround it by safer bats.
For tournaments, I don’t mind embracing the weather risk of the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s a great park shift for them, and as mentioned yesterday, hitters 1-6 all have solid SB, HR upside or both.
Edinson Volquez is always prone to blow ups. He settled down last season and remarkably posted a low 3s ERA, but now he’s in the AL and out of the comfy confines of PNC Park. The weather risk here seems to be dampening, and I don’t mind a full White Sox stack in tournaments even though these players didn’t pop in our model for cash games.
With so much uncertainty in the forecast, I’m hesitant to use a Blue Jays stack in cash games (on early lock contests), but that same uncertainty may lead to that stack being way too low owned in GPPs. They’ve got some massive power upside against LHP and if CC Sabathia of the past two years shows up…we could see fireworks despite the unfavorable weather for hitters.
MLB Game Weather Forecasts
PIT at CIN 12:35: Warm. Humid. Temps near 70. Showers and thunderstorms. South wind 10-20 mph which is blowing out right. Air density and wind favor the hitter. There will likely be a band of showers/thunderstorms that impact the start of the game. 60% of a delay. The showers and thunderstorms should become scattered after hour 1. Still 30-40% of delays during the game. Chance of cancellation 30-40%.
Hour 1 chance of rain: 70%
Hour 2: 50%
Hour 3: 40%
Hour 4: 40%
NYM at WAS 1:05: Cool. Damp. Some light rain or drizzle. Temps in the mid to upper 40s. Wind east-southeast 8-16 mph, which is blowing in from right. Air density and wind strongly favors the pitcher. I am confident they play this game and there should be no delays (20% chance of delays).
Hours 1 through 4: 40% of light rain/drizzle
MIN at DET 1:08: Mild. Muggy. Mid to upper 50s to start the game, low to mid 60s to end. South-southeast wind 10-20 mph which blow in from right. Air density favors hitters. HIGHLY concerned about a delay as a band of rain and thunder will impact the start of the game. Looks like it moves through and they have a several hour window (to about 6-7 PM) that it will be dry or just some drizzle or scattered showers. Basically expect a delay (60-70%) and a 30% chance of a cancellation.
Hour 1: 70%
Hour 2: 50%
Hour 3: 30%
Hour 4: 30%
UPDATE: “A quick check at the radar tells me I would advise against Det/Minn players. Looks just darn wet. They may just cancel.”
CWS at KC 2:10: Cloudy. Widely scattered shower or thunderstorm. Temps in the mid 60s falling to the upper 50s. Wind west-northwest at gusty, 15-25 mph with gusts past 35 mph, blowing out to tight strongly favoring the hitter. Air density neutral. Not concerned about delays or cancellations.
CLE at HOU 2:10: retractable roof. Warm. Dry. Humid. Temps near 80. Wind south-southeast at 8-16 mph which blows out to left center. Air density favors batter.
TEX at OAK 3:35: Pleasant. West wind at 8-16 mph which blows out to right. Air density neutral.
SF at SD 6:40: Pleasant. West wind 10-20 mph which blows from left to right. Wind should lighten up late in the game.
TOR at NYY 7:05: Cold. Damp. Raw. Some sprinkles or drizzle. Temps near 40. If the game goes long/late in the game (after 10-11 PM) there is a 40% chance of rain that could cause problems. Wind east 8-16 mph which blows in from right. Air density strongly favors the pitcher.
They should play this one, 20-25% of a delay, 20-30% of cancellation.
Hour 1: 20%
Hour 2: 20%
Hour 3: 25%
Hour 4: 40%
BOS at PHI 7:05: Cold. Damp. Raw. Drizzle or light rain at times. Temps in the low 40s. I do not see a delay (20%) or cancellation (20-30%). East wind 7-14 mph which blows from 1st to 3rd. Air density strongly favors pitcher.
Hour 1: 25%
Hour 2: 25%
Hour 3: 30%
Hour 4: 35%
Note: I could see both/either NYC or PHIL cancelling because of how cool and damp it is, with wind chills in the 20s, much like what the Cubbies did the other night. So, that would be an early cancellation with the ability to adjust lineups.