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4/30 MLB DFS: No pitchers on Sale? Play Chris on Thursday

4/30 MLB DFS: No pitchers on Sale? Play Chris on Thursday
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MLB DFS Daily Fantasy Rundown – April 30th, 2015

Welcome to Thursday’s edition of the Daily Fantasy Rundown with “leonem”, “dinkpiece” and “thenumbersguy”. Each day throughout the MLB season our daily MLB scouting reports will highlight the best top, value and cheap plays of the day based on the Daily Fantasy Industry’s pricing for salary cap games. The goal of our analysis is to help you improve consistency and become a better player long-term.

Weather: The game with the biggest weather implications today is the TOR-CLE game. 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.


Value Plays:

Russell Martin (TOR) – T.J. House just hasn’t been able to get RHBs out in his brief major league career (.373 wOBA, 1.03 HR/9 allowed). He had shown some interesting peripherals last season, specifically a strong GB Rate (60.9 percent) but this year the velocity is down and he’s walking 15.8 percent of batters faced. Martin has been a solid performer against LHP, posting a .332 wOBA and .161 ISO since 2012.  Martin ranks within our Top 25 overall hitters.

Evan Gattis (HOU) – Gattis has posted an impressive .230 ISO against LHP in his brief career and he gets to play in a park that boosts RH power by about four percent above the league averages. Gattis is volatile but his batted ball profile (43 percent fly ball rate vs. LHP) matches up well with Paxton’s heavy ground ball tendencies. The price point on Gattis is discounted due to a slow start and he ranks inside our Top 30 overall hitters and Top 10 hitters in home run probability.

Additional catcher notes: Victor Martinez (DET) and Carlos Santana (CLE) are Top 20 hitters in our model with Santana ranking inside the Top 10. On sites with catcher eligibility, they rank as potential top plays. On sites with tighter pricing, there may be more reason to punt at catcher on Thursday than usual. Roberto Perez (CLE) and James McCann (DET) are viable options with the platoon advantage. McCann is the better hitter of the two, so if prices are comparable, I’d prefer punting with McCann.

First Base

Top Plays:

Miguel Cabrera (DET) – Danny Duffy has earned good results against RHBs (.313 wOBA, 0.87 HR/9) but his peripherals suggest he’s vulnerable (19.3 K Rate, 10.9 BB Rate, and 43.3 FB Rate). Cabrera is the best hitter in the game and his dominance against both RHP and LHP holds his value late into the game. T.J. House projects so poorly that Bautista and Encarnacion rank ahead of Cabrera in our model, but if priced the same I’d be hard pressed to choose someone over Cabrera.

Edwin Encarnacion (TOR) – Fortunately, on most sites Encarnacion is priced far enough below Cabrera that I’m not forced to argue with our model. Edwin has destroyed LHP in recent years (.400 wOBA, .266 ISO) and he faces a below average LHP on Thursday in T.J. House. We’ve covered House’s struggles early on this season. In addition the projection systems aren’t high on his ability against RHBs. ZiPS is projecting a .349 wOBA allowed to RHBs this season. The Blue Jays are nearly an all right handed lineup and House is backed up by a bullpen that has the fifth highest ERA early in the season. Edwin ranks second in our hitters model.

Value Play:

Adam LaRoche (CHW) – If you’re dipping down at the first base position, LaRoche is far and away the most cost effective first base option. LaRoche has posted a .363 wOBA and .214 ISO against RHP since 2012. His opponent, Trevor May, has allowed a .364 wOBA and 1.19 HR/9 to LHBs as a big leaguer. May struggles to generate ground balls (39.4 percent vs. LHBs) which plays into LaRoche’s power. The one negative for LaRoche is Minnesota is very tough on LH power (deflates HRs by approximately nine percent), but the overall matchup is strong.

Additional first base notes: Joey Votto (CIN), Jose Abreu (CHW) and Freddie Freeman (ATL) each rank inside our Top 15 hitters overall with Votto and Abreu inside our Top 10. They’re priced similarly to Encarnacion on most sites which will force their ownership down. They’re all excellent tournament plays. Eric Hosmer (KC) has a favorable matchup with Alfredo Simon and is a nice tournament play as part of a Royals stack. His lack of home run upside makes him better used in combinations plays with other Royals.

Second Base

Top Plays:

Jose Altuve (HOU) – Altuve and Cano each rank inside our Top 10 hitters. They get the best hitting environment on the evening slate and each hitter gets the platoon advantage against average starting pitchers. Altuve has posted a .390 wOBA and .141 ISO against LHP since 2012 and leads off for the team with the highest team total (4.5) of the evening. The Astros slightly elevated run total above the Mariners is the deciding factor that pushes Altuve one spot ahead of Cano in our model rankings.

Robinson Cano (SEA) – I believe Cano is the better hitter, but the lack of speed upside gives Altuve the edge as a Fantasy asset. Cano has posted a .377 wOBA and .163 ISO against RHP since joining the Mariners. Scott Feldman has been solid against LHBs (.309 wOBA, 0.76 HR/9) in large part thanks to a 47 percent GB Rate.

Value Play:

Devon Travis (TOR) – Travis has been incredible to start the season (.342/.405/.658) and he’s leading off for one of the most dangerous offenses in all of baseball. T.J. House has some of the weakest splits in all of baseball against RHBs and the bullpen behind him is very weak. It’s hard to project Travis going forward given he’s only had 441 plate appearances above A ball before this season, but the production early on is being driven by incredible power which plays great in DFS. I think Altuve and Cano are “safer” selections where priced similarly, but I think Travis is a fine selection on sites he’s priced below those two.

Additional second base notes: Ian Kinsler (DET) finds himself in limbo with all the good second base options on Thursday. Kinsler is very good against LHP (.364 wOBA, .156 ISO) and surrounded by elite RHBs but the Royals incredible bullpen pushes him down our model rankings. He’s a fine play (Top 35 hitter), but the position is stacked on Thursday.


I guess this guy is ok:

Mike Aviles (CLE) – It was Aviles or the shoulder shrug emoji for our recommended shortstop option. I think Aviles is more helpful, but I’m not certain. This is the weakest I’ve ever seen the shortstop position. Aviles is the only option with a decent lineup spot (typically second) and he’s been adequate in his career against LHP (.318 wOBA, .141 ISO). Daniel Norris has struggled with RHBs early on (.342 wOBA, 1.25 HR/9, 53.2 percent FB Rate). It’s a plus matchup and Aviles isn’t expensive. He’s your shortstop option by default.

Additional shortstop notes: Ian Desmond (WAS), Alexei Ramirez (CHW), Alcides Escobar (KC), Andrelton Simmons (ATL), and Zack Cozart (CIN) round out the list of functional breathing shortstops but none have particularly compelling matchups or price points. Cozart and Simmons are punt worthy only due to lineup spot, but we prefer Aviles. If Jose Iglesias (DET) somehow earned the second spot in the lineup (only happened when Davis sat), he’d earn consideration over Aviles.

Third Base

Top Play:

Josh Donaldson (TOR) – Our model does not think much of T.J. House. As a result, Donaldson is the third Blue Jays bat inside our Top 10. He comes with an enormous price tag on most sites and third base has some viable alternatives so he’s the Jay I’m least likely to invest in. Donaldson has obliterated LHP in recent years (.414 wOBA, .290 ISO) which is more impressive than Bautista or Encarnacion because he’s done it tougher hitting environments. He drops off more when the game gets into the bullpen which is why he rates lower in our model. If you have the funds, he’s the top target at third base.

Value Plays:

Danny Valencia (TOR) – Valencia is an affordable way to get exposure to the Blue Jays offense. He has mostly hit fifth of late against LHP and owns an impressive .377 wOBA and .190 ISO against LHP since 2012. Valencia is unlikely to play the full game but he’s averaged just under four plate appearances in the games he’s started. For his minimal price tag, I’ll take the 3-4 premium plate appearances in an elite lineup.

Kyle Seager (SEA) – Seager ranks considerably higher in our model than Moustakas but I view them similarly. Seager gets a better hitting environment and has a longer history of success against RHP. Scott Feldman has been solid against LHBs (.309 wOBA, 0.76 HR/9) and the Astros pen is substantially better than the Tigers pen. Although Seager ranks as our 19th best option in our model, I think he and Moustakas are near equivalents.

Mike Moustakas (KC) – Moustakas has shown legitimate growth early in the season against RHP. He’s hitting for more power and doing so to all fields. At 26, it looks like a true breakout season. His past performance pushes him down in our model (62nd) but I don’t think that is an accurate representation of his current skill set. Alfredo Simon has decent skills against LHBs (.316 wOBA, 0.93 HR/9) so it’s not an elite matchup, but if the Royals can get into the Tigers bullpen, the matchups improve dramatically.


Top Play:

Jose Bautista (TOR) – Bautista is the top ranked hitter in our model and the only outfield option I’d consider spending considerably on. He’s posted a .389 wOBA and .266 ISO against LHP since 2012 and hits equally as well against RHP so his value isn’t negated into the bullpen.

Value Plays:

J.D. Martinez (DET) – Martinez is a cheaper entry point into the Tigers elite offensive attack against LHP. Martinez owns a .340 wOBA and .193 ISO against LHP since 2012 and hits behind Cabrera and Victor Martinez, earning tons of RBI opportunities. We’ve highlighted Danny Duffy‘s issues with fly balls which makes targeting the power hitting options a priority. All of the Tigers outfielders are fine plays, but Martinez is the best combination of price point and home run upside. He ranks 17th in our model while Yoenis Cespedes is 16th and Rajai Davis is 25th.

Seth Smith (SEA) – Smith’s history against RHP (.362 wOBA, .204 ISO in his career) is not taken into account in his near minimum price point on FanDuel and discounted tag around the industry. Scott Feldman is solid against LHBs but Smith is getting a nice park boost and hopefully a premium lineup spot (ideally second). Smith ranks inside our Top 35 hitters but often isn’t priced that way.

Adam Eaton (CHW) – Trevor May‘s biggest problem with LHBs has been walks. He’s walked 10.8 percent of the LHBs he’s faced while also yielding a 21.3 percent LD Rate. Minnesota’s park is tough on LH power but Eaton’s game isn’t built on power. Instead, it’s built on getting on base (eight percent BB Rate against RHP) and some components of speed. The Twins have allowed 17 stolen bases in their first 21 games (fifth most in the league). Eaton is a Top 40 hitter in our model.

Additional outfield notes: George Springer (HOU) is a Top 10 hitter in our model but he’s caught in between with pricing. He’s close enough to Bautista on most sites that you’d rather just pay up for exposure to the Blue Jays. As a result, I think Springer will go under-owned in tournaments and is an elite play.  Chris Carter (HOU) is another elite tournament play. He comes with a modest price tag but has big upside in his power and will go under-owned because of his lineup spot. His home run score is among the highest in our model and he ranks within the Top 15 hitters before adjusting for lineup spots. Bryce Harper (WAS) has a difficult overall scoring environment but he’s elite against RHP. On DraftKings where the pricing appears to take into account quality of opposing SP, he’s a value play. Jay Bruce (CIN), Billy Hamilton (CIN), and Alex Gordon (KC) are all Top 35 hitters inside our model and viable secondary value plays or tournament options.

Starting Pitcher

Rankings (price not considered):

Tier 1

1) Chris Sale (CHW)

Tier 2

2a) Stephen Strasburg (WAS)

2b) Jacob deGrom (NYM)

Tier 4

4) James Paxton (SEA) – biggest risk/reward

5) Shelby Miller (ATL)

6) Mike Leake (CIN)

Top Play:

Chris Sale (CHW) – Sale is the best pitcher on Thursday’s short slate and he has some contextual factors working in his favor as well. Sale is accustomed to pitching in one of the more difficult environments in baseball and on Thursday he’ll pitch in a more neutral environment. In addition, he’ll garner a favorable matchup against the Twins who currently rank 25th in wRC+ against LHP and project as a below average offense against lefties. Sale is the largest favorite on the evening slate (-155) in a game with a total of just seven. He’s our top starting pitcher option by a wide margin on Thursday.

Next in line:

Stephen Strasburg (WAS) – Strasburg is a divisive option in DFS. On the one hand, his peripherals almost always look strong (career 2.77 xFIP, 28.2 percent K Rate and 46.9 percent GB Rate). On the other hand, Strasburg’s typically under-performed those peripherals (3.09 career ERA) and this season the peripherals have taken a step back (3.83 xFIP, 20.9 percent K Rate and 45.5 percent GB Rate). Strasburg’s struggling to generate swinging strikes (6.8 percent, career 11 percent) early in the season but he’s also been victimized by exceptionally poor luck. Despite allowing a below average batted ball velocity and lowering his LD Rate allowed, he’s allowed a career worst .403 BABIP. He’s an enigma. The matchup with the Mets is largely neutral. Their lineup is watered down without David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud but they don’t strike out very much. The Mets rank 20th in wRC+ against RHP with just a 17.7 percent K Rate (seventh lowest in the league). Whenever I’m torn on a player evaluation, I lean to Vegas to see what they think. The line opened with the Mets as modest favorites (-125) in a game with a total of just seven, but it’s been moving in the Nationals direction (Nationals -104, 6.5 total). Once again, the information isn’t particularly clear. We believe the Mets lineup is weaker than the Nationals and Strasburg has historically posted strong strikeout rates, so we’re giving him the nod as our second ranked starter.

Jacob deGrom (NYM) – The Nationals offense is a more serious threat with Denard Span at the top of the order, especially against RHP. Jacob deGrom has been solid early in the year, but like Strasburg there are some concerns. His K Rate has dropped from 25.5 percent to 18.6 percent and his GB Rate is down from 45.4 percent to 36.5 percent. We don’t want to overreact to a small sample, but deGrom’s emergence as an elite starter came with little minor league pedigree so there is more reason to question the small samples.  The Nationals rank 24th in wRC+ against RHP early in the season and have posted a 22.7 percent K Rate. On the surface, the matchup looks more favorable for deGrom but projections suggest the Nationals lineup is superior. As a result, we have deGrom behind Strasburg in our rankings.

Value Play:

James Paxton (SEA) – Paxton ranks as the fourth best starter in our model despite the Astros owning the highest team total on the evening slate. The reason is rather simple: strikeouts. The Astros rank 15th in wRC+ against LHP but they’ve struck out in 24 percent of their plate appearances. Paxton can whiff batters, posting a career 20.2 percent K Rate and he’s got an impressive career 54 percent GB Rate. He gets a tough park shift in Houston and will face a nearly all right handed lineup. For his career, Paxton’s strikeout rate is 19.2 percent against RHBs compared to 24.7 percent to LHBs. The question here is if Paxton’s strikeouts can overcome the likelihood of the Astros power playing up in their home park. At his current price point, it’s a risk worthy of consideration on a short slate. I think he’s best used in tournaments, even on multiple starting pitcher sites. But if you’re willing to embrace some risk, he’s a salary relief option that will allow a much stronger lineup.

Additional starting pitcher notes: Shelby Miller (ATL) and Mike Leake (CIN) are pitching in a game with a total of just seven. On the surface, they look like “safer” secondary options than someone like Paxton but the lack of strikeout potential lowers both their floors and ceiling. Miller has earned good results so far (2.05 ERA) but his peripherals have been very poor (4.18 xFIP, 15.7 percent K Rate and 10.1 percent BB Rate). He has generated a ton of ground balls (57.1 percent) but a .219 BABIP is really the key to his early season success. The Reds rank 19th in wRC+ and are getting a downgrade in park. Meanwhile the Braves rank ninth in wRC+ against RHP and have struck out just 16.9 percent of the time against RHP. Though Leake is the better starter, I think Shelby Miller is a more appropriate choice if selecting a starter from this game. The rest of the starting pitcher options are unappealing on the whole. Trevor May (MIN) and Daniel Norris (TOR) have some prospect pedigree and are pitching in decent parks. May has thrown the ball better than he’s earned in ERA early in the season and the White Sox are getting a downgrade in park factor. Cleveland has struggled mightily with lefties the last few years and Norris threw well in his last outing. He also posted great strikeout rates in the minors. I’d only consider May and Norris in tournaments on multiple starting pitcher sites.

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) Toronto Blue Jays

2) Detroit Tigers

3) Houston Astros

All three of these lineups are designed to crush LHP. All of their best hitters are RH and their lineups are deep with RHBs. Houston is the only one facing a pitcher with an above average skill set, but they’re in the best hitting environment and Vegas has them with the highest team total. I think the Blue Jays are the safest stack of the group. They have a combination of a few friendly price points with the worst opposing starter and the worst bullpen behind them, but I think the Astros have the most upside in this group. They hit for power, are aggressive on the base paths, and the Mariners bullpen is really bad behind them. The Tigers are somewhere in between. They have the best collection of hitters to attack LHP but the Royals pen behind Duffy is exceptional, which limits some of the late game upside.

Contrarian/Secondary Stacks:

1) Kansas City Royals

2) Chicago White Sox

3) Cincinnati Reds

The Royals lack of premier power forces more runs than most other teams to make their stacks worthwhile. They do get a crack at a Tigers RHP that pitches to contact and is performing over his head early in the season and Simon is backed up by a terrible bullpen. When looking to stacks, we often like to assess the quality of the opposing bullpen and this is a good spot to attack. The same can be said for the White Sox as the Twins bullpen ranks among the worst in the league in early season performance. The White Sox haven’t hit much at all early in the season which should bring down the price points of the stack. The one challenge to stacking the White Sox is two 1B eligible players (LaRoche and Abreu) make it difficult to capitalize on when playing on sites without flex positions or limited positional eligibility. The Reds are my third favorite contrarian stack. The Braves bullpen has been taxed the last few days (10 IP over last three games) and their last off day was April 20th. Shelby Miller hasn’t been working deep into games and he’s vulnerable to LHBs. The Reds are getting a downgrade in park and the low total will likely keep them low owned.

MLB Game Weather Forecasts

In the scales below, a 10 strongly favors the batter, a 1 strongly favors the pitcher and a 5 has no impact on the game. On the scales used below, a 10 strongly favors the batter, a 1 strongly favors the pitcher and a 5 should not impact the game at all.

TOR at CLE 7:10: Little worried about this game. There will be bands of rain around the region today and this evening. I could see that a band of rain is overhead during the game that could last for a while and cause a delay but I could also see how the band of rain is to their west or east. So, with this much uncertainly, let me give you percentages. Chance of a delay at any time is 20-30%. Chance of a cancellation is <20%. Basically, I think they will play this game but there could be a delay at any time. Temps in the mid to upper 40s, cool, damp, drizzly, raw. Air density is a 3. Wind north-northwest at 8-16 mph which blows in from left-center. The wind is a 3 or 4.

CIN at ATL 7:10: Dry. Temps in the upper 60s falling into the low 60s. Air density is a 6 falling to a 5. Wind northwest 8-16 mph lessening to 6-12 mph which blows from left to right. The wind is a 5.

WSH at NYM 7:10: Dry. Temps in the mid to upper 50s falling to near 50. Air density is a 5 becoming a 4. Wind east becoming northeast 5-10 mph which blows in from right then in from center. The wind is a 4.

DET at KC 8:10: Dry. Temps in the upper 60s falling to near 60. Air density is a 6 becoming a 5. Wind northeast becoming east at 5-10 mph which blows in from right then in from center. The wind is a 4.

CHW at MIN 8:10: Dry. Temps in the mid 60s falling to near 60. Air density is a 5. Wind southeast becoming south 5-10 mph which blows in from right and then right to left. The wind is a 4 becoming a 5.

SEA at HOU 8:10: Retractable roof. Dry. Temps in the upper 70s so I will assume the roof will be open. Air density is a 7 becoming a 6. Wind west 4-8 mph becoming nearly calm. The wind blows out to right. The wind is a 6 becoming a 5.

MLB Daily Analysis