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August 12 MLB DFS: deGrom wins you deMoney

Feature photo credit: Wikimedia commons, author slgckgc
August 12 MLB DFS: deGrom wins you deMoney
DAILY FANTASY RUNDOWN
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Daily Fantasy Rundown – August 12 MLB DFS Picks and Analysis

Welcome to Wednesday’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.

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Catcher

Top Play:

Russell Martin (TOR) – If Martin hits fifth, he’d be the clear cut top catcher option as he has an affordable price tag and in a great RBI spot at home with the best 1-4 hitter combination in all of baseball in front of him. The shift in home ballparks (from PNC the previous two seasons to the Rogers Centre) has certainly done wonders for Martin’s power as his ISO is up to .204, a career best. Opposing pitcher Aaron Brooks has been successful in two starts and two relief appearances. He’s a good K/BB ratio guy, but he’s not overly dominant. That’s going to cause him problems against this team in this ballpark given that he’s fly ball oriented, something that hasn’t bitten him yet (3.8 HR/FB rate). Teammate Dioner Navarro (TOR) is a viable cheap option, and whether or not he’s cash playable to just someone to use in tournaments hinges on his lineup spot.

Value Plays:

Yan Gomes (CLE) – Gomes and Jaso are our top two value plays. Gomes is a guy I’ve been on recently as the combination of a dropping price, moving up in the order and a scarce position has given him value. His plate discipline is atrocious this season, but quite frankly, that’s just who he is. It’s going to lead to inconsistent production, but there’s enough pop in that bat (.180 career ISO) to risk him when the tag is low and matchup is good. This is certainly a friendly matchup; the declining CC Sabathia has been absolutely smoked by opposing RHBs the last few seasons. His .368 wOBA split is the worst of any pitcher in action (Brooks’ is technically higher but just 46 batters faced), and it comes with a whopping 1.63 HR/9 allowed. Look for Gomes to continue to hit fifth for Cleveland.

John Jaso (TB) – If not paying up for Martin, I’ll likely split Gomes/Jaso based on site. Gomes is the guy to use on DraftKings where he’s the same price as Jaso and power is rewarded a bit more. Jaso is the guy to use on FanDuel where he’s cheaper than Gomes and the emphasis is a bit more on on base ability. Jaso has a career 12.5 BB rate and has dominated RHP since 2012, posting wOBAs of .401/.363/.349/.374. It’s a very small sample size, but opposing pitcher Matthew Wisler has had trouble with LHBs, allowing a high LD rate and walking more than he has struck out (111 batters faced).

Additional catcher notes: Stephen Vogt (OAK) has been ice cold but is worth considering in tournaments and even cash games on FanDuel (near min price) as he faces RA Dickey in Toronto. A trio of RHBs who all have decent power upside against LHP that I like for tournaments are Travis d’Arnaud (NYM), Salvador Perez (KC) and Chris Iannetta (LAA). Note that if Iannetta sits and Carlos Perez (LAA) starts, he’s just $2,100 on DraftKings, making him an interesting punt play given the ballpark and opposing pitcher (US Cellular Field, John Danks).

First Base

Top Play:

Edwin Encarnacion (TOR) – The Jays offense is simply an outlier relative to the rest of the league, and most of that has to do with their top four hitters (Tulowitzki, Donaldson, Bautista, Encarnacion). Encarnacion is the clean up man for this powerful lineup, and his power upside at home is huge against a young, fly ball oriented pitcher. While Encarnacion lacks the platoon edge, that really hasn’t done much to cap his upside. Here are his ISOs at home against RHP since 2012: .321/.188/.348/.285. Encarnacion got off to a bit of a slow start this season, but he’s been back to his old self since May and particularly since June (three straight months of a 30-plus hard hit rate and sub-15 K rate). Teammate Justin Smoak (TOR) could be a viable cheap option (really whoever hits fifth or sixth in this lineup will hold some value).

Next in line:

Jose Abreu (CHW) – A combination of Heaney’s prospect status and hot start (2.45 ERA) will probably have a lot of people avoiding picking on him tonight. While I do like Heaney, there’s no doubt his low ERA has a lot to do with luck. His xFIP stands at 3.99. While some pitchers are able to induce weak contact and overachieve in that regard, if anything, Heaney’s 37.2 hard hit rate and 21.8 hard minus soft hit rate indicate his ERA should actually be north of his xFIP. It’s not surprising that in a limited sample he’s yielded 1.71 HR/9 to RHBs (below average K rate, slight fly ball tilt, high hard hit rate), and now he gets a severe negative park shift pitching in US Cellular Field. Look for a power hitter such as Jose Abreu to take advantage.

Albert Pujols (LAA) – Pujols and Abreu are ranked similarly in our model today, but if forced to choose between the two, I’d likely side with Pujols, as he’s cheaper and on the road (guaranteed ninth inning at bats for the road team). John Danks has been better recently and some of that is real (velocity is up), but ultimately you don’t need to shy away from picking on a guy who has allowed a .356 wOBA and 1.45 HR/9 to RHBs since 2012, especially in the friendliest hitter’s park in action this evening. Pujols is the rare power hitter (.252 ISO) who doesn’t swing and miss often (12.1 K rate).

Cheap Play:

Joe Mauer (MIN) – This is a bit of a FanDuel specific recommendation as Mauer’s value there is higher than other sites for a variety of reasons: emphasis on on base percentage, near min salary and the difficulty in playing the above options in cash games if spending on starting pitching. While Mauer is having his second straight below average season, he continues to walk nearly 10 percent of the time, put the ball in play often, hit line drives and hit in a good lineup spot. All of those make him a good enough cap relief play facing Nick Martinez (5.12 career xFIP) and an awful Rangers bullpen (second highest xFIP in the league, highest ERA).

Additional first base notes: The written up recommendations span from expensive to cheap for the most part. If looking for a value in the middle, the best option is the switch hitting Carlos Santana (CLE) who should hit cleanup for Cleveland against Sabathia. Eric Hosmer (KC) is a nice contrarian tournament option. While it’s L/L, Derek Norris is susceptible to giving up power to any handedness of hitter. Plus, he won’t pitch deep anyways and is backed up by one of the league’s worst bullpens.

Second Base

Top Play:

Brian Dozier (MIN) – The second base position is incredibly difficult to tackle today. Given high priced pitching, my inclination from a macro standpoint is to go cheap up the middle. Unfortunately, the options simply aren’t cooperating with us. As a result, on most sites, I’ll try to stretch up to Dozier and save my money elsewhere. Dozier gives a combination of great in season peripherals with a matchup that has him as the top rated second baseman in our model. Dozier always had plus pop for a second baseman, but he took a huge step this year as increased loft and hard hit rate has led to a .245 ISO. Of qualified second baseman, the next closest player is Logan Forsythe at .161. That gives you an idea of the gap we’re working with. He’ll face Nick Martinez (.354 wOBA and 1.19 HR/9 allowed to RHBs) and a bad Rangers bullpen.

Additional second base notes: The values that rank best following Dozier, even after adjusting for price, are on the expensive side of things (Rougned Odor (TEX), Ben Zobrist (KC)). The landscape doesn’t set up great for an expensive second baseman (if I’m going against this thought, I’m doing so with Dozier) so I’d consider them secondary values at best. On the cheap end of things, Johnny Giavotella (LAA) has a very good matchup and park but has been dropped from the leadoff spot. Scooter Gennett (MIL) doesn’t have much upside but his decent numbers against RHP, a top five lineup spot on the road and most importantly, cheap price, make him usable. Ideally a strong punt will pop up when lineups are released, but for now, my mindset is Dozier or punt.

Shortstop

Top Play:

Troy Tulowitzki (TOR) – Similar to second base, I’m either paying up here or punting. The top option is clearly Troy Tulowitzki. He leads off for the highest expected scoring team against a mediocre RHP, who projects to yield more than average power in this type of environment. Tulowitzki has had an up and down season, but his plate discipline numbers are slowly moving towards his career marks while loft generated and hard hit rate actually eclipse his career averages. I’ll do my best to fit him in today, but with expensive pitching out there, you may have to go cheap here.

Cheap Play:

Erick Aybar (LAA) – Aybar is the leading cheap play candidate in cash games. He’s not good. We definitely know that. However, he’ll hit fifth for an Angels team with an implied run total over 4 that is getting a large park shift in their favor playing at US Cellular Field. Simply based on those contextual factors at a cheap price across the industry, Aybar is my preferred punt option.

Additional shortstop notes: Alcides Escobar (KC) is a touch more expensive than Aybar but definitely a similar type value on the cheap end of things. He hits in a worse park but will lead off for a team with a similar run total and possesses a bit more upside, both with the bat and on the base paths. After those three, it’s really ugly (it kind of started ugly too). You’re looking at the better offensive shortstops in horrible matchups (Jhonny Peralta (STL)) or limited offensive players with better contextual factors in their favor (Francisco Lindor (CLE)). One guy to keep an eye on in tournaments and possibly even cash games with the right lineup spot is Alexeir Ramirez (CHW).

Third Base

Top Play: Josh Donaldson (TOR) (just unreal production right now but excessive price tag on a night with expensive pitching to be targeted in cash games, he’s only viable in tournaments)

Value Plays:

Miguel Sano (MIN) – The three written up value play recommendations all combine okay overall matchups at decent price points at a position that doesn’t have much opportunity cost. Given that no one is an absurd value, and I’m struggling to pay up at middle infield without sacrificing pitching, Sano is the one I’ll have the most exposure to due to a reduced price point. We’ve already hit on the struggles of Nick Martinez and his bullpen. Sano’s skills bring additional upside to the matchup. Yes, he’s going to strike out often, but his great .229 ISO is actually right in line with both ZiPS and Steamer projections. The power is already there for the 22 year old who has an absurd 46.2 hard hit rate though his first 32 MLB games.

Adrian Beltre (TEX) – Beltre is the best way to get exposure to a Rangers offense that will experience a negative park shift but get to face the underwhelming Mike Pelfrey and another one of the league’s worst bullpens (Twins relievers have the highest xFIP in MLB). Age and health have led to a decline in power for Beltre for the third consecutive season. He’s at least somewhat making up for it, from a DFS perspective, by increasing his hit probability through reduced K and BB rates while maintaining a hard hit rate in line with his career mark. This makes him usable at a mid-tier price, and note that opposing pitcher Mike Pelfrey has allowed a .358 wOBA to RHBs since 2013.

Kris Bryant (CHC) – There’s no one thing that’s amazing about Bryant today. It’s a case of an okay matchup for a young player with plenty of upside that we expect to materialize a bit more rest of season meeting a fair price point. In a way, Bryant is a microcosm of what makes this day difficult in cash games. There aren’t a lot of “obvious” values, it’s more about picking up tiny bits of EV by making consistently smart decisions throughout your lineup and utilizing smart roster construction.

Tournament Play:

Alex Rodriguez (NYY) – Against a good pitcher in Danny Salazar with a low team total, it’s tough to use Rodriguez in cash games over the above options, especially if he’s priced more expensively. However, for those very same reasons he’ll likely be low owned in tournaments. While he may lack safety, he doesn’t lack upside. Rodriguez’s power numbers have been impressive this season, and he’s an even splits guy for his career. Opposing pitcher Danny Salazar has actually demonstrated some reverse splits, both from a surface stat standpoint (.313 wOBA against RHBs versus .290 against LHBs, 1.26 HR/9 versus 0.97) and from a peripheral standpoint (3.32 xFIP versus 2.99). Throw in a really tough umpire, and it’s possible Salazar finds himself in an unfavorable count against Rodriguez, and A-Rod takes advantage.

Outfield

Top Plays: One of the reasons I’m open to risking Jake Odorizzi (see pitching section below) this evening, is that the two top overall hitters in our model are Mike Trout (LAA) and Jose Bautista (TOR). Their matchups are strong enough that our model views them as some of the better per dollar values on today’s slate, despite expensive price tags. Trout is the preferred option (rates higher, better chance at an extra at bat on the road), and if you’re bypassing top-tier starting pitching, you want to make sure one of these studs is in your lineup.

Value Plays:

Shane Victorino (LAA) – Expensive pitching. Wanting to pay up at middle infield. With those things in mind, you’ve got to save money somewhere. Victorino is the perfect guy to do it with. He’ll lead for an Angels offense with a strong team total and have the platoon edge against John Danks, who has just been horrific against RHBs since 2013. Meanwhile, Victorino has mashed LHP for his career, putting up a .379 wOBA and .197 ISO. Throw in an awesome park and extremely cheap price tag and Victorino will find himself in almost all of my cash games.

Coco Crisp/Josh Reddick (OAK) – After a scorching start Josh Reddick has cooled down significantly the past couple of months, including an atrocious start to August. While, we like to avoid cold hitters whenever possible, today’s landscape makes it tough to ignore both Reddick and Crisp (wretched through 21 games) given their price/matchup. Crisp and Reddick should hit second and third respectively and come at very affordable tags around the industry. They’ll get a significant park shift in their favor and hold the platoon edge against RA Dickey. He’s been much better recently, holding a more consistent strikeout rate and reducing hard hit contact. So, it’s not an ideal situation, but Dickey is still striking out a below average amount of hitters and has allowed a .318 wOBA and 1.21 HR/9 to LHBs since 2013. Crisp is particularly worth taking a chance on on DraftKings, where his bare minimum salary opens up a lot of possibilities elsewhere.

Chris Coghlan (CHC) – Coghlan continues to hit third against RHP for a Cubs lineup that surrounds him with some nice bats (Rizzo, Bryant). The former rookie of the year is striving in a platoon role. He’s already eclipsed both double digit steals and homers in 361 PAs while putting together a solid enough wOBA/ISO combo of .325/.167. He’ll face Matt Garza who has given up a .322 wOBA to LHBs since 2012 and is struggling overall this season (lowest K rate of career, highest hard hit rate since 2010).

Additional outfield notes: The outfield is another position today where my focus is on the extreme ends of the salary spectrum – expensive or cheap. If you find yourself in need of more of a mid-tier option in cash games, secondary values are Lorenzo Cain (KC) (has made huge strides in the power department and conveniently faces a wild, fly ball LHP in Daniel Norris), Yoenis Cespedes (NYM) (platoon edge against de la Rosa who has poor splits against RHBs, Michael Brantley (CLE) (like his skills in a game that’s offensive upside is underrated based on Vegas totals so I’m willing to overlook the L/L starting matchup) and Jacoby Ellsbury (NYY) (really struggling right now, but man that price is cheap). Additional options for tournaments include Shin-Soo Choo (TEX), Dexter Fowler (CHC) and Yasiel Puig (LAD).

Starting Pitcher

Rankings (price not considered):

Tier One

1) Clayton Kershaw (LAD)

Tier Two

2) Jacob deGrom (NYM)

Tier Three

3) Michael Wacha (STL)

4) Gerrit Cole (PIT)

5) Jake Odorizzi (TB)

6) Danny Salazar (CLE)

Tier Four

7) Jason Hammel (CHC)

8) Jordan Zimmermann (WAS)

Tier Five

9) Edinson Volquez (KC)

10) CC Sabathia (CLE)

11) Jorge de la Rosa (COL)

Top Play:

Clayton Kershaw (LAD) – With Kershaw’s price tag at such high levels, yet his production making him worthy of it, whether or not to use him has become a dilemma each time out. There’s no doubt he deserves to be priced in a tier of his own. His combination of K upside (32.8 K percentage), run prevention (2.08 xFIP for second straight season) and volume (averaging seven innings pitched per start) is unprecedented. After much debate, though, I don’t find using him to be the best way to build cash game rosters this evening, for a few reasons that all come together. On single pitcher sites, his price tag really restricts what you can do elsewhere, especially since the best middle infield options (a position we often use for salary cap relief) are on the expensive end. On multi-SP sites, using Kershaw forces you to take a very risky second starting pitcher. That leads us to our next point: opportunity cost. As you’ll see below, there’s a next in line starting pitching option that rates very highly and a couple of strong mid-tier value plays. However, there aren’t any cheap, complementary pitchers we’re confident in. Finally, the matchup isn’t great. While Kershaw is by far tops in our model, his score is a bit lower than usual. That’s because this Nationals team, when fully healthy, is a bit of a nightmare for opposing LHP. You’ve got an entirely right-handed lineup outside of one of the game’s best hitters (Bryce Harper), and many of these RHBs are strong splits guys (Werth, Zimmerman, Rendon all have .350-plus wOBAs against RHP since 2013).

Next in line:

Jacob deGrom (NYM) – On FanDuel, using deGrom allows you to get some semblance of offensive upside in your lineups while throwing someone that can compete with Kershaw’s score. deGrom has been better across the board this season, which is hard to believe given his remarkable rookie year. He’s striking out more batters and walking less, while a much better hard minus soft hit rate is more than making up for a couple point drop in GB rate. He should dominate a Rockies lineup that really struggles outside of Coors Field (29th in wRC+ on the road with the second highest K rate). Additionally, deGrom has an extremely friendly home plate umpire. He’s the pitcher I’ll have the most exposure to this evening, on both single and multi-SP sites.

Value Plays:

Michael Wacha (STL) – Both our value plays rank very similarly in our model this evening. On DraftKings, I prefer Wacha as the scoring moves away from a heavy emphasis on the win to being more about strikeouts. Wacha got off to a slow start in that department, but given a steady rise in SwStr rate, his K percentage around 25.0 since the start of June is a better indication of his baseline than his season long mark of 20.7. Additionally, Wacha has the lowest BB rate and highest GB rate of his career. He’s in a great position to succeed tonight, at home in a pitcher’s park with a home plate umpire that is extremely favorable for pitchers.

Jake Odorizzi (TB) – If you’re eschewing both the top options (Kershaw, deGrom) on FanDuel, Odorizzi is the guy I’d drop down too. He’s a -205 favorite, and any time a pitcher has a Vegas line approaching -200 or better, the shift in win probability becomes meaningful. With the win being weighted so heavily on FanDuel, I’m putting Odorizzi slightly ahead of Wacha. This Atlanta team may make some weak contact, but they don’t present much offensive upside. Our model has their team wRC+ (based on opposing pitcher split) as by far the lowest on the day.

Additional starting pitcher notes: Gerrit Cole (PIT) is a nice contrarian tournament option. He rates just a hair behind Wacha/Odorizzi in our model but certainly possesses tournament winning upside given his skills, the park, and the umpire. We just won’t have a lot of cash game exposure to him given the combination of his model ranking and pricing. Danny Salazar (CLE) is a tournament option only. I love his strikeout upside, but he’s risky start to start as it is, let alone with an umpire that’s going to have a tight strike zone. Jason Hammel (CHC) is a secondary value on multi-SP 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 (help@dailyroto.com) if you have suggestions.

Top Tournament Stacks/Cash Game Mini Stacks:

1) Toronto Blue Jays (Aaron Brooks is a fly ball oriented pitcher with an average K rate, which leads to plenty of upside for this powerful lineup)

2) Los Angeles Angels (While Danks has gone better and I wouldn’t go overboard in cash games, the combination of his splits against RHBs and the huge park shift make the Angels offense one to target)

3) Minnesota Twins (A good value stack as you combine some cheap, safe options (Mauer) with high upside guys at meh positions (Dozier, Sano); we’ve hit on how favorable the matchup is against Nick Martinez and the Rangers bullpen)

Contrarian/Secondary Stacks:

1) Chicago White Sox (A great way to get leverage as I anticipate this stack being low owned yet in this park, Heaney’s combination of a 37.2 hard hit rate and below average K, BB rates could lead to serious trouble)

2) Kansas City Royals (Park prevents this stack from rating higher but Daniel Norris will still be susceptible to the long ball and is backed up by a well below average bullpen)

3) Cleveland Indians (Sabathia’s homer woes meet a team with a lot of affordable options, whose upside is boosted by an umpire that is extremely unfavorable for pitchers)

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.

OAK at TOR 7:07: Retractable roof. Dry. Temps in the upper 60s falling into the mid 60s. Air density is a 5. Wind northwest 7-14 mph which blows in from left. The wind is a 4.

NYY at CLE 7:10: Dry. Temps near 70 falling into the mid 60s. Air density is a 5. Wind light and variable. The wind is a 5.

COL at NYM 7:10:
A 10% chance of a widely scattered, popup thunderstorm. Temps in the mid to upper 70s falling into the low 70s. Air density is a 7 becoming a 6. Wind northwest 4-8 mph which blows from left to right. The wind is a 5.

ATL at TB 7:10: Dome.

PIT at STL 8:05: Dry. Temps in the low 80s falling into the mid 70s. Air density is a 7 becoming a 6. Wind north-northeast 4-8 mph which blows in from left. The wind is a 4.

MIL at CHC 8:05: Dry. Temps in the mid 70s falling into the upper 60s. Air density is a 7 becoming a 6. Wind light and variable. The wind is a 5.

LAA at CHW 8:10: Dry. Temps in the mid 70s falling into the upper 60s. Air density is a 7 becoming a 6. Wind light and variable. The wind is a 5.

DET at KC 8:10: Dry. Temps in the mid 80s falling into the mid to upper 70s. Air density is an 8 becoming a 7. Wind east-northeast 5-10 mph becoming southeast 3-6 mph which blows in from right and then from right to left. The wind is a 4 becoming a 5.

TEX at MIN 8:10: Dry. Temps in the low 80s falling into the the mid 70s. Air density is a 7 becoming a 6. Wind south 7-14 mph which blows from right to left. The wind is a 5.

WSH at LAD 10:10: Dry. Temps in the mid 70s falling into the upper 60s. Air density is a 6 becoming a 5. Wind west-southwest 10-20 mph lessening to 6-12 mph which blows out to right. The wind is a 8 becoming a 6.

Feature photo credit: Wikimedia commons, author slgckgc

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