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August 16 MLB DFS: Gray Matters

Adam Hummell
August 16 MLB DFS: Gray Matters
TheNumbersGuy
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Welcome to August 16 MLB DFS action. You’ll find Daily Fantasy Baseball Premium Cliff Notes for August 16 MLB DFS along with LIVE Premium Chat. Make sure you’re using the customizable projections tool, you’re actively participating in the live chat, and you’re reviewing the cliff notes to supplement your research and roster construction process. Very best of luck in tonight’s action!

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Time Stamps
02:14 
Starting Pitcher
13:37  Catcher
15:55 First Base
21:24 Second Base
24:35 Third Base
27:17 Shortstop
30:36 Outfield
35:33 Stacks

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  • In cash games, we recommend focusing on value plays to build your rosters (far right hand column of Projections page linked above). Value plays are those we feel have the highest probability of out-earning their current price tag. By packing value plays into your roster, you’re creating a team with a higher floor.
  • In tournaments, we recommend building a core of the best value plays and then complementing them with players who have a high ceiling. This combination is essentially turning up the variance on a strong foundation and we believe often is the best recipe for tournament success.

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Range of Outcome Projections

August 16 MLB DFS CLIFF NOTES

 

Starting Pitcher

This is a very ugly slate for starting pitching. Jon Gray (COL) is the top projected scorer at the position. There’s no denying that Gray is the most talented pitcher in this slate, particularly from a strikeout perspective. Gray has posted a 27% K rate this season backed up by a 13.5% SwStr rate. Gray has the best xwOBA (.299) of any starter in this slate and he also has the best SIERA (3.36). He’s on the road, which means he automatically gets a huge park upgrade in his favor. The matchup is slightly below league average as the Braves are ranked 12th in wRC+ and are only striking out 20.4% of the time vs. RHP. Gray has a 4.2 IRTA but a K projection of 6. He’s the pitcher our optimals like the most in this slate on both sites.

The next in line projected scorers at the position are Clay Buchholz (ARI), Julio Teheran (ATL) and Tanner Roark (WSH). This bucket of starters have very compelling matchups. Buchholz is facing a Padres offense that’s ranked 28th in wRC+ and are striking out 25.7% of the time vs. RHP (second worst mark in the league). Teheran gets to face a Rockies offense that’s ranked 29th in wRC+ and are striking out 23.4% of the time vs. RHP. The Rockies are on the road, which means they’re getting a big park downgrade. Roark gets to face seven righties, which is meaningful given his splits (.340 wOBA baseline vs. LHBs, .306 wOBA vs. RHBs). Roark is also in the midst of a stretch in which he’s posted four quality starts and has allowed just four earned runs in his last four starts. Because this group of starters project so similarly, it’s fine to default to pricing. Teheran is the cheapest of the bunch on both sites but Buchholz is $8,600 on FD ($800 cheaper than Gray). Teheran is cash viable on both sites while Buchholz is cash viable on FD. Roark is the compelling tournament play of the group but he’s priced very efficiently on both sites.

Things start to get ugly rather quickly after the starters above. Sam Gaviglio (TOR), Ervin Santana (MIN), Francisco Liriano (DET) and Jon Lester (CHC) have projections in the 12-13 range on DK. Of this group, Lester projects as the clear overspend as he’s the most expensive and doesn’t separate himself from a projection standpoint. He’s coming off two straight disaster starts and has a neutral matchup against the Pirates. Liriano is the cheapest of the bunch on DK ($5,800) but also carries the most downside in terms of run prevention as he’s been pegged with an IRTA of 5. Gaviglio is interesting because he’s facing the Royals and he gets a park upgrade going into Kauffman Stadium. While the Royals are a bad offense, they don’t strikeout much (20% K rate vs. RHP). Santana is facing a hapless Tigers lineup that’s ranked dead last in wRC+ vs. RHP but he’s been terrible this season, posting an ERA/xFIP over 6. It’s tough to have much confidence in this tier but outside of Lester there’s some tournament potential if BABIP is in their favor.

The other route you will have to consider in this slate in both cash games and tournaments is punting the SP2 spot on DK. Glenn Sparkman (KC) is the cheapest pitcher on DK ($4,500) and he’s facing a Blue Jays offense that’s getting a park downgrade. Sparkman has an arm and he can throw the baseball. Those are the positives. The negatives are clear – he’s making his first start at the major league level and we don’t project him to be any good. He has an IRTA of 5, but his 4.5 K projection is actually the sixth highest in this slate.

Catcher

Not a single catcher rates as a positive value in our model on DK for Thursday’s slate so the position is not going to be a priority in cash games. Salvador Perez (KC) rates as the top catcher in our model but he is not a bargain by any means. Opposing starter Sam Gaviglio has not allowed much hard contact (30.6-percent) to right-handed hitters (RHHs) but he has been burned by the long ball (1.70 HR/9 rate). Since Perez has only struck out at an 18.7-percent rate against RHP, and he ranks third on the team in hard hit rate (45.0-percent) behind two players with limited sample sizes (Ryan O’Hearn and Hunter Dozier), he is at least as safe of as a bet as anyone at the position (which is probably why he is the catcher  in the DK optimal). Otherwise, Robinson Chirinos (TEX) and Willson Contreras are the only other two catchers in the top tier in terms of projection and both are in the $4,000 range on DK. With the Angels announcing they will have a bullpen day, Chirinos is looking like the preferred play at the backstop position if fantasy owners can afford him. Thus far, the Angels’ active members of the bullpen cumulatively rank 16th in SIERA and 17th in xFIP- while walking opposing batts at an extremely high 9.8-percent rate. From a tournament perspective, we’re intrigued by Mitch Garver (MIN), who’s getting the platoon edge against Francisco Liriano tonight.

If looking to differentiate in tournaments, Elias Diaz (PIT) and/or Francisco Cervelli (PIT) look intriguing, obviously depending on who draws the start. Diaz leads the team in xwOBA against LHP (.424) but Cervelli is not far behind (.391). For what little it is worth, Diaz has produced an average exit velocity of 93.2mph off Lester in their limited meetings, and he owns a .578 xwOBA against him. Lester has been flirting with being a bottom 10 pitcher in SIERA all season long and the Pirates are loaded with right-handers. If going by the model, the next best values would be Russell Martin (TOR), James McCann (DET) and Matt Wieters. Of the bunch, Martin’s matchup looks most favorable, as Sparkman’s ZIPS projections are rather mediocre: 5.09 FIP, 1.46 HR/9 rate and 6.03 K/9. Go Perez and cash games but feel free to roll with any of these players in GPPs.

First Base

On both sites, Anthony Rizzo finds himself as the first baseman in optimal lineups, and he is actually our single highest-projected hitter of the evening. Probable starter Ivan Nova has been burned to the tune of a .364 wOBA, 1.65 HR/9 rate and 39.6-percent fly ball rate by lefties this season and his 5.34 FIP in the split ranks fifth worst amongst pitchers on this slate (behind only Ariel Jurado, Ervin Santana, Sparkman and Julio Teheran). In fact, his 11.4-percent K rate against lefties is the second lowest on the slate, behind only Jurado who has posted horrific K rates at every level he has pitched at. If any right-hander fails to miss Rizzo’s bat, he can make them pay, as evident by his .405 xwOBA (which leads those on the team with extended sample sizes).

The next tier at the position consists of Kendrys Morales (TOR), Justin Smoak (TOR) and Miguel Sano (MIN) who all draw matchups against subpar pitchers. Morales and Smoak will face the aforementioned Sparkman. With only 37 total left-handed batters faced in his career, the sample size is not substantial, but lefties have produced a .389 wOBA against Sparkman and he owns just a 6.30 FIP and 6.80 xFIP in the split. Hell, Sparkman has even walked more lefties than he has struck out, and that is after lefties hit .327 against him in Triple-A earlier this season. Smoak is the vastly superior hitter to Morales against RHP (.386 wOBA to .340 and .260 ISO to .192) but he is also significantly more expensive. Meanwhile, Sano is not having an incredibly productive season, especially against LHP (.231 wOBA, 0.083 ISO), and that is partially because he has K’d at a ridiculous 36.4-percent rate against them. Liriano has nearly walked as many righties (13.8-percent BB rate) as he has struck out (17.4-percent) to this point and his 5.71 FIP is second worst to Jurado. Despite the disappointing numbers in 2018, Sano has preferred the platoon split against southpaws (.356 wOBA, 122 wRC+), so he is worth the shot especially at his $2,800 price on FD.

Lastly, Tyler Austin (MIN) is nearly free on FD and will go overlooked because he hits lower in the lineup, and Matt Carpenter (STL) is facing a righty. Tanner Roark relies heavily on his sinker (45-percent) versus lefties and Carpenter owns an insane .627 xwOBA against right-handed sinkers since the beginning of 2017. No, that is not a typo. As per usual, Carpenter is viable in all formats, and would be the guy to spend up on if the Cubs weather proves to be more treacherous than expected.

Second Base

Pricing is drastically different on the two sites at the second base position but one common denominator is Logan Forsythe (MIN) being underpriced. On FD, his price point is egregious ($2,300), and saving on him allows fantasy owners to roster studs alongside the top pitcher(s) of the night. Dating back to the start of last season, Forsythe has literally rated as a league-average hitter exactly versus LHP: .320 wOBA and 100 wRC+. Since he is not priced as such he rates as a solid value on both sites. On DK, Whit Merrifield (KC) is the second baseman locked into the optimal despite not being the top value on the site. In just 83.1 IP this season, opposing base runners have successfully swiped 10 bags against Gaviglio and four have been caught stealing. According to our model, Gaviglio is well below average at limiting the run game, so Merrifield should possess multiple stolen base upside. It should be noted Devon Travis (TOR) rates as the top value at the position on DK despite hitting on the wrong side of his platoon split. Our models are not giving Sparkman much credit and Travis hits high in the order for a team being implied to score 5.0 runs in a pitcher-friendly road park.  

With the Angels relying on their mediocre bullpen, fantasy owners should not overlook Rougned Odor (TEX) in tournaments. Surprisingly, Odor has rated as an above-average hitter in both sides of the platoon split this season including a .341 wOBA, 112 wRC+ and 41.3-percent hard hit rate against lefties. Otherwise, Javier Baez (CHC) against a pitcher struggling to miss bats clearly comes loaded with upside potential despite the negative park shift (and potentially the weather) working against him. The last name worth noting is Daniel Murphy in St. Louis versus Luke Weaver and his .360 wOBA against left-handed hitters (LHHs) this season. Only Jon Gray has allowed a higher line drive rate to lefties than Weaver on this slate and Murphy has produced a 23.7-percent line drive over the course of the last 30 days. The correlation is unmistakable.

Third Base

Although he was mentioned in the first base section, Sano is the optimal third baseman in the FD model, and he is all over secondary optimals in the DK model. FD inherently allows positional flexibility due to the FLEX spot and he comes equipped with positional flexibility on DK now (1B/3B) as well. In other words, it should be relatively easy to find a way for him to fit.

The same goes for Carpenter who has already been discussed but he may not garner as much attention as he deserves because he will face one of the more talented pitchers of the evening. The Cardinals are listed as home favorites against Roark and a majority of the fly balls he has yielded have come off the bats of lefties. After producing a .490 wOBA in July, Carpenter sports a .448 wOBA in August heading into tonight. Since the All-Star Break, Carpenter is slashing .320/.439/.790 with a .470 ISO, .487 wOBA and 212 wRC+. He can get it done versus anyone so do not fear the matchup versus Roark.

Jeimer Candelario (DET) and Jurickson Profar (TEX) make up the next tier of the position as players who are fully-priced but merit serious consideration. Judging by Ervin Santana‘s depreciating velocity on a per-start basis, there appears to be something wrong with him, especially because his average fastball velocity is over 4.0 mph slower than it was in 2017 (89.2 versus 93.3 last year). Santana has gotten spanked around by both sides of the plate as Santana is not missing bats, getting hit hard (39.5-percent hard hit rate by lefties) and allowing tons of power (2.70 HR/9 rate and 55.8-percent fly ball rate to LHHs). Profar plays in power-friendly Globe Life Park in Arlington in nearly 100 degree weather against a mediocre bullpen (who will pitch from start to finish). Unfortunately, he does not come at a discount, so fantasy owners will need to punt elsewhere in order to fit him.

Third base cannot be discussed without at least mentioning David Fletcher (LAA) and Kaleb Cowart (LAA) against gas can Jurado. Since 2017, Jurado has produced a 4.33 FIP or higher at every level he has been at and he has not struck out opposing hitters at a rate higher than 14.1-percent. These guys are major league hitters and cheap against a pitcher who does not appear to be a Major League talent.

Shortstop

Like the catcher position, not a single player rates as a positive value at the shortstop position on DK, but FD is a different story. For some reason, Elvis Andrus (TEX) will only cost $3,200 to roster hitting in the middle of a lineup being implied to score 5.4 runs. He finds himself in the optimal lineup for both sites but he is not the no-brainer top option. Andrelton Simmons (LAA) gives him a run for his money and a strong case can be made for him as the alternative in cash games. Simmons ranks third in baseball in contact rate behind only Michael Brantley and Ian Kinsler while Jurado’s contact rate sits at a whopping 89.5-percent. By comparison, Bartolo Colon leads all qualified pitchers with an 88.2-percent contact rate, so hitters put the ball in play at a hefty rate versus Jurado. Simmons’ .347 xwOBA against RHP is 19 percentage points higher than his actual wOBA so it is reasonable to expect some positive regression from him.

Otherwise, the position should be used in stacks as Jorge Polanco (MIN), Jose Iglesias (DET), Trea Turner (WSH) and Aledmys Diaz (TOR) all rate as similarly negative values in the same tier. Polanco is on the wrong side of the platoon split but Liriano has been a mess versus right-handers all year long. Iglesias faces the suddenly soft-tossing Santana and would be a complement to Candelario in a mini-stack. Turner faces a poor running matchup because of Molina but there is always power potential with him. Diaz is in play because of Sparkman’s poor baselines in our model. If fading Andrus/Simmons, the position is a wasteland, with similarly valued players.

Outfield

Normally, Charlie Blackmon pops in our projections when playing at home, but he is our highest projected player in the outfield on Thursday playing in SunTrust Park. The reason? Julio Teheran and his 5.74 FIP, 42.1-percent hard hit rate against LHHs. Blackmon’s power is down this year but his .228 ISO and 109 wRC+ are still solid especially for his $3,300 price point.

The next highest projected players at the position are Shin-soo Choo (TEX), Bryce Harper (WSH), and Shohei Ohtani (LAA) who are scattered throughout the optimals of both sites. Choo will at least tie for the team lead in plate appearances against the Angels. There is no reason to avoid him in cash games. Harper is a DK-specific play, at least in terms of being in the optimal, against Weaver and his .360 wOBA against lefties. While the team is only being implied to score 4.0 runs, Harper hits in the middle of a potent lineup that should be prove to be contrarian. Ohtani faces the top matchup of all the hitters in this tier as Jurado is arguably a bottom-five pitcher in the big leagues at this moment. Both he and Justin Upton (LAA) are elite tournament plays as the masses will likely overlook this team because Mike Trout (LAA) is not in the lineup. There are plenty of viable hitters remaining in the lineup and Kole Calhoun (LAA) would be the third member of the stack if rostering these players together.

As noted earlier, Pirates against Lester are intriguing, especially ones with speed potential…like Starling Marte (PIT). Lester has allowed by far the most steals of any pitcher since 2014 and Marte has swiped a team-high seven bases against southpaws this year. If looking for a player in a prime spot to put his five-tool skill set on display, look no further than Marte. Kyle Schwarber (CHC) is viable for all the same reasons as Rizzo and he has even displayed more power against RHP. Joey Gallo (TEX) is included on the FD optimal and Randal Grichuk (TOR) is in optimal lineup number three due to them both rating as positive values. It remains to be seen which pitchers end up facing Gallo, and the Angels bullpen misses bats, but the ballpark and set up is ideal regardless. By now, discussing targeting against Sparkman should be overkill, but Grichuk and even Curtis Granderson (TOR) are power bats who could take advantage.

Stacks

Tier One

1) Texas Rangers

2) Chicago Cubs

3) Washington Nationals

There’s very little separation between our tier one offenses. The offense with the clear advantage in hitting environment is the Texas Rangers. We’ve pegged them with an IRT above 5, which is easily the highest in this slate. They’re facing a bullpen day from the Angels though, and we have their bullpen with slightly above average baselines. It makes sense to stack them in tournaments in a condensed slate.

The Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals are the road teams of this tier, and they’re very intriguing in tournaments. Throwing out LH heavy lineups and they’re facing pitchers that have meaningful wide splits. We’re particularly enamored with the Nationals. There’s speculation that they’ve thrown in the towel. That should work well for their ownership in tournaments moving forward, as it has for most of the season. They’re facing Luke Weaver, who simply can’t get LHBs out this season. Weaver has allowed a .360 wOBA and 1.44 HR/9 to LHBs this season. He allows more contact and walks more LHBs. The Nationals have plenty of LHBs in their lineup that could hurt him, and we don’t expect them to be popular in this slate.

Tier Two

4) Colorado Rockies

5) Los Angeles Angels

6) Toronto Blue Jays

7) Arizona Diamondbacks

The Los Angeles Angels are getting a significant park shift in their favor going into Arlington, but their offense stinks, particularly without Mike Trout in it. They work better as a mini-stack in this slate but we don’t mind a full stack either given the environment and a plus matchup against Ariel Jurado, who’s easily the worst starting pitcher in this slate.

The Blue Jays are facing bad starting pitching and the worst bullpen in all of baseball. There’s not a lot of upside names in their lineup but they remain intriguing in GPPs.

The Rockies and Diamondbacks are difficult to get excited about. The Rockies are getting a massive park shift downgrade and the Diamondbacks are in Petco Park. The one intriguing mini-stack is the Rockies LHBs against Teheran, but we’d reserve that for large field GPPs.

Tier Three

8) Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates are facing Jon Lester, who’s been struggling mightily of late, but that’s not enough for us to love this stack. After all, they’re in PNC Park, which is a very difficult park to generate RH power. There are some one-offs (like Starling Marte) and potentially a mini-stack that could be intriguing in tournaments for low ownership but we’d prefer it in MME.

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