Daily Fantasy Rundown – August 16 MLB DFS Picks and Analysis
Welcome to Sunday’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: Two games to watch for potential weather delays are in COL and MIN. The chances of a delay are higher in COL than they were yesterday. Lots of games being played with warm temperatures.
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.
Derek Norris (SD) – I know you all get sick of hearing about Coors by the end of a series, but it’s once again going to be an emphasis in today’s Rundown because of its importance in cash games. This starts right away at the catcher position, as Derek Norris should hit second with the platoon edge on Chris Rusin (.361 wOBA, 1.23 HR/9 allowed to RHBs since 2013). Norris has mashed LHP for his career, and the Padres have a team total of 5.5 (tied with the Rockies for the highest on the day), making Norris virtually a shoe in for five plate appearances on the road. As is often the case in Coors Field, the extremity of it as a hitter’s park (it’s not just the best, it’s an outlier) plays a pivotal role, but that’s enhanced by a bad starting pitcher (4.74 career ERA with almost all those innings coming outside of Coors) backed up by a bad bullpen (highest ERA in MLB).
Cash game alternatives: If price is an issue or Norris isn’t in the lineup, there are a couple viable cheap alternatives. We hate to be redundant, but once again the guys that best fit the bill here are John Jaso (TB) and Jonathan Lucroy (MIL). Jaso leads off against RHP for the Rays (.353 career wOBA against RHP with a high .170s ISO the past two seasons), and gets a massive park shift playing in Texas. Opposing pitcher Yovani Gallardo has had his K rate drop off the table this season, leading to a career worst 4.36 xFIP. Lucroy’s down season is partially due to hitting too many ground balls, but it’s primarily bad luck (HR/FB rate and BABIP both well below career marks despite EYE and hard hit rate in line with career mark). He continues to hit second in a good park and while he lacks the platoon edge, he faces a subpar pitcher in Aaron Harang who has allowed a .324 wOBA and 1.06 HR/9 to RHBs since 2013. Overall this season, Harang has a 4.52 ERA and 4.72 xFIP. Again, sometimes it’s frustrating to see the same names, but that will happen when guys are in favorable series against bad pitching staffs in favorable parks, especially at the scarcer positions. Keep pounding away at these values as it’s the plus-EV move over the long run.
Additional catcher notes: Aside from the main alternatives mentioned above, Yan Gomes (CLE) (moved up in order due to injuries; platoon edge against homer prone Tommy Milone), Brian McCann (NYY) (Drew Hutchison has allowed a .337 wOBA and 1.23 HR/9 to LHBs since 2013) and Evan Gattis (HOU) (elite option in all formats on FanDuel where he retains catcher eligibility) are all secondary values/strong tournament options. Yasmani Grandal (LAD) could make for a low owned tournament option due to opportunity cost and decent overall stats for opposing pitcher Anthony DeSclafani, but both Grandal and DeSclafani’s skills point towards legitimate power upside for the Dodger catcher. On the cheaper end of things, Ryan Hanigan (BOS) is worth a flier in tournaments, especially if part of a stack.
Top Play: Chris Davis (BAL) (David whacked two homers last night and is once again the top play at home against a very contact oriented RHP but price and the landscape of the day make him a better tournament option than a cash game one.
Adam Lind (MIL) – If paying up for pitching and Coors Field exposure, it’s difficult to go too expensive at first base. You’re best off going cheap or sticking to the mid-tier options. The best of the latter group is Adam Lind, who posts strong numbers against RHP year after year. His .384 wOBA and .229 ISO in that split this season are right in line with his career marks (.370 and .218). Lind is at home in friendly Miller Park and will square off against Aaron Harang, who has allowed a .341 wOBA and 1.09 HR/9 to LHBs since 2013.
Carlos Santana (CLE) – Santana’s having a disappointing season as a reduced hard hit rate is negatively impacting his power output, especially against LHP. While there’s some reason to be concerned, it’s foolish to let a small one year splits sample completely scare us off from using Santana (.295 wOBA) given his larger sample size history (.355 wOBA or greater in each of the previous four seasons). Santana will start off against homer prone Tommy Milone (1.28 per 9 for his career, 1.55 this season), who is backed up by a bad Twins bullpen (highest xFIP in MLB).
Cheap Plays: Opportunity cost is lower at first bad than on most days, making going cheap at the position a very viable strategy. Some of the best options for doing so are Travis Shaw (BOS) (has been hitting top six in the lineup; L/L matchup but Red Sox have a team total approaching 5), Jesus Montero (SEA) (disappointing start to this series, but he’ll have the platoon edge and huge park shift in his favor) and Adam LaRoche (CHW) (sixth spot in lineup and awful year have him a better tournament option than cash game play, but at home against Dan Haren there’s nice power upside for his near minimum priced tag around the industry.
Additional first base notes: On FanDuel, Mark Teixeira (NYY) isn’t that much more expensive than Lind/Santana, making him a strong cash game value. Drew Hutchison has struggled with LHBs, and as we’ve mentioned several times this year, Teixeira is simply having a phenomenal season (career high .300 ISO). Other secondary options for tournaments are Jose Abreu (CHW), Adrian Gonzalez (LAD) (cash viable on FanDuel) and Mike Napoli (TEX).
Jedd Gyorko (SD) – Between the matchup and Gyorko rediscovering his power stroke, which we’ve touched on a bunch the past two days, it’s difficult to pass him up today. This is one of the easiest ways to get access to this offense given Gyorko’s cost (somehow has decreased on DK since the series began) and a scarce MI position.
Jose Altuve (HOU) – If you’re moving off of Gyorko, it should be for Jose Altuve who is very reasonably priced across the industry, especially on FanDuel where scoring is conducive to his game as well (no negatives for a caught stealing). The matchup is phenomenal. Altuve has dominated LHP over his career (.381 wOBA), and opposing pitcher Matt Boyd has been hit incredibly hard through four MLB starts. While four starts is certainly a small sample size, Boyd simply might not be ready yet. His 32.8 hard minus soft hit rate is huge. If that was his hard hit rate alone, it would be above the league average. It’s not just that the average is high, either. It’s the consistency in which Boyd has been hit hard, allowing a hard hit rate of at least 36 percent in all four starts. Throw in a bottom of the barrel bullpen and a catcher in Alex Avila who is below average at throwing runners out, and Altuve could feast.
Additional second base notes: If eschewing the top plays at second base, it’s best to go cheap at the position, with the best options for doing so found in the Philadelphia-Milwaukee game. Chase Utley (PHI) has been leading off for Philadelphia when starting. He should follow up a strong game from last night (if he’s in the lineup) as Milwaukee represents a positive park shift and the young Taylor Jungmann is a RHP we expect to regress. Note that Utley is a trade risk, so despite the favorable situation/price, it might be best to avoid him even if he is in the initial lineup. Scooter Gennett (MIL) has been dropped from the leadoff spot but still occupies a top five lineup spot, which is more than enough to give him value at his very low pricing around the industry. Gennett isn’t a plus offensive player overall, but his career .350 wOBA and .159 ISO against RHP make him viable against subpar RHP in good hitting environments.
Shortstop strategy: Ideally, the way I’ll attack a scarce shortstop position today is to try and grab Coors Field exposure based on price. On FanDuel, where Jose Reyes (COL) has a mid-tier price tag, he’s my main target. On DraftKings, where Reyes is expensive and there’s a wider salary spread, Clint Barmes (SD) makes for a high upside punt play that provides you plenty of cap relief.
Additional shortstop notes: The top play at the position is easily Carlos Correa (HOU), given the season he is having, hitting at home and the favorable matchup against the Detroit pitching staff that we touched on earlier (Boyd’s incredibly high hard hit rate; bad bullpen behind him). Teammate Jed Lowrie (HOU) may be the better value of the two as it’s difficult to pay up for shortstop. The next in line option is Troy Tulowitzki (TOR). The matchup with Luis Severino is below average, but Tulowitzki is simply underpriced on DraftKings given the combination of his skill set relative to peers, the good hitter’s park and his spot atop the best lineup in baseball. Other options to consider at the position are Xander Bogaerts (BOS) (not a core play anywhere but the most consistent mid-tier value across the industry; platoon edge at home against Vidal Nuno who has allowed a .337 wOBA and 1.45 HR/9 to RHBs since 2012), Jhonny Peralta (STL) (bad park and no platoon edge but plus power for a shortstop against a subpar pitcher overall) and cheap leadoff hitters (Alcides Escobar (KC) and Jimmy Rollins (LAD) fit this bill).
Top Play: Nolan Arenado (COL) (clear cut top play at the position but priced accordingly and not someone I’m forcing into cash games due to the high price tag)
Pablo Sandoval (BOS) – I loathe using Sandoval against LHP, but the price/situation are too good to ignore today, despite Sandoval’s horrific career splits from the right side of the plate (.298 wOBA, .110 ISO). There’s no sugar coating those numbers. However, with Boston having a team total of five today and facing a pitcher that yields a ton of upside to opposing RHBs (.337 wOBA, 1.45 HR/9 since 2013), Sandoval is probably worth the risk if he has a top six lineup spot. It should also be noted that Vidal Nuno is unlikely to pitch deep into this game, giving Sandoval a decent shot to receive two at bats versus right-handed relievers. As mentioned in the first base section, teammate Travis Shaw is a viable option here as well with our preference going towards whoever receives the better lineup spot.
Chris Johnson (CLE) – Corner infield is surprisingly a spot we view as a way to save money. The high-end options don’t carry as much value as usual, and cap savings here goes a long way (Coors exposure at other positions, sticking to tier one starting pitcher options). With some injuries to the Cleveland lineup, look for Chris Johnson to have a prime lineup spot (hit third last time against a LHP). Given Tommy Milone‘s skills (average to below average pitcher who will give up power) and a bad Twins bullpen, Johnson immediately pops as a strong punt option with such a lineup spot. Keep in mind that Johnson has been putrid at the plate this season, something we’re willing to deal with given the circumstances but needs to be factored in.
Additional third base notes: The next in line option at third base is Manny Machado (BAL) who has some gaudy peripherals and a neutral matchup at home. Adrian Beltre (TEX) is the mid-tier value I’d be most likely to use. He has the platoon edge at home against Drew Smyly. In that same salary range but ranking behind Beltre is Evan Longoria (TB), who gets a big park shift in his favor. However, Longoria’s disappointing power and the lack of platoon edge keep our expectations in check. Tournament options to target are Alex Rodriguez (NYY) and Kris Bryant (CHC) (low ownership given that he’s facing Sale, but there’s still elite power upside here in this park).
Matt Kemp/Justin Upton (SD) – Kemp and Upton are both homer/steal threats each game and crush LHP historically. On FanDuel, where it will be tough to play more than one Coors Field outfielders in cash games, I may not force one of Kemp/Upton in. On sites like DraftKings where I can get a bit more creative in terms of roster construction and get two expensive outfielders in, you can guarantee one of them will be Kemp or Upton.
Charlie Blackmon/Carlos Gonzalez/Ben Paulsen (COL) – Blackmon is the Coors Field outfielder I may end up having the most exposure to, simply due to price, as he’s the most affordable of the high end options. For the second straight year, Blackmon is thriving as the team’s leadoff hitter. His DFS stock has only gone up as he’s learned to take a walk, which has probably aided his increase in both power (.170 ISO) and stolen base attempts (already has 31 after swiping 28 last season). We really haven’t touched on this side of the Coors Field game until now, but Blackmon and his teammates will face Ian Kennedy, who has struggled mightily thanks to a 19.1 HR/FB rate. Normally we’d call that bad luck (and bad luck certainly has something to do with it), but it has a lot to do with the quality of contact Kennedy yields (19.6 hard minus soft hit rate is around double the league average). That’s not something Coors Field is going to help the fly ball oriented Kennedy with, giving Blackmon’s teammate Carlos Gonzalez incredible power upside. Ben Paulsen (may be first base eligible on some sites) isn’t really a top play, but he’s a cheap way to get a Colorado bat in and has been hitting fifth recently.
Top Tournament Play:
Nelson Cruz (SEA) – Cruz absolutely obliterates LHP. Here are his wOBAs against southpaws from 2010 up through 2015: .413/.461/.400/.359/.416/.498. Here are his ISOs: .257/.360/.245/.183/.255/.358. The combination of elite level numbers and consistency is a bit jaw dropping. Cruz gets a massive park shift in his favor playing in Fenway Park (great for RHBs), and he’ll face rookie Henry Owens (projection systems peg him for around a 4.30 ERA and more than a HR/9) and a poor Red Sox bullpen. Cruz is likely to go underowned today simply due to opportunity cost (the Coors guys recommended above), which gives him additional upside in large field tournaments.
DraftKings Value Play:
Gerardo Parra (BAL) – I’m not sure what DraftKings has against Gerardo Parra, but he continues to be priced in the mid-low range of outfielders ($3,400). Parra has always been a solid hitter against RHP, but he’s taken his game to the next level this year due to tiny improvements across a few different areas (slightly lower K rate, more loft, higher hard hit rate). That’s led to better power numbers and more stolen bases (mostly due to increased opportunities). The Orioles have a team total approaching 5 today, and he’s the most cost effective way to get exposure to this lineup. Opposing pitcher Kendall Graveman doesn’t miss many bats (15.1 K percentage), something that’s difficult to get away with in hitter’s park, especially when it’s complemented by only league average control.
FanDuel Value Play:
Jacoby Ellsbury (NYY) – Jacoby Ellsbury has an anemic -3.0 hard minus soft hit rate, so I’d understand if you simply want to remove the cold hitter from consideration. I certainly won’t be paying full price for him until I see some sort of turnaround, but on FanDuel the price is far from full ($2,900). He leads off for a Yankees offense that could really give Drew Hutchison problems, as I’m more zoned in on Hutchison’s issues with LHBs (.337 wOBA allowed) and the favorable hitting environment than I am with Hutchison’s strong home splits this season.
Industry Wide Punt Play:
Shane Peterson (MIL) – Shane Peterson is not a good hitter. Let’s just get that out of the way. He has just a .320 wOBA despite getting very lucky (.402 BABIP). However, Petersen does have some modest power-speed upside, having gone 12-17 in HR-SB in 126 games at AAA in 2013 and 11-11 in 137 games at AAA last season. Combine that with the opportunity he has today (leading off at home against Aaron Harang), and we’re willing to overlook the overall offensive deficiencies in his game given the minimum price tag.
Additional outfield notes: Yasiel Puig (LAD) pops as a really strong value in our model. I’ve manually downgraded him based on this year’s production/possibly hitting sixth, but he’s still viable in cash games as a high upside bat facing a mediocre pitcher at a very reasonable price tag. High upside mid-high priced options that are viable secondary plays in all formats include Mookie Betts (BOS), Ryan Braun (MIL), Adam Jones (BAL) and Carlos Gomez (MIL). At a bit of a lower price point, Rusney Castillo (BOS) makes for a really nice cash game play as a third outfielder, if he’s able to return from a recent injury and continues to hit fifth against LHP. Grady Sizemore (TB) is a nice punt option where he’s very cheap. Tournament only plays across the industry include Yoenis Cespedes (NYM) and Joc Pederson (LAD).
Rankings (price not considered):
1) Chris Sale (CHW)
2) Zack Greinke (LAD)
3) Carlos Martinez (STL)
4) Carlos Carrasco (CLE)
5) Madison Bumgarner (SF)
6) Matt Harvey (NYM)
7) Joe Ross (WAS)
8) Shelby Miller (ATL)
9) Taylor Jungmann (MIL)
10) Mike Fiers (HOU)
11) Rubby de la Rosa (ARI)
12) Drew Smyly (TB)
Chris Sale (CHW) – Wow. We are loaded with quality starting pitcher options today, with most of them in matchups that only enhance their value. The first of these is Chris Sale. He carries some risk as the Cubs current lineup rates as above average against LHP, with some nice power upside in a great hitter’s park. However, the upside in the strikeout department and Sale’s overall skills more than make up for that bit of risk. We’ve got him pegged with a projected K rate around 36-37 percent on the day, as this is a matchup between the pitcher with the highest K rate (31.7 on the season) and the team we project to have the highest K rate based on pitcher handedness. As we’ve said all weekend, the top pitcher isn’t necessarily someone you have to play given a game in Coors Field and once again strong alternative options. I’ll actually be more prone to use him on multi-SP sites as it’s a bit easier to get creative and fit Sale in than it is on single pitcher sites.
Carlos Martinez (STL) – Both Carlos Martinez and Carlos Carrasco have favorable team matchups, in pitcher’s park and benefit from two of the most favorable home plate umpires for starting pitchers. Martinez faces a horrific Marlins lineup that has been without Giancarlo Stanton and has now lost Christian Yelich to the DL as well. Not only does that take away one of their better hitters, it removes a left-handed bat, which is important given Martinez’s dominance of RHBs (.277 wOBA, 27.3 K percentage since 2013) but struggles with LHBs (.345 wOBA, 17.5 K percentage). As an added bonus, JT Realmuto may rest on Sunday and give catching duties to Jeff Mathis, which is like being able to face a second pitcher in the lineup. Mathis has a career .236 wOBA and 28.1 K percentage against RHP. While lineups will be important (we’re looking for four or less LHBs and Mathis to be in), this is a quality start from a macro perspective as well. Busch Stadium is very friendly for pitchers, and Martinez’s skills have been sharp all season long. He’s striking out more than a batter an inning, which combined with a 54.9 GB rate and 4.2 hard minus soft hit rate makes him an ace. Martinez is a heavy -240 favorite, and given the gap in pricing between him and Sale on FanDuel and the emphasis on a win, it makes sense in my eyes to take Martinez’s value and sacrifice Sale’s incredible upside.
Carlos Carrasco (CLE) – With Martinez at home and being such a heavy favorite, he slightly edges out Carrasco in our rankings. Still, Carrasco also belongs in the tier one conversation despite costing much less than Sale/Greinke/Harvey/Bumgarner. He’s really had elite peripherals all season long (2.73 xFIP, 27.2 K percentage, 51.1 GB rate), but has underachieved due to hard hit contact allowed. That’s an issue Carrasco seems to have solved. After allowing a hard hit rate of 32.5 or greater in each of April, May and June, Carrasco has posted hard hit rates of 22.1 in July and 20.5 in June. With those issues behind him, his baseline in my eyes is more or less in line with his incredible 2014 breakout season. He’ll take on a Twins team whose current lineup we project to be favorable (for opposing pitchers) both in terms of wOBA and K percentage in pitcher friendly Target Field.
Additional starting pitcher notes: Zack Greinke (LAD) also gets a very favorable umpire, something we look at a bit more closely when there’s such a tightly clustered group of pitchers throwing. The only issue surrounding him is price, which makes him more of a secondary value or better for tournaments. Madison Bumgarner (SF) is yet another ace on the mound. He’s at home in the friendliest pitcher’s park in all of baseball, but as with Greinke, price is an issue as is a Nationals lineup that’s heavily right-handed and features a few bats with strong platoon splits. It’s odd to see Matt Harvey (NYM) ranked so low, but here are the reasons for it. Despite his great recent run, the K percentage is actually the worst of the tier one group. Also, he has an extremely unfavorable umpire, when Martinez/Carrasco/Greinke all have very favorable ones. He still belongs in the top tier, but with his price tag and sixth ranking, we’re primarily targeting him in tournaments. When we finally get outside the tier one options, there are a couple of nice mid-tier guys in Joe Ross (WAS) and Shelby Miller (ATL), but the opportunity cost in using them is simply so high. Ross is an interesting case. On one hand we don’t expect his current peripherals to hold, but he’s been above average all three major skill stats (K, BB and GB rate) that we expect him to remain a solid pitcher. Kind of similarly, the Giants lineup isn’t one we tend to pick on (first in wRC+ against RHP), but our projections for this lineup indicate they should regress moving forwards. Pitching in San Francisco always helps as well. Miller is having an outstanding year. His K and BB rates are moving back to his solid 2013 numbers and out of nowhere he’s transformed from a pitcher with a fly ball tilt to a heavy GB pitcher (50.0 GB rate). The guys I like most in tournaments are Mike Fiers (HOU) (great umpire and high K rate) and Luis Severino (NYY) (doesn’t crack our rankings but worth a shot on in case he’s able to be elite right away, in which case he’s underpriced despite a horrific matchup).
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 Tournament Stacks/Cash Game Mini Stacks:
1) San Diego Padres (Guaranteed ninth inning as the road team gives them a slight edge over the Rockies)
2) Colorado Rockies
1) Houston Astros (An umpire that’s extremely favorable for pitchers is the only reason this stack doesn’t receive more emphasis for cash games; Astros HR-SB prowess meets Boyd’s high hard hit rate and a lackluster bullpen)
2) Baltimore Orioles (Three top of the order power threats in Machado, Jones and Davis; facing a pitch to contact guy in Camden Yards)
3) Boston Red Sox (Can they do it three days in a row? Matchup is certainly strong on paper but do be aware that Nuno has improved and this umpire is favorable for pitchers – lots of umpires one extreme ends today)
4) Chicago White Sox (The first three stacks in this section fit both the contrarian and secondary cash stack bill, but the White Sox stack should only be used as a contrarian stack in large field tournaments; Haren and his 1.55 HR/9 will be pitching in a very unforgiving park and the 4.71 FIP points towards some expected regression)
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.
NYY at TOR 1:07: Retractable roof. Dry. Temps in the low to mid 80s. Air density is an 8. Wind south-southwest 5-10 mph which blows out to right-center. The wind is a 6.
PIT at NYM 1:10: Dry. Temps near 90. Air density is an 8, almost a 9. Wind west-southwest 4-8 mph which blows out to right-center. The wind is a 6.
OAK at BLT 1:35: Dry. Temps near 90. Air density is an 8, almost a 9. Wind southwest 5-10 mph which blows out to center. The wind is a 6.
SEA at BOS 1:35: Dry. Temps in the mid to upper 80s. Air density is an 8. Wind southwest 7-14 mph which blows out to center. The wind is a 6.
AZ at ATL 1:35: Dry. Temps in the mid to upper 80s. Air density is an 8. Wind southeast 7-14 mph which blows from right to left. The wind is a 5.
CHC at CHW 2:10: Dry. Temps near 90. Air density is a 9. Wind southwest 9-18 mph which blows from right to left. The wind is a 5.
PHL at MIL 2:10: Retractable roof. Dry. Temps in the mid to upper 80s. Air density is an 8. Wind southwest 10-20 mph which blows from right to left. The wind is a 5.
CLE at MIN 2:10: Thunderstorms should be just north of the city at the beginning of the game. Another band of thunderstorms will approach from the west after 5 PM eastern. Would put the chance of a delay at ~20% and a ppd less than 10%. Temps in the low 80s. Air density is a 8. Wind southwest 8-16 mph which blows out to left. The wind is a 7.
DET at HOU 2:10: Retractable roof. Dry. Temps in the low to mid 90s. Air density is a 9. Wind south-southeast 6-12 mph which blows out to center. The wind is a 6.
MIA at STL 2:15: Dry. Temps in the mid to upper 80s. Air density is an 8. Wind south-southeast 5-10 mph which blows out to left. The wind is a 6.
TB at TEX 3:05: Dry. Temps in the mid 90s. Air density is a 9. Wind southeast 6-12 mph which blows in from center. The wind is a 4.
WSH at SF 4:05: Dry. Temps near 80. Air density is a 7 or an 8. Wind northwest 10-20 mph which blows out to right. The wind is an 8.
CIN at LAD 4:10: Dry. Temps near 80. Air density is a 7 or an 8. Wind west-southwest 8-16 mph which blows out to right. The wind is a 7.
SD at COL 4:10: A 10-20% chance of a delay due to a thunderstorm, generally after 6 PM eastern. Temps in the upper 80s. Air density is a 10. Wind northeast 5-10 mph which blows in from right. The wind is a 4.
LAA at KC 8:08: dry. Temps in the upper 80s falling into the upper 70s. Air density is an 8 becoming a 7. Wind south-southeast 6-12 mph which blows out to left. The wind is a 6.