Daily Fantasy Rundown – August 17 MLB DFS Picks and Analysis
Welcome to Monday’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: No weather problems expected tonight.
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.
Brian McCann (NYY) – McCann is more of a luxury than a need tonight (high price, emphasize pitching first), but if you end up able to spend at the catcher position, he’s the top option salary aside. He’ll have the platoon edge with the short porch in right against RHP Kyle Gibson. Gibson has improved (finally starting to miss a few more bats but still below league average), but he still rates a below average pitcher (around a 4.00 ERA guy). He’s backed up by a horrific bullpen (Twins relievers have the highest xFIP in MLB), and the Yankees have a very health implied run total tonight, pushing 5.
Jonathan Lucroy (MIL) – Yeah, yeah I know you’re sick of seeing Lucroy’s name here, but he continues to be extremely underpriced across the industry (bare minimum on FanDuel) and is the smartest choice on a short slate. He’s likely the best per dollar value in action at the catcher position, and his low total cost allows you to pay up for the top two starting pitchers on the slate, which is recommended in cash games. Lucroy’s peripherals and projection systems both indicate he’ll almost assuredly have better surface statistics moving forward than what he’s posted to date. His history against LHP is strong, and this matchup is great. Lucroy is at home in hitter friendly Miller Park and facing Marlins LHP Justin Nicolino. Nicolino hasn’t even been able to crack the 5 K/9 marker in the Minor Leagues his past two seasons and has a laughably low 5.9 K percentage through three MLB starts this year. When you factor in that Nicolino is ground ball neutral and has yielded hard contact thus far (39.0 hard hit rate), the Brewers offense has a ton of upside this evening. Lucroy’s my main target in cash games.
Yan Gomes (CLE) – The Cleveland offense as a whole is tough to project tonight as they square off against RHP Matt Barnes. He’s worked solely as a reliever at the MLB level this season, but was sent down in the middle of July where he also pitched in relief until being stretched out over two starts prior to the call up. In this two starts, Barnes maxed out at 22 batters faced with innings totals of 4.2 and 3.1. So, the difficulty here is 1-determining a baseline for Barnes as a starter and 2-guessing how many innings he’ll throw. Projections systems are split on Barnes, but that’s again due to Steamer projecting him only as a reliever. ZiPS projects Barnes as a mix between relieving and starting and calls for a 4.56 ERA and 1.12 HR/9. In a very limited sample at the MLB level (entirely in relief, 31.1 IP), Barnes has been lit up by the long ball (2.01 per 9) leading to a 5.17 ERA. Whether Barnes goes 4 or 5 innings or perhaps pitches into the sixth, it’s clear the Red Sox bullpen is pitching a minimum of three innings in this one. That’s good news for a Cleveland offense, that gets a nice park shift in their favor, as the Red Sox bullpen has the third highest xFIP, fourth highest ERA and highest HR/9. When we put it all together along with a Vegas team total around 5, it’s clear there is plenty of upside for this lineup. Gomes has horrific plate discipline and is better against LHP, but the team upside, his power and an improved lineup spot (has been hitting third) makes him a viable alternative to Lucroy.
Additional catcher notes: Evan Gattis (HOU) is playable on FD at catcher, but he’s been hitting further down in the order against RHP. I’d consider him a better tournament option and ranked behind the three written up recommendations in terms of cash game preference. Other tournament options are Stephen Vogt (OAK) (hitting horribly since a hot start but good park shift, price and platoon edge), AJ Pierzynski (ATL) (good lineup spot and platoon edge against an underwhelming rookie SP) and Jason Castro (HOU) (rates as one of the best values in terms of per plate appearance production for tonight; lineup spot keeps him out of cash game consideration).
Mark Teixeira (NYY) – Teixeira is the top option on the slate as you get one of the biggest HR threats (career best .297 ISO, second best park in MLB for left-handed HRs) and exposure to the very high Yankees total all at the same time. While Kyle Gibson does keep the ball on the ground, his career HR/FB rate is slightly higher than average (despite playing home games in Target Field), and as mentioned before, this Twins bullpen is one of the worst in the league. You may not be able to squeeze Teixeira in where he’s priced like a top first baseman, but I’ll make every effort on sites like FanDuel where he simply has a mid-tier price.
Prince Fielder (TEX) – Fielder’s bounce back season is predicated on increasing his hard hit rate and reducing his GB rate, leading to a .169 ISO. He’s not going to hit for the power he did during his best years, but is certainly usable at home (ignore the one year home splits) versus shaky RHPs. Taijuan Walker is a good, but volatile pitcher. He has a fly ball tilt and higher than average hard hit rate, which has led to home run problems. Fielder is a high upside mid-tier value.
Carlos Santana (CLE) – As mentioned in Yan Gomes‘ write up, it’s a bit difficult to pinpoint the specific Cleveland values with what is essentially going to be a bullpen game. However, we do know that Cleveland has tremendous team upside and one of the highest implied run totals on the slate. They’re guaranteed a full nine innings’ worth of at bats on the road. While Santana has a higher career wOBA from the right side of the plate, he’s been much more powerful as a left-handed batter, particularly recently. That’s the side he’ll start on tonight.
Joe Mauer (MIN) – Mauer gets a massive park shift in his favor as only Coors Field represents a more favorable hitting environment for LHBs than Yankee Stadium. He’s pretty cheap across the industry, and may be mispriced on sites that take into account matchup when setting salaries as CC Sabathia (originally expected to start) will be replaced by RHP Bryan Mitchell as the team’s starter. Mitchell has worked primarily as a reliever at the MLB level (made one start and eight relief appearances), but did start 15 games in the Minors. Expect a short outing (around five innings) for Mitchell, who has subpar control and very pessimistic ZiPS projections.
Additional first base notes: Jose Abreu (CHW) rates very well in our model. Heaney’s success and the ballpark and expected low ownership on Abreu keeps him as a secondary target in cash games (I’ll likely stick to the recommended options above). He could make for a really strong contrarian option however. Keep in mind that Heaney, despite his overall surface stats being strong, has yielded a .336 wOBA, 1.57 HR/9 and a 37.4 hard hit rate to RHBs. Other options for tournaments are David Ortiz (BOS) (Salazar is a really good pitcher but volatile), Adam Lind (MIL) (always like grabbing low ownership on L/L guys hitting for teams we like in general) and Pedro Alvarez (PIT) (nice HR upside against Jeremy Hellickson, who struggles with LHBs and allows plenty of hard hit contact).
Brian Dozier (MIN) – Dozier is the top option in our model. As we’ve touched on before, his strides in hard hit rate and loft (.64 GB/FB ratio resembles that of pure power hitters) have led to Dozier posting a .248 ISO, which when compared to his peers is simply amazing. Neil Walker has the second best ISO for a 2B at .165 so Dozier gives you power upside you simply can’t find somewhere else at the position. When you couple those skills with a hugely positive park shift and a beginning matchup against Bryan Mitchell (ZiPS projected 1.41 HR/9), it’s easy to see why Dozier is the top play. Throw in an affordable price tag, and I’ll try to make room for him in cash games.
Additional second base notes: If you can’t afford Dozier, let site pricing dictate where you go. On FanDuel, Dee Gordon (MIA) is a couple hundred bucks less expensive. He’ll have the platoon edge against a below average RHP in Matt Garza and is getting a positive park shift. Gordon’s value is enhanced on FanDuel since they don’t deduct points for caught stealing (reason why Jose Altuve (HOU) is in the cash game conversation there, but I prefer Dozier). An even cheaper option there is Neil Walker (PIT), who as mentioned above has the second highest ISO among any second baseman. Most of his power comes from the left side of the plate, where he’ll start from tonight against Jeremy Hellickson (.327 wOBA and 1.17 HR/9 allowed to LHBs since 2012). Over at DraftKings, I’m probably going to punt the position if not paying for Dozier, and the best candidate to do that with is Jose Ramirez (CLE), simply due to opportunity (lineup spot, price, team total).
Shortstop notes: The shortstop position is rather putrid this evening. The obvious top play is Carlos Correa (HOU) but given his high cost, lack of platoon edge and some overall improvements from Erasmo Ramirez, he’s only an option for tournaments. Rather in cash games, I’ll look to simply save money at the position. The primary targets for doing so are Jean Segura (MIL) (platoon edge, leads off against LHP) and Francisco Lindor/Jose Ramirez (CLE) (top two lineup spots, switch hitters, good shot at five plate appearances). Those options don’t have strong offensive skills but have really good opportunity at a low cost. Jung-ho Kang (PIT) also has a favorable price tag on DraftKings. In tournaments, cheap shortstops on both sides of the Twins-Yankees matchup are viable.
Top Plays: With a couple of value play options we’re not entirely comfortable with (see the additional notes), I’m leaning towards simply paying up at the third base position tonight. The two clear cut, high power upside options are Alex Rodriguez (NYY) and Miguel Sano (MIN). They rate similarly tonight as Rodriguez’s Yankees have the higher team total, but Sano’s Twins are guaranteed a full nine innings’ worth of at bats. Looking at Rodriguez’s month to month splits, his hard hit rate is starting to dip, but he continues to elevate the ball. His ISO moving forward is likely to drop from its current .237 mark, but we are still buying it for the most part. Sano has a whopping .248 ISO through 37 games, and projections systems have him pegged in the .225-.230 range, which is quite optimistic for a rookie. His absurdly high hard hit rate of 46.1 percent and ability to generate loft is paying immediate dividends, and we’re going to continue to invest until he becomes one of the higher priced options at the position.
Derek Dietrich (MIA) – We’re recommending using a lot of top options in cash games today as the savings at catcher and shortstop allows you to do so without sacrificing starting pitching. However, if you’re struggling to pay up at third base in addition to other spots we’ve recommended, punting with a very cheap Derek Dietrich is an option (particularly on DraftKings). We’ve got nearly a full season’s worth of data on Dietrich between his stints during 2013, 2014 and 2015. While that’s still not a huge sample size, we’re impressed with Dietrich’s power (.190 ISO), which is backed up by decent metrics in hard hit rate and loft. Dietrich gets a big park shift in his favor (we’ve got Miami as the second worst park for left-handed hitters and Milwaukee as the seventh best). He’ll face Matt Garza who is having the worst year of his career due to a variety of issues (K rate, HR/FB rate, BB rate). The biggest downside to using Dietrich is the lack of support around him as this is a pretty weak Marlins lineup, but that’s factored into his pricing.
Additional third base notes: Both Adrian Beltre (TEX) and Evan Longoria (TB) rate as strong values in our model but due to a combination of their peripherals/opposing pitcher peripherals, we view them more as secondary option and suggest sticking to the written up recommendations. If Travis Shaw (BOS) has a top five lineup spot, I’d consider him a viable punt option where minimum priced (DraftKings) and tournament playable elsewhere.
Top Play: Mike Trout (LAA) (number one overall hitter in our model but with us recommending to pay up at various other offensive positions and pitcher, he’s not someone who is part of current cash game plans)
Ryan Braun (MIL) – ZiPS projects Justin Nicolino to allow a .333 wOBA and .148 ISO to RHBs, and honestly that strikes me as optimistic given Nicolino’s low K rate (extending back to the Minors) and issues allowing a higher hard hit rate at the MLB level (small sample size warning). Not only are we seeing a power back from Braun (ISO up to .220, 38.1 hard hit rate), which was somewhat expected, but he’s back to running on the base paths again, something I did not see coming. He’s currently at 18 of 20 in stolen base attempts after stealing just 15 combined bases the previous two seasons. With Braun possession both power and speed upside and at home against a subpar LHP we expect to have a lot of problems, he’s a core target for me in cash games. Teammate Khris Davis (MIL) is also cash game playable, and I particularly like him in tournaments due to his boom or bust nature.
Brett Gardner (NYY) – Gardner is no longer a 50 stolen base threat over a full season, but he’s making up for it with surprisingly consistent pop for a hitter of his nature. Here are his ISOs the last three seasons, following an injury plagued 2012: .143/.166/.153. Throw in his awesome home park and a wOBA of .340-plus against RHP for the third straight season, and Gardner is an excellent option near the top of the Yankees lineup. Teammate Jacoby Ellsbury (NYY) is also viable, especially where his price has really dipped, but some major issues with his peripherals prevents him from being a core play (21.0 hard hit rate, career high K rate, reduced stolen base success).
Aaron Hicks/Eddie Rosario (MIN) – Hicks is the highest upside target from the Twins outfield as he leads off and has a nice power-speed combination. In the previous two seasons at the MLB level, Hicks struggled mightily as he couldn’t make contact (K rates of 26.8 and 24.9). He seems to have solved that issue this year (15.0 K rate), which is driving most of his success. If you can’t afford Hicks, Rosario is a cheaper alternative for cash games, assuming a top six lineup spot. The risk with Rosario is his horrendous plate discipline (.14 EYE), but he’s a power-speed threat like Hicks and has a .337 wOBA and .197 ISO against RHP this season (admittedly a small sample).
Colby Rasmus/Preston Tucker (HOU) – While I have a growing affinity for Erasmo Ramirez, he’s undergoing a very negative park shift and has a career 4.46 xFIP against LHBs. Depending on lineup spots, Rasmus and Tucker both make for viable complementary options. Rasmus has quietly been very productive against RHP from a power standpoint, putting up ISOs in that split of .250/.232/.240 the last three seasons. Tucker broke out at AAA this season and has held his own at the MLB level, putting up an overall .333 wOBA and .207 ISO.
Additional outfield notes: Shane Victorino (LAA) is a viable punt option for the Angels if he leads off. Other secondary values in the outfield include Carlos Gomez (HOU), Starling Marte (PIT), Shin-Soo Choo (TEX) and Josh Reddick (OAK). Some tournament only plays are Nelson Cruz/Franklin Gutierrez (SEA), Mitch Moreland/Josh Hamilton (TEX), Jason Heyward (STL), Gregory Polanco (PIT) and Torii Hunter (MIN).
Rankings (price not considered):
1) Gerrit Cole (PIT)
2) Michael Wacha (STL)
3) Cole Hamels (TEX)
4) Sonny Gray (OAK)
5) Scott Kazmir (HOU)
6) Danny Salazar (CLE)
7) Carlos Rodon (CHW)
8) Andrew Heaney (LAA)
9) Chris Heston (SF)
10) Erasmo Ramirez (TB)
11) Jeremy Hellickson (ARI)
12) Colin Rea (SD)
Gerrit Cole (PIT) – We were a bit more value conscious than usual this past weekend as there were some guys that ranked below the top starting pitchers that were both in good matchups for their price tags and allowed us to get exposure to the hitting environments we wanted. That won’t be the case today. On a shorter slate Monday, it’s best to go chalk and play it safe in cash games and focus on our top two starting pitchers, even on multi-SP sites. Cole leads are rankings. He’s a huge favorite (-230, largest of the evening) at home in very pitcher friendly PNC Park. Cole will take on a Diamondbacks team that represents a neutral to slightly positive matchup (middle of the pack in wRC+ against RHP with a bit higher than average K rate). This is mostly about the odds, park and Cole’s skill set than it is anything specific we see in the Diamondbacks offense. For the second straight season, the former number one pick has taken a big step forward. He’s made slight improvements across the board (K, BB and GB rates) that have led to a career best xFIP and pitching deeper into games (consequently improves W, K totals).
Next in line:
Michael Wacha (STL) – Our model actually has Wacha and Cole neck and neck. I’ve manually adjusted the gap to be a bit wider since Cole’s win probability is meaningfully larger, and our projection system may be short-changing a Giants offense that is first in wRC+ against RHP with a well below average K rate. Still, we expect some regression from the Giants offense, based on the baselines for the current lineup they are utilizing, and a positive start from Wacha at home in pitcher friendly Busch stadium. Wacha, as noted the last few times in the Rundown that he’s started, has started missing bats again. He’s now on his third consecutive month with a K percentage of 23 or higher after posting just a 16.0 K percentage over the season’s first two months. The gap between Cole and Wacha is smaller than the gap between Wacha and the tier two starting pitchers. He’s a good alternative to Cole on single-SP sites if cheaper (would still try to get up to call, especially if win is weighted heavily), and I suggest making room for both in cash games on multi-SP sites.
Carlos Rodon (CHW) – With most of the tier two starting pitchers expensive and in hitter’s park, it makes sense to climb even further down the salary ladder in search for a value play. That brings us to Carlos Rodon, who is a high risk-high reward option. Rodon dominated this same Angels team in Chicago last time out (11 Ks, 0 ER, 7 IP), and now he’s facing them in a much friendlier environment for pitching. I wouldn’t put too much stock into the last start in terms of thinking Rodon is destined to succeed against this Angels team specifically. What I am putting some stock into is just how dominant he was (0.80 xFIP, remarkably just one walk, 57.1 GB rate), especially in light of his prospect status. There’s certainly risk here. Rodon has failed to get out of the fourth inning in three of his past five starts and has three starts this season in which he’s allowed seven-plus earned runs. As a result, I’d rather take a chance on his upside in tournaments, but if you’re eschewing Cole/Wacha, even in cash games Rodon is the next most reasonable choice given his low pricing.
Additional starting pitcher notes: Cole Hamels (TEX), Sonny Gray (OAK) and Scott Kazmir (HOU) all rank similarly in our model. Hamels and Kazmir are secondary values on DraftKings where they are similarly priced, but Gray is the most expensive option there, relegating him to tournament only status. All three pitch in tough environments, widening the gap between them and the tier one starting pitchers, who are both in very pitcher friendly environments. Hamels is my preferred option of the group as he’ll get to at least face a couple of LHBs up top, and all his indicators suggest he’s pitching just as well as last season, despite worse surface stats. Danny Salazar (CLE) has the highest K percentage of any pitcher in action, and for that reason alone, he can be used in tournaments. This isn’t a good matchup for him however. Andrew Heaney (LAA) will probably be a popular value play selection. He’s actually a favorite over Rodon, who we have ranked one spot higher, and the White Sox offense ranks 28th in wRC+ against LHP. Concerns over Heaney’s K rate and hard hit rate are why we have him a spot lower, but I expect the market to be more bullish on Heaney than we are. Colin Rea (SD) is worth using in tournaments if multi-entering and want to really load up on bats. He’s incredibly cheap, in a great pitcher’s park and facing a very weak lineup, but his skills are questionable. Here’s Mike Diaz on Colin Rea prior to his debut last week:
“RHP Colin Rea (SD Padres) – Making his debut tonight vs. CIN. When drafted he was tabbed as a #5 starter type, but Rea has since improved his velocity and delivery. Fastball will reach the mid 90s but not overpowering. Has pitched effectively in AA/AAA this season, but lacks K upside. Rea is a middle of the rotation type guy at best, with not a lot of DFS upside.”
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) Milwaukee Brewers
2) New York Yankees
3) Minnesota Twins
These teams were all covered extensively in the positional analysis.
1) Texas Rangers (Taijuan Walker is a good, but volatile pitcher undergoing an extremely negative paro shift)
2) Houston Astros (You know the drill with this team by now)
3) Miami Marlins (will go underowned because it’s a bad lineup, but the park shift and Garza’s down season give them plenty of value upside)
4) Chicago White Sox (the most contrarian of the secondary stacks and best used in large field tournaments only; Heaney keeps proving me wrong, but on a short slate I’m willing to play against that high hard hit rate and expect some 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.
OAK at BLT 7:05: Dry. Temps in the mid to upper 80s falling into the upper 70s. Air density is an 8. Wind south 5-10 mph lessening to 3-6 mph which blows out to left. The wind is a 6.
MIN at NYY 7:05: Dry. Temps in the mid to upper 80s falling to near 80. Air density is an 8. Wind southwest 4-8 mph which blows out to left-center. The wind is a 6.
AZ at PIT 7:05: Dry. Temps in the mid 80s falling into the upper 70s. Air density is an 8. Wind southwest 3-6 mph which blows from right to left. The wind is a 5.
CLE at BOS 7:10: Dry. Temps in the mid to upper 80s falling to near 80. Air density is an 8. Wind south-southwest 6-12 mph which blows out to center. The wind is a 6.
SF at STL 8:00: Dry. Temps in the low to mid 80s falling into the upper 70s. Air density is an 8. Wind southeast 7-14 mph which blows from right to left. The wind is a 5.
SEA at TEX 8:05: Dry. Temps in the low to mid 90s falling into the upper 80s. Air density is an 9. Wind southeast 7-14 mph which blows in from center. The wind is a 4.
MIA at MIL 8:10: Retractable roof. Numerous showers and thunderstorms around. The roof will likely be closed.
TB at HOU 8:10: Retractable roof. Numerous showers and thunderstorms around. The roof will likely be closed.
CHW at LAA 10:05: Dry. Temps in the low to mid 70s falling to near 70. Air density is a 7. Wind west-southwest 7-14 mph which blows out to right. The wind is a 6.
ATL at SD 10:10: Dry. Temps near 80 falling into the low to mid 70s. Air density is an 8 becoming a 7. Wind south-southwest 7-14 mph which blows out to right-center. The wind is a 6.