Daily Fantasy Rundown – August 18 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.
Weather: Major weather concern in CIN, lesser worries in BLT, PHL, PIT and even smaller concerns in STL and CHC. Wind blows out to right in CHC, to left in BOS
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.
Russell Martin (TOR) – The Jays are the best offense in baseball against LHP and it’s by a rather wide margin (126 wRC+, next highest is 114). Martin’s price tag is down around the industry and the shift to the National League will likely keep him in a premier lineup spot. Adam Morgan has really struggled with RHBs (.358 wOBA, 34.1 hard hit rate, and 1.63 HR/9) at the big league level which brings all of the Jays elite RHBs in play. This season, Martin has posted a .424 wOBA and .254 ISO against LHP (.352/.182 since 2012). He’s a Top 25 hitter overall in our model. Martin is the one with the best price point and he comes at a thin position. He’s our primary target at the catcher position in cash games.
Additional catcher notes: Buster Posey (SF) ranks a bit behind Martin in our model, but generally comes at a higher price tag. He’s always great against LHP but against Garcia’s extreme GB tendencies the likelihood of a home run is low. Wilson Ramos (WAS) and Salvador Perez (KC) are parts of offenses we really like in great scoring environments but they rank well below Martin (Top 50 hitters) so they’re better used in tournaments as a part of a stack or mini-stack.
First base is loaded with top options on Wednesday and we have three inside our Top 10 and five inside our Top 15 overall hitters. Edwin Encarnacion (TOR), Joey Votto (CIN), and Paul Goldschmidt (ARZ) all rank inside our Top 10 hitters while Eric Hosmer (KC) and Ryan Zimmerman (WAS) aren’t far behind. Encarnacion ranks highest in our model and we love targeting Blue Jays exposure tonight, but I’d generally let price guide me here. They all rank so closely. Miguel Cabrera (DET) ranks a bit behind due to the tough matchup with Jon Lester, but I’d consider him a solid tournament target given the wind conditions in Wrigley.
Additional first base notes: In general, I believe it’s a night to spend at first base. The “value” plays aren’t abundantly clear and operate more as pure salary relief options. Brandon Moss (STL) and Carlos Santana (CLE) are the two options with slightly soft price tags in favorable situations. Moss gets a homer prone Matt Cain while Santana gets a sweet matchup with Joe Kelly in Fenway. Santana is the more desirable play but I’d only invest if his tag is severely discounted from the top options and I need salary relief (like on FanDuel).
Anthony Rendon/Danny Espinosa (WAS) – Whoever earns the start for the Nationals and the better lineup spot will ultimately earn the nod as our top play at the position. Jorge de la Rosa has allowed a .333 wOBA and 32.6 percent hard hit rate against RHBs since 2013. Rendon (.357 wOBA, .149 ISO) and Espinosa (.338 wOBA, .164 ISO) have historically hit LHP well and they get a huge park shift in their favor. Throw in a likely premier lineup spot for one of the two and you’ve got our top recommendation at the second base position.
Next in line: Ben Zobrist (KC) – The Royals hitters take a back seat to the other elite offenses today, but they’re fine secondary targets should lineups not emerge the way we hope. Zobrist cracks our Top 20 hitters overall thanks to a favorable matchup with Keyvius Sampson who has posted a career ERA over 6.00 at AAA before his promotion. Zobrist is a solid hitter against RHP (.344 wOBA, .163 ISO since 2012) and is getting a substantial park shift. Throw in a below average bullpen behind Sampson and Zobrist makes for a strong play. On a different day, he’d garner significant attention. Tonight, he’s an insurance plan if Rendon or Espinosa don’t find strong lineup spots.
Additional second base notes: Jason Kipnis (CLE) was activated from the DL last night but didn’t make the starting lineup. I expect he’ll be back in there this evening against RHP Joe Kelly. The matchup is great and the price point is fair, but we strongly lean in the direction of Coors Field. Kipnis is an intriguing tournament play or a fallback option should Rendon and Espinosa both find themselves out of the lineup. The only other second baseman I’m entertaining on Wednesday is Aaron Hill (ARZ) and that is severely dependent on the lineup spot. He hit second last night against Liriano and if he garners that spot against Happ, he’s cheap enough to consider as a punt play.
Troy Tulowitzki (TOR) – Tulowitzki grades out as our top overall hitter on the entire slate. I was a little surprised Tulowitzki graded out above Bautista, Encarnacion, Trout, and McCutchen but the model has him ranked as our number one hitter. When we account for positional scarcity, price point, and plate appearances (leadoff on the road), Tulowitzki is solidified as your top target overall. We’ve touched on Adam Morgan‘s struggles against RHBs and the Blue Jays have an implied run total in line with the Nationals and Cubs.
Ian Desmond (WAS) – Desmond also cracks our Top 15 hitters overall and last night he got the opportunity to hit fifth, which is a substantial upgrade from the sixth and seventh slots he’s manned much of the season. Desmond owns a .331 wOBA and .168 ISO against LHP since 2012. He’s not as good of a hitter as Tulowitzki and he’s typically hitting from a worse lineup spot. We think the gap is substantial but Desmond is a solid option in his own right.
Additional shortstop notes: There is a rather large gap between Tulowitzki/Desmond and the field. Jose Reyes (COL), Jung Ho Kang (PIT), and Alcides Escobar (KC) each crack our Top 75 hitters overall. Escobar is the one that has a punt price tag (FanDuel) that has enough separation from Desmond and Tulowitzki to consider.
Josh Donaldson (TOR) – The things Donaldson has done against LHP (.419 wOBA, .305 ISO since 2012, .458 wOBA, .345 ISO this season) are just ridiculous. The price tag is difficult to squeeze in and we’re more likely to build a more balanced roster allowing us to invest in players from Washington, Toronto, and Chicago than spending on one big bat, but I wouldn’t argue someone wanting a direct route to the best option at third base.
Kris Bryant (CHC) – Daniel Norris has struggled with RHBs early in his big league career. He’s yielded a .329 wOBA but the peripherals suggest he’s been fortunate to hold it under .340-.350. Norris has allowed a 31.5 percent hard hit rate and 47 percent fly ball rate but just a 5.9 percent HR/FB Rate. He’s not missing bats (14.7 K Rate) and he’s walking 10 percent of the batters faced. Bryant has shown good power against LHP (.194 ISO) but the overall production (.337 wOBA) hasn’t met expectations (ZiPS projected a .377 wOBA, .257 ISO against LHP this season). Our model believes the hard hit rate (35.7 percent against LHP) leaves room for upward regression. With the wind blowing out, against a fly ball prone starter, Bryant rates well in our home run score and inside our Top 15 overall hitters.
Additional third base notes: Ryan Zimmerman (WAS) and Anthony Rendon (WAS) also qualify as strong value plays where they have third base eligibility. They rank inside our Top 20 hitters overall. Yunel Escobar (WAS) went bonkers last night and may earn a premier lineup spot for one of our top offenses to target, but we struggle to invest in him where similarly priced to more skilled hitters. Mike Moustakas (KC) is adequate where priced as a pure punt, but we’d prefer to see him hit inside the Top Five.
Jose Bautista (TOR) – Bautista ranks as our number two overall hitter and he has the highest home run score of any hitter in our model. Bautista owns a .385 wOBA and .248 ISO against LHP since 2012 and his neutral splits allow him to hold value deep into the game against a very weak Phillies bullpen.
Next in line: Mike Trout (LAA)/Andrew McCutchen (PIT) – Trout and McCutchen also rank inside our Top 10 overall hitters and around the industry you may be able to find some price discounts on them relative to outfielders in elite hitting environments. I think they’re better in tournaments than cash games as I’m focusing my spending in cash games on the top offensive environments. Bryce Harper (WAS) ranks a bit below the other top options and its mostly based on his relatively weak skill set historically against LHP (.336 wOBA, .170 ISO) which he’s strongly corrected this season (.412 wOBA, .235 ISO). His price tag is significantly higher than the other top plays so I’m more likely to use him in tournaments as a part of Nationals stacks or mini-stacks.
Jayson Werth (WAS) – Werth led off last night and he’s historically thrived against LHP (.404 wOBA, .216 ISO since 2012). His price tag on DraftKings is ridiculous ($3,300) and I’d consider him a near must play in cash games over there. On other sites the tag is more reasonable, but he ranks inside our Top 10 hitters overall. Even with “elevated price points” due to Coors Field adjustments, Werth ranks as a strong value on most sites.
Dexter Fowler/Chris Denorfia (CHC) – Fowler’s price tag varies significantly around the industry but on sites he’s priced below the average outfielder, he’s a strong value. Fowler has posted a .378 wOBA and .133 ISO against LHP since 2012. We’ve touched on Daniel Norris‘ struggles against RHBs and the wind blowing out at Wrigley. Vegas has given the Cubs an implied run total over five runs, which makes them a compelling offense to target. Denorfia is more of a pure punt. He’s been OK against LHP (.335 wOBA, .144 ISO since 2012) but will likely leave the game as soon as the starter departs. One of the Tigers lefties could be unavailable after extended action last night, leaving them with just one LH reliever. I’d imagine Chris Coghlan gets the call as soon as the first righty reliever comes in. As far as pure punts go, Denorfia has a strong lineup spot (typically second), has decent skills against LHP, and is in a strong scoring environment. Fowler cracks our Top 25 hitters while Denorfia is inside our Top 80.
Jay Bruce (CIN) – Jeremy Guthrie has been homer prone to LHBs throughout his career and the shift to Great American Ballpark shouldn’t help. Guthrie has allowed a .383 wOBA and 1.62 HR/9 to LHBs since 2013. Bruce makes his living off of power (.332 wOBA, .202 ISO against RHP) and this is a strong matchup to encourage that power production. Bruce is a Top 30 hitter in our model.
Additional outfield notes: Price points and lineup spots will ultimately determine the other values at the position. Michael Taylor (WAS) would earn strong consideration as a value play if he garners a good lineup spot. Starling Marte (PIT) has a very nice price point on FanDuel and we’d consider him a recommended value play over there. He’s hit LHP throughout his career and FanDuel doesn’t penalize for caught stealing. Carlos Gomez (HOU) is a bit underpriced around the industry and our model likes his upside with a tough umpire behind the plate. I’m more likely to target him in tournaments but I don’t mind him as a last piece in cash games. Carlos Gonzalez (COL) and Lorenzo Cain (KC) both rank inside our Top 25 overall hitters but are generally priced like Top 10 bats. They’re better in tournaments (and Gonzalez is questionable after leaving last night early). We love the Blue Jays so if Kevin Pillar (TOR) earned a decent lineup spot his punt price tag would supersede Denorfia’s in our mind. J.D. Martinez (DET) is another interesting tournament option given the wind blowing out and his power production.
Rankings (price not considered):
1) Dallas Keuchel (HOU)
2) Jon Lester (CHC)
3) Corey Kluber (CLE)
4) Noah Syndergaard (NYM)
5) Jaime Garcia (STL)
6) Ubaldo Jimenez (BAL)
7) Nate Karns (TB)
8) Robbie Ray (ARZ)
9) Stephen Strasburg (WAS)
10) J.A. Happ (PIT)
Dallas Keuchel (HOU) – For most of the season Dallas Keuchel‘s modest K Rate has kept him hidden behind many of the other top tier starters in our DFS rankings. This is not the case on Wednesday. With most of the top tier starters in challenging matchups or pitching environments, Keuchel has emerged as a clear number one in our model. Keuchel has shown nice improvement as the season has worn on with his K Rate (March/April – 16.3 percent, May – 21.6 percent, June – 24.9 percent, July – 28.3 percent, August – 22.1 percent). With a K Rate in the twenties instead of the teens, the combination of his elite run prevention (2.36 ERA, built on 63.2 GB Rate and six percent BB Rate) and above average strikeouts earns him the top spot. The Rays rank second in the league in wRC+ against LHP, so the matchup isn’t great on paper; however, our model projects them as a below average offense against lefties with an above average K Rate. This season, they’ve lived on elite performances against LHP from: Longoria (.407 wOBA – profiles as sustainable), Forsythe (.396 wOBA – profiles as .340-ish), and Souza (.363 wOBA – now injured). The rest of the lineup has performed as average hitters against LHP when guys like Asdrubal Cabrera and Tim Beckham project as slightly below average. Our expectation that the Rays performance against LHP regresses over time coupled with challenging environments for most of the other top tier starters, makes Keuchel our top option this evening.
Next in line:
Jon Lester (CHC)/Corey Kluber (CLE)/Noah Syndergaard (NYM) – Our model views these three options as nearly identical with a slight preference towards Lester pitching in the National League against a Tigers’ offense without Victor Martinez. All three are in challenging environments. Kluber and Syndergaard are pitching in two great offensive parks (Fenway and Camden) while Lester has to deal with the wind gusting out at Wrigley. My inclination is to utilize these plays primarily in tournaments over cash games as I believe they all carry too much risk for their current price tags and there are plenty of elite hitting environments to target. Kluber and Syndergaard have a higher strikeout upside, so I prefer them over Lester in tournaments, despite our model’s slight preference for Lester.
Jaime Garcia (STL) – Garcia’s price tag varies around the industry and I’d strongly advise targeting areas where it’s dislocated from that second tier of starters. The Giants offense was dealt a huge blow on Tuesday with the loss of Hunter Pence. They’re already shorthanded without Joe Panik and Angel Pagan and the loss of Pence really impacts their depth against LHP. The lineup is basically down to Buster Posey, Matt Duffy, and then a lot of below average options against LHP. The bulk of Garcia’s value is built on run prevention (1.57 ERA, 67 percent GB Rate) which makes the price tag so important. He’s essentially a poor man’s Keuchel without the growth in strikeouts during the season. On sites the price tag is dislocated from that second tier, we advise investing.
Ubaldo Jimenez (BAL) – Jimenez and Nate Karns (TB) both rank similarly in our model. Karns’ expected K Rate advantage on Jimenez mitigates some of the gap in implied run totals. I’m giving Jimenez the slight edge here due to umpires. Karns and Keuchel have one of the most challenging umpires for starting pitchers behind the plate. Karns is a bit more vulnerable to walks and a bit more dependent on looking strikes (8.4 swinging strike rate) than Keuchel, so we’re downgrading him a bit more severely. Jimenez is very difficult to predict. In 23 starts this season, he has allowed four or more earned runs in 26 percent and allowed one or zero runs in 35 percent of the outings. Most of the time, he’s either dominant or horrible. The Mets rank 24th in wRC+ against RHP. They’ve improved with the deadline additions but their offense still represents an upgrade in matchup over the offenses Jimenez is accustomed to facing. On a night where offense looks more predictable than pitching, we’re willing to embrace some of the risk in Jimenez in order to spend on premier hitters.
Additional starting pitcher notes: Jeff Samardzija (CHW) gets a positive park shift but the contact heavy Angels’ offense won’t help his deteriorating K Rate. He’s cheap and worthy of tournament consideration simply given the upside he’s historically shown. Mark Buehrle (TOR) should have plenty of run support and faces a below average Phillies’ offense against LHP. The challenge is the lack of strikeouts leaves him with a low floor and low ceiling. I have a hard time investing in that even with a reasonable price tag. The same goes for Jered Weaver (LAA) who faces a White Sox offense that has struggled against RHP most of the year and gets a big park downgrade. Even if Buehrle and Weaver pitch “well” the lack of strikeouts severely limits their upside. Robbie Ray (ARZ) and Stephen Strasburg (WAS) also grade out similarly to Jimenez and Karns in our model due to their strikeout upside, but I’m hesitant to deploy either. Ray serves up a lot of hard contact to RHBs and the Pirates lineup is filled with guys who historically have hit LHP really well (McCutchen, Marte, Aramis, Kang, etc). J.A. Happ (PIT) ranks just below Ray and Strasburg due to a lack of strikeouts but does have a positive league shift and a good park to work with. Like the Pirates, the Diamondbacks have a number of RHBs that have historically hit LHP well. While the probability of run prevention is slightly higher with Happ, I’d rather risk run prevention for a safer floor in strikeouts, which is why our model prefers Jimenez.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have suggestions.
Top Tournament Stacks/Cash Game Mini Stacks:
1a) Toronto Blue Jays
1b) Washington Nationals
3) Chicago Cubs
These three offenses have implied run totals over five runs and are all approaching 5.5 runs. I believe the skill of the Blue Jays hitters overcomes the gap in hitting environment between Philadelphia and Coors Field, but it’s really splitting hairs. The Cubs are a step below the other two offenses.
1) Kansas City Royals
2) Colorado Rockies
3) Pittsburgh Pirates
4) Cincinnati Reds
5) Cleveland Indians
The Royals are my favorite contrarian tournament stack tonight. They get a big ballpark shift and are facing a below average pitcher with a below average pen behind him. Add in the removal of the DH and it’s actually a bit easier to stack or mini-stack without leaving someone out.
The Rockies should go under-owned given Strasburg’s recent performance and the injuries they’re dealing with, but it’s still Coors Field and Strasburg is vulnerable to blow up outings.
The Pirates have historically hit LHP really well and Robbie Ray has surrendered a lot of hard contact to RHBs. They’re accustomed to playing in a difficult park environment and the Diamondbacks pen is spent. Three relievers threw more than 30 pitches last night.
The Reds get to face homer prone Jeremy Guthrie in a park that inflates home runs. Their overall upside is weakened by the Royals elite bullpen.
The Indians get a nice park bump and face Joe Kelly who has struggled all season long. The challenge for the Indians is the quality of their lineup has taken a big hit against RHP with the departure of David Murphy and the nagging injuries to Michael Brantley.
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.
NYM at BLT 7:05: A 20% chance of a delay due to a thunderstorm. Temps in the low 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.
TOR at PHL 7:05: Widely scattered thunderstorms. A 10% chance of a delay, especially early in the game. Temps in the low 80s falling into the mid to upper 70s. Air density is an 8. Wind southeast 7-14 mph which blows out to left. The wind is a 6.
AZ at PIT 7:05: Widely scattered thunderstorms. A 10-20% chance of a delay. Temps near 80 falling into the mid-70s. Air density is an 8. Wind south-southeast 4-8 mph which blows in from right. The wind is a 4.
CLE at BOS 7:10: Dry. Temps near 80 falling into the mid to upper 70s. Air density is an 8. Wind south 7-14 mph which blows out to left. The wind is a 6.
KC at CIN 7:10: Numerous showers and thunderstorms. Delay risk is high (>60%), ppd risk is real (~20%). More likely than not, they wil play the game with the chance of multiple delays. Thunderstorms are going to be difficult to time this far out with basically an equal chance of thunderstorms at any point in the game. Temps in the upper 70s. Air density is an 8. Wind south-southwest 6-12 mph which blows in from right. The wind is a 4.
SF at STL 7:15: A <10% chance of a delay early in the game due to a shower. Temps only in the low to mid 60s. Air density is a 6. Wind west-northwest 6-12 mph which blows out to right. The wind is a 6.
DET at CHC 8:05: A 10% chance of a delay due to a shower mid to late game. Temps only near 70 falling into the mid-60s. Air density is a 6. Wind west-southwest 10-20 mph with gusts to 25 mph lessening to 9-18 mph which blows out to right. The wind is a 9 becoming an 8.
TB at HOU 8:10: Retractable roof. A few thunderstorms scattered about the region. Temps near 90 falling into the low to mid 80s. Air density is a 9 becoming an 8. Wind south-southeast 8-16 mph lessening to 6-12 mph which blows out to center. The wind is a 7 becoming a 6.
WSH at COL 8:40: Dry. Temps in the low 70s falling to near 60. Air density is a 10. Wind northeast becoming southeast 7-14 mph which blows in from right early then out to left late. The wind is a 4 becoming a 6.
CHW at LAD 10:05: Dry. Temps in the low 70s falling into the upper 60s. Air density is a 7. Wind west-southwest 7-14 mph which blows out to right. The wind is a 6.