Welcome to August 20 MLB DFS action. You’ll find Daily Fantasy Baseball Premium Cliff Notes for August 20 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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01:39 Starting Pitcher
- 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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August 20 MLB DFS CLIFF NOTES
Gerrit Cole (HOU) doesn’t have much competition as the top overall SP on this slate. The Mariners have been a difficult matchup for RHP all season long from both a K% and wRC+ standpoint. They get more difficult in this split with Robinson Cano now in the lineup. Still, Cole continues to dominate with Houston, putting up a 2.61 FIP that is buoyed by a 34.9 K%. Cole’s K rate has been particularly strong against LHBs, which helps to mitigate the four that Seattle offers. For cash games, Cole is a lock on FD and passable but not necessary on DK. In tournaments, if ownership on Cole gets nutty on FD, we could see a fade, but he doesn’t have much competition from a raw ceiling perspective.
The next in line options are Corey Kluber (CLE) and Zack Wheeler (NYM). As good of a pitcher as Kluber continues to be, the combination of high price tag, matchup against Boston, and a reduction in K rate this season make him a difficult play on this slate. The game theory perspective is you get a similar ceiling to Cole at a fraction of the ownership, but that theory falls a bit flat when you account for the K rate reduction.
As a result, the main pivott of of cole that you’re considering is Wheeler. He’s put together a really steady season, as he’s been able to harness his control (career best 7.9 BB%, previously in the double digits) at no expense to his K plus GB rate combination. Wheeler hasn’t flashed the double digit K upside of Cole, but he has struck out 7-plus batters in over half of his starts. He’s home in a favorable matchup against the Giants, and the significant price discount he offers over Cole makes him a viable cash play if you want to spend on bats.
This slate lacks strong mid-tier value plays. The only mid-tier option in consideration as SP2 on DK is Alex Wood (LAD), who has favorable Vegas odds (-165, 3.5 IRTA) at home (pitcher friendly). However, the matchup against the Cardinals is below average, and a deterioration in Wood’s batted ball data this season along with the propensity for a quick hook keeps him as a secondary option only.
As a result, we’d rather risk a cheap SP with shaky skills but in a good matchup. The two that fit on DK are Marco Estrada (TOR) and Stephen Gonsalves (MIN). Estrada has had a disappointing season, as his DFS stock has plummeted with the reduction of his K rate from 21.8% to 17.7%. This play is all about an Orioles team that is 22nd in wRC+ against RHP with a high 23.8 K%. An additional potential boost for Estrada that isn’t taken into account in our projections is the fact that the Orioles have struggled against right changeups the last two seasons, a pitch that Estrada is throwing 42% of the time to LHBs and 33% of the time to RHBs. He’s an interesting GPP play on FD as most people will build through expensive pitching.
On DK, with Estrada’s shaky skills (even more fly ball oriented than usual lately), you may be better off saving even more money and playing the rookie Gonsalves, making his MLB debut. Gonsalves has a Steamer projected 5.03 ERA, but The BAT (4.28) is more optimistic. We’ll take the risk on the run prevention side since he’s capable of missing bats (projecting around a 21% K rate) and facing a White Sox team that has a mammoth 26.5 K% against LHP.
Chase Anderson (MIL) is a massive -200 favorite with a 3.8 IRTA, which is lower than Estrada or Gonsalves. We have a lower K projection for him, but he’s also an option in that cheap range.
Chris Archer (PIT) doesn’t rate well for us today, but he’s one of the few mid to mid-low tier options with high individual upside. Simply based on ceiling, median projection aside, he’s someone to consider in tournaments.
Another day, another slate without a single catcher projecting as a positive value in our DK model, but at least the catchers towards the top of the list are cheap. Buster Posey (SF), Russell Martin (TOR) and Jonathan Lucroy (OAK) are all priced under $3,700 on DK and at least rate close to neutral in terms of their value. Posey and the Giants are coming off a disappointing series in Great American Ballpark and his price point ($3,100) reflects his recent struggles.
On Sunday, Martin led off for the Blue Jays, and his .332 xwOBA against RHP is 17 points higher than his actual wOBA. Consequently, some positive regression may be on the horizon in the near future, especially against a pitcher who relies heavily on his sinker. Since the beginning of 2017, Martin owns a .399 xwOBA against right-handed sinkers, although the sample is limited (26 total batted ball events). If Martin were to lead off once again, that would certainly propel him up this list, and he would become the catcher to build around in cash games.
Lucroy is the cheapest of the bunch but neither the pitch data nor his platoon splits jump off the page. Through 73.0 innings versus right-handed hitters (RHHs) this year, Colon has yielded a .355 wOBA and 43.4-percent hard hit rate while only striking them out at a minuscule 13.6-percent rate. Judging by Lucroy’s 0.07 ISO against RHP, he is not much of a power threat, but more of a last player into a cash game lineup if he fits.
In tournaments, both Evan Gattis and Tucker Barnhart are popping a bit on our models, especially the FD version. Although he will face a substantial ballpark downgrade, Gattis will square off against a pitcher that has struggled to miss right-handed bats (16.4-percent K rate). Whenever he is able to barrel a ball up, that is when he becomes dangerous, and Hernandez has induced a career-low 8.4-percent swinging strike rate this season. Barnhart faces a power-prone pitcher in a power-friendly park (especially for left-handed bats) so he is a fine gamble if looking for someone with the potential to hit the ball out of the yard.
Regardless of site, the two Blue Jays first basemen, Justin Smoak (TOR) and Kendrys Morales (TOR) are popping in our projections. Thus far, Morales leads the Blue Jays in xwOBA against RHP but his xwOBA is 86 points higher than his actual wOBA. Therefore, Smoak leads the team in xwOBA but is 25 percentage points behind Morales in terms of xwOBA. Either way, both are viable plays across the industry in a matchup versus Cashner. All lefties have done against the Orioles right-handed this year is crush him to the tune of a .352 wOBA, 1.52 HR/9 rate, 34.2-percent hard hit rate and 37.4-percent fly ball rate. In fact, his 4.96 FIP against left-handed hitters (LHHs) ranks sixth worst amongst pitchers on this slate behind only Lucas Giolito, Jorge Lopez, Homer Bailey, Felix Hernandez and Mike Fiers.
The next highest projected players in our model behind Smoak are Eric Thames (MIL) and Jesus Aguilar (MIL). Thames specifically possesses some pinch-hit risk, as he could get pulled for Aguilar if a left-handed reliever were to enter the game, but we believe he is worth the shot in tournaments. Opposing starter Homer Bailey owns the highest HR/9 rate versus left-handers of any pitcher on the night and his .372 wOBA allowed ranks second (behind only Giolito). Although the park is not quite as treacherous as Great American Ballpark, it is not exactly a pitchers’ haven either.
If looking to differentiate, Freddie Freeman (ATL), Matt Olson (OAK) and Jose Abreu (CHW) who will not garner nearly as much ownership as their matchups dictate. For what it is worth, Archer owns a career 4.26 ERA on grass and has struck out nearly a batter per inning less than on turf. Archer surprisingly has been susceptible to lefties this year as well: .346 wOBA, 1.35 HR/9 rate, 23.6-percent line drive rate and 38.6-percent hard hit rate. Olson will face a RHP unlikely to miss his bat so he is on red-alert to go deep. Abreu has favored the platoon split versus LHP for his career (.384 wOBA, 146 wRC+) and will benefit from playing in a park (Target Field) that enhances right-handed power.
Depending on site, our optimal lineups feature different second basemen because the pricing on DK is sharper. Spending down on pitcher allows fantasy owners to spend up for Brian Dozier (LAD) on DK but there is no need on FD when Devon Travis (TOR) is projected for a similar amount of points and will cost just $2,700. Lefties are the preferred place to attack Cashner but the Blue Jays feature a 5.1 run implied total and Travis should be hitting towards the top of the lineup. If at all possible to afford, Dozier is clearly the cream of the crop at the position versus a lefty destined to regress. Austin Gomber has been burned for a 43.4-percent hard hit rate and 2.47 HR/9 rate by righties while holding opponents to a .260 BABIP. Considering he owns a 5.97 FIP heading into Monday, his .289 wOBA is deceiving, and he has been relying heavily on luck. The righty-heavy Dodgers should help correct his numbers.
If avoiding the top two values, Jonathan Villar (BAL) projects as our only other positive value at the position despite a .301 xwOBA against right-handed changeups since the start of 2016. He is always a threat for power and speed and Estrada relies extremely heavily on fly ball outs to retire lefties (54.4-percent fly ball rate).
Some other interesting names include Travis Shaw (MIL), Rougned Odor (TEX) and Jed Lowrie (OAK) in prime power spots. Shaw is viable for all the same reasons as Thames but without the pinch hit threat. Odor and the Rangers will be dealing with a negative park shift but Fiers is one of five pitchers on the slate sporting a FIP over 5.00 versus LHHs. Lowrie ranks third on the Athletics in wOBA (min. 70 at-bats) and is a player to plug-in at a tough-to-fill position if funds are not available for Dozier (or if simply trying to stick with the theme of an Athletics stack).
Mike Moustakas (MIL) reigns supreme at the third base position throughout the industry and he is likely to be a popular option versus Bailey. The Brewers’ 5.2 implied run total is the second highest on the slate behind only the Twins and Moustakas’ matchup cannot be overstated versus Bailey. With Moustakas being an extremely difficult hitter to strike out (15.4-percent K rate versus RHP) and Bailey being a pitcher who rarely strikes out lefties, Moustakas is likely to put balls in play in this contest. Against Bailey, that normally leads to power, and the park will help enhance Moustakas’ power. He is the stone cold lock at the position in cash games.
Since he should be highly owned, pivoting makes a fair degree of sense from a game theory standpoint, and Miguel Sano (MIN) is our next highest projected player. Since the All-Star Break, Gioltio has held opponents to a .338 wOBA compared to a .353 wOBA in the first half. The skills appear to have improved which makes Sano a risky proposition.
Our preferred play in tournaments would be Matt Chapman (OAK) against Colon at home. The ownership should be significantly less and Chapman ranks second on the team in wOBA (.372) and third on the team in ISO (.240) against RHP. Pitch data helps make the case as well since Chapman has posted a .455 xwOBA against right-handed two-seam fastballs since the start of 2017. Baseball savant classifies Colon’s main pitch as a two-seamer and he has thrown the pitch a whopping 62.9-percent of the time to opponents over the course of the last two seasons. The correlation here is unmistakable.
Our only other players who rate as close to neutral values on DK are Justin Turner (LAD), Alex Bregman (HOU) and Todd Frazier (NYM). Turner is yet another Dodgers righty to target against Gomber and he leads the team in wOBA (.463) and wRC+ (194) in the split versus LHP since the start of 2017. Bregman’s matchup against Hernandez is a plus but the ballpark is a negative. Frazier’s bat has come alive recently as he has produced a .364 wOBA and 132 wRC+ over the course of the last month. Meanwhile, Derek Holland is susceptible to righty power bats (1.46 HR/9 rate).
There are only two reasonable choices for cash games at the shortstop position: Manny Machado (LAD) or Tim Anderson (CHW). If funds are available, and Machado’s wrist proves to be fine (he left the game with the ailment on Sunday), then he is certainly an intriguing proposition versus Gomber. Despite it being the wrong end of his platoon split, he is still a well above-average hitter (.378 wOBA, 141 wRC+ this year). If not, Anderson rates as a wonderful, cheap alternative against Stephen Gonsalves making his MLB Debut. FanGraphs’ projection systems list Gonsalves as somewhere between a 4.54 and 5.30 FIP pitcher with an inflated walk rate and nearly 1.50 HR/9 rate. In Triple-A this year, Gonsalves relied heavily on fly ball outs (39.5-percent ground ball rate) and Anderson has hit a team-leading five bombs off LHP this season. You cannot go wrong at this tier.
Tim Beckham (BAL) is a viable cheap drop down off of Machado on DK where Anderson isn’t priced as favorably. You may need the cap relief here if paying up for Cole at SP1. Beckham has decent pop in a strong hitting environment for RHBs against Marco Estrada, who has seen both his K and GB rates dip considerably this season.
Jorge Polanco (MIN), Carlos Correa (HOU) and Francisco Lindor (CLE) headline the next tier at the position but this is mostly a two-horse race today. Assuming there is a need/want to dip into this tier, Polanco is a superior hitter against RHP than LHP and he is one of the few stolen base threats on the team (Giolito has surrendered the most stolen bases of any starting pitcher in 2018). Like the aforementioned Anderson, a bomb and multiple stolen bases are both within a reasonable range of outcomes in this matchup. Correa is like the rest of the Astros where he rates as a solid hitter but the hitting environment is brutal. Hernandez is a greatly depreciated pitcher so we recommend stacking the Astros if using Correa. Lindor will go overlooked in a matchup against Rick Porcello but that is because he is full-priced and Fenway Park is less power-friendly than Progressive Field. Still, Porcello has allowed a ton of hard contact to lefties going on two straight seasons now (41.0-percent hard hit rate this year), so he is absolutely a viable play in tournaments.
Christian Yelich (MIL) is the one outfielder featured in both our DK and FD optimals due to his impressive baselines in our model (.381 wOBA, .206 ISO). His hard hit rate has not been impressive lately but he has hit the ball hard 46.1-percent of the time versus RHP to this point and his .370 wOBA in the split ranks third on the team (behind Aguilar and Thames). We have him projected to lead off so his favorable lineup spot and five-toll skill set (10 steals versus RHP ranks second on the team) makes him a valuable cash game asset.
The Toronto outfield pops in our models against Cashner as Curtis Granderson (TOR) is reasonably priced across the industry and Randal Grichuk (TOR) is egregiously cheap on FD ($2,700). Even Teoscar Hernandez (TOR) rates as a nearly neutral value and he has produced the best results against right-handed sinkers of the bunch. All three are viable cash game plays but Granderson comes with slight pinch-hit risk and the other two are righties (aka on the wrong side of Cashner’s platoon split).
Some of the other highest projected players in our model include Eddie Rosario (MIN), Lorenzo Cain (MIL), Khris Davis (OAK) and George Springer (HOU). Rosario is on the correct side of the platoon split and the most powerful lefty on the team (.225 ISO). Giolito has been better overall lately but lefties are still the bats to attack him with. Cain is just another talented member of the Brewers and he is someone who should be included in the full stack. Davis is not exactly jumping off the page in our models but the pitch data for him tells a different story. Over the course of the last two seasons, Davis has produced a team-leading .513 xwOBA against right-handed two-seam fastballs (which is an absurd number against any pitch). He is a player to build around in tournaments. Lastly, Springer is amidst a down season versus right-handers but he has still only struck out at a 17.8-percent rate and has hit the ball in the air 36.8-percent of the time. Hernandez has been worse against lefties, so do not count out Josh Reddick (HOU), but Springer hits in the superior lineup spot (especially for cash games).
1) Milwaukee Brewers
On a slate where you don’t have the Yankees or Nationals, have the Astros without Altuve receiving a park downgrade, and have the Indians and Red Sox facing good RHPs against one another, the path is cleared for the deep and powerful Brewers to top the stack rankings at home. Most importantly, they face Homer Bailey who ranks 356th out of 365 pitchers who have faced at least 150 batters in xwOBA (.391). Everyone who ranks worse than him is over a smaller sample. Bailey has given up 3-plus ERs in 75% of his starts this season.
2) Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays are a surprise second tier stack, but this is mostly about matchup. They vie for the top IRT on the slate (third highest at 5.1, highest is 5.3) against Andrew Cashner, who holds a .362 xwOBA and has really struggled to miss bats over his last five starts (mean K rate of 8.4%). They’re really affordable on both sites and will likely be chalky in lineups alongside Cole.
3) Los Angeles Dodgers
4) Minnesota Twins
5) Houston Astros
Two teams in this tier we instantly like more than their mid-4s IRTs suggest are the Dodgers and Astros. The Dodgers may have a suppressed IRT since Austin Gomber has pitched well on the surface (2.89 ERA), but in his 37.1 MLB innings he has a 4.89 xFIP and is allowing plenty of hard-hit aerial contact.
Meanwhile, the Astros get a negative park shift but a guaranteed nine innings on the road against the struggling Felix Hernandez, who is setting career worsts in basically every stat category.
6) Oakland Athletics
7) Baltimore Orioles
There may be some hidden upside for the Athletics if you take a closer look at the pitch data as Khris Davis and Matt Chapman among others have had a lot of success against two-seamer from RHPs, something Bartolo Colon (5.13 FIP) throws nearly 70% of the time to RHBs. The issue here is a big park and cool weather that keeps projections on the Oakland hitters in check.
The Orioles may not be skilled enough to full stack. However, while we like Estrada as a GPP play for his price, there’s certainly upside in opposing hitters. The dip in both K rate and FB rate for Estrada this season means we could see tons of power from the opposition. He’s allowing 1.60 HR/9 despite a better than league average 10.2% HR/FB rate.