Daily Fantasy Rundown – August 23 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: No delay/ppd concerns. Winds blow out to right at Wrigley (CHC/ATL) and out to left at Coors (COL/NYM).
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.
Kyle Schwarber (CHC) – Thus far in his young career Schwarber’s elite Minor League numbers have carried over to the MLB level, as he’s posted a .406 wOBA and .279 ISO overall. Specifically against RHP, that moves to .444 and .319 respectively, and is backed up by a healthy amount of loft and an elite 42.0 hard hit rate. Schwarber’s power prowess is in an excellent spot to thrive today. He’s at home in Wrigley Field with the wind forecasted to be blowing out at 15-plus mph. He’ll have the platoon edge against Matt Wisler, who has been hit very hard by LHBs, albeit over a small sample size (136 batters faced) during his rookie season: .433 wOBA and 1.93 HR/9. It’s difficult to pay for Schwarber’s expensive price tag on a Coors Field day, but if there’s one hitter it makes sense to spend on outside of that game, it’s Schwarber.
John Jaso (TB) – It’s distinctly possible that you’re unable to put Schwarber into your cash game lineups today due to his cost. If that’s the case, I’m likely to take a much more boring approach at the position. John Jaso is very cheap across the industry, and what he lacks in power upside he makes up in on base prowess and a leadoff spot that catchers rarely see. Jaso, who is posting a wOBA of .349 or greater against RHP for the fourth consecutive season, will lead off against the contact oriented Kendall Graveman. Graveman is striking out just 14.7 percent of LHBs faced while walking nearly 10 percent of them. That suits Jaso’s strengths and makes up for the less than stellar park/low power upside. Go big with Schwarber or save money with an option that seems like a safe bet to contribute some positive points.
Additional catcher notes: Travis d’Arnaud (NYM) is the next in line option to Schwarber. He’s flashing the power this season that had him pegged as a top prospect, and both ZiPS (.192 ISO) and Steamer (.182) are buying for the most part. Obviously the biggest enhancement on d’Arnaud’s value is a game in Coors Field, where the Mets have a team total approaching 6. He’s priced accordingly. If d’Arnaud rests, Anthony Recker (NYM) would be a cheap flier, particularly on sites with a wider salary spread (near the bare minimum on DraftKings, bare minimum on DraftDay). Brian McCann (NYM) is a decent mid-tier value on FanDuel (no one else viable in his price range), but on sites where he’s not meaningfully cheaper than Schwarber/d’Arnaud, he’s a tournament option only. A higher risk/reward alternative to Jaso at a similar price is Matt Wieters (BAL). He has a very favorable home matchup against Mike Pelfrey and an atrocious Twins bullpen but may sit today. Tournament only options I like are Yan Gomes (CLE) and Yasmani Grandal (LAD).
Chris Davis (BAL) – Davis’ bounce back season is mostly due to better luck as his HR/FB rate is back in line with his 2013 mark, and the BABIP lays somewhere between the past two seasons. Davis’ indicators are slightly better, too. His strikeout rate is 1.7 points lower than least season, and his hard minus soft hit rate of 34.9 percent is spectacular. Between those positive signs, his career splits (.364 wOBA, .256 ISO against RHP) and an absolutely scorching month of August (.498 wOBA, .429 ISO), it’s tough to name anyone else the top first base play today. Davis will face the underwhelming and contact oriented Mike Pelfrey at home in hitter friendly Camden Yards. Additionally, opposing hitters always get a boost when facing the wins since their bullpen is so bad (third highest xFIP in MLB).
Prince Fielder (TEX) – It’s odd to have Fielder listed as a value in a L/L matchup on a full slate, but I think this matchup in particularly combined with surprisingly low opportunity cost at the position on a full slate, make Fielder the right mid-tier choice. Opposing pitcher Matt Boyd has looked completely overwhelmed at the MLB level this season. In six appearances (five starts), Boyd has a 7.66 ERA thanks to 2.55 HR/9 and a 38.2 hard hit rate. He’s allowed a hard hit rate of 36 percent or worse in every outing except one. While the sample sizes are way too small to be able to rely on splits, it’s pretty clear that everyone is hitting Boyd hard (41.9 hard hit rate allowed to LHBs, just a 11.4 K percentage). It’s not that we expect Boyd to continue to allow insane numbers to LHBs; we just expect him to continue to struggle in general. Another reason we’re willing to use Fielder in a L/L matchup is there are outs here in case we are wrong about his odds of success against the starter. Boyd likely won’t pitch deep into the game, and he’s backed up by a subpar Detroit bullpen (sixth highest xFIP in MLB).
Freddie Freeman (ATL) – As well as Jason Hammel has pitched and as bad as the hitters surrounding Freddie Freeman are, he’s still a nice value play alternative to Prince Fiedler. Freeman hhas a career .378 wOBA and .201 ISO against RHP, and we expect the 25 year old to turn his consistently high hard rate into more power as his career progresses (career best ISO this season). Using Freeman is one of the best ways to get access to the wind blowing out at Wrigley. As good as opposing pitcher Jason Hammel has been this year, he’s allowed a .331 wOBA and 1.39 HR/9 to LHBs since 2013.
Additional first base notes: Mid-tier value play alternative to the written up recommendations are Adrian Gonzalez (LAD) and Carlos Santana (CLE). On the cheaper end of things, Jesus Montero (SEA) is near minimum salary and worth taking a shot on in tournaments against John Danks. I highly doubt he gets a top five lineup spot, but if for some reason he did, he’d become cash game viable as well. Tournament options include Anthony Rizzo (CHC) (next in line to Chris Davis), David Ortiz (BOS) and Justin Bour (MIA). UPDATE: I should have included Ben Paulsen (COL) in the first base section (notes on him in the outfield section). He’s an okay value on FanDuel (in line with the written recommendations) but a phenomenal value on DraftDay, DraftKings and other sites where he’s meaningfully cheaper than Fielder/Freeman.
Wilmer Flores (NYM) – Using Flores is one of the easier ways to grab Coors Field exposure. As we discussed yesterday, Flores is not a very good overall offensive player. However, he does have plus power potential relative to his peers, with ZiPS and Steamer calling for an ISO around .150. Flores is an impatient hitter but slightly makes up for that by not striking out much (sub-13 K percentage each of the last two seasons). With him, we have a player with plus power for his position who is likely to put the ball in play, and that matches up well against a contact oriented pitcher (Hale has a career 14.7 K percentage) in Coors Field. The Mets have the highest team total on the day, hovering between 5.5 and 6.
Chris Coghlan (CHC) – We’ve talked about the wind in Wrigley (blowing out to right center at 15 mph) and Wisler’s splits in this column, so it makes sense that we are high on the Cubs LHBs, in anticipation of a team total around 4.5. Coghlan has been hitting third for this Cubs offense against RHP, the best lineup spot for DFS production. Coghlan has quietly become a mini “event” player, hitting 15 homers and swiping 11 bags in under 400 PAs. Over his last two seasons, he has a wOBA and ISO against RHP right around .360 and .200 respectively.
Additional second base notes: The two best cash game alternatives to the written recommendations are Brian Dozier (MIN) (peripherals and power potential simply put him in a class of his own, keeping him viable in a good hitter’s park even if the matchup isn’t great) Anthony Rendon (WAS) (remains too cheap and Matt Garza‘s skills have fallen off tremendously) and Neil Walker (PIT) (nice power potential against Ryan Vogelsong, but home park dampens expectations).
Jose Reyes (COL) – Surprisingly we haven’t yet touched on Colorado team that has a run total of 5 (pushing 5.5) at home against a rookie RHP. That’s due to the lack of a value player (particularly a left handed one) at the discussions covered so far. At shortstop, Reyes is the clear cut option anywhere his price is more resembling of a mid-tier player (FanDuel, DraftDay) than an expensive one (DraftKings – still cash playable but no longer a core player). Reyes is a stronger hitter from the left side of the plate, and he’ll hit against rookie RHP Logan Verrett who has a ZiPS projected 4.50 ERA and 1.29 HR/9. Verrett has pitched mostly in relief at the MLB level, but his track record as a starter in the Minors does not indicate much upside. His past three seasons he’s posted an ERA/FIP of 4.25/4.09 (AA in 2013), 4.33/4.35 (AAA in 2014) and 3.57/3.67 (AAA in 2015).
Additional shortstop notes: While I’d try hard to fit Reyes into cash games, if you can’t make it work, go cheap at the position. Options that fit that bill are Ketel Marte (SEA) (we may not be stacking against Danks anymore but we aren’t fearful of him and Marte will leadoff and possesses plenty of stolen base upside), Alcides Escobar (KC) (just cheap for a leadoff hitter on a decent offense who will hold the platoon edge), Jhonny Peralta (STL) (simply way too cheap on FanDuel) and Cesar Hernandez/Andres Blanco (PHI) (Blanco in particular is cheap and has been hitting second; his power is a mirage but against a subpar LHP he’s a worthy punt). In tournaments, look the way of Troy Tulowitzki (TOR) (will probably be his lowest ownership percentage in some time), Addison Russell (CHC) and Didi Gregorius (NYY).
Nolan Arenado (COL) – Arenado is having an awesome season as his home run power has progressed very quickly. As mentioned in previous rundowns, we expected an uptick in that department (loft, contact rate, age, ballpark), but even our optimistic expectations have been exceeded (30 HRs in 118 games, .280 ISO). As a result, Arenado is pretty much the default top third baseman during home stands. That’s the case again today. However, he’s not a top priority of mine in cash games due to price and opportunity cost.
Next in line: Manny Machado (BAL) (legitimate breakout season, home park, Mike Pelfrey‘s reverse splits and the Twins bullpen all add up to give Machado a ton of upside, but it’s tough to pay up for him in cash games as there is a lot of opportunity cost in doing so)
Kris Bryant (CHC) – We’ve been buyers on Bryant pretty much all season long and the results have been mixed. Ultimately, we still expect a heavy uptick in home runs as a modest 13.5 HR/FB rate is masking some elite power indicates (13.0 BB rate, .72 GB/FB ratio, 36.1 hard hit rate). He’s relatively easy to fit in across the industry, giving you exposure to a high expected scoring Cubs team, which dampens the opportunity cost of passing on a Coors Field player here (wind blowing out in Wrigley makes this park play very small).
Juan Uribe/Daniel Murphy (NYM) – If Uribe hits cleanup, he becomes one of the easiest ways to get Mets exposure. He’s not particularly expensive anywhere, and he has just enough power (.166 ISO) that we should overlook the lack of platoon edge and overall offensive skill given other very favorable contextual factors (Coors Field, highest team total of the day). Teammate Daniel Murphy rates higher in our model, salary aside, but is meaningfully more expensive across the industry.
Additional third base notes: Alternative value plays are Adrian Beltre (TEX) (platoon edge against Matt Boyd and a reasonable cost) and Todd Frazier (CIN) (not the locked in hitter he was at the beginning of the year and lacks the platoon edge, but for $2,700 on FanDuel this selection is all upside). Two options to additionally consider for tournaments are Alex Rodriguez (NYY) and Matt Carpenter (STL).
The Coors Field Options – The outfield pairings of Curtis Granderson/Yoenis Cespedes (NYM) and Charlie Blackmon/Carlos Gonzalez (COL) earn top play honors by a clear margin. At the infield positions it’s good to pick up Coors Field exposure where it makes sense based on price/position scarcity, but the outfield is the one spot where I’d really stretch my budget to get it. For both teams, I prefer the cheaper teammate, meaning I’m much more likely to own the power/speed lead off men, Granderson and Blackmon. They are meaningfully cheaper than their teammates across the industry despite ranking similarly in our model. Cespedes and Gonzalez are still cash game viable but may make for better tournament options simply due to cost. These outfields each contain value plays as well. For the Mets, Kelly Johnson (NYM) is one of the cheaper LHBs from the team and could move up in the lineup with Lucas Duda hitting the DL. For the Rockies, Ben Paulsen (COL) has been hitting fifth against RHP and is affordable on all sites. Complementing Granderson/Blackmon with one of these two outfielders allows you to continue to hammer the upside that Coors offers without spending a prohibitive amount acorss your three outfielders.
Additional outfield notes: If you need to go the non-Coors route with one of your outfielders or don’t have COL/NYM lineups by roster lock on early lock sites, here are the best alternative cash game options: Brett Gardner (NYY) (platoon edge at home against volatile Trevor Bauer who isn’t good at holding runners), Dexter Fowler (CHC) (platoon edge against a subpar RHP and leading off for our favorite non-Coors Field stack), Delino DeShields (TEX) (a touch overpriced but with the leadoff spot and platoon edge against Matt Boyd, it’s worth overlooking to get some great stolen base upside and Rangers exposure), Jayson Werth (WAS) (similar to teammate Anthony Rendon, Werth is simply underpriced) and Nick Markakis (ATL) (if you want an additional bat from this game due to the wind, Markakis is affordable and has the platoon edge against Jason Hammel, who has difficulties versus LHBs despite his overall success). In tournaments I like the entire Mariners outfield, but Nelson Cruz (SEA) in particular sticks out as a very high upside option that could come at low ownership (everyone will be on the Coors outfielders at similar pricing). Other tournament options include Bryce Harper (WAS), Jacoby Ellsbury (NYY), Rajai Davis (DET), Andre Ethier (LAD) and Gregor Polanco (PIT).
Rankings (price not considered):
1) Clayton Kershaw
2) Francisco Liriano (PIT)
3) Michael Wacha (STL)
4) Cole Hamels (PHI)
5) Taijuan Walker (SEA)
6) Jake Odorizzi (TB)
7) Jason Hammel (CHC)
8) Jordan Zimmermann
9) Lance McCullers (HOU)
10) Garrett Richards (LAA)
11) Adam Conley (MIA)
12) Raisel Iglesias (CIN)
13) Aaron Nola (PHI)
14) Kevin Gausman (BAL)
Clayton Kershaw (LAD) – The dilemma of whether or not to emphasize top tier pitching or elite hitting environments is probably the toughest cash game roster construction issue faced in MLB DFS, and the situation doesn’t get any tougher than when you have a Coors Field game with a total of 11 (pushing upwards) and Clayton Kershaw. The issue with Kershaw is never whether or not he’s the top pitcher in a slate; it’s whether or not he’s worth paying up for, despite being the safest source of the most amount of points, given how much hitting you’ll have to sacrifice to get him in. For me, the decision is actually a bit easier today than most days; Clayton Kershaw is an elite tournament option but not a core cash game play. It makes sense given a high risk/high reward matchup and how expensive the Coors Field hitters have gotten. Kershaw’s projected K percentage is the highest of any pitcher in our model today, and quite frankly, it’s not even close. The double digit K upside and a chance to get him at lower than usual ownership is why we refer to him as an elite tournament option. For cash games, I’ll be dipping down to the next in line options and value play recommendations below. This Astros team does swing and miss, but they’ve got plenty of pop and upside, especially against LHP. Kershaw will face a negative park shift pitching on the road in Houston (and have to face a DH), and he has by far the least favorable umpire of the top three tier starting pitchers.
Next in line:
Francisco Liriano (PIT) and Michael Wacha (STL) are the next in line options and both rank very similarly in our model and carry similar price points. I’m giving the edge to Liriano, who pitches at home, is a slightly larger favorite and has a slightly more favorable umpire. Liriano has been phenomenal this season as he’s maintained an elite K and GB combination while seeing his BB rate drop quite a bit (from 11.7 percent to 8.9), which has given him better overall production and start to start consistency. PNC is one of the more favorable pitching environments in all of baseball. This Giants team looks like a below average matchup at first glance based on team wRC+ and K percentage, but they’ve been worse against LHP than RHP and project to be an above average matchup in our model.
Wacha’s increasing K percentage as the season has progressed is something we’ve covered the last few times he’s pitched. That’s a positive factor in his corner for this start, giving him a nice, well rounded skill set in a great matchup against a weak Padres offense (22nd in wRC+ against RHP, sixth highest K rate) in a great pitching environment. While I believe the tiebreakers point towards Liriano being the better option, Wacha ranks basically dead even with Liriano in our model and I don’t mind diversifying off of Liriano with Wacha on sites where they’re equally priced or Wacha is cheaper.
Taijuan Walker (SEA) – Sometimes Coors Field days necessitate taking some risks at starting pitcher, and the viable mid-low priced starting pitcher to roll the dice with today is Walker. While Walker has a 4.60 ERA, his xFIP is much better at 3.76. His biggest issue is a high hard hit rate and fly ball tilt. This risk is somewhat mitigated by recent performance (sub-30 hard hit rate in three straight starts despite some tougher opponents/ballparks, GB rate has been a touch higher over the second half) and a large home park. Walker’s largest strength is his ability to miss bats, something that is rewarded heavily in DFS. The rookie has a 22.8 K percentage and 10.2 SwStr rate. The White Sox are 21st in wRC+ against RHP with a middle of the pack K percentage. Walker is currently listed as a -160 favorite in a game with a 7.5 total. He’s best used as a second pitcher on multi-SP sites, but the day’s landscape makes him usable on one starting pitcher sites in cash games as well. On that note, I’d be much more comfortable using him on FanDuel if the Coors Field lineups are known by roster lock. Otherwise, part of the value in using Walker (to fit in those bats) is lessened while the risk is heightened.
Additional starting pitcher notes: Jason Hammel (CHC) has a very nice matchup and would normally be a solid mid-tier option, but with the wind blowing out at over 15 mph for a day game, we’re hesitant to recommend him in cash games. Jordan Zimmermann (WAS) doesn’t pop all that well in our model but is someone that appears to be safe as a clear home favorite against a Brewers team that will struggle against RHP, particularly on the road. Lance McCullers (HOU) is a nice contrarian tournament option. He’s got large K upside each time out and will be very low owned as pitchers facing Kershaw usually are. In addition to McCullers, Adam Conley (MIA), Aaron Nola (PHI) and Kevin Gausman (BAL) are all viable cheap tournament options to use today in order to load up on bats. While Conley is rated higher than Nola (due to median expected outcome), Nola would be my preference for tournament options as his talent yields more upside potential. Colin Rea (SD) at $3,000 is worth throwing into a tournament if multi-entering a large field.
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:
1) Coors Field (The last two days show why we’re so consistently adamant about getting Coors Field exposure. A 4-3 contest is disappointing but probably doesn’t kill you while not having exposure to a 10-6 type of game will. I’m less adamant about Coors exposure on FanDuel due to the early lock and pricing.)
2) Chicago Cubs (We covered them pretty extensively throughout the Rundown, and leaning on them in cash a bit heavier if Coors lineups aren’t available by lock one early lock sites makes sense.)
1) Texas Rangers (Negative park shift but being on the road guarantees a full nine innings. We’ve talked about Boyd’s struggles (particularly with the long ball) and the subpar bullpen that backs him up).
2) New York Yankees (I’m a Trevor Bauer fan but the high BB rate and an elevated HR/FB rate throughout his career has led to a lot of volatility. He’s also not great at holding runners. With the Yankees having a plethora of LHBs at home, this is a high upside situation that likely comes at low ownership.)
3) Baltimore Orioles (Mike Pelfrey has decent results this season and a surprising amount of starts holding teams to two or less earnes runs, which is why the Orioles are in the secondary stack section. However, any pitcher that strikes out such few batters is liable for a disaster start, and the atrocious bullpen behind him only bolsters Baltimore’s upside.)
4) Atlanta Braves (This allows you to simultaneously play the wind at Wrigley and get in a cheap stack that complements using Clayton Kershaw in tournaments well.)
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.
CLE at NYY 1:05: Dry. Temps near 80. Air density is a 7. Wind east-northeast 3-6 mph which blows in from center. The wind is a 4.
TEX at DET 1:08: A line of showers and a few rumbles of thunder moves in after 5 PM. Temps near 80. Air density is a 6. Wind south-southwest 8-16 mph which blows in from right. The wind is a 3.
AZ at CIN 1:10: Dry. Temps in the low to mid 80s. Air density is an 8. Wind southwest 7-14 mph which blows from right to left. The wind is a 5.
PHL at MIA 1:10: The retractable roof will likely be closed.
MIN at BLT 1:35: Dry. Temps in the mid 80s. Air density is a 7, almost an 8. Wind northwest becoming southwest 5-10 mph which blows from left to right and then out to center. The wind is a 5 becoming a 6.
KC at BOS 1:35: A widely scattered shower. So scattered, that the chance of a delay is <5%. Temps in the low to mid 70s. Air density is a 7. Wind northeast 8-16 mph which blows in from center. The wind is a 3.
MIL at WSH 1:35: Dry. Temps in the mid 80s. Air density is an 8. Wind northwest becoming southeast 4-8 mph which blows from left to right and then from right to left. The wind is a 5 but there will be a time mid game when the wind is blowing out so it will become a 6.
LAD at HOU 2:10: Retractable roof. Dry. Temps in the mid 90s. Air density is a 9. Wind south-southeast 5-10 mph which blows out to center. The wind is a 6.
ATL at CHC 2:20: Dry. Temps in the mid 70s. Air density is a 6. Wind west-northwest 12-25 mph which blows out to right but no directly as right is eat-northeast of homeplate. Basically, the wind will help balls hit to right somewhat. The wind is an 8, almost a 9.
TOR at LAA 3:35: Dry. Temps in the low to mid 70s. Air density is a 6 or a 7. Wind west-southwest 8-16 mph which blows out to right. The wind is a 7.
TB at OAK 4:05: Dry. Temps in the low 70s. Air density is a 6. Wind west-northwest 8-16 mph which blows out to right. The wind is a 7.
CHW at SEA 4:10: Retractable roof. Dry. Temps in the low to mid 80s. Air density is a 7. Wind west-northwest 6-12 mph which blows out to right. The wind is a 6.
STL at SD 4:10: Dry. Temps in the mid 70s. Air density is a 7. Wind west-northwest 6-12 mph which blows
from left to right. The wind is a 5.
NYM at COL 4:10: Dry. Temps near 80. Air density is a 10. Wind southeast 8-16 mph which blows out to left. The wind is a 7.
SF at PIT 8:00: Dry. Temps in the upper 70s falling into the upper 60s. Air density is a 6 becoming a 5. Wind southwest 4-8 mph becoming nearly calm. The wind blows out to left early before becoming nearly calm. The wind is a 6 becoming a 5.