Daily Fantasy Rundown – August 24 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 delays expected. Very windy in Chicago with the wind blowing out to to left-center at U.S. Cellular.
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 the top catcher of the day as there aren’t many options that can compete with his power upside (.228 ISO), particularly at home. McCann comes at a pretty affordable mid-tier price tag in his matchup against RHP Scott Feldman, who is admittedly tough to get a handle on. Feldman has actually only allowed a .302 wOBA and .68 HR/9 to LHBs since 2012 in large part due to limiting hard contact (tremendous 1.4 hard minus soft hit rate). However, Feldman doesn’t miss any bats (13.0 K percentage) and has yielded about a homer per 9 over his career, leading to a 4.44 ERA (right around what ZiPS and Steamer project rest of season). This is a case of trying to marry together Feldman’s strong splits with his overall profile as a pitcher. Ultimately, I’d consider this a plus matchup for McCann, and given the lack of opportunity cost at the position (particularly in terms of power upside), he’s worth paying up for. Just make sure you emphasize squeezing in deGrom at starting pitcher first.
Yadier Molina (STL) – Molina’s peak power years (2011-2013) seem long gone, but his great contact rate and similar batted ball data to his career marks suggest he can still hit for average. This suggestion, though, has less to do with Molina’s skills and more the contextual factors surrounding him. For starters, he’s cheap, which is always something we look for at a scarce position on a night where pitching has a heavy emphasis. He may be the only cheap catcher with a top five lineup spot, and Molina benefits from a huge park shift in his favor, playing in Arizona. He’ll have the platoon edge against LHP Robbie Ray, who has allowed a whopping .354 wOBA and 39.1 hard hit rate to RHBs. While I prefer McCann’s power upside, Molina is probably a similar per dollar value given those contextual factors and a healthy Cardinals team total around 4.5 runs.
Additional catcher notes: If Brayan Pena (CIN) hits fifth, he’d be an alternative cheap value to Molina. I prefer Molina at the same price, but if Pena is meaningfully cheaper, take the savings. The Reds have the highest team total on the evening as they face Buck Farmer at home. Lance Lynn is really tough on RHBs, but Welington Castillo (ARI) is on such a tear (.249 ISP supported by a 42.3 hard hit rate) that he should still be considered a secondary value on sites where his price hasn’t adjusted upwards. While the R/R matchup with Lynn is less than desirable, Castillo is at home surrounded by Goldschmidt and some LHBs.
At first base today, there aren’t many clear cut mid-tier values but a few more expensive guys pop in really good matchups. I felt it made sense to rank these options and give notes on viability based on site pricing. Ultimately, this is the area I’m most keen on spending offensively.
1) Miguel Cabrera (DET) – The Tigers are one of our favorite stacks this evening as they hit a great hitter’s parks against the wild Keyvious Sampson. Cabrera is the number one overall hiter in our model. Both his patience and power have returned from last season. View him as a top tournament option but don’t pay the expensive tag in cash games.
2) Joey Votto (CIN) – After an injury plagued 2013, Votto has seen his power bounce back (ISO up to .238 from .155) thanks to a large increase in hard minus soft hit rate from 19.1 to 28.4. He’ll hold the platoon edge at home against Buck Farmer, who doesn’t have much of an MLB sample size but has been completely destroyed in the 34 innings he has logged at this level (8.39 ERA, 2.19 HR/9). I don’t anticipate Farmer being quite so bad moving forward, but it’s tough to ignore that in five MLB starts he’s given up a combined 27 runs in 21 innings. He’s close enough to Cabrera in our model that he holds better per dollar value on most sites and is cash viable on sites where he’s priced closer to Abreu/Ortiz than Cabrera.
3) Jose Abreu (CHW) – Abreu may be the first baseman I have the most exposure to tonight simply since he’s consistently the cheapest across the industry. The White Sox have a healthy 4.5 team total against Joe Kelly (5.37 ERA, .329 wOBA allowed to RHBs since 2013) and the Red Sox bullpen (fourth highest xFIP, most HR/9). Abreu has very even splits on his young career, posting a .391 wOBA and .245 ISO against same handed pitching.
4) David Ortiz (BOS) – Fenway Park isn’t as friendly to LHBs so moving to US Cellular Field is actually a pretty sizable park shift in Ortiz’s favor. He’ll face Jeff Samardzija, whose K rate has fallen a ton with the White Sox (around 23 percent previous four seasons, 17.7 this year), and that has enhanced the difficulties he’s had with LHBs (.327 wOBA, 1.16 HR/9 allowed to LHBs since 2013). Ortiz rounds out the top first baseman we’re targeting this evening.
Additional first base notes: If you’re unable to afford the top options at first base, two guys stick out as potential cash game cheapies if given a top five lineup spot. The first is Michael Cuddyer (NYM). He’ll got a positive park shift playing on the road, and perhaps most important is the opposing pitcher. Adam Morgan is someone we’re going to continue to pick on, particularly with RHBs, as both his xFIP and projections systems point towards him being a true 5-plus ERA pitcher who is homer prone. Cuddyer has great career splits but his awful season (.121 ISO, .295 wOBA) prevent him from being a core play. Similarly Adam LaRoche (CHW) has strong career splits and is in a great matchup but our optimism is held back due to current production. He’s at home against Joe Kelly, who is sporting a 5.37 ERA thanks in large part to a combination of sub-par control, a large reduction in GB rate and a very high 35.8 hard hit rate. However, what seemed like a cold start for LaRoche has continued most of the season; he currently sports a disappointing .144 ISO, .291 wOBA and career high 28.8 K percentage.
Top Play: Ian Kinsler (DET) (will hit either first or second for a Tigers team we’re very high on; too expensive for cash games)
Ivan De Jesus (CIN) – Second base is filled with some meh value plays at mid-tier prices. Rather than settling on one of those, my preferred roster construction route is to simply punt the position. De Jesus is popping as the default option across the industry due to his extremely low price tag and good opportunity. While he may not possess good offensive skills, he should hit sixth for a Reds team with a high team total in a great park facing one of the worst pitching staffs on the evening. Hopefully more punt options arise when lineups are released, but my plan as of now is to simply slot in De Jesus and take my savings at an ugly position.
Additional second base notes: The best mid-tier values ate the position are Brandon Phillips (CIN) (where he’s not priced up based on park/matchup), Neil Walker (PIT) (decent power potential from the left side, even in a big park) and Wilmer Flores (NYM) (park shift in his favor, decent pop, platoon edge on the subpar Adam Morgan). Kolten Wong (STL) is min-priced on FanDuel and can be considered cash viable there. Given my distaste for the position, I don’t mind punting with him at that price regardless of his lineup spot.
Jhonny Peralta (STL) – On a short slate night, Peralta emerges as the clear option to use in cash games across the industry, despite where his salary lays (mid-tier or cheap). Peralta is the only shortstop in action tonight hitting in the best DFS lineup spot (third). He’ll get a massive park shift playing in Arizona, and as mentioned in teammate Yadier Molina‘s blurb, opposing pitcher Robbie Ray certainly has issues with RHBs. Peralta is fourth in MLB among qualified shortstops in ISO, and the only hitter in play tonight with a higher ISO at shortstop is Jung-ho Kang (terrible park, R/R matchup). Middle infield is pretty clear for me in cash games – go as cheap as possible at second base and slot in Peralta at shortstop.
Additional shortstop notes: If straying from Peralta (a viable option in tournaments as Peralta will be very highly owned), the alternative options I’m looking at are top of the lineup speed threats with a low to mid-low cost (Jose Reyes (COL), Ketel Marte (SEA), Alcides Escobar (KC)). Additional tournament options include Alexei Ramirez (CHW) and Jose Iglesias (DET), both of whom are best used as part of a stack.
Todd Frazier (CIN) – On sites like FanDuel, where Frazier’s price has dropped like a rock, he’s a core option. While Frazier is undoubtedly struggling after a scorching start to his season, there aren’t very many opportunities to get such a high upside player (homer/steal potential) at a low cost on a shorter slate. This doesn’t even take into consideration that Frazier’s matchup is elite as the Red possess the highest team total on the night, facing a horrible starting pitcher backed up by a bad bullpen.
Juan Uribe (NYM) – While Philadelphia is no Colorado, Uribe once again gets a positive park shift and is an inexpensive way to get prime exposure to the Mets offense in a good spot. He’s been hitting cleanup for the Mets, and while his overall numbers are disappointing, he’s averaged a .206 ISO and .345 wOBA against LHP from 2013 to present. Opposing pitcher Adam Morgan makes my eyes light up from a DFS perspective, as he’s an extreme fly ball pitcher (29.7 GB rate) who doesn’t miss bats (12.3 K rate) and has a higher than league average hard minus soft hit rate (15.3). It’s the trifecta! On sites where Frazier isn’t mispriced, Uribe is my top target.
Additional third base notes: The top plays at the position are Alex Rodriguez (NYY) and Manny Machado (BAL) (preference is in that order), but both are best saved for tournaments as it’s tough to pay up at third base. Alternative cash games values to Uribe are Pablo Sandoval (BOS) (positive park shift, Shark’s reduced K rate and issues with LHBs, has been hitting second) and Jake Lamb (ARI) (great home park, cheap power potential, Lynn is a good overall pitcher with improving splits but still has some struggles with LHBs). Nick Castellanos (DET) is a nice tournament option as part of a Detroit stack, and keep in mind he could move up a sport in the order to fifth with the Tigers losing the DH in an NL park.
Top Play: The three outfielders that rank highest in our model, in order, are Andrew McCutchen (PIT), Yoenis Cespedes (NYM) and Nelson Cruz (SEA). McCutchen is cash viable on DK and Cespedes on FD. Outside of that, all three are best used in tournaments given their high price tags.
Tommy Pham (STL) – With injuries in the St. Louis outfield, Pham has been an everyday starter for the Cardinals, and he moved up to the second spot in the order yesterday. There’s not guarantee he’s there again, but with a LHP on the bump I’m hopeful. Pham has some semblance of power/speed upside (went 10/20 in 104 games at AAA last season; 6/9 in 48 games there this season), which is great out of a cheap outfielder, and he obviously benefits from the other plus factors that we like with all the Cardinals’ RHBs (Ray’s splits, park shift, high team total).
Jay Bruce (CIN) – I’m a little bit torn on Bruce. His overall peripherals are great (reduced K rate, excellent loft and hard hit rate), but Bruce has been disastrous at the plate in the month of August (-1 wRC+). Ultimately, on a short slate I think it’s worth overlooking the cold streak and concentrating on the power upside in an elite matchup, which allows you to get top tier upside at a mid-tier price point. We’ve talked about Buck Farmer‘s horrendous stats in a small MLB sample size, and while the splits create an even larger sample size issue, it’s worth noting that Farmer has yielded a .468 wOBA and 2.76 HR/9 to LHBs, even if that’s not the basis for this recommendation.
Juan Lagares (NYM) – Lagares, like with Bruce, comes with both good and bad news. Let’s get the latter out of the way first. Lagares has horrendous plate discipline (.16 EYE, 2.9 BB rate), which is certainly less than ideal in a leadoff hitter. He doesn’t really make up for this in any one particular area. The good news is that Lagares is a wide splits guy. The plate discipline issues are more tolerable against LHP (5.0 career BB rate), and that’s helped lead to consistent power in this split (.142 career ISO, .333 wOBA). Lagares fits into our overall roster construction theme this evening, as he gives you upside to a Mets team we like a lot in Philadelphia against Adam Morgan while simultaneously providing strong cap relief to allocate towards starting pitching and first base.
Additional outfield notes: The prices on Adam Eaton/Melky Cabrera (CHW) have risen a bit since this offense found some life, but they’re still viable cash game plays across the industry in a strong home matchup. Carlos Gomez (HOU) doesn’t have a great splits matchup as he’s R/R with Nathan Eovaldi, but simply based on price and park he’s a plus-EV option. Other options whose prices vary a bit more from site to site are JD Martinez (DET) (great way to get access to the Tigers on FanDuel) and David Peralta/Ender Inciarte (ARI) (may get overlooked since they face one of the better pitchers tonight, but they’re too cheap on DraftKings). Additional tournament options include the Yankees LHBs, Gregory Polanco (PIT) and other outfielders in good lineup spots on our recommended stacks below that might not necessarily rate as strong individual values.
Rankings (price not considered):
1) Jacob deGrom (NYM)
2) Hisashi Iwakuma (SEA)
3) Lance Lynn (STL)
4) Julio Teheran (ATL)
5) JA Happ (PIT)
6) Jorge de la Rosa (COL)
7) Robbie Ray (ARI)
8) Ubaldo Jimenez (BAL)
9) Kris Medlen (KC)
10) Jeff Samardzija (CHW)
11) Nathan Eovaldi (NYY)
12) Felix Doubront (OAK)
Jacob deGrom (NYM) – The gap between deGrom and the rest of the starting pitchers today is massive. Between that and finally getting a day with no Coors Field action, locking deGrom into your cash game lineups on all sites is integral to lineup construction. Not only does deGrom have far superior skills to the rest of the pitchers in action (2.69 FIP, 26.6 K percentage, 7.9 hard minus soft hit rate), but the matchup is superb. Based on the recent lineups the Phillies are using, we have them not only projected to have the worst overall offense based on split but to strike out at the highest rate. In other words, the best pitcher meets the best matchup from both a run prevention standpoint and a K upside standpoint. On top of all this, the Phillies are throwing a bad rookie pitcher in Adam Morgan, leading deGrom to be the day’s largest favorite (-220). Realistically, you can get cute and fade any pitcher in a large field tournament, but don’t bother playing cash games this evening if you aren’t using deGrom.
Next in line:
Hisashi Iwakuma (SEA) – Iwakuma is the clear next in line option. He’s a heavy home favorite (-180) in a low expected scoring game (total of 7, pushing slightly downwards). After an early season DL stint, Iwakuma was a little rusty upon his initial return in July. However, he’s put that well behind him in August, striking out six batters in all four starts and pitching at least seven innings in all of them. Iwakuma has a nice mix of a 4.92 K/BB ratio and 53.2 GB rate. He’ll always be a little homer prone (career 14.2 HR/FB rate is elevated), but his current 18.6 mark is likely to drop as the season moves forward. Iwakuma faces an Athletics offense that has traded Ben Zobrist, is getting poor performances from Vogt and Reddick and is hitting Danny Valencia cleanup (career 74 wRC+ against RHP). If you can make it work, using both deGrom and Iwakuma in cash games is probably the best strategy on multi-starting pitcher sites.
JA Happ (PIT) – If you can’t afford deGrom and Iwakuma together (on DraftDay that combination leaves you with just $6,961 left per hitter, which is very difficult to manage), Happ is the value play I’m targeting. He may not share the same upside as a Lynn or Teheran, but is meaningfully cheaper and shares a similar floor. Happ is in a spacious park in Miami, and this team is not good against LHP. A lot of people will say I’m wrong based on their seventh rating in wRC+, but, as much as we look at team statistics as supporting evidence, they aren’t necessarily predictive. In this case we see a team whose current lineup against LHP actually suggests they should be one of the worst teams in the league in that split. Happ is far from anything special on the mound, but he strikes out more than seven batters per nine innings every single season and has both expected ERAs and projections of an ERA around 4.00, perhaps a touch lower. There’s a good shot at a quality start at a low cost.
Nathan Eovaldi (NYY) – While Eovaldi ranks 11th in our overall rankings, he’s someone worth targeting specifically in tournaments. In large field GPPs, we’re much more willing to take a chance on what could be the beginning of a trend, in hopes of catching it before 1-the price adjusts and 2-ownership levels catch up. For Eovaldi, he’s always been a bit of an enigma because his high velocity hasn’t led to missing bats. However, he ratcheted up his velocity even higher last start out, averaging 99.1 mph on his fastball. That’s well above his season long average of 96.6 and previous season high of 98.0. With it came some missed bats. Eovaldi had a 10.8 SwStr rate (season average is 8.3), which led to eight strikeouts. In cash games, I want to see more of this before I start investing. In tournaments, I’m willing to take a chance the velocity increase (and subsequent strikeout ability) holds, especially against an Astros team that is good but will swing and miss (24.2 K percentage against RHP is highest in MLB).
Macro Thinking, Stacks, and Tournament Notes: Lance Lynn (STL) gets a large negative park shift and faces a Diamondbacks team with three solid LHBs in the top six in the lineup with the dangerous Paul Goldschmidt mixed in there as well. He’s a secondary tournament option only. Julio Teheran (ATL) faces a Rockies team whose lineup has worsened as the season has progressed and all year has struggled on the road. The issue with Teheran is control and a high hard hit rate. His poor results this season cannot be attributed to bad luck. Jeff Samardzija (CHW) is very low in our rankings as we don’t like the matchup with Boston, the park is terrible for pitchers and his K rate has dropped off a ton from previous seasons. However, if price greatly reduced, I don’t mind trying him out in tournaments as it’s possible the soft contact he yields leads to some BABIP luck, which is particularly valuable to Samardzija since he pitches so deep into games. I think Kris Medlen‘s (KC) DFS potential is capped as I’m not sure how much innings upside there is. However, he’s the bare minimum on DraftDay and Yahoo.
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) Detroit Tigers – It’s paining me that I can’t find more cash game values from this team that I like, but at the very least I’ll force exposure to this offense in tournaments. They carry the highest team total and on the road so are guaranteed a full nine inning’s worth of at bats. While Keyvious Sampson may not be a pitcher who gets shelled each time out, his wildness and home park almost ensure that a disaster start is on the horizon. Here’s our prospect man Mike Diaz on Sampson:
“Sampson shows more bad than good. He will show flashes of effectiveness in a game, but remains a very comfortable at bat for opposing hitters due to below average command. Sampson is a pitcher that hitters just get a good look at. He reminds me of Jeremy Guthrie. Solid three pitch mix, but lacks deception and a true put away pitch. Sampson will keep the ball in the yard better than Guthrie, but both pitchers make too many mistakes over the plate that hitters punish. Sampson’s stuff is not good enough be a reliable starter with below average command.”
Note that Sampson has had three separate AAA stints the past three seasons and here are the ERAs he posted (7.11/6.68/5.08) and BB/9 (6.87/6.68/5.08).
2) Cincinnati Reds – Buck Farmer has been absolutely shelled in every MLB start that he’s made, allowing more earned runs than innings pitched in those five starts. While he doesn’t project to be quite so terrible (Steamer has a reasonably optimistic projection), ZiPS projects a 5.96 ERA and 1.72 HR/9. Additionally, Farmer is backed up by a well below average bullpen.
3) Chicago White Sox – As touched on in the positional analysis, the White Sox are in a great spot due to their hitter friendly home park, Kelly’s high hard hit rate and a bad Red Sox bullpen.
4) New York Mets – Adam Morgan‘s inability to miss bats or keep the ball on the ground is going to result in a much higher ERA moving forward.
1) Houston Astros – On a short slate, there’s extra value in this team’s elite power/speed combo, especially on the road at Yankee Stadium. We’re a bit hesitant to pick on Eovaldi too much in cash, but you can play either side of this one in tournaments.
2) St. Louis Cardinals – Hurt by some injuries, but significant park shift in their favor. I’m also waiting for a Robbie Ray blow up. He’s posted an ERA of 3.38 despite a 4.02 xFIP. Most pitchers with a hard rate this high (36.7) see an ERA higher than their xFIP. I think you’ll be able to pull some cheap RHBs from this lineup and also play some contrarian L/L guys (Carpenter, Heyward).
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.
HOU at NYY 7:05: Dry. Temps in the upper 70s falling into the low to mid 70s. Air density is a 7. Wind south 4-8 mph which blows out to left. The wind is a 6.
NYM at PHL 7:05: Dry. Temps near 80 falling into the low to mid 70s. Air density is an 8 becoming a 7. Wind south 7-14 mph which blows out to left-center. The wind is a 6.
COL at ATL 7:10: Dry. Temps in the low 80s falling into the upper 70s. Air density is an 8 becoming a 7. Wind northwest 9-18 mph which blows from left to right. The wind is a 5.
DET at CIN 7:10: Dry. Temps in the low 70s falling into the low 60s. Air density is a 5 becoming a 4. Wind west 5-10 mph becoming nearly calm which blows out to left or left-center. The wind is a 6.
PIT at MIA 7:10: The retractable roof will likely be closed.
BOS at CHW 8:10: Dry. Temps in the upper 60s falling to near 60. Air density is a 5 becoming a 4. Wind west-northwest 10-20 mph lessening to 7-14 mph which blows out to left-center. The wind is an 8 becoming a 6.
BLT at KC 8:10: Dry. Temps in the mid to upper 70s falling into the mid 60s. Air density is a 6 becoming a 4. Wind north 5-10 mph which blows in from left. The wind is a 4.
STL at AZ 10:00: Retractable roof. A 10-20% chance of a thunderstorm. Temps in the mid 100s falling into the mid 90s. Air density is a 9. Wind southwest becoming south 6-12 mph which blows out to right first and then out to center. The wind is a 6.
OAK at SEA 10:10: Dry. Temps in the mid 70s falling into the mid 60s. Air density is a 5 becoming a 4. Wind southwest becoming northwest 6-12 mph which blows out to center and then out to right. The wind is a 6.