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August 25 MLB DFS: Donaldson Makes Toronto Great Again
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August 25 MLB DFS: Donaldson Makes Toronto Great Again

0:42 Starting Pitchers

8: 37 Catchers

11:30 First Base

13:24 Second Base

15:27 Shortstops

17:39 Third Base

19:41 Outfield

22:34 Cash Game Roster Construction & Stacks

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August 25 MLB DFS PRO TIP

Starting Pitcher Rankings

Tier One

1) Max Scherzer (WAS)

Tier Two

2) Robbie Ray (ARZ)

3) J.A. Happ (TOR)

4) Adam Wainwright (STL)

5) Cole Hamels (TEX)

Max Scherzer (WAS) is the unquestioned ace on Thursday’s short evening slate. Scherzer faces a tough Orioles’ offense that ranks second in wRC+ against RHP with a league best .202 ISO. The good news for Scherzer is he gets the benefit of facing them at home, without a DH, and their lineup is exceptionally right-handed without the DH Pedro Alvarez. Scherzer has been incredibly dominant against RHBs since 2015 (.233 wOBA, .150 ISO, and 36.3 K Rate). The concern is his lone vulnerability (power allowed) is the one thing the Orioles do exceptionally well. Scherzer has the lowest implied run total on the slate (3.4 runs) and he’s a monstrous favorite at -230. The strikeout floor Scherzer provides is especially valuable on a slate where many of the alternatives are in very difficult pitching environments. As a result, we view Scherzer as a foundation in cash games.

Robbie Ray (ARZ) follows Scherzer in our rankings and his growth in the second half has been exceptional (33.9 K Rate, 5.8 BB Rate, 50 percent GB Rate, and 2.49 xFIP). The schedule has been favorable (@CIN,@MIL, WAS, @NYM, NYM, @SD) but the growth in GB Rate and command are both impressive regardless of the competition. Ray faces a Braves’ lineup that has improved against LHP with the acquisition of Matt Kemp and the promotion of Dansby Swanson, but they’re strikeout prone and still a weak offense overall. On FanDuel, with a significant discount compared to Scherzer, Ray is a viable cash game target although we’d prefer the exposure in tournaments. On DraftKings, pairing Scherzer and Ray would come with immense strikeout potential but on a slate with so much offense it likely brings too much opportunity cost. As a result, we’re working our way down the pricing spectrum and towards Adam Wainwright (STL) who is just $6,900. Wainwright faces a Mets’ offense that was getting healthier with the returns of Cabrera, Reyes, and Cespedes but may have lost Jay Bruce on Wednesday night. It’s not an elite matchup for Wainwright but he has the third lowest implied run total against on the slate (3.8 runs) and is one of the few truly cheap alternatives.

In tournaments, the pursuit of strikeout upside and low ownership brings Cole Hamels (TEX) into play. Cleveland ranks 14th in wRC+ against LHP and has the 15th highest K Rate. It’s a neutral matchup but one that is likely perceived as very difficult which should keep ownership down. Tom Koehler (MIA) is another viable tournament target given his recent string of strong starts (six straight quality starts) and facing a Royals’ offense without the DH. Koehler’s price tag is higher than Wainwright’s which should draw lower ownership and he makes for a good pivot on DraftKings.

Catcher Rankings

1) Russell Martin (TOR)

2) Buster Posey (SF)

3) Wilson Ramos (WAS)

4) Jonathan Lucroy (TEX)

5) Welington Castillo (ARZ)

As the cleanup hitter on the offense with the highest implied run total (5.8 runs) on the slate, Russell Martin represents our top catcher option. He’s a difficult fit on DraftKings at $4,900 but certainly in play on FanDuel at $3,400. Martin continues to rate well in the well hit tool (+0.6, 4.8) and Jered Weaver has allowed a .363 wOBA and .214 ISO to RHBs since the start of last season. Weaver still relies heavily on fly balls and this park downgrade should be on that severely hurts his outlook. Buster Posey (SF), Wilson Ramos (WAS), and Jonathan Lucroy (TEX) all rate as solid plays but with aggressive price tags they’re difficult to justify in cash games. With a high priced starter on the hill, we’ll look for value at the position. On DraftKings, Tyler Flowers (ATL) could hit fifth against a LHP and while Robbie Ray isn’t the best matchup it would represent a nice lineup spot in a plus hitting environment with the platoon advantage. On FanDuel, Yadier Molina (STL) has hit fifth occasionally against RHP of late which would make him a viable salary relief option at $2,600. Any other potential punt plays would all be viable given the slate.

First Base Rankings

1) Edwin Encarnacion (TOR)

2) Paul Goldschmidt (ARZ)

3) Daniel Murphy (WAS) – where eligible

4) Brandon Belt (SF)

5) Brandon Moss (STL)

6) Chris Davis (BAL)

7) Freddie Freeman (ATL)

8) Jose Abreu (CHW)

9) Chris Carter (MIL)

10) Mike Napoli (CLE)

Paul Goldschmidt (ARZ) and Edwin Encarnacion (TOR) are atop our first base rankings and they both rank inside our Top Five overall hitters on this slate. On FanDuel, it’s difficult to afford the top first basemen unless you’re playing Robbie Ray over Max Scherzer. On DraftKings, it’s not difficult to spend up on either option. Our lean is just to get more Jays exposure here pairing an extreme fly ball hitter with Jered Weaver‘s home run tendencies in a small park. Brandon Belt (SF) represents the best mid-tier play with a slight park shift in his favor and against a below average RHP. On FanDuel, we’re intrigued by Josh Bell (PIT) as a punt play. Bell is a big time prospect who posted a .379 wOBA in AAA this year and the projection systems have him for a solid .320 wOBA rest of the way. He’s a switch-hitter and lefties have crushed Wily Peralta (.400 wOBA, .235 ISO since 2015). In a favorable hitting environment and as part of an offense with an implied team total of 4.7 runs we don’t mind that Bell is likely hitting sixth. He’s an excellent source of salary relief for those paying up for Scherzer in cash games.

Second Base Rankings

1) Robinson Cano (SEA)

2) Daniel Murphy (WAS)

3) Matt Carpenter (STL)

4) Devon Travis (TOR) – health risk

5) Trea Turner (WAS) – where eligible

6) Jean Segura (ARZ)

7) Dee Gordon (MIA)

8) Josh Harrison (PIT)

9) Jurickson Profar (TEX) – where eligible

10) Rougned Odor (TEX)

Second base is once again loaded as Robinson Cano (SEA) and Daniel Murphy (WAS) are borderline Top 10 overall hitters and Matt Carpenter (STL)/Devon Travis (TOR) aren’t far behind. We’d love to be able to afford the hefty price tags on Cano or Murphy as they’re facing two of the weaker starters on the slate. Cano gets a big park shift and Anthony Ranaudo has allowed a .343 wOBA and .222 ISO to LHBs since 2015. Murphy faces Ubaldo Jimenez who has allowed a .356 wOBA and .187 ISO since 2015 to LHBs. Cano is our lean as he faces a slightly weaker bullpen and on the road has a guaranteed ninth inning. If searching for value, Devon Travis (TOR) would qualify if healthy on both sites. Any exposure to Jays is a good idea as we’ve covered Weaver’s horrendous outlook and he’s backed up by one of the worst pens in baseball. On DraftKings, a really soft price tag on Jurickson Profar (TEX) would represent one of the best values. Back in an AL Park, Profar should lead off with the Rangers having a DH at their disposal again. Gordon Beckham (ATL) is a viable punt on both sites if hitting second in a great hitting environment in Arizona. Josh Harrison (PIT) is a fine secondary target if leading off against Wily Peralta (.379 wOBA, .172 ISO against RHBs since 2015).

Shortstop Rankings

1) Trea Turner (WAS) – where eligible

2) Jonathan Villar (MIL) – where eligible

3) Francisco Lindor (CLE)

4) Troy Tulowitzki (TOR)

5) Tim Anderson (CHW)

Trea Turner (WAS) ranks as our fifth best second base option, but he’s our top shortstop option against Ubaldo Jimenez who has been decent against RHBs (.333 wOBA, .111 ISO) since 2015. Jimenez struggles to control the running game so it’s an excellent matchup if Turner can get on base. He’s expensive everywhere, but remains a fine target. With our emphasis on starting pitching, we’ll likely get exposure to Turner in tournaments. Shortstop is a position we’re largely looking for value as the top options are all priced up and we’re in need of salary relief. Tim Anderson (CHW) represents a pure punt price on FanDuel ($2,300) and faces James Paxton who is coming off the DL after dealing with elbow issues. The punt tag and likely strong lineup spot are enough to draw us to Andeson on FanDuel. On DraftKings, Francisco Lindor (CLE) has been priced way down due to the matchup with Cole Hamels. At $3,200, it’s simply too cheap for a player with his skill set, hitting third, in Texas. Lindor is our primary cash game target on DraftKings.

Third Base Rankings

1) Josh Donaldson (TOR)

2) Matt Carpenter (STL) – where eligible

3) Kyle Seager (SEA) – health risk

4) Adrian Beltre (TEX)

5) Justin Turner (LAD)

Josh Donaldson (TOR) is our second ranked hitter on the slate and your top option at third base. It’s possible to reach up to him on both sites and still get exposure to the high-end pitching. Without an elite value target at the position, this would represent our preferred route. Adrian Beltre (TEX), Matt Carpenter (STL), and Kyle Seager (SEA) represent the next best drop-downs. We’d like to see a meaningful price tag if pivoting off Donaldson which makes Beltre the best potential pivot. Josh Tomlin is really vulnerable to RH power (.363 wOBA, .249 ISO allowed since 2015 to RHBs) and Arlington is a great place for power in the summer. Kyle Seager‘s dealing with a foot issue and priced close enough to Donaldson that it’s hard to get excited in cash games, but he’s an excellent tournament target.

Outfield Rankings

1) Bryce Harper (WAS)

2) Gregory Polanco (PIT)

3) Starling Marte (PIT)

4) Nelson Cruz (SEA) – health risk

5) Rajai Davis (CLE)

6) Ryan Braun (MIL)

7) Andrew McCutchen (PIT)

8) Brandon Moss (STL)

9) Ian Desmond (TEX)

10) Trea Turner (WAS) – where eligible

11) Mike Trout (LAA)

12) Seth Smith (SEA)

13) Matt Kemp (ATL)

14) Carlos Beltran (TEX)

15) Nori Aoki (SEA)

Bryce Harper (WAS) represents the top overall hitter on this slate as he gets Ubaldo Jimenez (.356 wOBA, .187 ISO since 2015 to LHBs) at home. Harper’s expensive but not prohibitively so on either site. The challenge is the outfield generally has more depth in values than all the other positions which often encourages roster construction against the top overall plays in the outfield. Gregory Polanco (PIT) and Starling Marte (PIT) are similarly expensive which makes them tough to justify in cash games, but the Pirates are an excellent tournament stack led by those two. Martin Maldonado saps some of their value behind the plate as he’s good at controlling the running game but Wily Peralta is very bad against all handed hitters. Polanco is an especially strong one-off play in tournaments. Rajai Davis (CLE) and Seth Smith (SEA) are two key value plays on both sites. Seth Smith is the easiest way to access the Mariners’ big park shift against a White Sox staff that has just one lefty in the pen. Rajai Davis has the platoon advantage in a great hitting environment and the Hamels-Lucroy duo projects to struggle against the running game. If he can get on base, he should rack up stolen bases. Ian Desmond (TEX) and Carlos Beltran (TEX) remain cheap on DraftKings at $4,000 and are strong cash game targets as a way to get exposure against Josh Tomlin. On FanDuel, Jurickson Profar (TEX) represents that option at below $3,000.

Stack Rankings

Tier One

1) Toronto Blue Jays

2) Seattle Mariners

3) Washington Nationals

Tier Two

4) St. Louis Cardinals

5) Pittsburgh Pirates

6) Texas Rangers

We’ll have to check back in on the Mariners’ health before considering them our top stack. Nelson Cruz left with injury and Kyle Seager missed last night’s game. If both are out, they’d get knocked down meaningfully. The Blue Jays have the highest implied run total on the slate and are facing arguably the weakest bullpen behind Weaver. We imagine the Jays implied team total nearly a run ahead of everyone else will make them the chalk. In cash games, we’re looking for exposure to these top offenses but more focused on just identifying value on the whole. If a mini-stack happens organically, that’s fine but it’s not something we’re aggressively targeting.

Contrarian Tournament Stacks

St. Louis Cardinals – Seth Lugo had a 6.50 ERA in AAA before in 73 1/3 innings with two thirds of his appearances coming as a starter. He’s allowed a 37.3 hard hit rate in his 23 2/3 big league innings and the Mets bullpen is a bit taxed after deGrom didn’t go deep into the game and Jon Niese left the previous start in the first inning.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Josh Bell‘s presence in this stack is really compelling for tournament teams as it gives cheap power on both sites and offsets some of the extreme cost of the Polanco-Marte duo. McCutchen has looked a bit more like himself in August (44.7 hard hit rate, 18+ percent walk rate) and the offense gets a monstrous park shift against a bad opposing starter who is backed up by a weak bullpen.

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