Daily Fantasy Rundown – August 5 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: Games in ATL and especially in CIN deserve to be watched for thunderstorms…
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 has an elite home matchup (Yankee Stadium is second most favorable park for LHBs) at home against Steven Wright. In 94 big league innings, Wright has a 4.21 ERA and 1.24 HR/9 allowed. Projections systems actually expect a much worse ERA moving forward. Wright struggles with control and limiting the long ball, both problems exacerbated by a below league average K rate. Meanwhile, McCann continues to take a higher upside approach at the plate, which has translated to a nice bounce back season in both real life and Fantasy. He’s swinging more aggressively (SwStr rate up) but that’s actually a good thing when combined with increased patience (BB rate up). When he does make contact, it’s much higher quality than last season, and he’s pulling the ball at a career high rate, which is ideal in Yankee Stadium. McCann’s upside is further bolstered by a Red Sox bullpen that has the fourth highest xFIP and most HR/9.
Yasmani Grandal (LAD) – Grandal and the whole Dodgers offense disappointed yesterday, but he’s still someone to target today. He gets a small but positive park shift playing in Philadelphia and faces another subpar RHP in Aaron Harang, who has allowed a .338 wOBA and 1.11 HR/9 to LHBs since 2013. While Grandal is a switch hitter, he’s far superior from the left side, where he’s posted a .362 wOBA and .196 ISO for his career. The Dodgers will have a run total settle in somewhere between 4 and 4.5 this evening. I’d defer to McCann where the two are closely priced (FanDuel), but on sites where the gap in pricing is a bit wider (DraftKings), Grandal emerges as a viable cash game option. UPDATE: Dodgers lineup has been released and it does not include Grandal.
Yadier Molina (STL) – Molina is best used on sites like FanDuel where he’s minimum priced and meaningfully cheaper than the above two names. While his power days are behind him, Molina still makes a lot of contact and a lot of that contact is in the form of line drives. He should have some RBI opportunities for a Cardinals offense that I believe is getting short changed by Vegas today (implied run total right around 4). The Cardinals get a significant park shift playing in the most hitter friendly venue in play on the evening slate. They’ll face David Holmberg, who both ZiPS and Steamer project to post an ERA right around 5.00 with a HR/9 mark of 1.35. In his very short career, Holmberg has started seven games and appeared in nine total leading to 39.2 innings in which he’s walked as many as he has struck out and allowed 2.04 HR/9. Holmberg hasn’t discriminated in that time, being owned by both handedness of hitters, but we’ll consider it a plus that Molina holds the platoon edge.
Additional catcher notes: Evan Gattis (HOU) is a viable pivot off of McCann on FanDuel. He’ll hit cleanup on the road for an Astros team with an extremely high run total (5) as they face the awful Nick Martinez and Rangers bullpen. Jonathan Lucroy (MIL) is at an okay price for a home matchup in which he’ll hit second against a struggling Ian Kennedy. Russell Martin/Dioner Navarro (TOR) could emerge as values depending on lineup spot as the Blue Jays offense should have success against rookie Tyler Duffey, who is backed up by a bad Twins bullpen (highest xFIP, fifth in HR/9). Jason Castro (HOU) is my favorite projected low owned tournament option. Both the park and matchup provide Castro with considerable upside despite a bottom of the order lineup spot.
Mark Teixeira (NYY) – The Yankees have a team total around five tonight due to the favorable hitting environment and matchup against Wright/Red Sox bullpen, which was discussed in McCann’s blurb. Teixeira is one of a few Yankees turning back the clock and having one of the best seasons of his career. His .76 EYE ties the second best of his career and marks meaningful improvements in BB and K rates relative to the past two seasons. On top of that, he’s hitting for more power than he’s ever hit for before with a .314 ISO. It’s really difficult to rely on single season splits due to the sample size issues, but it’s hard not to notice the huge increase in production, specifically against RHP (whopping .361 ISO). If you can afford him, he’s our top play at the position.
Edwin Encarnacion (TOR) – Encarnacion actually rates slightly higher in our model, for what it’s worth. I’ve manually adjusted Teixeira ahead due to his amazing in season peripherals and more of a track record on the pitcher he’s facing. However, Encarnacion also comes with a great deal of upside. He’s hitting a few more ground balls and has a lower hard minus soft hit rate than usual, which has taken his power from great to good. Still, that gives him a high ceiling at home for a team with a high run total (around 5) against a rookie RHP in Tyler Duffey. It’s tough to get a handle on Duffey who is having a strong Minor League season but isn’t considered one of the Twins top prospects. He’ll be backed up by a bullpen that is dead last in MLB in xFIP.
I have more conviction when it comes to the top plays than the value plays, but it may not be feasible roster construction wise to pay up at first base. The reason the value plays are a bit muddled at the position is a combination of pricing and talent/good splits plays not necessarily matchup with the overall environments/teams we want to target most. The three guys I seem most likely to use in the mid-tier are Adam Lind (MIL), Adrian Gonzalez (LAD) and Ryan Zimmerman (WAS). Lind rates as a mediocre play in our model, but I think both the baselines for him and Ian Kennedy are a bit off, both in directions that would underrate Lind relative to his true probability of success. Kennedy had an okay year last season but he’s had an ERA above 4.00 in three of the past 4 as hard minus soft hit rates nearly double the league average have led to huge HR problems. This has been particularly the case against LHBs (.335 wOBA, 1.53 HR/9 since 2013). Lind has consistently mashed RHP the last three seasons posting wOBAs of .396/.410/.384 and ISOs of .230/.179/.229. His price has come back down to earth recently. Gonzalez seems to be a player I can’t get right this season, but his EYE and ISO are leading to a strong bounce back year and the matchup against Harang in Philadelphia is favorable. Zimmerman isn’t in a very good hitter’s park relative to other viable options, but he’s extremely cheap for a cleanup hitter, especially facing Rubby de la Rosa (4.59 ERA, 4.68 FIP).
Additional first base notes: The best cheap option at the position is Justin Smoak (TOR), at least on DraftKings where he’s near minimum salary. I’d put him ahead of Zimmerman if Smoak hits fifth. Other viable options include Paul Goldschmidt (ARI) (price has come back down to earth and crushes LHP but not a team we’re generally targeting today) and David Ortiz (BOS) (huge park shift in his favor and faces a rookie RHP, albeit a highly touted one).
Jose Altuve (HOU) – Altuve is the clear cut top play at second base, salary aside. He’ll be leading off on the road for the Astros, so he’s guaranteed four PAs with a tremendous shot at five and outside shot at six given the Astros very high team total. While Altuve won’t hold the platoon edge, it hasn’t really mattered what handed batters have faced Nick Martinez as he’s allowed a .359 wOBA and 1.22 HR/9 to RHBs for his career. Throw in the Rangers horrific bullpen and Altuve’s stolen base upside, and he’s an elite tournament option at a position that lacks any competition up top. In cash games, though, I’m having a difficult time fitting Altuve in given that I’ll likely be paying up for Matt Harvey. There aren’t a lot of value play options but there are a couple of good ones at a low price that allow us to fade Altuve in cash games.
Anthony Rendon (WAS) – The first of these options is Anthony Rendon. While we don’t think too highly of Rubby de la Rosa (as bad as his ERA/FIP is, he admittedly has been unlucky), this suggestion is mostly about an underpriced talent at a weak position. Rendon went 21-17 in HR-SB last season, and projections systems are calling for a similar wOBA and ISO this year. At a mid to low-mid price across the industry, Rendon is simply underpriced as he’s put up pedestrian numbers in a small sample size since returning from injury (Nationals have faced a ton of top tier pitching). If you’re stuck at second base and can’t afford Altuve, it might make sense to simply play Rendon’s talent at a low price.
Scooter Gennett (MIL) – Gennett really saves the day on FanDuel at almost a minimum price. He’s not a great hitter, but he should lead off at home against Ian Kennedy, whose struggles we pored over when discussing Adam Lind‘s value. When facing RHP, Gennett makes a decent amount of contact (14.5 K percentage), and it’s generally hard contact (25.0 LD rate, 14.0 hard minus soft hit rate) leading to a surprisingly solid ISO of .162 for a cheap middle infielder. I wouldn’t call a player of his overall skill level an elite value play, but in this split, park, matchup and lineup spot for a low cost, he’s very useful given the lack of options at the position.
Additional second base notes: The written up options are the core second basemen I’m targeting today. Some alternative options are Howie Kendrick (LAD) and Yangervis Solarte (SD). Kolten Wong (STL) and Jedd Gyorko (SD) are viable in tournaments.
The shortstop position is actually flooded with high end upside this evening. Both Carlos Correa (HOU) and Troy Tulowitzki (TOR) are top 15 overall hitters on the slate. Salary aside, I give an ever so slight edge to Correa as I’d rather pick on the guy we know is terrible (Nick Martinez) rather than an unknown, we suspect will have trouble (Tyler Duffey). The additional chance at an at bat on the road also helps Correa. Either way both players have very high ceilings in good hitter’s parks, surrounded by talent. While Correa edges out Tulowitzki in our raw rankings, the best chance at using either of these players in a cash game setting is Troy Tulowitzki on DraftKings. Both are viable on FanDuel at the same price but a bit tougher to squeeze in.
Jhonny Peralta (STL) – The upside at the shortstop position doesn’t end at the high end, as Peralta is an excellent mid-tier option and the main reason you’re not forced to stretch up to a top play at the position on sites where Correa and Tulowitzki are both very expensive. Peralta will hit cleanup for a Cardinals offense that feels a bit underrated on today’s slate. As mentioned above (Molina’s blurb), David Holmberg is not good and very HR risky in a ballpark that leads to lots of HRs. In the 138 RHBs Holmberg has faced in his career (admittedly small sample), he has allowed a .341 wOBA and 1.69 HR/9. The crazy part about that is he’s actually been pretty lucky in that split as his BABIP is .216 despite a very high 20.4 hard minus soft hit rate.
Additional shortstop options: Alcides Escobar (KC) is a good way to get exposure to a Royals offense that faces Matt Boyd (two extremely rocky starts to his career) and a bad Tigers bullpen. He’s leading off and minimum priced on FanDuel. If Jimmy Rollins (LAD) leads off again, he’s a viable cheap option, but I’d prefer to try and get one of the high upside written up options. Ian Desmond (WAS) may be worth taking a shot on in tournaments.
Attack the position based on site:
The third base position is difficult to pin down industry wide values. The best way to attack this position varies from site to site. On sites like DraftKings, where the mid-tier values’ salaries are much closer to the top plays percentage wise and there’s more opportunity to get creative with lineup construction (two starting pitchers, wider salary spread), I’m looking to spend up on the top plays. The two clear cut top options are Alex Rodriguez (NYY) and Josh Donaldson (TOR). Both have phenomenal matchups, in good parks and are having excellent seasons. If forced to choose, I’d break the tie with salary and go with Rodriguez who is generally cheaper across the industry.
On sites like FanDuel where the mid-tier values have a bit friendlier pricing and it’s a bit more difficult to be creative if locking in Matt Harvey in cash games, I’m more prone to hit the mid-tier values. These include Kris Bryant (CHC) (tremendous power potential yet to be fully tapped into; horrendous hitter’s park but a subpar LHP), Matt Carpenter (STL) (ignore the L/L matchup if Carpenter leads off as Holmberg’s lack of skills and the park trump the lack of platoon edge) and Miguel Sano (MIN) (on sites where he’s cheaper than Bryant and Carpenter, it makes sense to simply get Sano’s power upside in your lineup in a friendly ballpark, even if the matchup is just okay).
Additional third base notes: Anthony Rendon/Ryan Zimmerman (WAS) have third base eligibility on some sites, making them secondary values. I prefer Rendon (younger, higher likelihood of a fifth plate appearance) if salary is moot. Industry wide tournament options that may be low owned include Pablo Sandoval (BOS) (big park upgrade, hitting from his stronger side) and Chase Headley (NYY) (short porch in right for a hitter on one of the highest projected scoring offenses).
Expensive Value Plays:
Jacoby Ellsbury (NYY) – Ellsbury is a great way to get high upside exposure to the Yankees offense at a pretty reasonable price tag. He’s in the mid-high tier priced outfielders rather than being lumped in with the elite, high priced outfielders. Now, the price is low for a reason (terrible hard minus soft hit rate has led to a large reduction in power), but in this matchup it makes sense to buy low. With an awful opposing pitcher and bullpen, Ellsbury should be able to make great use of his stolen base and runs scored upside with the opportunity to get lucky from a power perspective with the short porch in right. Brett Gardner (NYY) is a viable pivot off of Ellsbury in all formats where priced similarly.
Carlos Gomez (HOU) – Gomez, like Ellsbury, is an “event” player who gives you a large ceiling from an individual perspective while simultaneously giving you exposure to one of our preferred offenses without overpaying for it. There’s not too much more to add to this matchup than has already been discussed. While Gomez won’t start with the platoon edge, his career wOBAs versus left and right handed pitchers are very similar, and the main difference is slightly less power.
Additional top plays: Options such as Bryce Harper (WAS) and Jose Bautista (TOR) rate a bit higher in our model than Ellsbury/Gomez, but they come at a higher cost and in the case of Harper the opportunity cost is large (you fill an expensive spot that isn’t one of the top offenses).
Andre Ethier/Yasiel Puig (LAD) – This duo frustrated us last night and have been often recently, but if you need some cap relief in the outfield, it’s hard to find a better bargain. It looks like Ethier and Puig will be hitting fourth and fifth respectively, which given the park shift (favorable) and opposing pitcher (Harang has a 4.57 xFIP) leads them to being vastly undervalued at mid-low price tags around the industry. Ethier has experiences a nice bounce back season as his hard hit rate is back in line with his career mark, and the loft he is generating is a career best, leading to a solid .196 ISO overall. Puig is a good buy low candidate as his solid hard hit rate and increase in loft don’t jive with the reduction in power he’s experiences thus far (.168 ISO, .192 for his career). Teammate Joc Pederson (LAD) is cash viable at a low price if he cracks the top six lineup spots but ultimately better for use in tournaments.
Preston Tucker (HOU) – If you can’t get up to Carlos Gomez but still want Houston exposure in the outfield, Tucker’s your man. He’ll hold the platoon edge on Markakis and has hit fourth recently. Prior to his call up, Tucker was absolutely mashing at AAA (.435 wOBA, .330 ISO), and he’s been able to more than hold his own since the call up (.342 wOBA, .202 ISO). Teammate Colby Rasmus (HOU) should also be considered in cash games if he hits fifth or sixth and in tournaments regardless of lineup spot.
Additional outfield notes: Randal Grichuk (STL) is a touch too expensive for my tastes (price is more reasonable on DK), but carries a ton of homerun upside given his power and a matchup with Holmberg in Cincinnati. Teammates Jason Heyward/Brandon Moss (STL) should be targeted as low owned options in tournaments. This is a great matchup for them overall but people will be driven away by recent performance/the L/L matchup. You can add Jayson Werth (WAS) to the list of Nationals hitters who don’t have an amazing matchup but pop as viable complementary options due to being underpriced. There’s also nice tournament upside for reasonable prices among the outfielders in the SD-MIL game, most notably Justin Upton/Matt Kemp (SD) and Khris Davis (MIL).
Rankings (price not considered):
1) Matt Harvey (NYM)
2) Madison Bumgarner (SF)
3) Johnny Cueto (KC)
4) Carlos Martinez (STL)
5) Brett Anderson (LAD)
6) Gio Gonzalez (WAS)
7) Scott Kazmir (HOU)
8) Dan Haren (CHC)
9) Jeff Locke (PIT)
9) Luis Severino (NYY)
10) Drew Hutchison (TOR)
11) Ian Kennedy (SD)
12) Matt Boyd (DET)
Matt Harvey (NYM) – While Harvey hasn’t exactly been himself recently, posting an xFIP of 5.00 or greater in four of nine starts, it’s tough not to anchor cash game teams with him given an array of contextual factors in his favor this evening. For starters, while the past month or two have been disappointing, he was dominant his last time out, striking out nine batters against zero walks. The SwStr rate was once again less than ideal, but at least the surface stats have been there recently (string of four starts with at least 7 IP and no more than 2 ER). And the fact of a matter is even a Harvey at less than full strength is the top pitcher today. This Marlins team lacks punch without Giancarlo Stanton, which along with a huge park mitigates one of the areas Harvey has struggled in relative to pre-TJS numbers (the long ball). The Marlins have dropped to dead last in wRC+ against RHP on the season. Harvey is a large favorite (-152) in the game with the lowest total (6.5).
Carlos Martinez (STL) – Martinez is definitely a more volatile option than the rest of the tier two starting pitchers, but he comes at a much lower cost than Cueto or Bumgarner and much higher upside than Anderson. The pitching environment (Cincinnati) is undoubtedly poor, but it’s Martinez’s skill set has a chance to combat that since he strikes out a lot of batters (24.7 K percentages) and also keeps the ball on the ground (56.0 GB rate). That’s a pretty elite combination right there, but his subpar control (3.47 BB/9) keeps him from being a top tier starting pitcher. Still, the combination has led to a great 3.24 xFIP, which he’s been able to beat thanks to the amount of soft contact he’s forcing (just a 3.6 hard minus soft hit rate). Despite a pretty mediocre matchup and poor park, you can still look to Martinez as a strong complementary pitcher on multi-SP sites and great tournament option on single-SP sites. A final plus in Martinez’s corner is that he has by far the friendliest umpire for pitchers of the tier two options.
Brett Anderson (LAD) – Anderson has the lowest ceiling of the tier two starting pitchers, but the simple fact that we think he’s even lumped in with them at all today makes him a worthy target on DraftKings, where his reduced salary allows you to play plenty of upper echelon hitting, even if spending up on Matt Harvey. While the Phillies are surprisingly 10th in wRC+ against LHP, their current lineup projects very poorly in our model. In fact, we have them pegged as the worst offense from a wRC standpoint of those in action this evening and also the second highest projected K percentage in this split, making this an ideal matchup. Anderson isn’t a huge ceiling guy due to his below average K rate, but his absurd 66.4 GB rate and 1.1 hard minus soft hit rate makes him a very high floor option. Going back to our projections, he should walk into a decent amount of strikeouts if this is the same lineup the Phillies used last night, which allowed Alex Wood (not much higher of a K percentage on the season than Anderson) to strike out eight batters. Anderson is a -190 favorite, and it’s near that point (-200 or better) where the win probability for the starting pitcher takes a meaningful jump upwards. If the projected lineups hold, I’d be more prone to save some money and use Anderson as my second pitcher in cash games.
Additional starting pitcher notes: Madison Bumgarner (SF) seems like a high floor starting pitcher against a weak Atlanta offense. His upside, in my eyes, is slightly capped by a team that may not strike out a lot, a negative park shift and a very unfavorable umpire. On FanDuel, Johnny Cueto (KC) at a much cheaper price seems like the more logical pivot off of Harvey in cash games. Given Gio Gonzalez‘s (WAS) pricing and ranking behind Martinez/Anderson, he’s not someone I’ll likely end up with much exposure to this evening. The tier four options strike me as a bit safer than the tier five options, but since you aren’t dipping down this low in cash games, I’d simply prefer the lower cost of the tier five guys in tournaments. In particular, Yankees prospect Luis Severino (NYY) is worth utilizing in GPPs on DraftKings for an extremely low price. It might make sense to combine him with a Yankees stack since there will be some correlation there (if the stack goes off, the win probability for Severino increases quite a bit). It’s a tough park and less than stellar matchup but the man has skills (FIP of 2.70 or lower at every single stop from 2013 to present).
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) Houston Astros (road team, terrible starting pitcher, bad bullpen, great park – it all comes together)
2) New York Yankees (covered this one pretty extensively in the positional analysis)
3) St. Louis Cardinals (this one was covered pretty extensively already, but I wanted to further point out the upside in using the three LHBs in the top six of this lineup at likely low ownership levels across the industry)
4) Toronto Blue Jays (more runs scored upside than the Cardinals, but the Cardinals provide a bit more value when taking into account pricing and a guaranteed ninth inning’s worth of at bats)
1) Los Angeles Dodgers (On the road against a bad pitcher with several underpriced hitters makes the Dodgers a good value stack, even if their runs scored upside doesn’t rival that of our primary stacks)
2) Milwaukee Brewers (Kennedy’s long ball issues meet a park that accentuates home runs)
3) Kansas City Royals (struggled to find many individual plays I liked a lot here, but Matt Boyd has given up five homers in his two MLB starts and is backed up by a bad Tigers bullpen, which recently traded Joakim Soria)
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.
BOS at NYY 7:05: A 10% chance of a shower/thunderstorm right near the beginning of the game. By 8 PM, the threat is over. Not worried about this game, worst case scenario is a brief delay between 7 and 8 and I really do not see that happening. Temps near 80 falling into the mid 70s. Air density is a 7 becoming a 6. Wind northwest 5-10 mph which blows from left to right or at times out to right. The wind is a 6.
AZ at WSH 7:05: Dry. Temps in the mid to upper 80s falling to near 80. Air density is an 8 becoming a 7. Wind west becoming northwest 5-10 mph which blows first out to right and then from left to right. The wind is a 6 becoming a 5.
LAD at PHL 7:05: Dry. Temps in the mid 80s falling into the mid to upper 70s. Air density is a 7 or an 8 becoming a 6. Wind northwest 8-16 mph lessening to 5-10 mph which blows in from left. The wind is a 3 becoming a 4.
CHC at PIT 7:05: Dry. Temps in the mid to upper 70s falling into the mid to upper 60s. Air density is a 6 becoming a 5. Wind northwest 5-10 mph becoming nearly calm. The wind first blows out to center and is a 6 on the wind scale becoming a 5.
MIN at TOR 7:07: Retractable roof. Dry. Temps near 70 falling into the lower 60s. Air density is a 6 becoming a 5. Wind northwest 7-14 mph becoming nearly calm. The wind first blows in from left and is a 4 on the wind scale becoming a 5.
KC at DET 7:08: Dry. Temps in the mid 70s falling into the mid to upper 60s. Air density is a 7 becoming a 5. Wind light and variable. The wind is a 5.
SF at ATL 7:10: A 10-20% chance of a delay due to a thunderstorm. Tough to time it (if?) right now but I will try and nail it down during the evening updates. Temps in the mid to upper 80s falling into the upper 70s. Air density is an 8. Wind west-southwest 5-10 mph which blows out to right. The wind is a 6.
STL at CIN 7:10: Thunderstorms will be scattered about dangerously close to the city’s south. I would put the chance of a delay at 10-20% chance right now but this bears watching. Worst case scenario if the models are wrong is that these thunderstorms are on the city and can cause multiple delays (even in this case I think they play due to the thunderstorms not being a solid shield of rain). Much like ATL, the afternoon update should provide more answers. Temps near 80 falling into the low 70s. Air density is a 7. Wind northeast 4-8 mph which blows from left to right. The wind is a 5.
NYM at MIA 7:10: The retractable roof will likely be closed.
HOU at TEX 8:05: A 10% chance of a delay due to a thunderstorm. Temps near 100 falling to near 90. Air density is a 9. Wind southeast 8-16 mph which blows in from center. The wind is a 3.
SD at MIL 8:10: Retractable roof. Dry. Temps near 70 falling into the mid 60s. Air density is a 6 becoming a 5. Wind east-northeast 5-10 mph lessening to 3-6 mph which blows in from left. The wind is a 4.