Welcome to June 18 MLB DFS action. You’ll find Daily Fantasy Baseball Premium Cliff Notes for June 18 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!
01:18 Starting Pitcher
11:45 Stacks/Tournament Thoughts
- 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.
MLB DFS Optimizer Tutorial
Our MLB DFS Optimizer is live. Arturo put together an overview with MLB DFS Optimizer Cliffnotes that walk through the various features and frequently asked questions (FAQs) from customers during testing. We have also produced a basic optimizer tutorial video on YouTube (linked below) as well as a power user optimizer tutorial for the most advanced tournament players on how to get the most out of the optimizer. You can join the #MLB channel in slack if you have additional questions.
June 18 MLB DFS CLIFF NOTES
Clayton Kershaw (LAD), Justin Verlander (HOU) and Jacob deGrom (NYM) lead the way in projections on DraftKings. Although the three project within a fantasy point of one another, they are all priced quite differently; Verlander is the most expensive of the bunch ($11,900) with Kershaw priced in the middle ($11,200) and deGrom much cheaper than either of the other two ($10,300). Kershaw opened as the heaviest favorite (-270) of the trio in a matchup versus one of the worst offenses in the league. To this point, the Giants’ active hitters rank 29th in wOBA, wRC+ and ISO against LHP, with only the Marlins rating worse in each category. Despite deGrom projecting for the most strikeouts on the slate (7.5), he will be tasked with slowing down a red-hot Braves team that ranks in the top 10 of wOBA, wRC+, ISO and BB rate while striking out at just a 21.3-percent rate. Since our models on both sites are focused on building around pricey hitters, none of these aces are popping into standard optimals across the industry.
Instead, Cole Hamels (CHC) and Jack Flaherty (STL) constitute the next tier at the position and these are the two pitchers popping as the best per-dollar values on FanDuel. Both pitchers opened as at least -230 favorites with 3.4 implied run totals against. Hamels is popping into 100-percent of FanDuel optimals at an $8,600 price point as he is projecting for only about one FanDuel fantasy point less than our highest projected pitcher (Kershaw) of the slate. This season, the White Sox rank in the bottom 10 of ISO and BB rate while striking out at almost exactly the league average rate (23.7-percent) versus LHP. Hamels’ wOBA baseline is higher than Flaherty and they are projecting for the same amount of Ks (6.5) so the reason their projection is so close is due to his superior duration baseline (17.58 outs to Flaherty’s 16.4).
On paper, Flaherty draws one of the best possible matchups a pitcher could ask for, as he is the lucky one to take on the Marlins tonight. On FanDuel, where he is only slightly cheaper than Hamels, our top 20 standard optimals are mostly building around the Cubs’ left-hander (although Flaherty pops into some as well). However, on DraftKings, Hamels is more expensive than the aforementioned deGrom whereas Flaherty will only cost $8,700. At that substantial of a price different, Flaherty is the clear cash play of the two and is likeliest to be the highest-owned pitcher on the slate. Still, this year’s version of the Marlins offense is striking out a hefty rate (24.1-percent), so Flaherty is a strong play who is cheap enough to afford bats alongside.
Yusei Kikuchi (SEA) is by no means a great pitcher but he is priced like an absolute scrub in one of the best possible setups for a LHP. Not only will Kikuchi be pitching in the friendly confines of T-Mobile Park but it will be against the team whose active hitters rank dead last in wRC+ and second to last in wOBA amongst American League teams in the split against LHP. Kikuchi pitches to contact and the Royals rank 28th in line drive percentage and 22nd in hard hit percentage against southpaws so the correlation is unmistakable. The price tag takes his subpar skill set into account and is simply too cheap for the entire context of the start. Kikuchi is the clear-cut cash game SP2 but there is still merit to fading him in GPPs due to his lack of strikeout upside.
Mitch Keller (PIT) is a bit of a wildcard as he is a talented young pitcher who has not been successful yet in either of his Major League starts. At the Triple-A level, Keller posted a solid K rate (30.2-percent) with good underlying numbers (3.63 FIP, 3.87 xFIP) as well. The problem is his control issues from the minors have carried over from Triple-A to the big leagues. Fortunately for him, the Tigers have walked at the lowest rate in the split against RHP, so this has the potential to be the perfect setup for a Keller breakout.
In tournaments, other names to consider in MME builds include Brandon Woodruff (MIL), Anthony DeSclafani (CIN), Brett Anderson (OAK), J.A. Happ (NYY) and Patrick Corbin (WSH). Anderson is a cheap alternative to Kikuchi who also lacks a significant strikeout ceiling while the others are mid-tier pitchers with apparent ceilings if they were to run hot. Corbin has struggled over the course of his last three starts and the total in this game is 10.5 and DeSclafani is just cheap. The other two, Woodruff and Happ, face strikeout-prone offenses and Happ specifically drew a favorable umpire. Their contexts are strong enough to warrant including them in runs but none belong anywhere near cash game rosters (other than maybe Woodruff on DraftKings).
1) Cleveland Indians
On Tuesday, the Indians’ stack reigns supreme in our stack rankings, as they blow away the competition. The Indians’ implied run total is only tied for highest on the slate but their context is excellent: road team in Globe Life Park in Arlington versus a pitcher with a career FIP approaching 4.60 (4.59 to be exact). Over the course of his young career, Sampson has posted some relatively significant reverse splits, having allowed a .382 wOBA and 2.35 HR/9 rate to righties compared to a .318 wOBA and 1.35 HR/9 rate to lefties. In fact, he has struck out righties at a lower rate, allowed a higher hard hit rate and posted a worse career FIP (6.07) in the split to them as well. In the context of this matchup, most of the top hitters on the Indians are either left-handed or switch hitters, so that aspect is a bit disconcerting. Still, the park is ripe and the Indians will be on the road meaning they are guaranteed nine innings worth of at-bats (ABs). Beyond Sampson, the Rangers’ bullpen ranks in the bottom 10 of FIP and xFIP this year, so the matchups should remain favorable throughout even once the starter is pulled. The Indians will be chalky, however, so there is some merit to fading them in single entry and three-max.
2) Chicago Cubs
3) Texas Rangers
4) New York Yankees
Up next are the Cubs in a matchup against Ivan Nova and his career-worst 4.92 SIERA this year. Nova is a pitcher who relies heavily on contact and often leads to him being susceptible to power (especially in his elder age). Since 2015, Nova has not posted a HR/9 rate below 1.40, and that is after the era where he had to pitch half his games in power-friendly Yankee Stadium. Four different Cubs in our model feature ISO baselines above .240 and it is expected to be around 70-degrees in Wrigley at first pitch. We view the Cubs as a viable alternative, or complement, to the Indians on this slate.
The Rangers and Yankees round out the second tier in respective matchups against Zach Plesac and a Ryne Stanek opener/Ryan Yarbrough long man. Plesac is a pitcher who posted solid Minor League numbers this year in both Double-A and Triple-A prior to his call-up. Since being called up, he has been a bit lucky as evident by his FIP and xFIP which are both well over a run higher than his ERA. His 94.1-percent LOB rate is simply unsustainable and he has been susceptible to power in his short stint in the MLB, which is to be expected pitching in a power-friendly home park. Globe Life Park is also a park that severely favors hitters and the Rangers’ implied total sits at over 5.0 as the home team as well. The lineup is missing many of their most important pieces and yet there are still plenty of power threats in the lineup (Choo, Cabrera, Odor, Calhoun and Guzman all feature ISO baselines over .190).
As for the Yankees, they will be playing in the friendly confines of home the Rays for the second game of the series. Unlike yesterday, the Rays will not be running out a true starter, as Ryne Stanek will open the game before inevitably giving way to Ryan Yarbrough. In 142 career innings versus RHHs, Yarbrough has yielded a .314 wOBA and 25.3-percent hard hit rate, and most of that sample is pitching in way better pitching environments than Yankee Stadium. With Giancarlo Stanton back in the lineup, this Yankees team is once again loaded with right-handed power, including multiple elite power bats. Tonight, Stanton and Edwin Encarnacion are both expected to be in the Yankees’ lineup to complement guys like Gary Sanchez, Luke Voit and Gleyber Torres who have already been playing everyday. Good luck, Rays pitching.
5) Los Angeles Angels
6) Washington Nationals
7) Boston Red Sox
9) Oakland Athletics
The Angels and Nationals were popular options yesterday but may fly a bit under the radar on Tuesday because of the plethora of alternatives. Unfortunately for the Angels, Marcus Stroman is nowhere near as terrible as Edwin Jackson, so the matchup much more difficult today. Stroman relies heavily on ground ball outs but also does not miss many bats. Only the Astros’ active hitters have cumulatively struck out at a lower rate than the Angels so they will make plenty of contact in this spot. The question is whether they are blessed with BABIP luck but there should be limited ownership tonight following ownerships that got out of control on Monday.
Meanwhile, the Nationals, because of a rainout, will be in the exact same matchup as yesterday. Probable starter Jake Arrieta carries some name value despite a 4.85 SIERA and measly 18.9-percent K rate. He appears to be depreciating a bit this year as he has started to become more susceptible to power (1.47 HR/9 rate) and his control issues have come back (9.7-percent) also. Arrieta has always featured normal splits and has been lacking in the split against LHHs. This year has been no different: .380 wOBA, 14.5-percent K rate, 12.2-percent BB rate, 2.39 HR/9 rate, 25.0-percent line drive rate, 41.6-percent hard hit rate and a horrific 7.04 FIP. Juan Soto and Matt Adams are the upside plays here and obviously guys like Anthony Rendon can be added to the stack if projecting them to blow Arrieta out of the water.
The Red Sox and Athletics rate just behind the Nationals in terms of stack score and the Red Sox’ spot is difficult to overlook. Even beyond the positive park shift, the Red Sox will square off against a pitcher that has allowed over two homers per nine innings to RHHs this year and over 1.40 for his career. Pineda’s K rate as a whole is way down this year and it has led to him yielding a slate-worst 49.2-percent hard hit rate to RHHs. Pineda’s velocity is down over a full mph from last season and Target Field enhances right-handed power. The top of the Red Sox lineup begins with guys like Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts who are all legitimate right-handed power threats.
Meanwhile, the Athletics will once again do battle with a mediocre Orioles starter followed by their porous bullpen. Today’s starter, Gabriel Ynoa, has displayed reverse-splits early on his career and the Athletics’ lineup is mostly right-handed power other than Matt Olson. With his inability to miss bats (career 18.8-percent K rate), the Athletics’ mainstays all feature the potential to hit the ball out of the ballpark.
Gary Sanchez (NYY) tops the projections at catcher with the platoon edge for most of the game against the Rays long man Ryan Yarbrough. Sanchez is priced appropriately on both sites but his big advantage over the catcher position makes him a viable target on DraftKings for all formats. The key to investing in Sanchez will ultimately depend on your starting pitcher selection.
If you’re looking for value at the position we have punt price tags on Danny Jansen (TOR) and Yan Gomes (WSH) . Jansen is closer to the pure punt and has the platoon edge while also projecting as a better hitter than Gomes, so he represents our preferred choice.
Mike Zunino (TB) is also a cheap source of power (.216 ISO baseline against LHP) and gets a big park upgrade for power in Yankee Stadium against JA Happ.
For a bit more, you can get a slightly stronger lineup spot with Yadier Molina (STL) who often hits fifth or sixth for the Cardinals. St. Louis will get a second look at Jordan Yamamoto who shut them out over seven innings in his major league debut. Molina is the most likely cash game default if not getting all the way up to Sanchez. Starting pitching prices aren’t so expensive that you need to get down to the full punts so Molina often ends up as the default value.
In tournaments, J.T. Realmuto (PHI) looks like a strong contrarian target with the price tag down slightly in a tough matchup with Patrick Corbin. Corbin has struggled mightily in his last three starts. While the velocity has been on point, a drastic dip in results on pitchers is usually worth considering stacking against – especially if it comes with low ownership.
Carlos Santana (CLE) and Anthony Rizzo (CHC) project as the top first base options on this slate. Santana is a bit more affordable so he finds his way into optimals more frequently. Cleveland has the highest implied total on the slate with a road matchup in Arlington where we’ll find the second warmest weather on the slate behind Arizona. The matchup with Adrian Sampson is very good on paper. Sampson has allowed a .311 wOBA and .245 ISO to LHBs since 2017. He’s struggled more with righties than lefties (.416 wOBA, .250 ISO to RHBs since 2017) but he’s consistently allowed hard contact and ISO to both sides. Sampson has demonstrated some improvements in his swinging strike rate (spurred on by heavier slider usage) and his performance of late but the hard contact is still there. While Santana is a fine play in cash games, ultimately Cleveland ownership will determine how good of a play in GPPs. Early indications are we expect Cleveland to be among the higher owned stacks on the slate.
Rizzo is a more stable projection point for a slightly higher price tag. RIzzo is the superior hitter and Ivan Nova still can’t miss bats. The Cubs have a slightly lower implied total as a home team with a weaker hitting environment but should rival Cleveland for ownership in GPPs.
On DraftKings, Paul Goldschmidt (STL) is uniquely cheap ($3,800) and a strong target in all formats. The Cardinals stacks should be a bit lower owned on the whole after getting shutout in their first go of it against Yamamoto. Goldschmidt is cheap on FanDuel as well but not quite as pronounced.
Matt Olson (OAK) is another mid-tier target on both sites with a favorable matchup against Gabriel Ynoa and the Orioles weak bullpen. The one concern for Olson is the Orioles have four lefties in their pen they can target him in the later innings. We prefer Olson in GPPs over cash games.
Matt Adams (WSH) is a nice target as a part of Nationals stacks. Their ownership was modest last night in the same matchup but part of that was weather risk and the Angels enormous chalk.
Jesus Aguilar (MIL) is a viable power punt upside target for GPPs. Logan Allen has whiffed hitters at AAA this year but also posted a 5.15 ERA and 1.25 HR/9 allowed.
The second base projections differ wildly by site as DraftKings has a number of players at the top that aren’t 2B eligible on FanDuel. Jeff McNeil (NYM), Whit Merrifield (KC), DJ LeMahieu (NYY), and Tommy La Stella (LAA) are all 2B eligible options on DraftKings that project somewhat similarly to Jason Kipnis (CLE) who leads the way on FanDuel.
Kipnis is consistently the cheapest of the bunch so we’ll focus on him. Kipnis has hit cleanup in consecutive starts against RHP and we’re projecting he’ll hold that spot once again. He’s been an above average hitter against RHP (.321 wOBA, .180 ISO since 2017) and now gets one of the better environments on the slate against an opposing starter who is vulnerable to hard contact. Kipnis is the pretty clear cash game target given the price tag and the projection. In tournaments, there is a good chance he’s a bit over-owned. This is where the names above make sense as pivots in tournaments either as a part of stacks or one-offs.
Some other high upside options like Rougned Odor (TEX), Brian Dozier (WSH), and Robinson Cano (NYM) who all come with modest price tags that can act as direct pivots off Kipnis high ownership.
Jose Ramirez (CLE) tops the projections at third base with that matchup against Adrian Sampson that has Cleveland with the highest implied total on the slate. We’ve noted the challenges with projecting Ramirez this season as his performance has cratered after two elite years. The price tag on Ramirez makes him an attractive buy low candidate but it’s felt that way for a few months with uninspiring results. In tournaments, he seems like a good fade with an unstable projection and likely elevated ownership. In cash games, he seems like a strong target.
Matt Carpenter (STL) and Vlad Guerrero (TOR) are straight line price pivots depending how aggressively you discount Ramirez’s baselines these two may be alternatives for cash games. Both get the platoon edge against pitchers who project to yield quite a bit of power.
Kris Bryant (CHC), Matt Chapman (OAK), Alex Bregman (HOU), and Anthony Rendon (WSH) are high-priced options at the position that should come with modest ownership given the depth of fairly priced alternatives.
Francisco Lindor (CLE) tops projections by a wide margin on both sites. Lindor’s performance has been right in line with baseline estimates this season and as a road leadoff hitter with a hefty implied total he has a plate appearance advantage on every offensive player on the slate. Lindor is the most difficult fade of the Cleveland hitters and a primary cash game target.
Alex Bregman (HOU) and Trea Turner (WSH) are projection pivots at similar price points. Bregman is a superior hitter while Turner has a fantastic matchup to take advantage of his speed. Jake Arrieta has allowed opposing base-runners to successfully steal at an 80 percent clip in his career and he’s allowed a successful SB in 2.6 percent of plate appearances.
Javier Baez (CHC) doesn’t carry the same kind of projection but has similar upside and projects a bit closer to Bregman/Turner in 90th percentile projections. As part of a Cubs stack, Baez makes sense to target in GPPs but is also a viable option as a one-off given his speed-power combination.
Shortstop is generally a difficult position to find salary relief but if JP Crawford (SEA) hits near the top of the Mariners’ lineup he’d represent one of the better salary relief options at the position.
Mike Trout (LAA) laps the field in projections as he gets a stark park upgrade. He’s the best hitter on the planet and the only player that really competes strongly with him on this slate in overall projection is Francisco Lindor.
Giancarlo Stanton‘s (NYY) return to the Yankees lineup comes with a few plate appearances against a LHP in Ryan Yarbrough. Stanton’s price is appropriate on both sites but he’s a fine target in GPPs.
Kyle Schwarber (CHC) is the most compelling value at the position on both sites. He’s priced right around the average cost of an outfield spot and gets an above average matchup with Ivan Nova (.360 wOBA, .209 ISO to LHBs since 2017). Schwarber should be a primary target for cash games.
On DraftKings, Juan Soto (WSH) is simply too cheap for his talent levels ($4,100) and should be prioritized. Soto has compiled a .400 wOBA and .223 ISO against RHP in his brief career and the Nationals have a solid 5.2 implied total. Khris Davis (OAK) is similarly underpriced on DraftKings at $4,000 and a fine target to get exposure to the Athletics 5.4 implied total.
On FanDuel, Shin Soo Choo (TEX), Michael Conforto (NYM), and Joc Pederson (LAD) have better price tags than on DraftKings and are solid upper-mid-tier values. All three are wide platoon splits hitters with the platoon edge against below average RHPs.
On FanDuel, if Jake Bauers (CLE) hits sixth he’ll represent one of the easier ways to get salary relief and exposure to Cleveland’s highly projected offense. Bauers is just $2,800.
FanDuel is also one of the few places you get reasonable price tags on the DIamondbacks outfielders with Jarrod Dyson ($2,900) and David Peralta ($3,500).
Astros LHBs are a nice secondary option to target on FanDuel with an elite matchup against Anthony DeSclafani who has allowed a .391 wOBA and .288 ISO to LHBs since 2017. Michael Brantley (HOU), Josh Reddick (HOU), and Yordan Alvarez (HOU) are the names to target here.