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6/29 MLB DFS: We like Lance a Lot

6/29 MLB DFS: We like Lance a Lot
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Daily Fantasy Rundown – June 29th 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.

Glossary: See a term you’re unfamiliar with? Check out our glossary page. If there’s something you’d like to see added there, please email us at

Weather: Only game to watch for delays tonight is in CIN and even there the risk does not look huge.

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.


Top Play:

Matt Wieters (BAL) – Wieters has obliterated LHP the last few seasons, posting a great triple slash of .290/.345/.523 since 2012. He should hit cleanup against a southpaw tonight and the game is in a strong hitting environment at home where the Orioles have a team total right around five (tied with the Dodgers for the highest of the day). Wandy Rodriguez hasn’t been nearly as bad as we hoped, but with some recent regression pushing his ERA above 4.00 and in line with expected ERAs, it’s easy to see why we continue to pick on him. Even if he’s not horrible, he’s certainly a below average pitcher who allows a lot of hard hit contact and lacks the platoon edge on Wieters.

Next in line:

Yasmani Grandal (LAD) – The Dodger offense in general is in a great spot tonight. Not only do they get a sizable park shift by playing in Arizona’s Chase Field, but they’ll face one of the worst starting pitchers in the game in Allen Webster. Projection systems think Webster will be bad but not horrific (around a 4.50 ERA), but his actual results don’t line up. We have to keep in mind that it’s a small sample size (104.2 career innings at the MLB level), but in three separate MLB stints Webster has posted ERAs of 8.60, 5.03 and 6.46, in large part due to some horrendous control (BB/9 of 5.34, 4.27 and 5.87). These issues have led Webster to allow a .375 wOBA to LHBs and 1.37 HR/9. Meanwhile, Grandal (who has hit fifth in two of his last four starts against RHP) has a career .355 wOBA and .186 ISO against RHP.

Additional catcher options: Stephen Vogt (OAK) isn’t a great value (both Wieters and Grandal rank higher in our model and are similarly or more favorably priced). However, with no expensive pitchers to spend on, “value” among hitters isn’t as important today making him a great tournament option and a cash viable play if you want more exposure to the A’s offense. Jonathan Lucroy (MIL) is a strong value facing a really bad pitcher in Sean O’Sullivan (career 5.79 ERA). Lucroy won’t have the platoon edge but should hit second for a Brewers offense that is unlikely to get shut down. On most nights he’d be a primary target due to his price/situation, but it’s easy to just pay up for either Wieters or Grandal, which pushes Lucroy to a secondary cash game consideration. Evan Gattis (HOU) is an elite tournament option on FanDuel. The Royals strong bullpen and the lack of platoon edge keep him off our cash game radar, but opposing pitcher Joe Blanton has allowed 1.79 HR/9 to RHBs since 2012. Gattis has the top HR score among catchers and top five overall.

First Base

It’s a perfect storm at first base tonight where a lot of the top play options are in great matchups, which make them the best values despite higher prices, and are affordable due to the lack of expensive pitching options. I’d try to stick to the following four options in cash games. They are listed in order of preference:

Joey Votto (CIN) – It’s rare that a hitter eclipses Mike Trout in our model, especially when Trout has a favorable matchup, but Votto edged him out for our top spot today. He’s at home in Cincinnati, which is the best hitter’s park in action this evening. Most importantly, he’s facing Mike Pelfrey who can’t miss a bat to save his life (4.32 K/9) and has allowed a .326 wOBA to LHBs since 2012. While Pelfrey has limited hard hit contact, he’s done so most of his career and still has a 4.45 ERA in line with his xFIP. He’s currently overachieving (3.06 ERA) based on his xFIP (4.41). That likely won’t last and Pelfrey’s biggest asset (limiting good contact) shouldn’t be much of an issue for Votto who is known for consistently making strong contact (career 25.2 LD rate, 1.5 IFFB rate).

David Ortiz (BOS) – Every time I’m about to proclaim David Ortiz finished as a result of age related decline, he just goes and shuts me up. Following a slow start, Ortiz has re-established himself as one of the game’s best hitters. His plate discipline numbers are fully in line with last season and one of two outliers among his peripherals (loft and hard hit rate) have been much improved recently. Ortiz is 23rd in all of baseball with a 39.2 hard hit rate the past 30 days. The higher GB rate isn’t good, but it’s no longer all that worrisome standing by itself either. As analyst Chris Pacheco has been telling subscribers, Ortiz continues to dominate RHP (151 wRC+, .254 ISO, 1.18 EYE). He’s got a great matchup tonight against RA Dickey who not only has allowed a .318 wOBA and 1.19 HR/9 to opposing LHBs since 2012, but is having a really difficult 2015 (K rate way down, HR/FB rate up; both could be legitimate problems given decline in velocity). Also, don’t forget that Fenway Park is actually below average for LHBs so the shift to Toronto boosts Ortiz’s probability of success.

Adrian Gonzalez (LAD) – Gonzalez has the same factors going for him as teammate Yasmani Grandal (above), except he has a better lineup spot (third or fourth) and skills (.365 wOBA, .198 ISO against RHP since 2012). While I feel confident with Votto ranked first and Pujols fourth among this group, Gonzalez and Ortiz are really interchangeable and do offer some cap relief to Votto on FanDuel.

Albert Pujols (LAA) – Pujols comes in fourth, primarily since the three guys ahead of him are all in favorable hitting environments and Pujols is in a very tough one. However, he’s absolutely scorching the ball right now and the turnaround from the last couple of seasons for the 35 year old is rather amazing. Pretty much every single peripheral is line with his career mark (K rate, ISO, hard hit rate, loft), with the exception of a lower BB rate (which in some cases can actually be better for DFS purposes as long as it doesn’t have a negative affect on other aspects of the hitter’s game). He’ll face CC Sabathia who has allowed a .343 wOBA to RHBs since 2012. That’s the third worst split of all pitchers in action tonight, and there aren’t any very good pitchers among that group. Sabathia particularly continues to have huge problems keeping the ball in the park. We’ve touched on this before but it’s worth repeating – his reduced velocity has led to elevated HR/FB rates. His HR/FB rates the past four seasons are all well above league average: 12.5/13.0/23.3/17.7.

Additional first base notes: Adam Lind (MIL) is a secondary value. He’s in a good spot in Philadelphia with the platoon edge on Sean O’Sullivan (.448 wOBA allowed to LHBs against 196 faced) but seems unnecessary given that he’s priced similarly to the four primary targets above. Paul Goldschmidt (ARI) is an excellent tournament option. He faces the best pitcher among the top first basemen and has by far the most expensive tag, but his elite skills, home park and surprising affordability given tonight’s landscape should keep him on your radar if multi-entering tournaments. Mike Napoli (BOS) is a tournament option on the cheaper end of things, and Chris Carter (HOU) has one of our highest HR scores.

Second Base

Additional second base notes: Despite all the bad pitchers in action tonight and favorable environments, no second basemen really stick out as elite value plays or clear-cut top options to force in. Jose Altuve (HOU) has been running again and appears to be healthy, making him the top play. Without the platoon edge he doesn’t need to be forced but the guy I’m most likely to use if salary isn’t an issue (home park, Joe Blanton is not good, third spot in lineup is great for DFS production). After him, the best targets appear to be the Dodgers (Justin Turner/Howie Kendrick) or Ben Zobrist (OAK). Turner and Kendrick will be in a same handed matchup, but the Dodgers have an implied run total of about 5 (highest on the docket) and Turner/Kendrick will have top five lineup spots. Of course the park and Allen Webster being horrible against everyone (.332 wOBA allowed to RHBs) helps their cause as well. Zobrist is in a pitcher’s park but his matchup is good (David Hale has allowed a .352 wOBA to LHBs in his short career) and Zobrist’s peripherals are amazing. His EYE is an astounding 1.64, and he’s starting to hit for the power he had in 2011-12, which made him a valuable Fantasy asset. There’s not really a need to punt the position today. Outside of these four primary targets, we’ll mostly be looking to identify guys in top five lineup spots on our preferred stacks (below). Here are a few specific alternatives though. Brian Dozier (MIN) has nice HR/SB upside, which makes him a logical tournament option given the massive park shift in his favor. If Johnny Giavotella (LAA) leads off, he’d be one of the better punt options. Rougned Odor (TEX) will sometimes hit first or second against RHP and would be a higher upside option than Giavotella. He’ll face Bud Norris who has historically struggled with LHBs and is having a terrible season overall.


Additional shortstop notes: I hate to cover both middle infield positions in the additional notes section, but today’s landscape (ultimately you can play almost any hitters you want) and the lack of a clear cut option at the position makes this the best way to tackle the position. I’ll probably just use one of Troy Tulowitzki (COL) or Jose Reyes (TOR) in cash since cap room isn’t an issue. Yes, Tulowitzki is in a same handed matchup and suffers a huge drop off in park factor, but he’s still the top play at the position, salary aside. Tulowitzki, who has rebounded from an atrocious start, has had no problems in same handed matchups. He has a 131 wRC+ and .206 ISO against RHP for his career. Opposing pitcher Kendall Graveman has a bad combination of allowing contact (14.9 K percentage) and high quality contact (32.4 hard hit rate). If you’d rather have exposure to a better park/team total, save a few bucks on Reyes. While it’s not exactly a secret that I’m a Buchholz fan, Reyes is leading off for a potent offense, at home and hitting from his strong side. Like with second base, most alternative options will come from shortstops who are cheap and possess a top five lineup spot on one of our preferred stacks. We’ll try and highlight these in alerts.

Third Base

Top Play:

Todd Frazier (CIN) – If you play one of the top plays at third base (Frazier or Machado), you may have to go with the next in line options at some other positions (for example, Grandal over Wieters at catcher or Ortiz over Votto at first base). It may be worth it, particularly in Frazier’s case. I was way wrong on Frazier coming into the year as he’s managed to cut his K rate down around 3-4 percentage points while simultaneously making huge increases in his loft (GB rate down to 31.6 from 41.2 last season) and hard hit rate (up to 40.5 from 34.2). It’s kind of crazy to say but his current 40-plus HR pace is sustainable given these peripherals. It’s not driven by a fluky HR/FB rate that is illegitimate. Frazier won’t hold the platoon edge today, but he is at home in a phenomenal hitter’s park facing Mike Pelfrey, who has demonstrated some reverse split tendencies since 2012 (.357 wOBA allowed to RHBs). Perhaps the only knock on Frazier this evening is that Pelfrey has been pretty successful at limiting the long ball.

Next in line:

Manny Machado (BAL) – Machado, like Frazier, is a hitter we love due to significant improvements in component skills. Machado, at just 22 years old, has increased his walk rate by 3 points while simultaneously decreasing his K rate by 3.2 points. As a result of swinging at better pitches, he’s generating more loft and more hard hit contact. Look for his strong season to continue with a great matchup at home against southpaw Wandy Rodriguez.

Value Play:

Adrian Beltre (TEX) – Beltre, unlike Machado and Frazier, is not having a breakout season. His patience and power have both declined, which is a bit disconcerting. However, his batted ball distribution isn’t totally out of whack with his career marks and he continues to make a great amount of contact (single digit K rate). There’s enough here to keep using him at a reduced price if you can’t quite afford Frazier or Machado. Beltre will hit cleanup for a Texas team that is on the road (but still in a good ballpark) and facing a struggling Bud Norris. Norris has a 6.70 ERA. He’s been somewhat unlucky but even the expected ERAs are above 4.50. Norris has seen his skills drop off the board from last season and most worrisome is the career high 37.4 hard hit rate. Although Beltre is a solid option, I wouldn’t be heartbroken to see him get a rest day, which would slide Joey Gallo (TEX) up in the order. Lineup spot aside, I actually prefer Gallo’s huge power upside and left handed bat against Bud Norris (.362 wOBA and 1.62 HR/9 allowed to LHBs since 2012). He’s an excellent tournament option if outside the top six and a great play on DraftKings in particular if he moves up in the order.

Additional third base notes: Justin Turner (LAD) is a viable alternative to the written up options, but I prefer him where he’s second base eligible. Pablo Sandoval (BOS) is dirt cheap on FanDuel and worth considering on tournaments over there if you want to fit in some crazy expensive bats elsewhere or simply field an unique team that isn’t close to the cap maximum (a decent GPP strategy on a day like today).


Top Plays:

Mike Trout (LAA) – There’s not much to say here that isn’t rather obvious. Trout averages the fifth most Fantasy points per game on both FanDuel and DraftKings and is easily affordable tonight. I think he’s particularly enticing on DraftKings where he’s priced in line with the other outfield options written up below. The only knock on Trout is ballpark, but he’s someone I’ll have exposure to in cash games.

Joc Pederson/Yasiel Puig (LAD) – Pederson and Puig have an elite matchup, one we’ve outlined for the Dodgers hitters earlier in the analysis (Grandal, Gonzalez). If I had to pick between the two, I’d side with Pederson who has the platoon edge and has displayed massive power upside thanks to an even GB/FB ratio and elite 44.2 hard hit rate. However, Puig shouldn’t be docked much for facing a same handed pitcher. For his career, he has a 152 wRC+ and .203 ISO against RHP. Also, Puig, like many of our suggestions today given that we have a lot of freedom cap wise, pairs a great matchup with some great in season peripherals. For the second straight season, he’s raised his BB rate while lowering his K rate. The GB rate is also just 41.6 percent (career mark of 50.1), which is good if he wants to sustain the power he flashed his first two seasons.

Ryan Braun/Carlos Gomez (MIL) – Sean O’Sullivan is terrible. He doesn’t miss bats. He doesn’t keep the ball on the ground. He doesn’t limit walks. On top of all that he’s had an elevated HR/FB rate of 13.1 percent in 292 MLB innings. The best way to get Brewer exposure today is via their high end outfielders. Braun’s season is meeting even some of the most optimistic of expectations. After battling a slow start and a lingering thumb issue, it’s been great to see him both hit for power (.228 ISO) and run (nine steals). Gomez, like Braun, is an event player who can homer or steal in any given matchup. His peripherals aren’t as strong as Braun’s and he’s been hitting fifth, so I’d side with Braun if choosing between the two.

Value Plays:

Billy Hamilton/Jay Bruce (CIN) – On DraftKings these two are priced aggressively and just okay options, but they are way too cheap on FanDuel, allowing you to play the top plays elsewhere without sacrificing too much upside. The Reds are at home against Mike Pelfrey, who as we mentioned earlier doesn’t miss any bats and will likely continue to see his ERA rise. Hamilton is back in the lead off spot, which gives him an extra plate appearance and that’s not fully priced into his value currently ($3,100 on FanDuel). Bruce brings the power upside, and we’re very pleased with his bounce back season (increased BB rate, decreased K rate, increased loft). We’d like to see him elevate the ball a bit more, but he’s never been particularly good in that department and is making up for it with a phenomenal hard minus soft hit rate of 27.

Additional outfield notes: Some cheaper options that are cash viable include Shin-Soo Choo (TEX) (elite matchup against Bud Norris in Baltimore; cheap Texas exposure) and Josh Reddick (OAK) (stellar peripherals and mid-tier price against a below average RHP). The entire Baltimore outfield is great for tournaments. Adam Jones is cash viable but since he’s dealing with an injury and opportunity cost at the position is so high, I’ll personally reserve him for tournament use. Nolan Reimold and Delmon Young are nice tournament options, but the cap relief they offer is unnecessary in cash games. Some high upside guys who will likely carry way too low of ownership percentages in large field GPPs are Jose Bautista (TOR) and George Springer (HOU).

Starting Pitcher

Rankings (price not considered):

Tier One

1) Lance McCullers (HOU)

2) CJ Wilson (LAA)

3) Mike Bolsinger (LAD)

4) Nate Karns (TB)

5) Clay Buchholz (BOS)

Tier Two

6) Jimmy Nelson (MIL)

7) Cody Anderson (CLE)

8) Joe Blanton (KC)

9) CC Sabathia (NYY)

Tier Three

10) Kendall Graveman (OAK)

11) Mike Leake (CIN)

Top Play:

Lance McCullers (HOU) – Today is one of the most difficult days I’ve had ranking pitchers and deciding on an approach as the options are severely limited with no obvious choices. Ultimately, our model has McCullers as the top pitcher with a decent sized gap between him and the other options, and I tend to agree (despite not going so far as to give him his own tier). While people tend to avoid picking on the Royals and for good reason (middle of the pack in wRC+ but by far lowest K rate in MLB), the short slate and McCullers’ skills make him viable. The Royals lack of swing and miss ways are less of an issue for today since 1) McCullers’ own strikeout skills are so far above average that we still have him pegged for one of the highest K rates on the evening and 2) There isn’t a lot of opportunity cost as no option in our model tonight projects to have higher than a 24 K percentage. As a result, the conversation shifts from the usual “Royals won’t strike out” mantra to a conversation surrounding McCullers’ overall skills (wild but high K and GB rates give him a 2.43 FIP and 3.35 xFIP) matchup against an offense that is simply mediocre (15th in wRC+, 26th in ISO). Furthermore, the Royals rank 27th in MLB in pitch value versus curveballs and McCullers throws the third most curveballs on a percentage basis of any starter in MLB. Look, there’s no doubt there is risk in any of today’s starting pitcher options, so why not at least pair that risk with a guy who has the requisite upside on the other end of the spectrum? That’s the plus-EV move over the long run in a situation like tonight’s.

Value Play:

Mike Bolsinger (LAD) – Bolsinger is in a tough environment but the matchup is okay (Diamondbacks have a slightly below average wRC+ against RHP and slightly higher than average K percentage). He’s a bit wild (3.41 BB/9), but Bolsinger has an extremely impressive K and GB rate pairing of 23.4 and 56.2 percent respectively. On a day where it’s difficult to decipher between a handful of pitchers that frankly aren’t that desirable, I’m giving a bit more credence to win probability than normal with this selection. Bolsinger isn’t an overwhelming favorite (-156), but he is the second largest favorite on the day and opposing pitcher Allen Webster, who is well below average, has to face a Dodgers team ranked first in wRC+ against RHP. The issue of course is that Bolsinger isn’t allowed to face a lot of batters (averages 23.5 per game), which means he’ll have to be efficient to be in line for that win and the IP upside is capped. He’s not the safest second starting pitcher on the board but can deliver 5-6 innings, matching those IP with Ks and leaving in line for the win.

Additional starting pitcher notes: I don’t love the value on CJ Wilson (LAA) but due to park environment, the Yankees LHBs and a lack of opportunity cost, he can be used in cash games. He’s probably a higher floor option than McCullers, although I prefer going with McCullers’ upside. Nate Karns (TB) scares me a bit, but he’s got a solid K rate and is pitching in one of the better pitcher’s parks this evening. As a result, Cleveland has the lowest implied run total of any offense in action. I’d consider him a very viable alternative to Bolsinger as a value play. Jimmy Nelson (MIL) may be a popular selection. The Phillies are terrible (dead last in wRC+ against RHP) and Nelson is a bit above average with both his K and BB rates. The issue here is consistency as Nelson has three starts in which he’s allowed seven ER. Kendall Graveman‘s (OAK) lack of K upside pushes him into our third tier of starting pitchers. However, he’s the largest favorite (-164), in a good pitcher’s park (huge drop in park factor for the Rockies) and has put together a string of strong outings. Our ranking may be too light since we’re concerned about the upside, but the floor is higher than a lot of the tier two options making him a reasonable cash game choice if simply wanting to avoid a disaster start on a multi-SP site. NOTE: With the starting pitchers all a bit risky rand ranking near each other, lineups will be important tonight. We’ll be sure to shoot out any adjustment in our rankings if such an adjustment occurs when actual lineups are released.

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 ( if you have suggestions.

Macro thinking: It’s basically a pick’em night as you can fit in almost anyone you want given the cheap pitching on the board. I’d avoid using an extremely high salary outfielder (for example, Paul Goldschmidt) in cash games so that you can lock in a top three to five option at every single position and not have to punt anywhere, even if it’s a spot you don’t love (for example, Jose Reyes or Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop).

Most of the stacks made up the bulk of today’s position by position analysis so I’ll only add further comment where necessary.

Top Tournament Stacks/Cash Game Mini Stacks:

1) Los Angeles Dodgers

2) Milwaukee Brewers (particularly strong as a full tournament stack as guys like Adam Lind and Gerardo Parra, who are good values in a vacuum, will go underowned due to opportunity cost)

3) Cincinnati Reds

4) Baltimore Orioles

5) Boston Red Sox

Contrarian/Secondary Stacks:

1) Texas Rangers (Prince Fielder gets overshadowed at first base due to opportunity cost, but he and the plethora of Rangers LHBs have a ton of upside despite not being core options at any particular position)

2) Oakland Athletics

3) Any team facing your cash game pitcher (there is so much risk among today’s starting pitcher options that it makes sense to hedge yourself in a multi-entry tournament by stacking against the pitcher you have the most cash game exposure to; for me, that will be the Kansas City Royals)

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.

TEX at BLT 7:00: Dry. Temps in the upper 70s falling into the low to mid 70s. Air density is a 7 becoming a 6. Wind light and variable. The wind is a 5.

MIL at PHL 7:05: Dry. Temps in the mid to upper 70s falling into the low 70s. Air density is a 7 becoming a 6. Wind southwest 5-10 mph lessening to nearly calm which blows out to right. The wind is a 6 becoming a 5.

BOS at TOR 7:07: Retractable roof. A 20% chance of showers. So, I will assume the roof will be open. Temps near 70 falling into the mid 60s. Air density is a 6. Wind southeast 5-10 mph which blows out to left. The wind is a 6.

MIN at CIN 7:10: A 20-30% chance of pop-up showers or thunderstorms, especially early in the game, causing a delay. Not concerned bout a cancellation, these are widely scattered rain events that are moving. Temps in the mid 70s falling into the upper 60s. Air density is a 7. Wind southwest 5-10 mph which blows from right to left. The wind is a 5.

CLE at TB 7:10: Dome.

KC at HOU 8:10: Retractable roof. A 30-40% chance of a pop-up thunderstorm around. Unlike Toronto, the chance of rain is high enough that they will likely keep the roof closed.

LAD at AZ 9:40: Retractable roof. A 20-30% chance of a thunderstorm. I will assume the roof will be open. Temps near 105 falling into the upper 90s. Air density is a 9. Wind west-southwest 10-20 mph with gusts past 25 mph which blows out to right. The wind is an 8.

NYY at LAA 10:05: Dry. Temps in the low 70s falling into the upper 60s. Air density is a 6. Wind west-southwest 7-14 mph which blows out to right. The wind is a 6.

COL at OAK 10:05: Dry. Temps near 70 falling into the mid 60s. Air density is a 6. Wind west-northwest 8-16 mph lessening to 6-12 mph which blows out to right. The wind is a 7 becoming a 6.

MLB Daily Analysis