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May 18 MLB DFS: Johnny Be Good
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May 18 MLB DFS: Johnny Be Good

01:33 Starting Pitchers
09:27 Catchers
12:11 First Base
13:55 Second Base
15:59 Shortstop
19:30 Third Base
21:53 Outfield
28:51 Cash Game Roster Construction
30:32 Stacks



May 18 MLB DFS Pro Tip

Starting Pitcher Rankings

Tier One

1) Johnny Cueto (SFG)

Tier Two

2) Francisco Liriano (PIT)

Tier Three

3) David Price (BOS)

4) Drew Pomeranz (SDP)

5) John Lackey (CHC)

Tier Four

6) Nathan Eovaldi (NYY)

7) Taijuan Walker (SEA)

8) Gio Gonzalez (WSH)

9) Nick Tropeano (LAA)

10) Julio Teheran (ATL)

Tier 5

10) Adam Wainwright (STL)

11) R.A. Dickey (TOR)

12) Chris Tillman (BAL)

In cash games there’s no reason not to pay up four two highest ranked starting pitchers in Johnny Cueto (SF) and Francisco Liriano (PIT). Cueto is the safest option on the day. Full health combined with the move back to the NL has resulted in an uptick in K rate (23 percent, 20.3 last season). Cueto has pitched very well all season long (3.06 xFIP), and he’s posted a 2.51 xFIP or better in three of his past four starts. This safe skill set meets a very safe ballpark for pitchers (Petco) and an elite matchup as the Padres rank 29th in wRC+ against RHP (or last in the non-Braves division) with the fourth highest K rate. He’s a rock in cash games in all formats.

Liriano doesn’t have the safe skill set that Cueto does as he’s really struggled with control (5.22 BB/9) early in the season. The good news is that what makes Liriano great is intact (25.6 K rate, 51.5 GB rate). Additionally, prior to a rough start in a terrible matchup against the Cubs, Liriano’s late discipline numbers (chase rate, first strike rate) were trending in right direction. Given that and a home matchup against an anemic Atlanta team (first three hitters are LHBs, some of the RHBs have huge K rates; 48 wRC+ against LHP with a 25.6 K percentage).

We’re high on a David Price (BOS) turnaround from a run prevention standpoint (Ks are already there), but the Royals are a contact heavy team making Price a tough play with a lot of opportunity cost at that price point. The best mid-tier values are Drew Pomeranz (SD) (awesome K percentage, great park) and John Lackey (CHC) (high K rate early on supported by heavy SwStr rate; solid matchup against a righty heavy team; large favorite), but even at cheaper prices we prefer them in tournaments since we’re so high on Cueto and Liriano.

One contrarian tournament option we like a lot is Nathan Eovaldi (NYY). With a high opposing team total (around 4.5 runs), he’s an unnecessary cash game risk. However, the best xFIP of his career is being driven by a high K rate. Those strikeouts are fully supported by an uptick in velocity (both season long and in recent games), and all the plate discipline metrics are currently career bests (31.2 chase rate, 9.0 SwStr rate, 66.1 F-Strike rate).

Catcher Rankings

1) Brian McCann (NYY)

2) Buster Posey (SF)

3) Evan Gattis (HOU) (if top five in lineup, where eligible)

4) Jonathan Lucroy (MIL)

5) Yan Gomes

Brian McCann (NYY) and Buster Posey (SF) are neck and neck in our model. However, if you analyze the current peripherals of the opposing starting pitchers, it’s clear that McCann is the option we’re most comfortable. Shelby Miller‘s control and underlying K metrics have been a touch better lately, but he’s still getting pounded (xFIPs of 6.02/6.36/4.84 and hard minus soft hit rates of 33.4, 25, and 36.8 his last three starts). Meanwhile Drew Pomeranz is pitching extremely well, but Posey’s phenomenal splits against LHP keep him in play in tournaments. Yan Gomes (CIN) rounds out our top five and is our preferred source of cap relief at the position possessing nice power upside in Great American Ballpark against southpaw Brandon Finnegan (fly ball risky, has stopped missing bats, elevated HR/FB rate for his career).

First Base Rankings

1) Anthony Rizzo (CHC)

2) Joey Votto (CIN)

3) Paul Goldschmidt (ARI)

4) Chris Davis (BAL)

5) David Ortiz (BOS)

6) Carlos Santana (CLE)

7) Edwin Encarnacion (TOR)

As usual at first base, there are some big names in play, particularly Anthony Rizzo (CHC), who is an elite tournament option given Jimmy Nelson‘s struggles with LHBs (.365 wOBA, .195 ISO since the start of 2014). Rizzo is our second overall ranked hitter. However, in cash games it makes sense to go the value route, and there are a triumvirate of options to do that with: Joey Votto (CIN) (home versus RHP Mike Clevinger making his MLB debut; Steamer projects a 4.31 ERA and 1.12 HR/9), Carlos Santana (CLE) (large favorable park shift against Brandon Finnegan and his 5.77 FIP), and John Jaso (PIT) (less power upside than the other two due to skills and park but the floor here is strong as Jaso’s on base friendly ways against RHP have improved from a skills standpoint due to a reduced K rate, and Julio Teheran‘s massive issues with LHBs are seemingly getting worse – .388 wOBA, .253 ISO allowed to last 250 LHBs faced).

Second Base Rankings

1) Jose Altuve (HOU)

2) Robinson Cano (SEA)

3) Ben Zobrist (TB)

4) Steve Pearce (SEA) (where eligible, if hitting cleanup)

5) Jason Kipnis (CLE)

6) Daniel Murphy (WAS)

Second base is a difficult position. The top options are in good spots but still don’t rate as strong values due to their high price tags. With an emphasis on paying up for starting pitching in cash games, Jose Altuve (HOU), Robinson Cano (SEA), and Ben Zobrist (CHC) are all better for tournaments even though each individually has a matchup leading to a better than average expected outcome. Unfortunately, we really don’t have a singular strong cap relief option that sticks out, with the exception of Steve Pearce (TB) on DraftKings if he once again finds himself in the cleanup spot. That makes second base a good position to finish last, and the two options we’re landing on most currently are Brandon Phillips (CIN) and Scooter Gennett (MIL), although we’re more than open to punting the position on lineup alerts.

Shortstop Rankings

1) Carlos Correa (HOU)

2) Manny Machado (BAL)

3) Francisco Lindor (CLE)

4) Jonathan Villar (MIL)

5) Jimmy Rollins (CHW)

The key shortstop value on today’s slate is Francisco Lindor (CLE). We’ve mentioned pieces to the Cleveland offense in a few spots already due to Finnegan’s issues but also need to mention the monstrosity that is the Reds bullpen – 6.44 ERA, 5.08 xFIP, and 2.04 HR/9 are all league worsts. Lindor has an accessible mid-tier price point, although we are a bit disappointed in the power output/peripherals thus far. As a result, if you choose to get your Cleveland access elsewhere, you can drop down to Javier Baez (CHC) on FanDuel (nice power/team upside for a punt price) or Jonathan Villar (MIL) (speed upside out of the lineup spot and Lackey does have some issues with LHBs) and Brad Miller (TB) (good lineup spot, positive park shift, below average opposing RHP, ravaged Blue Jays bullpen). Carlos Correa (HOU) in particular is an elite tournament option up top (we’ll discuss Mat Latos more in the stack section), but he’s just hard to fit into cash games.

Third Base Rankings

1) Kris Bryant (CHC)

2) Josh Donaldson (TOR)

3) Nolan Arenado (COL)

4) Evan Longoria (TB)

5) Matt Carpenter (STL)

Justin Turner (LAD) doesn’t crack our top five rankings, but his very friendly price point if given another top four lineup spot makes him a friendly value as Nick Tropeano (good K rate but won’t pitch deep and extremely fly ball risky, especially considering walk and hard hit rates) and the Angels bullpen (fourth highest xFIP, consistently taxed due to subpar rotation) represent a favorable matchup. If you are able to pay up, Kris Bryant (CHC) is our choice. He was very close to a two homer game last night, and we’re expecting the solid .197 ISO to be on the rise once the 13.0 HR/FB rate increases).

Outfield Rankings

1) Bryce Harper (WAS)

2) Mike Trout (LAA)

3) Jose Bautista (TOR)

4) Dexter Fowler (CHC)

5) Jason Heyward (CHC)

6) Gregory Polanco (PIT)

7) George Springer (HOU)

8) Ryan Braun (MIL)

9) Rajai Davis (CLE)

10) Billy Hamilton (CIN)

11) Matt Holliday (STL)

12) Randal Grichuk (STL) (if top four)

13) Jacoby Ellsbury (NYY)

14) Stephen Piscotty (STL)

15) Nelson Cruz (SEA)

16) Brett Gardner (NYY)

Bryce Harper (WAS) is actually at a buy low price on FanDuel ($4,400). He holds a .424 wOBA and .275 ISO against RHP since 2014 and gets to face a tame RHP in Bartolo Colon. However, the opportunity cost is steep. Not only are we emphasizing Cueto/Liriano, but there are a plethora of strong mid-tier outfield value plays. Dexter Fowler‘s (CHC) current peripherals are absurd, but we’re more likely to take his underpriced teammate in Jason Heyward (CHC). He’s not hitting the ball real hard right now (did homer last night however), but mostly he’s been bitter by bad luck to begin the season. We’ve raved about Gregory Polanco‘s (PIT) early season peripherals and now he has a date with Julio Teheran‘s horrid splits. In Cincinnati, a couple of speedsters should be atop their respective lineups in Rajai Davis (CLE) and Billy Hamilton (CIN). With both holding the platoon edge against below average pitchers, we like their chances of getting on base to give their legs a chance to rack up some DFS points. The entire Cardinals outfield is in play depending on how lineups shake out as opposing pitcher Chris Rusin has allowed a whopping .372 wOBA and 1.22 HR/9 to RHBs over his career. You can target event players such as George Springer (HOU) and Mookie Betts (BOS) in tournaments along with outfielders from our suggested stacks.


Tier One

1) Chicago Cubs

2) New York Yankees

Tier Two

3) Cleveland Indians

4) St. Louis Cardinals

Tier Three

5) Houston Astros

6) Los Angeles Dodgers

It’s no surprise the Cubs once again rank as our top stack given the positive park shift and another date against the bad Brewers pitching staff. We’re not forcing cash game exposure but certainly don’t mind it where we can squeeze it in. The amazing depth to their lineup makes them worth full stacking in tournaments.

We haven’t talked about the Yankees a lot outside of McCann and may have undersold their outfielders (Ellsbury, Gardner), but Shelby Miller‘s consistent issues, particularly in terms of hard contact allowed make him a smart pitcher to stack against in tournaments.

We hit on Cleveland, the Cardinals, and the Dodgers when talking about individual values, but perhaps the best full stack in tournaments outside of the top tier is the Houston Astros. Mat Latos has limited hard contact this year, which is masking some serious issues. He’s a mess everywhere – velocity, chase rate, swinging strike rate, and first strike rate are all career worsts currently, leading to a 5.41 xFIP. With no notable history indicating an ability to limit hard hit contact, we expect he’s in for some serious trouble in the near future.

Tournament Stack

Boston Red Sox: Edinson Volquez‘s uptick in velocity has disappeared (91 MPH fastball in his last start), and he’ll have to face a red hot Red Sox offense. The park shift for Boston’s LHBs isn’t very tangible (their home park is very tough on LHBs), so players like David Ortiz and Jackie Bradley Jr. can be used as a mini-stack in tournaments.

1 Comment

  1. evanbe2

    May 18, 2016 at 2:22 am

    great pod and great writeup, as usual. anything for the morning slate?

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