Daily Fantasy Rundown – September 1 MLB DFS Picks and Analysis
Welcome to Tuesday’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: Very small concerns in STL, COL and MIN. Hardly even worth mentioning.
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.
NOTE: FanDuel is not including the ARI-COL game in their main night slate.
Matt Wieters (BAL) – Catcher is a difficult position to identify an industry wide value today given differences in eligibility across various sites. The one guy I’m most drawn to in cash games across the industry is Matt Wieters. Ironically his skill set is more conducive to tournaments (great history versus LHP but horrid current peripherals give us pause). Ultimately, though, Wieters’ upside is worth targeting, even in cash games, given his near minimum price tag and a lack of other clear cut values at the position. That upside stems from Wieters’ history against LHP (.350 wOBA, .190 ISO for his career), his home park (Camden Yards is a plus hitter’s park) and a matchup against Drew Smyly. Smyly has some nice overall peripherals, but his velocity is down and the career .330 wOBA/1.25 HR per 9 allowed to RHBs is not something to shy away from. As mentioned before, there is certainly risk here (Wieters has a career low .18 EYE), but with expensive options you’ll want to fit in elsewhere (Sale, Coors Field) he makes a lot of sense to me at his price.
Additional catcher notes: The best alternative options at catcher for cash games are Russell Martin/Dioner Navarro (TOR) (gives you cheap exposure to the Toronto offense) and John Jaso (TB) (similar price/overall EV to Wieters but with less volatility). If you’re paying up at catcher (something better suited for tournaments), I’d rank the top three options in this order: Welington Castillo (ARI) (awesome power peripherals; faces arguably the worst starting pitcher on the slate in definitively the best hitter’s park), Kyle Schwarber (CHC) (also has elite peripherals and will face Desclafani, who struggles with LHBs, at home with the wind blowing out a bit) and Brian McCann (NYY) (Porcello has always struggled with LHBs and has yielded more power overall since pitching with Boston but this is quietly a big downtick in park factor for McCann).
Paul Goldschmidt (ARI) – On sites where Goldschmidt is available, he’s the clear cut top first baseman and top overall hitter. Goldschmidt, who leads or is among the leaders in Fantasy Points Per Game (FPPG) on all sites, is in an almost perfect situation. He’s playing in Coors Field against Kyle Kendrick, who is having an atrocious season. While some of Kendrick’s 6.43 ERA can be attributed to Coors Field, he doesn’t do much to help himself. Kendrick doesn’t miss bats (11.6 K percentage), doesn’t keep the ball on the ground (38.4 GB rate) and allows plenty of hard contact (20.6 hard minus soft hard hit rate allowed is about double the league average). To top it off, Kendrick is backed up by a Rockies bullpen that has the highest ERA in MLB. About the only contextual factor not in Goldschmidt’s favor tonight is the lack of platoon edge, but that’s completely overshadowed by the other positive factors. The Diamondbacks have a team total approaching six tonight. Goldschmidt isn’t available on FanDuel, but on other sites I’m making an effort to fit him into cash games, even if it costs me high priced pitching. This is especially true on sites like DraftDay where park factor isn’t taken into account (Goldschmidt isn’t even the highest priced first baseman there).
Next in line: Edwin Encarnacion (TOR) (scorching hot and that’s backed up by continued loft and hard hit rate; elite tournament option)
Jose Abreu (CHW) – On some sites around the industry Abreu isn’t priced much higher than the average cost of a roster spot. That’s simply too cheap for Abreu and makes him a top target, especially where the Colorado game is excluded. Abreu’s power has really picked up over the second half of the season as his ISO sits at .247 (.196 in the first half). The increased power is a result of generating more loft and harder contact. In other words, it’s legitimate and we’re now getting the Jose Abreu of last season each time we slot him into a roster. Abreu is away from friendly US Cellular Field, but his price and matchup make up for the negative park shift. Opposing starting pitcher rookie Tyler Duffey has varying projections according to ZiPS (5.80 ERA, 1.58 HR/9) and Steamer (4.24 ERA, 1.10 HR/9) but neither are very optimistic. Also, Duffy has pitched past the sixth inning just once in his four MLB starts. That means Abreu has a good shot of two plate appearances against an atrocious Twins bullpen that holds the highest xFIP in MLB.
Ben Paulsen (COL) – If unable to afford Goldschmidt but still yearning for some Coors Field exposure, Paulsen is a low priced way to get that. He’ll hit fifth for the Rockies at home while holding the platoon edge against Rubby de la Rosa, who has allowed a whopping .385 wOBA and 1.51 HR/9 to LHBs since 2013.
Evan Gattis (HOU) – Gattis is a similar type of play to Matt Wieters – high risk/high reward, but he has the type of upside I want at a reasonable price tag given today’s slate. The actual cost and opportunity cost are both higher with Gattis than with Wieters, but he’s got a more solid foundation: .217 ISO, EYE in line with career mark. The risk with Gattis has more to do with the type of player he is than it does subpar indicator stats. The upside with Gattis is of course his power, as he has a career .227 ISO overall and has blasted 65 HRs in just 338 games. He’ll likely hit cleanup for an Astros team that has a team total approaching five against Roenis Elias of the Mariners. Teammate Chris Carter (HOU) is a phenomenal tournament option, but his low spot in the order at home prevents me from considering him in cash games.
Additional first base notes: If Justin Smoak (TOR) hits fifth for the Blue Jays, he’ll be a cheap target of mine in all formats. Smoak has individual power upside and from a macro sense, is a cheap way to get a piece of a historic Blue Jays offense. Another cheap option is Adam LaRoche (CHW), but he’s cheap for a reason (power and plate discipline problems have led to disappointing results). I’d rather use him in tournaments and only as a secondary option there. Additional tournament options include Anthony Rizzo (CHC), Carlos Santana (CLE) and Albert Pujols (LAA).
Top Play: Jose Altuve (HOU) (not surprisingly the top option given his skills and platoon splits in a home matchup against a below average LHP; other viable second base values make him better for tournaments but the individual cost isn’t prohibitive)
Anthony Rendon (WAS) – Rendon has a low to fair price point around the industry and is in a great spot today. He’ll face LHP Marco Gonzales, who in his brief MLB career (has faced 124 RHBs) has allowed a .367 wOBA and 1.38 HR/9 to RHBs. More important than the small sample splits are Gonzales’ surprising struggles at AAA this season: 5.20 ERA, 5.09 FIP, 1.27 HR/9. With Rendon’s strong career splits (.354 wOBA versus LHP), he’s in a really good position to succeed tonight. It also needs to be pointed out that the Nationals are priced as if facing Carlos Martinez, a high end RHP, on DraftKings when in reality they face a below average LHP. There is a ton of value in Rendon and his right-handed teammates on that particular site.
Chris Coghlan (CHC) – Coghlan continues to hit third for the Cubs, which is the best lineup spot for DFS production. His value is particularly enhance by being surrounded by bats such as Schwarber, Rizzo and Bryant. While that lineup order certainly helps Coghlan’s value, he’s a strong splits play on his own right today. For his career he has a solid .341 wOBA and .156 ISO against RHP, but thoe numbers have increased to .352 and .213 respectively this season (wOBA and power were higher than career marks in 2014 as well) thanks to more hard hit contact and a better EYE. Opposing pitcher Anthony Desclafani has given up a .350 wOBA and 1.35 HR/9 to LHBs for his career, and may have a tough time keeping the ball in the park with the wind blowing out a bit.
Additional second base notes: While Coghlan has a nice price point industry wide, I’d rank him behind Neil Walker (PIT) on FanDuel (great park shift, indicators suggest he’s been a bit unlucky power wise, hits from his strong side against struggling Jimmy Nelson) and behind Robinson Cano (SEA) on DraftKings (Scott Feldman gets away with fringe stuff by inducing weak contact, but this price is simply too low for a matchup where Cano has the platoon edge in a plus park) in terms of per dollar value. Jason Kipnis (CLE) is a viable tournament option.
1) Troy Tulowitzki (TOR) – With the three shortstops up top muddled, I’m breaking the first tie based on price. Tulowitzki comes at a slightly lower cost than Correa and Reyes on most sites. Perhaps I’m being naïve, but I really wouldn’t put much stock into his struggles since joining the Jays. It’s not as if Tulowitzki is pressing at the plate. In fact, his BB rate with the Jays sits at 10.4 percent, nearly four percentage points higher than it was with Colorado this season. With a little bit better luck on balls in play and some reduction in his K rate (which both ZiPS and Steamer expect), Tulowitzki will see a big uptick in production. A lot of the risk with him is mitigated by his surrounding offense and park; the Jays have a team total around five this evening.
2) Jose Reyes (COL) – Speedster hitting from his strong side (which lines up great with de la Rosa’s poor splits against LHBs) in Coors Field. It’s tough for a shortstop to be in a much better spot.
3) Carlos Correa (HOU) – I was admittedly a bit cautious with Correa upon his call up, but he’s been nothing short of amazing. He’s patient and makes hard contact with a tolerable K rate. And like the rest of the Astros, he’s shown to be an “event” type player, combining for 27 homers and steals through 69 games. You could arguably make a case for any of the top shortstops this evening. I prefer Tulo (price) and Reyes (Coors exposure), but Correa has similar upside, especially if you think his power is real. That’s the one area I’m a bit cautious as I anticipate the 23.9 HR/FB rate to drop.
Marwin Gonzalez (HOU) – With Sale and expensive Arizona bats high on our priority list, you may not be able to afford a top shortstop. If that’s the case, it makes sense to drop all the way down to the cheap/borderline punt priced plays where Marwin Gonzalez is a clear favorite. He’s got everything you want in a cheap shortstop: lineup spot (second), platoon edge, good current peripherals (loft and hard hit rate feeding increased ISO), good team total and a plus hitter’s park.
Additional shortstop notes: Some additional options I’m eyeing for tournaments only are Jed Lowrie (HOU), Wilmer Flores (NYM) and Addison Russell (CHC).
Top Plays: Josh Donaldson (TOR) and Nolan Arenado (COL) are neck and neck in our model as the top plays at third base and top 10 overall hitters. Both are very expensive around the industry and best suited for tournaments. I’d emphasize paying up for someone like Paul Goldschmidt before trying to squeeze in Donaldson or Arenado.
Jake Lamb (ARI) – Drew and Chris have unsuccessfully tried to stage a Jake Lamb intervention with me. Okay, so he’s not very good. However, his current .131 ISO seems destined to rise. Both ZiPS and Steamer project a .150-plus mark rest of season, and his 7.9 HR/FB rate is masking some solid improvements in both loft and hard hit rate. With a touch of overall optimism surrounding Lamb, it’s tough not to love him at a reasonable price tag in an elite matchup against Kyle Kendrick. Aside from the plethora of issues that Kendrick has had this season, which are noted in Goldschmidt’s blurb, he’s specifically yielded a .351 wOBA and 1.26 HR/9 to LHBs since 2013.
Additional third base notes: One of the difficulties in writing up this slate is the lack of consistent pricing across the industry, which is exacerbated by a non-Coors slate on FanDuel. The third base position is the best microcosm of this dilemma. On most sites, with the expensive guys costing so much, I’m taking a reasonably priced Lamb to get a piece of the best matchup on the day. There are some site specific alternatives besides him. On FanDuel, where Lamb isn’t available, Todd Frazier (CIN) is simply way too cheap and fits in well with a roster construction centered around Chris Sale. On DraftKings, Ryan Zimmerman (WAS) and Lonnie Chisenhall (CLE) are underpriced at sub-$4,000. Manny Machado (BAL) makes for a really nice tournament option. His price has come down, but so have his indicator stats (plate discipline and hard hit rate worsening quite a bit). He’s got a favorable home matchup against Drew Smyly, who saw his velocity dip last start.
Top Plays: If the Coors Field game is included in your slate, you’ll want to try and scrap to get at least one of the top outfielders in this game. Here they are in order of preference (if salary doesn’t matter): AJ Pollock (ARI), Carlos Gonzalez (COL), Charlie Blackmon (COL), David Peralta (ARI) and Ender Inciarte (ARI). When you take into consideration salary, I’m drawn most to the Colorado guys. It’s easier to get exposure to Arizona batters by force paying up for Goldschmidt at first or Castillo at catcher and slotting in Lamb as a value play. However, the Rockies have a team total a touch over five so it makes sense to diversify here, especially with two power/speed threats that hold the platoon edge on Rubby de la Rosa.
Carlos Gomez (HOU) – Gomez’s power has taken a hit this season as he’s not making the same type of hard contact that he did the previous few seasons, which held his ISO around .200. While that’s disappointing and certainly hinders Gomez’s DFS upside, keep in mind that his EYE and batted ball distribution are in line with his career marks. As a result, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him bounce back over the season’s final five weeks. Given his current pricing, he doesn’t need a full bounce back to be valuable and today’s matchup against Roenis Elias (.322 wOBA, 1.06 HR/9 allowed to RHBs; negative park shift) is favorable. Gomez fits into our theme of accepting some player skill risk in order to capture meaningful offensive upside from our non-Coors players.
Jayson Werth (WAS) – As mentioned in Rendon’s blurb, this is a really good spot for the Nationals RHBs, particularly on sites like DraftKings that take into account matchup when pricing. Werth and many of the Nationals are priced low due to a combination of disappointing performance but also a brutal schedule. On the surface, Werth’s .284 wOBA is horrific, but a closer look shows a very unlucky BABIP (78 points below career mark) and HR/FB rate (6.8 points below career mark) despite a batted ball distribution and EYE in line with his career rates. Buy low on him now, especially against weak LHP as Werth has a career .395 wOBA and .238 ISO against LHP. Before this year, he had posted three straight seasons with a wOBA of at least .410 against southpaws.
Additional outfield notes: Mike Trout (LAA) had a tough August as his hard hit rate and loft took a hit. However, his plate discipline didn’t suffer much and given his track record, this makes for a nice buy low opportunity as he’s matched up against rookie RHP Cody Martin. One good game to target on FanDuel (no Coors) is the Cubs-Reds game. Both Dexter Fowler (CHC) and Jay Bruce (CIN) are very solid value plays on that particular site. Kyle Schwarber (CHC) isn’t cheap, but his insane power peripherals in this matchup are worth targeting, even if it requires using an outfield spot. If looking for salary cap relief options at the outfield position, Daniel Nava (TB) (platoon edge hitting second in Camden Yards) and Jonny Gomes (ATL) (UPDATE: Gomes has been traded to the Royals and should be removed from consideration). The Yankees LHBs in the outfield serve as secondary targets around the industry. The Pirates outfield makes for nice tournament plays as they get a significant park shift in their favor and face Jimmy Nelson. Adam Eaton/Melky Cabrera (CHW) do not get a favorable park shift, but they’ve got a chance to beat up on rookie Tyler Duffey and a subpar Twins bullpen. They are both tournament viable. One of my favorite standalone tournament options is Curtis Granderson (NYM). We were pretty pessimistic on opposing pitcher Aaron Harang’s baseline coming into the season, and his outlook has only gotten bleaker as both his K and GB rates have fallen off from last season, leading to a 4.95 xFIP.
Rankings (price not considered):
1) Chris Sale (CHW)
2) Zack Greinke (LAD)
3) Madison Bumgarner (SF)
4) Johnny Cueto (KC)
5) Gerrit Cole (PIT)
6) Justin Verlander (DET)
7) Jon Niese (NYM)
8) Joe Ross (WAS)
9) Drew Smyly (TB)
10) Andrew Cashner (SD)
11) Yovani Gallardo (TEX)
12) Michael Pineda (NYY)
13) Matt Shoemaker (LAA)
14) Cody Martin (OAK)
Chris Sale (CHW) – We know Sale is the best source of strikeouts of any starting pitcher in MLB (33.2 K percentage, 15.3 SwStr), but it’s scary to think that with some better luck he could also challenge for the ERA title. His current 3.20 ERA is well above his 2.51 xFIP, and an elite -0.9 hard minus soft hit rate indicates that he should actually be beating his expected ERAs. Sale gets a very favorable park shift pitching in Target Field and will face a Twins team that represents a pretty neutral matchup overall. Our model has the gap between Sale and the other top pitchers quite wide, so we view him as the guy to pay up for on FanDuel (easy to do so with no Coors Field game). It’s a bit tougher on multi-SP sites, but if you institute a hi-lo strategy at pitcher (complement Sale with the cheapest starting pitcher you’re comfortable with) and take advantage of some cheap offensive players, it’s possible to use Sale and still grab some Coors Field exposure.
Jon Niese (NYM) – Niese is a heavy favorite (-220), and once a pitcher is designated as a -200 favorite or greater his personal win probability improves significantly. Niese will be pitching at home in big Citi Field against a really bad Phillies offense. While they rank 18th in wRC+ against LHP, our model has their current lineup against LHP projected to have the lowest wRC+ by split of any team in action today and the second highest K rate. Niese isn’t anything to write home individually, but his high GB rate (54.3 percent) and great than 2 K/BB ratio give him a high enough floor where I’d be willing to risk him in an elite matchup as a second starting pitcher in cash games. Niese’s low salary should allow you to use Chris Sale on multi-SP sites without completely foregoing Coors Field exposure.
Justin Verlander (DET) – The Royals are a tough matchup in real life (fifth in wRC+ against RHP) and even more so in DFS, due to their contact heavy ways (15.5 K percentage against RHP is by far the lowest in the league). Still, Verlander is the mid to mid-high priced pitcher I’d most like to target if eschewing the suggested hi-lo strategy. He carries similar upside, despite the poor matchup, to the other tier three options but comes at a reduced price tag. Over his last five to seven starts, Verlander hasn’t just rebounded, he’s been dominant. He’s completed at least seven innings in six of seven starts, has a K percentage of 26.9 or greater in five of six (including the last four) and has allowed a sub-20 percent hard hit rate in five of six starts as well. The rebound is remarkable but after an extended stretch of dominance, I’m buying.
Additional starting pitcher notes: While I think Zack Greinke (LAD) has a higher expected median outcome than Madison Bumgarner (SF) (and thus is ranked higher), Bumgarner is the better contrarian pivot off of Sale in tournaments. Bumgarner posted an absolutely silly 35.0 K-BB percentage in the month of August, which is almost unfathomable. I expect the market to be higher than me on Gerrit Cole (PIT), but he’s experiencing a negative park shift and outpitching his expected ERAs by quite a bit (2.44 ERA, 3.08 xFIP), despite a league average hard minus soft hit rate. The most important thing in finding a strong second pitcher to fit a hi-lo strategy on multi-SP sites is price, so line up our rankings next to specific site pricing. For example, Niese is our preferred industry wide value play, but on FantasyAces Joe Ross (WAS) represents a lower priced option in the same tier. Drew Smyly (TB) makes for a better tournament option than cash game play. He’s got a stellar K-BB percentage, but reduced velocity last start, a high FB rate and pitching in Camden Yards all introduce significant risk. Andrew Cashner (SD) is a viable, cheaper alternative to Jon Niese in cash games on DraftKings. Matt Shoemaker (LAA) is a great tournament option as he can miss bats and faces an underwhelming Oakland offense in a big park. My concern with Shoemaker in cash games, despite the favorable contextual factors, is volatility. He’s allowed a hard hit rate of 41.7 percent or worse in three of his past four starts. If you get one of his bad days, it’s not going to matter much where he’s pitching or who he’s pitching against.
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) Arizona Diamondbacks
2) Colorado Rockies
3) Toronto Blue Jays
4) Chicago Cubs
The primary stacks were covered well in the position by position analysis. The one we didn’t hit on as much was the Blue Jays. They lack a lot of strong individual values due to price, but the upside here is mammoth as they are facing a contact oriented pitcher (4.13 K/9) in the Rogers Centre.
1) New York Yankees (Rick Porcello, who has allowed a .344 wOBA and 1.10 HR/9 to LHBs since 2013 and has a career high 31.6 hard hit rate currently, will be forced to face one of the lefty heaviest lineups in all of baseball)
2) Cincinnati Reds (Dan Haren, whose FIP is 4.90 despite a 3.90 ERA, could be in a lot of trouble with the wind blowing out; this stack gains value on FanDuel due to both a lower total cost and lower opportunity cost)
3) Houston Astros (always like them in tournaments due to great power/speed combination)
4) Washington Nationals (particularly like them on DraftKings, where they can be used as a cash game mini stack)
5) New York Mets (as mentioned in the outfield notes, the aging Aaron Harang, who had a poor baseline to begin with, has seen his K rate drop off dramatically and the GB rate fall as well)
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.
TB at BLT 7:05: Dry. Temps in the mid to upper 80s falling into the upper 70s. Air density is an 8. Wind light and variable. The wind is a 5.
CLE at TOR 7:07: Retractable roof. Dry. Temps in the mid to upper 70s falling into the low 70s. Air density is a 7. Wind south-southeast 5-10 mph which blows out to left-center. The wind is a 6.
NYY at BOS 7:10: Dry. Temps in the mid 70s falling to near 70. Air density is a 6. Wind southeast 6-12 mph which blows from right to left. The wind is a 5.
MIA at ATL 7:10: Dry. Temps in the mid 80s falling into the upper 70s. Air density is an 8. Wind west 4-8 mph lessening to nearly calm which blows out to right early. The wind is a 6 becoming a 5.
PHL at NYM 7:10: Dry. Temps near 80 falling into the mid 70s. Air density is a 7. Wind nearly calm. The wind is a 5.
CIN at CHC 8:05: Dry. Temps in the mid to upper 80s falling into the upper 70s. Air density is an 8. Wind southwest 8-16 mph lessening to 6-12 mph which blows out to center. The wind is a 7 becoming a 6.
DET at KC 8:10: Dry. Temps in the upper 80s falling to near 80. Air density is an 8. Wind south 8-16 mph which blows out to left. The wind is a 7.
PIT at MIL 8:10: Retractable roof. Dry. Temps in the low 80s falling into the mid to upper 70s. Air density is an 8 becoming a 7. Wind south-southwest 7-14 mph lessening to 5-10 mph which blows in from right. The wind is a 4.
CHW at MIN 8:10: A 10% chance of a delay due to a thunderstorm. Temps in the mid 80s falling into the upper 70s. Air density is an 8 becoming a 7. Wind south-southeast 5-10 mph lessening to 3-6 mph which blows from right to left. The wind is a 5.
SEA at HOU 8:10: Retractable roof. Numerous showers and thunderstorms around. The roof will likely be closed.
WSH at STL 8:15: A <10% chance of a delay due to a thunderstorm. Temps in the mid to upper 80s falling into the low 80s. Air density is an 8. Wind south 6-12 mph which blows out to left. The wind is a 6.
AZ at COL 8:40: Light rain will move into the city after 9:30. Much like last night, most of the rain will remain confined to the mountains to the west of the city. Just a 10% chance of a delay. Temps in the low 80s falling into the low 70s. Air density is a 10. Wind southwest 7-14 mph which blows out to right. The wind is a 6.
LAA at OAK 10:05: Dry. Temps in the low 70s falling into the mid 60s. Air density is a 6 becoming a 5. Wind west 10-20 mph which blows out to right. The wind is an 8.
SF at LAD 10:10: Dry. Temps in the mid 70s falling to near 70. Air density is a 7 becoming a 6. Wind west-southwest 7-14 mph which blows out to right. The wind is a 6.
TEX at SD 10:10: Dry. Temps in the mid 70s falling to near 70. Air density is a 7 becoming a 6. Wind west-southwest 6-12 mph which blows from left to right or out to right at times. The wind is a 6.