Welcome to September 18 MLB DFS action. You’ll find Daily Fantasy Baseball Premium Cliff Notes for September 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!
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00:40 Starting Pitcher
- 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.
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September 18 MLB DFS CLIFF NOTES
It’s a battle atop our SP projections as both Clayton Kershaw (LAD) (-200, 2.9 IRTA) and Corey Kluber (CLE) (-230, 3.2 IRTA) have excellent home matchups. Currently, our lean is Kershaw over Kluber, but part of that is due to a favorable umpire, while Kluber’s umpire remains unknown (assumed neutral). It’s interesting because both of these pitchers are pitching well but also not in line with their peaks. For example, Kershaw has a stellar 3.05 FIP, which is similar to last year but over a full run higher than in 2014-16 (sub-2 each of those years). His 24.7 K% is also good but not the elite low 30s mark it’s been over the last four seasons. Kershaw faces a Rockies team that has been good against southpaws but is receiving a severe negative park shift.
Kluber is coming off of a relatively easy matchup against the Rays in which he got shellacked, not getting out of the second inning. Like Kershaw, Kluber has been good (3.19 FIP), but not the dominant version we’ve seen the previous four seasons in which he just once had a FIP over 3.00. His K rate is good at 25.6%, but still a steep decline from last year’s 34.1% mark. Kluber has a matchup that is better for amplifying strikeouts, as the White Sox strike out 25.4% of the time against RHP, the second highest clip in baseball.
Actual lineups and Kluber’s umpire assignment will help to break this tie, but for the time being, it looks easy to simply play pricing, using the cheaper Kershaw on FD and cheaper Kluber on DK. We do suggest building around one of these aces.
Aaron Nola (PHI) is arguably the third or fourth first tier option (Blake Snell in the mix), projecting not too far behind Kershaw and Kluber. Since he doesn’t off too much of a price discount to them (close, though on FD), he’s not initially in our cash game builds. Nola has a similarly low IRTA (3.0) and the best seasonal K rate of our top three pitchers, at 26.6%. Nola also excels at forcing weak contact, registering a 3.7 Hard-Soft% that has helped lead to a low .269 xwOBA. He’s home in a relatively neutral matchup against the Mets.
The two best mid-tier options are Jameson Taillon (PIT) and Anibal Sanchez (ATL). We definitely feel safest with Taillon, both from a long-term skill standpoint and matchup perspective. Taillon is a Vegas darling, pegged as a -200 favorite with just a 3.1 IRTA. He faces a hapless Royals team that is receiving both a negative park and league shift (no DH). Taillon isn’t spectacular in any one area but is league average in K rate with above average BB and GB rates.
Sanchez has been a pitcher we’ve been higher on than the market most of the season yet still have difficulty projecting him with confidence. We’ve done our best to marry his atrocious previous few seasons (5.87 and 6.41 ERAs the past two seasons) with his consistent success this year (24.1 K%, .291 xwOBA). Sanchez is priced over $1,000 cheaper than Taillon on both sites, making them comparable values.
It is possible to punt the SP2 spot on DK and go with Josh James (HOU), who is starting in place of Gerrit Cole. James has made one start (5 IP, 21 batters faced) and two relief appearances (12 and 9 batters faced). It’s difficult to pinpoint a duration baseline on him, but he mostly faced a batter count in the low 20s in the Minors. While there’s longevity uncertainty in a below average matchup against the Mariners, the strikeout upside is enticing. In 17 AAA starts, James struck out an impressive 35.2% of batters faced.
In tournaments, Blake Snell‘s (TB) recent hot streak and huge K upside make him a viable low owned pivot off the tier one options listed above. The price tag and park environment keep him as a tournament play only.
If you want a cheaper mid-tier option than Taillon or Sanchez, Joey Lucchesi (SD) has tournament appeal. Lucchesi is striking out more than a batter an inning and has just a 3.3 IRTA at home versus a Giants team with a laughable 53 wRC+ over the past 30 days.
Wilson Ramos (PHI) carries the top projection at the catcher position. Ramos will have the platoon edge, and he’s crushed in that split (.361 wOBA, .191 ISO vs. LHP since 2017). The price tag is very appropriate on DK ($4,600) though. He’s viable in all formats but the price tag will likely keep ownership in check in a slate with lots of expensive pitching.
The salary relief alternative is Brian McCann (HOU), who’s $3,100 on DK. McCann will have the platoon edge against Mike Leake. He’s not as good of a hitter as he once was but he still has some pop (.169 ISO) vs. RHP.
In tournaments, we’re looking for power upside. Unfortunately, the powerful bats are in difficult matchups. We’re left with Francisco Cervelli (PIT) and Yadier Molina (STL) as the highest projected scorers at the position after Ramos and we don’t consider those points in difficult ballparks as upside targets. Evan Gattis (HOU) does have the power upside (.203 ISO vs. RHP since 2017) even in a R/R matchup. He’s priced appropriately but can be considered in tournaments. Mitch Garver (MIN) has a fine context for power but he hasn’t shown much individual skill to get excited about.
Ji-Man Choi (TB) is the top projected scorer at first base once again. Choi gets another underwhelming RHP in Arlington where temperatures will be in the high 80s. This time around it’s Yovani Gallardo, who’s posted a 14% K rate this season. He’s a terrible pitcher and Choi has been a remarkable hitter with the platoon edge (.387 wOBA and .277 ISO since 2017). Choi is our preferred choice in cash games but an appropriate price tag will keep cheaper options in the mix in our optimals.
Those cheap options that are appearing in some of our optimals are Justin Smoak (TOR) and Tyler Austin (MIN) (DK only). Smoak is only slightly cheaper than Choi on both sites but the projection isn’t that far off. Smoak is in Camden Yards facing a pitcher in Dylan Bundy that struggles mightily vs. LHBs (.369 wOBA, .217 ISO allowed since 2017). Another important note on Bundy’s struggles against LHBs is that his K rate falls off considerably (17.3% K rate vs. LHBs since 2017). The challenge with Smoak is that he’s posted a 5% HHR over the L15 days and our projections have no idea he’s struggling. He might be a sharper pick for tournaments as game log watchers are unlikely to invest.
Austin is $3,700 on DK and will have the platoon edge against Daniel Norris, who’s allowed a .341 wOBA and .164 ISO to RHBs since 2017. Austin will earn cash game consideration as long as he’s hitting no worse than fifth.
Chris Davis (BAL) has entered some of our FD optimals. It’s a route that feels very uncomfortable in cash games given Davis’ performance this season but you might have to use him to make everything work. After all, Davis has a full punt price tag ($2,100) and a matchup against Aaron Sanchez, who’s given up a .362 wOBA and .159 ISO to LHBs since 2017.
Kendrys Morales (TOR), Carlos Santana (PHI) and Matt Carpenter (STL) are additional targets with power upside that have tournament appeal in this slate. Carpenter has been struggling mightily of late, and in a full slate you’re likely going to see very little ownership going in his direction. It’s a fine buy-low opportunity for a hitter that was crushing not long ago and was in the NL MVP discussion.
Jose Ramirez (CLE) represents the top projected scorer at second base. Ramirez is a remarkable hitter from boths side of the plate and he has plenty of events upside (38 HRs/32 SBs this season). However, he’s really pricey and Carlos Rodon isn’t a gas can. We still like him in tournaments but we’re going in a different direction in cash games.
It’s not a sexy pick by any means, but Logan Forsythe (MIN) is the most common pick in our optimals at the position on both sites. We’re projecting Forsythe to hit cleanup against Daniel Norris on the road and he’s just $3k on DK and $2,200 on FD. In a slate where there’s plenty of expensive pitching in pretty good spots, saving in the middle infield will be key.
There are alternatives at the position with power upside but they’ll come with a higher cost. Brandon Lowe (TB) is an immediate standout given his context (@ Arlington) and an ISO baseline of .175 vs. RHP. Lowe has posted an impressive 34.6% HHR over the L15 days. Jonathan Villar (BAL) is another option with events upside (14 HRs/26 SBs this season) and he’s been swinging the bat well of late as well (27% HHR over the L15 days).
Cesar Hernandez (PHI) is very affordable on FD ($2,600) but he’s been scuffling of late (8.6% HHR over the L15 days). Hernandez is a leadoff hitter though and that PA equity is likely enough to consider him for a cheap cost.
Ozzie Albies (ATL) is an option to consider in tournaments. Albies has slowed down considerably over the second half (74 wRC+, .106 ISO) but he’s hit 22 HRs and 13 SBs this season. There’s power upside in this matchup against Austin Gomber, who as expected regressed in a major way during his last start. We’re expecting him to regress even further given his low 4.3% HR/FB rate.
Alex Bregman (HOU) and Jose Ramirez (CLE) form the top tier of third basemen in this slate as they carry the top projections. You won’t be able to afford them in cash games but they remain high upside targets worthy of tournament consideration. It’s worth mentioning that they’re not facing awful pitchers, so in a full slate we’re not expecting them to draw much attention in GPPs.
There are some decent price tags at third base. The one exception is Josh Donaldson (CLE) on FD where he’s $3,300 and has a matchup against LHP. If you believe Donaldson isn’t shaking off any rust and he’s the same hitter he’s always been vs. LHP, then that price tag is a great one. Donaldson has posted a .406 wOBA and .326 ISO vs. LHP since the start of last season.
Matt Duffy (TB) is the most common option that’s appearing in our optimals on both sites. He doesn’t have great price tags ($4,300 on DK, $3,200 on FD) when you consider his individual skills in R/R matchups, but the context is elevating his projection. His event upside is limited, so you might want to look at other options in GPPs as Duffy will likely carry double digit ownership in that format.
Wil Myers (SD) is another option with a fine price tag on both sites. We do view Myers as a much better hitter than someone like Matt Duffy. Since 2017, Myers has generated a .343 wOBA and .229 ISO vs. LHP. Unfortunately, he’ll be at home (Petco Park), a very poor run scoring environment.
Some upside targets to consider in GPPs include Eugenio Suarez (CIN) ($3,600 on FD and facing a reverse splits pitcher), Travis Shaw, Mike Moustakas (MIL) and Matt Chapman (OAK) ($4,200 on DK; viable in MME).
Francisco Lindor (CLE) represents the top projected scorer at the shortstop position. Lindor has posted a .282/.355/.525 triple slash line and he’s up to 35 HRs and 23 SBs this season. He’s an incredible DFS asset, but he’s also priced like it on both sites. We won’t be prioritizing him in cash games but he’s a hitter you want to be mindful of in GPPs.
Shortstop is mostly a wasteland in this slate after Lindor but you’ll need to go cheap in cash games. Elvis Andrus (TEX) has a brutal matchup against Blake Snell but he’s priced accordingly on DK ($3,300). We like Jorge Polanco‘s (MIN) matchup against Daniel Norris way more but he’s priced more appropriately on both sites. He can be considered on DK. Asdrubal Cabrera (PHI) is the cash game play on FD where he’s $2,700. Cabrera has been less of a threat vs. LHP (.343 wOBA, .114 ISO) and he’s facing southpaw Steven Matz tonight. It’s the price tag and lineup spot (usually third) that’s appealing for Cabrera.
Alex Bregman (HOU) (SS eligible on DK) earns tournament consideration at a very thin position that lacks upside outside of Lindor.
Mike Trout (LAA), Mallex Smith (TB) and Christian Yelich (MIL) represent the top projected scorers on the hitting side in this slate. Smith is nowhere near being an elite hitter, so that’s not the reason why he’s projecting so strongly. It’s because he’s on the road leading off with a really strong shot of 5+ PAs and he has plenty of SB upside (33 SBs in 484 PAs this season). We consider Smith an elite cash game play on FD where he’s just $3,100, and he’s also projecting as the strongest value in this slate on DK where he’s priced more appropriately ($4,800). It’s not an exciting slate on the hitting side.
Yelich is way more expensive than Smith but that’s deserved given the discrepancy in individual skill set. Yelich has a legitimate shot at being the NL MVP this season and he’s posted a .377 wOBA and .204 ISO vs. RHP since the start of last season. His ISO has jumped up to .357 in the second half this season. He remains an elite buy in GPPs.
Trout is the top projected scorer but he’s in Oakland and will face a bullpen game. We prefer him in GPPs tonight but that’s not a knock on him.
Tommy Pham (TB) is another Ray that’s projecting well. Pham is a strong cash game investment, particularly on FD where he’s $3,300. However, you might need more salary relief to make expensive pitching work in this slate. That’s where options like Billy McKinney (TOR) and Cedric Mullins (BAL) come into play on both sites. McKinney is very affordable ($2,800 on FD, $3,700) for a road leadoff hitter in Camden Yards that will have the platoon edge. The same thing could be said about Mullins, who’s the leadoff hitter on the other side of this game. Their upside is certainly not as pronounced as some of the more expensive outfielders, but they’re pivotal in cash games.
Brandon Lowe (TB) has 2B/OF eligibility on DK and he can be considered in cash games as well. He’s projected to hit sixth in Arlington and his cost isn’t prohibitive ($3,900). Nicholas Castellanos (DET) is affordable on DK ($4,100). He’s a fine cash game pick on that site. Jake Odorizzi has allowed a .191 ISO to RHBs since 2017 and Castellanos has been a decent R/R hitter (.328 wOBA, .182 ISO).
Rhys Hoskins (PHI), Starling Marte (PIT) and Curtis Granderson (MIL) (on FD) are options to consider in tournaments. Hoskins in particular stands out. If DFSers are paying up at the position tonight, it’ll likely be for Yelich. If they’re paying down on FD, it’ll likely be for the Tampa Bay Rays. Hoskins will have single digit ownership tonight and we have baselines for him of .364 wOBA and .227 ISO vs. LHP.
1) Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are the obvious top stack with the highest IRT on the slate at 5.6. They get a massive positive park shift hitting in Texas and facing the disaster that is Yovani Gallardo. He’s only striking out around 14% of batters faced and has an exorbitant .385 xwOBA.
2) Milwaukee Brewers
3) Toronto Blue Jays
The Brewers have the second highest IRT (5.2), and they’re home against a bad Reds team that will be starting Michael Lorenzen. While Lorenzen won’t pitch deep into the game, he last started in 215 (21 starts, 6 relief appearances) and allowed 1.43 HR/9. The bullpen behind him has the seventh highest FIP in MLB, and as we always touch on with the Brewers, they’re very event oriented.
The Jays will be a contrarian choice and offer nearly the best per dollar value of the second through fourth tier stacks. They’re guaranteed nine innings in a hitter’s park, taking on the Orioles in Camden yards. While the IRT is only in the mid-4s, if the Jays stack goes off it will likely be due to the long ball. Bundy has allowed 2.19 HR/9 this season and a .230 xISO mostly supports those struggles.
4) Cleveland Indians
5) Houston Astros
It’s possible expensive pitching and expensive Cleveland bats keeps that stack under owned. There’s potentially more upside beyond our projections, depending on how you want to treat Carlos Rodon. His K rate has been lower than expected all season, but he’s made up for that by generating weak contact. However, he’s been wild over his last two starts (5 BBs each) and has allowed a Hard% of 40% or greater in three of four starts, something he hadn’t done even a single time in his prior starts.
6) Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies are perpetually underpriced on FD and mesh well with top tier pitching on that site. They’ll face Sandy Alcantara, a rookie who has been good on the surface through three starts (1.42 ERA) but not underneath (5.14 xFIP, 5.04 ZiPS projected ERA).
7) Atlanta Braves
8) Minnesota Twins
9) Washington Nationals
10) Detroit Tigers
11) Oakland Athletics
12) Pittsburgh Pirates
13) Baltimore Orioles
In a muddled, mostly meh-filled, fifth tier, the Athletics are an interesting contrarian stack. They have the power to put up a large aggregate score. Skaggs allowed 10 ERs at the end of July, skipped a start, and gave up 7 ERs in the middle of August. He’s been on the DL since and will make his return tonight, despite not making a rehab start.
A low key, cheap game stack is between two bad AL central teams with bad bullpens and power prone SPs in an underrated hitter’s park: Minnesota at Detroit. It’s a game stack you can utilize alongside a double expensive SP build.