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September 20 MLB DFS: Max Pain

Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire
September 20 MLB DFS: Max Pain
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Welcome to September 20 MLB DFS action. You’ll find Daily Fantasy Baseball Premium Cliff Notes for September 20 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!


Time Stamps
00:43 Starting Pitcher
07:49 Catcher
10:04 First Base
13:39 Second Base
16:19 Third Base
19:15 Shortstop
21:11 Outfield
25:12 Stacks


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  • 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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Range of Outcome Projections


Starting Pitcher

Max Scherzer (WSH) represents the top projected scorer at the starting pitcher position. The gap between Scherzer and the next bucket of projected scorers at the position is very wide in this slate, and it’s because of the discrepancy in pitching skill, particularly in the K department. Scherzer leads the slate in K projection (8.1) as he’s posted a massive 34% K rate this season. No other pitcher in this slate comes close to Scherzer’s K rate, and he’s a -260 home favorite taking on the Mets. He has a 3.1 IRTA, which is the lowest in this slate. Scherzer will be very chalky on both sites, but you’re not fading him in this slate.

The next highest scorers at the position are Masahiro Tanaka (NYY), Matthew Boyd (DET), Kevin Gausman (BAL) and Eduardo Rodriguez (BOS). Tanaka has the strongest projection of this group but he’s overpriced and is likely an outright fade in this slate. He’s at home facing a Red Sox offense that’s ranked 1st in wRC+ vs. RHP and are only striking out 19% of the time vs. RHP.

Boyd is a whooping $9,400 on DK and $8,500 on FD. You could play him in GPPs on FD, but you’re not touching him in any format on DK.

Rodriguez is overpriced and gets to face a fully healthy Yankees lineup in Yankee Stadium. No thanks.

Gausman has a fine DK price ($7,900). We like the matchup against a Phillies offense that’s ranked 18th in wRC+ and are striking out 24.9% of the time vs. RHP. Gausman has a 3.9 IRTA, which is the second lowest in this slate. We don’t love him but he’s certainly playable in this slate.

Your cash game decision in this slate is whether you’re using Gausman at SP2 on DK or dropping down to Cody Reed (CIN). Reed is $5,500 on DK. His splits are very wide, but he’s in a much better ballpark (Marlins Park) for run prevention than his home stadium and the Marlins offense stinks (27th in wRC+ vs. LHP). Reed can also get you some Ks. He’s posted a 20% K rate throughout his career and in 15 appearances this season his K rate is sitting at 23%. He’s also generated a 55.5% GB rate throughout his career. Reed is the most common SP2 pick in our optimals on DK.

Reed will likely carry double digit ownership in this slate, so it’s viable to look for alternatives around his price tag in GPPs. Jeff Brigham (MIA) and Sam Gaviglio (TOR) would be the primary pivots in this price range but we’re only considering them as sprinkles in MME. Vince Velasquez (PHI) is an intriguing cheap play on FD. Velasquez has posted a 26% K rate this season and he’s just $5,900 on that site. We don’t love the matchup against the Braves but this slate is very watered down at the position after Scherzer and most of the other arms are flat out overpriced.


On both sites, Gary Sanchez (NYY) is the top projected player at the catcher position, although he strangely is a better fit for the slate on FD. Opposing starter Eduardo Rodriguez has held right-handed hitters (RHHs) to a .292 wOBA, 1.03 HR/9 rate and 25.6-percent hard hit rate, although he does rely heavily on fly ball outs (39.4-percent). Sanchez possesses as much upside as anyone at the position but he is by no means a must on DK.

Instead, Salvador Perez (KC) and Matt Wieters (WSH) are the preferred cash plays because they rate similarly in terms of value but they are cheaper. Against LHP, Perez’s .347 xwOBA sits 45 percentage points higher than his actual wOBA, so some positive regression is likely on the horizon. On the other hand, Matt Boyd has allowed a 36-percent hard hit rate and 50.6-percent fly ball rate and yet righties have only produced a .251 BABIP against him this year. Regression is coming for a fly ball prone pitcher against a hitter who has deserved better in his sample size in the split. Meanwhile, Wieters is on the positive side of his platoon split for his career (.340 career wOBA against LHP versus .305 in the split against RHP) and Vargas’ 5.42 FIP versus RHHs is second worst amongst pitchers (min. 10 IP) on the slate (behind only Josh Tomlin). Again, either will suffice in cash games.

If looking for a tournament pivot, J.T. Realmuto (MIA) may go overlooked despite his .373 xwOBA against southpaws because Cody Reed is coming off a dominant start. If he happens to revert to his power-prone ways (career 2.17 HR/9 rate versus RHHs), those who roster Realmuto will reap the benefits.

First Base

Ryan Zimmerman (WSH) is about $1,000 underpriced on FD in a matchup against the aforementioned Vargas. Despite the fact he has allowed two earned runs or less in five of his last six starts, he has posted a FIP over 4.40 and an xFIP over 4.20 in back-to-back starts, and his velocity has been significantly down during that stretch. For the season, Vargas is averaging 86.9mph on his fastball but here are his average fastball velocities in his last two starts respectively: 83.8 and 85.3mph. All Zimmerman has done this year is lead the Nationals in wOBA (.473) and ISO (.299) against LHP so there is no reason he should only cost $3,100.

The top value at the position on DK is yet again Ji-Man Choi against a RHP; this time Sam Gaviglio will toe the mound against him. Heading into tonight, Gaviglio has produced at least a 5.80 FIP in three straight starts, and he has allowed 22 baserunners over the course of his last 13.1 innings. Unfortunately for Gaviglio, the Rays own the highest wOBA of any team over the course of the last 14 days, as Choi is one of four qualified Rays with a 150-plus wRC+ during that span.

Victor Martinez (DET) is the first baseman featured in most of the DK optimal lineups because fitting Scherzer is no easy task otherwise. Martinez is projected to hit fifth in a lineup being projected to score 4.6 implied runs but Lopez unfortunately has fared as a reverse-splits right-hander.

In tournaments, Freddie Freeman (ATL), Edwin Encarnacion (CLE) and Yonder Alonso (CLE) are all intriguing tournament investments against opposing pitchers who struggle to keep the ball in the yard. Of the 15 homers Velasquez has allowed this season, 12 have come off the bats of lefties, and eight of those have come specifically at home. Encarnacion and Alonso draw the dream matchup against James Shields who has relied more heavily on his changeup in 2018. Consequently, righties have hit him harder than lefties, which does not align with his career numbers, but the change in pitch frequency explains the phenomena. Encarnacion is the preferable play to Alonso but both are in play.

Second Base

Yoan Moncada (CHW) is the cream of the crop at the second base position as the matchup legitimately could not get much better for a free-swinger like him. Probable starter Josh Tomlin only has 59.2 innings under his belt this year but he has pounded the zone at an absurd 50.2-percent rate after posting a 49.3 zone percentage in 2017. By comparison, Sean Manaea leads all qualified pitchers with a 48.1-percent zone rate, so Tomlin seriously just pounds the strike zone. Notably, Tomlin also rarely misses bats, as he has only struck out lefties at a 13.2-percent rate. Therefore, Tomlin’s .484 wOBA, 4.56 HR/9 rate and 41.7-percent hard hit rate allowed to lefties are not tough to comprehend, although regression is naturally coming. Start Moncada in all formats and sleep like a baby.

If pivoting from Moncada, Whit Merrifield (KC), Niko Goodrum (DET) and Jose Ramirez (CLE) represent the logical alternatives. Ramirez is a worthwhile spend if salary is available in an excellent speed matchup (especially if Omar Narvaez ends up behind the plate). Although Shields has improved drastically upon his hard contact numbers against lefties, he still relies heavily on fly ball outs (45.2-percent) and Ramirez is one of the most talented power hitters in the MLB. Merrifield leads his team in xwOBA against LHP (.384) and Boyd is one of the worst southpaws in the league at holding runners (15 SB to two CS against him this year). Goodrum’s skill set is fantasy-friendly but the matchup is less than ideal and he is clearly the least appealing of the tournament tier.

Third Base

Anthony Rendon (WSH) is a tier above the field in a smash spot versus a middling lefty with depreciated recent velocity. Since the beginning of last season, Rendon has slashed .307/.409/.610 against LHP to go along with a .303 ISO, .418 wOBA, 159 wRC+, higher BB rate (14.8-percent) than K rate (14.0-percent) and a 42.1-percent hard hit rate. Any more questions?

Josh Donaldson (CLE) would be the consolation prize if the necessary funds are not available for Rendon as he too is on the preferred side of the split against Shields. However, Donaldson is amidst a tough season, especially in the split versus RHP (.298 wOBA, 87 wRC+), so he is more of a GPP-only option.

Brian Anderson (MIA), Asdrubal Cabrera (PHI) and Matt Duffy (TB) are a few others scattered throughout optimal lineups and will come in at much lower tournament ownerships. Anderson is the most intriguing of the bunch because his .376 xwOBA and 43.1-percent hard hit rate suggest his ceiling is the highest in the group. Cabrera is a lefty versus a reverse-splits RHP (Kevin Gausman) but he is a superior career hitter on this side of the platoon. Duffy is a singles hitter who is best used as a contrarian piece of the red-hot Rays stack.


Choosing between Trea Turner (WSH) and Francisco Lindor (CLE) is a difficult proposition with both hitting within the top two spots of their respective, projected high-scoring offenses. The Indians’ 5.5 implied run total is highest on the slate but Turner rates as the slightly superior value in our model. For a LHP, Vargas is awful at holding runners, as over 75-percent of baserunners have successfully stolen against him over the course of his career (108 of 143 attempted steals have been successful). Our baselines also give Turner credit for a .342 wOBA and .145 ISO in the split so there is power potential there as well. Either player is an excellent play and an interesting contrarian route would be to use both together on FD.

Adalberto Mondesi (KC) has displayed more power against LHP in his young career than in the split against RHP and he, like Merrifield, is a speed demon. Boyd has one of the lowest caught stealing rates in all of baseball so Mondesi likely will not hesitate to run if/when he gets on.

Beyond the Mondesi tier, Xander Bogaerts (BOS) features obvious upside against a Masahiro Tanaka in Yankee Stadium and Adrian Sanchez (WSH) is the cheaper, more contrarian alternative to Turner for almost identical reasons.


Although Victor Robles (WSH) only costs $2,200 on FD, he features one of the highest projections of any hitter on the slate! Fading him as a value is asking for trouble as it is rare that hitters rate as such drastic positive values. Lock him in.

Christin Stewart (DET) is another mispriced player as he has consistently been hitting second for the Tigers and the team is a sizeable favorite at home. Again, Lopez has held his own against left-handed hitters (LHHs), but Stewart’s price point across the industry more than accounts for the risk.

Mallex Smith (TB) leads off for the en fuego Rays and he is on the positive side of the platoon split against Gaviglio. Thus far, Gaviglio has produced significant home/road splits, but he was burned for five earned runs (ERs) in the friendly confines of home his last time out, proving variance eventually evens out. Since Jul. 31, Gaviglio has only produced a FIP below 4.56 in two out of eight total starts, so loading up on hitters against him should be a profitable strategy regardless of game location. Tommy Pham (TB) and Kevin Kiermaier (TB) are viable for similar reasons although Pham is the lone right-hander. Even so, Gaviglio has still yielded a .338 wOBA and 1.62 HR/9 rate on the “worse” side of his splits.

Bryce Harper (WSH) and Giancarlo Stanton (NYY) are similarly projected in our model but it would not be surprising to see Stanton garner twice the ownership. Stanton has struggled with strikeouts all year long but that has mostly been in the split versus RHP. In 136 at-bats (ABs) versus LHP, Stanton owns a .434 wOBA, .331 ISO and an incredible 57.1-percent hard hit rate. Any time he faces a lefty, he can be deployed. Harper is the more contrarian option here although Vargas has been crushed by LHHs all season long: .346 wOBA, 1.45 HR/9 rate, 25.9-percent line drive rate, 37.3-percent hard hit rate and an ugly 5.40 FIP. Both he and Juan Soto (WSH) are quietly strong plays assuming they make the lineup and yet both are talented hitters in the split.


Tier One

1) Washington Nationals

2) Cleveland Indians

The Nationals and Indians are neck and neck in this first tier. The Nationals have a lowered IRT (4.9) but the matchup against Jason Vargas (1.93 HR/9 allowed this season) is a great one, even for LHBs. The Nationals are going to be a bit higher owned than the Indians as a stack.

The Indians are expensive and as a result are difficult to get up to with Scherzer being the clear priority in this slate. James Shields is due for some regression, especially against LHBs (.294 wOBA allowed to LHBs this season is very fluky). If you’re getting away from Scherzer in tournaments it’s because you’re loading up with these tier one stacks and going cheap at SP.

Tier Two

3) Tampa Bay Rays

4) New York Yankees

We’re once again expecting an IRT above five runs for the Rays as they travel to Toronto to face the Blue Jays in Rogers Centre. They fit like a glove with Scherzer + cheap SP2 on DK, so it might end up being a popular route in GPPs.

The Yankees are facing a good pitcher in Yankee Stadium and they’re expensive, which doesn’t fit with Scherzer builds. We prefer the tier one offenses if going away from Scherzer and stacking but the Yankees could be used as mini-stacks or solo plays in tournaments.

Tier Three

5) Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox will be very low owned in this slate, but it’s tough to get excited about their context (Tanaka + Yankees pen in Yankee Stadium). We’re mostly treating them as a MME only offense tonight.

Tier Four

6) Detroit Tigers

7) Atlanta Braves

8) Chicago White Sox

The Tigers and White Sox are cheap and will fit the Max Scherzer roster builds tonight. That’s appealing and they’re facing awful starting pitchers, but keep in mind that both of those offenses are terrible.

We are currently experiencing issues with the optimizer. Please check back periodically; Our engineers are working on a solution. 


We are currently experiencing issues with the optimizer. Please check back periodically; Our engineers are working on a solution. 

We are currently experiencing issues with the optimizer. Please check back periodically; Our engineers are working on a solution. 


We are currently experiencing issues with the optimizer. Please check back periodically; Our engineers are working on a solution.