Daily Fantasy Rundown – September 21 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.
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Kyle Schwarber (CHC) – On sites where Schwarber is eligible, he’s by far the top option at the catcher position. Schwarber has been a good hitter (.370 wOBA), but the power (.282 ISO) is what separates him. That power is fueled by a 42 percent hard hit rate and 47 percent FB rate. The power is certainly not a fluke. At the minor league level, Schwarber never generated an ISO below .240. This doesn’t bode well for opposing pitcher Wily Peralta, who has been tattooed vs. LHBs (.353 wOBA/1.33 HR per 9 surrendered to lefties since 2013). Schwarber’s price point is a bit difficult to swallow for cash games, but if you can find a way to fit him, he’s playable on any format of your choosing.
Miguel Montero (CHC) – Well, we have some good news. If you’re unable to fit Schwarber in cash games, his teammate Miguel Montero is available at an affordable price. While Montero is certainly not Kyle Schwarber, he’s about an average hitter vs. RHP (.337 wOBA) with some pop (.143 ISO). He should hit no worse than sixth for the Cubs and he’s a LHB, which has given opposing pitcher Wily Peralta fits over the course of his career. Target Montero in cash games.
Additional catcher notes: Victor Martinez (DET) has catcher eligibility on FanDuel. He’s our preferred value at the position on that site. Martinez has been pretty dreadful all season, but he’s been better as of late (at least one hit in the last seven games and two of those hits have gone for extra bases). We think that Martinez never recovered fully from a knee injury that forced him to miss time earlier this season. It looks like he could be a bit healthier now relative to his performance over this month. He’s close to the minimum price point on FanDuel and the Tigers have a team total of 4.5 runs. Target him in cash games. Francisco Cervelli (PIT) is a better hitter vs. LHP, but we don’t mind targeting him as part of Pirates stacks in tournaments. The Pirates are facing the biggest park shift in baseball (from PNC Park, one of the best pitching venues to Coors Field, the best hitter’s park in baseball).
Miguel Cabrera (DET)/Jose Abreu (CWS) (Cabrera and Abreu are basically tied in our model, as both are ranked second and third respectively; their combination of hitting skills and matchups against below average pitchers makes them great options in all formats, but it might be difficult to reach for their prices in cash games)
Pedro Alvarez (PIT) – Jonathan Gray is a better pitcher than advertised. He pitches at Coors Field, which punishes every pitcher but his skills are pretty solid. His best skill is missing bats (22 percent K rate/10 percent SwStr rate) and while his run prevention hasn’t been good (5.00 ERA), the expected ERAs offer some hope (3.17 FIP/3.84 xFIP). Unfortunately, it seems like the Rockies limit every single one of his starts. In eight major league starts, Gray has averaged 4.5 IP. He has only gotten out of the fifth inning once. That’s good for the Pirates offense, as they will have excellent matchups against arguably the worst bullpen in baseball (second worst ERA and third lowest K per 9). Enter Pedro Alvarez, who’s historically been a slightly above average hitter vs. RHP (122 wRC+) but the power (.241 ISO) is what makes him appealing in this venue (Coors Field). Alvarez will K (27 percent K rate), but we’re willing to take on that risk in hopes that the power shines through in the best hitting environment. There are sites like Yahoo, where Alvarez and Miguel Cabrera have the same price. We’re taking the better hitter in that situation (Cabrera), but on sites where Alvarez is significantly discounted to the top plays at the position, he’s a great value.
Justin Smoak (TOR) – On DraftKings, Smoak’s price tag is hovering around the minimum ($2,600). On sites where he’s priced that way, he represents a good punt play. He’s not a very good hitter (.316 wOBA) but he’s powerful (.185 ISO vs. RHP in the last few seasons) and Rogers Centre is an elite hitting venue, particularly for power. On paper, Smoak doesn’t have a great matchup (Adam Warren has surrendered a .299 wOBA to 520 LHBs) but Vegas believes that this offense will get to Warren (Blue Jays have an implied team total approaching 5.5 runs). Smoak usually hits fifth (right behind the elite hitters in this offense) and he gives you cheap access to one of the highest totals on this slate.
Additional first base notes: Anthony Rizzo (CHC), Edwin Encarnacion (TOR) and Paul Goldschmidt (ARI) are next in line options to Abreu/Cabrera. Out of these hitters, Rizzo is the best option. While Goldschmidt (one of the best hitters in baseball vs. LHP) and Encarnacion have unappealing matchups, Rizzo gets Wily Peralta (.353 wOBA/1.33 HR per 9 allowed to LHBs since 2013). Target these hitters in tournaments, particularly Rizzo. Justin Morneau (COL) had a nice bounce back season as a member of the Rockies (.373 wOBA/.177 ISO in 2014). He’s a strong candidate for cash game consideration on DraftKings, DraftDay and Yahoo (cheap price tag on those three sites). Opposing pitcher A.J. Burnett doesn’t allow much power to LHBs (0.66 HR per 9 allowed to LHBs since 2013), but he has allowed a .334 wOBA vs. lefties in that time span and Coors Field won’t help him. We’re only interested in Morneau as a cash game value on sites where his price is low.
Neil Walker (PIT) – This isn’t something we do often on a 10 game slate, but Walker is so far ahead in our model over his peers at second base that he deserves to be the only written recommendation at the position. Walker is ranked inside our top 10 hitters and the next ranked second basemen are Ian Kinsler and Jose Altuve (ranked outside of our top 60 hitters). Walker has historically been a good hitter vs. RHP (.353 wOBA) and we love his power (.195 ISO) at a position that usually lacks it (middle infield positions are defensive positions). Facing an average pitcher and arguably the worst bullpen in baseball at Coors Field, Walker gives you access to the highest team total on this slate (Pirates have a team total approaching six runs) at a position that doesn’t have any other clear cash game values. He’s a great option across all formats.
Additional second base notes: Jose Altuve (HOU) is a secondary target on FanDuel and a tournament option on sites that have priced him fairly. The matchup is great (Jered Weaver‘s fastball velocity is sitting at 83 MPH and he’s well below average at controlling the running game) but Altuve’s hitting skills aren’t very good vs. RHP. We love his speed upside, particularly in a matchup against a pitcher that struggles with controlling the running game. Chris Coghlan (CHC) has second base eligibility on DraftKings and DraftDay, where he represents a fine alternative to Neil Walker in cash games. Coghlan is just an average hitter vs. RHP, but his context is awesome (Wily Peralta is awful vs. lefties). Logan Forsythe (TB) is a decent tournament target. He’s at Fenway Park, which is much better hitting venue for RHBs than it is for LHBs, and he’s been a good hitter vs. LHP. His matchup isn’t any good (Eduardo Rodriguez has limited RHBs to a .285 wOBA), so we’re mostly investing in his hitting skills/environment here.
Shortstop notes: Usually we reserve the additional notes section for 1) hitters that aren’t quite primary values or 2) hitters that deserve more consideration for high variance formats. We’re making an exemption here, as the shortstop position is a bit site dependent. Let me provide some examples. On FanDuel, Corey Seager (LAD) is the top value play (priced as an average hitter). He’s been remarkable in his first 69 PAs at the major league level (.379/.478/.603 triple slash line) and the Dodgers have rewarded him with a top five role in their offense. 69 PAs are a small sample, but it’s not like Seager is performing this well out of nowhere. He was an above average hitter at the minor league level (.344 wOBA/.173 ISO). Even if you expect his current hitting skills to regress a bit (I do), he would still be considered one of the better hitting shortstops in baseball. Unfortunately, Seager isn’t priced as favorably everywhere else ($5,900 on DraftKings, which makes him almost unplayable). He’s our primary cash game target on FanDuel. On DraftKings, Jed Lowrie (HOU) and Alexei Ramirez (CWS) represent the best cash game values at the position. Both have appealing matchups (Lowrie vs. Weaver/Ramirez vs. Randy Wolf) and they’re priced below the average price of a hitter on that particular site. If you want to punt the position altogether, Jhonny Peralta (STL) is $2,300 on FanDuel and close to the minimum on DraftDay as well. He has struggled in the second half but he will have the platoon edge and hit cleanup against the power prone John Lamb. If you want more Coors Field exposure, Jose Reyes (COL) has a fair price point on DraftKings, where he’s a fine target for cash games. All of these shortstops are priced differently around the industry, so let site specific pricing help guide your choices.
Kris Bryant (CHC) – Wily Peralta used to be a bit tougher on RHBs, but that’s no longer the case. Peralta has allowed a .344 wOBA to RHBs this season, which stems from his inability to miss bats. Historically, Peralta hasn’t been a K pitcher (17 percent K rate over the course of his career) but his current K rate (13 percent K rate) is concerning. The drop in K rate isn’t fluky. His SwStr rate has dropped from 8.1 percent to 6.8 percent in 2015. It’s no coincidence that Peralta’s run prevention has taken a turn for the worse (4.41 ERA/4.82 FIP), as the drop in Ks has allowed hitters to tee off (1.21 HR per 9/32 percent hard hit rate, both career worst marks). Enter Kris Bryant, who’s main hitting skill is hitting for power (.223 ISO/46 percent FB rate). Bryant’s price tag is a bit restrictive in cash games around the industry, but that doesn’t take him away from consideration altogether. He represents one of my favorite tournament targets on this slate.
Aramis Ramirez (PIT) – Ramirez is no longer the hitter he once was (92 wRC+ in 2015/115 wRC+ over his career), but he continues to hit for power (.173 ISO). He’s generating a 43 percent FB rate, which is in line with his career norm. That’ll keep him in play for DFS, especially when he’s out of PNC Park. He’s in the best hitting environment possible (Coors Field) and he will hit cleanup for a Pirates offense that has the highest expected success of any team tonight (team total is approaching six runs). While some of his teammates are overpriced relative to their hitting skills vs. RHP (Polanco and Marte), Ramirez has an approachable price tag around the industry. He represents the best cash game value at the position.
Evan Longoria (TB) – Longoria’s matchup isn’t particularly appealing tonight (Eduardo Rodriguez has only surrendered a .285 wOBA to RHBs), but he will have the platoon edge at Fenway Park (great hitting environment for RHBs). Like Ramirez, Longoria isn’t quite the same hitter he once was (.326 wOBA in 2015/.357 wOBA over the course of his career). However, he continues to his southpaws at an elite level (.405 wOBA/.226 ISO vs. LHP in 2015 and .390 wOBA/.240 ISO vs. LHP over the last three seasons). Longoria is a fine alternative to Ramirez across all formats.
Additional third base notes: Nolan Arenado (COL) and Josh Donaldson (TOR) are priced fully on most sites and we’d rather not pay those sort of price at the positions with two solid values available at lower asking prices. Both are appealing tournament targets. Arenado doesn’t have a great matchup and the Pirates bullpen is one of the best in baseball, but he’s at Coors Field and his home run totals (39 home runs) are backed up by real adjustments (44 percent loft rate, 35 percent hard hit rate are career high marks). His 18.3 HR/FB rate makes sense relative to his age (24 years old). Donaldson will likely end up as the MVP of the American League. At 29 years old, he’s in his power prime (39 home runs/22.2 HR per FB rate in 2015) and it helps that Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are the hitters surrounding him. Playing half of his games at Rogers Centre instead of Oakland Coliseum has helped, too. His context today isn’t great (Adam Warren is a solid pitcher and the Yankees bullpen is elite). At his current price tag around the industry, Donaldson should only be used in tournaments.
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) – You knew that we would end up here. McCutchen, one of the best hitters in baseball, is our top ranked hitter this evening. McCutchen owns a .387 wOBA/.203 ISO vs. RHP over the last three seasons. Jonathan Gray has been solid vs. LHBs, but he hasn’t been any good vs. RHBs (.352 wOBA) and Coors Field clearly won’t help. If paying up for a hitter this evening, McCutchen should be at the top of your priority list. That’s not really the case for the rest of the Pirates outfield. Teammates Gregory Polanco (.321 wOBA/.132 ISO) and Starling Marte (.332 wOBA/.154 ISO) are about average hitters vs. RHP, but their prices are way too high around the industry. The only site that I would consider Marte and Polanco for cash games is DraftDay (priced fairly on that site). Give them a shot in tournaments, as the environment combined with above average matchups throughout this game could elevate their hitting skills. Polanco is the leadoff hitter for this offense (should have at least 5 PAs) and he has some speed upside, so if you’re willing to overpay for one of these hitters in cash, he’s the better option.
Carlos Gonzalez/Corey Dickerson/Charlie Blackmon (COL) – These three hitters are under priced around the industry relative to their skills and context. Gonzalez (.400 wOBA/.285 ISO), Dickerson (.392 wOBA/.251 ISO) and Blackmon (.352 wOBA/.164 ISO) are above average hitters vs. RHP. Gonzalez and Dickerson are clearly the better hitters, but Blackmon gives you a great shot at five PAs in the leadoff spot for the Rockies and he has speed upside (40 SB upside over a full season). That speed upside will likely come into play tonight (Francisco Cervelli owns a minus seven rSB over the course of his career and Burnett owns a -23 rSB for his career). Opposing pitcher A.J. Burnett has given up a .334 wOBA to LHBs since 2013 and Coors Field won’t help him. Target these three outfielders across all formats.
George Springer (HOU)/Ben Revere (TOR)/Dexter Fowler (CHC) – Springer isn’t the same hitter as Revere/Fowler. Springer is a powerful hitter (.203 ISO vs. RHP) and Jered Weaver isn’t any good (13 percent K rate/1.33 HR per 9). Revere and Fowler are about average hitters vs. RHP but they have value due to speed upside/the offenses the play for. They’re leading off for offenses that have healthy team totals. The Blue Jays have a team total approaching 5.5 runs while the Cubs’ team total is approaching five runs. Springer is ranked a bit ahead in our model (30th ranked hitter; Revere/Fowler are ranked inside our top 50), but I don’t mind letting price point dictate decisions.
Additional outfield notes: It’s not very difficult to name Mike Trout (LAA) and Bryce Harper (WSH) next in line options to Andrew McCutchen. These are arguably the best two hitters in baseball right now and they’re performed very well this month. Harper has a friendlier matchup, so I’ll give him an edge over Trout. Target both of these hitters in tournaments. J.D. Martinez (DET) is a powerful hitter vs. RHP (.198 ISO) and the matchup vs. Erik Johnson (doesn’t miss bats and his hard minus soft hit rate is over 20 percent) is appealing for DFS. Martinez is priced favorably on FanDuel, where he’s a primary cash game value. On DraftKings, he’s priced fully. Target him in tournaments on that site. If you need a punt play on Yahoo, give Brandon Guyer (TB) a look . The matchup against Eduardo Rodriguez isn’t appealing but he will lead-off at Fenway Park (great environment for RHBs) and most importantly, he’s very cheap on that site. He’s a fine cash game target on that site and any site that has priced him at the bare minimum. Corey Dickerson (COL) always has our attention against RHP in Coors Field but he’ll need a good lineup spot to earn cash game consideration. We need to see him inside the first six hitters otherwise he’s only worthy of tournament consideration.
Rankings (price not considered):
1) Dallas Keuchel (HOU)
2) David Price (TOR)
3) Chris Archer (TB)
4) Jason Hammel (CHC)
5) Jaime Garcia (STL)
6) Gio Gonzalez (WSH)
7) Jon Niese (NYM)
8) Brett Anderson (LAD)
9) John Lamb (CIN)
Dallas Keuchel (HOU)/David Price (TOR) – Keuchel and Price represent the top starting pitchers on this slate, but we’re not going to force them in cash games. Keuchel (24 percent K rate/10.2 percent SwStr rate) and Price (25 percent K rate/11.2 percent SwStr rate) miss bats at an above average rate and a combine it with elite run prevention. Keuchel owns a 2.42 ERA/2.93 FIP while Price is boasting a .2.43 ERA/2.80 FIP in 2015. Keuchel is ranked ahead of Price due to a superior matchup/slightly better environment. While Price has to deal with the Yankees (third best offense vs. LHP according to wRC+) at home (Rogers Centre has a park factor of +113, which is considered an extreme hitter’s park according to parkfactors.com), Keuchel will benefit from facing the Angels (ranked 26th in wRC+ vs. LHP at Minute Maid Park (+102 park factor, which is considered close to neutral).
There are five offenses with team totals over 4.5 runs this evening (Pirates, Rockies, Blue Jays, Tigers and Cubs). Three of those teams have totals over five runs and the Rockies/Pirates are playing at Coors Field. Hitters from these teams have been priced appropriately on most sites, which makes it a bit difficult to roster elite starting pitchers. On DraftKings and DraftDay, it’s possible to invest in one of Keuchel (our preferred option for cash) or Price (better for tournaments). They’ve made it possible to roster an elite starting pitcher and still have exposure to the best hitting situations (particularly Coors Field). This is certainly not the case on FanDuel (most Coors hitters are a bit overpriced), which is a great segue for our top value plays at the position.
Jason Hammel (CHC) – Hammel’s second half has been a difficult one (1.70 HR per 9, 39 percent hard hit rate has led to a 5.43 ERA) but he continues to miss bats (22 percent K rate) and this matchup could help him (Brewers are ranked 25th in wRC+ vs. RHP). Ryan Braun has been out the last few days due to a nagging back issue and Jonathan Lucroy continues to recover from a concussion. These two hitters being out of the lineup will make the matchup even better for Hammel. Braun’s replacement is Logan Schafer (43 wRC, 18 percent K Rate against RHP) while Lucroy’s replacement is Martin Maldonado (54 wRC, 27 percent K rate). He gives you a great chance at a W (-200 favorite, at home) for a very affordable price industry wide. It looks like Vegas has taken notice of the Brewers lineups of late, pegging them with a team total of three runs. Hammel is a strong cash game value this evening.
Jaime Garcia (STL) – Garcia’s price tag varies around the industry. On DraftKings, he’s really expensive and difficult to consider in cash games. On FanDuel, he’s more affordable. The matchup with the Reds is neutral (18th in wRC+) but they’re getting a park downgrade and Garcia’s ability to work deep into games (6.5 innings pitched per start) separates him a bit from the other ground ball oriented lefties who live off run prevention. He has also flashed a bit more strikeout upside than the other two. Price point is key if investing in Garcia.
Brett Anderson (LAD)/Jon Niese (NYM) – Niese (15 percent K Rate/5.8 percent SwStr rate) and Anderson (16 percent K rate/7.1 percent SwStr rate) aren’t strike out pitchers, but they induce ground balls at an elite rate (Niese – 54 percent GB rate) and Anderson relies a lot of soft contact in general (67 percent GB rate/minus one percent hard minus soft hit rate). Anderson is the better pitcher of the two (better run prevention, slightly better K skills) but he has the more difficult matchup. The Diamondbacks rank 15th in wRC+ against LHP while the Braves rank 28th in wRC+ against LHP. The implied run totals for both opponents are around 3.2 runs and both pitchers are heavy favorites (-180 to -190). When priced similarly we prefer in relying on Anderson’s better skills, but on sites that Niese is way cheaper he’s an acceptable alternative. Neither pitcher has much upside so the value is primarily in their price point. With a game at Coors Field and hitters priced appropriately on most sites, this financial flexibility is important tonight.
Additional starting pitcher notes: Chris Archer (TB) is one of the top strikeout pitchers in baseball (30 percent K rate/13 percent SwStr rate). While we’re big fans of his K skills, Vegas is saying that his run prevention could be a problem (Red Sox have a team total approaching 4.5 runs). Target Archer in tournaments and try to pair him with a cheap pitcher like Brett Anderson or John Lamb. Speaking of John Lamb (CIN), he’s a fun option for multi-entry tournaments tonight. He has a nice matchup (Cardinals are ranked 26th in wRC+ and are striking out close to 24 percent of the time vs. LHP) and we love his ability to miss bats (26 percent K rate/10 percent SwStr rate). He’s home run prone (1.22 HR per 9), but we believe there’s a reasonable chance that he could keep the ball in the yard in this matchup/environment (Busch Stadium is an elite pitcher’s park).
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) Coors Field
This isn’t surprising. We covered the Pirates and the Rockies extensively throughout our analysis. They have the highest team totals on this slate and they’re playing in the best hitting environment in all of baseball.
2) Chicago Cubs
The Cubs have a juicy matchup against a pitcher that isn’t missing bats/allowing more power. Their team total is approaching five runs. One of my favorite stacks tonight is Fowler-Schwarber-Rizzo-Bryant. I’m trying combine that stack with some Coors Field and cheap pitchers (like Cubs pitcher Jason Hammel/Reds pitcher John Lamb).
1) Toronto Blue Jays
Personally, I think the Blue Jays make a bit more sense for tournaments. Their matchup against Adam Warren/Yankees bullpen isn’t very appealing and most of the Blue Jays hitters are priced fairly around the industry. I’d still mini-stack Jose Bautista–Josh Donaldson–Edwin Encarnacion in tournaments and hope that their elite skill sets/environment can overcome the difficult matchups.
2) Detroit Tigers
Erik Johnson isn’t any good. Through three starts, he owns a 5.6 K-BB% and batters are teeing off (2.65 HR per 9). The Tigers can hit for power, especially Miguel Cabrera and J.D. Martinez. Those two hitters are my favorite targets from this offense. Cabrera is in play across all formats and Martinez is a primary target in cash games on sites where he’s underpriced relative to his skills/context.
3) Chicago White Sox
I’ve probably overused this joke, but here it is again. One word: Randy Wolf. There’s not much else to add. The White Sox aren’t a very productive offense but a matchup against Randy Wolf will likely help. My favorite mini-stack from this offense is Melky Cabrera–Jose Abreu–Trayce Thompson. I don’t mind throwing Alexei Ramirez in that stack.
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