Daily Fantasy Rundown – September 24 MLB DFS Picks and Analysis
Welcome to Thursday’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: Minor delay concern in KC
Please see Meteorologist Mark Paquette’s game by game weather forecasts below the Analysis.
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Travis d’Arnaud (NYM) – d’Arnaud is the highest rated catcher in our model. He’s ranked inside our top 30 hitters, but his price point is a bit aggressive for cash games around the industry. On FanDuel, d’Arnaud is priced as an average hitter. We like him across all formats on that site. d’Arnaud is a powerful hitter vs. RHP (.173 ISO in 589 PAs against RHP), and Great American Ball Park is a perfect environment for RHBs to hit home runs (inflates home runs for RHBs at about 14 percent above the league average; right in line with the best hitting environment in baseball, Coors Field). Despite the expensive tag on most sites, d’Arnaud deserves tournament consideration relative to his skills vs. RHP and a matchup against Josh Smith (doesn’t miss bats and he’s home run prone) in one of the best hitting venues in all of baseball.
Additional catcher notes: The catcher position is a mess tonight. Our top value play is Salvador Perez (KC), but we’re not even sure if he’s going to suit up. He left the game last night with a bruised knee. It looks like it was a minor issue, as Perez said after the game that his knee was fine. We’re hoping he suits up, as he’s very cheap around the industry and he’s one of the few catchers on this slate that can hit. Perez hasn’t been an above average hitter vs. LHP, but he has been powerful (.169 ISO vs. lefties). If he’s not in the lineup, we’re going to have to consider J.T. Realmuto (MIA) for cash games. Realmuto isn’t much of a hitter (83 wRC+), but he has solid pop (.146 ISO) for a catcher and he has an excellent matchup against the underwhelming Alec Asher (5.12 Ks per 9/2.76 HR per 9/9.78 ERA through four starts at the major league level). We’re also considering Buster Posey (SFG) for cash games on sites where his price makes sense ($4,100 on DraftKings). Posey hasn’t been 100 percent as of late, but that’s largely the case with every catcher at the end of the season. Vegas doesn’t expect the Giants to do much offensively tonight (3.5 implied run total) in a matchup against Ian Kennedy. Still, Posey is a better hitter than any of the catchers we have mentioned (145 wRC+/1.10 EYE this season). On a night where the catcher position is so barren, it makes sense to give Posey a look in cash games.
David Ortiz (BOS) – Ortiz is the highest rated hitter on this slate according to our model. Ortiz began the season very slowly, generating a career low .323 wOBA and a 37 percent hard hit rate (45 and 46 percent in the last two seasons). A few months later, Ortiz regained his elite form and broke the 500 career home run mark. Over the second half of the season, Big Papi owns a .433 wOBA/.362 ISO and he’s hitting the ball harder than usual (48 percent hard hit rate over the second half/40 percent hard hit rate in his career). Erasmo Ramirez isn’t a dominant pitcher (19 percent K rate/4.23 ERA over his career), but the Rays have turned him into a better pitcher. His ground ball rate is up from 37 percent to 47 percent and his ERA is down to 3.70. This is still a matchup we can pick on with Ortiz, who remains an elite hitter at almost 40 years old. Ortiz is in play across all formats this evening.
Lucas Duda (NYM) – Duda is certainly not as good of a hitter as David Ortiz (.344 wOBA), but he’s powerful (.216 ISO) and his context is better than Ortiz’s. Duda is facing a rookie pitcher (Josh Smith) who has very limited major league experience. In 18.2 IP at the major league level, Smith has been atrocious (7.71 ERA/1.93 HR per 9). It doesn’t help that he’s pitching in a terrible pitcher’s park (Great American Ball Park). On sites where the difference in price between Duda and Ortiz is significant, I’m opting for the cheaper Duda in cash games.
Additional first base notes: Justin Bour (MIA) is an average hitter vs. RHP (115 wRC+), but he has some power (.189 ISO vs. righties). The Marlins have the highest implied team total on this slate (4.6 runs) and Bour is their cleanup hitter. He’s a viable alternative to Lucas Duda in cash games. Give Jose Abreu (CWS) a shot in tournaments. We realize that Michael Pineda is a good pitcher and he misses bats, but he’s had a very difficult second half (5.35 ERA) and Abreu is a powerful hitter (.242 ISO in two seasons at the major league level). This isn’t a good individual matchup for Pineda, who’s been serving up home runs (1.86 HR per 9) at a high rate over the second half of the season. Abreu is our favorite tournament target at the position.
Dee Gordon (MIA) – There are a few offenses that are close in terms of expected runs (Red Sox, Mets and Cardinals have implied run totals hovering around 4.3 runs), but the Marlins are at the top of that list (4.6 implied runs). That’s not a big difference, but Gordon is the leadoff hitter for this Marlins offense and his upside could be huge tonight. If Carlos Ruiz is catching for the Phillies, Gordon has awesome SB upside. Ruiz has a -2 rSB over the course of his career, so he’s well below average in terms of controlling the running game. This is the perfect matchup for Gordon, who’s main skill as a baseball player is his speed (60 SB upside over a full season). He’s priced too aggressively around the industry to consider him a cash game option, but he’s one of my favorite tournament targets on this slate.
Daniel Murphy (NYM) – The expectation for this Mets offense is around 4.3 implied runs this evening. We’re more optimistic than Vegas. The Mets are facing a rookie pitcher in Josh Smith, who’s been serving up home runs and not missing bats at the major league level. That’s a problem for any pitcher in this league, particularly when that pitcher is in an elite hitting environment (Great American Ball Park). Murphy hits atop this Mets offense, and even though he’s about an average hitter vs. RHP (116 wRC+), he has a little pop (.148 ISO vs. righties over the last three seasons). We’ll take Gordon’s upside over Murphy on sites where they’re priced similarly, but on sites where the asking prices are significantly different, we believe Murphy is the superior option for cash games.
Additional second base notes: Brian Dozier (MIN) is simply mis-priced on FanDuel ($2,800). He’s priced as a below average hitter on that site, and that’s not an accurate representation of Dozier’s hitting skills. Dozier has been about an average hitter vs. RHP this season (.330 wOBA), but he’s very powerful (.216 ISO) and he plays at a position that’s not known for power (second base). He also has a nice matchup against a pitcher that doesn’t miss any bats (Cody Anderson has accumulated a 4.40 Ks per 9 through 77 IP at the major league level), which could increase his ability to make contact with the ball (22 percent K rate this season, which is a bit below the league average). Dozier is a phenomenal cash game option on FanDuel and any site that hasn’t accurately priced him relative to his skills and context.
Jhonny Peralta (STL)/Donovan Solano (MIA) – Peralta (103 wRC+) is a much better hitter than Solano (77 wRC+), but their prices are wildly different around the industry. Peralta is close to the bare minimum on FanDuel ($2,300), where we view him as the strongest cash game play. Solano is minimum priced everywhere and despite being an inferior hitter, he’s been hitting second as of late. That’s a strong lineup spot for a middle infielder in an offense that has the highest implied total on this slate. On sites where Solano is significantly discounted to Peralta, we view him as the best punt play at the position. It’s unnecessary to pay mid-tier prices at shortstop tonight, so punting the position is the way to go in cash games.
Additional shortstop notes: Xander Bogaerts (BOS) is a fine option for tournaments. He’s priced very aggressively around the industry, but he’s been producing very well as of late (1.025 OPS in his last 10 games; averaging 13 DraftKings points in that timespan). Give him a look in tournaments, but don’t overpay for him in cash games. Brandon Crawford‘s (SF) cheap tag on FanDuel and his power production against RHP this season makes him an intriguing tournament option and viable cash game alternative to Peralta.
Evan Longoria (TB) – Longoria is no longer a good hitter vs. RHP (.299 wOBA vs. RHP this season), but he continues to produce at a very high level against lefties. Historically, Longoria has crushed LHP (.391 wOBA/.239 ISO) and he continues to do so in 2015 (.407 wOBA/.223 ISO). He’s priced below the average cost of a hitter around the industry, which is probably a correct price if he was facing a RHP. That’s not the case tonight, as he draws southpaw Wade Miley (.326 wOBA allowed to RHBs) at Fenway Park (great environment for RHBs). Longoria is a very strong cash game play tonight.
Derek Dietrich (MIA) – Dietrich has produced at an average rate vs. RHP (114 wRC+), but his power (.203 ISO) is very attractive in this matchup. Opposing pitcher Alec Asher has been horrendous at the major league level. He’s allowing power (2.79 HR per 9 through four starts) at an alarming rate, which is obviously destroying his run prevention (9.78 ERA). We realize that four starts is a very small sample, but it also gives us an opportunity to see what we can expect. So far, Asher has shown us that he’s not going to miss bats, which will lead to tons of power. This is a great matchup for Dietrich, whose best skill as a hitter is to hit for power. Where only interested in Dietrich on sites where he’s significantly discounted to Longoria.
Additional third base notes: Miguel Sano (MIN), Alex Rodriguez (NYY) and Kyle Seager (SEA) are nice tournament options this evening. Out of those three, Sano has the better chance to have a big DFS night. Sano is a very powerful hitter (.285 ISO), but his performances could be of the up and down variety due to his inability to make contact consistently (37 percent K rate). Thankfully, Sano has a matchup against a pitcher that can’t miss bats and when he makes contact, it goes a long way. He’s priced aggressively around the industry, but we don’t mind investing in his power potential in tournaments. Rodriguez has an awful matchup vs. Chris Sale, but he’s dominated lefties this season and Sale has been home run prone over the second half of the season. Like Rodriguez, Seager doesn’t have a great matchup against Johnny Cueto. However, Cueto has been awful this month. He’s not missing bats (5.24 Ks per 9) and his hard hit rate (40 percent) has led to more home runs (1.61 HR per 9), which has skewed his ERA (7.25) in the wrong direction. Give Seager a look in multi-entry tournaments on sites where his price is low. David Wright (NYM) is discounted on Yahoo ($14), and he’s cheaper than the recommendations above. That’s the only site where I consider him a cash game option.
Yoenis Cespedes (NYM) – Cespedes is our second ranked hitter tonight. There’s a reasonable chance that Cespedes comes down back to earth next season. He’s actually generating less loft (37 percent this season/48 and 46 percent in the last two seasons), yet he’s accumulated more power than he ever has this season (35 home runs/41 doubles). His HR/FB rate is currently 20 percent, which is the highest of his career. Cespedes is 29 years old, which is likely the peak of his power prime. Whether he can continue to produce at that level without generating more loft is likely a topic of discussion for next season.
In DFS, we care about today. Cespedes has a lot of upside today, as he faces a rookie pitcher that doesn’t miss bats at Great American Ball Park. That environment really helps right-handed power, and Cespedes’ best skill is his raw power. Personally, I’m trying to pay for him in cash games everywhere, but so far I’ve only been able to do it on DraftKings (his price is more reasonable there than the rest of the industry). If you don’t have enough salary to pay for Cespedes in cash games, make sure you have exposure to him in tournaments. Teammate Curtis Granderson is a good play as well, but he’s priced too closely to Cespedes around the industry and he’s not as skilled as Cespedes. He’s a fine secondary target around the industry, but on FanDuel he’s a primary option (he’s significantly discounted to Cespedes on that site).
Jason Heyward/Matt Holliday (STL) – It looks like our early concerns with opposing pitcher Taylor Jungmann are becoming a reality. Jungmann got off to a very hot start to begin his major league career, but his expected ERAs never quite matched his actual ERA. This month, Jungmann owns an ERA close to seven and he’s allowed a 2.18 HR per 9. Now that he’s come back to earth, we’re going to pick on him with some Cardinals. Heyward (.365 wOBA/.182 ISO) and Holliday (.361 wOBA/.169 ISO) are priced favorably around the industry. Holliday just made his return last night, so he’s cheaper than Heyward everywhere. We like Heyward a bit more (okay power/speed upside), particularly on a site like FanDuel where they’re both priced similarly. They’re close enough in skill to let price points dictate decisions.
Marcell Ozuna (MIA)/Brandon Guyer (TB) – Ozuna and Guyer represent the best punt plays in the outfield around the industry. Guyer is a little bit of a better situation, as he gets the platoon edge against Wade Miley. Guyer has been a nice hitter vs. LHP (.357 wOBA/.158 ISO vs. LHP), and Miley hasn’t exactly been a great pitcher vs. righties (.326 wOBA/about one HR per 9 allowed to RHBs). He will be leading off for the Rays offense at Fenway Park, which plays nicely to RHBs. The risk with Guyer is pinch hit risk but Miley is just good enough that we feel like three or four plate appearances are likely. Going back to Ozuna, he’s been disappointing this season (82 wRC+/.126 ISO) and the lack of loft (30 percent FB rate) will likely keep his power down a bit. In 2014, Ozuna generated a 16.8 percent HR/FB rate, which really helped his home run totals (23 home runs). This season, his home run luck has come down crashing back to earth (9.4 percent HR/FB rate). Thankfully, his price is reflecting this now and he has a nice matchup against a pitcher that allows a lot of power (Alec Asher). We like both Ozuna and Guyer for cash games. Guyer’s teammate Steven Souza Jr. is close to the bare minimum on FanDuel ($2,300), and he has some power (.184 ISO)/speed (25 SB upside over a full season) upside. Souza is a great punt play on FanDuel.
Additional outfield notes: Lorenzo Cain (KC) has some power/speed upside and he’s an above average hitter vs. LHP. He’s a good tournament option, but we’re not interested in paying high prices for his services in cash games. He’s priced too closely to Cespedes, who’s our second ranked hitter. Nelson Cruz (SEA) is another hitter that you can use against Johnny Cueto in tournaments. As we mentioned earlier, Cueto’s current form is broken. Cruz is a very powerful hitter, which is exactly what Cueto is struggling with this month. I don’t mind throwing Michael Conforto (NYM) in Mets stacks, but I would only do it in tournaments since he usually hits towards the bottom of the lineup. Justin Upton and Matt Kemp (SD) are on the lower spectrum of expected DFS success tonight, thanks to a pedestrian matchup (Madison Bumgarner). These two hitters have historically produced very well vs. LHP, and you can get them for a discount on some sites (especially on DraftKings). Give one of these two a shot in multi-entry tournaments on sites where they’re cheap, but feel free to ignore them in every other format.
Rankings (price not considered):
1) Madison Bumgarner (SFG)
2) Chris Sale (CWS)
3) Michael Wacha (STL)
4) Michael Pineda
5) Steven Matz (NYM)
6) Ian Kennedy (SD)
7) Jarred Cosart (MIA)
Madison Bumgarner (SFG)/Chris Sale (CWS) – Bumgarner and Sale represent the top plays at the starting pitcher position, but one is a great cash game option and the other is a better target for tournaments. Sale misses more bats (33 percent K rate/15 percent SwStr rate) than Bumgarner (27 percent K rate/13 percent SwStr rate), but these pitchers have gone in different directions over the second half of the season. Sale continues to miss bats at an abnormal rate (12.19 Ks per 9), but his run prevention has taken a turn for the worse (4.66 ERA in his last 75 IP). His run prevention is likely hurting because he’s allowing more power (1.31 HR per 9/42 percent hard hit rate this month). His context this evening (making a road start at Yankee Stadium; Yankees are ranked inside the top five in wrC+ vs. LHP) probably won’t help his run prevention woes. We still love him due to his ability to miss bats at an insane rate, but admittedly he’s a better option for tournaments than cash games.
Bumgarner has gotten stronger as the season has progressed. Over the second half of the season (86 IP), Bumgarner is missing even more bats (29.4 percent K rate). He’s surrendered a .226 wOBA/0.31 HR per 9 and his run prevention has been electric (2.18 ERA). His context is much better than Sale’s, as he takes on a Padres offense that’s ranked 21st in wRC+ and are striking out 23 percent of the time vs. LHP. Bumgarner is also pitching in a much friendlier environment (Petco Park), which should help his run prevention. While the Yankees have an implied team total of 3.6 runs, the Padres have been pegged with the lowest implied total on this slate (three runs). Bumgarner is the strongest cash game option at the position and he can be utilized across all formats.
Michael Pineda (NYY)/Michael Wacha (STL) – While Pineda and Wacha are certainly not as dominant as our top plays at the position, they’re both good pitchers who have gone in different directions over the second half of the season. In general, Pineda (24 percent K rate/12 percent SwStr rate) misses more bats than Wacha (21 percent K rate/9.8 SwStr rate), but Wacha’s run prevention is better. Let’s break it down by their second half and include their individual contexts this evening. Pineda isn’t missing bats at the same rate (6.98 Ks per 9) and the results aren’t pretty. His run prevention (5.35 ERA) has been awful and not missing bats has resulted in a lot of power for opposing hitters (1.86 HR per 9). There’s a reasonable chance that Pineda could turn some of this around against a below average White Sox offense (ranked 23rd in wRC+), but the environment (Yankee Stadium) will make it difficult to keep the ball inside the park.
Wacha has been a bit home run prone as well (1.38 HR per 9 over the second half), but he’s missing more bats (8.58 Ks per 9) and his run prevention has been good (3.32 ERA). We believe that his matchup against the Brewers could help him as well. The Brewers are without Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun. That’s very bad news for an anemic offense (Brewers are ranked 26th vs. RHP). Replacing these two hitters are Martin Maldonado (career 69 wRC+/25 percent K rate) and Domingo Santana (110 wRC+/39 percent K rate). Not only is the matchup great, but Wacha is pitching in an elite environment (Busch Stadium is one of the best pitcher’s parks in baseball). Wacha has a better context than Pineda and the opposing pitcher won’t be Chris Sale (Taylor Jungmann is pitching for the Brewers). While Vegas believes that their expected run prevention are similar (implied team totals for the White Sox and Brewers are about 3.3 runs), we believe that Wacha has a higher probability of success due to a friendlier matchup/environment as well as a stronger second half. Wacha is our favorite complement to Madison Bumgarner on multiple starting pitcher sties. Pineda is a fine alternative to Wacha in cash games, but his best use is in tournaments.
Additional starting pitcher notes: Steven Matz (NYM) is a viable alternative to Pineda/Wacha, but we prefer to use him in tournaments relative to his price point around the industry. Ian Kennedy (SD) is a good target for tournaments on multiple starting pitcher sites. The Giants are playing Buster Posey at first base and Trevor Brown (79 wRC+ at the minor league level) is catching. It looks like Brandon Belt is done for the season (due to a concussion). The Giants aren’t throwing their best offensive lineups out there. Kennedy can miss bats (24 percent K rate) but he’s home run prone (1.66 HR per 9) and his run prevention isn’t very good (4.29 ERA). Perhaps a matchup against a Giants team that doesn’t hit for much power could help his home run woes. If you want to load up on certain bats in a multi-entry tournament and need a cheap pitcher, give Jarred Cosart (MIA) a look. He doesn’t miss bats, but his ability to generate soft ground balls at an above average level could help his run prevention in this particular matchup (Phillies are ranked 29th in wRC+ vs. RHP). Cosart is only appealing on multiple starting pitcher sites.
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 (email@example.com) if you have suggestions.
Top Tournament Stacks/Cash Game Mini Stacks:
1) New York Mets
The Marlins offense has a slightly higher implied total (4.6 runs) than the Mets (4.3 runs), but we believe that the Mets are a better offense (especially with Cespedes in that lineup) and they’re in a better situation (facing a rookie pitcher at Great American Ball Park). I’m willing to roster different configurations of this offense tonight (I don’t mind taking some of the 6-9 hitters in tournaments). My main stack here is Granderson-Cespedes-Wright-Duda-d’Arnaud.
2) Miami Marlins
The Marlins aren’t a good offense, but Alec Asher gives you plenty of reasons to like them tonight. Asher is allowing power at an alarming rate and he doesn’t miss bats. I want some cheap exposure here in cash games, particularly Ozuna and Dietrich. If you want to have more tournament exposure to this team, Yelich-Bour-Realmuto are also in play. Those three are fine cash game options, too. My favorite tournament option from this offense is Dee Gordon (should have a field day if Carlos Ruiz is catching for the Phillies).
1) Minnesota Twins
The Twins hit for power, and they’re facing a pitcher that doesn’t miss any bats. What’s not to like here for tournaments? My main target here is Miguel Sano. I think he can have a monster night, given that he’s the Twins cleanup hitter and he hits for more power than any of his teammates. He’s also a hitter that strikes out a lot, so we like investing in him when the opposing pitcher doesn’t miss bats. Brian Dozier is also another hitter than can be included in that tournament conversation. He’s cash game worthy on sites that have priced him too low. Dozier-Sano is probably my favorite tournament stack this evening.
2) Seattle Mariners/New York Yankees
If you have the stones to do this, I think it makes some sense in multi-entry tournaments. We all know that Chris Sale and Johnny Cueto are good pitchers, but they’ve allowed more power than usual this month (Sale has been allowing more power during the whole second half of the season). My main stacks here are: Cano-Seager-Cruz and Rodriguez-Beltran-Young (if he’s in the lineup). I would only deploy these two stacks in multi-entry tournaments.
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.
CHW at NYY 7:05: Dry. Temps in the low to mid 70s falling into the upper 60s. Air density is a 6 becoming a 5. Wind east-northeast 5-10 mph which blows in from center. The wind is a 4.
TB at BOS 7:10: Dry. Temps in the upper 60s falling into the low to mid 60s. Air density is a 5. Wind east-northeast becoming northeast 4-8 mph which blows in from right. The wind is a 4.
NYM at CIN 7:10: Dry. Temps in the mid 70s falling into the low 60s. Air density is a 6 becoming a 5. Wind nearly calm. The wind is a 5.
PHL at MIA 7:10: The retractable roof will likely be closed.
MIL at STL 7:15: Dry. Temps near 80 falling into the low 70s. Air density is a 7 becoming a 6. Wind northeast 5-10 mph which blows in from center. The wind is a 4.
SEA at KC 8:10: A few scattered thunderstorms around. Worst case scenario looks to be a delay. Temps in the mid 70s falling to near 70. Air density is a 6 or a 7. Wind east-southeast 7-14 mph which blows from right to left. The wind is a 5.
CLE at MIN 8:10: Dry. Temps near 70 falling into the mid 60s. Air density is a 6. Wind east 4-8 mph which blows in from center. The wind is a 4.
SF at SD 9:10: Dry. Temps in the upper 70s falling into the low to mid 70s. Air density is a 7. Wind west-southwest 5-10 mph lessening to 3-6 mph which blows from left to right. The wind is a 5.