Season long fantasy sports leagues have been around for decades now and have really revolutionized the way both casual and hardcore sports fans look at the game. But a more recent adaptation of fantasy sports is the daily fantasy sports (DFS) approach where you are only committed to a single day’s worth of games at a time and can win some serious cash on a daily basis. I personally have become very involved in DFS in addition to all my season long leagues, and so I hope that I can share some of the knowledge that I have gained and provide some helpful tips in that area from time to time as well.
***The primary site that I play on is DraftKings and I am mostly a GPP tournament player (I also play on FantasyAces). So for the most part, any recommendations I make are meant to be for GPP tournaments, not cash games, and are specific to DraftKings (though a lot of the same concepts and picks carry over to strategy on other sites).
RECAP FROM MONDAY 6/15/15: For Monday June 15, I had Francisco Liriano as my top ranked pitcher and dubbed it as a “dream matchup.” Well, despite a 2-hit CGSO from Anibal Sanchez, Liriano’s 8 shutout innings with 12 K’s were good enough for the top scoring pitcher of the day on DraftKings. I also mentioned Dallas Keuchel and Masahiro Tanaka as premiere plays, but they had mediocre showings. Carlos Rodon was a cheap high upside play that I mentioned, but if you caught the update to the post and if you follow @TheBackwardsK on Twitter, you would have seen that I downgraded Rodon due to the all righty lineup the Pirates rolled out. So I was able to get off Rodon in all but one lineup. Jesse Hahn and Williams Perez panned out as “Sleepers for Cheaper” to provide positive value, though Trevor May had a “meh” outing.
My “Big Boy Stacks” were the Rangers and Dodgers in what I thought was going to be a shootout in Arlington (and the oddsmakers thought so too as the runs total line made a last minute push up to 9.5), but it just wasn’t meant to be. The “Sneaky Stack” of the Braves almost got there, but they faltered in some key run scoring opportunities. Overall though, the Braves stack was not bad. I gave a couple of bonus notes on the A’s and Diamondbacks offenses and why they could also make for some good sneaky stacks, and it turns out that the A’s were the 2nd highest scoring team of the day and the D-Backs were 4th.
Here’s a look at my best lineup of the day that placed pretty well for GPP purposes: (P) Francisco Liriano, (P) Wei-Yin Chen, (C) Stephen Vogt, (1B) Prince Fielder, (2B) Sean Rodriguez, (SS) Jung-Ho Kang, (3B) Joey Gallo, (OF) Andrew McCutchen, (OF) Starling Marte, (OF) Josh Harrison.
That lineup produced 206.20 points on DraftKings and I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I made no mention of Chen or a Pirates stack in my strategy post for Monday. I’ll give some of my favorite plays in the strategy posts, but it’s not always going to include everyone that I like, and there are things that will happen leading up to game time that will sway me in one way or another. In this instance, I did like Chen against a weak hitting and left-handed heavy lineup, but he wasn’t necessarily a favorite play of mine. When constructing my lineups I needed a pitcher in his price range and so that’s who I went with. And as for the Pirates stack, when I saw the Pirates all right-handed lineup, that made me sour on Rodon a little, but it also made the Pirates offense look better. So that’s that, and it helped me and a friend place well in some GPP’s.
STRATEGY FOR TUESDAY JUNE 16, 2015
There’s a 5-game early slate and 10-game late slate on the DraftKings card for Tuesday, so we’ll take a look at both of them. Once again, we are going to have to keep an eye on the weather as there are a handful of games that could be affected by mother nature, with the Dodgers/Rangers game currently looking the worst as a possible washout.
(EARLY) – For the early slate, Scott Kazmir is the top-priced option, but I think that Michael Wacha is probably my pick here. Wacha will face a Twins offense that really struggled to muster up any offense against John Lackey on Monday, and the whole season the Twins have shown to be a much better offensive unit when facing left-handed pitching. Against righties, the Twins have a strikeout rate inside the top 10 highest and their wOBA is 28th in the league. They do provide some occasional power versus righties, but Wacha is not one that is prone to the long ball as he has an excellent home runs allowed rate of 0.62 HR/9 in his career. Most importantly for Wacha though is that he has seemed to have found his strikeouts again. Entering the season he had a strikeout rate of 8.34 K/9, but after his first 6 starts of the season, he mysteriously was failing to whiff batters with a rate of 4.42 K/9. But over his last 6 starts, he has rediscovered his groove with 8.92 K/9.
(LATE) – For the late slate there isn’t really one pitcher that really grabs my attention as one that is way above any other. Matt Harvey, Garrett Richards, and Jake Arrieta are the top priced options, all of which have some drawbacks to them. Harvey has been on a poor run and has been extremely prone to giving up HR, which isn’t too promising since he’s facing a Blue Jays team that hits them out with regularity at 3rd in the league. Richards also has had some issues as of late and just isn’t the same pitcher that he was last year after that season-ending knee injury. And then Arrieta doesn’t have the best of matchups with the Indians being pretty decent versus right-handed pitching with a low strikeout rate as well. But I will go ahead and label Richards and Arrieta as my faves for the late slate, and I would lean toward bypassing on Harvey altogether as the top priced pitcher (by a large margin) in a questionable matchup. But I’m sure I’ll end up with some Harvey exposure because the Blue Jays don’t have too many left-handed power threats (where most of the damage is coming against Harvey).
SLEEPERS FOR CHEAPER:
(EARLY) – The clear cut best cheap option for the early slate to me is Vincent Velasquez of the Houston Astros. Velasquez is one of the Astros top prospects and they called him up from AA and he’s got a real chance to make a lasting impression to stick around for the long haul. He made his Major League debut last week versus the White Sox and it was pretty good, especially for a debut. He went 5 shutout innings allowing 7 base runners while striking out 5. He issued 4 walks in the game, which is a bit concerning, but I am going to chalk that up to the debut jitters because he has never shown any drastic control issues in the Minors. But what he has shown in the Minors is a massive strikeout ability with 10.64 K/9, and on DraftKings strikeouts are so valuable. The matchup for Velasquez against the Rockies is not an exceptional one, but the Rockies are on the road where they obviously do not produce as well. Something that could also work in Velasquez’ favor is the fact that it is a day game after a night game and the Rockies may take this opportunity to give Troy Tulowitzki a day off (though they might also just DH him instead). But regardless, at his $5,500 price tag on DraftKings, Velasquez definitely needs to be in lineups. However, I am worried a bit that his ownership in GPP’s may be too high, especially in a short slate — or maybe I am just giving the public too much credit for knowing the type of skills that Velasquez possesses.
(LATE) – If the forecast didn’t look so disgusting at the time of writing this post, then I would probably recommend Brett Anderson as a “Sleeper for Cheaper” in the late slate because of the Rangers left-handed heavy lineup that has the 10th highest strikeout rate versus lefties. But it’s going to be hard to trust that Anderson will get the chance to pitch a full game at the moment. If the forecast ends up clearing up and the Rangers don’t sit too many of their lefty bats, then Anderson can be revisited. So instead, I’ll go with Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Young for the sleeper selections. Eovaldi is coming back to Miami where he spent the last couple of seasons and the Marlins are 29th in the league in wOBA versus righties. He hasn’t been very good this year, but he should have better days ahead of him, and there may be a bit of a revenge factor here that will add fuel to his fire. And then Young squares off against the Brewers who have the 5th highest strikeout rate versus righties, and it’ll be in an NL park where Young will get the chance for some “free” strikeouts against the Brewers pitcher.
THE NOT SO FAVES:
(EARLY) – Andrew Cashner is definitely not performing up to expectations this season (a lot of it can be considered “bad luck” though), but he is back at Petco Park where he has always had great splits. So he does have some opportunity for a bounce back and it certainly would not surprise me if he does do just that. However, I’m not sure if I can bring myself to get a lot of exposure to him in my lineups. He’s up against an A’s offense that sneakily can put on some hit parades against right-handed pitching, and the A’s have the 5th lowest strikeout rate in the league versus righties. Also, the Padres fired their manager Bud Black on Monday and often times teams will go on some gross losing streaks after firing their manager. However, depending on what the A’s lineup card looks like, Cashner may not be such a “not so fave” play. I could easily see Stephen Vogt getting a day of rest for the A’s with the day game after a night game and no DH in the NL park. So if Vogt sits and the A’s have a weaker lineup than expected, then Cashner may actually become a play.
(LATE) – I could see Trevor Bauer as a pitcher that has decent ownership in Tuesday’s late slate, but I probably won’t be getting too much, if any, exposure to him. We would think that he is in a nice spot with the strikeout prone Cubs lineup, but something that the Cubs are also very good at is taking a walk, and Bauer has really struggled with his control lately with 12 walks in his last 3 starts. So I could foresee a situation where he gets in trouble with the walks and has a short day as his pitch count climbs too high too soon and/or he gets knocked around. Chi Chi Gonzalez of the Rangers has been making some noise with a 0.42 ERA after 3 starts and I think that he is a pitcher that lots of people will go to for a cheap play (just based off his pristine ERA) that they pair with Matt Harvey. But with more walks than strikeouts (8 K/10 BB in 21.2 IP), Rodriguez is someone that I surely want to stay away from. He’s by no means a strikeout artist and I think that he has been skating by so far just with the league’s unfamiliarity with him. He faces the Dodgers on Tuesday and this is a team that has demolished right-handed pitchers like him. He could be in for a very rude awakening. However, it may be moot anyway with the forecast of thunderstorms in Arlington.
A strategy that has worked since the introduction of DFS is stacking multiple players (3-6) from one offense. However, in certain situations it may be more beneficial not to stack as it is becoming more contrarian not to do full stacks since so many people are doing it now. But for the most part, stacking (mini-stack at the very least) seems to be a component of most winning tournament lineups.
BIG BOY STACKS:
(EARLY) – The Astros offense is hit or miss, but they are one of the most powerful in the league against southpaws and I will take a stab with them versus the lefty Chris Rusin who suffered a slaughter at Miami last week. Give me the right-handed bats George Springer, Jose Altuve (if he returns from his minor hamstring injury), Evan Gattis (or Chris Carter), and Carlos Correa.
(LATE) – There are some nice stacking opportunities in the late slate, but for a big boy stack I am going to have to go back to trying the Dodgers against a right-handed Rangers pitcher in Texas. Dodgers against righties lead the league in ISO, wOBA, and BB%. If weather permits, I will look to stack some combination of Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Turner, Yasmani Grandal, and Andre Ethier. The Orioles also present a nice big boy stack against perennial gas can Jerome Williams. Williams is traditionally bad against both righties and lefties, but this year it’s actually the righties that are crushing him with a .411 wOBA and 12 HR. So pretty much any hitter in the Orioles lineup can be included in this stack, but I would look to go with Manny Machado, Jimmy Paredes, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, and Nolan Reimold if they are all in the starting lineup. The Tigers and Angels are also teams that I can get on board to stack as powerhouses. UPDATE (12:36 PM PST): No Jones, Wieters, or Reimold for the Orioles — their lineup looks very weak. I would still go with Machado, Paredes, Davis, and would throw in Travis Snider batting 2nd.
(EARLY) – I already mentioned Cashner and his recent struggles and how the A’s can sneakily produce well against right-handed pitching. The A’s are currently the lowest projected scoring team in the early slate, which makes them even more contrarian it would seem. We’ll have to wait for the lineup to come out to see if it’s worth using as a stack, but lefties are taking Cashner to school this year. So I would take some form of Billy Burns, Josh Reddick, Ben Zobrist, and Stephen Vogt, and I also would consider right-hander Mark Canha whose power this season has come exclusively versus right-handed pitching. UPDATE (9:47 AM PST): No Vogt, Canha, or Marcus Semien for the A’s makes this a much weaker looking lineup, but they are still rolling out 6 lefty/switch-hitters so still interesting due to Cashner’s struggles against lefties. But I’m certainly now as high on it anymore.
(LATE) – The Blue Jays make for an interesting “Sneaky Stack” due to the fact that they are up against the top priced pitcher of the day. The Blue Jays are much more dangerous versus left-handed pitching, but they still can put the fear into righties as well. As mentioned, Harvey’s main weakness this year has been serving up the long ball to lefties though, and the Blue Jays don’t have many power hitting lefty bats. But on a slate where the pitching isn’t plentiful, Harvey is still probably going to end up being owned a lot to make the Blue Jays a bit of a contrarian play. Jose Reyes, Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Rusell Martin, and Chris Colabello would all be in play. And if Justin Smoak can find his way into the lineup somewhere, then he would present as the team’s only left-handed power threat.
- Chris Tillman matches up against the weak Phillies offense, but Tillman has been downright awful this season and I wouldn’t even think about playing him despite his friendly matchup. If he goes off for a CGSO then oh well. I still wouldn’t regret it. But what is interesting is that over his career he’s done worse against righties (he is right-handed himself) and it’s even more pronounced this year with a .389 wOBA and 6 of his 7 HR allowed coming versus righties. This would appear to make Maikel Franco an interesting 3B play.
- While Todd Frazier has seen most of his power come against righties since the beginning of last year, any matchup that he has versus a soft-tossing lefty is very appealing.
- UPDATE (9:17 AM PST): I’ll be stacking the Pirates righties again to see if they can give lefty Jose Quintana a hard time like they did with Rodon. Also the Padres earlier this season were crushing lefties because of their right-handed heavy lineup. Their lineup isn’t as right-handed heavy anymore with RHB Wil Myers on the DL and LHB Yonder Alonso back from the DL, but their team is worth a look whenever facing a lefty — just check starting lineups to make sure that there are some solid right-handed bats in there to pick.