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 Fantasy Aces). 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).
STRATEGY FOR FRIDAY JUNE 19, 2015
The DFS Caught Looking Strategy is back for Friday’s action. I missed Thursday’s slate of games because I was helping a friend move to Los Angeles. Man, I hate that city. Traffic every which way you turn. But let’s hop back on it and check out Friday’s slate. Weather wise, there’s only one game that we have to worry about and it is the MIA/CIN game in Cincinnati where they’ve been getting lots of storms lately, including a postponed game on Thursday.
THE FAVES: The clear cut top pitcher for me tonight is Chris Sale hosting the Rangers. Sale is on an absolutely ridiculous streak of 5 double digit strikeout games in a row ever since he read The Backwards K article that suggested that he needed to use his slider more and fastball less to be more successful (I have no factual proof that he did read the article, but let’s just pretend that he did). Sale, a left-handed pitcher, faces a Rangers lineup that rolls out left-handed heavy lineups day in and day out and left-handed hitters have only hit .194 with 10.54 K/9 versus Sale in his career. And if you recall, Sale went on the road to face the same Rangers team a couple weeks ago and shut them out for 7 innings while striking out 13. Yes, it is true that Clayton Kershaw had this same matchup a couple days ago that I thought he was going to dominate, but he was overall underwhelming. However, this matchup still profiles as a prime time spot regardless of how expensive Sale is on DFS sites. The only Rangers player that has had any success off Sale is utility infielder Adam Rosales who is 7 for 14 with 3 HR lifetime versus Sale.
There are other top/mid-tier pitching options that also have favorable spots and I will highlight those, but none of them really hold a candle to Sale in my opinion. Jacob deGrom faces the Braves on the road and he has been on a sensational 6-game stretch, which included shutting down the Braves at home in his last start. Traditionally, in his career that has spanned just over one calendar year, he has been worse on the road and the Braves have not been a team to strikeout a whole lot versus right-handed pitching (4th lowest rate in the league). So that does give some pause, but deGrom has done very well in his last two road starts.
UPDATE (1:00 PM PST): The Braves are without Freddie Freeman tonight. DeGrom gets a big boost for GPP play, could be a better value play than Sale with the assumption that many people will be on Sale.
Sonny Gray gets a home start against the Angels, and his division rivals have given him no issues at all this season. In 3 starts versus the Halos this season, Gray is 3-0 with a 1.19 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, and 22 K/3 BB in 22.2 IP. And even though he has done a tad worse at home than on the road in his career, a home start at O.co Coliseum with the vast foul territory is always an added bonus.
Carlos Carrasco and his overall stat line would suggest that he has not been in great form this season, and with watching a lot of his starts, he truly has not been as he has not been hitting hits spots with his pitches a lot of the time. However, he still has deserved better than a 4.38 ERA and 1.24 WHIP with his .342 BABIP and 67.8% strand rate being on the unluckier side of things. With excellent strikeout and walk rates (10.34 K/9 and 2.19 BB/9) and a 2.88 SIERA and 2.84 xFIP, Car-Car has breakout potential versus a Rays offense that is much more vulnerable to right-handed pitching than left-handed. The Rays have the 7th highest strikeout rate versus righties and the 9th worst wOBA, and current non-injured Rays hitters are only 4 for 26 lifetime versus Carrasco. I’m not necessarily calling for Car-Car to bust out with a huge game here, but I will definitely be rolling the dice on him in some lineups.
One final fave that I will suggest is Lance McCullers heading to the pitcher friendly Safeco Field to take on the Mariners. The 21-year old rookie has exhibited some control issues in some of his starts this season since his call up, but he has the potential to dominate a lot of lineups on any given night and has some excellent strikeout upside. He faced this same Mariners squad in his last start and he no-hit them through 5 innings, but it was also one of his starts where he had trouble with his control as he walked 4 batters. If he can prevent the free passes, McCullers could be in for a huge game against what has been one of the worst offenses in the league so far. The Mariners have the 2nd lowest wOBA versus right-handed pitching and the 3rd highest strikeout rate.
SLEEPERS FOR CHEAPER:
For Friday, I will have three cheap sleeper options. The first one his Kyle Hendricks traveling to Minnesota. Hendricks doesn’t possess a whole lot of upside because he’s not really a strikeout pitcher, but he has done better in that department as of late with four 7-strikeout performances in his last 6 starts to bring his season strikeout rate up to a respectable 7.73 K/9. Also, the right-handed Hendricks will face a Twins offense that by now you should know is much more dangerous versus left-handed pitching. Versus righties, the Twins have the 8th highest strikeout rate and the 3rd lowest wOBA in the league.
Next we have Rubby De La Rosa at home versus the Padres. De La Rosa completely dominated the Padres in this same situation 6 weeks ago going 7 shutout innings with 7 strikeouts. De La Rosa as an ugly 5.27 ERA, but his 3.32 xFIP and 3.40 SIERA show what he can be capable of. He has been burned by the long ball this season, so he will have to avoid that in this game to show the same type of success he did earlier in the year versus the Padres. Pitching at home at the hitter friendly Chase Field won’t really help him in preventing the HR ball, but the Padres rank as the 5th worst versus righties in both wOBA and strikeout rate.
UPDATE (1:15: PM PST): De La Rosa has been awful versus left-handed bats this season, so check in on that Padres lineup to see how many lefties they have in. Guys like Will Venable and Yonder Alonso can actually be sneaky GPP plays.
Then the last and cheapest sleeper of them all is Joe Ross of the Nationals in a home start versus the Pirates. Ross, the younger brother of Padres pitcher Tyson Ross, has made two Major League starts this season with mixed results. His debut start was against the Cubs where he likely had the debut jitters that many 22-year old pitchers would have, and he ran into a little trouble and ended up allowing 3 runs in 5 innings. However, with that first start out of the way, Ross’ true colors were highlighted in an excellent 8 inning game where he allowed 2 runs while striking out 8 and getting a lot of ground ball outs against the Brewers. The matchup against the Pirates is neither a bad nor a good one, but just the unfamiliarity of a great pitching prospect could be something to catapult Ross to another strong game. And as one of the cheapest options on Friday’s slate, Ross has the potential to bring excellent returns.
THE NOT SO FAVES:
James Shields of the Padres travels to Arizona to take on the Diamondbacks Friday. Shields is a very good pitcher, but his main issue this season (and the early part of his career) has been the HR ball. He has already allowed 16 HR in 14 starts this season and pitching on the road where he has a 4.46 ERA, and specifically at the very hitter friendly Chase Field, is not an optimal situation for him. The Diamondbacks also burned him earlier this season at Chase Field for his worst start of the season where he gave up 4 HR in 6 innings.
I have documented Matt Shoemaker‘s velocity issues this season very much and it just is not improving as he continues to have over a 1 MPH difference in his fastball from last season. At times this season he has been able to work around the issue and he has shown some minor improvements in his overall numbers lately, but he still remains a dicey play. He will be starting at Oakland on Friday but the A’s can be extremely dangerous versus right-handed pitching as they now have the 5th highest wOBA in the league versus righties. And if you recall from Wednesday, I #nailedit by labeling the A’s as a sneaky stack of the night and they went on to score 16 runs in a game against the Padres that was started by Odrisamer Despaigne. Shoemaker has faced the A’s three times already this season, none of which were any good.
Chris Heston has been downright brilliant at times this season with a no-hit/11 strikeout game and a 2-hit complete/10 strikeout game, and I talked about him in “C. Heston From the NRA to NHA?” as an unexpected older rookie pitcher that can continue to succeed in the league, much in the same way that the aforementioned Shoemaker surprised us last season. However, he still has had some dud starts this season and will undoubtedly run into more, and he gets the unfortunate task of heading to Dodger Stadium to face the Dodgers for the first time this season. The Dodgers have crushed right-handed pitchers this season, leading the league in wOBA. However, a recent cold streak where the Dodgers have only scored 16 runs in the last 7 games has dropped them from 1st to 2nd in ISO versus righties. This cold streak that the Dodgers are on could be good timing for Heston’s first start against the division rival, but it also could indicate a sleeping dragon that is on the verge of awaking. I would tend to lean toward the latter and I personally would avoid Heston on Friday.
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:
For the Coors Field game today, both teams are obviously always going to be in play, but out of the two I like the Colorado Rockies a bit more against the rookie righty Taylor Jungmann making his first appearance at Coors Field, so he should find trouble adjusting to the thin air. Charlie Blackmon, Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado, Ben Paulsen, D.J. LeMahieu, and whoever is catcher, Nick Hundley/Chris McKenry, are all in play.
The Chicago Cubs get a nice matchup on the road in an AL park (Target Field in Minnesota) with the DH and a guaranteed 9 innings of at-bats in a game started by righty Phil Hughes who has been extremely homer prone (1.68 HR/9) this season to both lefties and righties alike regardless of being at home or on the road. The big key here could be the usage of the DH. Top catcher prospect Kyle Schwarber was promoted to the Majors this week specifically to DH at the AL parks. He has eligibility at both catcher and outfield on DraftKings at a cheap price ($3,400). He had a 4 for 5 game in his first start and then a 2 for 4 game with a HR in his next one. He is a left-handed bat that destroys right-handed pitching. For the Cubs, I would definitely use Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Schwarber, and then depending on how else you would like to construct the lineup, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, Chris Coghlan, Starlin Castro, Addison Russell, and Mike Baxter are all in play if they are starting.
Marco Estrada and his extreme homer proneness squares off against the Baltimore Orioles at the hitter friendly Rogers Centre in Toronto. Estrada has allowed 1.40 HR/9 over his career, so that bodes well for all bats (lefty or righty as he has no big split differentials). Manny Machado, Jimmy Paredes, Adam Jones (if back in the lineup), Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, and Chris Parmelee,
As previously mentioned in this post and hitting big on it on Wednesday, the Oakland A’s are a sneaky stack against questionable right-handed pitching. A friend of mine pointed out to me the other day that despite the A’s having the worst record in the American League and 3rd worst in the Majors, they actually have a better run differential than 21 out of the other 29 teams in the Majors, and that is partially due to their ability to do well versus right-handed pitching. The main guys I want out of an Oakland stack are Billy Burns, Marcus Semien, Ben Zobrist, Josh Reddick, and Stephen Vogt.
Also previously mentioned was Shields ineffectiveness on the road, proneness to the HR, and how the Arizona Diamondbacks gave him his worst start of the season earlier on. This certainly qualifies as a sneaky stack considering that Shields is one of the more reliable pitchers in the game and that the Diamondbacks’ best hitters are better against lefties. But I will roll out the Diamondbacks in some spots today with A.J. Pollock, David Peralta, Paul Goldschmidt, and some combination of Yasmany Tomas, Jake Lamb, and Aaron Hill — depending on the lineup.
- Eduardo Rodriguez could have been included in the “Not So Faves.” He goes on the road to face a Royals team that has the lowest strikeout rate in the league versus left-handed pitching. I won’t be touching him on Friday. Conversely, the Kansas City Royals could have been included as a sneaky stack, but I think that Rodriguez holds them in check enough to prevent a massacre.
- A.J. Burnett could turn into a decent play, especially if Bryce Harper is out with the minor injury he suffered on Thursday. However, in that game I still would prefer to go with the much cheaper Joe Ross.
- I left the Houston Astros offense off the “Big Boy Stacks” because of the stadium they are playing in, their hit or miss tendencies, and likely absence of Jose Altuve. But they still have to be given consideration against southpaw Roenis Elias who they knocked around last week. The right-handed bats George Springer, Carlos Correa, Evan Gattis, and Domingo Santana are the core guys to think of.
- I also left the Los Angeles Dodgers off the “Big Boy Stacks” due to the fact they haven’t been scoring much lately. But I still would take a chance on them to have a big outburst. Give me Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Turner, Yasmani Grandal, and Andre Ethier.
- I think that the New York Yankees left-handed hitters (and Alex Rodriguez) will get to Justin Verlander in what is just his 2nd start of the season. They make for a nice lower owned stack.
- Also we should consider the St. Louis Cardinals offense against Philippe Aumont in his 2015 MLB debut.
- BvP (batter vs. pitcher) specials: Ryan Braun vs. Jorge De La Rosa: 10 for 14 with 3 HR. Anthony Rendon vs. A.J. Burnett: 7 for 16 with 3 HR. UPDATE (1:16 PM PST): Braun has been very bad lately, so be careful with him and these BvP numbers. His thumb could be bothering him again as the cortisone shot may have worn off, so the great BvP and stadium matchup may be deceiving. But I will still use him in some lineups tonight