MLB DFS Caught Looking Strategy for Monday July 20, 2015

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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.

***All player salaries reflect DraftKings pricing and the given strategy is more specific toward GPP (guaranteed prize pool) tournaments rather than cash games (head to head, 50/50, etc.).  


I like to start my MLB DFS research by checking in on the weather, and check out some tips at The Backwards K on how to utilize the weather when constructing MLB DFS lineups.

Today’s weather shows chance of thunderstorms in Mets @ Nationals, Cubs @ Reds, Pirates @ Royals, and Rangers @ Rockies.  However, at the writing of this post, I don’t think there is any high threat of any game being postponed like there was in two Southern California games yesterday.  So all hitters should be considered good to go today, but some of the pitchers in the games listed above may carry at least a little risk (because lengthy rain delays could force starting pitchers from the game early).  But as always, check in on the weather at least a couple hours or less before game time to get a better picture of any potential weather concerns.  Daily Baseball Data is a great spot to get an hour-by-hour forecast of each game.



Matt Harvey (NYM) ($11,100) @ Washington Nationals – The top priced option tonight is Matt Harvey of the New York Mets and there may be some hesitance in using him in DFS lineups, because of a recent rough patch where he had a 5-start stretch from June 10 through July 4 where he did not notch as many strikeouts as innings pitched in any outing.  According to PITCHf/x velocity charts on FanGraphs, his average fastball velocity was lower than usual in most of those starts, which can be considered a likely reason for the lack of strikeouts.  In his first year back from Tommy John surgery, that stretch of games could have been a “dead arm” phase where he just couldn’t get the same type of velocity on his pitches.  But in his most recent start on July 11 before the All-Star break, his fastball velocity spiked upward to the highest point it’s been at all season long and with it came 9 strikeouts in 7 innings of work.  So given that in his last start he was throwing harder than he had all season long and he’s had a solid 9 days of rest in between starts thanks to the All-Star break, Harvey could be coming out of the gates firing.  He will square off against a Nationals squad who he has not allowed a run to in 13 innings this season and they can strikeout a good amount against right-handed pitching (21.1% strikeout rate vs. RHP, 7th highest in the league) — and in DFS, especially on DraftKings, pitcher strikeouts are a big bonus.  Also, this same Nationals offense is mired in a bit of a slump after getting mowed down by the two Dodger aces over the weekend.  So all things considered, this could be a nice spot for Harvey and could prove to be worth the price despite the Mets being a +115 Vegas underdog.

Andrew Heaney (LAA) ($8,400) vs. Boston Red Sox – The Los Angeles Angels rookie southpaw has been a brilliant addition since joining the rotation nearly a month ago.  He has made 4 starts to compile a 1.32 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, and 23 K/4 BB in 27.1 IP.  Obviously he’s not going to be able to maintain such a low ERA and WHIP all season long, but he’s pitching extremely well right now and in his first go round through the American League, teams are not all too familiar with him and could continue to have difficulty mustering up offense against him for a little while longer.  He’s a quality arm with decent strikeout appeal, but what is most impressive from him and what I like most out of top pitching prospects is his great control.  Ultimately, his ability to limit the free passes is what is going to make him a quality Major League pitcher.  With limited attractive pitching options on the slate and despite the Red Sox not striking out a lot against lefties this year, I think that Heaney makes for a quality option tonight against a Red Sox offense that is only 21st in the league in wOBA against left-handed pitching. The league’s unfamiliarity with him is in advantage right now and he will also have a nice opportunity at getting those extra points for a win because he will be squaring off against Steven Wright who is a not so dominant knuckleballer.


Rubby De La Rosa (ARI) ($6,500) vs. Miami Marlins – Generally for my “Sleepers for Cheaper,” I select pitchers who are priced in the bottom half of all pitching options on the slate, but De La Rosa of the Arizona Diamondbacks comes in the top half at 9th out of 20 pitchers on DraftKings.  However, his price tag is definitely cheap — there just aren’t that many higher priced options.  It’s hard to utilize De La Rosa because he has been fairly inconsistent this season and he has a 10.38 ERA in two starts this month, but I see potential value with him tonight against a Marlins offense that has three of its best hitters on the DL (Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon, and Martin Prado). For the season against right-handed pitching, the Marlins have the 8th highest strikeout rate at 20.8%, they are 26th in wOBA at .293, and they rank 30th (dead last) in ISO at .115.  So without three of their best hitters, they should be given a little bit of an extra downgrade.  He’s had some issues keeping the ball in the park this season, which has been his main downfall, but pitching against the worst power team in the league against right-handed pitching should improve his odds of keeping the ball in the park.  Also, De La Rosa pitched a complete game allowing 2 runs against the Marlins earlier in the season when they had all of their regulary players healthy.


A.J. Burnett (PIT) ($9,900) @ Kansas City Royals – The veteran Burnett of the Pittsburgh Pirates has been enjoying a wonderful season and even finally earned a spot on the All-Star team for the very first time in what is likely to be the final season of his career that began in 1999.  However, this spot in Kansas City is not an optimal situation for him.  The Royals are the toughest team in the Majors to strikeout no matter the handedness of the pitcher and that can spell trouble for Burnett who no longer has the same strikeout upside that he once did.  The Pirates defense also hasn’t been very sharp this season.  They are ranked 25th in DEF rating and they also just lost their best defensive shortstop Jordy Mercer to an injury over the weekend.  So with the Royals amazing ability to put the ball in play, that could create a lot of jams that Burnett may have a difficult time getting out of.  Also, the game is in an American League park, so gone is the advantage of getting to face the opposing pitcher a couple of times for an easy (strike)out.


A strategy that has worked since the introduction of DFS is stacking multiple players (4-6) 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 (or mini-stacks of 3 players at the very least) seems to be a component of most winning tournament lineups.

With a scarcity of attractive pitching options on the slate tonight, that translates to an abundance of teams’ offenses that are going to be stackable options.  Because of that, I won’t highlight the obvious possibility of using the Texas Rangers and Colorado Rockies in the Coors Field game, but do know that both of those offenses are in play (I like the Rockies more than the Rangers).


Los Angeles Dodgers @ Atlanta Braves (Matt Wisler) – Wisler is a rookie pitcher who is considered as one of the top pitching prospects in the Braves organization and he’s had some early success (3.10 ERA, 1.31 WHIP) as opposing teams are not all too familiar with him, but he hasn’t shown huge strikeout numbers in AAA or the Majors.  Against right-handed pitching like Wisler is, the Dodgers are ranked 1st in the league in ISO at .183 and 2nd in wOBA at .335.  Also to their advantage is the weather in Atlanta is scheduled to be very hot and humid with “feels like” temperatures in the mid to upper 90’s, and warmer weather gives better carry on fly balls.  And since Wisler has been more of a fly ball pitcher since reaching the Majors (0.82 ground ball to fly ball ratio), the Dodgers are being presented with a good opportunity to tack on some long balls.  One more positive is that most Dodgers players are also very cheaply priced on DraftKings.  For a 4-man stack, consider Joc Pederson ($3,800), Justin Turner ($3,400), Adrian Gonzalez ($4,200), and Yasiel Puig ($3,400).  For a 6-man stack, add on Howie Kendrick ($3,800) and Andre Ethier ($2,900).

Cincinnati Reds vs. Chicago Cubs (Clayton Richard) – The southpaw Richard joined the Cubs rotation a couple weeks ago, but he is just not a very impressive pitcher with a career 4.35 ERA that is skewed in his favor due to years of pitching his home games in the friendly confines of Petco Park. Richard pitched well against a poor Marlins offense in his first of two starts this season, but he got rocked by a much better Cardinals offense in his most recent start.  The Reds offense ranks 3rd in the league in ISO against lefties and 10th in wOBA, and though it is a small sample size, 6 of the Reds regular players have hit .300 or better against Richard.  For a Reds Stack, I would disregard the handedness of the hitters because their left-handed bats have hit Richard well.  For a 4-man stack, consider Brandon Phillips ($3,800), Joey Votto ($4,700), Todd Frazier ($4,900), and Marlon Byrd ($3,800).  For a 6-man stack, add on Jay Bruce ($4,500) and Eugenio Suarez ($3,300) or Billy Hamilton ($4,400).

Detroit Tigers vs. Seattle Mariners (J.A. Happ) – The lefty Happ faced the Tigers before in his most recent start and got tagged for 4 runs on 7 hits in just 4 innings of work.  He gets the misfortune of facing them once again and the Tigers hit lefties very well, as they are 2nd in the league in wOBA and 10th in ISO against southpaws. Also, they have been on an extremely nice run since Victor Martinez returned from the DL, despite losing Miguel Cabrera to a calf strain.  For a 4-man stack, consider Rajai Davis ($3,500), Yoenis Cespedes ($4,300), Victor Martinez ($3,800), and J.D. Martinez ($4,800).  For a 6-man stack, add on two out of Ian Kinsler ($3,800), Jose Iglesias ($3,000), and Jeffry Marte ($2,500).


For GPP tournaments, it’s not necessarily about scoring a large amount of points, but it’s more about scoring more points than everyone else.  To do that, it often helps to be contrarian in your lineup construction, and a great way to do that is to select offensive stacks that project to be of lower usage but have some decent upside.  So in the “Sneaky Stack” section, that’s what we aim for.

Seattle Mariners @ Detroit Tigers (Alfredo Simon) – After cruising through April and May with a 2.67 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, the wheels have rightfully come off for Simon since the beginning of June with a 7.07 ERA and 1.81 WHIP.  The fact is that he is just not a good pitcher and it is finally beginning to show.  He got hit hard by this same Mariners team a couple starts ago and they make for a sneaky option tonight as they should be much lower owned than some of these other offenses.  For a 4-man stack, consider Brad Miller ($3,100), Kyle Seager ($3,700), Nelson Cruz ($4,800), and Robinson Cano ($3,600).  For a 6-man stack, add on Logan Morrison ($3,500) and Seth Smith ($3,300).

Tampa Bay Rays @ Philadelphia Phillies (David Buchanan) – The Rays have typically proven to be much more effective against left-handed pitching this season, as they are just 27th in the league in wOBA against righties.  But to help against right-handed pitching, they have added Grady Sizemore recently and got James Loney and John Jaso back from the DL (though Jaso isn’t likely to start without the DH slot in the National League park).  Also, the righty Buchanan for the Phillies is just a very non-imposing pitcher with his 7.58 ERA in 6 starts this season, and the weather is going to be pretty warm in the 90’s in a hitter’s park. Because Buchanan is so bad, a lot more people than anticipated might be on the Rays offense tonight, but in the event that they’re not, the Rays could pay some nice dividends.  They are all extremely cheap tonight and would leave tons of salary cap space for the top pitcher and/or pairing with an expensive mini stack like the Rockies.  For a 4-man stack, consider Grady Sizemore ($2,000), Logan Forsythe ($3,900), Evan Longoria ($4,000), and Kevin Kiermaier ($2,800).  For a 6-man stack, add on James Loney ($3,000) and David DeJesus ($2,600).

***Article written before confirmation of starting lineups

***All stats from FanGraphs


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