MLB DFS Strategy for Sunday 8/16/15

Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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.).  

STRATEGY FOR SUNDAY AUGUST 16, 2015

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.

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, but it’s also good to know if the weather is going to be hot, cold, windy, or humid because these are all factors that could influence our DFS lineup decisions.  Daily Baseball Data is a great spot to get an hour-by-hour forecast of each game.

PITCHERS

Zack Greinke is the highest priced pitcher on the slate, but with his lack of strikeout upside this season, I don’t think that he should be the highest priced guy on most days. Does that mean I think he will have a poor game? No, not at all. He’s had an amazing, but somewhat lucky, season and he should generally be counted on for some pretty solid numbers. But I just think that there is better value if we look elsewhere.

THE FAVES:  

Chris Sale (CWS) ($11,600) vs. Chicago Cubs – The Cubs are on a 9-game winning streak and have won 15 of their last 16 games while averaging just over 5 runs per game during that stretch, so maybe that’s something that is suppressing Sale’s price tag a bit for Sunday’s start. Sale has been priced $12,000 or greater in the last 9 starts and he usually has been one of the top two priced pitchers whenever he has taken the hill, but he’s the 3rd highest on Sunday and there could be value there to go with Sale. While the Cubs certainly have been baseball’s hottest team over the last 2+ weeks, the closest thing to an ace that they faced was Chris Heston or Jeff Samardzija. All season long the Cubs have been rather mediocre against left-handed pitching ranking 19th in ISO and 14th in wOBA, and they also strike out the 4th most in the league against southpaws. Sale has cooled off and hasn’t been as sharp as he was during an incredible 2 month stretch, but this profiles as a great matchup for him with lots of upside. The last time that he faced the Cubs was just over a month ago and he went 7 strong innings allowing just 1 run while striking out 10.

Carlos Carrasco (CLE) ($10,800) @ Minnesota Twins – The Cleveland pitchers — Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar, and Carlos Carrasco — who were saddled with really high BABIP’s earlier in the year are all now on some really hot streaks and finally getting the results to match up with their true talent levels. Is it coincidence that they are all now doing really well after the Indians traded away some of their shoddy defenders? It might be some coincidence, but the Indians pitchers are likely receiving much better defense from the guys behind them. So I wouldn’t be afraid to roll with Carrasco on Sunday as he is on a legitimate streak where he has gone at least 8 innings allowing 2 runs or less while striking out 7 or more in the last 3 starts. He will face a Twins team that ranks 25th in wOBA against righties and has the 8th highest strikeout rate against righties. Maybe his floor is a little lower than some of the other pitchers on the slate, but his ceiling is just about as high as anyone’s. As the 5th highest priced pitcher for the day, he should carry value and lower ownership.

SLEEPERS FOR CHEAPER:

Drew Hutchison (TOR) ($6,200) vs. New York Yankees – This sure isn’t a full on endorsement to use Hutchison, but out of all the cheaper options, he might have the most potential. His 5.26 ERA and 1.48 WHIP are incredibly uninspiring and a matchup against a dangerous Yankees lineup isn’t all too inviting. But this start will come at home where he is 9-1 with a 2.26 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 7.91 K/9. He’s just been much more comfortable pitching at the Rogers Centre.

Luis Severino (NYY) ($5,500) @ Toronto Blue Jays – On the flip side of the Yankees/Blue Jays game is the rookie Severino taking the mound for the Yanks. He’s their top pitching prospect who has made 2 decent starts since being promoted. He has some strikeout upside and he possesses great control for a young pitcher, which should be a great tool to help him succeed early in his Major League career. Severino will have his work cut out for him though against the powerhouse Blue Jays offense. Because of a really poor matchup, Severino won’t be used by many DFS players, but he does have some upside here to log a strikeout per inning while holding them to a couple runs over 6 innings. Using Severino (or Hutchison for that matter) wouldn’t be for the weak at heart, but it’s a GPP play that could bring big returns.

HITTING STACKS

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.

We’ll take a look at a couple of strong stacks and a couple of stacks that may go a little more under the radar as what I like to call “Sneaky Stacks.” We’ll omit discussing either of the teams in the Coors Field game, but obviously both of them are definitely in play.

STACK ATTACKS:

Boston Red Sox vs. Seattle Mariners (Vidal Nuno) – Maybe it’s the recency bias with the Red Sox having just scored 22 runs on Saturday and 15 runs on Friday, but there’s no doubting that the Red Sox bats are super hot right now, and they get to face a rather mediocre lefty in Vidal Nuno on Sunday. Nuno spent most of this season in the bullpen for the Diamondbacks and then the Mariners, but now he’s being given a chance to start for the M’s and he’s never had success as a Major League starter. Because the Red Sox haven done so well this weekend, people will likely confirm this recency bias and inflate the ownership of Red Sox hitters, but this still rates as a pretty good matchup for the Red Sox. Let’s consider Mookie Betts OF ($4,400), Brock Holt 3B/OF ($3,300), Xander Bogaerts 3B/SS ($4,000), David Ortiz 1B ($4,700), Rusney Castillo OF ($3,300), and Travis Shaw 1B/3B ($2,000).

Houston Astros vs. Detroit Tigers (Matt Boyd) – The rookie lefty Boyd has made two starts since being recalled by the Tigers and both of those starts were against the Royals and he wasn’t terrible against them, but he wasn’t great either. He didn’t allow a home run in either of those games, but he did allow 5 HR in his previous 2 starts this season — and if there’s something to know about stacking the Astros on Sunday, it is that Boyd is a fly ball pitcher. This season in the Majors so far, he has a 0.67 ground ball/fly ball ratio, and in his Minor League career it was 0.63. If he continues at that pace, that would make him one of the most extreme fly ball pitchers in the league, and of course that means more home runs allowed since home runs do tend to travel in the air as fly balls the last time that I checked. And what are the Astros really good at doing? You guessed it — hitting home runs! Let’s take a look at Jose Altuve 2B ($4,500), Carlos Correa SS ($5,200), Evan Gattis 1B ($3,600), Carlos Gomez OF ($4,300), and Hank Conger C ($3,500). 

SNEAKY STACKS:

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.

Milwaukee Brewers vs. Philadelphia Phillies (Aaron Harang) – Harang is definitely not going to be mistaken as a top of the rotation pitcher with his 4.53 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in the twilight of his career, but the Brewers may have a chance here to sneak in with relatively low ownership since they haven’t been performing well at the plate recently. What makes them an interesting stack is that their two best hitters, Adam Lind and Ryan Braun, have both had some success against Harang in their careers. Harang is exactly the type of pitcher that Lind feasts off of, so Lind is 4 for 6 with 3 HR against the Phillies righty. While Braun doesn’t have a great AVG against Harang, he does have 3 HR in 37 AB against him. If the players around them can set the wheels in motion, then Lind and Braun could produce big. Consider Scooter Gennett 2B ($2,800), Jonathan Lucroy C ($3,200), Ryan Braun OF ($4,600), Adam Lind 1B ($4,200), Khris Davis OF ($3,700), and Jean Segura SS ($3,400).

Kansas City Royals vs. Los Angeles Angels (Hector Santiago) – The Royals are definitely a dangerous offense as they rank near the top of the league in total runs scored at 6th, but they rank near the bottom in home runs at 27th. So the lack of home runs does limit their upside on a daily basis, but they will be in a decent position to do a good portion of their scoring by the long ball on Sunday, which makes them a bit sneaky here. Hector Santiago will be pitching for the Angels and after a great first half to the season, he’s finally hitting an expected regression period. He’s an extreme fly ball pitcher that has given up 6 HR in the last 4 games. And after Matt Shoemaker only gave the Angels 1.2 innings of work on Saturday, they will likely push Santiago as far as he can go on Sunday even if he is struggling so that they can get on a flight and head back home with a more fresh bullpen for the start of a homestand on Monday. Consider Alcides Escobar SS ($3,600), Ben Zobrist 2B/OF ($3,900), Lorenzo Cain OF ($5,100), Kendrys Morales 1B ($4,100)/Eric Hosmer 1B ($4,700), and Salvador Perez C ($3,300). 

BONUS NOTES

  • Madison Bumgarner is the 2nd highest priced pitcher and I wouldn’t be too afraid to use him. The Nationals did score 6 runs against him on July 4, but this start will come at home for Bumgarner and he loves to pitch at home in the spacious and familiar confines.
  • I am on the fence on Harvey. He’s been doing really well lately, but the Pirates have been hot and they got to him the last time they faced him.
  • I would prefer to fade Carlos Martinez down the stretch as he just keeps getting further and further away from his previous career high in innings pitched, but you can’t ignore the matchup that he has against the Marlins who just lost Christian Yelich to the DL. Yelich had been their best hitter over the past month, so that makes their lineup look that much worse without Giancarlo Stanton still as well. Martinez would be an acceptable play.
  • Drew Smyly is coming off the DL (shoulder) for the Rays, but he was shaky in his rehab and it seems like it would be too much of a risk to use him in his first start back.

***Article written before confirmation of starting lineups

***All stats from FanGraphs

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