MLB DFS Strategy for Monday 8/17/15

Source: Associated Press

Source: Associated Press

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 MONDAY AUGUST 17, 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

I really am not entranced with any of the pitchers on tonight’s slate, so while I’ll list some options, they really aren’t “must haves” for me like say Chris Sale was on Sunday (as he ended up punching out 15 batters). Each pitcher seems to come with a couple of caveats, so we’ll have to figure out which ones can have the best chance to overcome those obstacles

THE FAVES:  

Sonny Gray (OAK) ($11,900) @ Baltimore Orioles – Gray comes in as the most expensive option, he had his scheduled start pushed back till today because of a back injury, and the Orioles bats pulverized A’s pitching yesterday. So there are quite a few things that seem unfavorable for Gray here, but with no other standout option on the slate, Gray can definitely be the guy to step up and be the highest scoring pitcher. Surprisingly, Gray has done much better on the road than in his friendly home park in Oakland this year. On the road, he is 8-1 with a 1.64 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 8.96 K/9. And even though the Orioles can mash righties (4th in ISO, 8th in wOBA), they strike out a ton with a 22.2% strikeout rate (3rd highest against righties). As long as his back doesn’t hamper him, I think Gray can turn in a solid performance.

Gerrit Cole (PIT) ($10,600) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks – Cole checks in as the 3rd highest priced pitcher in a home matchup against the D-Backs. The worry with Cole is that he has been in kind of a funk lately and has not been the shutdown force that he was early in the season. He’s still been decent, but the big scoring games have been few and far between for him ever since mid-June. The D-Backs aren’t terrible against righties, but they definitely can be susceptible to striking out, as they have the 8th highest clip in the league against righties. This is a spot where I wouldn’t feel largely comfortable with Cole, but it is probably the most favorable matchup that he has had in a month and a half — and his best games this season have either come against teams that can strike out a lot or don’t score a lot. So the D-Backs fall into one of those categories.

SLEEPERS FOR CHEAPER:

Carlos Rodon (CWS) ($6,700) @ Los Angeles Angels – Life is like a Carlos Rodon start — you never know what you’re going to get. Will he walk 6 guys and give up 5 runs in 4 innings? Or will he walk nobody and have a scoreless outing with double digit strikeouts? That’s the rookie Rodon’s story of the year, so it surely makes him the quintessential high risk/high reward pitcher. The lefty has a few things going for him though in this start against the Angels. First, the Angels are reeling right now as they have lost 6 of their last 7 games while averaging just 2.71 runs per game over that span. Second, the Angels played in the nationally televised Sunday night game in Kansas City and then had to fly back home late, while the White Sox flew into California very leisurely after their afternoon game in Chicago. Third, Rodon obliterated the Angels last week by tossing 7 shutout innings with 11 strikeouts. And just a minor bonus is that Rodon has actually had a better ERA on the road than home this season. Deploy him at your own risk, but the potential returns could be rather spiffy.

Erasmo Ramirez (TAM) ($6,000) @ Houston Astros – This is not an ideal matchup for Ramirez given that the Astros are the 2nd most powerful team in the Majors against righties with a .185 ISO. However, the Astros also have the penchant to strikeout a bunch with the 2nd highest strikeout rate in the Majors against righties at 23.8%. Ramirez hasn’t been a big strikeout pitcher this season at just 6.93 K/9, but he’s got strikeout per inning upside against the Astros and he defeated them just over a month ago by tossing 6 innings of 1 run ball with 5 K’s. At this cheap of price on a slate that has no clear cut must start options, Ramirez is worth a look.

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.

STACK ATTACKS:

New York Yankees vs. Minnesota Twins (Kyle Gibson) – The Twins and Kyle Gibson are visiting Yankee Stadium, and while Gibson has been enjoying somewhat of a breakthrough season, he’s been running into some trouble in a period of regression lately, which included a start less than a month ago against this Yankees squad when he gave up 6 runs to them in 5.1 innings. Three of Gibson’s last five starts have been games where he has allowed at least 5 runs, and Gibson carries a 4.57 ERA on the road this season. The powerful Yankees lineup should be itching to jump on him here. Consider Jacoby Ellsbury OF ($4,300), Brett Gardner OF ($4,200), Alex Rodriguez 3B ($4,500), Mark Teixeira 1B ($4,800), Brian McCann C ($4,600), and Carlos Beltran OF ($3,800).

Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (Jeremy Hellickson) – The Pirates bats have been swinging pretty well lately and D-Backs starter Jeremy Hellickson is no stranger to serving up the long ball (1.31 HR/9 this season and 1.19 HR/9 in his career). PNC Park in Pittsburgh isn’t a great hitters park, but the Pirates do have the ability to score runs in bunches and Hellickson has a hideous 6.09 ERA on the road this season. Gregory Polanco and Pedro Alvarez are two left-handed bats that are very hot for the Pirates right now, and Hellickson has allowed a .346 wOBA to lefties this season. A Pirates stack surely should include Gregory Polanco OF ($4,300) and Pedro Alvarez 1B/3B ($3,600), and then consider Neil Walker 2B ($4,000), Andrew McCutchen OF ($5,300), Jung Ho Kang 3B/SS ($3,500), Starling Marte OF ($4,400), and Aramis Ramirez 3B ($3,100). 

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.

Seattle Mariners @ Texas Rangers (Cole Hamels) – You probably wouldn’t know it by looking at their overall season stats, but the Mariners actually lead the entire Majors in both ISO and wOBA over the last month of play since the All-Star break. They will be taking on the Rangers in Texas today where it will be some hot 90+ degree weather, which is good for hitters, and in a hitter friendly ballpark. The obstacle they face is trying to tee off on newly acquired Rangers pitcher, Cole Hamels. However, since joining the American League after being a National League pitcher his whole career, Hamels has been very unimpressive in two starts with a 5.93 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, and 5 home runs allowed — and one of those starts was against these same Mariners. All these factors make the Mariners a nice sneaky stack play against a supposed ace. We’ll surely want to first look toward the right-handed bats since that’s who Hamels serves up nearly all his long balls to (15 of 17 HR allowed this season have been to righties). So consider the righties Austin Jackson OF ($3,500), Nelson Cruz OF ($5,500), Franklin Gutierrez OF ($2,900), Mark Trumbo 1B/OF ($3,300), and Jesus Montero C/1B ($2,200). And then either Robinson Cano 2B ($3,900) and Kyle Seager 3B ($3,800) can be thrown in to full stack it.

Minnesota Twins @ New York Yankees (Bryan Mitchell) – Maybe this won’t be too sneaky of a stack, but with the Yankees being the heavy favorite in this game and the highest projected scoring team of the day (according to Vegas implied odds) at 5.0 runs, that should draw less attention away from the Twins here. But the Twins would appear to be in a decent spot against rookie Bryan Mitchell who has spent most of his time with the Yankees as a relief pitcher. Mitchell is what would be considered a “fringe prospect,” so he’s not highly regarded. He made one spot start earlier this season where he allowed 4 runs on 8 base runners in 4 innings of work against the White Sox. Mitchell won’t go deep into the game since he’s not stretched out, so if the Twins can get to him then the Yankees may bring in some mop up guys and perhaps avoid seeing the Yankees best relievers late in the game. Consider Brian Dozier 2B ($4,400), Aaron Hicks OF ($3,600), Miguel Sano 3B ($4,400), Torii Hunter ($3,700), Joe Mauer 1B ($3,600), and Eddie Rosario OF ($3,400).

BONUS NOTES

  • Indians pitcher Danny Salazar squares off against the Red Sox who just scored 45 runs in a 3-game weekend series against the Mariners. Salazar has been great over the last month, so something has to give here. But since the Red Sox generally don’t strike out a bunch as a team, I’m not sure this is a great spot for Salazar to try and stop the red hot Red Sox.
  • Perhaps Cole Hamels can turn in his first solid AL start, but for the reasons stated above, I would be avoiding Hamels today as I think he is still trying to adjust to the AL.
  • I don’t think it’s a great spot for Michael Wacha as the Giants are sneakily dangerous and they also don’t strike out a lot, which should limit Wacha’s upside.
  • Rays are up against a solid lefty in Scott Kazmir (and in a good hitters park). Consider them a sneaky stack because they can really tee off against lefties.

***Article written before confirmation of starting lineups

***All stats from FanGraphs

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