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 WEDNESDAY AUGUST 19, 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.
Today’s article will focus on the main slate of games for the day, which begins at 7:05 PM EST/4:05 PM PST and consists of 10 MLB games.
Corey Kluber (CLE) ($11,200) @ Boston Red Sox – Kluber has been on a nice roll lately with two complete game victories against the Twins in his last two starts. The Red Sox may prove to be a lmore difficult opponent since they have been scorching on offense lately, but Kluber’s in a groove and will have a nice chance to silence the Red Sox bats like teammate Danny Salazar did a couple days ago. I recently wrote about the turnaround that some of these Indians pitchers have made in “Sometimes A Pitcher Is Only As Good As His Defense, Part 2,” and in that article I explained how the Indians defense has improved dramatically over the last couple of months due to the promotion of shortstop defensive wiz Francisco Lindor and the trading away of some poor defensive outfielders. With the improved overall defense, these Indians pitchers (the ones who aren’t extreme fly ball pitchers like Trevor Bauer) have seen a huge decrease in their BABIP, which consequently has led to a better overall performance and numbers. The Red Sox don’t strike out a lot, but Kluber is the type of pitcher that possesses the upside to rack up double digit strikeouts against any team, and now he also has a better defense to support him.
Dallas Keuchel (HOU) ($11,400) vs. Tampa Bay Rays – Nearly anytime that Keuchel pitches at home, he can be dominant no matter who the opponent is. We saw it last week when he went up against the Tigers who have done very well against lefties this season and who also got Miguel Cabrera back from the DL that day. Keuchel pitched 7 innings of 1-run ball with 8 strikeouts to win that game. He’ll be in a similar situation today when he takes on the Rays at home. The Rays rank 5th in ISO and wOBA against lefties this season and they punished fellow Astro lefty Scott Kazmir a couple days ago, but you can’t ignore that Keuchel is 11-0 with a 1.26 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and 9.52 K/9 at home this season. The only team that has really gotten to him at home has been the Blue Jays and they are just an offense that is in a whole other world against lefties, ranking 1st in nearly every category across the board. So while the matchup is slightly worrisome, Keuchel can be deployed with a good amount of confidence in DFS.
SLEEPERS FOR CHEAPER:
Joe Kelly (BOS) ($5,800) vs. Cleveland Indians – For the most part, Joe Kelly has been an absolute trainwreck this season after he boldly predicted that he would win the AL Cy Young Award this season. He has a season line of 5-6 with a 5.69 ERA and 1.52 WHIP. However, his last two starts have gone over pretty decently as he made a concerted effort to mix in more of his offspeed and breaking pitches (data can be seen here). Kelly actually has a fastball that would rank in the top 5 in velocity among starting pitchers if he qualified with enough innings pitched, but he also utilizes his fastball close to 70% of the time and has been unable to keep hitters off balance with that approach. So often time, hitters are just sitting on that fastball against him. But if he is mixing in his other pitches more now, then he may have a better chance to succeed like he has the last couple of games. A victory may be hard to come by going up against Corey Kluber, but the Indians offense is rather mediocre and they have cooled down after having a hot stretch a couple weekends ago. He should provide some good return on his value if he can go 6 IP/2 ER/6 H+BB/6 K. However, this would be a true off the wall play.
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.
Toronto Blue Jays @ Philadelphia Phillies (Adam Morgan) – It was mentioned earlier that the Blue Jays just murder left-handed pitching (not literally because otherwise they would all be incarcerated). They led the Majors in ISO and wOBA against lefties before bringing on Troy Tulowitzki, and since they added Tulo, they have become even more potent. Morgan is a soft-tossing lefty that doesn’t strike guys out who somehow squeaked by the Jays a few weeks ago by only allowing 2 runs on 5 hits in 6 innings, but he will be extremely fortunate if he can replicate that as the Jays likely won’t squander away another excellent opportunity like this one. Keep in mind though that all the Jays big bats will likely have some pretty high ownership here and they are all pretty expensive. For a stack, consider Troy Tulowitzki SS ($4,600), Josh Donaldson 3B ($5,900), Jose Bautista OF ($5,500), Edwin Encarnacion 1B ($4,400), Chris Colabello OF ($3,600), and Russell Martin C ($3,600).
Arizona Diamondbacks @ Pittsburgh Pirates (J.A. Happ) – The Diamondbacks rank 17th in ISO and 9th in wOBA against left-handed pitching like Happ is, which isn’t anything spectacular, but three of their most dangerous hitters do very well against lefties (A.J. Pollock, Paul Goldschmidt, and Welington Castillo). Happ is a mediocre lefty that the Pirates acquired at the trade deadline and he has a current 4.64 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. He is very susceptible to right-handed bats as 12 of Happ’s 14 HR allowed this season have come against righties and they own a .335 wOBA against him. He also has struggled a bit against lefties this season with a .362 wOBA allowed. The Diamondbacks should be in a good position to put some runs on the board tonight, especially after they touched up a much tougher lefty in Francisco Liriano last night. Consider A.J. Pollock OF ($5,200), Aaron HIll 2B/3B ($2,600), Paul Goldschmidt 1B ($5,400), Welington Castillo C ($3,400), Yasmany Tomas 3B/OF ($3,500), and Nick Ahmed SS ($2,200).
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.
Today’s sneaky stack options that I will include here are what DFS folk call “contrarian” stack plays. Being contrarian in DFS means to go against the majority thought and utilize players that you think won’t be highly owned, but your contrarian selections need to be calculated and made for a reason. If the contrarian plays end up working out and many of the “chalk” (popular) plays don’t pan out, then that would put you in a good position to outscore much of the field.
Baltimore Orioles vs. New York Mets (Noah Syndergaard) – Syndergaard has been brilliant for the Mets in his rookie season with a 3.07 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 111 K in 105.2 IP. For all intents and purposes, Syndergaard can be considered a fringe fantasy ace despite being just a rookie, so most of the time that he takes the hill he is going to have a pretty decent ownership rate in DFS. However, what makes an Orioles stack appealing as a contrarian play is that Syndergaard has had some road struggles with an 0-5 record, 5.01 ERA, and 1.55 WHIP. He’ll be on the road in Baltimore, which is a hitter friendly environment and an AL home park, so he also loses the luxury of getting to pitch against the opposing pitcher. The Orioles are a hungry team and offense right now as they are in the thick of the AL Wildcard race, so they make take the opportunity to really jump on a pitcher who has done so poorly on the road. Consider Manny Machado 3B ($4,900), Gerardo Parra OF ($4,100), Adam Jones OF ($4,500), Chris Davis 1B ($5,000), Matt Wieters C ($3,100), and Jonathan Schoop 2B/3B ($3,800).
Detroit Tigers @ Chicago Cubs (Jon Lester) – Another contrarian stack for the day is the Tigers taking on Lester at Wrigley Field. There are two key components to this possible stack: 1.) Miguel Cabrera has obliterated Lester in his career (14 for 25 with 1 HR, 4 doubles, and 8 walks vs. 2 strikeouts) and other supporting members have also had success against Lester 2.) There are currently 15-20 MPH winds blowing out to center field. Lester has been on a roll lately, but this is hardly the optimal situation to continue that streak. And a bonus is that if the Tigers speedy guys get on base, then the auto-steal switch will be turned on against Lester. Consider Rajai Davis OF ($3,400), Ian Kinsler 2B ($3,900), Miguel Cabrera 1B/3B ($4,800), J.D. Martinez OF ($4,400), Nick Castellanos 3B ($2,800), and Jose Iglesias SS ($2,700).
BONUS SNEAKY STACK:
Tampa Bay Rays @ Houston Astros (Dallas Keuchel) – You might be wondering how can Keuchel be a top pitcher play but then the Rays are also a sneaky stack option? Yes, the two thoughts do go against one another, but starting both Keuchel and using a Rays stack should be options tonight (but definitely not for the same lineup). Keuchel has dominated at home, as mentioned previously, so he could just as easily be dominant again. However, the Rays also have crushed lefties this season. So on the chance that Keuchel is off his game tonight, the Rays could really take advantage of the situation and tack on a bunch of runs. Keuchel will likely be largely owned tonight, so if the Rays do end up scoring a lot, that will negatively affect many lineups, which then would separate your Rays stacked lineup from the rest of the field a bit. If you are the type to submit multiple lineups into a single GPP then the Rays should be given a shot. Consider Brandon Guyer OF ($2,900), Evan Longoria 3B ($3,800), Logan Forsythe 1B/2B ($3,300), Tim Beckham 2B/SS ($2,600), Desmond Jennings OF ($3,100), and Curt Casali C ($3,000).
- Jaime Garcia against the Giants is a little pricey and he is bound for some regression, but he should be playable. He’s been very consistent this season and the Giants are not at full strength.
- I’ll be staying away from Noah Syndergaard and Jon Lester because of the reasons mentioned above in the “Sneaky Stack” section.
- Nathan Karns could provide some value as a mid-tiered option against a strikeout prone Astros team.
- Normally, Jeremy Guthrie on the road in a hitters park would be a great target to stack against, but it’s looking like a very high chance of storms in Cincinnati for that game. A postponement could be in the cards.
- If the wind wasn’t blowing out at Wrigley Field, Daniel Norris could make it on as a “Sleeper for Cheaper” pitching option against the Cubs who strikeout a lot versus lefties. With the wind, Norris doesn’t look so nice.
- Both teams in the Coors Field game are of course stackable (Nationals and Rockies).
- Albert Pujols is hot once again (homered in 3 of the last 4 games) and he absolutely owns Jeff Samardzija (7 for 19 with 3 HR, 1 double, and 5 walks vs. 0 strikeouts). He is somehow only the 16th highest priced first baseman at $4,000. Tons of value there.
- As a matter of fact, Mike Trout is severely under priced too at $4,600, which makes an Angels stack very affordable and in play.
- Rajai Davis has a .388 OBP and 7 SB in 49 plate appearances against Jon Lester. As previously mentioned, it’s auto-steal versus Lester for Tigers speedsters.
- Justin Maxwell fares much better against left-handed pitching and he is 6 for 11 with 1 HR and 3 doubles against the lefty Jaime Garcia. He is only priced at $2,300.
***Article written before confirmation of starting lineups
***All stats from FanGraphs