MLB DFS Strategy for Wednesday 9/23/15

Source: Ben Margot/Associated Press

Source: Ben Margot/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.).  


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.


***Zack Greinke was going to be a great option tonight, but he has been scratched from his start with a sore calf.


Drew Smyly (TAM) ($9,500) @ Boston Red Sox – Smyly has been inconsistent in his performance since returning from the DL in August as he has alternated between bad and good starts each time. It’s not something to put a lot of weight on as it is likely just coincidence, but this start is projected to be a good one if we are following that pattern. But more importantly, Smyly has shown great strikeout upside as 2 of his 7 starts since returning have been double digit strikeout efforts and he has 41 K in 37.2 IP during that span. One of those double digit strikeout games came against these same Red Sox two starts ago. The Red Sox will likely field a better lineup tonight than they did in that game, but the combination of his strikeout upside and being priced well below the aces today makes Smyly a very attractive option and he probably has the most “bang for buck” potential.

Max Scherzer (WAS) ($12,400) vs. Baltimore Orioles – Scherzer would not have been included here if Greinke was still pitching, but the Greinke injury has forced my hand. I think that this is a nice matchup for Scherzer as the Orioles are one of the most strikeout prone teams in the league (3rd highest K% against righties and 3rd highest K% overall), and as we know, strikeouts are very valuable for the DraftKings scoring system. So that alone should be reason enough to give Scherzer some consideration as he could very well come away with a double digit strikeout performance. The caution is that Scherzer has not been on the top of his game in the second half of the season as he has a 4.32 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 15 HR allowed in 12 starts since the All-Star break. But with the weather cooling down and the humidity dropping, perhaps Scherzer’s long ball issues will subside. With Greinke missing, Scherzer needs to be given immediate thought.

Yordano Ventura (KC) ($8,500) vs. Seattle Mariners – Based on matchup, I believe that this is a nice spot for Ventura. There aren’t any Mariners hitters who have had any notable success against him (though small sample size). This is a home game for Ventura where he has fared much better with a 3.79 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 9.90 K/9 as opposed to a road line of 5.04 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, and 6.98 K/9. The Mariners have the 4th highest strikeout rate in the Majors against right-handed pitching. So that all sounds nice and dandy, but you know there’s a “but…” But Ventura has been streaky and right now he is in the midst of one of the bad streaks. His average fastball velocity in the last two games has been near the lowest it’s been all season long, which brought him some poor results. In the 3 starts prior, his average fastball velocity was the highest it has been in any games all season long (and in his career). So it was no surprise that those 3 games were his best strikeout performances of the season. So if Ventura is feeling fine and can put a little extra mustard on his heater tonight, then he’s got some very nice potential here. If not, then he’s probably going to be pretty hittable. It’s a gamble, but that’s what DFS is all about, isn’t it?


Brandon Finnegan (CIN) ($6,000) @ St. Louis Cardinals –  This is the only pitcher priced below $8,000 that I would consider using in GPP’s today. Along with John Lamb (who was highlighted as a “Sleeper For Cheaper” on Monday and did pretty well), Finnegan came over to the Reds from the Royals as part of the package that netted the Royals Johnny Cueto. Finnegan, a 1st round pick in 2014, is considered to be the better of the prospects, but he needed to get in some work at AAA to be stretched out as a starting pitcher. He made his first start for the Reds last week against the Brewers and it went over pretty well as he posted a line of 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, and 4 K with the W. He only threw 75 pitches in that game, but the Reds should be willing to give him a little bit of a longer leash tonight if he is doing well. As for the Cardinals offense, against lefties like Finnegan and Lamb are, they rank 26th in wOBA, 25th in ISO, and 29th in K%. With the Cardinals never seeing Finnegan before, he may also have an advantage there. If Finnegan does well, then this is the type of play that could help win a GPP tournament as he should be low owned as a relatively unknown player facing the team with the best record in all of baseball.


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.

As per usual, the teams in the Coors Field game are in play (Pirates/Rockies), but I will highlight some other stacks.


Toronto Blue Jays vs. New York Yankees (Ivan Nova) – Nova was ousted from the Yankees rotation after his last start, but the Yankees will turn back to him tonight as they are in need of a starting pitcher. So who did Nova pitch against in his last start where he pitched so poorly to get the boot from the rotation? Of course you know it was these same Blue Jays, otherwise I wouldn’t be asking the rhetorical question. In that start, the Jays hammered him for 6 runs in 1.2 innings and in fact, they have scored 13 runs in 14 innings against him this season. I need not say any more. Every Blue Jays bat is in play for a stack, but I’ll go with Ben Revere OF ($3,800), Josh Donaldson 3B ($5,000), Jose Bautista OF ($5,100), Edwin Encarnacion ($5,100), Ryan Goins 2B/SS ($2,700), and Kevin Pillar OF ($3,300). Also consider subbing in Justin Smoak 1B ($2,600) for Encarnacion for a contrarian play.

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (Chase Anderson) – Anderson has pitched relatively well against the Dodgers this season, but he owns a pretty ugly 4.52 ERA and is very prone to blow up games as he has allowed 5 or more runs in 7 starts this season. The Dodgers bats should be very hungry after they dropped the first two games of the series to the Diamondbacks. They are battling for home field advantage in the NLDS right now and they can’t be taking these games against lesser opponents lightly, so this is where they get back on track. Yasmani Grandal is a fantastic 3 for 8 with 3 HR against Anderson and Adrian Gonzalez also would make for a very nice standalone play. Let’s go with Carl Crawford OF ($3,000), Chase Utley 2B ($3,000), Adrian Gonzalez 1B ($4,500), Corey Seager SS ($5,500), Andre Ethier OF ($3,200), and Yasmani Grandal C ($3,400). 


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.

Cincinnati Reds @ St. Louis Cardinals (Lance Lynn) – Lynn doesn’t seem to have things going for him right now as he holds a 9.26 ERA and 2.23 WHIP this month, so there is some sense in stacking the Reds against him as a bit of a sneaky play. Lynn still holds a nice 3.28 ERA and he has done decently against the Reds this season, so there should be some decent ownership of Lynn at his depressed price tag of $8,400. But I wouldn’t buy into a big game from him here. Lynn is much worse against lefties with a .359 wOBA and 10 HR allowed, as opposed to a .276 wOBA and 3 HR allowed to righties. In particular, Jay Bruce is a great fastball hitter (Lynn throws mostly fastballs) and he is 14 for 31 with 3 HR against Lynn. Joey Votto also makes for a very nice play. So let’s go with Skip Schumaker 2B/OF ($2,000), Todd Frazier 1B/3B ($4,200), Joey Votto 1B ($5,000), Brandon Phillips 2B ($3,500), Jay Bruce OF ($3,500), and Eugenio Suarez SS ($3,500).

San Francisco Giants @ San Diego Padres (Andrew Cashner) – Cashner has been getting lit up all season long to the tune of a 4.25 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. While he has been better in home games, I still wouldn’t trust him here and the Giants are a team that has just pounded on him this season with 11 runs in 10 IP, including a big game against him a couple weeks ago. Buster Posey makes for a great play as he is 11 for 22 with 2 HR and 0 strikeouts against Cashner. The Giants don’t have the highest powered offense, which makes this relatively sneaky, but they can score in bunches if they get their wheels turning. Let’s consider Angel Pagan OF ($3,000), Alejandro De Aza OF ($2,900), Matt Duffy 2B/3B ($3,600), Buster Posey C/1B ($3,900), Brandon Crawford SS ($3,100), and Marlon Byrd OF ($3,300). ***NOTE: Posey missed yesterday’s game, so this stack is only in play if he’s in the lineup.


  • Kluber faces the Twins who are a team that he has just dominated this season with a 1.42 ERA, 0.39 WHIP (!!!), and 25 K in 26 IP over 3 starts. The caution with him is that he has been a bit worse on the road than home (3.95 ERA on road vs. 2.87 ERA at home) and he recently suffered a hamstring injury. He returned from that injury last week, but was not sharp at all and he only lasted 4 IP (61 pitches) because he did not make any rehab starts after nearly 3 weeks in between starts. So essentially his last start functioned as a rehab start and he may once again be limited in some way tonight. I wouldn’t say it is a bad idea to use Kluber because the upside is great if he is pitching with no restrictions, but be aware of the possible downside. ***Also beware of potential inclement weather in Minnesota.
  • Marcus Stroman is one of my favorite pitchers as I pegged him for a big breakout year before he injured his ACL in Spring Training. But while I like him and his future, he has not shown the strikeout potential that he is capable of in his 2 starts since returning to the Jays rotation. With only 5 K through 12 IP, it’s hard to expect a huge DraftKings game from him. He may be able to keep the Yankees off the scoreboard, but he might be a bit of a trendy pick without huge upside. At his price of $8,500, which is a big $1,500 increase from his last start, I don’t love him tonight, but he is usable.
  • Colby Lewis pitched a shutout versus the A’s last time, but I’m not going to hold my breath on a repeat performance and the A’s are pretty good at avoiding striking out.
  • Also in play as stacks are the New York Mets against an inconsistent Williams Perez, the Miami Marlins against one of the league’s worst pitchers David Buchanan, and the Texas Rangers against Felix Doubront who they annihilated a couple weeks ago.

***Article written before confirmation of starting lineups

***All stats from FanGraphs


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