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Daily Fantasy Baseball Strategy: April 17, 2015

Below we’ve got a discussion of the starting pitching situation as well as the best teams to use for stacks for Friday’s 13-game slate on DraftKings. We’ve also got projections derived from Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections, and we have rankings of the top plays at each position.

Pitching Perspective

Here are our projections for today’s starters. You’ll see each starter’s salary, the average number of fantasy points the starter is projected to score per game and how far above or below average his projection is compared to his salary in the value column. As for the colors, they rank as follows from good to bad: purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, red, burgundy.

We’ve got some serious aces going this evening with Clayton Kershaw ($12,600), Max Scherzer ($11,700), Corey Kluber ($9,800) and Johnny Cueto ($9,700) all in action. Of the two extra expensive options, I prefer Scherzer because a) he’s less extra expensive, and b) I like his matchup against Philadelphia better than Kershaw’s matchup with Colorado. But I’m not sure I’ll be rostering either given their price tags and given how much I like Kluber. Kluber also has a good matchup against the Twins who have been the league’s worst offense to date. Plus, I think he should be priced a little closer to Kershaw and Scherzer, so he represents some value.

Among the mid-price options, Michael Wacha ($8,000) and Jered Weaver ($7,500) both have above average projections for the day. They also have above average matchups against Cincinnati and Houston, respectively. But Weaver has been downright awful so far, and I don’t trust him as far as I can throw him. His average fastball velocity so far is down to 84.5, and there’s absolutely no way you can trust him unless that improves. Wacha is the much safer play and the best option in this price range today.

If you’re looking for a value pick, I like Jimmy Nelson ($6,600) against the Pirates. Only the aforementioned Twins have had worse offensive production so far, and the game is in Pittsburgh as opposed to Milwaukee, so Nelson has a more pitcher-friendly park working in his favor today. Nelson was nails in his first start of the year, which was also against the Pirates, throwing seven scoreless innings with nine strikeouts compared to two walks and two hits. I wish Nelson had a third pitch as he’s pretty much a fastball/slider guy (he throws two fastballs, a four-seamer and a sinker), and that may catch up to him long term. But every pitcher in this price range is going to have warts of some kind.

Stack Options

There’s no weather to worry about tonight, nor is there any of which we can take advantage. There are no big winds, and it is not yet warm enough to focus on games in warmer climates. Likewise, there aren’t really any ball parks to exploit tonight. Outside of the game in Boston, no games are being played in especially hitter-friendly parks tonight. As for that Boston game, DraftKings knows it’s a potentially high scoring affair and has jacked up the prices accordingly. Against Ubaldo Jimenez, I’m down with using David Ortiz ($4,700, 1B) and Hanley Ramirez ($5,500, SS/OF) if you can afford it. But they don’t represent great values, so don’t force it, especially in cash games.

The three pitchers I recommend picking on with stacks tonight are Kyle Kendrick against the Dodgers, Mike Pelfrey against the Indians and Sean O’Sullivan against the Nationals. I’ve taken the ZiPS preseason splits projections for pitchers and calculated how many DraftKings fantasy points each pitcher is projected to allow to both left and right-handed hitters per plate appearance. Kendrick and Pelfrey are the most favorable pitchers going today for left-handed hitters and O’Sullivan is the most favorable for right-handed hitters. But all three are bad enough to use more productive players of either handedness.

Starting with the Dodgers, it would be really friggin’ nice if they would move Joc Pederson ($4,100, OF) up in the lineup. This is a nice matchup for him, and he’s a good value at that price. But it’s hard to include him in a stack when he’s hitting eighth. He’s off to a fine start that could earn him a promotion in that regard, so keep an eye out for that. If Yasiel Puig ($4,300, OF) draws back into the lineup, he’s a good play, but there’s some question as to his availability as of this writing. If he sits again, Andre Ethier ($3,100, OF) is probably too cheap to pass up if he’s in the middle of the order again. Adrian Gonzalez ($4,900, 1B) and Yasmani Grandal ($4,300, C) are other Dodgers I really like. Ideally, Gonzalez, Grandal and Puig will be close enough in the order to stack. Howie Kendrick ($4,400, 2B) is also an option.

As for the Indians, it’s nice that Pelfrey is one of the best matchups against left-handed hitters because the Tribe is rife with lefties. The Indians haven’t faced a right-handed starter since Friday, but Carlos Santana ($4,700, 1B/C) and Brandon Moss ($4,500, 1B/OF) hit 4-5 line the lineup that night. Assuming that’s the case again, I love that mini-stack. If you want to stack more from that lineup, Michael Brantley ($5,200, OF) and Jason Kipnis ($4,700, 2B) are also good options. DraftKings is obviously aware of the good matchup, so their prices could be too high to use them altogether. Lonnie Chisenhall ($4,000, 3B) could also take advantage of this matchup, but he’s not an option for stacking hitting out of the eight hole.

As for the Nats, Bryce Harper ($4,500, OF) is a great option today. Because of Hanley’s price and a lack of other good shortstop options today, I’d like to pair him with Ian Desmond ($4,500, SS), but Desmond has been hitting seventh against right-handers. If he moves back to the two hole tonight, where he hits against lefties, I like he and Harper as a mini-stack. But if Desmond is down the order and you want to pair him with someone, he should be sandwiched between Jayson Werth ($4,700, OF) and Ryan Zimmerman ($4,600, 1B/3B).

You can download our hitter projections here. These projections are not matchup adjusted, but each player’s projected wOBA against left and right handed pitching is included to help with matchup decisions. 

Player Rankings

Catcher

  1. Carlos Santana – $4,700 – Cleveland Indians
  2. Jonathan Lucroy – $3,900 – Milwaukee Brewers
  3. Yasmani Grandal – $3,400 – Los Angeles Dodgers

First Base

  1. Adrian Gonzalez – $4,900 – Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. David Ortiz – $4,700 – Boston Red Sox
  3. Brandon Moss – $4,500 – Cleveland Indians

Second Base

  1. Ben Zobrist – $4,300 – Oakland Athletics
  2. Jason Kipnis – $4,700 – Cleveland Indians
  3. Luis Valbuena – $3,700 – Houston Astros

Third Base

  1. Ryan Zimmerman – $4,600 – Washington Nationals
  2. Adrian Beltre – $4,100 – Texas Rangers
  3. Chase Headley – $4,000 – New York Yankees
  4. Aramis Ramirez – $3,600 – Milwaukee Brewers

Shortstop

  1. Ian Desmond – $4,500 – Washington Nationals
  2. Hanley Ramirez – $5,500 – Boston Red Sox
  3. Jean Segura – $3,900 – Milwaukee Brewers

Outfield

  1. Yasiel Puig – $4,300 – Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. Joc Pederson – $4,100 – Los Angeles Dodgers
  3. Ryan Braun – $4,200 – Milwaukee Brewers
  4. Christian Yelich – $4,000 – Miami Marlins
  5. Bryce Harper – $4,500 – Washington Nationals
  6. Jayson Werth – $4,700 – Washington Nationals
  7. Kole Calhoun – $4,700 – Los Angeles Angels
  8. Andre Ethier – $3,100 – Los Angeles Dodgers

Starting Pitcher

  1. Corey Kluber – $9,800 – Cleveland Indians
  2. Max Scherzer – $11,700 – Washington Nationals
  3. Michael Wacha – $8,000 – St. Louis Cardinals
  4. Jimmy Nelson – $6,600 – Milwaukee Brewers

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