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Daily Fantasy Baseball Strategy: June 17, 2015

Below we’ve got a discussion of the starting pitching situation as well as the best teams to use for stacks for Wednesday’s full 15-game evening 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.


I see little point in giving an outlook on the weather tonight when @KevinRothWx, a real meteorologist, has a full write up of how weather may affect games tonight over on Rotogrinders. Kevin is an essential follow for DFS players. He’ll have an updated post closer to lock and additional updates on his Twitter feed.

Pitching Perspective

We must start with today’s cache of studly starting pitcher options which includes Clayton Kershaw ($12,900), David Price ($11,300), Madison Bumgarner ($10,700), Felix Hernandez ($10,300) and Johnny Cueto ($10,000). Let me start by saying that they are all options in GPPs. They’re all so talented that they can put up a big number against any team in any ball park. However, I do have a preference as to which of them I’d like to use in tournaments, and their price tags affect their cash game viability.

To begin parsing this group of starters, let’s start with the one I don’t think I’ll be using at all, which is Price. Price has been undeniably hot lately with a a ludicrous 27.9% K-BB% in June. That can make you feel safe about starting him, but I’m not as into recent performance as some other fantasy analysts. It’s hard for me to overlook the fact that his K-BB% in April/May was a touch higher than 14 percent. And I can’t ignore the fact that the ZiPS projections, upon which my DFS model is based, have him with a 3.68 ERA and 1.21 WHIP from here on out. The other thing about his hot streak is that it has driven his price up. He’s the second most expensive starter of the day, and I see very little value potential at his price point. He also has a middling matchup against the Reds, and a negative park shift pitching on the road in Cincinnati, so Price won’t be on my rosters today.

Next, let’s get Kershaw out of the way. His price can obviously be prohibitive, but, according to my model, his price is about as far above the average SP salary today as his projection is above the average SP projection. If that’s a confusing or poorly worded sentence, I’ll rephrase and say you should roster him if you can afford it. I’ll give you a bargain pitcher or two in just a moment to pair with Kershaw, but you’ll also have to find enough value with your bats to be able to fit him in.

Let’s say you can’t find a way to fit Kershaw in but you still want to roster one of the top options of the day. Based on my value grades, which you can find in the spreadsheet below, Felix is your guy. He’s a little cheaper than Bumgarner and has a slightly higher projection, so there’s no reason to spend more money on Bumgarner for fewer expected points. The fact that Felix and Bumgarner are facing each other makes it hard to predict either of them will get the win, but wins aren’t something I worry about too much on DraftKings. Because DK scoring is higher than it is on other platforms, pitcher wins aren’t vital. If you have a big day, the four points you would get for a win will be one or two percent of your total.

As for Johnny Cueto, he has roughly the same value grade as Bumgarner but a lower projection, so I’d rather pay a little extra for Bumgarner. Cueto’s matchup with Detroit at home is not ideal.

Alright, now for those bargain options. I’ll start with Jesse Chavez ($6,800) who I mention literally every time he starts. The ZiPS projections (and Steamer for that matter) like him better than the DK pricing algorithm, so he continues to be a value according to my model. His price tag today is almost exactly average, but his projection is decidedly above average.

With a good base projection to start with from ZiPS plus positive shifts for opponent (San Diego) and ball park (home), Chavez ends up with the fifth best projection of the day, one spot ahead of Price. To be clear, I’m not being fooled by his 2.64 ERA to date. I see his 3.76 SIERA, which is almost exactly what ZiPS projects his ERA to be from here on out.

If you need even more savings, allow me to suggest Shaun Marcum ($5,100). Marcum has been surprisingly good this year after most fantasy players forgot he was ever a thing. His strikeout rate is well above average at 23.1 percent and is backed up by a healthy 11.2 percent swinging strike rate. His walk rate is right in line with the league average.

The one problem he has had, and the thing that makes him a risk tonight, is keeping balls in the park. He’s always leaned toward the FB side of the GB/FB ratio, and his career HR/9 is worse than average. He’s been somewhat unlucky this year with an unsustainably high 17.5 percent HR/FB rate, but home runs are definitely an ongoing concern for Marcum. The good news is that he’s pitching at home tonight in a park with a relatively neutral HR park factor, though there is supposed to be a slight wind blowing out to left in Cleveland tonight.

Aside from being at least a league average pitcher this year with a well below average price tag, he also has a very good matchup on his hands. The Cubs are basically tied with the Astros for the highest strikeout rate in the league against right-handed pitching, and we saw fellow Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer exploit that matchup last night. With plenty of relatively safe options available tonight, including a semi-bargain like Chavez, Marcum may not be necessary in cash games. But he makes for an excellent salary relief option in GPPs.

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. You’ll also see adjustments being made for matchup and ballpark. As for the colors, they rank as follows from good to bad: purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, red, burgundy.

Stack Options

We obviously must start with the game between the Astros and Rockies at Coors Field. In addition to the obvious ball park factor, we also have two less-than-stellar starters going in this one, Kyle Kendrick and Brett Oberholtzer. Unsurprisingly, Vegas has Houston and Colorado with the highest projected team totals of the day.

Starting with the Astros, I think the way to get exposure to this game is to go with some of their lesser names. That’s because guys like Jose Altuve, Evan Gattis, Chris Carter and even Carlos Correa and George Springer are all very pricey today, plus they don’t have the platoon advantage. But the Astros do have some sneaky left-handed hitters that are not unreasonably priced. Well, Luis Valbuena may not be sneaky given the homer binge he has been on this year, but he’ll only cost you $4,000 today despite the home run binge and the favorable circumstances. Likewise, Preston Tucker and Jason Castro are lefties with good projections today and not wholly unreasonable price tags. That’s how I would get exposure to the Astros tonight.

As for the Rockies, they are not unreasonably priced. The problem is that they have been 36 percent worse than league average against left-handed pitching this year, and Oberholtzer is a lefty. For that reason, I’d focus primarily on their right-handed bats like Troy Tulowitzki, Nolan Arenado and Wilin Rosario. Tulo and Rosario in particular have decent value grades for the day.

After the Coors game, Vegas has the Blue Jays and Diamondbacks with the next highest team totals. I get that the D’Backs are back home against a homer-prone pitcher in Hector Santiago, but outside of A.J. Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt, no D’Backs have a well above average projection in my model. And with Goldy being $5,800 and there being expensive pitcher options I’m trying to roster today, I think his price tag may be prohibitive. But Pollock is reasonably priced and will likely make it in to some of my lineups.

As for the Blue Jays, everyone knows they have one of the best offenses in the league. You have to imagine Jays and players in the Coors game will have the highest ownership percentages tonight. I’m tempted to avoid the Jays in an attempt to be contrarion, but they just maul left-handers and will face LHP Jon Niese tonight. Their wRC+ against lefties is 143. The next highest team wRC+ against pitchers of either handedness is the Dodgers at 122 against righties. With this game also being in Toronto, they may be impossible to avoid. The typical top five in their order are all in play tonight and not completely unreasonably priced, though Russell Martin‘s salary seems a bit high. The price tag I really can’t figure out is Josh Donaldson at $4,700 despite his .348 ISO against lefties this year.

The Pirates also have a great matchup against John Danks, and they’re getting a big-time positive park shift playing away from home in Chicago. Admittedly, the Pirates may be a popular play just like the Jays and the Coors game given Danks’ well known DFS friendliness, but the Coors game and the Jays seem like even more obvious plays today. If you go with Pirates, focus on their right-handed hitters, Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Josh Harrison and Jung-Ho Kang.

You can view and download our hitter projections here. These projections are an average of what each hitter is projected to do on a per game basis according to the ZiPS rest-of-season projections. The projections have then been adjusted for splits, quality of the opposing starting pitcher and ballpark.

Player Rankings


  1. Jason Castro – $4,000 – Houston Astros
  2. Wilin Rosario – $4,000 – Colorado Rockies
  3. Francisco Cervelli – $3,500 – Pittsburgh Pirates

First Base

  1. Lucas Duda – $3,800 – New York Mets
  2. Anthony Rizzo – $5,000 – Chicago Cubs
  3. Jose Abreu – $5,100 – Chicago White Sox

Second Base

  1. Luis Valbuena – $4,000 – Houston Astros
  2. D.J. Lemahieu – $4,100 -Colorado Rockies

Third Base

  1. Josh Donaldson – $4,700 – Toronto Blue Jays
  2. Chris Davis – $4,500 – Baltimore Orioles


  1. Troy Tulowitzki – $5,000 – Colorado Rockies
  2. Jung-Ho Kang – $3,800 – Pittsburgh Pirates


  1. Andrew McCutchen – $5,100 – Pittsburgh Pirates
  2. Jose Bautista – $5,100 – Toronto Blue Jays
  3. Preston Tucker – $4,100 – Houston Astros
  4. Yasiel Puig – $4,200 – Los Angeles Dodgers
  5. Curtis Granderson – $4,000 – New York Mets
  6. A.J. Pollock – $4,400 – Arizona Diamondbacks
  7. Eddie Rosario – $3,000 – Minnesota Twins

Starting Pitcher

  1. Jesse Chavez – $6,800 – Oakland Athletics
  2. Clayton Kershaw – $12,900 – Los Angeles Dodgers
  3. Felix Hernandez – $10,300 – Seattle Mariners
  4. Shaun Marcum – $5,100 – Milwaukee Brewers

*Rankings are price sensitive

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