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Daily Fantasy Baseball Strategy: June 26, 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 15-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.


Ugh. Rain could be a problem today. As of this writing there didn’t appear to be much threat of any postponements, but late starts and delays could be factors tonight. Games in Baltimore, Pittsburgh and St. Louis look like they could see some precipitation. As for heat and wind, it doesn’t look like those factors are providing us with any extra hitter-friendly options today.

Given how often forecasts change between the time this post is written late the night before and when games actually start, make sure to follow @KevinRothWx for updates.

Pitching Perspective

As we often do, let’s break down today’s pitching options by price range, and let’s start with today’s most expensive options ($9,500+). Today’s priciest option carries what I believe is the highest price tag we’ve seen this year with Max Scherzer costing a crazy $14,000. My model does the math of telling us how far above average a pitcher’s price tag and projection are and then comparing the two to determine value. But you don’t need a mathematical model to tell you Scherzer has no value at that cost. Maybe you could throw a bullet at a GPP with a Scherzer lineup simply because his ownership percentage is likely to be fairly low at that cost, but the cost is too prohibitive to really consider Scherzer today.

Of the other expensive options, Johnny Cueto ($10,600) and Corey Kluber ($10,300) have the second and third best projections today. Of the two I’m leaning toward Kluber a) because his value grade is a little better (and the best among the expensive options) and b) because Cueto is dealing with an elbow ailment that caused his start to be pushed back from Tuesday. Francisco Liriano ($10,000) and Tyson Ross ($9,100) are also options with acceptable value grades, but Kluber is my guy if I’m paying up for a starter.

In the mid-price range ($7,000-$9,000), two names pop as really good values, John Lackey ($7,800) and Matt Shoemaker ($7,100). Lackey will face the Cubs and Shoemaker will face the Mariners, who have the second and third highest strikeout rates against right-handed pitchers, respectively. Those games are also being played in St. Louis and Los Angeles, which gives each pitcher an additional bump to their projection thanks to pitcher-friendly ball parks. With their price tags and their strikeout upside, both guys make plenty of sense for either cash games or GPPs.

If you’re looking for cheaper value plays, Rick Porcello has a nice value grade today. He’s getting positive shifts to his projection for both ball park and opponent (Tampa Bay). Porcello has an xFIP that is a shade under 4.00 in the month of June, so I can get on board with him with a safely below average price tag and a good matchup. If you want to go even cheaper, my model places good value grades on Nate Eovaldi ($5,300) and Kyle Lohse ($5,200). These are GPP-only plays, with Eovaldi being the guy I prefer thanks to some strikeout upside against the Astros. But Porcello is probably as cheap as I’ll end up going today.

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

The first thing I do when looking for stack options each day is to look at the top 40-65 hitters in my projections (depending on the size of the slate) and see which teams have four or more hitters that rank toward the top of the projections. Generally, the teams with the most hitters atop the rankings will also be teams with high team totals according to Vegas, but it never lines up exactly with Vegas. But today, five teams have five or more players in the top 60 of my rankings, and those five teams are among the teams with the six highest projected team totals for the day.

Two of the teams my model likes as stack options should be no surprise, Toronto and Detroit.

Starting with the Blue Jays, they have an excellent matchup against Nick Martinez in Toronto. If you’ve read my posts this year or if you follow me on Twitter, you know that I love to stack against Martinez. It hasn’t worked out too often as he has only allowed more than four runs in a start twice this year, but with an xFIP of 4.92 (2.77 ERA) it’s bound to start happening more often. I can think of no more likely scenario than it happening against the highest scoring offense in baseball in their own hitter-friendly park. With Devon Travis potentially returning to the lineup tonight, he could provide some value to help you afford some continually expensive Toronto bats.

As for the Tigers, they don’t have as good of a matchup with Jose Quintana on the hill for the White Sox, but the Tigers are good against left-handed pitchers with the third best wOBA in the league vs. LHP. The other thing to like about Tigers is that they are reasonably priced. I’m not sure if DK’s pricing algorithm is factoring in an average-ish matchup or docking the Tigers offense for a slightly down June, but they all have good value grades today. Not great, but pretty good. Perhaps the decent starting pitcher they’re facing will keep their ownership levels to something reasonable.

The other game Vegas loves is the Yankees at Astros game. They typical top six in the Yankees lineup all rank in the top 60 of my projections today, so they obviously make plenty of sense as a stack. The Astros that my model likes are likely a bit more spread out in the lineup, but some of their left-handed bats like Colby Rasmus, Preston Tucker and Jason Castro have solid value grades.

The other team my model likes is the Brewers, who have the sixth highest projected team total of the day according to Vegas. Their opponent, Minnesota, has the fifth highest projected team total of the day. My model doesn’t grade Twins too well, but five Brewers all made the top 60 cut and have good value grades. They are Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, Adam Lind, Jean Segura and Shane Peterson. They may not be as lightly owned as you’d like with Vegas on them a bit, but they could be a candidate for a contrarion stack.

Another factor I like to consider is how often a pitcher allows hitters to hit the ball of the ground. I don’t particularly care if it’s a line drive or fly ball, I just don’t want it to be on the ground. In that respect, the Yankees look even better today as Houston’s starter, Vincent Velasquez, has had a heavy-fly ball lean in his first three starts with a ground ball rate of just 22.6 percent. It’s just three starts, so you can’t read as much into it as you might like. He did have a 43 percent ground ball rate cumulatively in the minors, but the major league average is 45.4 percent, so I certainly wouldn’t call him a great inducer of worm-burners. Against a Yankees team that has the second highest fly ball rate in the league, there may be a lot of elevated balls in Houston tonight.

Other pitchers going tonight who allow hitters to elevate quite a bit are Robbie Ray, Matt Shoemaker and Aaron Harang. Ray is pitching in Petco tonight, which could help mitigate his problem. For that reason I’m not really on Padres, though Justin Upton could make some sense. With Shoemaker, I mentioned above that I like his value tonight, but this issue always has the potential to bite him in the ass. I’m not as concerned about it since he’s pitching at home against a Seattle team with only the 21st highest ISO vs. RHP. But maybe he’s really more of a GPP play with Lackey being the mid-price pitcher to use for cash games. As for Harang, I think there’s a pretty decent chance Bryce Harper takes him deep, but there aren’t enough other Nats I like to recommend a stack.

Groundball heavy pitchers to avoid include Brett Anderson, Tyson Ross, Tim Hudson and Francisco Liriano. Eovaldi and Quintana are also somewhat above average in terms of keeping the ball on the ground, so that could give you pause about stacking Astros or Tigers.

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 – $3,400 – Houston Astros
  2. Brian McCann – $4,300 – New York Yankees
  3. Russell Martin – $4,200 – Toronto Blue Jays

First Base

  1. Edwin Encarnacion – $4,600 – Toronto Blue Jays
  2. Mark Teixeira – $4,700 – New York Yankees
  3. Shane Peterson – $2,400 – Milwaukee Brewers
  4. Adam Lind – $4,100 – Milwaukee Brewers

Second Base

  1. Ian Kinsler – $3,800 – Detroit Tigers
  2. Devon Travis – $3,800 – Toronto Blue Jays
  3. Ryan Goins – $2,200 – Toronto Blue Jays

Third Base

  1. Chris Davis – $3,700 – Baltimore Orioles
  2. Miguel Cabrera – $5,300 – Detroit Tigers
  3. Adrian Beltre – $4,100 – Texas Rangers


  1. Jose Reyes – $4,500 – Toronto Blue Jays
  2. Jean Segura – $3,700 – Milwaukee Brewers
  3. Elvis Andrus – $3,700 – Texas Rangers


  1. Mike Trout – $5,100 – Los Angeles Angels
  2. Justin Upton – $4,400 – San Diego Padres
  3. Yoenis Cespedes – $4,400 – Detroit Tigers
  4. Jose Bautista – $5,800 – Toronto Blue Jays
  5. Brett Gardner – $5,500 – New York Yankees
  6. Ryan Braun – $4,500 – Milwaukee Brewers
  7. Preston Tucker – $3,400 – Houston Astros
  8. Kole Calhoun – $3,800 – Los Angeles Angels

Starting Pitcher

  1. Corey Kluber – $10,300 – Cleveland Indians
  2. John Lackey – $7,800 – St. Louis Cardinals
  3. Matt Shoemaker – $7,100 – Los Angeles Angels
  4. Rick Porcello – $6,200 – Boston Red Sox
  5. Johnny Cueto – $10,600 – Cincinnati Reds
  6. Tyson Ross – $9,100 – San Diego Padres

*Rankings are price sensitive

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