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Daily Fantasy Baseball Strategy: September 27, 2015

Below we’ve got a discussion of the starting pitching situation as well as the best teams to use for stacks for Sunday’s 15-game slate on DraftKings. We’ve also got projections derived from Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections and rankings of the top plays at each position.

Pitching Perspective

We’re at the point in the season where my model that starts with ZiPS projections isn’t totally reliable when it comes to pitchers. There’s some nuance going on this late in the season that isn’t picked up in a system based on the aggregate. As an example, my model loves A.J. Burnett and his price tag, but my model isn’t built to pick up on the fact that the Pirates are being cautious with the recently injured Burnett, who hasn’t made it through the sixth inning in each of his last five starts. He has some strikeout upside against the Cubs, but I can’t trust him.

My model also likes Shelby Miller and Jered Weaver to varying degrees, but they’ve been terrible lately. Weaver’s xFIP is 5.88 over his last five starts and Miller’s is 5.10. James Shields is in a similar boat, with a 4.23 xFIP in his last five, but I do think he’s possibly an option back home against Arizona.

As for guys who have been pitching well recently, Jake Arrieta ($13,600) has been an monster lately, but I don’t love his price tag. He’s got an average matchup at best against Pittsburgh, and I’d prefer the game be in Pittsburgh as opposed to Chicago. Jacob deGrom has a 2.49 xFIP in his last five but a 4.88 ERA. He’s had some bad BABIP and home run luck, so I’m not overly concerned with his recent game log, which might otherwise scare you off.

The one thing I am concerned about is how deep the Mets let deGrom go in this one given they clinched the NL East yesterday. He has already thrown a few more innings than he did last year, and with a postseason run coming up, I’m not sure how much the Mets have to gain by letting him throw too much on Sunday. The second seed in the playoff is still up for grabs, but I don’t know how much the Mets care about that. He’s an option, but there’s risk there. Come to think of it, Arrieta has 216 innings already this year, and the Cubs are headed for a one-game playoff no matter what they do this week. I imagine they’re much more concerned with how Arrieta pitches the next time they face Pittsburgh in the NL one-game playoff.

John Lackey may be in the same boat as deGrom. I like his matchup with Milwaukee, and he has pitched well of late, but the Cardinals have little to gain at this point. They have the top seed in the playoffs all but locked up, and Lackey is already at 207 innings for the year. Again, he’s an option, but there’s risk attached to him.

One team that still has everything to play for is Houston. They’ll send Dallas Keuchel ($11,200) to the hill today against the Rangers. Houston will absolutely let Keuchel go as deep as he can in this game. His matchup with the Rangers is a good one as the Rangers are an above average matchup for left-handers, and Keuchel has a 1.47 ERA and 2.26 xFIP at home this season. The Rangers did tag him for nine runs about a week and a half ago in Texas, but Keuchel bounced back in his next start with 7 2/3 innings of one run ball against the Angels. I think the price tag is a little high, but I’m rolling with the Cy Young candidate whose team desperately needs a win.

As for teams out of the race who will likely have less concern about how much their starter throws on Sunday without the concerns of pitching in October, Washington’s Gio Gonzalez ($8,300) has a really good matchup with the Phillies and is more than reasonably priced. Gio was dicey in his last start against Baltimore where he failed to make it out of the fifth inning. But in four September starts, including the Baltimore start, he has a 2.74 ERA and 2.83 xFIP. He’s only at 164.2 innings for the year and will only exceed last year’s innings total by 10-15, so workload shouldn’t be a concern.

If you’re looking for a bargain option, Martin Perez ($4,700) could be an option against Houston. The Astros provide some strikeout upside even though Perez’s strikeout rate is well below average. Perez has only been half-decent lately with a 4.26 xFIP in his last five, but his viability is more about his price tag than his ability.

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 concerns I have about some pitchers and workload don’t really apply to hitters. They could manifest in hitters being left out of the lineup, particularly on a Sunday, which is always a weird day for off days. But if a guy is in the lineup, there shouldn’t be any ancillary concerns about using him.

Vegas has Toronto with the highest implied run total as is often the case, but I’m not so much on Toronto today. But the next five teams after the Jays in the implied run totals are all teams that looked like stack candidates per my hitter projections.

Minnesota will face Randy Wolf who has allowed a .598 slugging percentage to right-handers this year in 25 innings of work. Brian Dozier, Miguel Sano and Trevor Plouffe would make for an excellent mini-stack. Unfortunately, Sano and Plouffe only qualify at third base, so you’ll only be able to pair one of them with Sano. If Byron Buxton or Danny Santana happen to crack the lineup, they would be good value plays, but they’re unlikely to start.

Baltimore will face Henry Owens who has  a 4.99 xFIP against right-handed hitters this year. Manny Machado is the obvious name with Steve Pearce and Matt Wieters being good value options, especially Pearce. That trio should hit 2-4-5 if Wieters is in the lineup.

Next we have the Yankees against Erik Johnson and his 2.35 HR/9. It’s a tiny sample size, but Johnson has a 6.23 xFIP against left-handers this year. The Yankees can go lefty-heavy easily, and Jacoby Ellsbury, Chase Headley, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran could make for a nice four-man stack assuming they hit 1-2-4-5 in the order.

The aforementioned Perez will face the Astros who can load up right-handed hitters against the lefty. Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa and Evan Gattis should hit 1-2-3-5 and also make for a nice four-man stack option. Springer has the most reasonable price of the bunch, and Chris Carter could be a nice value a little bit further down the lineup if he draws a second straight start against a left-hander.

And finally, Cleveland is an option against fly ball machine Chris Young. Young hasn’t made a start since late July and has delivered a 6.47 xFIP in 12.1 innings of relief since his last start. The Indians can stack lefties against the right-handed Young, and Jason Kipnis, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana and Lonnie Chisenhall should hit 1-2-3-4-6 in the order.

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

Catcher

  1. Buster Posey – $4,200 – San Francisco Giants
  2. Brian McCann – $3,600 – New York Yankees
  3. Wilin Rosario – $2,800 – Colorado Rockies
  4. Matt Wieters – $2,900 – Baltimore Orioles

First Base

  1. Anthony Rizzo – $4,900 – Chicago Cubs
  2. Adam Lind – $3,900 – Milwaukee Brewers
  3. Carlos Santana – $4,300 – Cleveland Indians

Second Base

  1. Jason Kipnis – $4,700 – Cleveland Indians
  2. Steve Pearce – $3,400 – Baltimore Orioles
  3. Brian Dozier – $4,500 – Minnesota Twins
  4. Scooter Gennett – $2,500 – Milwaukee Brewers

Third Base

  1. Lonnie Chisenhall – $3,200 – Cleveland Indians
  2. Nolan Arenado – $5,100 – Colorado Rockies
  3. Kyle Seager – $3,900 – Seattle Mariners
  4. Chase Headley – $3,100 – New York Yankees

Shortstop

  1. Jose Ramirez – $3,100 – Cleveland Indians
  2. Carlos Correa – $4,700 – Houston Astros
  3. Francisco Lindor – $4,600 – Cleveland Indians

Outfield

  1. Justin Ruggiano – $3,400 – Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. Jacoby Ellsbury – $3,600 – New York Yankees
  3. Bryce Harper – $5,800 – Washington Nationals
  4. Nelson Cruz – $4,400 – Seattle Mariners
  5. Scott van Slyke – $3,000 – Los Angeles Dodgers
  6. Seth Smith – $2,800 – Seattle Mariners
  7. Steven Souza – $3,800 – Tampa Bay Rays
  8. George Springer – $4,300 – Houston Astros

Starting Pitcher

  1. Dallas Keuchel – $11,200 – Houston Astros
  2. Gio Gonzalez – $8,300 – Washington Nationals
  3. James Shields – $9,000 – San Diego Padres
  4. Jacob deGrom – $10,400 – New York Mets
  5. John Lackey – $10,000 – St. Louis Cardinals
  6. Martin Perez – $4,700 – Texas Rangers
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