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Daily Fantasy Baseball Strategy: September 8, 2015

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

Welcome back to another version of “Should You Pay Up for Clayton Kershaw?” In his last three starts, Kershaw has been worth almost any price tag going at least eight innings in all three starts, allowing just one run in all three, and striking out at least 10 in each start with 39 strikeouts total. GEEZUS. But all those good starts keep pushing his price tag upward, and his salary has reached a new peak today at $15,700. Again, GEEZUS.

Kershaw has an above average matchup against the Angels who have the sixth worst wRC+ against left-handed pitching, but it’s not a great matchup because the Angels also have the fourth lowest strikeout rate against lefties. The ballpark is favorable, as it would be if the game were in Chavez Ravine as opposed to Anaheim. So yeah, the variables are above average, but they’re not elite. I’d need the variables to be better to justify paying this much for Kershaw. If the Angels had even an average strikeout rate I might consider it, but I’m not sure the upside is there to justify this salary.

Of the other expensive pitchers ($9,000+), there are a few values and one really nice value. The best value is on Michael Wacha ($9,900) at home against the Cubs. The Cubs continue to be right there with the Astros for the highest strikeout rate against right-handed pitching. Wacha had his last turn in the rotation skipped simply to manage his innings since the Cardinals basically have the division wrapped up, so he should be fresh. In his six starts prior to the skipped start he posted a 0.92 ERA. Expecting that type of production to continue is unreasonable, but his recent form certainly doesn’t scare you off him.

The other two expensive guys that are underpriced, though not to the degree that Wacha is, are Cole Hamels ($10,300) and Masahiro Tanaka ($9,500). Hamels has a decent matchup against the Mariners who are above average offensively against left-handed pitching but also have the fifth highest strikeout rate against lefties. That game is in Seattle as opposed to Texas, so that’s also working in Hamels’ favor. Tanaka has a similar matchup against the O’s who are above average offensively against right-handed pitching but also have the third highest strikeout rate against right-handers. But Tanaka’s game is in the Bronx so he’s not getting the ball park bump that Hamels is. If you want to pay up for two pitchers, Wacha plus one of these guys is the way to go.

Normally I would not suggest you pay up for two pitchers, but the mid-price range is almost completely devoid of value. There are some bargain plays I like, and we’ll get to those in a moment, but I know some people don’t like to roster pitchers whose price tag starts with a ‘4’. The one mid-price guy who’s somewhat of a value is Carlos Rodon ($7,200). That said, the variables are not in his favor as his matchup (Cleveland) and ballpark (at home) are both causing negative shifts to his base projection. But he has been good in his last five starts with a 1.82 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 34 innings.

Now about those bargains. Jon Gray ($4,600), Kevin Gausman ($4,500) and Adam Conley ($4,100) have ERAs of 6.15, 4.61 and 5.22, respectively. Woof. But they also have SIERAs of 4.26, 3.90 and 4.18, respectively. Not so woof. Gausman has a K-BB% safely better than average. Conley has the best strikeout rate of the three, and it’s also safely above average. And Steamer likes Gray quite a bit projecting him for a 4.26 ERA and almost eight strikeouts per nine innings the rest of the way.

As for their circumstances today, Conley has a great matchup against the Brewers who have the fourth lowest wRC+ against left-handed pitching. Gray’s matchup isn’t quite as good against San Diego, but it’s still safely above average. Conley is getting a negative park shift on the road in Milwaukee, but it’s slight. Gray, on the other hand, is obviously getting a huge positive park shift on the road going from Coors to Petco. Gausman is getting negative adjustments to his base projection from both matchup and ballpark, but the peripherals indicate he may be the best pitcher of the three. I prefer Gray because of the variables mentioned, but I’m fine with gambling on any of these guys.

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 Blue Jays are facing a left-handed pitcher, so that automatically qualifies them as a stack candidate. They’re also facing a left-hander, Henry Owens, making just his seventh career start who owns a 4.80 xFIP against right-handed pitching in his first six starts. The game is not in Toronto, which is one of the best parks in the league for right-handed hitters, but they’re not losing much in Boston as Fenway still has a well above average park-factor for righties.

The best news is that the Jays are not necessarily prohibitively expensive. Baustista, Encarnacion and Donaldson are all at $5,000 or a bit higher, but none of them are at $6,000+ or anything crazy. And past those three, everyone else on the team is around $4,000 or lower. You should be able to make a Toronto-heavy stack work if you want to. One other note here is that Boston’s bullpen has the second worst bullpen xFIP over the last 30 days, so this could be a bloodletting.

On the other side of that game, the Red Sox are an option against R.A. Dickey. Dickey twirled a gem against the Indians his last time out, but in his four starts prior he posted a 6.35 ERA and 5.10 xFIP. Sometimes that knuckler dances like crazy and Dickey can be unhittable, but he can also get beat up pretty badly. He has a 5.16 xFIP against left-handed hitters this year, so David Ortiz, Pablo Sandoval, Travis Shaw and Brock Holt are nice value options today even if you don’t go Boston-heavy with a stack.

The other team I think is a candidate for a team-heavy stack tonight is Arizona at home against Ryan Vogelsong. Vogelsong has a 4.58 ERA this year that is matched almost exactly by a 4.60 xFIP. He has been predictably bad without the platoon advantage with a 4.85 xFIP against left-handed hitters, but he has also been pretty friendly to right-handers owning a 4.45 xFIP against them. And this game is in Arizona as opposed to San Francisco, which is obviously a hitter-friendly thing. Left-handers like Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jake Lamb make for good value plays, but they can be played along with Inciarte, Pollock, Goldschmidt and Peralta for a team-heavy stack. If Salty is indeed in the lineup, that could be the top six in the lineup.

Aside from these potential team-heavy stacks, here are the hitters I would focus on tonight:

  • Toronto RHH
  • Philadelphia LHH
  • Boston LHH
  • Dodgers RHH
  • Arizona RHH & LHH
  • Tampa RHH

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. Jarrod Saltalamacchia – $2,500 – Arizona Diamondbacks
  2. J.P. Arencibia – $3,000 – Tampa Bay Rays
  3. Yasmani Grandal – $2,600 – Los Angeles Dodgers
  4. Russell Martin – $4,000 – Toronto Blue Jays

First Base

  1. David Ortiz – $4,300 – Boston Red Sox
  2. Ryan Howard – $3,600 – Philadelphia Phillis
  3. Edwin Encarnacion – $5,000 – Toronto Blue Jays
  4. Justin Smoak – $2,500 – Toronto Blue Jays

Second Base

  1. Odubel Herrera – $3,400 – Philadelphia Phillies
  2. Logan Forsythe – $4,000 – Tampa Bay Rays
  3. Neil Walker – $3,400 – Pittsburgh Pirates
  4. Brock Holt – $3,200 – Boston Red Sox

Third Base

  1. Josh Donaldson – $5,400 – Toronto Blue Jays
  2. Pablo Sandoval – $2,600 – Boston Red Sox
  3. Evan Longoria – $4,000 – Tampa Bay Rays


  1. Troy Tulowitzki – $3,900 – Toronto Blue Jays
  2. Cesar Hernandez – $3,100 – Philadelphia Phillies
  3. Andres Blanco – $2,400 – Philadelphia Phillies


  1. Jose Bautista – $5,100 – Toronto Blue Jays
  2. Brandon Guyer – $3,000 – Tampa Bay Rays
  3. Scott van Slyke – $2,300 – Los Angeles Dodgers
  4. Justin Ruggiano – $2,100 – Los Angeles Dodgers
  5. Chris Colabello – $3,900 – Toronto Blue Jays
  6. J.D. Martinez – $5,000 – Detroit Tigers
  7. Jackie Bradley, Jr. – $4,500 – Boston Red Sox

Starting Pitcher

  1. Michael Wacha – $9,900 – St. Louis Cardinals
  2. Cole Hamels – $10,300 – Texas Rangers
  3. Jon Gray – $4,600 – Colorado Rockies
  4. Clayton Kershaw – $15,700 – Los Angeles Dodgers
  5. Masahiro Tanaka – $9,500 – New York Yankees
  6. Kevin Gausman – $4,500 – Baltimore Orioles

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