So it’s September 15th. Rosters have expanded. Out of contention teams shift their focus to next year’s team, and some players pack it in for the year, or play only for their own stats. And although it’s not something you’ll often read on a site as objective-analysis heavy as Razz, there definitely is a DFS edge to be gained. It’s hard to tell sometimes and you’re going to need to keep your ears open, but some players (typically on out of contention teams) definitely change their approach. In 2015, after Jose Reyes got traded to the Rockies (and from a team in playoff contention to a team who was not), Reyes clearly did not want to be there and changed his approach to, “swing as hard as I can in case I hit it.” Then, in September he missed a few games because of a bruised achilles and (we think) just completely checked out, “hitting” .231/.259/.250 the rest of the way despite playing plenty of games in Coors. In 2016, Dee Gordon got suspended in May, came back in August and was basically the same player he had been, stolen base wise at least. He had 6 stolen bases in April on a .289 OBP in 21 games and after he returned in August, he had 8 stolen bases on a .296 OBP in 26 games. Then September came around and apparently he just decided he was going to steal every single time he got on first base no matter what, and no one could catch him. He had a .289 OBP, played in 27 games and had 15 stolen bases, including stretches where he’d steal every game. We may be to that point right now with Gordon, as he has 4 steals in his last 5 starts. Am I saying to play Dee Gordon every day? No. For all we know he’s just had a few good opportunities to steal in the last few games. But I am saying to keep an eye on him, and if he’s in “stat padding” mode, to give a small nudge to him if you’re debating between rostering him and someone else.

On to the picks once I pad my stats…

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PITCHERS

Chris Sale, SP: $11,800 – He’s the best pitcher on the slate, probably the best pitcher in MLB and everyone knows the Rays love to strike out. All systems go.

Luis Severino, SP: $10,600 – If you’re building a cash lineup, you play Sale. It’s what you do. End of discussion. But if you’re building a GPP lineup, and you want to be contrarian, Severino is not a bad choice here. He’s had one heck of a year himself, and the Orioles do strike out a bit (11th highest K% this year), so there’s definitely some upside here. Also, and this goes back to what I discussed in the intro, if you watched yesterday’s game, the Orioles just went up there swinging as hard as they can in case they hit it after the Yankees put up some early runs, obviously trying to hit home runs or go to dinner a little early. Of course, a lot of the Orioles have good power, and they’re perfectly capable of hitting a few bombs. Because the Orioles are out of the playoff race, if they get down early, instead of grinding out at bats like they would earlier in the year, they will just go up to the plate and hack away, trying to launch balls as far as they can. So, a solid pitcher like Severino could end up with a pretty nice looking 8IP, 12K, 1ER (on a home run) line that could easily end up beating Sale’s final line, and that’s a big step to winning a GPP, given that Sale will likely be quite chalky.

Robbie Ray, SP: $10,900 – Once again, I must stress, if you’re building a cash lineup, you play Sale. But if you’re building a GPP lineup, Ray’s another good pivot option. Ray has 33.2 K% this year and a 10.9% walk rate and always has elite strikeout upside. In San Francisco, Ray gets a massive park upgrade and gets to face a team that has virtually no power right now and are 7th worst in taking the free base vs lefties on the year and 2nd worst ISO. It’s an excellent matchup.

HITTERS

Rhysadelpia Phoskins – The Phillies get another juicy matchup vs Daniel Mengden, who’s below average in K% (19.7), BB% (7.8) and GB rate (38.2%). Rhys Hoskins has proven that baseball isn’t that hard and he should be up there with Barry Bonds as the GOAT. Nick Williams is another guy who hits righties well with a .359 wOBA and a .215 ISO. Everyone else is very stackable since Mengden isn’t a guy who’s stringy with the free passes.

New York Yankees – The Yankees are facing Gabriel Ynoa, who’s an extreme strike throwing, fly ball guy who gives up bombs. The Yankees are poised to take advantage of that with a bunch of guys who crush righties. Aaron Judge (.311 ISO), Gary Sanchez (.252 ISO), Didi Gregorious (.223 ISO) are the top plays today, but Brett Gardner (.193 ISO) batting leadoff is also an excellent play. Stacking here is tough because Ynoa doesn’t walk guys, so you’re really looking for bombs and because of that, i’m not sure a full stack is the correct play even with the extreme fly ball nature of Ynoa. Of course, the Yankees could pull a Minnesota Twins from the other night and just hit bomb after bomb.

Corey Seager, SS: $2,900 – This is too cheap for a SS who has a .358 wOBA vs righties and bats 2nd. Edwin Jackson isn’t good enough to justify this cheap of a price.

Cody Bellinger, 1B: $4,200 – .390 wOBA vs righties and batting 4th vs Edwin Jackson? Yes please.

Alex Presley, OF: $2,600 & Jeimer Candelario, 3B: $2,700 – Carson Fulmer was a high first round pick in 2015 and had pretty solid stuff, but his fastball velo is down from his draft year, now averaging 93.7. His future is in the pen because he’s an average athlete with bad arm action. He walks a lot of guys (13.9% in his MLB career and it wasn’t that much better in the Minors) and doesn’t have the massive strikeout upside to make up for it. He also hasn’t shown an ability to be above average in ground balls either in the Majors (29.9%) or in the Minors (45.4% this year in AAA). He’s walked 18.7% of lefties in his major league career and while I don’t think that will continue, he will walk lefties, giving the lefties a floor. Notice how that entire section didn’t once mention the two hitters I’m recommending? That’s because they’re not very good, but they’re cheap, and they’re left-handed (well, Jeimer is a switch-hitter). The righties are a lot tougher to recommend as without the floor there (due to the walks), they’re probably only suitable for GPPs.

Cleveland IndiansJason Vargas is a reverse splits guy, specifically increasing the strikeouts vs. righties. He still can be hit by righties with power, but they have to be able to make contact given Vargas’ ability to strike righties out. So we’re looking for righties with power and good contact rates. Francisco Lindor (13.2 K%, .386 wOBA, .232 ISO), Jose Ramirez (11.6 K%, .373 wOBA, .229 ISO) and Carlos Santana (9.1 K%, .345 wOBA) are the main plays as they have good enough contact rate to “neutralize” Vargas’ increased Ks. Other Indians right-handed power hitters – Austin Jackson (.417 wOBA, .232 ISO), Edwin Encarnacion (.357 wOBA) and Yan Gomes (.355 wOBA and .248 ISO) for example, are still good GPP plays when searching for that elusive home run, but they all come with a very low floor as they could easily strike out 3 or 4 times.

Justin Smoak, 1B: $2,900 & Kendrys Morales, 1B: $3,300 – Bartolo Colon has a miniscule 6.8% K-BB% vs lefties and has a 35.5% ground ball rate. He survives because he’s actually not that bad against righties, but against lefties, it gets real ugly. Thus, we want to attack him with lefties with power and Smoak (.362 wOBA and .274 ISO) & Morales (.198 ISO) are the 2 best on the Blue Jays. Colon’s splits are to the point that the Twins pretty much shouldn’t pitch him against left-handed heavy teams (such as the Reds, Braves, or the Indians, who have three switch-hitters, Bruce, and could squeeze Kipnis into their lineups as well when he returns) and instead hold him back for right-handed heavy teams only (Orioles, Angels, and Tigers, with the Tigers being pretty much the dream matchup). It’s not DFS-relevant, but the Twins are still in playoff contention so it would actually do them a lot of good to try to maximize Colon’s final few starts, if possible.

Yoan Moncada, 2B: $3,100 – Anibal Sanchez is a gas can. He’s a strike throwing, bomb allowing gas can and over his short career, Moncada has shown an ability to hit righties with some power (.198 ISO) and should be a solid midrange salaried play.

Nolan Arenado, 3B, $5,200 – The Rockies are almost at 7 Vegas implied run total. Here, it reflects the following – Coors Field takes the otherwise pathetic Rockies offense and turns it into one of the better ones in the league, and Clayton Richard isn’t very good. As I’ve detailed many times this year, the Rockies offense is an incredibly lopsided one, in a vacuum, it’s one fantastic hitter (Blackmon against righties, Nolan against lefties), one respectable hitter (Blackmon versus lefties, Nolan versus righties), a decent source of power (Mark Reynolds), and a bunch of incredibly overrated guys. Coors Field turns those overrated guys into “decent enough”, and turns Blackmon and Nolan into solid hitters (against same-side pitching) and incredibly tasty goodness (against opposite-side pitching). Blackmon’s too expensive to be played if he’s just a solid hitter, but Nolan would have to be $5500 before I’d consider not playing him – you’ve got a very good hitter with the platoon advantage against a non strikeout pitcher in Coors. And that 6.9 Vegas Implied Total (6.55 Teamonator)  is just one more piece of evidence that this is the best hitter (still Mike Trout, but, yeah, he’s not in Coors with a platoon edge) on the slate.

I’m Only Happy When It Rains

We’re almost there with the snow, but alas, no rain to worry about as of now.

Doing Lines In Vegas

I know Cleveland has been doing nothing but winning for 3 weeks, but, they are going to lose at some point and their odds are going to be inflated by Vegas and the public betting now, and you can probably get some good odds on the Royals. By true talent, Cleveland shouldn’t be this heavy of a favorite and a -208 is pretty high. So although betting against the Indians feels like throwing money away, I’ll take the Royals at +190.