Let me start this off by making one thing abundantly clear – Do Not Play Carlos Martinez in Cash. But, winning GPPs often requires the cliched attitude of “go big or go home”. Carlos Martinez offers you a pitcher with a 25.8% K-rate for $7400. Go take a look at all the pitchers in baseball with a 25% K-rate or higher. The cheapest they run you is $9000 (which is around what Carlos normally costs). In addition to being cheap, the fact that he is pitching at Coors Field will keep his ownership quite low. Peak Carlos Martinez involves a lot of ground balls (career 54.3%) and a lot of strikeouts, and you know what doesn’t care about Coors park factors? Ground balls and strikeouts. So you have a pitcher with massive strikeout upside, at a very low price, and who will be very underowned. While it’s entirely possible he walks 6 Rockies and gives up 6 runs in 4 innings, it’s also entirely possible that he gets you 10 Ks in 7IP and puts up just as big of a number as deGrom or Scherzer, and costs $3500 less. Is it the most likely outcome? No. But it’s an entirely plausible outcome, and if luck shines on you today, you’re looking at a massive edge in GPPs.
On to the picks once luck shines on me…
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Max Scherzer, SP: $11,800 – I wouldn’t mess around. Scherzer is pretty clearly the cash game pitcher. The Padres strike out a ton vs righties (24.4%, 29th), are 23rd in walk rate and while they have a modicum amount of power with Schimpf, Myers and Solarte, it’s still not enough. We’ve seen lesser pitchers dominate them and Scherzer is as elite as they come.
Jacob deGrom, SP: $11,000 – The Pirates don’t strike out vs righties (18.2%, 2nd overall) but they also don’t hit for any power. It’s a bunch of ground ball hitters trying to string together an offense, which, showing by their 84 wRC+ as a team, doesn’t work. Like I said last week, deGrom’s velo is back to his 2015 velo and he’s dominating. His last start against the Angels in 7 innings, he struck out 9 and walked 3 while giving up no runs. He also is not getting a ballpark downgrade as Pittsburgh is stealthily a pitchers park. deGrom is a step below Scherzer due to strikeout upside and you’re not getting enough of a discount, but is a fine pivot in GPPs.
Aaron Nola, SP: $7,700 – Nola broke out last year with a 25.1% K-rate, 6% BB-rate combined and a 55.2% GB-rate. Unfortunately, he also had a .334 BABIP and his ERA didn’t match his 3.08 xFIP. This year hasn’t been quite as kind as all of his numbers have degraded, 20.8%, 8.3% and 53.7% and a 3.74 xFIP. Quite respectable, but he still has the BABIP problem with a .348 clip (in 2015 he was at .289). He also has increased his velocity from 90.65 to 92.34. I’d be willing to wager that his BABIP will come down to more normal levels from here on out. Nola struggles vs lefties with a sharp decrease in K% (from 27.6 to 18.2) and a 9.6 K-BB% (down from 23.3%). His BABIP is actually higher vs righties. If the Reds roll a lineup that is heavy on righties, he’s a good cheap GPP pivot, but if it’s mostly lefties he’s a deep GPP play only.
Ezequiel Carrera, OF: $2,600 – Carrera isn’t a particularly skilled hitter, but he’s facing A.J. Griffin at home. Since he came back from Tommy John Surgery, A.J. Griffin has a 5.27 xFIP and a 6.70 FIP vs lefties (he hasn’t been good vs righties either, 4.86 xFIP and 5.07 FIP) and he’s allowed over 50% fly balls to both lefties and righties. The Blue Jays should be able to score a whole bunch of runs with Carrera batting in the 2 slot and he’s cheap, allowing you to get Scherzer and some other bats. Note: As I will reference in the next paragraph, there is a chance Josh Donaldson (at $3,800, he makes a very good play today) and Troy Tulowitzki (at $3,000 Tulo is also a solid play) return, and if they do, that may result in Ezequiel Carrera being banished to the 6th spot or lower in the lineup. If that is the case, his cash playability drops to almost zero, although his price and facing AJ Griffin still makes him still a GPP consideration.
Kendrys Morales, 1B: $3,000 – Kendrys Morales is a very boring hitter. He combines a below average walk rate with above average strikeout rate and above average power – and he always has the platoon advantage. He does nothing outstanding, but he hits for power and is facing AJ Griffin, who thinks you put out a fire with gasoline. There’s also the previously mentioned chance Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki return today, which means the Blue Jays get to replace two of their lineup warts with a legitimately great hitter and a guy who, while still massively overrated in general, is at least not below replacement level. The result is that Morales is that much more likely to get that 5th at-bat, and is that much more likely to be getting up with runners on base or to be driven if he reaches base.
Justin Smoak, 1B: $3,300 – He’s a 10% worse version of Kendrys Morales (a few more walks, more strikeouts and a touch less power). He’s more expensive than Kendrys so it makes him GPP only, but again, facing AJ Griffin.
Nelson Cruz, OF: $3,800 – Nelson Cruz last 3 years vs a lefty: .318/.406/.626 (.430 wOBA). Today, he’s facing a fly ball lefty in what is a massive park upgrade for him. I should have made the intro just pictures of Nelson Cruz dropping bombs vs lefties. But if I did, you, my loyal readers, would play Carlos Martinez in cash and once again, Carlos Martinez is NOT a Cash Play!
Danny Valencia, 1B: $2,900 – Valencia is a traditional lefty masher who shouldn’t see the field vs righties. He smokes lefties at a .320/.375/.497 clip, which is good for a .377 wOBA and a 139 wRC+. He cuts his K% to 14.4% and has a respectable .177 ISO, and, as mentioned in the preceding paragraph, the Mariners are facing a fly ball lefty in a major park upgrade.
Tampa Bay Rays Righties – All Rays righties are in good spots today as they face Hector Santiago in Minnesota (a nice offensive upgrade over Tropicana). Santiago doesn’t miss bats, walks guys and generates a ton of fly balls. And check out these five Rays righties vs LHP the last 3 years:
Tim Beckham: .253/.302/.429
Evan Longoria: .279/.356/.469
Rickie Weeks: .250/.353/.493
Steven Souza: .230/.341/.405
Derek Norris: .267/.345/.425
In cash, Weeks is a virtual lock and Longoria is a strong option. Beckham isn’t a good hitter, but he’s a SS who has power and benefits from the aforementioned park upgrade, and if he’s batting leadoff, he’s a good option to fit Scherzer and Coors. I’m generally not a fan of paying up for catcher, so Norris is very intriguing value catcher option either in cash as a price point or in a full Rays stack. Souza is expensive for cash but works in a stack as well.
Gary Sanchez, C: $3,300 – This seems kind of cheap for a player as good as Gary Sanchez hitting at the top of the order against the thoroughly mediocre Kendall Graveman. While he doesn’t have the platoon advantage, Gary the GOAT doesn’t need it because he’s the GOAT and he’s cheap.
Cleveland Indians – Against Ian Kennedy and his homer happy ways (and recently, his walk-happy ways as well), we want to target him with lefty power hitters. He’s an extreme fly baller vs lefties and just a fly baller vs righties. Luckily, Cleveland has plenty of left handed power with Kipnis, Lindor, Brantley, Santana, Ramirez and Zimmer. Whether or not you want to use Kipnis, Lindor, Santana or Brantley in cash is likely going to depend on lineup construction as they are all a little expensive to get with Scherzer and Coors. Edwin Encarnacion is an excellent GPP play as he can hit a few out at any time.
Gregor Blanco, OF: $2,300 – I won’t try to spin some stats here to somehow argue Gregor Blanco is some amazing hitter if you just look at it a certain way. He’s not particularly good, but he’s also not that bad, and he’s more valuable in DFS than he is in real life in part because he gets steals. Blanco’s (likely) batting leadoff and very cheap – you rarely get leadoff hitters for less than $3,000. You’ll often hear the best DFS players talk about “Respect The Leadoff” – sometimes it’s just a matter of looking for players who will have the most opportunities to score points, even if they’re not nearly as efficient at converting those opportunities as other players. If Fuentes is leading off, the same applies; he’s not quite as good as Blanco, but again, opportunities trump efficiency.
David Peralta, OF: $3,200 – Peralta is a righty masher (.382 wOBA this year, .374 career) and he gets to play in a park that plays to his strengths (big boost to lefty power) even more than Arizona. Junior Guerra isn’t that bad, but he does nothing that well. He walks too many and doesn’t miss enough bats for his average ground ball rate – which leads to 3-run bombs.
Jake Lamb, 3B: $4,200 – Everything above about Guerra and the ballpark applies here as well. Since Jake Lamb decided to be good at hitting baseballs at the Major League level last year, he’s done .286/.365/.583 vs righties (that’s a .392 wOBA for those of you scoring at home, he’s got a .272 wOBA vs lefties) with a 41.2% hard contact rate and he’s a major pull hitter with 43.8% pull rate. All systems go for Jake Lamb in Milwaukee.
Chicago White Sox – The White Sox are a fun team to exploit, as they have the third worst wOBA against right handed pitching and the fifth best wOBA against left handed pitching. And since pricing on DFS sites is reactive, not proactive (for the most part), the White Sox players, as a whole, see their pricing go up when they face (and crush) left-handers, and go down when they face (and stink against) right-handers. And since there are far more right handed starting pitchers than lefties, the team, as a whole, is fairly cheap. It’s tough for me to recommend any one particular White Sock, as it’s the 2nd game of a doubleheader, and outside of the only two expensive players (Abreu and Frazier, and they could sit as well), the lineup could go one of about 1,000 different ways. Instead, I will say that if you are the kind of DFS player who is sadistic enough to want to play Scherzer or DeGrom and 3 Cardinals, you need a slew of punts – so why not just stack the White Sox, who are chalk full of them? Even if you’re not such a player, the White Sox will still likely provide very good value, although I have no clue at this point who will be the specific players. In fact, we won’t know until after lock, as the first game is at 5 PM.
The St. Louis Cardinals – We call them “The St. Louis Cardinals” because that’s how they think of themselves as an organization. Coors Field slates always present two distinct questions – first, do you fade the expensive Coors bats? Second, if you decide you want to use the Coors bats, which ones? With some teams, the answer is fairly simple – for example, if the Angels were playing in Coors, and you wanted to play them, you’d play Trout, and then either Calhoun (if facing a righty), or Maybin, Cron/Pujols (if facing a lefty) and that’s it. Unfortunately, the Cardinals, who are essentially an average offense (14th in the league in wOBA, although they improve to 10th against righties) are the exact opposite – they are a team that has a lot of interchangeable players that are hard to distinguish – Grichuk has marginally more power than Pham and Piscotty (well, in-game power, as his raw power is far better), and marginally worse on-base skills, but really, those 3 OFs are fairly interchangeable from a DFS perspective. Thankfully, the opposing pitcher today makes it so that there is a way to figure out which Cardinals to play. Antonio Senzatela has had a massive split so far in his major league career (3.4% K-BB% vs lefties and 11% vs righties), which makes sense because he’s a Fastball/Slider guy (and not a very good one at that). Granted, one could nitpick and say that his problems versus lefties mostly just manifest themselves with walks. The counter to that nitpicking is to point out that it’s a relatively small sample size in terms of results and when you’re throwing nothing but fastballs and sliders opposite handed hitters will do better, across the board – it just so happens that in the first few starts of his major league career, the results have manifested in severely higher walk rates. Also, don’t forget, a walk is still 3 points (and the chance to score a run or steal a base, you can’t do either from the bench), and 3 > 0 last time I checked. In other words – play the lefties. Now, I probably don’t have to tell you who they are, because if you’re reading this article you probably know who the left-handed hitters on the Cardinals are, but just in case, we’re talking about – Matt Carpenter, 1B: $4400, Dexter Fowler, OF: $3700, and then possibly Kolten Wong, 2B: $3600 and/or Greg Garcia, 2B, $3000, although those final two are GPP only (if they’re even playing) unless either Matheny finally becomes competent and realizes he should use at least one of them against right handed pitching, or Matheny randomly decides to bump one of them to the #2 spot in the order, as he does from time to time, depending on how his Magic 8-ball shakes out. That said, the Cardinals right handed-batters are still quite playable, and the 2nd and 4th batters (likely Piscotty and Gyorko) are definitely cash playable.
I’m Only Happy When It Rains
The early game in Chicago might have rain pushing it back to the main slate game or postponing it.
Doing Lines In Vegas
Given that I started the article by mentioning there’s a decent enough chance that Carlos Martinez destroys the Rockies to make him a good GPP gamble, and I ended talking about how I think the Cardinals bats are in play for both cash and GPPs, it only makes sense that I also think the Cardinals at -127 are a fantastic value. Secondly, I think the Blue Jays at -141 are a fairly good bet, provided you believe Donaldson and Tulo are going to be back in the lineup. Once the lineup is announced, expect the lineup to move either way (if those two are, I expect money to continue to come in on the Blue Jays – since the line has already moved from its opening of Blue Jays -128 – and if they are not, I expect there to be a lot of people hammering the Rangers).