So loyal readers of mine are probably thinking – why the switch to Monday, and why the switch to FantasyDraft? Well, simply, the editors asked me to, and I said yes. Now, FantasyDraft and FanDuel have a lot of differences in gameplay, but one of those differences far outweighs all the other ones – the use of a second pitcher in your lineups. All the other differences are cosmetic.
Therefore, it makes more sense for those new to FantasyDraft to compare it to other two-pitcher sites – such as DraftKings. And when you look at it, the two sites are very similar in scoring systems and in salaries (FantasyDraft is almost always double DraftKings, with a few exceptions for what I like to call “pricing buckets”). But there is one major difference between FantasyDraft and DraftKings/FanDuel/most other DFS site that I know of – positional requirements. FantasyDraft requires you to have 3 Infielders, 3 outfielders, and 2 utility players. You do not need to roster a shortstop specifically – you can have Thames, Goldschmidt and Rizzo in a lineup, or for that matter, you could have a lineup of Alcides Escobar, Andrelton Simmons and J.T. Riddle (in which case, send me your FantasyDraft screen name so I can challenge you to a h2h match).
FantasyDraft’s different roster requirements, flexibility and pricing buckets can create a whole host of issues, but there is one noticeable consequence that pops up frequently and it has to do with being able to roster several outfield punts and not have to use punts (or pay up for subpar high end) at very weak positions. For the most part, value plays on DraftKings at every position except outfield are the glove-first, bat-second (or glove-first bat-never) players. Only in the outfield do you get value plays who actually can hit – Gregory Polanco and Billy Hamilton are both very affordable (and yes, I know Billy Hamilton can’t hit, but if you’re reading a DFS article, you know that stolen bases are important). Just to illustrate my point – today, Alcides Escobar is $6,000 and Gregory Polanco is $6,800. There is not a single scenario that does not involve Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale where I would voluntarily play Alcides Escobar over Gregory Polanco were it not for positional requirements.
So why is that important? Because each time you use a value-play outfielder, there is an opportunity cost. You cost yourself the ability to use a stud outfielder. Yes, Alcides Escobar means you can’t roster Francisco Lindor or Trea Turner on DraftKings, but as great as those guys are, they’re not Bryce Harper or Mookie Betts. So if you’re looking to save money on DraftKings, you are forced to either use an outfield spot (thus eliminating your ability to roster one of the better outfield hitters that day), or run our favorite Royals SS, Alcides, and deal with the nauseating feeling that such a decision creates.
And while that distinction (being able to save money offensively with far less an opportunity cost and without having to run Alcides) is useful in a lot of contexts, one place I’ve found it often manifests itself is in the decision on whether to run two high priced pitchers (thus necessitating the need to roster one or two true punt hitters) or whether to roster one high priced pitcher and then find a cheap pitcher. It’s a lot easier to squeeze in two expensive pitchers into a lineup when you’re looking at running Ryan Raburn, Gregory Polanco and Mallex Smith, but can still roster other high quality outfielders as opposed to having to either sacrifice the ability to roster high quality outfielders or sacrificing your dignity by running Alcides.
That said, it still depends on the slate. If you’re trying to squeeze Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale into a lineup, you’re going to have to punt everywhere offensively – you’re not getting any of the high quality outfielders even if you have the roster flexibility. So if you’re trying to squeeze those two into a lineup, what I just described isn’t relevant. There is no one right way to build a lineup on any DFS site – however, I’ve found that at least somewhat frequently, you can feel comfortable running two expensive pitchers on FantasyDraft but cannot on DraftKings (for the reasons just discussed) despite virtually the exact same salary structure.
Onto the picks once I find a reason to play Alcides Escobar on Fantasy Draft…
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Clayton Kershaw, SP: $26,000 – I refuse to spend time justifying why you play him. Just do it and move onto the second pitcher. If you aren’t going to use him, I once again ask, can you send me your username on FantasyDraft so I can play you h2h?
Jake Odorizzi, SP: $14,700 – The cheap options today are kind of a mess, but Odorizzi at home is much better pitcher and the Reds aren’t an elite offense by any means and Teamonator has them as one of the few sub-4 run teams on the day.
Daniel Gossett, SP: $8,400 – This pick isn’t for the faint of heart but, Gossett was a 2nd round pick in 2014, seemingly throws every pitch in baseball and has put up some decent numbers in the minors last year and this year. In AA, he threw 94 innings in 16 starts and struck out 25.1% and walked 6.7%. This year in AAA, he struck out 21.4% and walked 7.5%, both years having above average ground ball rates. He’s super cheap for a pitcher and in a bad matchup, but GPPs are about going big and he could offer some decent pitching at his price. A total GPP dart, but just throwing the name out there for you.
Gregory Polanco, OF: $6,800 & Adam Frazier, IF/OF: $9,000 – I know Polanco has been struggling, but he’s too good a hitter to continue to be this bad and he’s just flat out too cheap (most likely due to the fact he’s been struggling) and facing Matt Garza, who doesn’t strike guys out, walks guys and doesn’t get ground balls. Not to mention, he is in Milwaukee, a nice park upgrade for lefties. I’d recommend Adam Frazier as a leadoff hitter, but he’s 9k, which looks to me to be an insane price for cash but will have lower ownership for GPPs.
Ryan Raburn, OF: $5,600 – Ryan Raburn is good every other year and this is one of those good years, only he didn’t get the memo and has been awful in his 23 PAs. But he’s cheap, likely hitting at the top of the lineup and going against a mediocre lefty in Justin Nicolino (4.74 xFIP this year and 5.09 xFIP in his career). Nicolino historically has been an average ground ball pitcher but this year his rate is 56.1% as he’s thrown a lot more cutters, yet he’s still not striking anyone out and his walk rate has increased. It’s a fairly good spot for Raburn to finally get things going this season, and if you play him, you can pay up for the elite hitters on the slate – as noted in the intro, he’ll be a nice pay down spot to get the 2 top pitchers on the slate.
Ryan Zimmerman, IF: $9,900 – Ryan Zimmerman appears to have bought into the “fly ball revolution” as he decided he’s going to hit a lot more balls in the air and a lot of balls in the air means a lot of homers for a man with his power. While he’s destroyed everyone so far this season, he’s flat out torched lefties this year, with a .466 wOBA. Over the last 3 years, he’s had a .387 wOBA, so even if you don’t believe the hype for this year (and/or you don’t believe the shift in fly-ball rate is legitimate) he’s still been a good hitter vs lefties the last 3 years, but one who is probably overpriced at $9,900.
Josh Donaldson, IF: $8,800 – Donaldson isn’t facing a lefty, but he’s pretty damn good anyway and while Austin Bibens-Dirkx doesn’t walk that many guys, he doesn’t strike out too many and gives up bombs. Donaldson should be able to hit him hard, and once ABD is out of the game, the Ranger bullpen is terrible and Donaldson can feast on their carcass. As far as the other Blue Jays, they are all in play as a stack in GPPs, but considering Morales is the same price as Donaldson, I think he’s GPP only.
Jose Bautista, OF: $7,500 – This price is too low for facing ABD in a hitters park. I know he’s in decline, and has been awful in April and June, but you have to price enforce here. He also showed he’s capable of being vintage Jose Bautista, as he did in May going .317/.412/.644 and it was with a normal .329 BABIP.
Shin-Soo Choo, OF: $8,800 – I’ve been a hired gun for fantasy leagues for a little while. Well, a recruited gun would be a better descriptor, but hired gun sounds better. Often I get said person kicked out because I run the table my first year while “making the season unfun” (Yes, someone said that while kicking my friend out of the league because I exploited poorly conceived rules concerning salaries and roster requirements). One of my favorite strategies (although it wasn’t a rules exploit but rather was a being-smart-exploit) was to draft Choo in the 12th round and then only face him vs righties. If you found a platoon partner for him, you would get 1st round production for 12th and 16th round picks. Choo at the top of the lineup vs a righty is pretty much always a solid play, and while he’s no longer an auto play as he’s in decline (.355 wOBA vs righties the last 3 years), Marco Estrada is not exactly prime Greg Maddux here.
Brandon Belt, IF/OF: $7,200 – The Giants have stunk this year on offense (80 wRC+) and the stink has rubbed off on Belt who’s seen his wRC+ drop from the mid 130s to 105. I’m a fan of Belt’s and think he’ll hit more like he has the last few years. R.A. Dickey has lost any ability to strike guys out and he also walks guys. He’s a knuckleballer, so he still controls balls in play, but Belt is the Giants best non-Posey hitter and is the one to target here. Also, Sun Trust appears to be a ballpark that offers an offensive upgrade for left handed power hitters. But, again, the Giants offense has been so bad, he may not get that extra at bat, and he also may only have the upside of solo home runs as opposed to 3-run bombs. Not that you’d complain about 2 solo home runs from him.
Mallex Smith, OF: $7,200 – Back in April I pointed out Noah Syndergaard and Scott Feldman were both really bad at holding on runners (but Thor was awesome at the other, more important things a Pitcher does, whereas Scott Feldman was just as bad at those things as he was at holding on runners). Well, today he gets to face Mallex “Billy Hamilton with some actual ability to hit” Smith. That nickname is pretty much the exact reason why you’d want to play Mallex today. He is an OK hitter, he steals bases, and he’s facing a pitcher who while an OK pitcher, can’t hold runners. One GPP Note – given that Mallex is still very cheap, and has been pretty much the chalky punt on every site for the last week (and is now in the best DFS matchup he’s had the entire time he’s been chalk), I expect him to be massively chalk on every single DFS site today. So there is a very strong case to be made here to fade him in GPPs and hope he never gets on base (thus ensuring he never steals a base) as a pure game-theory contrarian concept. But in cash, lock and load (presuming he’s batting leadoff again, if he’s batting low, he’s still a good play but not entirely lock and load).
Cleveland Indians – Bundy is an extreme fly ball pitcher who doesn’t miss that many bats and has mediocre walk rates. He especially has a tough time getting lefties out with a 3.7% K-BB% this year (compared to a 16.2% K-BB% vs righties). Obviously, targeting the lefties on Cleveland (Kipnis, Lindor, Brantley, Santana), is what you want to do in cash games and for GPPs, everyone on the team is in play. It is important, however, to note that the Indians recently demoted Santana to 6th (and moved Jose Ramirez up to 5th), so if they do that again today, I’d remove Santana from cash consideration and add Jose Ramirez to the cash-game discussion.
Seattle Mariners – Seattle Mariners lefties are a delicious play today. Anibal Sanchez’s extreme fly ball tendencies, penchant for walking guys and inability to strike anyone out is a deadly combo for any pitcher, nevermind one who’s facing the likes of Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager. And that isn’t even mentioning the massive power (non Judge department) of Nelson Cruz. Mariners are going to be a good play, and that’s not even considering how underpriced Kyle Seager ($6,800) and Future Hall of Famer Robinson Cano ($8,800) are.
I’m Only Happy When It Rains
It’s almost for sure raining in Baltimore and they may bang it early, so keep your eye on that game. There is, unfortunately, supposed to be rain later in the game in Atlanta.
Doing Lines In Vegas
Well I did just point out that Anibal Sanchez stinks at the three things that are the most important for major league pitchers to excel at in order to be successful at their jobs, so while the Tigers offense is certainly not one to scoff at, I’ll take the Mariners -136 there. And while there is no line currently on the Astros/Athletics game (since Vegas apparently doesn’t yet know what to do with Daniel Gossett), if Vegas installs the Astros as a heavy favorite since they’re facing a rookie pitcher and the Astros have been destroying the league so far this season, it may be worth a longshot gamble to take the long odds on the Athletics today. I’d only do it, however, if they’re +200 or higher.