One of the best pieces of DFS advice I can give is that it’s always helpful to look at the slate on a macro-level first before turning to micro-level decisions. The reason why this is often helpful is that some slates have obvious cash plays who have such juicy matchups, or are so grossly underpriced, that it’s hard to justify pivoting off of them in your GPP lineups. This, in turn, makes playing GPPs quite tough as you’re likely looking at lineups that are chalky and not very unique. Other times, there are very few obvious cash plays, as everyone who would be considered for cash has some sort of a wart. In such a case, the slate is better geared for playing GPPs, as no one is likely to be high owned, and there’s an incredible amount of variance. The idea of a “GPP-only slate” becomes even more apparent when it’s the pitchers who are the ones where there is simply no obvious play. This is one of those slates. The high-end pitchers include one facing a top-5 offense (deGrom), one who is not pitching at the level he was at even earlier in the season (Bumgarner), one on a team that doesn’t let their pitchers go deep and facing a low-strikeout team (Darvish), and one who is a touch overpriced for what he brings to the table (Paxton). The best mid-range option is the single most upside-capped pitcher around (Nova), and while he makes great sense as a cash SP2 on two-pitcher sites, on a one pitcher site, it’s always tough to roll with him no matter how safe he is. Now, all of these pitchers have the upside potential to do very well (or just well in Nova’s case). I’m even going to tell you which of them I prefer today. But they all have warts, so it makes cash on FanDuel today icky, for lack of a better word. Offensively, it’s also fairly icky beyond Coors Field, although there are a few no-brainers in the outfield, leaving the “ickiness” to the infield. If you feel comfortable with one of the pitchers, then by all means, plug him in and fire up as much cash as you want. But if you don’t, then find a core of hitters you like, build that hitter core, and then play mix-and-match with a bunch of pitchers and the final few hitters.
On to the picks once this slate gets less icky…
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Yu Darvish, SP: $9,300 – Darvish is having the worst year of his career, but the switch to the NL should help him where he gets to face the pitcher (can we please end the pitching hitting experiment already? Seriously, I don’t care how awesome it was when Bartolo Colon hit a HR, it’s still a complete joke 99.9% of the time). The downside, if you’ve read me before, is obvious. The Dodgers don’t let their pitchers go long at all, so rostering non-Kershaw Dodger pitchers means you get 1 less inning to get value or to win that GPP. The Mets actually don’t strike out a lot and are an average offense vs righties. Yu is definitely too cheap for his upside, but I’m not entirely sure how cash game playable he is. It will entirely depend on the punts and whether or not they are usable.
Ivan Nova, P: $8,200 – Normally the “Pick whoever is facing the Padres” strategy is only for when the Padres are at home. However, PNC Park is a fairly bad park for offense in its own right – it may not be Petco, but nothing is. Nova’s upside is capped because he doesn’t get the strikeouts that other pitcher get (15.1% K-rate), but if you’re looking to save some money relative to the higher end pitchers, Nova makes a lot of sense here, as he’s fairly “safe”, given that he’s pitching against the embarrassingly bad offense that is the San Diego Padres, and he’s doing it in a very pitcher-friendly environment.
James Paxton, P: $10,100 – Now that the Royals have come crashing back down to earth – they’re hitting .241/.289/.350 over their last 6 games as a team, scoring 3.3 runs a game in the process – a far cry from their ludicrous 8-game run before that, where they were hitting .323/.380/.556 as a team, scoring 7.9 runs a game during that span, we can stop being blinded by that insane little run and instead look at the larger sample size here. As a whole, the Royals are not a very good offense, and Kaufman Stadium favors pitching (although not to the degree Petco or PNC does). And even though they don’t strike out vs lefties, they have an 87 wRC+ as a team vs lefties on the year, and what few good hitters they do have are left-handed, meaning that good left-handed pitching shuts them down. Paxton is a good left-handed pitcher, although the last few years, he’s dominated righties with a 21.6% K-BB% with an average ground ball rate and become an extreme groundballer vs lefties (54.8%) who doesn’t miss many bats (17% K%). Yes, adding Melky Cabrera should help them versus lefties, but one hitter does not change an entire offense, and even if one hitter had the ability to do that, a league average Melky Cabrera is not that guy.
Derek Fisher, OF: $2,800 – If you’re FanDuel, how do you price a player who is hitting .373/.519 this year in the majors, hit .384/.583 this year in AAA, hit.347/.505 last year in AAA, is only 23 and batting leadoff with platoon in one of the best offenses we’ve seen in a long time. Pricing him at $2,800 is absurd, and it just gives everyone a free square. Next.
Brandon Guyer, OF: $2,500 – Brandon Guyer hits lefties pretty well over his career (.366 wOBA) and lucky for him, all evidence points to Jaime Garcia throwing with his left hand. The other thing Brandon Guyer does well is murder ground ball pitchers and all evidence points to Jaime Garcia being a ground ball pitcher (56.3% career). Garcia’s other skills that made him a good MLB pitcher are in decline, especially his walk rate, which has gone the wrong direction the last 4 years (4% to 5.9% to 7.7% to 8.8%). There are a few things that make this spot less than ideal and the reason why he might not be mega chalk, namely Garcia’s still an extreme ground ball pitcher and Guyer will get pulled at some point in this game, either because a lefty is not on the mound or for defense. The other thing about playing guys vs the Yankees is the Yankees bullpen is extremely good and you really only get good matchups vs the starters or in blowouts.
Tampa Bay Rays – Brandon Woodruff is making his Major League debut, so it’s always a little hard to know what’s going to happen. In the minors, Woodruff was OK, he missed some bats, didn’t keep the walks down, but kept the home runs to a minimum given his slightly above average ground ball rates. The scouts like him, giving him 3 average to plus pitches with average command. So, here we have a guy who the projections think will miss some bats, but put guys on base via the walk and give up bombs but the scouts think he’s a top 100 prospect. Until the numbers catch up to the scouting, I’ll say that you can target the power lefties against him. The Rays to target would be Corey Dickerson (.248 iso vs righties), Lucas Duda (.311 iso vs righties) and Logan Morrison (.314 iso).
Boston Red Sox – This is normally a spot where I’d say to stay away because even though Rodon has decided that free passes are something to give to everyone instead of something to avoid, he still strikes out a lot of guys, and players who face someone who has an truly elite skill are usually overowned in DFS. This is no normal situation since Rodon has to pitch in Boston and vs Boston, who don’t strike out vs lefties (best in the league) and don’t strike out at home (3rd best) and the White Sox bullpen is legitimately atrocious since they traded Robertson, Kahnle, Swarzak and Jennings. If Rodon doesn’t give up a ton of runs but only throws 4 or so innings, you get your players another few abs vs bad major leaguer after bad major leaguer. What does this mean? I love Red Sox stacks and everyone is in play, even the lefties, it doesn’t matter to me since they will get abs vs righties and maybe multiple bad righties. The only downside for cash is they are a little expensive and the cheap one, Hanley, is a 1B. The dream would be Chris Young batting 2nd.
Tyler Flowers, C: $2,700 – The last 2 years saw Tyler Flowers massively cut down on his K% to a still high 25.5% after being as high as 36% and he is now a much better hitter than you think. He’s got some raw power and he gets on base, with a .371 wOBA this year (albeit helped by a .371 BABIP). He’ll have the platoon advantage against Adam Conley, who doesn’t get many swings and misses, walks guys and gives up fly balls. Conley doesn’t give up a lot of home runs given his below average ground ball rate, but a lot of that is because he plays in Miami, which is a pretty tough place to hit for righties. SunTrust isn’t Miami and Flowers should bat high, is cheap, a catcher and has platoon advantage.
Charlie Blackmon, OF: $4,700 – At this point, anyone reading this knows Blackmon can hit. I don’t need to sell you on that. It basically comes down to price – can you work in his price today? If you’re not using one of the high priced pitchers, it’s fairly easy. If you’re using one of those guys, it’s tougher, and that’s a question that will depend on how many good value plays open up as lineups are announced. One fact I will leave you with – his home/road splits are comically absurd. .511 wOBA at home (that’s not a misprint) and .314 wOBA on the road. I don’t mention these as some sort of evidence to play Blackmon – it’s almost definitely some good luck at home and bad luck on the road, combined with Coors Field magic naturally giving Rockies batters fairly big splits. In fact, last year, Blackmon actually had almost no home/road split (.398 vs .390 wOBA), which is equally comical given that he plays his home games in Coors. I don’t think there is any DFS analytical value to Blackmon’s absurd splits this year (or his lack thereof last year), it’s just something that I found hilarious. However, while I don’t find a lot of DFS analytical value to his home/road splits, that doesn’t mean he’s not a good play. The dude’s an absolute monster, he’s the best hitter on the slate, and if you can work him in salary-wise, you absolutely should.
Gerardo Parra, OF: $3,700 and Mark Reynolds, 1B: $4,000: These are entirely plays if you put your faith in Vegas lines and in Coors Field. DFSBot does not mind these two, but firmly believes there are better plays for the price at both positions. However, the Rockies have the highest implied run total, by far today (6.4, and the next highest is 5.7). Nolan is a touch overpriced, so these are the next two hitters besides Blackmon that I’d recommend. However, the gap between Blackmon and these two is HUGE. And the gap between these two and the rest of the lineup is even wider, unless you don’t believe that Carlos Gonzalez is absolutely, unequivocally broken (hint – yes he is…we think, but in fairness, we’re still pretty terrible at figuring out when a player is done. See, Ortiz, David).
Philadelphia Phillies – Look, the Phillies are a terrible offense. They rank 27th in wOBA (.308) and in wRC+ (86) for a reason – and even if you restrict the analysis to just versus left-handers, they rank 24th in wOBA (.300) and 26th in wRC+ (82) – so yeah, this team’s offense just isn’t good. So why I am recommending them? Because they are still major league hitters, they’re playing in Coors and FanDuel decided to give the entire team the smallest Coors Field price bump I have ever seen. Cesar Hernandez is $3,000. Freddy Galvis is $3,300. Maikel Franco is $3,200. And yes, none of these hitters are particularly good, but this is just a spot where you put your faith in Coors turning these guys into competent guys. As for which ones to pick, my advice would be fill out the rest of your roster, and whichever position you are struggling to fill, that’s the position to throw a random Phillie in – so if you don’t like the 2B’s today, use Cesar, whereas if you don’t like the SS’s, use Galvis. That said, there is one Phillie I really like today, and it’s not just because he reminds me of Triscuitt Messmer.
Cameron Rupp, C: $3,000 – Seriously, if there’s a real life Triscuitt Messmer, it’s Cameron Rupp. Standing 6’2 and weighing 260 pounds, he appears to be an almost perfect example of what I mean when I say “fat-catcher with fat-catcher power to match” – offensively, he doesn’t make a lot of contact and he strikes out a ton (career 27.7%), but he walks a little bit (career 7.6%), and has decent enough power (26 homers in his last 650 PAs), and that power is basically explained as whenever he squares up a ball, he’s swinging with 260 pounds of force behind that bat and he can drive the ball. But there’s something more to Cameron Rupp – namely, that he manages to moderately improve himself in every facet of hitting when facing lefties, to the point where, for DFS reasons, he becomes a lefty masher. He walks more (career 10.9%), strikes out less (25.5%) and hits more HRs per FB (17.2% compared to 13.7% vs righties). While there are certainly sample size issues there, I’m not going to sit here and claim that Cameron Rupp is as good at lefty-mashing as Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Beltre, or Edgar Renteria (seriously, look it up, Edgar Renteria was hall-of-fame level elite at hitting left handed pitching – if he just faced lefties his entire career he would have been an all-time great). Rupp is most likely a far better hitter against lefties, and given his natural fat-catcher power, you have a guy who is playable in the right matchup. This is the right matchup. Kyle Freeland misses almost no bats (14.5% K%) and walks 8.4%, which means he’s nothing special, except for that ground ball rate, which is sitting pretty at 56.1%. Rupp is affordable and playing at Coors, and should be hitting higher than a bunch of other Phillies, but might not because, reasons. Let me finish by making a simple request – if Cameron Rupp goes yard tonight, can we make sure he celebrates Triscuitt style?
Brian McCann, C: $2,700 – If Evan Gattis plays instead, he’s also someone to like, although not as much because Gattis doesn’t have platoon edge, and McCann does. He’s still a league average hitter and he’s likely going to be batting cleanup for one of the best offenses we’ve seen in recent memory and a cheap catcher option. There’s not much more analysis needed on this one.
Tyler Saladino, 2B: $2,200, Tim Anderson, SS: $2400, Yoan Moncada, 2B: $2,400 – These aren’t recommendations based on their ability to hit, but rather, they’re all going to have platoon edge against a not-particularly-impressive Eduardo Rodriguez (he’s the one that got David Price insanely pissed at Dennis Eckerseley), and Saladino is likely going to be batting leadoff or second. I wouldn’t play any of these guys if they’re batting lower than 5th, as a lot of the value is simply from being a top of the order guy who is cheap, but if you’re looking for salary relief, and one (or two) of these guys are hitting at the top of the order, these guys can fill those positions out. Further, on this slate, there aren’t that many second baseman or shortstops at the high-end or even the mid-range who have particularly great matchups, so sometimes the right play is just to get out cheap, and these guys fit that bill.
I’m Only Happy When It Rains
It’s going to rain in Pittsburgh early in the day, but should be clear by game time or just after. Everything else should be clear.
Doing Lines In Vegas
If you believe Dickey’s last month or so is for real, the Vegas line of Miami -112 is way off and Atlanta should be heavy favorites. Other than that, the lines actually look fairly reasonable today – sometimes the best bet is the one you don’t make, right?