CheeseIsGood's Million Dollar Musings - MLB DFS Strategy: Thursday, August 11th

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Happy Thursday! We’ve got an early start today with all the DFS action taking place on the early slate. This is a very lopsided slate with an obvious build around Coors Field. The pitching side leaves us with very few reasonable pivots off some decent chalk, and every pivot on the offensive side will require an outlier game on the downside in Colorado. Let’s jump right in and see if we can find anything to like outside of the obvious.

Thursday Pitching

Three ‘Aces’

Dylan Cease at Royals
Framber Valdez vs Rangers
Merrill Kelly vs Pirates

Four Other Options

Kyle Gibson vs Marlins
Zach Plesac at Tigers
Edward Cabrera at Phillies
JT Brubaker at Diamondbacks

Look At My ERA!

Dylan Cease at Royals – 32.8% K, 10.5% BB, 1.98 ERA, 3.22 SIERA
Framber Valdez vs Rangers – 21.7% K, 8.7% BB, 2.87 ERA, 3.31 SIERA
Merrill Kelly vs Pirates – 20.6% K, 7.4% BB, 2.86 ERA, 4.12 SIERA

This is a weird little group of pitchers we have today. The first thing I notice is that if you are fan of good old ERA, you’ve got yourself a good old Top 3. Cease, Valdez and Kelly are all in the top 15 in the league in ERA. Ah, good old ERA! Of that trio, the only one whose ERA looks overly flukified is Merrill Kelly, with the 4.12 SIERA. However, not only is he facing the Pirates, he’s also been at the top of his game recently with a 25% K rate and just 3% walks in the past month. It’s no Framber Valdez, but he has an impressive seven straight quality starts with 7+ innings in his last three. Meanwhile, Valdez laughs at that consistency with a remarkable 18 consecutive quality starts. His huge 67.4% GB rate has made him one of the most trustable pitchers in the league and there is no reason to start doubting that now. Neither of these guys are big strikeout pitchers, and to reach any meaningful upside, they need all the batted ball help to pile up clean innings. They are more of the ‘pay up for safety’ variety on a slate where there isn’t much to love.

The pitcher on this slate who does have the clear strikeout upside is Dylan Cease. His 32.8% K rate is far and away the best mark of this group and despite some shaky control, his real-life results have been even more impressive than Valdez. He has not allowed more than one earned run in 13 straight starts. That is ridiculous in this day and age, and really in any day and age. While the strikeouts have dipped somewhat in the last few starts, the swinging strikes have surged to 16.4% in his last five starts.

At some point, one of two things has to give here. Either he will finally get bit by BABIP and HR/FB and lose this run streak, or the swing and miss stuff will come together in the right order and he’ll get back to the double-digit strikeout games that we saw earlier this season. My lean here is that I don’t like the matchup enough to sway me to think we see the upside today. I’m going to side with Valdez as my SP1, with Cease as my SP2, and then to Kelly as SP3.

UPDATE – Hi, it’s me, Dave, from the future. So, I’ve been building lineups and just thought I should pop back in and tell you that for no particular reason at all, I have switched my thought from Valdez as SP1 to Cease as SP1. I just want that extra bit of upside. It’s still basically a split, but my own lineups and exposures tell me that Cease is actually my SP1. OK, back to present time we go.

These three are far enough ahead of the field that I will look to get as much as possible from mixing and matching them before moving on.

OK, Now What?

Kyle Gibson vs Marlins – 18.4% K, 6.7% BB, 4.36 ERA, 4.26 SIERA
Zach Plesac at Tigers – 17.6% K, 7% BB, 4.49 ERA, 4.47 SIERA
Edward Cabrera at Phillies – 26.7% K, 14% BB, 2.61 ERA, 4.28 SIERA
JT Brubaker at Diamondbacks – 22.6% K, 8.9% BB, 4.49 ERA, 4.10 SIERA

The strikeout rates for Gibson and Plesac are uninspiring and a step down from Valdez/Kelly without the same level of consistency.

With Zach Plesac, it’s all about matchup. If he were facing any other opponent today, he’d be off my board, but against the Tigers, the $6,900 price tag on DK is too cheap not to notice. While the top tier trio is piling up quality starts at an incredible rate, you have to go back six starts to find the last time Plesac reached six innings. But what do you know, that last quality start was against Detroit. He still has the pitch count upside, and I’m willing to attribute his recent control issues to the tougher matchups. I do not trust his skill set, and I will absolutely have Detroit stacks against him, but this is the only pitcher on the board below $8K that I am willing to consider. That forces him into the primary pool, but with a strong preference to spend up.

Kyle Gibson has had some recent real-life success, but the underlying numbers are scary bad. His already low strikeouts have dipped to just 13.4% over the past four starts, and he has seen a .194 BABIP and 6.7% HR/FB rate without limiting hard contact to any meaningful degree. Quite simply, he’s been lucky. The name on the jersey may not strike much fear, but the numbers say that this is not an ideal matchup. It’s fine, but nothing like what Plesac has. Salary is the only thing keeping him near my pool today, but I think I just prefer saving more salary and going down to Plesac if I can’t get up to the top three.

Edward Cabrera is the big wild card in this mix. This is an uber-talented prospect with endless strikeout upside, but pitch count and control concerns that make it unlikely that he becomes DFS necessary at this salary. This slate is just weak enough to keep him in the MME pool on DK, but the FD salary is just too much for this level of risk.

After looking at how uninspiring this all is, I guess I’m going to toss JT Brubaker into the MME pool as well. Game log watchers will be scared off, but this is really just the exact opposite of the recent Kyle Gibson train. While Gibson has been lucky as all get out, Brubaker has a higher strikeout rate and has been tagged with a silly .453 BABIP and 14.3% HR/FB rate over the past month. To be fair, he has been hit extremely hard, so it’s not completely fluke here, but I do like him just as much as Gibson. Keeping in mind that I don’t like Gibson at all, don’t put too much stock into that.

Cheap Nonsense

Zack Greinke vs White Sox
Cole Ragans at Astros

This really is nonsense, but it’s also a very tough slate to just spend up for two pitchers and still get the big bats that you want. If we just see more decent-ish quality starts from the top tier, but with no ceiling games, it is conceivable that a goofy 8-10-point start on DK from a pitcher below $6K is good enough. Zack Greinke is not good, but he can still throw strikes and it’s not clear that the White Sox can do anything with them. I see enough hard-hit ability to strongly side with the White Sox bats here, but I’m also not willing to completely fade full Cardinals stacks that will require this salary. It’s a bad dart throw, but sometimes you have to throw bad darts.

Cole Ragans’ first career start came with no earned runs, but did not inspire confidence with three strikeouts and four walks in five innings. The minor league numbers are impressive, and I would expect this guy to better than Zack Greinke immediately. The problem is that he’s a lefty facing Houston, while Greinke is a righty facing the White Sox. That gives the nod to Greinke as the cheap nonsense blindfolded dart, but if you’re MME’ing, I would mix and match the two as you’re just hoping for good luck with either of these guys.

PITCHING CLIFF NOTES

This is a really weird slate. Dylan Cease, Framber Valdez and Merrill Kelly are not quite good enough to want to spend up for at the expense of obvious great spend up bats. However, when we look down to the next options, they are a clear drop and still not with all that much savings.

My lean here is to prioritize the top three pitchers and eschew the big bats if necessary to get there. Yeah, eschew! I am going Cease, then Valdez, then Kelly with close to an even split of Valdez and Cease.

Kyle Gibson has to be in the pool due to salary, but my preference is to save more and go with Zach Plesac. I don’t like or trust either of these guys, but there’s just nothing else here. Edward Cabrera and JT Brubaker are ahead of Gibson for me, but none of them are primary targets. On DK, there are lineup builds that just require cheap nonsense. I guess it’s Zack Greinke and then Cole Ragans, but goodness gracious those are bad darts.

Thursday Bats

We have more to love on the hitting side today, starting with another good day for bats in Colorado.

Top Tier Offense

St. Louis Cardinals at German Marquez
Colorado Rockies vs Dakota Hudson

Coors Field is again up at the top of the charts after seeing a slate winning game from each side of this matchup in the first two meetings. This game starts with the high total being split equally between the two sides. My preference is with the Colorado bats here. Dakota Hudson is basically a much worse version of Miles Mikolas, and we saw how that worked out. Hudson is supposed to be a ground ball pitcher, but in reality, he’s only a ground ball pitcher with terrible control to lefties and nothing more than a low strikeout pitcher with average ground balls to righties. If I’m picking out bats here, it’s C.J. Cron, then Brendan Rodgers and Randal Grichuk, but this is much more of a full stack. I will expect some walks and a bunch of hits with the homers coming against the bullpen. Elehuris Montero and Sam Hilliard are top of the line salary saving options that I’ll play on their own as well as in stacks.

German Marquez is still OK against righties, but just OK. All he can do is throw strikes with a moderate 53% GB rate, while having nothing positive to show against lefties. Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado have the fly ball power to offset the ground balls, as does Paul DeJong, while the lefties surrounding them are fairly priced and should make for popular plays in all formats, stacking or not. Lars Nootbaar should be mega-chalk on DK, with Nolan Gorman, Dylan Carlson and Tommy Edman being heavily involved in the stacking mix.

Both sides of this game have endless upside and will be the two most popular teams on this slate. I can’t give you any reason other than ownership to fade them, but if I can only play one, I’m going with the Rockies.

More Top Tier Offense

Houston Astros vs Cole Ragans
Chicago White Sox at Zack Greinke
Cleveland Guardians at Garrett Hill

These three teams give us plenty to like, but it’s still a clear drop from the Coors Field game. The most obvious pivot would be the Astros, but keep in mind that we really don’t know anything about Cole Ragans yet, and there is at least some chance that this is a solid pitcher. I don’t like the Astros right-handed bats at near the same level as the spend ups in Coors, and I can’t prioritize Alvarez/Tucker against a lefty on this slate. This leaves Houston as an MME stack.

As uninspiring as the White Sox bats have been against righties, this is the slate to jump in the deep end. Zack Greinke has no swing and miss ability, he throws strikes, and he does not keep the ball on the ground or limit hard contact to righties. While the surface numbers are all depressing, if you go to Plate IQ and scroll over the right a bit, you’ll see plenty of green in the line drives and hard hits. Combined with decent contact, this tells me things are going to turn around with those ISO and wOBA numbers. I’m in on the White Sox today as the primary pivot off of Coors. Eloy Jimenez, Jose Abreu and Andrew Vaughn are my preferred options, but I’ll stack this team in a variety of ways.

It’s a very small sample size from Garrett Hill, but so far he looks horrendous against righties with just 7.7% strikeouts and a .250 ISO. Against lefties, he looks like he’s not going to throw as many strikes, and I can make a case that he’ll just try to pitch around Jose Ramirez. My initial instinct here is that moves Ramirez down the list of one off spend ups, and if I’m picking out an individual bat here, I would want to save salary with Oscar Gonzalez or Josh Naylor, and throwing Amed Rosario in the mix on FD. Overall, as a full stack, I have them in between Chicago and Houston.

Second Tier Offense and Beyond

Philadelphia Phillies vs Edward Cabrera
Arizona Diamondbacks vs JT Brubaker
Miami Marlins at Kyle Gibson
Detroit Tigers vs Zach Plesac

Now we start to get a little weird. The Phillies have very obvious upside, and very obvious downside. Cabrera could just strike them all out, or he could walk them all and be out of the game in 3 innings. He’s so unpredictable, that combined with ground balls to lefties, I can’t prioritize spending on Kyle Schwarber here. Of course he’s in play, but he falls more in the Jose Ramirez range for me today. Any of the power bats here have the upside to be slate winners, but picking out the right ones is impossible. What I’m doing here is leaving any of Hoskins, Hall, Realmuto, Castellanos and Bohm in the pool if they just happen to perfectly fit as last pieces, but otherwise just full stacking for the case that the bad Cabrera shows up.

I mentioned in the pitching section that Kyle Gibson has been skating by on some very fortunate batted ball outcomes, and with cheap bats up and down the Marlins lineup, this is a place I will come for secondary stacks to help fit the higher priced bats. This is a below average skill set against lefties and basically average against righties. I love JJ Bleday today and guys like Garrett Cooper, Charles Leblanc and Lewin Diaz are useful salary pieces to sprinkle in.

I’m a little more on the side of JT Brubaker to have the pendulum swing back his way, but this is a guy who gets hit hard by lefties and will have 6-7 of them along with Christian Walker. Daulton Varsho is the only bat here who ranks as a primary target, but this is another viable stack.

The Tigers are not good. Zach Plesac is also not good. Something not good is going to have to win here. Most of Plesac’s not goodness is against lefties, and that is more not good for Detroit. It’s all not good. Ungood. These numbers are all so uninspiring that I would just prefer to play the cheap nonsense elsewhere. In MME, absolutely toss in a few Detroit stacks, but I can’t get here in my first 20-ish lineups.

HITTING CLIFF NOTES

Well folks, it’s a good thing I’m here to be able to tell you this – Coors Field looks good for bats today. You are welcome for that analysis!

Really, both sides of the Coors game are pretty far ahead of the field, with the Rockies being my first preference. But if we assume that ownership heavily skews to this game, along with the desire to spend up at pitching, I am willing to go under the field. This will mean mostly looking to the White Sox, Guardians and Astros, followed by the Phillies. I also like the Marlins a lot today, particularly on DK with all the values. It’s a small enough slate with a shaky enough top tier that if you’re playing the Fade Coors game, I do think it’s viable to just build lineups of individual bats and mini stacks without full stacking anything. If you do that, it is fine to use a couple bats in Coors as well. The non-stack build would give you a few spend up roster spots, and C.J. Cron, Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado are far enough ahead of the field that I’d use those spend ups on them and then use the cheaper pieces outside of Coors.

I’m more focused on salary savers than spend ups today, and this is what is standing out to me:
Elehuris Montero, Sam Hilliard, Lars Nootbaar, JJ Bleday, Garrett Cooper, Lewin Diaz, Oscar Gonzalez, Jake McCarthy.

Image Credit: Imagn

This DFS content is a part of our Premium Content Schedule and designed to help you build better lineups on DraftKings, FanDuel, Yahoo!, SuperDraft, and other daily fantasy contest providers. Access MLB Projections, Expert Rankings, Projected Ownership, MLB DFS Picks, and other Data Tools using this content hub. For our world-class optimizer that offers a suite of tools and information designed to help you crush the competition, please head to LineupHQ!

Happy Thursday! We’ve got an early start today with all the DFS action taking place on the early slate. This is a very lopsided slate with an obvious build around Coors Field. The pitching side leaves us with very few reasonable pivots off some decent chalk, and every pivot on the offensive side will require an outlier game on the downside in Colorado. Let’s jump right in and see if we can find anything to like outside of the obvious.

Thursday Pitching

Three ‘Aces’

Dylan Cease at Royals
Framber Valdez vs Rangers
Merrill Kelly vs Pirates

Four Other Options

Kyle Gibson vs Marlins
Zach Plesac at Tigers
Edward Cabrera at Phillies
JT Brubaker at Diamondbacks

Look At My ERA!

Dylan Cease at Royals – 32.8% K, 10.5% BB, 1.98 ERA, 3.22 SIERA
Framber Valdez vs Rangers – 21.7% K, 8.7% BB, 2.87 ERA, 3.31 SIERA
Merrill Kelly vs Pirates – 20.6% K, 7.4% BB, 2.86 ERA, 4.12 SIERA

This is a weird little group of pitchers we have today. The first thing I notice is that if you are fan of good old ERA, you’ve got yourself a good old Top 3. Cease, Valdez and Kelly are all in the top 15 in the league in ERA. Ah, good old ERA! Of that trio, the only one whose ERA looks overly flukified is Merrill Kelly, with the 4.12 SIERA. However, not only is he facing the Pirates, he’s also been at the top of his game recently with a 25% K rate and just 3% walks in the past month. It’s no Framber Valdez, but he has an impressive seven straight quality starts with 7+ innings in his last three. Meanwhile, Valdez laughs at that consistency with a remarkable 18 consecutive quality starts. His huge 67.4% GB rate has made him one of the most trustable pitchers in the league and there is no reason to start doubting that now. Neither of these guys are big strikeout pitchers, and to reach any meaningful upside, they need all the batted ball help to pile up clean innings. They are more of the ‘pay up for safety’ variety on a slate where there isn’t much to love.

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About the Author

  • Dave Potts (CheeseIsGood)

  • One of the preeminent baseball minds in all of fantasy, Dave Potts, aka CheeseIsGood, has won contests at the highest levels of both season-long and DFS. He is a two-time winner of a million dollar first place prize in DFS; having won the 2014 FanDuel baseball live final and following that up by taking down a DraftKings Millionare Maker Tournament in 2015. In addition, he’s won the Main Event championship in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship and the NFBC Platinum League, which is the highest buy-in entry league. His consistent success in the NFBC tournaments recently earned him a prestigious spot in their Hall of Fame. Dave can also strum a mean guitar while carrying a tune and if you’re lucky, you’ll see him do so on one of his GrindersLive appearances. Follow Dave on Twitter – @DavePotts2.

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