Million Dollar Musings: Tuesday, June 25th
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Tuesday, June 25th
Happy Tuesday! We’ve got a full 15-game slate tonight. It is headlined by some elite pitching that continues to be strong into the mid-tier. There are a couple offenses that will jump to the top, but for the most part it is spread out very evenly across the slate. On these bigger slates, I will try to narrow down to my favorite plays while also giving you plenty of other options. But I won’t be mentioning every single viable play at every position, so if you find something different that you like, go with it.
Tuesday Night Pitching
I’m going to start with the bird’s eye view of how I’ve got all these pitchers separated and then we’ll delve into each tier and try to narrow the lists.
BEST OF THE BEST
MORE ACES IN TIER TWO
UPSIDE WITH SOME QUESTIONS
FINE PITCHERS, NOT OF MUCH USE TONIGHT
A LITTLE BIT CHEAPER NOW
OK, with all those tiers, let’s start comparing and contrasting these different groups.
BEST OF THE BEST
These two aces rank 2nd and 3rd in DFS points scored this season, 1st and 3rd in strikeout rate and 1st and 3rd in SIERA. They are as good as it gets. Tonight we get two examples of exactly what I wrote about in yesterday’s Deep Thoughts. Nothing is a guarantee, one of these aces could have a down game tonight, but there is no reason at all to expect it. They have the highest floors and the highest ceilings based on their strikeout ability as well as their ability to pitch deep into games. On two-pitcher sites, I won’t even consider going into a cash game without one of these two leading the way. On FD, I’ll be able to make some sort of case for an arm in the next tier, but we are also more likely to get enough value bats there to make it work. As far as separating these two, Cole has the higher strikeout rate, Scherzer has the better matchup and the more consistent high pitch counts.
One data point I want to touch on here is that the Marlins have had some changes to their lineup, and while they are still bottom of the league in power against right-handed pitching, this is no longer a worst of the worst type of strikeout lineup. Their active roster ranks right in the middle of the league with a 22.5% strikeout rate. This is still a bad team, but they don’t have as many completely free strikeouts as they did earlier in the season. The better news for Scherzer is that they are still almost entirely right-handed, where he is more dominant at 38.9% K.
The Pirates are even lower in strikeouts at 18.4% and get to add a DH in place of their usual pitcher spot. When we factor in all the righties that Scherzer will face, he comes closer to basically matching the strikeout rate of Cole.
All this is to say I slightly prefer Max Scherzer for raw points ahead of Cole, between the better matchup and the more consistent pitch count. But it’s extremely close, and the salary gap may be too big to ignore. If there was not a second ace on this slate, I would find a way to go out of my way to pay up for Scherzer. But we’re looking at a very meaningful $900 on DK, $700 on FD and $7 on Yahoo between the two. The first thing I’m going to do is try to build a Scherzer cash game lineup, but if all the value bats don’t line up just perfectly, I’ll be happy to shift down to Cole at these savings.
MORE ACES IN TIER TWO
Blake Snell at Twins – 32.6% K, 9% BB, 4.40 ERA, 3.50 SIERA
Shane Bieber vs Royals – 31.4% K, 5.7% BB, 3.86 ERA, 3.27 SIERA
David Price vs White Sox – 27.4% K, 5.6% BB, 3.39 ERA, 3.64 SIERA
Jack Flaherty vs A’s – 26.7% K, 7.8% BB, 4.24 ERA, 4.01 SIERA
Madison Bumgarner vs Rockies – 23% K, 5.2% BB, 4.28 ERA, 4.16 SIERA
Let’s start with the Blake Snell situation. He was lighting the world on fire early in the season, but really he had started to cool off even before these extremely ugly last couple starts. He has only thrown seven innings once all season, and that was in early April. While he has three double digit strikeout games, all three came in his first eight starts of the year. I don’t question his upside, but last week he walked four batters and allowed six runs without making it out of the first inning, and the start prior to that he walked four batters with just three strikeouts while failing to make it out of the 3rd inning. The only case to play him tonight is that we know he has a lot of upside for the salary and he’ll be low owned due to the matchup and slate. We also don’t really know what’s going on with his pitch type, as he’s down 10% from last year in fastball usage and throwing a lot more curves and off-speed pitches, which is all fine and dandy, but something is off. I will have a dart throw or two on him in large field tournaments, but he’s nowhere near my cash game list and if only making a few lineups tonight, I wouldn’t touch him.
Shane Bieber has been awesome. He is now the most exciting Bieber on the planet and that is really saying something. If we didn’t have Scherzer and Cole on this slate, I would be making the case to pay up for him in cash games tonight. But we do have Scherzer and Cole, and Bieber’s salary is too high to reasonably pair him with one of the two aces. His control is every bit as good as the aces and his strikeout rate is ace-level as well at 31%, but still well shy of Scherzer and Cole. His matchup is similar to Scherzer’s in that the reality of the numbers is not quite as bad as the perception. The Royals rank just 25th in strikeouts against righties, so he’s not really getting any extra help here. One thing Bieber has in common with the top two is an opponent that doesn’t take a low of walks, which should help him get deeper into the game tonight. I love his skills, I like his matchup, but it’s just all about the salary. To me, he is the clear #3 option for raw points and I wouldn’t argue with you for using him in cash games on FD with his salary. On the two-pitcher sites, he’s just simply priced too close to the aces to make him more than a tournament pivot, but a very good one.
David Price is a pitcher who is getting lost in the shuffle for me tonight. He’s been very solid outside of one bad start, and I fully expect another quality start tonight, but his upside starts have been few and far between enough that I don’t love him on this loaded of a slate. The White Sox against lefties are another similar case to the Scherzer and Bieber games. The perception seems to be that the White Sox are a terribly high strikeout team, but that’s really not the case against lefties, at a league average 22.3%. Price does get most of his strikeouts against righties, up at 28.5%, but that’s also where the hard hits and risk come from. I would look to use Price if trying to go with two pitchers from this tier in cash games, or as a potential pivot off of what is likely to be a more popular pitcher in Jack Flaherty, who we’ll get to in a moment.
Madison Bumgarner may get a boost not only from the home start, but also from people having watched a chalky Drew Pomeranz strike out 11 Rockies in the same spot last night. If every same-handed pitcher on the same team were guaranteed the identical start to the previous night, that would be wonderful, but I checked with the Office of Internal Statistic Monitoring, and that is not a thing. Bumgarner is not a strikeout pitcher, plain and simple. He has seven straight starts with six strikeouts or fewer, and there are a dozen pitchers on this slate with higher strikeout rates than his 23% mark. Over the past month, his strikeouts have fallen back down to what we saw in 2018 at just 18.6%. This is still a good real life pitcher, having gotten his control back on track, and at home, we can expect him to keep throwing quality starts against beatable opponents like the Rockies. I like him completely fine, and I doubt you would lose because of using Bumgarner tonight. If he just happens to fit nicely into your cash game build on two-pitcher sites, okey dokey. But in tournaments, if he’s going to be even moderately popular, I much prefer shifting to the higher upside pitchers around him. I will point out that while I’m about to gush about Flaherty, the salary difference on Yahoo is quite notable and I would lean to Bumgarner there in cash games.
And that brings us to Jack Flaherty. I haven’t yet looked at any other chatter around the industry, but my hunch is that Flaherty’s salary is just low enough that we may have to worry about ownership here. If it turns out that I am higher on Flaherty than most, and he’s in the same bucket as Bumgarner and Price in regards to popularity, then I’m going to be all over him in all formats. Oakland is travelling to St. Louis where they’ll lose the DH and likely only have two left-handed bats in the lineup. It’s really all about splits for Flaherty, as he is a top tier pitcher against right-handed batters. His overall numbers lag behind from his average at best numbers against lefties. But against righties, he’s at a 31.8% K rate with 7.3% walks and 26% soft contact. Those numbers alone put him up alongside Shane Bieber as the 3rd or 4th best pitcher on this slate. He is the 10th most expensive pitcher on FD, 13th on DK/FDRFT and 7th on Yahoo. It’s less of a clear discount on Yahoo, but I see this as a clear underpricing on the other sites. He is my preferred cash games SP2 on DK/FDRFT, and along with Bieber, I can even get on board with idea of using him in cash games on FD if you can’t find a way to pay for the aces. If he is anything short of mega-chalk in this mid-tier, I will be going far overweight here in tournaments. However, if the projected ownership is showing the industry feeling the same way here, then I’ll start splitting my shares up between him, Price and Snell.
UPSIDE WITH SOME QUESTIONS
Robbie Ray vs Dodgers – 30.6% K, 11.4% BB, 3.87 ERA, 4.04 SIERA
Andrew Heaney vs Reds – 29.9% K, 9.4% BB, 5.68 ERA, 4.15 SIERA
Logan Allen at Orioles – Triple-A – 24.5% K, 8.6% BB, 4.66 xFIP
Kyle Gibson vs Rays – 23.8% K, 6.6% BB, 4.18 ERA, 3.97 SIERA
You know the rule on Robbie Ray, I know you do. He is certainly going to be contrarian tonight, which means I have to play him. Matchup matters less for Ray than almost any pitcher in the league. This is a not a good matchup if you want to try and play it that way, and the salary makes him look like a pretty silly option on this slate. But that is exactly the reason to play him. But I will say that I will be even less interested in him than normal because we have four other pitchers on this slate with strikeout rates above 30% and a few more about 26%, so he is not alone in the upside category. With the Dodgers’ patience, the most likely outcome here is that he doesn’t pitch deep enough into the game to realize the upside, and officially, this is a crazy dart throw. Just know that I’ll be throwing it, blindfolded.
Andrew Heaney is in a similar situation to Blake Snell, but without nearly the track record to hope that he bounces back. Heaney came back from the IL and struck out 28 batters in three starts with just three walks, before falling apart and walking seven batters with just four strikeouts in his last two outings. So what is going on, and who is the real Heaney? The most likely case is that the real Heaney is closer to his career norm, which shows us that neither those extreme strikeouts or those high walks are real. His career numbers are a steadier 22.3% strikeouts and 6.4% walks. However, the one thing that is still keeping me interested here is in looking at his pitch type and location, it still seems possible that Heaney is trying to reinvent himself to play into the current environment. His fly ball rate is way up this season with him not throwing as many changeups and pitching in to righties more. He is going to give up more hard contact if he’s not throwing off the outside edge like he used to do, but he’s also getting more swings and misses at his slider going down towards the feet of the right-handed batters. The problem tonight is simply that there are a lot of good pitchers, and we’re still just totally guessing which of three possible versions of Heaney we might see. He is behind both Snell and Ray for wild upside dart throws, but he joins that trio as a guy worth a shot in large field tournaments.
Logan Allen gets the matchup boost as a lefty against Baltimore, but this is an untested rookie travelling to a very tough ballpark. While his first start looked good in the results, there were only five strikeouts in seven innings, and he was just barely above average as a 24.5% K pitcher at Triple-A. He’s a good prospect, but not an elite one, and this is the type of pitcher that I need to see more from before I seriously consider him at his current salary. If he were a little cheaper, then sure, but as it is, he’s just an afterthought.
Kyle Gibson continues to be generally underrated, but he’s still a little inconsistent, and this is not an easy matchup or a low salary. I am willing to give him a pass on his last start against Boston where he walked five batters, because we haven’t seen those type of control issues from him much this season. But on this slate, a 23.8% strikeout rate is not a standout. The other pitchers in his price range have either easier matchups or higher upside. This is someone I would not X out of multi-entry builds, but I can’t see putting him onto the primary list in any format tonight.
PAUSE FOR MOMENTARY DEEP THOUGHTS
Madison Bumgarner, Blake Snell, Robbie Ray, Andrew Heaney – In past years, I would have said, just play Madison Bumgarner, he’s in San Francisco and he’s safer than these other jokers. And even this season, one of my mantras has been ‘when in doubt, play the pitcher in San Francisco.’ But don’t overlook the ‘when in doubt’ portion of that sentence. Because the mantra that overrules that is strikeouts, strikeouts, strikeouts. I am expecting we’ll see Bumgarner with higher ownership than any of those other three, and I would even be stunned if it’s something close to Bumgarner’s ownership rivaling all three of them combined. These are three pitchers with 30% strikeout rates vs a pitcher with a 23% strikeout rate that has been steadily falling as the season progresses. In cash games, I won’t be playing any of these guys, but if I did, it would be Bumgarner. But in tournaments, I don’t see this as a ‘play not to lose’ with your pitcher slate. It is a ‘play to win’ with your pitcher slate, and to me, Bumgarner is not that guy.
FINE PITCHERS, NOT OF MUCH USE TONIGHT
Trevor Richards vs Nationals – 21.8% K, 10.2% BB
Jake Arrieta vs Mets – 18.7% K, 9.5% BB
Zach Davies vs Mariners – 15.2% K, 7.2% BB
Tyler Mahle at Angels – 24.8% K, 5.6% BB
Ross Stripling at Diamondbacks – 23.4% K, 7.8% BB
I’m not going to waste your time writing hundreds of words about this group tonight. The top tier is loaded, and it’s not the kind of slate I’m going to mess around with these types of pitchers in their price ranges. None of these options are crazy if you spot something you like or want to start spreading out, but I want to keep my pitcher list narrowed down tonight, so these guys all get the ax. It’s clear to see the issues with Richards, Arrieta and Davies just in the strikeout and walk numbers. Tyler Mahle is a much more interesting pitcher, but with him it’s the matchup against the low strikeout Angels. I would say if you need to use someone in this tier, he would be the guy.
As for Ross Stripling, I’m a huge fan, but he is a new addition to the rotation and not fully stretched out. Maybe we get five innings, but I need to wait until he gets some innings under his belt before jumping on board.
A LITTLE BIT CHEAPER NOW
Chris Bassitt is priced way up the two-pitcher sites, but he is just the 18th most expensive pitcher on FD tonight. With his solid numbers against right-handed batters, he is a viable cheap tournament option at $6,900. He is not a high strikeout pitcher to righties at 21.3%, but everything else is elite with 4.1% walks, 54% ground balls and low 29.9% hard contact allowed. I don’t love it by any means, but he could have the chance to let those ground balls and control lead him to some easy innings and a quality start at a fair salary.
Max Fried at Adbert Alzolay – The Wrigley Wind game didn’t cause any issue for Jon Lester last night, and tonight, we have a similar situation with the wind blowing out leading to an extremely high total to open the day. The pricing on these pitchers is low enough that if the conditions were flipped, we would be looking at a potential high ownership situation. But given the quality of the two offenses and the unknown on the young pitchers, it’s certainly safest to avoid this. If you wanted to take the risk due to the salaries, you’re looking either for the strikeouts potential from Alzolay or the ground balls from Fried. I think it’s less necessary to consider the average strikeouts from Fried on this slate, and if you want to take a risk, I’d take it on the Cubs rookie. As exciting as his 36% strikeout rate from Triple-A looks, that was a 32-inning sample size, and he has never been anywhere near that dominant prior to this season. The only thing I can say here is that if it wasn’t for the wind, he might be moderately popular, but as it is, you’ll be on your own here. The site I’d be most likely to throw this dart is on Yahoo where he’s minimum salary.
Chi-Chi Gonzalez isn’t actually cheap enough to qualify, but I wanted to mention him somewhere, because he has a cool name and he’s pitching in San Francisco. As much as I’d love to play a pitcher with some ground ball ability going into San Francisco, this is a guy who was a below average pitcher at Triple-A this season with 20.4% strikeouts and 9.8% walks. It’s also important to note that this is not a prospect, this is a 27-year old who made a few appearances with Texas back in 2015-2016, but he’s just never been good enough to be a major league pitcher. I think he’s completely unnecessary at his salary tonight, though sure, he may be fine because of the matchup.
If I’m going cheap, I’m going cheap. For me, Jesse Chavez is the guy I’m considering. He’s been in the bullpen the past two seasons, so we can’t bank on the numbers staying the same, and the innings will be somewhat in question. But he got up to five innings on 60 pitches in his last outing, and now that he’s officially in the rotation, we should be able to look for something in the 75-pitch range and another five innings. That leaves his upside quite limited, but he’s essentially an average pitcher, and he’s a righty facing the Tigers at near minimum salary. This is your ticket to getting Cole or Scherzer in a tournament lineup without completely sacrificing your bats.
If you want to go even cheaper on DK/FDRFT and just simply hope to get lucky, I’ll present you with Glenn Sparkman. His strikeout rate is absolutely pathetic at 12.7%, and so his only upside comes from the potential for innings in starts where BABIP is in his favor. He’s seen that a few times this season, but officially, we should expect some serious regression from his 3.62 ERA getting closer to his 5.28 SIERA. I would be much more interested in playing Indians bats against him, but at $4,500 on DK, all he needs to do is pitch exactly the same way he has the last four games when he’s scored 20, 5, 10 and 11 DK points. That 10-11 point range is the realistic upside and the downside is firmly in the negatives, so this is only if completely necessary for the savings.
It sounds like Nestor Cortes will be at least in the mix if not the starter in tonight’s game. He looked solid as a starter in Triple-A this season with 26.8% strikeouts and 7% walks in 39 innings, and with those type of numbers he would be completely playable on DK/FDRFT tonight. The Yankees have been messing with his pitch count which leaves a lot of question here but he’s been as high as 75 pitches on June 1th and threw 57 pitches five days ago, so there’s no reason he couldn’t get 4-5 innings tonight. Given how bad the rest of the cheap nonsense is, I’m very much on board with playing Cortes in DK/FDRFT tournaments tonight. The Blue Jays are a pretty high strikeout team against lefties, and it will take almost nothing to pay off this salary.
Pitching Cliff Notes
You can play almost any pitcher on this slate with some reasoning behind it, but I’m looking to narrow my primary list as much as possible. In cash games, I’ve got the list down to Max Scherzer, Gerrit Cole, Shane Bieber, Madison Bumgarner and Jack Flaherty. Personally, I want no part of Bumgarner in cash games, but I get it on Yahoo especially. I side with Flaherty ahead of him as the cheaper SP2. I am assuming I’ll need the savings on Cole ahead of Scherzer, but Scherzer is option #1 if it works out. We can make the salaries work on FD to get to Cole, but I wouldn’t call you crazy at all for going down to Bieber or Flaherty.
In tournaments, while Cole and Scherzer have the highest ceilings, they also obviously limit what you can do with the bats. The upside is similar in the second and third tiers, with the risk getting higher with each step down. Jack Flaherty remains my favorite choice for upside and salary, followed by Bieber and then Blake Snell. Snell is joined in the upside risk category by Robbie Ray and Andrew Heaney and these are three lefties that I will split up evenly, not trying to go overboard on any one of them.
If the weather cooperates in Boston, David Price will join Bumgarner as the somewhat safer version of a second tier lefty, and I do prefer Price to Bumgarner in tournaments as well.
When I start trying to save salary, I would just want to save all the way down to someone like Nestor Cortes or Jesse Chavez rather than mid-tiering it with risk. On Yahoo, the $25 price tag on Alzolay makes him the more interesting tournament punt than Chavez who is overpriced there.
Tuesday Night Bats
As mentioned up top, things are very spread out tonight. At first glance, I see 15 teams that I could make a clear case to stack tonight. That is too many to focus on, and I don’t want to bog you down in information just for the sake of writing it. What I’m going to do here is make you some list to look at and then as the day rolls on, I’ll add some notes to each of these categories. You can see immediately by the sheer number of teams listed here that it is not going to be easy to narrow things down. After the big picture look at these tiers, I’ll talk through where I’m focusing in cash games and try to find a few salary savers.
IS WIND OUR FRIEND TONIGHT?
PITCHING TO ATTACK
A FEW SPLITS
LONGER SHOT STACKS
OK, WHERE DO WE START
As far as a primary game or two to start with at least if you have some salary to spend in cash games, it would be the Yankees and Red Sox topping my list. There is no bat that is going to rival the ace pitchers for must spends on this slate, but I will look to get at least a little bit of access to these two offenses.
The Red Sox are looking at a bullpen game opened by Carson Fulmer who has a 21% K rate with 17.7% BB this season. We can count on seeing both righties and lefties out of the pen here, so I’m less focused on splits and more looking at overall numbers. Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez steal the show here, and these would be great options for spending salary in the outfield tonight. But I don’t expect to be able to get to them on this slate. On FD, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers and Jackie Bradley are much more affordable and cash game options. Overall, because of the unknowns in a bullpen game, I would prefer to just fully stack this team in tournaments while taking any piece that fits in cash games.
I like the Yankees just as much as Boston for a full stack, but I am expecting them to be more popular as well, especially if the weather remains sketchy in Boston. With Clayton Richard, we know pretty well what we’re getting. Low strikeouts and ground balls. There is no reason at all to play a lefty against him outside of full stacks, but for the righties, his ground balls are just a moderate 50% this season, while he’s allowed a goofy .293 ISO on 44% hard hits with more walks than strikeouts. I will play any righty here, but fly balls should be the first goal, which brings Gary Sanchez (47% FB), Luke Voit (43% FB) and Gleyber Torres (44% FB) to the forefront while we are waiting to see how Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton do coming off the DL. We’ve still got a nice salary on Aaron Hicks, and even if he gets moved back down in the lineup, I’d be looking at him in cash games. Like with Boston, I would take any part of this team just to get a piece in cash games, and while I also love a full stack, I’m more interested in individual power bats here as well. This team is exactly the reason why I mentioned the cheap nonsense pitchers on this slate.
THE REST OF THE TOP OFFENSES
With the Yankees and the Red Sox being so obvious and another high total night in Wrigley, I don’t see how anyone else can be overly owned on this slate. Maybe the Phillies creep up there, but teams like the Astros and Brewers, even with the high implied totals just have to fall by the way side. Trevor Williams is just one start off the IL, and while he allowed a bunch of runs in his first start, he also struck out seven batters with no walks, implying that he is probably healthy. He is a decent enough pitcher with Pittsburgh having a decent enough bullpen that the Astros are a multi-entry stack only for me. The Brewers are more interesting overall against the low strikeouts of Marco Gonzales and one of the worst bullpens in the league. Gonzales is usually a decent pitcher in real life with his solid control, but without strikeouts, this is a dangerous matchup with the massive ballpark downgrade. Lorenzo Cain and Ryan Braun are affordable options for all formats with a cheap Jesus Aguilar as a low dollar home run hunting option.
After the Phillies explosion last night, and a below average minor league in Walker Lockett on the mound, we may get a fair amount of traffic here tonight, but I’m still very much on board with both full stacks, as well as one offs in cash games or tournaments with Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper. Lockett had struck out a stupid low 8.9% of batters in 24 Triple-A innings this season after a 20.6% rate in 2018. He has moderate ground ball ability, but Harper, Hoskins, Jay Bruce and Scott Kingery are all hitting the ball in the air with authority.
IS WIND OUR FRIEND TONIGHT?
Atlanta Braves at Chicago Cubs – Max Fried at Adbert Alzolay – I am assuming that the bigger slate and Monday letdown will keep the ownership in check here. Regardless of weather, we’re just guessing on Cubs rookie Adbert Alzolay, and with the strikeouts he showed in the minors, I don’t see much need to mess with Atlanta in cash games tonight. But as a stack, it’s very reasonable to think they can pin some big numbers on the rookie and then take advantage of the bullpen and the wind. There is so much hard hit and line drive ability along with solid contact up and down this lineup that you can stack it any which way, starting with Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna.
The Cubs are the favorite here, and we know a little more about Max Fried, at least enough to know that he is not going to blow past the right-handed bats, so the guys who can create their own power and get the ball in the air are in play for me in all formats. Javier Baez and Kris Bryant are both over 44% fly balls and a .400 ISO against lefties so far this season and cash games plays if you can afford them, to be joined with Willson Contreras, David Bote and the lefties in tournaments, with Albert Almora and Addison Russell being in consideration if they make the lineup.
PITCHING TO ATTACK
The Orioles are a horrendous pitching staff, and tonight we’re looking at a game opened by Jimmy Yacabonis, followed by a lefty in Josh Rogers who had a 13% strikeout rate at Triple-A. With San Diego loaded with right-handed power and getting a ballpark boost and a DH added to the lineup, this is another prime spot for offense tonight. I will always be happy to stack against the Orioles, but we’ve also got some very nice salaries for one offs, especially on FD with guys like Hunter Renfroe (.366 ISO), Wil Myers (.181 ISO) and Franmil Reyes (.288 ISO). By all means, play Fernando Tatis and Manny Machado as well, but I prefer the salary savers here. On DK/Yahoo, we may get a cheap catcher with some upside of Francisco Mejia is in the lineup.
The Rangers are a team with a lot of left-handed power, and while they’ll be without Asdrubal Cabrera tonight, they get the massive power of Joey Gallo back in the lineup. Jordan Zimmermann is a low strikeout pitcher who has allowed a lot of hard contact over the long term, but has been much better with his command this season, and keeping the hard hits down. It’s been a small enough sample size that when combined with his long term numbers, I’m going to let the low strikeouts outweigh the contact with guys like Gallo (.378 ISO), Shin-Soo Choo (.252 ISO), Nomar Mazara (.200 ISO) and Ronald Guzman (.230 ISO). It would be safe to assume that if Zimmerman struggles, the Tigers would turn to the lefties in their bullpen with guys like Blaine Hardy and Nick Ramirez available to throw multiple innings if needed. This makes me a little less interested in a full stack and more apt to just chase power. On FD, they are all cheap enough that I’ll still have a stack or two, but I am not inspired by the DK salaries.
Glenn Sparkman has been magically OK in real life, but the dangerously low strikeouts and bad bullpen make Cleveland playable in all formats. Against lefties, there is no reason to think Sparkman can continue to survive with his 14.1% K, 47% fly balls and 47% hard hits. Francisco Lindor (.239 ISO, .382 wOBA) and Carlos Santana (.298 ISO, .416 wOBA) aren’t priorities on this slate, but certainly playable in all formats along with Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez. Bobby Bradley is again viable as an FD punt based on his minor league power numbers.
ARE THERE ANY VALUES?
My first run through this slate, pretty much everything seems slightly too expensive to qualify as anything near a must-play in cash games. Let’s say we can fit two or three bats from the Yankees and Red Sox, but without really getting any meaningful savings. I could name about 30 players in the mid $4k range on DK, $mid $3k on FD and low $20s on Yahoo, but the truth is there is very little separating any of them tonight. So let’s go the other way and start by looking for some cheaper options, and then maybe we can figure out which positions we can spend on.
Catcher – For DK and Yahoo where we need a catcher, it is not realistic to think we can pay up to Gary Sanchez, Willson Contreras or Yasmani Grandal tonight, so that leaves two options as I see it. A reasonably priced J.T. Realmuto or just a pure punt with someone like Danny Jansen or John Hicks. My first lean is to try and get to Realmuto to get an actually good player at the position before taking an assumed zero.
First Base – I love, love , love Freddie Freeman, Edwin Encarnacion, Anthony Rizzo, Pete Alonso, Luke Voit, Dan Vogelbach and Rhys Hoskins tonight. That is a lot to love, but at the salaries, I don’t think any of it is completely necessary in cash games. This will be a strong spend up option for one offs in tournaments, and it continues into the lower tiers with players like Jesus Aguilar, Brandon Belt, Renato Nunez and Ronald Guzman. We’ve even got some intriguing mid-tier value power against good pitching with guys like Jose Abreu and Matt Olson. I am still happy with the Paul Goldschmidt salary on DK/FDRFT, but this is not a great matchup for righties, so I might actually shift down to Jesus Aguilar even in cash games against the 17.8% K rate of Marco Gonzales. If I can get a little salary here from punting at catcher, I’d get up to Hoskins on DK. On FD, Luke Voit looks a little too cheap, and that’s where I’ll try to get up to. On Yahoo, I like the Dan Vogelbach savings the most. Basically, I am playing for upside at first base even in cash games, and taking on extra risk, since the only typical cash game looking options are quite expensive.
Second Base – The recent hot streak of Jason Kipnis has brought his salary up out of the basement, leaving Robinson Cano as the plug your nose cheap option on DK/FDRFT/Yahoo. I get that the surface numbers are bad here, but he’s still not striking out and he’s still hitting the ball hard. Jake Arrieta is a full blown jabroni against lefties, and I’m taking the Cano discount in cash games. Jose Altuve is such a proven hitter over the long term that I would have no issue trying to find the extra $700 to get up to him on DK. On FD, Kipnis is still down at $3,000 and you can still get to him in cash games. Rougned Odor is the cheap tournament option and if we get Addison Russell in the lineup, he is cheap enough to ask the wind for a favor. Spend up options include Ozzie Albies and Gleyber Torres, with Torres being one of the Yankees you can use on his own.
Third Base – This is a position where I don’t see the need to spend up top outside of just being different in tournaments. I love Anthony Rendon, Rafael Devers, Kris Bryant and Manny Machado in tournaments, but we’ve got options like Tommy La Stella, Matt Carpenter, Jose Ramirez, Kyle Seager, Eugenio Suarez, Justin Turner and Vladimir Guerrero at meaningful savings. Some of the players in this group get to take advantage of specific splits that are in play tonight including:
Matt Carpenter vs Chris Bassitt – Bassitt loses his ground balls, soft contact and control to lefties giving Carpenter on base upside at the top of the lineup with his 12% walk rate and upside with his 26% line drives, 44% fly balls and 45% hard hits.
Tommy La Stella vs Tyler Mahle – Mahle is wildly splitsy with 29.4% K to righties but just 19% to lefties and 43% fly balls with a .258 ISO. Angels lefty power is playable in all formats with the extremely low 9.5% K rate of Tommy La Stella, making him a cash game option.
Kyle Seager at Zach Davies – I mentioned Dan Vogelbach at first base, and Seager joins that party against the terribly low 12.4% strikeouts from Davies against lefties. He’s been pitching around the edges so the hard contact is low, but this is such an extreme ballpark upgrade for lefty power that the fly balls and hard hits of these two lefties is in play in all formats, though probably better suited to tournaments.
Shortstop – We’ve been seeing this most of the season, where shortstop has a lack of options in the lower mid-tier. That $4k range on DK and $3k range on FD is fairly loaded at most positions, but it’s not really there at shortstop. This makes this position a preference to spend up with Francisco Lindor leading the way along with Javier Baez. All of Xander Bogaerts, Manny Machado, Gleyber Torres, Alex Bregman and Fernando Tatis are great options, but I can’t prioritize them outside of stacks tonight. If spending up it’s either the plate skills of Lindor against the low strikeouts of Glenn Sparkman or the power upside of Baez in the Wrigley wind. If spending down a little further, Dansby Swanson on DK and J.P. Crawford on FD are the places I’m looking. Javier Baez is only $14 on Yahoo tonight, and that is a don’t overthink it salary for me.
Outfield – Well yikes, there are a lot of good outfielders. I am not going out of my way for any of these top tier outfielders, I would prefer to try and get a couple in the mid-tier in cash games rather than trying to punt a whole extra lineup spot for one expensive bat. Let’s look for some site-specific options at what I’ll call reasonable prices tonight:
The way this slate shakes out for me- there is a very small, essentially undetectable difference between most of these players, so I will play a different variety of players in cash games on different sites. I’m going to have to click someone’s name in as a Core Play, but I have much less conviction on them than I do on most slates. The go-to on this slate will be ‘when in doubt play Yankees, then Red Sox’.
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