Where's the Alpha? (3-21)
Finding the Signal
Throughout this blog I want to identify scenarios that may, at least initially, be mispriced by DFS algorithms that are relying on historical data without taking into account granular or situational changes, with the goal of exploiting them before they become common knowledge. While DFS results are tabulated daily, taking notice of trends before the market adjusts can provide opportunities to seek value where others are not looking, regardless of individual daily outcomes.
Matt Kemp and Kyle Schwarber “In the Best Shape of Their Lives”
Much is often made of the old trope that “player X is in the best shape of his life, and typically this can be disregarded as noise in the often light on signal season of spring training. Sometimes though, such transformations are indicative of change in ability or motivation, or optimally- both. In the case of both, further consideration is warranted.
Matt Kemp returns to a crowded Dodger outfield, having slimmed down 40 pounds, and locked into a non-platoon LF role, now even further secured with Logan Forsythe being needed as the every day 3B while Justin Turner recovers from injury. Eager, it appears, to make the most of his featured role, Kemp has been lighting up spring training, to the tune of .317/.341/.659 through 44 PAs, and ascending his way up what is sure to be a in incredibly potent Dodger lineup with abundant run producing opportunity.
Not to be outdone, Kyle Schwarber may not be changing teams this off-season, but you’d be forgiven as a Cubs fan if you didn’t recognize him. While the exact number isn’t as widely publicized, Schwarber’s new svelte physique, in combination with Willson Contreras emergence as a mainly every day catcher should allow Schwarber to display the durability and consistent production his career has lacked thus far. Also taking spring by storm, Schwarber is .385/.489/.744 through 47 PAs, which would make him one of the best hitters in the history of the game if he does it over a full season. What’s more, the Cubs lineup is one of the few capable of rivaling the firepower of the Dodgers, making Schwarber a great opportunity to gain some value by adding him to your Bryant-Rizzo-Contreras stacks.
Late Signing SPs- Lance Lynn, Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb
Pitchers, more than most other humans, are creatures of habit. They pitch on their day in the rotation, they run a lot, they throw a specific number of pitches in their warmup, varying by pitch type, and develop the routine that works best for them. They also have catchers with whom they must develop a rapport and trust. Absent all of these things, they are just mercenaries with the ability to throw a baseball 90+ MPH, but unlikely to achieve their peak levels of performance.
Lance Lynn signed with the Twins on March 10th and has started one spring training game, going all of three innings. Jake Arrieta signed with the Phillies and is expected to make his first spring training start tomorrow, March 22nd. Alex Cobb signed a deal with the Orioles yesterday, whom are certainly in need of pitching, but may not even get a single spring training start out of Cobb, whom is at least familiar with the AL East, if none of his other surroundings or teammates.
It should be noted that none of these three gentlemen were elite pitchers in 2017 either, but there is still some cache to each of their names that make them not quite pitchers you would want to pick on in DFS, if also not pitchers you would go out of your way to roster. In April though, and perhaps even further into the season, have at it. While the DFS algorithms will price them based on past production in previous stops, we will know better, and we may even stack against them for the most upside in our results.
The flip side of the coin, though, is that we can expect their results to stabilize once they have developed routines in their new cities. Take another hard look once we get into mid or late May- these guys may be the bargain priced values in DFS that allow us to pay up for studs elsewhere.
Chris Iannetta Returns to Colorado
For as much as Coors Field is a boon to production, it’s really strange that the Rockies have never really had a bona fide slugger behind the dish. I understand that quality catchers rarely hit the open market, it would seem that the Wellington Castillo types would take a look at their options and see an opportunity for inflated power numbers and the future salary increase that generally follows . In fact, Iannetta actually is second in career home runs as a Rockie, despite not having played for them since 2011. When he hits his 9th home run this year, he will be the leader.
This year, we might get to see what that looks like. Chris Iannetta was originally drafted as a Rockie, and put up his best season of 18 dingers and a .240 ISO whilst at Coors a decade ago. After last year’s relative resurgence with 17 home runs in nearly 100 fewer PAs in another run friendly environment, Arizona, Iannetta will return to the Mile High city with an opportunity to take an every day catching job and turn it into the most productive season the franchise has ever seen from the position.
While you will almost always be charged a Coors premium for the usual suspects of Blackmon, Arenado, Lemahieu, Story and Desmond, you will likely be able to save some cash, and more importantly, fill the C slot in your lineup, with a productive and powerful masher in Iannetta.