Daily fantasy sure has come a long way. These days, we have all sorts of tools, data, and analysis to help us create lineups. We can visit advanced stats websites or get late-minute weather alerts sent to our phones. There’s all sorts of amazing tools we can harness to create better lineups.

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I know I’ve certainly tried to make the most of the “Big Data” era of daily fantasy sports. I study pitch velocity and hard hit percentage, spend an unusual amount of time watching weather radar, and do everything in my power to rate players and optimize lineups.

With all of the new tools at our disposal, I think perhaps we (or at least ‘I’) have gotten away from actually spending time looking through the salaries and thinking about how players are priced. This is ultimately what daily fantasy is all about, but there are so many sites that offer DraftKings salaries, projections, and ratings that it’s easy to not just take a minute to examine the salaries for yourself.

The main reason I’m getting back into this is because I think little quirks in pricing can help predict tournament ownership. For example, if two first basemen are the consensus top-rated players available and one costs $100 less than the other, that cheaper player is typically in a lot more lineups. Anecdotally, it seems as though users look through salaries when building a lineup and care almost more about the rank than the actual salary. I will pay $100 more to get dramatically reduced ownership every single time.

Tonight, for example, Chris Archer and Masahiro Tanaka—both quality values throwing against one another—cost $10,100 and $10,200, respectively. I could be wrong, but I believe Archer’s ownership will be pushed up a tad (and Tanaka’s down a tad) by their salary rank, when in reality the $100 difference between them is almost inconsequential.

Moving forward, I’m going to be spending more time just digging through the salaries and seeing which players naturally jump out at me. If they jump out to me, chances are they do so for everyone else, too. Understanding how players are ranked in salary and how pricing differences might affect ownership is perhaps an underutilized tournament strategy.

 

The Teams

NY Yankees (vs Chris Archer)

Like I said, I think Archer will have high ownership tonight. Stacking the Yanks is certainly a contrarian strategy. They’re not projected that well by Vegas at 3.6 implied runs, but this is set to be an unusually low-scoring night. Of the 26 teams playing at 7pm ET or later, only five are projected over 4.3 runs (and only the D-Backs are over 5.0 runs right now). I just like the idea of 1) fading Archer and 2) benefiting in two ways if he blows up.

 

Detroit Tigers (vs Drew Hutchison)

I don’t think a lot of people will play Drew Hutchison tonight, but I do think most will avoid Detroit because of the matchup. Hutchison has a high K/9, but he can also blow up. I think the Tigers’ right-handed lineup will keep most people away, but they could very well take Hutchison deep a few times early and knock him out of the game. Vegas has them at 4.1 implied runs. The main downside here is the price—a Detroit stack is expensive—so it’s something to roll out if you are fading Clayton Kershaw and starting, say, Jesse Chavez on the hill.

 

The Players

C Yasmani Grandal, LA Dodgers (vs Noah Syndergaard) – $3400

I expect most Dodgers to have low ownership tonight against Syndergaard. I actually kind of like them as a sneaky stack since I think their lefties have decent home run upside. Plus the late start will draw down ownership even more such that we might be looking at only a few percentage points on most players. Plus, I love the price on Grandal and others; you’re getting a decent bargain already and can throw low ownership on top as a bonus for GPPs. Grandal has a .257 ISO versus righties.

 

1B Mitch Moreland, Texas (vs Garrett Richards) – $4200

Moreland has cooled down in his last two games after four total homes runs in the pair of games before that, so hopefully the crowd has moved away from him a bit. I think Big Papi is an obvious value in Boston against Dan Straily, and I expect him to be the highest-owned first baseman tonight. I don’t normally care about being contrarian at first base all that much since there are so many options available, but I think Moreland is basically of equal value to Ortiz. His .308 ISO against righties is insane, and he’s in a great park to go deep tonight at home.

 

1B/3B Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh (vs Trevor Bauer) – $3900

I don’t think Alvarez will get much love tonight at either first base or third base in a moderately difficult matchup. At third, Manny Machado and Todd Frazier are the highest-rated players for me, although Frazier might not be in a ton of lineups due to thunderstorms in Cincy. That’s a situation to monitor, but I still think Machado will be the man against the left-handed John Danks. Meanwhile, Alvarez crushes righties and Pittsburgh is actually projected decently at 4.1 implied runs. He gets a major bonus if he’s hitting fifth instead of sixth.

 

P Jesse Chavez, Oakland (vs Seattle) – $7000

I don’t think there are very many suitable contrarian pitcher targets tonight. Kershaw, Tanaka, and Archer are the best plays and I don’t really recommend fading them. I think most will realize Chavez is underpriced, so I don’t expect low usage here. I think he has good upside against Seattle, though, but also a lot of safety for the price; Vegas has the Mariners at only 3.4 implied runs and Oakland is currently (-139) to win. Mark Wegner is the home plate ump in this game, and he has historically added 1.4 DraftKings points to pitcher scores.