Today’s main slate features nine games and starts at 7:05 pm ET. Here’s a data-driven breakdown featuring five key stats, courtesy of FantasyLabs‘ Editor-in-Chief, Matthew Freedman.
FantasyLabs is a daily fantasy tools and real-time analytics platform that enables players to test theories, create and backtest models and construct customized lineups. In this piece, I leverage the same tools used by co-founders Jonathan Bales and Peter Jennings (CSURAM88) for each slate.
8.0 K Prediction – Jason Vargas
Today the top tier of pitchers consists of Hyun-jin Ryu ($10,200), Chris Archer ($10,100), Francisco Liriano ($9,700) and Zack Greinke ($9,400), but none of them leads the slate in projected strikeouts. That honor belongs to Vargas, who at $8,000 is the most expensive he’s been in almost three years. On the one hand, it’s never a great idea to invest in a pitcher when his price is inflated. On the other hand, Vargas has earned his pay raise: He’s predicted for 8.0 strikeouts against the White Sox — whose projected lineup has a slate-worst 0.318 strikeouts per at-bat over the last year — and Vargas also tops the slate with a 0.839 WHIP and 0.28 home runs allowed per nine innings for the last 12 months. He’s started only six games since the 2016 season, so his 12-month sample is perhaps unrepresentative — but he’s been every bit the stud in those starts, striking out 34 batters over 32.2 innings with a sterling 1.10 ERA and 3-0 record.
The Royals are only 0.2-run favorites against the White Sox (who are implied for a slate-low implied total of 3.7 runs) so Vargas is unlikely to be a favorite of DFS players who chase wins, but with his upside and moderate salary he could have high tournament ownership. It doesn’t hurt that the Royals-White Sox game currently has a zero percent chance of precipitation. At FantasyLabs we have a proprietary Plus/Minus metric that measures actual vs. expected fantasy production based on the historical performances of previous pitchers at comparable salaries. According to our industry-leading Trends tool, Vargas to date has averaged 30.97 DraftKings points per game with an MLB-high +19.45 Plus/Minus and 100 percent Consistency Rating.
Vargas is deservedly one of the highest-rated pitchers in our Player Models.
88 Recent Batted Ball Luck Score – Ubaldo Jimenez
At $6,800, Jimenez is one of the cheaper pitchers in the slate and a contrarian GPP option. An uninspiring 33-year-old soft tosser with a 5.45 ERA since last season, he has a mediocre strikeout prediction of 5.5 as well as a 1.599 WHIP and 1.117 home runs allowed per nine innings over the last year. It doesn’t help his case that the opposing Rays are implied for 4.5 runs and that his Orioles are facing Archer as 0.4-run underdogs. Plus, the Rays-Orioles game might not even be played, since it currently has a 60 percent chance of precipitation. Somehow leading the position with five Pro Trends (specific angles designed to find value), Jimenez nevertheless has a sad -3.73 Plus/Minus average this season.
At the same time, it’s possible that Jimenez has suffered from an inordinate amount of bad luck in 2017. At FantasyLabs, we have a Recent Batted Ball Luck metric, which measures the difference between a player’s percentile rank in batted ball distance and fantasy scoring over the past 15 days. Jimenez has a ridiculous and slate-high mark of 88, meaning that — even though he’s in the bottom 12 percent of recent fantasy production — he’s in the top 12 percent of all pitchers in batted ball distance allowed. Over his last two starts, Jimenez has held opposing batters to an average batted ball distance of 181 feet, exit velocity of 89 miles per hour, and low air time of 2.68 seconds per batted ball.
Jimenez has suboptimal circumstances, but his ownership will likely be low, and he’s probably not as bad as his 2017 fantasy production suggests.
.706 ISO – Trey Mancini
Hope that this Rays-Orioles game makes it through the possibility of rain. Mancini is cheap at $3,400, especially given his dual eligibility as a first baseman and outfielder, and because of the weather concerns and his matchup against Archer, he’ll likely be available at an ownership discount. Currently projected to hit seventh for the Orioles, he leads the slate in isolated power, and as a right-handed batter with reverse splits Mancini actually does better against righties than lefties, as signified by his 0.282 ISO Differential. Archer doesn’t offer an easy matchup, but since his late-season call-up last fall Mancini has crushed the ball with a batted ball distance of 225 feet, an exit velocity of 94 miles per hour and a hard hit rate of 45 percent, the latter two of which are top-four marks in the slate. He has eight home runs in 53 career at-bats and leads the slate with his 0.16 home runs per at-bat.
When Mancini doesn’t hit a home run he tends to disappoint, as evidenced by his seasonal +3.33 Plus/Minus average yet subpar 30 percent Consistency Rating. Mancini is basically a boom-or-bust hitter. Of course, given his likely low ownership, his volatility makes him an ideal tournament play.
Be sure to keep an eye on the weather for the Rays-Orioles game.
100 Park Factor – Rockies & Nationals
The Rockies and Nationals face each other at Coors Field, where double-digit game totals are the norm. Park Factor is a FantasyLabs metric that measures the friendliness of a park based on the handedness of the batter and the starting pitcher. At Coors Field, all batters have a 100 Park Factor regardless of handedness. Unsurprisingly, Coors Field is the most hitter-friendly ballpark in MLB with league-high marks in average DraftKings points per game (9.07), Plus/Minus (+1.35), Consistency Rating (47.4 percent), and Upside Rating (19 percent). In cash games, Coors is King: The Nationals and Rockies lead the slate with implied totals of 5.7 and 5.4 runs.
In GPPs, however, both of these teams are likely to have high ownership. On average, top-five batters at Coors have been owned at a 14.1 percent rate in large-field tournaments. If you want to stack the Rockies or Nationals with our Lineup Builder while still being somewhat contrarian, consider targeting the lower half of the lineups. Hitters batting sixth through eighth at Coors historically have provided value (+0.64 Plus/Minus) at a drastically reduced ownership of only 5.6 percent. Jayson Werth is particularly intriguing. At $5,000, he’s not cheap, but he’s on the right side of his splits against Rockies’ lefty Tyler Anderson, and he leads the Nationals vs. lefties with his 0.449 wOBA and 0.319 ISO.
The Nationals have an MLB-high team OPS of 0.793.
75 Team Value Rating – Diamondbacks
Team Value Rating is a 0 to 100 grade showing a team’s value based on its implied run total and collective salaries, and Arizona leads the slate in the metric. Given that the Diamondbacks have only one hitter above $4,500 — the Nationals and Rockies collectively have only three projected starters who don’t cross that threshold — the Diamondbacks represent a potential pivot away from the Coors teams. After all, they’re currently third in the slate with an implied total of 5.2 runs, and they’re playing at Chase Field, which at FantasyLabs is affectionately known as “Coors Light” because it’s the second-most hitter-friendly fantasy venue.
At the same time, a number of batters projected to start for the Diamondbacks are on the wrong side of their splits — literally the only hitters on the right side of their splits are Jake Lamb ($4,300) and Brandon Drury ($3,700) — so the righty-heavy Diamondbacks shouldn’t be stacked to the exclusion of other teams, especially since the seemingly mediocre Padres’ starter Jhoulys Chacin has actually been effective against righties (as opposed to lefties) throughout his career, with particularly pronounced splits this season: 0.217 vs. 0.293 batting average and 0.563 vs. 0.898 OPS, for instance. Don’t forget that just five days ago (April 19) Chacin picked up the win against these very Diamondbacks with an eight-inning, five-strikeout, three-hit performance in which he allowed no runs.
The Diamondbacks are an enticing arbitrage play on the Nationals and Rockies, but they also possess subtle downside.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is mefreedman) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.