Today’s main slate features 14 games and starts at 7:05 pm ET. Here’s a data-driven breakdown featuring five key stats, courtesy of FantasyLabs contributor Matt LaMarca.
FantasyLabs is a daily fantasy tool 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.
8.5 K Prediction – Luis Castillo
Castillo is relatively unknown at the major league level, having jumped straight to the big leagues without making a single start in Triple-A. Through his first six starts, he’s been relatively impressive, returning fantasy value in each outing and tallying 43 strikeouts through his first 35 major league innings. His resulting K/9 of 11.52 is the highest mark among starters on today’s slate, and his K Prediction of 8.5 is tops as well. Considering that he’s priced at only $6,900, that’s pretty enticing for DraftKings purposes.
The big caveat, however, is that Castillo has a really tough matchup against the Yankees. His opponent implied team total of 5.1 runs is the fifth-highest mark on the slate, and pitching in Yankee Stadium punishes him with a low Park Factor of 43. At FantasyLabs, we have a proprietary Plus/Minus metric that measures actual versus expected fantasy production based on the historical performances of previous players at comparable salaries. Pitchers with comparable K Predictions and salaries have struggled when facing offenses implied for a comparable number of runs, averaging a historical Plus/Minus of -0.57.
It’s tempting to still consider Castillo in tournaments, where we care way more about the potential upside than the downside for our players; the historical cohort of players comparable to Castillo have averaged ownership of 8.4 percent. That said, those players have posted a historical Upside Rating of only nine percent over the 21 previous occurrences in our Trends database, so it’s fair to question if Castillo’s upside is as high as it seems in this matchup.
174-Foot Recent Batted Ball Distance – Taijuan Walker
Today’s group of pitchers is a relatively uninspiring group; Jameson Taillon possesses the highest salary on the slate at $10,900. Virtually each pitcher on the slate has at least one flaw – either in K Prediction, implied team total, or projected margin of victory – and for that reason, it might make sense to focus a little more than usual on something like Statcast data.
One pitcher that stands out in that department is Walker, who allowed an impressive batted ball distance of only 174 feet in his most recent start. That represents a differential of -34 feet when compared to his 12-month average, and pitchers with comparable distance differentials have a historical Plus/Minus of +2.04. Walker also has a projected margin of victory of +1.0 runs in his matchup with the Braves and factoring that into the above trend results in a historical Plus/Minus of +2.95. With FantasyLabs projected ownership of just five to eight percent, Walker will likely be a low-owned pitcher with some upside on this slate.
12 Pro Trends – Mike Napoli
At FantasyLabs, we have what are called “Pro Trends” – angles we’ve identified that historically yield value. Mike Napoli leads today’s slate with 12 Pro Trends, a number that has resulted in a historical Plus/Minus of +2.35. The Rangers are currently implied for 5.6 runs – the highest mark on the slate – and, at only $3,700, Napoli is quite affordable.
Napoli also led yesterday’s slate in Pro Trends, and he responded by going 0-for-4 with a strikeout. That doesn’t change the fact that he has awesome recent Statcast data, however, with 15-day/12-month distance, exit velocity, and hard hit differentials of +37 feet, +5 miles per hour, and +15 percentage points. Batters with comparable differentials have a historical Plus/Minus of +1.72, and Napoli’s Recent Batted Ball Luck score of +36 suggests he’s been unlucky to not score more fantasy points over his last 11 games.
81 Park Factor – Left-Handed and Switch Hitters from the Reds and Yankees
Park Factor is a 0-to-100 FantasyLabs metric that measures the friendliness of a park based on the handedness of the pitcher. Today’s highest Park Factor belongs to left-handed batters at Yankee Stadium. Coors Field may get the glory in terms of friendliness for batters, but Yankee Stadium has been quite generous as well. Home runs are king in daily fantasy baseball, and no park in the league has allowed more home runs per game this season than Yankee Stadium (3.21 per game).
The Reds are implied for just 4.0 runs today against Yankees’ lefty starter Jordan Montgomery, and the lefty-on-lefty matchup isn’t ideal for Reds batters. They’re projected to start only three of them in this contest, however, and one of them is all-world first baseman Joey Votto. He’s had no problems with southpaws over the past 12 months, with a wOBA of .414 and an ISO of .242, but it’s tough to get excited to play him in such a difficult spot. He’s also in terrible recent form: his average batted ball distance of 191 feet represents a differential of -37 feet when compared to his 12-month average.
The Yankees are facing a right-handed pitcher in Castillo, which means lefties and switch hitters will benefit from the slate-high Park Factor. Their implied team total of 5.1 runs also makes them a more appealing stack, and the Yankees as a team have averaged the seventh-highest Plus/Minus this season. Chase Headley might be the most appealing option of all the Yankees’ left-handed and switch hitters in today’s lineup. He’s posted a distance differential of +33 feet over his last 10 contests, and batters with comparable implied team totals and distance differentials have a historical Plus/Minus of +1.75.
86 Team Value Rating – Texas Rangers
Team Value Rating is a 0-to-100 grade showing a team’s value based on its implied run total and collective salaries. Despite their slate-high implied team total, the Rangers have only one batter ranked among the top-50 most-expensive players on this slate. Six of their projected starters have salaries of $3,700 or less, including the aforementioned Napoli.
The Rangers are set to face Marlins’ right-hander Dan Straily, who has been hit pretty hard recently. He’s allowed a total of 20 baserunners over his last 10 innings pitched, and his recent batted ball distance of 237 feet suggests that output hasn’t been a fluke. If the Rangers can get past Straily early, they’ll have a chance to face a Marlins’ bullpen that has been overworked recently; the Rangers’ Opponent Bullpen Rating of 78 is one of the top marks on the slate.
Outside of Napoli, the Rangers have a few interesting batters who stand out on this slate. Nomar Mazara has posted a 12-month wOBA of .327 and ISO of .199 against right-handed pitchers over the last 12 months, and his current salary of $3,200 makes him very affordable for a projected No. 3 hitter. Batters with comparable lineup spots, salaries, and implied team totals have a historical Plus/Minus of +1.92. Leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo also has historically fared much better against right-handed pitchers, with an ISO differential of +.102 over the last 12 months, and his distance differential of +3 feet over his last 11 games suggests he’s in decent recent form. Finally, projected No. 9 hitter Joey Gallo has the highest ISO split on the team at .309, and his batted ball distance of 257 feet over the last 15 games is the same as Napoli’s. Given his spot in the order, he should have reduced ownership despite the fact that his power gives him more potential upside than the majority of his teammates.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is mlamarca) 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.