Today’s main slate features 15 games and starts at 7:05 pm ET. Here’s a date-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.
1.9 Plus/Minus (Umpire) – Julio Urias
At FantasyLabs we have a proprietary Plus/Minus metric that measures actual vs. expected fantasy production based on the historical performances of previous players at comparable salaries. We also track how pitchers do when particular umpires are behind the plate, and this slate the most historically pitcher-friendly umpire calling balls and strikes is Hunter Wendelstedt, whose presence has correlated with a +1.9 Plus/Minus boost in pitcher performance. That bodes well for the 20-year-old Urias, who was tearing up Triple-A ball in Oklahoma City with a 1.93 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 14.0 innings before being recalled by the Dodgers on Apr. 27th. Although Urias had only 13.95 DraftKings points in his first start of the season (against the opposing Giants, by the way), allowing a high 1.412 WHIP, he did show some promise by striking out four batters and allowing only one earned run on 90 pitches in 5.2 innings.
In his 19 MLB appearances since first being called up at the end of May last year, Urias has been a strikeout pitcher (9.888 strikeouts per nine innings) who, despite his inexperience, has managed to keep the ball in the park with a slate-low 0.562 home runs allowed per nine innings. Facing the uninspiring Giants (currently implied for a slate-low 3.1 runs), Urias has a slate-high strikeout prediction of 9.1, and the Dodgers are spotting him a 0.8-run cushion as the favorite. In his 2017 debut against the Giants, Urias held them to ridiculous slate-low batted ball and hard hit marks of 171 feet and six percent. According to our industry-leading Trends tool, previous pitchers with comparable K Predictions have balled out with Wendelstedt behind home plate, scoring 25.78 DraftKings points with a +9.38 Plus/Minus and 87.5 percent Consistency Rating.
At $8,500, Urias might have the upside of this slate’s $10,000 hurlers. He’s one of the highest-rated pitchers in the Player Models.
80 Percent Consistency Rating – Antonio Senzatela
Only $6,200, Senzatela is one of the slate’s cheapest pitchers, but he’s been impressive to date. A 22-year-old rookie making just his sixth MLB start, Senzatela isn’t a strikeout pitcher — he has only a 6.1 K Prediction — but he’s 3-1 with a 2.81 ERA and slate-low 1.0 WHIP. In his first four games of the season he easily hit his salary-based expectations, and in two of them, he even hit his Upside mark (one-half of a standard deviation above his expectation). In his last start (Apr. 27) he managed to ‘hold’ the Nationals — at Coors Field! — to four runs in 6.0 innings, which actually is remarkable considering the mighty Nats scored 16 runs in that game. For a rookie who has started at Coors three times in his first month of MLB action, Senzatela is doing well.
Playing at the pitcher-friendly Petco Park, Senzatela has a high Park Factor of 80 against the Padres, who are implied for a mediocre 3.9 runs; the Rockies are currently giving him a 0.3-run buffer as the favorite. With a zero percent chance of precipitation in the forecast and winds blowing gently at two miles per hour, the Rockies-Padres game seems likely to enjoy good weather. Historically, favored pitchers with comparable salaries, Park Factors, K Predictions, WHIPs and opponent implied run totals have produced a +5.53 Plus/Minus with a 66.7 percent Consistency Rating.
If you want to go cheap at the position without sacrificing too much quality, Senzatela is a viable option.
12 Pro Trends – Nelson Cruz
After hitting no home runs and batting in only four runs in the first 10 games of the season, Cruz has been among the hottest players in the league. With a smoking 1.429 OPS in his last 15 games, Cruz has seven home runs, 19 runs batted in and a .412 batting average in that time frame. It’s unsurprising that he currently leads the slate with 12 Pro Trends (FantasyLabs-identified angles that historically yield value). Although Cruz’s recent rate of production is unsustainable, it’s hard to say that he’s been lucky. Rather, he’s crushed the ball over the last 15 days with a batted ball distance of 259 feet, exit velocity of 97 miles per hour, fly ball rate of 50 percent and hard hit rate of 44 percent. Cruz has earned his recent DraftKings points.
Much better against lefties than righties, Cruz is on the wrong side of his batting splits with -0.115 and -0.119 wOBA and ISO Differentials, but his matchup against soft-tossing Angels’ righty Ricky Nolasco is hardly intimidating, given that Nolasco is one of the slate’s bottom-10 pitchers in home runs allowed (1.383) and strikeouts (6.534) per nine innings over the last year. Although the Mariners currently have only a middle-of-the-road implied total of 4.2 runs, the batters at the top of their projected lineup — Jean Segura, Ben Gamel, Robinson Cano and Cruz — all have top-10 Pro Trend numbers. Historically, batters comparable to Cruz in Pro Trends, team implied run total and recent batted ball distance have done well with a +2.67 Plus/Minus and smoking 51.2 percent Consistency Rating.
In a 15-game slate, a 1-4 Mariners stack might not be popular, but it warrants some consideration in guaranteed prize pools.
86 Recent Batted Ball Luck Score – Rickie Weeks
I’m going back to the Weeks well. Weeks is only a platoon player — and one who this season has a disgustingly low .171 batting average, one home run and two runs batted in across 51 plate appearances — but he’s on the beneficial side of his splits against Marlins’ lefty Adam Conley, as evidenced by his 0.127 ISO Differential. Although he leads the slate’s cleanup hitters with 0.518 strikeouts per at-bat, he’s also the cheapest No. 4 batter by $600. Going against Conley, who has a flaccid 1.486 WHIP over the past 12 months and only 16 strikeouts this season in 19.2 innings, Weeks has the low-cost potential to break out of his slump.
Despite his -0.82 Plus/Minus and 33.3 percent Consistency Rating this season, Weeks has actually crushed the ball. 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. Of all players expected to start and bat in the top half of the order, Weeks leads the slate with a high mark of 86: Even though he’s in the bottom 20 percent of recent fantasy production, he’s in the top 20 percent of all hitters in batted ball distance. Indeed, over the last half-month Weeks has crushed with a batted ball distance of 249 feet and fly ball rate of 44 percent. Historically, hitters with comparable salaries, lineup spots, implied team totals and recent batted and fly ball data have outperformed with a +2.02 Plus/Minus and high 52.7 percent Consistency Rating on just 4.9 percent ownership.
The Rays are implied for a modest 4.2 runs, but their cleanup hitter has some tournament upside and will likely carry a steep ownership discount.
83 Team Value Rating – Mets
Team Value Rating is a 0 to 100 grade showing a team’s value based on its implied run total and collective salaries. As of writing, the Mets have the slate’s highest TVR. They’re implied for an unassuming 4.4 runs, but not one batter on their team costs more than $3,500. Facing Braves’ righty Bartolo Colon — who’s almost 44 years old, by the way — the Mets are projected to start six left-handed or switch-hitting batters at the top of the order.
Playing in Atlanta, the Mets might benefit from the new SunTrust Park, which so far has been a hitter-friendly venue, especially for lefties, who have a Park Factor of 60. The sample is small, but in the stadium’s brief existence top-six hitters with comparable implied run totals have collectively crushed, amassing a +2.37 Plus/Minus. Lefties and switch-hitters in that cohort have done even better with a +3.44 Plus/Minus and unreal 56.7 percent Consistency Rating. Again, I should stress that the sample is small and thus might be unrepresentative — but it’s suggestive. And if the Mets get to Colon early they have the potential to pile on the runs, as they lead the slate with an Opponent Bullpen Rating of 76, meaning that the Braves have overworked their bullpen in the last three games.
Nowadays the Mets tend not to be Amazin’ on offense, but they offer enough value and upside in this slate to warrant some GPP exposure.
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.