If there were ever a night to be on your GPP game, this is it. With a $500,000 guarantee in the Sweet Spot (and $50k going to first place), someone is going to be very happy with their $27 investment.
There are a lot of different philosophies when it comes to tournament play, specifically regarding playing the chalk—the favorites—versus going against the grain with a contrarian strategy. I personally believe the tactic you should employ depends on the slate and, probably most important, the size and payout structure of the league you’re entering.
In large-field leagues like that in the Sweet Spot, you need an outstanding lineup to win. And as I’ve detailed in the past, I believe the easiest way to soar above the crowd in leagues like this is to balance value and upside with projected ownership; you want not only awesome players, but awesome players who others are overlooking.
By creating a unique lineup, you’re basically giving yourself “outs.” Ever been just outside the top 10 of a GPP and had basically no shot of winning because half of the guys ahead of you rostered the same player you have left? That sucks. Sometimes it makes sense to forgo a little bit of value for dramatically reduced ownership.
Basically, we’re saying to ourselves, “Where could the crowd possibly be wrong, and if they are wrong, how can I benefit?” As you construct your lineups tonight, consider which probable high-usage teams—like the Blue Jays, for example—might let owners down and, similarly, which under-the-radar players and offenses could surprise.
I’m pretty much going to list Houston here every single time I write this article, so you can just go ahead and begin to skip over anything I say about the Astros. My love for them is clearly not logical and probably detrimental to my bankroll.
Those homers though! I love Houston because they can’t really hit for average, at all, but their lineup is filled with high-upside players who can go deep and/or steal bags. Most of the time, they disappoint you. Sometimes, though, everything clicks and they erupt for six home runs and suddenly you have a lot of cash.
Range of outcomes if you stack Houston tonight: they either strike out 14 times or you win $50,000. One or the other.
My second contrarian choice is an offense that is actually projected decently in Vegas—in the middle of the pack anyway—at 3.9 runs. They have a bunch of guys who can go deep and, although Citi Field isn’t exactly Coors, you need to make some concessions if you’re trying to get in on a low-usage stack.
There are a few other potentially low-ownership offenses that Vegas likes, including the A’s, but I specifically like the Mets’ ability to go deep in this game.
1B Lucas Duda, NY Mets (vs David Buchanan) – $4,400
Duda is my favorite player on this offense tonight. Over the past 12 months, Duda has absolutely crushed right-handed pitching with a 0.394 wOBA and 0.265 ISO. More important, his wOBA and ISO differentials—how his numbers versus one handedness compare to the other—are extreme. I like that because it often means he’s underpriced when he faces the handedness of pitcher against whom he excels.
1B/C Carlos Santana, Cleveland (vs Jose Quintana) – $4,100
Like Duda, Santana has big-time splits tonight: a .410 wOBA and .229 ISO. However, Santana excels versus southpaws, which I think is actually superior for finding value. Because righties are more prevalent than lefties, Santana’s price is probably a reflection of primarily his at-bats versus right-handed pitchers. When he faces southpaws, he’s very likely to be dramatically underpriced—even more so than a lefty like Duda who crushes right-handed pitching.
2B/3B Neil Walker, Pittsburgh (vs Shane Greene) – $4,400
Walker is in a really nice spot against Greene tonight, specifically in regards to his power; Walker is better against righties in every area, but his ISO is much better than when he faces lefties—one of the top split differentials in baseball. I also love guys like Walker who have multi-position eligibility.
P Trevor Cahill, Atlanta (vs Miami) – $5300
We all know Matt Harvey and Carlos Carrasco are quality plays, but I’m looking for a pitcher who is cheap—will allow for some big-time bats—and won’t be popular in the Sweet Spot. That pitcher is Trevor Cahill.
No matter how you slice it, Cahill is underpriced tonight. The Marlins strike out a ton and Vegas has them projected at only 3.7 runs. I’m not one to normally suggest being contrarian at pitcher—and I would still make sure to get exposure to the big guns—but Cahill is in about as good of a spot as you could hope for someone who costs $5,300.
UPDATE: The weather in Atlanta has shifted, and thunderstorms are now possible. Be sure to monitor the precipitation chance prior to first pitch if you plan to roster Cahill.