There’s another mega-tournament running on DraftKings tonight, with $50,000 going to first place on just a $33 entry in the Slugfest. To win this thing, you’re probably going to need to get away from thinking like the herd.

I’ve talked a lot about the importance—and mathematical value—of being contrarian, but one thing to remember is that there’s a difference between going against the grain and remaining +EV and just picking low-percentage players for the sake of it. There’s no value in selecting players in bad spots just to be different. Instead, we’re looking to forgo just a little bit of value in exchange for dramatically reduced ownership.

I think this would make for a cool study, but I’d be willing to bet that the best GPP lineups aren’t those with the “chalk,” nor are they those with really low-usage players (which often indicates a lack of value). Instead, my hunch is that the most profitable lineups have players with ownership in the range of five percent or so—low enough to be considered contrarian, but not so low that everyone is off of them due to a serious lack of value.

So often, I see players go one extreme or the other, stacking up on the obvious values in GPPs or else just sort of being dumb with really –EV plays. There are ways to acquire the best of both worlds—value and a contrarian lineup—so always be cognizant of what you’re trying to do and not letting yourself pick a player solely because he’s going to be low usage.

 

The Teams

Arizona Diamondbacks (vs Nick Martinez)

I normally don’t like offenses like Arizona because, outside of a couple bats, they really don’t go deep very often. However, at 4.9 runs, Vegas is projecting Arizona to score more than every team except the Rockies tonight. Playing in a top five hitter’s park against a very weak right-handed arm, you can get Arizona at what will be moderate usage at best.

The other thing to consider with stacks is that there’s an opportunity cost associated with any combination of batters you select. You can stack up on Rockies, sure, but that comes with a price—namely that you’ll need to bypass the top pitchers. With Arizona, you get the hidden benefit of having enough money left over to afford two big-time arms.

 

Cleveland Indians (vs Hector Noesi)

The Indians are projected fairly well by Vegas, and I love all of their left-handed bats vs Noesi. Most important, those batters typically excel versus right-handed pitching as compared to their splits versus lefties (notably Kipnis and Brantley).

The external factors are also a plus for Cleveland. I’m working on a new tool that examines umpires, and the Indians will have an “over” umpire behind the plate tonight in Eric Cooper. Historically, Cooper has added over a half-point per batter (compared to the expectation based on their salary) to hitters’ DraftKings scores. If that holds tonight, that’s an “extra” three points for your lineup if you play a full six-man stack. The wind is also going to be roaring in Chicago tonight.

 

The Players

C Rene Rivera, Tampa Bay (vs Wade Miley) – $3100

Derek Norris will almost certainly be the most popular catcher in GPPs tonight. He’s a fine play, too, but I think Rivera is an example of a player in a slightly worse situation who will have dramatically lower usage (and is also cheaper). Over the past 12 months, Rivera has dominated southpaws, generating a .389 wOBA and .260 ISO. That power number in particular is huge, suggesting Rivera is a really nice arbitrage play on Norris to help differentiate your lineup.

 

OF Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City (vs Tommy Milone) – $4800

Who do you think is going to be more popular tonight: Cain at $4800 or Carlos Gonzalez at $4600? Cargo, of course. And he’s in a better spot, too. But you could make an argument for Cain, who has a ridiculous 12-month running wOBA of .416 vs lefties, will offer more usable value in GPPs since he will be less popular.

Again, this is a situation in which we’re trying to balance value with ownership. I already think Cain offers value, even at this price, but it isn’t as much as Gonzalez. If we’re looking at something like 30% ownership for Cargo versus 5% for Cain, however, then Cain is a superior play.

 

3B David Freese, Los Angeles Angels (vs Drew Pomeranz) – $4300

David Freese in most situations is a player I avoid because he doesn’t have a lot of pop and doesn’t steal bags. The “most situations” to which I’m referring are when he faces righties. Against lefties, though, Freese is dominant with a .434 wOBA and .247 ISO over the past year.

In my opinion, Freese is a superior play to Josh Donaldson tonight—a player with .323 wOBA/.144 ISO splits in his matchup—yet you’ll save $1500 on Freese and probably still won’t run into huge ownership.

 

P Francisco Liriano, Pittsburgh (vs Chicago Cubs) – $8700

Note that there’s around a 40 percent chance of rain in Chicago for tonight’s game. That will shift as the day progresses, but the chance of rain will probably make Liriano’s tournament ownership lower than it should be. Lots of players set their lineups early in the day and could bypass Liriano due to the weather. If the chance of rain stays where it is, I’ll have some exposure to Liriano in GPPs and just pray it doesn’t rain in the middle of the game. Ideally, the weather will clear up just before the game begins, as it did last night with Burnett and Arrieta on the mound. Then you can get lowered usage without taking on additional risk.