We so often analyze players in terms of the value they offer—whether it’s a dollar-per-point calculation or the probability of them scoring X points—as if their salary and expected performance are taking place in a vacuum.

The truth is that every selection you make affects the dynamic of your entire roster. No player can be analyzed in isolation; each one comes with not only the cost of his salary, but also a certain opportunity cost as well. When you use Madison Bumgarner tonight, for example, you’re forgoing the opportunity to load up on big bats. Now, that decision might still be a smart one, but the process of constructing a daily fantasy lineup is about more than just piecing together individual values.

When you use Bumgarner, for example, you’re paying up for consistency. We have a pretty good idea Bumgarner will perform well tonight—due to a variety of factors—and that makes him worth his cost. However, it’s still worth noting that choosing Bumgarner means you probably need to potentially punt at least one position, so Bumgarner’s value doesn’t come alone without any other costs associated with it.

If we use a very simple example, Bumgarner ($11,100) and Jake Lamb ($3,600) cost roughly the same price as Carlos Martinez ($9,300) and Josh Donaldson ($5,600). You might still prefer the Bumgarner side of that deal—I do—but be cognizant of what sort of opportunities you need to forgo when adding any player into your lineup.

 

The Teams

Oakland A’s (vs Drew Hutchison)

The top-projected teams tonight are Arizona (5.1 runs), Toronto (5.0 runs), and Minnesota (4.5 runs). I think Arizona and Toronto will have heavy ownership, and I don’t think the Twins’ upside at home against a right-hander. They could score eight runs and still not even really provide much of a ceiling.

Meanwhile, the A’s see a massive park shift coming from Oakland to Rogers Centre. I love that they’re facing Drew Hutchison—a pitcher who thrives on strikeouts. The A’s rarely whiff, but I still think Hutchison is priced low enough to offer value. On the season, Hutchison has failed to reach even half his salary-based expected point total in 39 percent of games—well above the league-average of just 23 percent. I also think the A’s have sneaky upside with Billy Burns, Josh Reddick, Stephen Vogt, and Ike Davis.

 

Texas Rangers (vs Kyle Gibson)

The Rangers are moving to a worse park tonight in Minnesota, but they’re still projected decently by Vegas at 4.1 implied runs and I think they’ll offer one of the better combinations of upside and ownership. As I’ve mentioned a lot in the past, I like to fade Prince Fielder and instead play Mitch Moreland at first; if Moreland outperforms Fielder, you have a very high probability of passing every other Rangers stack. Those are the sorts of small contrarian plays that I think can lead to big GPP success.

 

The Players

OF Charlie Blackmon, Colorado (vs Matt Harvey) – $3800

We know Blackmon is going to be low-owned tonight against Harvey, yet he still comes out as a top five outfielder value in my model. It’s due mostly to price, as Blackmon is too cheap, even against an ace. He has a .388 wOBA over the past 12 months versus righties and there’s a batter’s ump behind the plate in Sam Holbrook. This is the sort of contrarian play that makes the most sense in a chalk stack; if you have too many Blackmon-esque plays in your lineup, you end up being too contrarian and limiting the probability of finishing with a high enough score to win a tournament.

 

3B Juan Uribe, NY Mets (vs Chris Rusin) – $3400

Third base is a weak position, with Josh Donaldson likely to be the highest-owned player but facing a righty. Jake Lamb is also an option in Arizona, but I like Uribe. He has a .397 wOBA and .217 ISO versus lefties and, like Blackmon, a batter’s ump behind the plate. The other attractive feature of this game is that the humidity and wind should make for favorable hitting conditions.

 

1B Ryan Howard, Philadelphia (vs Jeremy Hellickson) – $4000

You don’t need to be super contrarian at first base to get low ownership because there are so many options. Tonight, Edwin Encarnacion and Paul Goldschmidt will certainly be on a lot of people’s radar, but I like Howard in the desert. There are obviously favorable hitting conditions in Arizona, and Howard has a lot of upside against right-handers with a running 12-month ISO split of .227. He’s also doubled his salary-based expectation in 23 percent of games this year, compared to a league-average mark of just 16 percent.

 

P Carlos Martinez, St. Louis (vs Pittsburgh) – $9300

Martinez won’t be low-owned, but you have to think Madison Bumgarner against the K-prone Astros in San Fran is going to lead usage, followed by Harvey against the Rockies in New York. Meanwhile, Martinez faces a Pittsburgh offense that can strike out a lot and is also projected at just 3.1 implied runs in Vegas. They opened at 3.4 runs and quickly dropped, which has historically been a good sign for pitchers. The concern is that Martinez is coming off of two lackluster outings, but I do think that will suppress his ownership just enough to make this a smart GPP play.