I think we’ve all sort of been conditioned to think that our approach to daily fantasy leagues should be dictated by the size of the league. Large GPPs require a high-variance strategy, cash games are more about minimizing risk, and so on.

I don’t think that’s necessarily right. First of all, I think there’s good evidence, especially in baseball, that you shouldn’t be minimizing risk at all costs in cash games, especially with batters. That’s probably a post for another day, though. My main thought for today is that the size of the league doesn’t matter when determining how to attack a tournament or cash game, but rather how the payout structure is set up. A 5,000-man 50/50 is no more volatile—actually less so—than a 50-man 50/50.

I think this idea has the biggest implications in qualifiers: leagues like the King of the Hill qualifier, the Fantasy Baseball Championship, and so on. When payouts are very top-heavy, I really think there’s much more incentive to be contrarian, potentially stacking an overlooked offense. It seems like public opinion for a league like the $1,000 Fantasy Baseball Championship qualifier—which usually has around 63 entrants or so—is to use a cash-game lineup. And I think that might be okay if it were a normal tournament, but because of the Ricky-Bobby-esque “if you aren’t first your last” sort of mentality needed in such qualifiers, the value of an against-the-grain approach is increased.

Anyway, that’s just sort of what I was thinking when I woke up this morning because I’m a complete moron who has no life outside of daily fantasy sports. And it’s awesome.

Note: Today’s plays are solely for the late slate of games beginning at 7pm ET.

 

The Teams

Pittsburgh Pirates (vs Kyle Lohse)

I’m working on a project that helps identify player and team-level trends that are predictive of daily fantasy value. Today, the Pirates have a bunch of them, including getting over 80 percent of public betting money, being the favorite to win, playing in a top five hitter’s park (historically), and batting in favorable conditions. I specifically like their lefties + McCutchen versus Lohse. In fact, McCutchen is my top outfielder value.

 

Cleveland Indians (vs Taijuan Walker)

One of the situations I really like to attack is when an offense is projected favorably in Vegas despite not facing a crap pitcher. Well, Taijuan Walker isn’t a crap pitcher—he’s not Chris Sale, but he isn’t really an automatic pitcher people are going to go after—and thus I think ownership is going to be lower on Cleveland than it should be. Are they going to crush Walker tonight? I don’t know—Vegas sure seems to think so with a run projection of 4.8 runs—but I do know that I want to consistently put myself in situations in which the odds of my players performing well exceed their tournament ownership, and I think that’s what we’re going to have with the Indians tonight.

 

The Players

C Yasmani Grandal, LA Dodgers (vs Jeremy Hellickson) – $3200

Grandal’s spot in the order is always changing and I like him a whole lot more when he’s hitting fifth than sixth or seventh. Either way, he’s a clear value against Hellickson. The one thing that worries me a tad is that there aren’t a ton of awesome catcher options in the late slate, so Grandal could have the higher ownership. I don’t think it will be prohibitive given that he’s a value with his .377 wOBA and .208 ISO against righties. Stephen Vogt is also an option who probably won’t be as popular.

 

1B/3B Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh (vs Kyle Lohse) – $3700

I have four first basemen rated in a group ahead of the pack tonight: Adrian Gonzalez, Carlos Santana, Anthony Rizzo, and Pedro Alvarez. I think it’s clear Alvarez will be the least popular, and thus you could make an argument for him being the best GPP play. He crushes righties and, as mentioned, there are a lot of team-level positives for the Pirates tonight. I also like Lucas Duda quite a bit as my fifth option and another low-owned tournament play, but Alvarez has the more hitter-friendly atmosphere.

 

OF George Springer, Houston (vs Jose Quintana) – $4400

Great splits. Good park. Plus umpire behind the plate (Toby Basner has historically added 1.1 DraftKings points to batter’s scores). Good but not great matchup that will lower ownership. Sentence fragments.

 

P Williams Perez, Atlanta (vs San Diego) – $4900

Perez is coming off of a poor outing, but he was quite solid in his three prior starts with just two earned runs in 18 total innings, including seven Ks in two of those games. Is he as safe of a play as opposing starter Tyson Ross? No. But he’s $4900. That leaves so much more room for activities.

Things I like about Perez tonight:

Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher is a serious pitcher’s ump.

The Padres are projected at only 3.6 runs, so Vegas likes Perez.

Perez has a K/9 of 8.6.

Turner Field is great for pitchers.

Forty-nine-hundred-freaking-dollars.