Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) for baseball season is fast approaching, and you should strongly consider signing up over at FanDuel. If you are a sophisticated fantasy owner, which most Fake Teams readers are, you can make a LOT of money playing DFS on FanDuel. First place prizes are routinely given out in five figure amounts, and the cost to enter these tournaments can be as little as $1-2 dollars.
Instead of buying a sandwich during lunch break on a Monday, pack your lunch and put that $10 to use over at FanDuel. The upside is tremendous, and we’re going to guide you through good DFS lineups and strategies throughout the season over here at Fake Teams, where you can get a leg up on a less experienced fantasy player.
Editor's Note: SB Nation is hosting a $6,000 one-day Fantasy Baseball league for MLB Opening Day on FanDuel. It's $5 to join and first place wins $1,000 and four tickets to a game. Enter now!
I’ve put together a preliminary Opening Day Monday DFS Fanduel roster and gave some of the reasoning with each player.
P- Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros: $8,300
Dallas Keuchel is Opening Day Monday’s best value for a pitcher. He’s chronically underrated by fantasy owners, and I don’t understand why. Most fantasy owners must not his 2014 season was legit, but they're making a mistake if they think that. Keuchel is super legit. He's one of my favorite pitchers in baseball, and there are tons of reasons to love him. Firstly, his run prevention last year was outstanding with an ERA of 2.93, 20th best in baseball, and ERA- of 77, 15th best in baseball. His Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) of 3.21 and Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) of 3.20 were both 19th best, and FIP underrates him because of how much weak contact he generates. He's closer in skill to the 2.93 ERA than the 3.21 FIP.
The weak contact Keuchel generates made him one of the most difficult pitchers to square up in baseball last year: only 11.1% of his opponents' at bats ended in a hard hit ball, 4th best in baseball. This is in large part due to his amazing two seamer, which has hellacious movement and causes an incredible ground ball percentage of 77%. Keuchel's overall ground ball% in 2014 was 63.5%, which was by far the best in baseball and is Brandon Webb esque. Don’t shy away from using Dallas Keuchel in 2015, especially at a bargain price like this.
Keuchel is significantly better against LHB than RHB, and Cleveland has some key hitters that are LHB: Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, Brandon Moss, Michael Bourn and Lonnie Chisenhall all bat lefty. Keuchel’s K% against lefties is 24.4%, well above average, and his Fielding Independent Pitching is a fantastic 2.68.
C- Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds: $3,700
Mesoraco is one of my favorite catchers for 2015 (read a very detailed view of my view on him here) and he’s facing Francisco Liriano, a pitcher who has extreme platoon splits for his career (2.52 FIP against LHB, 3.93 FIP against RHB). Only four hitters hit the ball harder than Mesoraco in 2014, and playing this game in Great American Ballpark is a plus.
1B- Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants: $3,500
Belt is facing Josh Collmenter in Chase Field. This is a dream matchup. Firstly, Chase Field is a launching pad. The park has the second highest altitude in baseball behind only Coors Field, and the thin air makes the ball difficult to grip for pitchers, reducing command and pitch break. The ball doesn’t move here like it does at sea level, making it easier to square up. Secondly, Josh Collmenter is a well below average pitcher, and against LHB, he’s even worse. Collmenter has a career 4.06 FIP against lefties and his strikeout rate drops significantly against them. Belt doesn’t have platoon splits for his career, but since he changed his swing at the plate in early 2013, he’s had much better results against righties than lefties. Belt had a 147 wRC+ against RHP in 2013 vs. a 114 wRC+ against LHP. In 2014, during an injury plagued year, he had a 120 wRC+ against RHP and a 108 wRC+ against LHP. The new Belt hits righties better than lefties, and there aren’t many better matchups for Belt than Josh Collmenter in Chase Field. $3,500 is a bargain.
2B- Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox: $3,400
Pedroia battled upper body injuries in 2013 and 2014 that prevented him from lifting weights, leaving his body weak and "shriveled up". But he’s healed those injuries, and with the ability to lift weights again, Pedroia has put back on his lost muscle and strength. Pedroia said,
Last year, I couldn’t grip a dumbbell. I looked at my legs, my legs were strong. Defensively I was fine because I was moving around. Upper body, if you can’t do the things you want to do, you’re not going to have the bat-speed you normally have. That’s changed.
Pedroia, in my opinion, is going to have a bounce back year, and he’s facing Cole Hamels, a LHP. Pedoria hits LHP significantly better than RHP (128 wRC+ vs. 112 wRC+), and he’s hitting in a bandbox in Philadelphia.
3B- Chase Headley, New York Yankees: $3,000
Headley changed his process at the plate midway through last season and had a significant increase in results. He altered his grip of the bat, which allowed him to control the bat better and barrel up more pitches, leading to an increase in production. He also moved from Petco Park to Yankee Stadium, and when he bats left handed, he’s got the short porch in right field to work with. The Blue Jays have not yet announced their opening day starter, but Drew Hutchison is rumored to be the guy they’re considering most. This would be a fantastic matchup for Headley, as Hutchinson is a RHP who was terrible against LHB last year (4.80 FIP). This is coupled with a gigantic fly ball percentage for Hutchison; fly balls are very dangerous in Yankee Stadium, especially for a LHB vs. RHP matchup.
SS- Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox: $2,900
I love Bogaerts’ swing this spring. He looks like a young Hanley Ramirez. Bogaerts bulked up this year, dedicating time in the offseason to put on strength and size, which will help increase the odds of him generating more exit velocity on his batted balls. He is facing a LHP, and hit LHP significantly better last year, with a 109 wRC+ against them vs. a 72 wRC+ against RHP. Philadelphia is a high run scoring environment, too. I’m big on Bogaerts having a strong season in 2015, and this matchup against a lefty in Philly is a good place to start.
OF- Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals: $4,100
I think fantasy owners sometimes forget how young Bryce Harper is. He’s just 22.5 years old, and he’s yet to face a pitcher younger than him in his MLB career. Future projection aside, Harper has clobbered righties in his career. His 138 wRC+ against RHP is significantly higher than his 95 wRC+ against LHP, which makes him a strong DFS play against righties. The righty he is facing is Bartolo Colon, a 41 year old pitcher who gave up tons of hard contact last season. He throws primarily fastballs, and Harper has a strong batting average against fastballs for his career. I think Harper is likely to tattoo Colon.
OF- Shin Soo Choo, Texas Rangers: $3,000
Shin Soo Choo’s statistics last year need to be taken into proper context because he played most of the year with two injuries, an elbow and an ankle injury. The ankle injury in particular crippled his production, and he wasn’t anywhere close to himself after it. Choo had both injuries fixed in the offseason, and I expect him to return to form. He’s facing Sonny Gray, a RHP, and Choo has gigantic platoon splits for his career. He hits RHP to a tune of a 148 wRC+. That is star level, and you’re getting him on the cheap. Choo is one of the best DFS plays in week one.
OF- Dustin Ackley, Seattle Mariners: $3,000
Ackley changed his process at the plate midway through last year and had a dramatic increase in hard contact and results. Ackely’s hard hit%, or the percentage of at bats that end in a hard hit ball, rose to 22% from July-September, a number that is in elite company. A 22% hard hit% would place Ackley in the top 10 over a full season, for reference. His career splits favor hitting against RHP over LHP, and he had huge platoon splits in 2014 with a 114 wRC+ against RHP and a 57 wRC+ against LHP. Ackley will likely be facing Jered Weaver, a RHP. He will be a good play against RHP this season, and his cheap price makes this roster spot appealing.
P- Dallas Keuchel, $8,300
C- Devin Mesoraco, $3,700
1B- Brandon Belt, $3,500
2B- Dustin Pedroia, $3,400
3B- Chase Headley, $3,000
SS- Xander Bogaerts, $2,900
OF- Bryce Harper, $4,100
OF- Shin Soo Choo, $3,000
OF- Dustin Ackley, $3,000
Final salary remaining: $100