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MLB DFS for Sunday, June 30th: Josh Donaldson, Oh Captain my Captain!

Heath makes a DraftKings Showdown team using his beloved Braves.

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

I love daily fantasy sports. I play MLB as much as I can, and every week of the NFL. And some preseason NFL games, as time allows. And though I enjoy the MLB more than the NFL, I’ve had more success in daily fantasy football. Perhaps this is due to the volume-driven analysis and clear values that can pop up in football, especially at running back. Or the fact that there simply seems to be less data (and less study) involved in order to be competitive in the NFL. ANYONE can hit on a football lineup. Baseball feels like a different animal, and I don’t play in “cash” games so my wins are limited in my small GPPs.

All that said to say: I’m taking a fun approach to MLB DFS for now, so I wanted to share it with the masses. And maybe you guys can help me optimize my Braves lineups in the future.

Every day, I plan to stack my team, the Atlanta Braves. In the vein of Bankster DFS, I want to reduce my player pool. Generally I am pretty good at scouting out pitching, and it is hitting that is hit-or-miss (pun intended) for me. So if I can have my pitchers and my primary stack locked in every day, then my only task is maximizing the output of the rest of my lineup...right?!? Right? We’ll see.

For me, it will reduce the study I’ll have to do, force me to get to know my favorite team better, and let me have a severe rooting interest in every lineup I build. I’m hoping to also be contrarian on days when the Braves face an ace, as the plan is to blindly stack them every day—no matter what. For example, today would have been an enticing day against Noah Syndergaard, who has been up-and-down in 2019. Alas, the game is a late one and the Braves aren’t on any decent slates today. But I can still get into my overview. And, I can still make a few Showdown lineups on DraftKings. So let’s scope out the splits against right-handed pitching, since that’s what Syndergaard is.

Overview of the Braves versus RHP:

102 homers so far, only the Yankees (114), Twins (114), and Mariners (109) have more. The .197 team ISO ranks sixth in the MLB, and the .337 wOBA ranks sixth as well.

Only 25 steals, tied for 17th in the MLB against this handedness. So not a ton on that front. That said, Wilson Ramos has allowed a league-high 56 thefts so far this year, by far the most in the MLB. Josh Phegley (38) and Yasmani Grandal (36) are a VERY distant second and third worst, for your reference.

A .263 team batting average, better than all but seven MLB teams against righties.

The Braves strike out 22.1% of the time, ranking 10th-best (i.e. lowest) in the MLB. The 9.4% walk rate is tied for eighth-best (i.e. highest) in the league.

The 41.9% team hard contact rate against RHP is third-best in the MLB, behind only the Rangers and Cardinals. Correspondingly, Atlanta doesn’t make soft contact much, at only 15.5% (the third-best—i.e. lowest rate—in the MLB).

The Braves’ 25.4% line drive rate is the best mark in the league against RHP—making up for being 22nd in fly ball rate at 34.2%. To give you an idea of how healthy that line drive rate is, the Braves’ ground ball rate of 40.4% ground ball rate is lower than all but six teams in the MLB.

A Standard View of the Hitters vs. RHP

Freeman (16), Acuna (14), Donaldson (13), and Swanson (12) are the only guys in double-digits with homers...but Austin Riley (9) is getting there quickly. These guys are nice against RHP because they also represent the top four projected hitters in the lineup on any given day in this split. And Riley gets the six-hole after Markakis, who bats fifth. So the top four in homers are probably my guys to start off with each day (against RHP) with Riley as the fifth option.

Also, Braves catchers have done nice work in limited duty, at least in the power department. For reference, rookie phenom Austin Riley has cranked nine homers in 126 at-bats, while McCann has eight homers on 128 at-bats. Tyler Flowers is generally the forgotten man, but he has six dingers on his 101 at-bats in this split...and he’s heating up of late.

In general, I’m probably shying away from Ozzie Albies and Nick Markakis against right-handers. Neither carries as much upside as the guys mentioned above. Although, Albies is more enticing today given his speed factor and the Mets’ inability to hold runners. But in general, the catchers would likely be more preferable due to their lower price points.

The Opposing Pitcher

Like I said, there’s not a slate I want to play today with the Braves. But I can scope out what to do in a few Showdown lineups against Noah Syndergaard, anyway. Thor’s 1.42 HR/9 to right-handed bats is alluring, as the RvR split isn’t one people generally jump to in DFS. So if I were blindly looking at splits, the guys with the most home runs that are also right-handed for Atlanta are Acuna (batting 1st), Swanson (2nd), and Donaldson (4th). The next righty is Austin Riley, who is projected to bat sixth. Those would be my main guys today, and I’d weave in Freddie Freeman (slated to hit third, as usual) in places where I could afford it and start five hitters.

What does stand out in Thor’s profile is a 24.4% line drive rate to left-handed hitters, though. And that high LD% rate will lead us right back to Freddie Freeman, who is fourth in all of the MLB in line drive rate, at 30.3%. Only Whit Merrifield, Cody Bellinger, and Niko Goodrum (huh?!?) have higher line drive rates. It should be noted that Acuna (11th) and Swanson (12th) also rank highly in this regard, but both are righty hitters. Nick Markakis, a lefty, ranks 30th at 24.4%. And he should bat fifth. On talent alone, I think I’d rank them this way:

Acuna, DONGaldson, Freeman, Swanson, Riley, McCann, and Markakis...with Markakis only making the list due to his line drive potential and Thor’s high line drive rate to lefties. I wouldn’t go to Markakis in cash against Thor (and I don’t play cash) but in a full team stack I’d use him. Sooooo, in summation: I did make a few MLB Showdown teams, and it goes like this:

Captained Josh Donaldson, as he offers power upside in the RvR split, hits cleanup, and was the cheapest of my options at $10,500. Added Acuna, Markakis, Riley, and Swanson. Basically, I put in Markakis instead of Freeman, which might be a big mistake. But both can nail some line drives. That savings let me go up from Juan Lagares to Wilson Ramos, who is my lone Met. Here’s another iteration with only the Braves’ best hitters, which landed me Lagares:

Donaldson (captain), Acuna, Freeman, Riley, Swanson, and Lagares.

Finally, here’s one that includes Pete flipping Alonso, because he’s such a beast:

Donaldson (captain), Pete Alonso, Swanson, Markakis, McCann, Ramos

And that’s about it for me today. Didn’t take long, it was fun, and I got to think about my team. That, and the Showdown format meant I didn’t have to worry about pitching! That wasn’t a thought I had initially when I devised this, but it’s a format I’ll have to research more about as we go.

What about you guys? Do you ever stack your favorite team just to stack ‘em?