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DFS Baseball 101: Identifying Cash-Game Hitters

Michael Rathburn

Known as “Rath” in the Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) community, he has helped run operations for two prominent daily fantasy sports startups. Michael has taken his insider knowledge and expertise in daily fantasy sports to the content side. Rath won the 2016 FSWA "Baseball Article of the Year, Online" award and was a finalist for the FSWA Best Baseball Series in 2011.

I'm back after taking last week off. I had Rich Hill's blister problems from hitting the keyboard too fast. Just kidding, but that's how much of a joke Hill's issues have been. The last two weeks, the No. 1 thing I keep getting asked about is the "research process." I touched on the pitching side earlier this season, so now it is time to start looking at the hitters.

For the purpose of this article the data is taken from FanDuel through May 15.

When researching for cash games, there are some rules to follow. I wrote about them last year in an article titled "Building a System for Cash Games," which details a 20-rule system that you can use. While not much has changed in my approach from that article, the players who qualify for the best cash games play certainly do.

I'm going to run down each position and identify the best cash-game players on FanDuel this season. I look at points per game, percentage of time hitting value (in this case 3.5 x or higher) and standard deviation. Standard deviation is calculated through a formula in Excel that I apply to each player when looking at their game logs.

Because baseball is a highly variant outcome, the value/multiplier part of this process can be a little tricky. You can have the best hitters getting a range of 0-35 points in a given night.

Hitters hit 3.5x around 35 percent of the time overall, so it makes you really look at players less than \$5,000 in cash games. When you take a \$5,000 hitter in a cash game, you need to get a home run or it did not pay off. That is a difficult thing to project when you are talking about four to five at bats in a given night.

CATCHER

I have ALWAYS preached about finding value at catcher in DFS, and this chart shows why. Outside of Brian McCann, every catcher on this list has an average salary of less than \$2,600.

 PLAYER PCT HIT COUNT TOTAL COUNT PPG STN DEV VALUE AVG SALARY Alex Avila 53 8 15 12.07 11.63 5.01 \$2,567 Manny Pina 50 9 18 10.22 10.07 4.28 \$2,444 Jett Bandy 38 8 21 10.37 10.04 4.13 \$2,590 James McCann 36 9 25 9.28 11.08 4.02 \$2,320 Tyler Flowers 40 8 20 9.69 9.29 3.85 \$2,590 Caleb Joseph 41 7 17 8.62 10.98 3.85 \$2,247 Cameron Rupp 50 12 24 9.40 7.54 3.82 \$2,446 Brian McCann 46 12 26 11.10 9.94 3.81 \$2,927

FIRST BASE

Paul Goldschmidt and Joey Votto (and Freddie Freeman before he got hurt) are cornerstones of any cash game lineup depending on their opposing pitcher handedness and ballpark. Normally I would not spend down at first base, but Yonder Alonso, Logan Morrison and Marwin Gonzalez have provided incredible value.

 PLAYER PCT HIT COUNT TOTAL COUNT PPG STN DEV VALUE AVG SALARY Ryan Zimmerman 60 18 30 17.63 12.46 5.23 \$3,460 Eric Thames 53 18 34 16.38 12.96 4.99 \$3,591 Freddie Freeman 50 18 36 16.00 13.56 3.90 \$4,119 Matt Carpenter 45 9 20 15.95 12.07 4.30 \$3,750 Paul Goldschmidt 46 18 39 15.72 12.26 3.55 \$4,462 Joey Votto 43 16 37 14.05 10.68 3.44 \$4,092 Marwin Gonzalez 48 11 23 13.78 13.02 5.52 \$2,630 Yonder Alonso 52 16 31 13.55 12.38 4.87 \$2,816 Mark Reynolds 44 16 36 13.13 11.46 3.78 \$3,572 Logan Morrison 53 17 32 12.04 11.41 4.69 \$2,603

SECOND BASE

Best cash game player this season? Jed Lowrie. Yep. Jed Lowrie. When you factor in that FanDuel just refused to move his salary up at all for a long time and he never has monster games, you are getting a player at \$2,500 or less whom you can bank at least 8-10 points per game at a 56 percent clip.

 PLAYER PCT HIT COUNT TOTAL COUNT PPG STN DEV VALUE AVG SALARY Cesar Hernandez 48 16 33 12.42 9.14 4.12 \$3,109 Starlin Castro 52 17 33 12.42 10.70 4.26 \$2,958 Jonathan Villar 43 15 35 10.75 10.73 3.26 \$3,291 Josh Harrison 42 10 24 10.70 9.67 3.77 \$2,846 Kolten Wong 41 12 29 10.27 7.89 3.61 \$2,897 Javier Baez 44 11 25 9.96 11.76 3.86 \$2,692 Ben Zobrist 40 10 25 9.60 8.34 3.27 \$3,024 Jed Lowrie 56 20 36 9.34 8.36 4.08 \$2,303 Carlos Sanchez 47 9 19 9.28 8.60 4.03 \$2,326

THIRD BASE

Much like first base, you want to spend up at the hot corner. A good barometer is between \$3,500-\$4,000. I never would have thought Jedd Gyorko would profile as a cash game player, but his low average salary makes him attractive.

 PLAYER PCT HIT COUNT TOTAL COUNT PPG STN DEV VALUE AVG SALARY Miguel Sano 41 14 34 14.63 12.12 4.32 \$3,471 Jake Lamb 48 12 25 13.92 9.92 4.00 \$3,556 Kris Bryant 46 16 35 13.07 10.66 3.08 \$4,291 Jedd Gyorko 54 14 26 12.79 11.54 4.39 \$2,923 Travis Shaw 46 16 35 12.47 11.77 3.82 \$3,374 Eugenio Suarez 41 14 34 12.37 11.61 3.78 \$3,362 Joey Gallo 43 15 35 12.15 12.07 3.81 \$3,229 Chase Headley 45 14 31 10.92 8.12 3.59 \$3,171 Yangervis Solarte 42 11 26 9.51 8.44 3.35 \$2,877 Christian Arroyo 50 9 18 9.19 7.44 3.86 \$2,411

SHORTSTOP

Some big names are left off this list like Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, Corey Seager and Francisco Lindor. Bogaerts just missed, but the reason you really want to shy away from these guys in cash is the salary and you need their upside in a tournament more. Segura is the only expensive shortstop worth looking at in cash, with Cozart seeing a nice lineup spot bump recently.

 PLAYER PCT HIT COUNT TOTAL COUNT PPG STN DEV VALUE AVG SALARY Jean Segura 44 12 27 13.31 10.02 3.71 \$3,641 Taylor Motter 42 8 19 12.46 11.85 4.46 \$2,895 Zack Cozart 48 15 31 12.07 8.34 3.98 \$3,071 Chris Owings 39 13 33 12.06 12.08 4.19 \$3,030 Elvis Andrus 39 15 38 10.61 9.60 3.62 \$2,984 Eduardo Escobar 41 7 17 10.53 12.08 4.15 \$2,565 Andrew Romine 59 10 17 9.72 9.84 4.64 \$2,124 Brandon Crawford 42 10 24 8.96 7.83 3.33 \$2,858 Miguel Rojas 47 8 17 8.89 8.90 3.81 \$2,412 Jorge Polanco 44 14 32 8.49 6.46 3.27 \$2,606

OUTFIELD

If you decide to take Bryce Harper or Mike Trout in cash, it means you will have to sacrifice at first baseman. The only time it would not be an issue is when there are no high-priced pitchers that day and you go with a mid-tier priced option. In that case, you can probably spend up at first base and one of your outfield spots.

Aaron Hicks has been good, but I have no idea he's been THAT good. I gave the honor of best cash game player to Jed Lowrie, but Hicks is right there too with a 78 percent hit rate and 6.49x value this season.

 PLAYER PCT HIT COUNT TOTAL COUNT PPG STN DEV VALUE AVG SALARY Bryce Harper 50 16 32 18.66 15.32 3.84 \$4,875 Aaron Hicks 78 14 18 18.14 13.29 6.49 \$2,861 Aaron Judge 48 15 31 16.92 15.25 5.30 \$3,326 Aaron Altherr 63 12 19 16.71 12.17 5.43 \$3,053 Mike Trout 44 16 36 15.85 9.34 3.21 \$4,969 Michael Conforto 46 12 26 15.38 14.97 4.59 \$3,485 Mitch Haniger 71 15 21 15.29 10.35 6.55 \$2,414 Brett Gardner 44 12 27 13.86 13.83 4.47 \$3,089 Charlie Blackmon 41 15 37 12.98 10.73 3.11 \$4,143 Nelson Cruz 42 15 36 12.96 10.90 3.21 \$4,003 Ben Gamel 53 9 17 12.87 13.66 5.18 \$2,635 Matt Holliday 50 13 26 12.75 12.18 4.23 \$3,046 Hernan Perez 46 12 26 12.69 13.85 4.81 \$2,696 Billy Hamilton 44 15 34 12.60 11.75 3.72 \$3,418 Marcell Ozuna 43 16 37 12.58 12.99 3.78 \$3,449 A.J. Pollock 42 14 33 12.51 10.07 3.28 \$3,833 Justin Upton 42 14 33 12.07 10.24 3.59 \$3,382 Seth Smith 53 10 19 12.05 10.31 4.52 \$2,716 Yasmany Tomas 47 14 30 11.96 11.63 3.71 \$3,297 Lonnie Chisenhall 44 8 18 11.67 11.36 4.16 \$2,928 Andrew Benintendi 44 16 36 11.17 10.39 3.21 \$3,586 Jayson Werth 45 14 31 11.15 11.44 3.59 \$3,119 Jacoby Ellsbury 43 12 28 11.04 9.07 3.41 \$3,236 Kevin Pillar 42 16 38 10.99 10.11 3.93 \$2,787 Ender Inciarte 42 15 36 10.93 10.40 3.69 \$3,044 Domingo Santana 43 13 30 10.65 9.67 3.53 \$3,073 Josh Reddick 40 12 30 10.18 10.41 3.66 \$2,797 Chris Young 50 10 20 9.43 9.34 3.75 \$2,525

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Michael Rathburn plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: FanDuel: burnnotice, DraftKings: burnnotice, Yahoo: burnnotice, Fantasy Aces: burnnotice, FantasyDraft: burnnotice.