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DFS Baseball 101: Finding Hitting Value on FanDuel

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 talk to a lot of DFS players during the season and one of the top questions I get is "What is your research process?" It is a great question and one that has a variety of answers that are quite lengthy. But one of the things I want to focus on is how to find those "Value" plays at the hitter position.

In DFS baseball because of the salary cap, you cannot just take all of the best hitters. You need to identify players whose recent performance is out producing their current salary. If you look at a hitter's performance on a daily basis throughout the season, you will see several hot and cold streaks. That is the nature of baseball. In DFS, you want to ride that hot streak as long as you can and profit from that player outperforming their salary.

There can be a number of factors that contribute to a hitter having the potential to hit and exceed value in a given night.

• Park Factor improves
• Facing opposite handed pitcher
• Facing low strikeout pitcher
• Facing fly ball pitcher
• Temperature is 85 degrees or higher
• Wind is blowing out 15 MPH or higher
• Lineup spot improves
• Player recently called up from the minors
• Player recently gains playing time due to injury
• Player coming out of a slump

All of these are factors that are not priced into the player's salary on FanDuel with the exception of games in Coors Field and games against Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale and Max Scherzer. FanDuel adjusts the prices of hitters up 20 percent (average Coors hitter salary $3,750 vs. non Coors $2,980) and against the elite aces the salaries drop to $1,500-$2,500 per hitter.

One of the things you want to keep an eye on daily is the disabled list and the subsequent roster move that an organization makes. This is where you are going to find players with low salaries who are now seeing an increase in playing time.

Let's look at some hitters that fall under the value criteria recently.

Mallex Smith, OF Rays –
Kevin Kiermaier slid into first base and ended up on the disabled list for the next two months. Smith immediately is put in the leadoff hole and with his elite speed should have value in DFS. His FanDuel salary has sat at $2,000 in spite of putting up 52, 12 and 24 his first three games.

Jose Pirela, 2B Padres –
Called up on June 7, he was immediately put into the leadoff spot. His profile in the minors is one that offers some speed and power. His salary when from $2,200 to $2,500 after just three games in which he posted 41, 21 and 21 points.

Elias Diaz, C Pirates –
Diaz was recalled on May 30 when Chris Stewart went on the 10-day DL. On June 7, Francisco Cervelli hit the 7-day DL, thrusting Diaz into a starting role. The Pirates started off batting him eighth, but after a hot start he has already moved up to fifth. Diaz salary was $2,000 for six games before a slight increase to $2,200, but he has posted games of 42, 9, 25, 3, 18, 19, and 6.

Mitch Haniger, OF Mariners –
Haniger won the starting right field job out of spring training and got the valuable second spot on the lineup. He put up great numbers in April before suffering an injury, but he is back now and priced at about $3,000. Haniger just came back this week and started where he left off.

Bradley Zimmer, OF Indians –
Zimmer was promoted to the Indians on May 17 and his opening salary was $2,100. Even though Zimmer was hitting eighth, the value was still there based on his pedigree. Zimmer's' salary is now all the way up to $3,000, so there is not as much value based on the lineup spot, but a good example of riding a guy for two weeks.

Eric Sogard, 2B Brewers –
Sogard got the call up to the Brewers on May 15 and was immediately put at the top of the lineup and started producing. His salary started at $2,000, and climbed to $3,100 on May 9 so the window to use him might be gone. But again, another example of a cheap player put in a great position and you ride them until the salary gets too high.

Aaron Hicks, OF Yankees –
I wrote about Hicks a few weeks ago and his season has been incredible. Why he has flown under the radar so much is a head scratcher. Now with Jacoby Ellsbury out, Hicks is locked into the second spot in the powerful Yankees lineup

Gregor Blanco, OF Diamondbacks –
With the A.J. Pollock injury, Blanco was put into the leadoff spot in one of the best lineups in all of baseball. While Blanco is really not a great player, he has been put in a great spot to produce. He has averaged 13 points per game while hitting leadoff with an average salary of $2,581.

Alex Avila, C Tigers –
He moved into the second spot in the lineup on May 20.

Matt Adams, 1B Braves –
He was traded to the Braves on May 22 and hit in the five hole, averaging 13 points per game with an average salary of $2,536.

Cameron Maybin, OF Angels –
He's hit in the leadoff spot since returning from injury.

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.