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MLB Daily Games Strategy: New Players Add Value

Renee Miller

Neuroscientist at the University of Rochester and author of Cognitive Bias in Fantasy Sports: Is your brain sabotaging your team?. I cover daily fantasy basketball for RotoWire and write for RotoViz about fantasy football.

In daily fantasy sports, value is winning. You have to find the cheap points every night. Not just the cheap plays, of which there are always a few, but cheap plays likely to produce. Now, it's baseball and I've ranted before about the unpredictability of the game night in and night out. Right now we're in a good spot though. Many of the recent trades have led to some shuffling of lineups. This is also the time of year that teams that know they won't be contending decide to give their prospects some experience in the majors. In both cases, there is new value to be found for DFS, since newly called up players usually only cost you the minimum salary.

Here are a few guys I think make for interesting plays over the next couple weeks. Some have been around for a while, but are still worth calling attention to. They share low cost, good position in the lineup, and potential to score points in the right situation.

  1. Javier Baez, SS Chicago Cubs. I put him first because everyone's talking about him. He's in his fourth year with the Cubs organization and has so far hit 23 AAA homeruns with a .250 ISO and .355 wOBA. Oh and he's stolen 16 bases. He's batting 2nd and playing 2B tonight for minimum salary against lefty Brett Anderson in Coors.
  2. Jim Adduci, OF, Texas Rangers. I've been using Adduci for a couple weeks in the right matchups. When he bats 5th vs a weak RHP is the right matchup. His numbers are pretty terrible, but for the minimum, there are nights he's a good bet to get on base and maybe knock in a run.
  3. Jose Ramirez SS, Cleveland Indians. He hasn't impressed in the big leagues, but has put up nice SB and wOBA in Triple-A. When he bats 2nd against a weak righty like Simon, he's useable, but I wouldn't start him vs Cueto.
  4. Rougned Odor, 2B, Texas Rangers. Only consider him against righties, against whom he owns a .159 ISO and .314 wOBA. Even then, he always bats at the very bottom of the order. Still, I use him regularly in good matchups, because 2B is my favorite place to save money.
  5. Joe Panik, 2B, SF Giants. All the value at 2B. In a limited number of PA this season, Panik has actually hit LHP better than RHP. He's not giving you power, and also tends to be in the bottom of the lineup, but minimum salary, against a weak pitcher, he can do as well as many more pricey 2B.
  6. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B/SS, Chicago Cubs. He was the second highest priced 2B on DraftDay within a week of being called up. He's cooled off since then, and so has his price. Not quite minimum, but close. Alcantara typically hits 1st or 2nd in the lineup, and we've seen what he can do. He has 4 SB and 2HR in 56 AB vs RHP, but as a switch hitter, has an overall wOBA of .324 in this limited season.
  7. Ezequiel Carrera, OF, Detroit Tigers. Just called up this week to share the void left by Austin Jackson (with Rajai Davis), Carrera batted 2nd in the order last night against Cy McCarthy. It's possible I stacked a few expensive Tigers last night. He had a double in that game. In the minors, Carrera had 43 SB, 6 HR, and a wOBA of .370. He won't get to face righty Kuroda tonight, but keep him on your radar, because his min salary price tag probably won't last.
  8. Ender Inciarte, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks. Oh the DBacks, their lineups are a thing of sadness lately. Often, you find the minimum salary LHB Inciarte at the top of that list, and when you do, and it's in a good park against a weak RHP, you should take note. He has a whopping four game hitting streak going, with 1HR over that stretch. Hey, it's not much, but it's better than a lot of higher priced options.
  9. Moises Sierra, OF, Chicago White Sox. He only starts a couple times a week, but when he does, he's capable of putting up the numbers as he showed last week against the Tigers and Twins. His rest of season ZIPS projection (from FanGraphs) is pretty good, suggesting that when he does play, he's expected to contribute. In a potent offense, depending on his spot in the order and the opposing pitcher, he's not a bad 3rd OF.
  10. Chris Iannetta, C, LA Angels. Everyone knows him. But does everyone know he holds a .244 ISO vs LHP? Or a .416 wOBA vs LHP? He's really cheap, in a great offense, occasionally bats 6th, and that's really all anyone can ask for. On bad catcher nights, I turn to Iannetta often.

There are other guys, but I wanted to hit a few different positions and highlight a couple of the newcomers. Other discounted players that I've used include Endy Chavez, Jordy Mercer, Sean Rodriguez, and Brandon Crawford. The last three appeared in my middle infield article from a month or so ago. Value is key to a successful DFS night. When you have to pay up for pitching, especially tonight, but most nights, honestly, your bats need to be a balance of safety, upside, and value. With new players trickling in this week, a trend I expect will continue all month, there is a new well to draw your value from. Take advantage while you can!