RotoWire Baseball Championship – 2nd Qualifier

Round One of the RotoWire/FanDuel Baseball Championship is in the books. Congratulations to those who had strong first qualifying rounds and set themselves up well to qualify for the Championship Round on June 27th. Congratulations in particular to wyldncrzygy524, who took home the Round One title with a score of 166.8. None of their picks were particularly “wyld” or “crzy”, as all of their players were owned by at least 19.6 percent of contest participants, but if you hit on all your picks you’re bound to do well, and this “gy” did just that. Each of their players scored at least nine points, with Jon Gray, Nolan Arenado and Dexter Fowler particularly standing out.

Meanwhile, the experts here at RotoWire are running our own parallel contest. Lead Prospect Analyst James Anderson is showing that he knows far more than just prospects, jumping out to an early lead after winning Round One and placing third in Round Two. He rode Jon Gray and Jed Lowrie to his Week One title and saw Javier Baez’s 56.6-point game power him to a bronze in the second week. (Did I have Baez in my lineup only to change him out at the last second? Yes, of course I did.) The full leaderboard for the expert tournament can be found here. Here’s the top 10:

  1. James Anderson (realjranderson) — 323.30
  2. Eric Caturia (etcat30) — 314.60
  3. Chris Smith (smithca28) — 304.50
  4. Brian Pelowski (brianp) — 294.50
  5. Peter Schoenke (rotopeter) — 292.10
  6. Jeff Erickson (jefferickson) — 290.60
  7. Kevin O’Brien (rotokob) — 289.40
  8. Aaron Quinn (aaronq) — 288.90
  9. Joel Bartilotta (joelbartilotta) — 282.60
  10. John McKechnie (mckech3) — 267.80

Who should you put in your lineup for the second round of qualifying? I’ll give some of my recommendations in a minute, but first, I have to recommend a few of our excellent tools here at RotoWire. Use the Lineup Optimizer as a good baseline to start building your lineup and to help uncover players you weren’t considering using. Check the Daily Lineups page to find undervalued guys who happen to be batting higher in the order today. And finally, this year, the Weather Report page seems to be more important than ever with the seemingly endless stream of postponed games. Not even domes are safe any more! (Apparently it snows a lot in Canada. Who would have guessed?)

Top-shelf Studs

P Gerrit Cole, Houston Astros at Seattle Mariners

FanDuel Price: $10,600

There are three starters pitching Wednesday who clearly stand out as being a tier above the rest: Cole, Robbie Ray ($9,500 against San Francisco) and Carlos Carrasco ($9,300 against the Twins in San Juan, Puerto Rico). Cole is throwing the best of the trio, is pitching in the easiest park, is facing possibly the worst opposing pitcher and has the best lineup supporting him. He’s been excellent in his first three starts for the Astros, posting a 1.29 ERA and an absurd 46.8 percent strikeout rate, easily the top among qualified starters. You’ll have to pay up if you want him, but if you’re paying up for someone, he’s the guy.

1B Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves vs Philadelphia Phillies

FanDuel Price: $4,600

SunTrust Park, the House that Freeman built, is great for left-handed power. Phillies starter Vince Velasquez is also great for left-handed power. The right-hander gets his fair share of strikeouts, but he’s allowed an above-average number of flyballs and an above-average HR/9 over the course of his career. Freeman is walking a ton so far this year (his 25.7 percent walk rate ranks second in the league) which limits his opportunities to hit homers, but the walks give him a high floor while the park gives him a high ceiling. Freeman doesn’t come cheap, but out of the most expensive tier of hitters, he’s probably the best bet for a big performance, as he has the best combination of park and opposing pitcher.

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2B Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves vs Philadelphia Phillies

FanDuel Price: $4,500

In many ways, it’s insane that Albies, who went outside the top 100 in most season-long drafts, will cost $100 more than consensus second-overall pick Jose Altuve on Wednesday. Albies has outperformed the 2017 AL MVP so far this year, though, with a 185-117 advantage in wRC+ and a 5-0 edge in homers. He also plays in a much more hitter-friendly park Wednesday night and will have the platoon advantage. A Freeman/Altuve combo would give you the fifth- and sixth-most expensive players on the slate, but it has the potential to put up huge numbers. It could, of course, be a dud, if Vince Velasquez is on his game, but he’s equally likely to get knocked out in the third inning, giving the Braves’ duo the opportunity to get several at-bats against the soft underbelly of the Phillies’ bullpen.

Mid-price Options

OF Odubel Herrera, Philadelphia Phillies at Atlanta Braves

FanDuel Price: $3,800

As mentioned in the Freddie Freeman section, SunTrust Park is a great park for lefty hitters, and Herrera is one of those who stands to benefit. He’ll also benefit from the platoon advantage against a mediocre opposing pitcher (Brandon McCarthy) and well as a good position in the lineup (third). He’s off to a very hot start to the season, hitting .340 with an .887 OPS. Everything lines up well for him to be worth his price Wednesday night.

OF David Peralta, Arizona Diamondbacks vs San Francisco Giants

FanDuel Price: $3,400

Peralta’s numbers are even better than Herrera’s, as he’s also hitting .340 but with a a .971 OPS. He also gets the platoon advantage against an unimposing pitcher in Chris Stratton at a hitter-friendly park. He has an even better spot in the lineup, leading off in every game he’s played in so far this year. And he comes $400 cheaper. There won’t be many better options than Peralta for his price.

Cheap Flyers

P Steven Matz, New York Mets vs Washington Nationals

FanDuel Price: $6,900

I had originally recommended Tyson Ross in this space, but his start has been pushed back to Thursday. His replacement, Luis Perdomo, is even cheaper than Ross and shares his pitcher-friendly park, but he has a 5.15 career ERA and a 16.5 percent strikeout rate. Matz has very much in common with Ross, both in profile and in matchup. They both have a ton of injury risk, but if he doesn’t get injured Wednesday night, that won’t affect your DFS lineup. They’ve both been good in the past and look good again so far this year — Matz has a 3.77 ERA (backed up by a 3.73 xFIP) and a 28.3 percent strikeout rate. The Mets’ matchup with the Nationals looks initially difficult, but the Nationals rank 24th in the league by wRC+ against lefties, and Citi Field is one of the easier parks to pitch in. Matz certainly doesn’t come without risk, but he’s the best cheap pitching option available.

2B Ketel Marte, Arizona Diamondbacks vs San Francisco Giants

FanDuel Price: $2,500

Marte is nothing special, but several factors point to him being a good value Wednesday night. He’ll have the platoon advantage as a switch-hitter against righty Chris Stratton, and he’s hit righties (.277) better than lefties (.244) over the course of his career. Stratton is an adequate pitcher, but he’s one of the weaker ones on a slate with no true duds. He’ll be playing in a park in Chase Field that still seems to be fairly hitter-friendly, despite the installation of a humidor over the offseason, on a night in which most games are taking place at pitcher-friendly parks. Most importantly, Marte is locked into the second spot in Arizona’s lineup, giving him plenty of chances to score. Any hitter with a basic level of competence is worth considering if they have all four key DFS factors (lineup spot, platoon advantage, good park and weak opposing pitcher) at a cheap price, and Marte clearly meets that low bar.

3B Daniel Descalso, Arizona Diamondbacks vs San Francisco Giants

FanDuel Price: $2,000

Most of the reasons to look at Marte apply to Descalso as well, with a few caveats. His lineup spot isn’t as good, as he’s generally hitting fifth in the order. He’s also off to a poor start to the season, hitting just .189 through 15 games, though he does at least have two homers. There are a couple of factors in his favor, however. First, he’s literally as cheap as possible, giving you the flexibility to add one more star to your lineup. Second, third base is a tough position in this particular slate. Of the eight most expensive third basemen Wednesday night, only Anthony Rendon has the platoon advantage against a mediocre pitcher, and he’s been battling a toe injury. If you’re going to go cheap at the hot corner, why not go very cheap? The gap between, say, Ryan Flaherty and Descalso is not large (if it even exists) but choosing Descalso will save you $1,100.

Not Worth the Price Tag

OF Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals at New York Mets

FanDuel Price: $5,400

This one could make me look stupid. Bryce Harper is leading the league in home runs and could easily put up the highest point total of the day on any given day. Still, he’s susceptible to park factors and platoon splits just like every other hitter, so relative to other games, he’s less likely to live up to his lofty price. Citi Field is a pretty tough park to hit in, and Harper’s wRC+ against lefties for his career is a less-than-elite 114. He’s the most expensive hitter on the slate, and he’s less likely to be worth his steep price tag than he is on nearly every other day, so if you want to be as efficient as possible with your dollars, it’s probably best to look elsewhere.