The 2017 baseball season is starting to pick up steam, which means it’s time for another installment of the RotoWire/FanDuel Fantasy Baseball Championship. For the uninitiated, this means an opportunity to compete with fellow RotoWire readers in a series of contests to try and win your share of an extra $2,000, subscriptions, and all the brags you can awkwardly squeeze into casual conversation.
The tournament will run from April 5 through June 14, giving you six chances to qualify for the final round, which takes place on June 28. If you finish in the top-25 on the overall leaderboard, you are as good as in. Inquiring minds can learn more by clicking here. Meanwhile, the experts will compete against each other for a separate championship, but I’m afraid I can’t divulge any more information about that secret, exclusive tournament.
When it comes to DFS strategy, we all think we are god’s gift. Why not take advantage of some of RotoWire’s gifts this season? Use tools like the lineup optimizer in conjunction with our daily lineups and weather reports in order to take home the gold.
If you are looking for data that is a bit off the beaten track to give you an edge, allow me to recommend batted ball splits. These splits deal with the groundball and flyball percentages of our players. The basic idea is that flyball hitters do well against groundball pitchers, while pitchers who throw grounders excel against hitters who respond in kind. We will incorporate this strategy into our picks below, but those who want to go a bit more in depth on the subject can check out this article written by Andrew Koo of Baseball Prospectus. If you remember nothing else from this blog, make sure that flyball hitters are a part of your lineups on any given day, as I’ve yet to see a grounder down the third base line leave the yard.
SP Tyler Chatwood, Colorado Rockies at Milwaukee Brewers
FanDuel Price: $7,600
Chatwood fits the mold of a Colorado starter because he carries an extreme groundball rate (57 percent last year). The Brewers had the seventh highest groundball percentage in the league last season. In essence, this means the Brewers will be letting Chatwood pitch the game he wants, as he should be able to minimize the risk of homers and other extra-base hits. The fact that the game will take place in a hitter’s park makes it all but certain that the 26-year-old will be scarcely owned on the large slate. This will allow owners to pick up some uncommon points if all goes according to plan. Those of you who are more into traditional stats (yawn) will note that Chatwood kept a 1.69 ERA on the road last year. While that number is likely not repeatable, he was able to limit hard contact to 25 percent away from Coors Field.
C Cameron Rupp, Philadelphia Phillies at Cincinnati Reds
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FanDuel Price: $2,400
How low can we go? Rupp carried surprising power against lefties last season, when he finished the year with a .632 slugging percentage over 68 at-bats. Opposing starter Brandon Finnegan pitched well in the second half of 2016, but struggled with the long ball throughout the year, finishing with a 1.5 HR/9 rate over 172 innings. Rupp figures to be another scarcity play swallowed up by a large slate, which makes him an attractive punt option that can put up quick points.
OF Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Diego Padres
FanDuel Price: $3,100
Pederson was rewarded with a spot on the bench after hitting a grand slam on Opening Day, but he should be back in the starting lineup against Trevor Cahill, who started just one game last year while seeing 50 more appearances out of the bullpen. Cahill earned his way onto the starting five with his work as a member of the Cubs, but still logged a walk rate of 12 percent. Pederson slashed an impressive .269/.371/.547 with 24 home runs against right-handed pitchers in 2016.
Adam Duvall, Cincinnati Reds vs. Philadelphia Phillies
FanDuel Price: $3,300
Duvall was one of my favorite value picks down the stretch last season. He was cheap, he hit fly balls by the truckload, and he called Great American Ballpark home. All three of those things hold true in 2017 as Duvall looks to test his talents against Jerad Eickhoff. Eickhoff showed a three percent increase in his groundball rate last year (41 percent), and finished with just a 19 percent strikeout rate on the road over 89 innings.
High Risk/High Reward
OF Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels at Oakland A’s
FanDuel Price: $4,800
Trout has a solid matchup against Jharel Cotton by the numbers, but Cotton only pitched 29.1 innings last season, leaving us with the risk of uncertainty. Trout took Kendall Graveman deep on Opening Day, and it’s not hard to imagine him leaving the park again. It only takes one homer to justify a salary, and Trout’s .238 ISO against righties in 2016 makes it tough to bet against him.
P Cole Hamels, Texas Rangers vs. Cleveland Indians
FanDuel Price: $9,300
Hamels’ changeup had been the strongest weapon in his arsenal for some time before it abandoned him in 2016, plunging to 0.8 RAA after standing tall at 17.2 RAA the previous year. This resulted in the 33-year-old relying more on his cutter, which turned in a slightly negative result. (-0.5 RAA). While he was able to keep his strikeout rate fairly consistent, his walk rate climbed to nine percent. None of this means that Hamels won’t be able to pitch well at times, but the Indians were a bottom-10 team in strikeouts last season, and have plenty of righty bats that can make Hamels pay for falling behind in the count.