The beauty and heartbreak of DFS was captured in a very high profile way this past weekend at the FanDuel World Fantasy Baseball Championships. If you aren’t familiar, both FanDuel and DraftKings offer a yearly championship tournament where players who have earned tickets to participate throughout the season gather for an ultimate prize on a single slate of Saturday games. This past weekend, FanDuel hosted their championship and offered 125 entrants a chance at a $500,000 prize.
As the games wound down on Saturday night, the two teams vying for first place had equally strong stacks with batters, but one chose Joe Musgrove as their pitcher and one chose Aaron Nola. The Nola team was playing catchup for most of the night, but when Musgrove left after the sixth inning, they had their opening. When Nola batted in the seventh – mildly controversial since it was a 1-1 game, but Nola was cruising – he doubled. After a couple of hit by pitches, he came around to score, and the Phillies tacked on an insurance run. At that point, all the Nola team needed was an inning with a strikeout to overtake first place or for the Phillies to hang on for the win (6 points in FanDuel).
Sure enough, he got a strikeout it in the eighth to move into first place, bumping the Musgrove team from $500,000 down to $250,000.
And then the ninth inning happened.
Nola was sent back out, which is not surprising considering the state of the Phillies’ bulpen. He struck out Trent Grisham to pad the lead by a couple of points but then gave up a walk to Fernando Tatis, and a lineout to Manny Machado. Then – one out short of a complete game with 11 strikeouts – Nola gave up a game-tying home run to Jake Cronenworth. The potential points for the win disappeared, and the negative points for the earned runs bumped the Nola team back to second place.
The emotional highs and lows of those two guys. I can’t even imagine.
I’ve had some close calls in my DFS days, but nothing quite like that, and certainly not for $500,000. May we all be rewarded with six figures for a day’s worth of baseball research someday…
DFS THIS WEEK
This biweekly MLB DFS piece will look ahead to upcoming series with an eye towards which bats to Stack (rostering multiple players from the same lineup, a key to DFS success) and which bats to Fade (recommended spots to avoid, based on the data). I will also look at pitchers with Potential (high-upside hurlers who might save you a little salary) and arms to Avoid (perhaps pitchers who look promising on the surface but have difficult waters to navigate in the games ahead).
The schedule this week is all kinds of wonky. Only six games on the main slate Monday, some teams with two-game series, teams with two days off in the middle of the week. Things are getting a little wacky in late season DFS, so let’s look at what might be signal and what might be noise as we try to differentiate our rosters this week.
What?! Your season-long fantasy baseball league is not using Fantrax? Inconceivable! Check out everything Fantrax has to offer and I’m sure you’ll come around to our way of thinking.
MLB DFS Look Ahead: Stacks and Fades for August 23-26
Bats to Stack
Los Angeles Angels (@BAL) – Let me throw some stats at you from the Orioles’ pitching staff in the second half:
SIERA – 5.02 (28th in MLB)
K/9 – 6.89 (28th)
BB/9 – 3.08 (23rd)
HR/9 – 1.74 (28th)
ERA – 6.50 (29th)
WHIP – 1.57 (29th)
I don’t know what other endorsement you need to stack Angels this week, but how about one more? This series shifts to Camden Yards, which is fourth overall in offensive park factor the last three years and third in 2021. This park is also the most conducive to allowing home runs this year, more than 12% higher than any other park in MLB.
We don’t have salaries for Tuesday thru Thursday yet, but I can only imagine how much Shohei Ohtani is going to cost against right-handers Spenser Watkins and Dean Kramer. If you play NFL DFS, you remember back in 2019 the one time Christian McCaffery reached $11,000 on DraftKings. We may get that kind of sticker shock with Ohtani in this series. He has been at the mid-$6,000s recently on DraftKings and it might get up close to $7,000.
But there are also cheap bats all around him like lefties Jared Walsh and Brandon Marsh, plus high-upside bats like Justin Upton and Jose Iglesias to complete the stack.
Bats to Fade
Cincinnati Reds (@MIL) – I’m particularly looking at the combination of the Tuesday/Wednesday games against Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff plus the fact that the Reds leave the launching pad that is Great American Ballpark for this series.
The Reds have been absolutely crushing the ball in the second half thanks to Joey Votto, Jesse Winker, Nick Castellanos, and the emergence of Jonathan India. They rank second in slugging since the break, fifth in walk rate, and first in wOBA. Much of that, however, is due to some good home cooking.
But away from home this year, the Reds are much more middle of the road, ranking 12th in slugging, 15th in walk rate, and 12th in wRC+. They do have the sixth-lowest strikeout rate on the road (22.5%), but that is juxtaposed with Burnes and Woodruff who both have K-rates north of 29% at home. I’m betting on the Brew-Crew, trying to push the Reds out of contention in the division, to win the matchups for the first two games in Milwaukee. They will likely be a fade for me.
Pitchers with Potential
Arizona Diamondbacks (@PIT, @PHI) – I’m not really looking at the first game of this series for our planning purposes. The Diamondbacks announced Humberto Mejia as the starter early Monday, and he isn’t even in the DraftKings or FanDuel player pools as of Monday morning.
But lefties Madison Bumgarner and Tyler Gilbert will line up against the Pirates for two before giving way to resurgent Zac Gallen against the Phillies on Thursday. Back when you spent that FAAB money to acquire Gilbert after his no-hitter, this was the matchup you were hoping for. The Pirates have the lowest slugging percentage against left-handers in the majors this year. They also have a wRC+ of 78 (22% below league average) against that handedness in 2021. Both Mad-Bum and Gilbert are looking like strong, cheap options in the middle of the week.
And then we have Gallen who went off to Coors and came away unscathed. Gallen torched the Rockies for seven innings, no runs allowed, and nine strikeouts. Now he gets a Phillies team that ranks 18th in slugging against righties, and somehow has the eighth-worst wRC+ against them, 12% below league average. I will be very interested to see what salary we get on Gallen in this one. Will they weight the Coors dominance or the 14 earned runs in the previous four starts more heavily? Anything over $8,000 on DraftKings or $8,500 on FanDuel will likely price me out, but if we get a salary in the low $7,000s again, that is going to look mighty enticing.
Arms to Avoid
San Diego Padres (vs. LAD) – At first glance, the names of the Padres’ probables look like who you might want on your roster: Darvish, Snell, Musgrove. I mean, we just talked about how Musgrove won someone a cool half-million on Saturday.
Musgrove looks to be the safest of this group as we enter the week. He has a solid, but not spectacular 28% strikeout rate, and a middle-of-the-pack 6.5% walk rate. The problem is the Dodgers have the highest walk rate in the league, and only strike out 22% of the time as a team. That leaves Darvish and Snell as potential options, but both come with huge red flags.
Yu Darvish will be fresh off the IL in this start (and likely on a shorter leash), and with Blake Snell having the same SIERA as Brady Singer and the highest walk rate in MLB this year, I just can’t trust them against the high-powered Dodgers, even at home.
Fantrax was one of the fastest-growing fantasy sites of 2020, and we’re not stopping now. With multi-team trades, designated commissioner/league managers, and drag/drop easy click methods, Fantrax is sure to excite the serious fantasy sports fan – sign up now for a free year at Fantrax.com.