FanDuel Daily Fantasy Baseball Helper: Wednesday 3/20/19
After a long, harsh winter, the clouds are finally starting to part, allowing the sun to shine back into the lives of baseball fans everywhere. The 2019 regular season is about to get underway.
Well, sort of, at least.
Before we get a full slate of meaningful games next week, the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics are at the Tokyo Dome for a two-game set that starts early Wednesday morning. Ichiro Suzuki returns home, possibly for the final two games of his career, and the A's start their quest to get back to the playoffs for the second straight year.
That's not even to mention that we get a bit of single-game daily fantasy action to boot.
In FanDuel's revised single-game format, you pick five hitters you think will do well during that game. One of them is your MVP, and you get to double the points they score during the game. Your All-Star slot will earn 1.5-times the points, and then you get three utility slots to round out the lineup. Keep it under the salary cap of $35,000, and you'll be all set to submit that puppy.
Now, because first pitch is at 5:35 am Eastern, you will want to make sure you have a way to check lineups before lock. numberFire's games and lineups page can show you a projected batting order and will have the official lineups once they are posted. During the regular season, that'll also be where you can find the moneyline, total, and projected starters for each game every day.
Let's split this up into two segments of hitters to run through for Wednesday morning's tilt: MVP possibilities and value plays. Which hitters should we target as the 2019 season gets underway in Japan? Let's check it out.
Edwin Encarnacion (FanDuel Salary: $8,500): Wednesday's pitching matchup is between righty Mike Fiers for the A's and lefty Marco Gonzales for the Mariners. The A's active roster was great against lefties last year, but it seems like we still might want to favor the Mariners' lineup here.
The main reasoning is that Gonzales really had a breakout season in 2018. He amped up his cutter usage on June 8th, and from that day on, he had a 3.78 skill-interactive ERA (SIERA) while allowing just a 32.9% fly-ball rate. Even righties held just a 32.6% fly-ball rate against him, putting a bit of a cap on Oakland's dinger upside.
Fiers closed out 2019 well, but that success came despite some major issues with batted balls. For the full season, Fiers allowed a 39.1% hard-hit rate with just a 39.4% ground-ball rate, and after he joined the A's, that hard-hit rate went up to 45.2%. We want to hunt for dingers in this format, and it seems like Fiers is a bit more likely to give them up than Gonzales.
Enter new Mariner Edwin Encarnacion. Encarnacion finished 2018 with a 41.8% hard-hit rate and 41.8% fly-ball rate against right-handed pitchers, meshing well with Fiers' reverse-splits tendencies. Encarnacion did that while striking out just 23.6% of the time, as well. Encarnacion is infamous for starting the season slowly, and his spring training stats will bloody your eyeballs, but that could also allow you to snag him at reduced popularity.
Mitch Haniger ($8,000): If Encarnacion's early-season struggles bother you, then Mitch Haniger is here to still help you exploit Fiers' difficulties with righties.
Haniger did post a better wRC+ against southpaws last year, but even without the platoon advantage, he still managed a .219 isolated slugging percentage thanks to his 36.6% hard-hit rate and 38.7% fly-ball rate. Add in that Haniger can add upside with his legs in the form of a stolen base, and he's another solid contender for your MVP slot.
Khris Davis ($9,500): If you're deciding to stack the A's, you've got two big guns at the top who blast lefties into the sun in Khris Davis and Matt Chapman. Chapman, though, is coming off multiple surgeries and has struggled with strikeouts this spring. That likely gives Davis the slight edge.
If you're looking for someone in this game with pure double-dong upside, it has to be Davis. He finished last year with a 47.5% hard-hit rate and 45.5% fly-ball rate against lefties, helping him post a small-sample isolated slugging percentage of .265. Davis has also been an above-average hitter against cutters for his career and showed big improvements there last year, making him a good fit to counter what Gonzales will try to do.
Stephen Piscotty ($7,000): With how good he was last year, it's surprising that Stephen Piscotty isn't generating more buzz heading into 2019. Wednesday's game could be a good launch pad to raise the awareness of his bounceback.
Technically, Piscotty did fare better against righties than lefties last year, potentially making him a strange pick with a southpaw on the bump. But Piscotty's fly-ball rate did go up to 34.1% against lefties compared to 32.5% against righties, and he also sported a better walk rate in the split, meaning he was seeing the ball well out of the hands of lefties. His numbers against lefties should go up this year. Piscotty could bat third, right between Chapman and Davis. At this salary and with the skills he showed again in 2018, that makes him a strong play.
Ramon Laureano ($7,000): There's a bit more uncertainty at the top of the A's order for this opener with Robbie Grossman, Marcus Semien, and Ramon Laureano all candidates to start things off. Whoever does hit there will likely be a solid value option. Given that Laureano held down that spot with both Semien and Grossman in the lineup on March 11th, let's cover him more in depth here.
Laureano's appeal is similar to Haniger's: if he doesn't leave the yard, he can still get you points with his legs. He had 18 steals last year across 460 plate appearances between Triple-A and the majors. New Mariners catcher Omar Narvaez allowed 66 steals in just 85 games behind the dish last season, potentially mitigating the advantage Gonzales has by being left-handed. Laureano adds pop with his 39.8% hard-hit rate in the majors last year, so with the platoon advantage on his side, we should be willing to look his way if he avoids the bottom couple slots in the lineup.
Domingo Santana ($5,500): If you want a value outlet for attacking Fiers' reverse splits, it's time to get Domingo Santana back in your life.
Santana was stuck in a part-time role last year with the Milwaukee Brewers, masking the DFS upside he showed back in 2017. But even with sporadic playing time, Santana still managed to finish 2018 with a 39.8% hard-hit rate against righties, up from 38.3% the previous year. Given that Fiers can get some strikeouts, it's important to note that Santana's spring strikeout rate is an acceptable 21.4%, down from 43.1% last spring. This allows us to plug him in, hoping he generates some upside either with a stolen base or an extra-base hit.