5 Underpriced Players for Early-Season Daily Fantasy Baseball
One day into the NCAA tourney, and my bracket already sucks. I took Northeastern to go all the way because I figured they'd be a good surrogate of joy for my beloved Northwestern Wildcats. It went well! So, it's time to turn to a new muse.
Thankfully, both DraftKings and FanDuel have posted prices for the upcoming Major League Baseball seasons. I don't care if it's premature; I'm looking, and you can't stop me.
As far as the pitchers go, not all of the opening-day starters have been announced, so the list is incomplete. But the rest of the players are out in full force, and there are some juicy bargains to be had, which could continue into the early parts of the season.
Here are a few of the guys you may want to consider early on before their prices get too steep.
Corey Kluber, SP, Cleveland Indians
DraftKings: $9,800 | FanDuel: $10,400
You know right away that guys like Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez are going to have ridiculously high price tags. Right now, they're the only two pitchers priced above $10,000 on DraftKings, and they both top $11,000. Then you go all the way down to $9,800, and you find none other than the reigning American League Cy Young, Corey Kluber. Want.
As noted in our breakdown of pitcher scoring rules from earlier this winter, you want a pitcher that's going to rack up the strikeouts. This is especially true on DraftKings. If you're going to pay up for strikeouts but don't want to break the bank, Kluber is a nice alternative.
In 34 starts last year, Kluber recorded double-digit strikeouts 11 times. He threw at least eight innings on 10 separate occasions. He allowed either one or zero earned runs 14 times. He's not Kershaw and he's not King Felix, but I'd be more than willing to pay his current price for that dependability on a nightly basis.
Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins
DraftKings: $4,200 | FanDuel: $3,700
Last year, Yelich hit in front of a revolving door of blurgh-ness. The Marlins' number-two hitters compiled a slash of .247/.309/.348 on the season. That's not going to happen again.
Whether Yelich hits first, second or third, he'll have someone far more competent backing him up. It could even be Giancarlo Stanton, which would be straight swoon city. Neither Dee Gordon nor Martin Prado is a huge difference-maker, but they could give Yelich a boost in his dependent counting stats.
There aren't a lot of guys that get on base at a clip above .360, and there are even fewer that also add 20-plus steals. Yelich gets you both and then some. At his price, Yelich is really a no-brainer for the early part of the season.
Brian Dozier, 2B, Minnesota Twins
DraftKings: $4,000 | FanDuel: $3,500
Brian Dozier was a gosh-durn fantasy baseball savior in the first half of 2014. He had 18 bombs, a .436 slugging percentage, and a .344 wOBA. His power dropped off significantly in the second half, but he still managed to increase his on-base percentage and finish the season ranked 15th among all batters in points on DraftKings and 13th on FanDuel.
Our MLB projections see him regaining much of his first-half form. He enters the season projected at a .251/.340/.433 slash, all of which would be better than his 2014 marks with the exception of the on-base percentage. He is also projected to finish second among second basemen in runs scored, second in home runs, fifth in RBI, fifth in OPS, and eighth in stolen bases. So why is he the ninth-most expensive second baseman on DraftKings and eighth on FanDuel?
Dozier has shown significant improvement each of his three seasons in the big leagues, and he's entering his age-28 season. He probably won't show further improvement this year, but he doesn't need to. If he can simply sustain what he did last year, rough second half included, he'll easily exceed his current price.
C.J. Cron, 1B, Los Angeles Angels
DraftKings: $3,200 | FanDuel: $2,700
How often do you get to use a guy with a .450 slugging percentage as a punt play? Welcome to the dojo, C.J. Cron.
Cron, in a nut-shell, is a younger, cheaper Mark Trumbo. He's not going to get on base a whole lot, but when he does, it probably means extra bases. Cron actually had better rate stats last year than Trumbo did in 2013, after which the Angels sent him to Arizona and netted a pair of prospects in a three-team trade.
There are two kind-of-really-important-ish problems with Cron: his playing time and his place in the batting order. Playing time isn't an issue as you should know whether or not he's playing in a daily league. But the batting order hurts.
Last year, Cron only started the game batting higher than fifth twice. He hit fifth 13 times and hit sixth or lower in his 47 other starts. That hurts as it surrounds him with less talented guys and gives him fewer opportunities at the dish. At his price, though, it's hard not to plug a guy like Cron in your lineup when he's swinging the bat.
Dallas Keuchel, SP, Houston Astros
DraftKings: $6,900 | FanDuel: $8,300
When you think of dominance, you don't really think of a guy that averages 6.57 strikeouts and 2.16 walks per nine innings. But Dallas Keuchel just gets it done.
Keuchel does this by showing an utter contempt for worms and other burrowing creatures. No ground habitat is safe around Keuchel and his 63.5 percent ground-ball rate. The qualified pitcher with the second-highest mark in this category behind Keuchel was Tyson Ross at 57.0 percent.
Why does this matter for daily fantasy? Even though he doesn't rack up the whiffs, Keuchel also isn't likely to give up runs in bulk via the long-fly. Below is a chart of the number of runs he allowed in his 29 starts last season.
Keuchel allowed two or fewer runs in 58.6 percent of his outings. That percentage increased to 75.9 percent if you look at the starts in which he allowed three runs or less. That's not superstar-esque, but it'll definitely work.
If you're going to go the (relatively) cheap route on a pitcher, you might as well get one that has a high floor. Keuchel is that guy. He's not going to blow you away, but he's also not going to sink your entire team with some seven-run abomination.