The Baseball Prospectus “Beat the Expert” League on Draft Kings (see sidebar) is quickly becoming my favorite tournament in DFS. The payouts are awesome, we get to apply our skills against one another in a friendly yet competitive setting, and we get to see how other managers construct their rosters. It's also a private league and therefore has no rake – there are $300 worth of entries and $300 worth of prizes, and since it's a guaranteed tournament, any empty spots will translate to a positive win expectancy. The only problem is when it gets too empty, as though I enjoy the financial windfall, the thrill of competition is also lost. Yesterday had a thin slate of games plus weather scares in Southern California, so it is understandable that the competition was a bit light, but I hope to see everyone back out there today for what should be an exciting night of DFS, with 14 games on tap.
Stephen Vogt, C/1B ($4400)
vs. LHP: .213/.259/.413 in 81 PA
vs. RHP: .279/.335/.455 in 501 PA
Vogt has been well-shielded throughout his career to avoid southpaws, with just 13.9 percent of his career plate appearances coming against left-handers. He might be on the bench tonight with left-hander Carlos Rodon toeing the rubber for the White Sox, but even if he is penciled into the starting lineup, the $4400 price tag is too high for a player who has been protected from lefties throughout his career. Vogt is crushing this season at a .337/.425/.673 clip with an AL-leading 30 RBI, but expectations should be tempered for a player who has had 84 percent of his plate appearances this season right-handed pitchers.
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Mike Napoli, 1B ($3700)
vs. LHP: .277/.389/.518 in 1105 PA
vs. RHP: .246/.343/.472 in 2752 PA
Napoli has been an utter disaster this season, scrapping along with a slash of .165/.278/.294 so far this season. His struggles have slowly started to wane, as Napoli has registered four extra-base hits in May after tallying just a pair of them in the first month of the season, but with just seven hits in his last 49 at bats he continues to struggle mightily with making contact. Napoli enjoys a spike against left-handers, so J.A. Happ might just help him to break out of his funk, but that likelihood is further dented by the improvements to velocity and command that Happ has realized over the past two seasons.
Christian Yelich, OF ($3700)
vs. LHP: .247/.316/.344 in 276 PA
vs. RHP: .289/.373/.406 in 731 PA
Yelich recently returned from a back injury and shook off the rust with a longball in his fourth game back in the lineup, but that's really the only hit that Yelich has registered with authority, going 3-for-21 with the one homer in six games. Facing the struggling Julio Teheran, Yelich will have the opportunity to parlay both his platoon advantage and his patient eye at the plate into a productive day against the Braves. Both of his successful steals have come since returning from the back injury, so should Yelich get on base then expect that he could take off, and much of his theoretical value in DFS today is predicated on his potential to swipe a bag.
The right-hander gets a lot of strikeouts for a pitcher with a 91-mph average fastball, but Odorizzi survives based on movement and pitch command rather than raw velo. He can use his fastball to get whiffs or grounders, and he has greatly expanded his use of a cutter this season, going from the 4.2-percent rate of last season to an astounding 19.9-percent usage pattern this season, giving opposing batters more options to weigh when playing the chess match with Odorizzi. His walk rate has been nearly cut in half since last year, and though regression and flyball tendencies are waiting to pull up his homer rate, Odorizzi is likely to continue surprising the doubters who think that pitching skills are defined by the radar gun.
J.A. Happ, SEA vs. BOS ($7300)
Happ has been a different pitcher since last season. He's upped the ante of his baseline velocity and improved his pitch command, a dangerous combination that is rarely realized in concert, particularly within such a short time window. The BoSox aren't hitting as well as expected, including the second-lowest slugging percentage in the American League with a meager .364 mark this season. The Astros knocked him around for six runs in six frames two starts ago, but Happ has allowed two runs or fewer in his other five starts this year, all but one of which met the requirements for a quality start. On the downside, the two times this season that Happ has missed a QS were in his most recent pair of turns.
Chad Billingsley, PHI vs. ARI ($6100)
Attempting to make a comeback following two years away from the bigs, Bills has returned with solid velocity, averaging 93.3 mph on his fastball for the highest recording that he has posted since 2007, but little else for the Phillies this season. He has been hit for five runs in six innings in each of his starts this season, totaling just six strikeouts and five walks in his first 12 innings of work. Both of his outings came against the heavy-hitting Padres, but Bills won't likely have an easier time with an Arizona offense that has scored 4.88 runs per game this season, good for second-best in the National League.
Jay Bruce, OF ($3600)
What happened to Jay Bruce? Rewind the tapes 18 months, and Bruce was on his way to a solid career worthy of a name that has been etched into history by Bruce's such as Willis, Campbell, and Lee. But Jay Bruce has suddenly forgotten how to hit, and any benefit of a mulligan that he received for last season has been used, and now we're left with the hitter who has hit a pitcher-like .162 this season. He has plenty of walks and the ball can leave the yard on the rare occasion that he makes solid contact, but over the course of the 2013-14 off-season Bruce converted from a 30-homer outfielder who had whiff tendencies into an emaciated Rob Deer clone, with an Isolated power that's greater than his batting average. He hasn't even hit right-handers, with a line of .145/.276/.289 in 98 plate appearances against northpaws this season, and just when you think that things can't possibly get any worse, he goes and puts up a two-week stretch of 6-for-42 with 13 strikeouts and only three walks. Bruce faces Madison Bumgarner today, whose skills and left-handedness should precipitate Bruce into shrinking, along with his presence in the Cincinnati lineup.
Rain is rolling through the midwest, but it looks like a full slate of games will get completed across the country today
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