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It's January. Fantasy football season is over. Playoff DFS for football is getting weird due to the short slates. It's that time of year when baseball junkies begin poring over stats and scenarios in preparation for the fantasy baseball season that lies ahead. The anticipation of Draft Day (aka Best Holiday of the Year) is unparalleled in the fantasy world, and the sheer volume of data that is generated each baseball season makes for the best off-season analysis in sports.

DFS is a different animal, and though the game doesn't get started in earnest until Opening Day, there are a few things that we can do to prepare ourselves for the upcoming season. Constructing DFS lineups is a fun yet time-consuming exercise, and a great amount of time can be saved by having some go-to players. With this in mind, we can will kick-off our positional preview of DFS players, starting behind the dish to see if we can shine the light on a few backstops whose DFS-specific skills have yet to be fully recognized.

Over-analysis can jade anyone's point of view, and in this day and age we have splits for everything, available right at our fingertips: day/night, home/road, last 10 games, versus right- or left-handers, in wins and in losses. Knowing the player outliers for these splits can reveal great bargain plays in DFS. The one split that carries the most weight with me is the platoon split, as the handedness of hitter-pitcher matchups is a relatively reliable tool that can be generalized across MLB. Consider the following table:

SLG

ISO

OBP

LHB vs. LHP

.362

.119

.307

LHB vs. RHP

.418

.159

.329

RHB vs. LHP

.415

.155

.324

RHB vs. RHP

.396

.146

.305

There are exceptions to the platoon rule, of course, but a good general rule is to seek out hitter matchups that exploit the heavy hand of platoons versus certain starting pitchers. Hitter prices can fluctuate wildly based on the quality of the starting pitcher that they are facing that day, yet the impact of platoon splits is greatly underappreciated by the player salaries. On the extreme ends of the platoon-split spectrum are some very interesting examples of players that don't necessarily pop when looking at the aggregate body of work.

I have found that slugging percentage is the most critical of slash categories when it comes to DFS, as total bases are worth more than walks and extra-base hits drive runs and RBI, leading to DFS success. Here are the top slugging percentages for starting catchers against left-handed pitchers

Power vs. LHP, Catchers (min. 100 PA)

ISO

SLG

B. Posey

.235

.564

J. McCann

.223

.534

J. Lucroy

.187

.494

M. Wieters

.206

.484

G. Soto

.200

.481

D. Norris

.186

.479

C. Iannetta

.225

.477

J. Phegley

.204

.471

Buster Posey's domination of left-handed pitchers is well-established, and he made several appearances in Fantasy Rounders last season. It's the relative domination that's so surprising, as Posey is the only catcher with more than 500 career plate appearances who slugs over .500 against southpaws. The placement of James McCann is more surprising, and sample size will likely reveal the issue and give way to some regression next season (he has just 111 career plate appearances against left-handers), but his penchant for preferring lefties goes back to the minor leagues. The appearance of Lucroy should come as no surprise as his track record for hitting left-handers goes back several years, but the platoon reversed in his abysmal 2015 season and he was not a trustworthy option against pitchers of any ilk

Despite a career that has been somewhat disappointing on the offensive side of the ball, Matt Wieters has held up his end of the hype train when facing lefty pitchers. The problem is that he comes up empty most often against right-handers, slashing just .250/.313/.399 against them for his career. Soto is an under-the-radar source of pop against southpaws, and the 11-year veteran continues to thump left-handers with a .474 slugging percentage against them in 2015. Norris is well-known for his platoon exploits, and once again this is a player whose lack of ability to hit right-handers makes him DFS-playable only when he has the platoon advantage.

The list is wrapped by a couple of lesser-appreciated veterans. Whereas the word is out on lefty-mashing players like Norris and Posey, these two backstops typically have low ownership rates in addition to low price tags. Chris Iannetta is a part-time catcher who's appearance in the lineup is only loosely tied to the handedness of the opposing pitcher, but he's worth consideration whenever he earns the start against a lefty. Josh Phegley is a southpaw specialist and the A's use him as such, and he's a great option if you're looking for a player to pop one out of the park if he's facing a left-hander. Young backstop J.T. Realmuto has busted a .478 slugging percentage and .187 ISO against left-handers, but with only 95 plate appearances he fell short of the playing time requirements to qualify for the list.

Every player on the above list is a right-handed batter who enjoys the platoon advantage against southpaws. Wieters is technically a switch-hitter, but all of his damage against left-handed pitchers have come with the Oriole swinging from the right side of the plate. This trend is at least partly due to the preponderance of right-hand hitting catchers – of the 35 players under consideration as starting catchers, only seven were left-handed batters while five were switch-hitters; the other 23 backstops all hit exclusively from the right side.

Let's take a look at the best sluggers against right-handed pitchers:

Power vs. RHP, Catchers (min. 100 PA)

ISO

SLG

K. Schwarber

.279

.557

B. McCann

.204

.475

B. Posey

.150

.453

Saltalamacchia

.196

.447

A. Pierzynski

.149

.439

M. Montero

.167

.437

S. Vogt

.171

.436

The raw values are much less impressive for this group, driven by the low number of left-handed hitting catchers who carry a platoon advantage against right arms. Schwarber tops the list, and obviously his case is fogged by low sample size while his future position eligibility is in doubt. Brian McCann has reestablished himself as a power threat, perhaps aided by the short porches of new Yankee Stadium, and the left-handed batter is a legitimate threat when he faces right-handed pitchers. The problem is that his cost is often prohibitive, so McCann playability in DFS is based largely on the quality of pitcher he is facing.

Posey is the only right-handed bat on this list, underscoring his hitting skills after pacing the pack in slugging percentage against left-handers. That said, he price is typically steep and I typically steer toward another backstop unless Posey is facing a non-elite southpaw. Salty is an interesting case, with a heavy split over the breadth of his career that greatly favors his facing right-handers, yet his OPS against lefties was nearly 300 points higher last season. The switch-hitter has knocked 78-percent of his extra-base hits against right-handed pitchers, making him a righty-only play in DFS despite the versatility.

Stephen Vogt might cost twice as much as A.J. Pierzynski on any given day, yet their respected performances with the platoon advantage are much more similar. Miguel Montero falls into the same boat, though likely at a cost that falls between that of Pierzynski and Vogt.

Finally, let's see which players have the most extreme splits among catchers:

OPS Splits, Catchers (min. 100 PA vs. each)

LHP OPS

RHP OPS

LHP Split

J. McCann

883

613

270

D. Norris

848

646

202

J. Phegley

769

528

191

D. Mesoraco

849

702

147

C. Iannetta

860

714

146

M. Montero

659

792

-133

S. Vogt

632

766

-134

Saltalamacchia

621

772

-151

A. Avila

607

781

-174

J. Castro

548

752

-204

The players at the top of this list enjoy the greatest relative advantage when facing southpaws, while the five players at the bottom of the list have the greatest boost against right-handers. Interestingly, the players in the lefty-philic group enjoy robust slash lines, yet the players on the bottom half suffer more from an empty line versus lefties than any particular superiority against right-handers.

The takeaway from these lists will be dependent on each individual strategy, but the catcher position carries a particular weight in my particular approach to DFS lineup construction. In the days before Kyle Schwarber, the recipe was simple: roster Posey if he's facing a lefty, else roster Norris for $1000-$1500 cheaper, else go dumpster-diving. The above tables help to guide that dumpster-diving on any given day in order to maximize production out of the catcher spot, which is sometimes a throw-away position for DFS managers due to the withered population. The presence of Schwarber adds a wrinkle and time will tell if A) he still qualifies at catcher and B) he sustains his prowess against righties, but unless his cost is unexpectedly low then I am more likely to pull my starting catcher from the bottom half of the first table.

Thank you for reading

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