Daily Fantasy Decisions: Expect The Unexpected

Editor’s Note: As part of our expanded fantasy coverage, this season Baseball America will dedicate a weekly column to daily fantasy baseball, a growing part of the fantasy landscape that offers a lot of flexibility to competitors. These stories will include general tips and strategy, as well as a list of players to target in your daily games each week.

On Saturday night, I plugged in a heavy rotation of Reds and Rockies hitters when setting my lineups, convinced of a high-scoring battle that would bolster my bankroll and bring me untold piles of easy money and a heady dose of daily fantasy glory.

Checking my lineups a little after game time, I was perplexed that the game was in a delay. By now, you probably know the story—a water main break caused the game to be postponed and made up Sunday in a day-night doubleheader. That meant zeros across the board for Devin Mesoraco, Billy Hamilton, Corey Dickerson, Charlie Blackmon, and a slew of other low-cost utility players (Kris Negron and Charlie Culberson were two I keyed on) I assumed would provide excellent value.

While there’s not really a lot you can do to prevent unforeseen disasters, it’s important to stick to a game plan that doesn’t commit too much of your bankroll to one night’s contests. By spreading your risk over a full week’s slate of games, you’ll minimize the number of times a cancelled contest obliterates your chances to cash in. It’s not a lot of fun admitting I got beat up, but it’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way. Hopefully you can avoid the same type of mistake in the future.

Last week’s Tuesday/Wednesday starter review

Aug. 12

Chris Sale

Chris Sale (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Chris Sale, CHW (@ SF)—Once again, Sale pitched brilliantly only to end up with a no-decision. Facing the Giants on Tuesday, the lanky lefty threw eight shutout innings, striking out 12, scattering four hits and walking two batters. The AL Cy Young candidate will continue to earn my praise and recommendations in daily fantasy regardless of his dubious run support issues. He boasts a 2.01 ERA and 0.88 WHIP this season, third behind just Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez in both categories.

Jon Lester, OAK (@ KAN)—Lester gave up three earned runs on six hits and two walks Tuesday, but struck out nine in a win over the Royals, and Sunday took a loss versus the Braves (6 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO) despite notching his 12th straight quality start. Lester is slated to get his next start this coming Sunday against the potent Angels lineup.

Aug. 13

(day) Brett Oberholtzer, HOU—The Astros lefthander allowed one run over seven innings Wednesday against Minnesota but took the loss despite an excellent effort (6 H, 0 BB, 4 SO) as the Houston bats couldn’t produce much offense against Twins starter Kyle Gibson. Oberholtzer isn’t a viable option in every start, but I’ll definitely roll the dice in tournaments once in a while based on favorable matchups.

(night) Hisashi Iwakuma, SEA (vs. TOR)—Iwakuma won on Wednesday at home versus the Blue Jays (6.2 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO) and will start again Sunday versus the Red Sox. The 6-3, 210-pound Japanese veteran is now 11-6 with a 2.72 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. His strikeouts have tailed off slightly over his last six starts, but he carries plenty of upside into most games.

INJURED PLAYERS TO WATCH/AVOID
Paul Goldschmidt, ARI (hand, DL: out indefinitely)
Cody Ross, ARI (calf, DL: possible early Sept. return)
Chris Owings, ARI (shoulder, DL: possible early Sept. return)
A.J. Pollock, ARI (hand, DL: possible late-August return)
Manny Machado, BAL (knee, possible late-August return)
Matt Wieters, BAL (elbow, DL: 2015)
Allen Craig, BOS (foot, DL: possible mid-August return)
David Ross, BOS (foot, DL: possible mid-August return)
Shane Victorino, BOS (back, DL: 2015 return)
Chris Coghlan, CHC (toe, DTD)
Adam Eaton, CHW (ribs, DL: possible early-Sept. return)
Moises Sierra, CHW (ribs, DL: possible early-Sept. return)
Brandon Phillips, CIN (thumb, DL: possible late-August return)
Todd Frazier, CIN (back, DTD)
Joey Votto, CIN (quad, DL: possible early-Sept. return)
David Murphy, CLE (abdomen, DL: out indefinitely)
Nick Swisher, CLE (knee, DL: out indefinitely)
Jason Giambi, CLE (knee, DL: possible August return)
Justin Morneau, COL (neck, DTD)
Carlos Gonzalez, COL (knee, DL: out indefinitely)
Troy Tulowitzki, COL (hip, DL: 2015 return)
Rajai Davis, DET (thumb, DTD)
Jake Marisnick, HOU (back, DTD)
Jesus Guzman, HOU (back, DL: out indefinitely)
George Springer, HOU (quad, DL: possible early-August return)
Alex Presley, HOU (ribs, DL: possible mid-August return)
Eric Hosmer, KAN (hand, DL: possible mid-Sept. return)
Grant Green, LAA (back, DL: out indefinitely)
Juan Uribe, LAD (hamstring, DL: possible early-Sept. return)
Hanley Ramirez, LAD (ribs, DL: possible August 24 return)
Derek Dietrich, MIA (wrist, DL: possible late-August return)
Rafael Furcal, MIA (hamstring, DL: out indefinitely)
Jeff Bianchi, MIL (elbow, DL: possible early-August return)
Jed Lowrie, OAK (finger, DL: possible Sept. return)
Nick Punto, OAK (hamstring, DL: out indefinitely)
Craig Gentry, OAK (hand, DL: possible mid-August return)
Kyle Blanks, OAK (calf, DL: possible mid-July return)
John Mayberry, PHI (wrist, DL: possible early-August return)
Andrew McCutchen, PIT (ribs, late-August return)
Clint Barmes, PIT (groin, DL: early Sept. return)
Yonder Alonso, SD (arm, DL: 2015 return)
Everth Cabrera, SD (hamstring, DL: possible late-August return)
Carlos Quentin, SD (knee, DL: possible mid-August return)
Cameron Maybin, SD (suspended)
Joe Panik, SF (finger, DTD)
Brandon Belt, SF (concussion, DL: out indefinitely)
Marco Scutaro, SF (back, DL: possible late-August return)
Corey Hart, SEA (knee, DL: late August return)
Willie Bloomquist, SEA (knee, DL: out indefinitely)
Michael Saunders, SEA (ribs, DL: possible early-August return)
Yadier Molina, STL (thumb, DL: possible mid-late Sept. return)
David DeJesus, TAM (hand, DL: possible mid-August return)
Ryan Hanigan, TAM (ribs, DL: Early August return)
Wil Myers, TAM (wrist, DL: late-August return)
Jake Smolinski, TEX (foot, DL: out indefinitely)
Prince Fielder, TEX (neck, DL: 2015)
Mitch Moreland, TEX (ankle, DL: 2015)
Kevin Kouzmanoff, TEX (back, DL: 2015)
Jurickson Profar, TEX (shoulder, DL: done for the season)
Brett Lawrie, TOR (ribs, DL: possible September return)
Dan Johnson, TOR (hamstring, DL: August return)
Maicer Izturis, TOR (knee, DL: possible September return)
Steven Souza, WAS (shoulder, DL: out indefinitely)
Nate McLouth, WAS (shoulder, DL: mid-August return)
Ryan Zimmerman, WAS (hamstring, DL: out indefinitely)

This week’s Tuesday/Wednesday starter recommendations

Tuesday

Max Scherzer, DET (@ TAM)—Scherzer’s 14-strikeout performance against the Pirates on Wednesday brought him to 14-4 on the season. His K/9 is now a lofty 10.44, and his 2.98 ERA is pretty comparable to his 2.76 FIP and 3.02 xFIP—taking into consideration the .312 BABIP. Scherzer has pitched quite well in 2014, and there’s a chance we still haven’t seen the best of him this season. You’ll have to pay up for him, but he’s the best option on the board Tuesday.

Mike Fiers, MIL (vs. TOR)—Fiers is a worthwhile, low-cost alternative to the big-name starters taking the hill Tuesday. He dazzled in his second start of 2014, whiffing 14 Cubs in six scoreless innings in a 6-2 victory, walking one and scattering three hits. The Blue Jays are a better-hitting team than the Cubs, but they do tend to struggle on the road.

Other options: Stephen Strasburg, WAS (vs. ARI); Francisco Liriano, PIT (vs. ATL); Chris Archer, TAM (vs. DET); Hisashi Iwakuma, SEA (@ PHI); Scott Kazmir, OAK (vs. NYM); Tsuyoshi Wada, CHC (vs. SF)

Wednesday

(day) Cole Hamels, PHI (vs. SEA)—Wednesday’s slate features another list of pretty good starting pitchers, but Hamels has possibly the best matchup facing the lefty-loaded Mariners lineup. He didn’t get a decision in either of his past two starts (Aug. 9 vs. NYM: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5K; Aug. 15: 7 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K) but has been dominant at times this season.

(night) Garrett Richards, LAA (@ BOS)—Richards is limiting hard contact this season and if he can continue to keep his walk totals down (2.69 BB/9 this season), he should have success against the Red Sox on Wednesday night. There are plenty of viable options on the board, but Richards has become a favorite for his upside (13-4, 8.84 K/9, 2.53 ERA in 2014).

(VALUE BONUS) James Paxton, SEA (@ PHI)—I know I already recommended Hamels, but starting two pitchers in the same game isn’t a terrible strategy on multi-pitcher sites that reward efficiency. He’s 6-0 in nine career starts with a 1.88 ERA and .189 BAA, and he’s 3-0 in five starts this season.

Other options: (day) Jeff Samardzija, OAK (vs. NYM); Zack Wheeler, NYM (@ OAK); (night) Alex Wood, ATL (@ PIT); Michael Pineda, NYY (vs. HOU); Jake Odorizzi, TAM (vs. DET); Johnny Cueto, CIN (@ STL)

NOTE: Make sure you check the weather forecast and any changes in probable starters from the revised schedule. There’s not much worse than a zero from one of your starters—and it’s usually avoidable if you’re prudent about the risks you’re willing to take.

Hitters to watch/target this week

Rockies hitters: It’s a little safer to target the Rockies these days, even though both Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki have been shut down for the year. Charlie Blackmon’s salary has come way down and Corey Dickerson remains one of the best lefty-versus-righty matchups in baseball. Perhaps they’ll find some new life in the homestand behind the bat of Michael Cuddyer, who returned to action and promptly hit for the cycle in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader against Cincinnati.

Pirates hitters: Gregory Polanco, a healthy Neil Walker and a host of platoon players and low-cost options make the Pirates an excellent team to stack against righthanders. Josh Harrison has come alive this season and offers solid upside in any matchup. After their series with Atlanta, they travel to a bona fide hitter’s park in Milwaukee.

Mariners hitters: Aside from the matchup against Hamels on Wednesday, plugging in a stack of Seattle lefties could yield favorable results. Kyle Seager, Logan Morrison, Robinson Cano and Dustin Ackley, as well as power-hitting righthander Mike Zunino and switch-hitter Kendrys Morales don’t cost as much as they should in parks such as Fenway, where they’ll be after the series in Philly.

Other hitters to watch/target this week: Alex Gordon/Salvador Perez, KAN; Jedd Gyorko/Seth Smith, SD; Jose Altuve/Chris Carter, HOU; Matt Holliday/Matt Adams, STL; Evan Longoria/Matt Joyce, TAM; Yoenis Cespedes/David Ortiz/Will Middlebrooks, BOS; Miguel Cabrera/J.D. Martinez, DET; Devin Mesoraco/Jay Bruce, CIN; Joe Mauer/Danny Santana, MIN; Ian Desmond/Jayson Werth/Anthony Rendon, WAS; Ryan Braun/Carlos Gomez, MIL; Jose Abreu/Conor Gillaspie, CWS; Josh Donaldson/Brandon Moss, OAK