Daily Fantasy Decisions: What Is Stacking?

By now, most daily fantasy competitors are familiar with stacking, a strategy that involves selecting several players from the same lineup—usually against weaker pitching in games that have the potential to be high-scoring affairs.

If this remains a foreign fantasy concept, let me explain the general strategy: Target a weak pitcher who gives up lots of runs, or even a middle-of-the-road starter in a traditional hitter’s venue, and deploy a smattering of hitters from the opposing lineup. You might see two or three games that fit these criteria, so you’ll still have plenty of decisions to make and things to check—such as isolating and then exploiting (or avoiding) favorable (or prohibitive) splits, picking a safe starter with upside (or a value-based guy) and making sure the game won’t be cancelled due to weather.

Most sites, to varying degrees, limit the number of players you’ll be able to start from one particular team—but big bats from the middle of the order coupled with some bargain players and top-of-the-order guys tend to provide a nice balance.

In particular, I like to focus on road matchups for teams who play their home games in pitcher-friendly parks, because their general price will reflect the fact that half of their games are in a pitcher’s venue, but won’t take into account (too much) the circumstances of the current setting. In a daily game, these subtle edges can reap major dividends over the course of the season, so keep an eye out for opportunities to stack lineups as you peruse the options.

Last week’s Tuesday/Wednesday starter review

Adam Wainwright

Adam Wainwright

April 22: Johnny Cueto, CIN (@ PIT): On Tuesday, Cueto threw another complete game victory, but struck out just four hitters  while walking four and yielding a single earned run on a home run by Andrew McCutchen in the ninth. He wasn’t missing bats on Tuesday, but he looked dominant again Sunday, keeping the Braves hitters off-balance in a no-decision (8.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 3 BB, 11 SO). He’s gone at least seven innings in each of his six starts this season and has yet to give up more than two runs .

April 22: Adam Wainwright, STL (@NYM): Wainwright looked sharp again on Tuesday (7 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 3 SO) and Sunday (8 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 7 SO), blanking both the Mets and Pirates and winning both decisions. He has gone three straight starts without giving up a run. Wainwright will be an expensive component of your daily fantasy lineup every game this season, but he’s worth considering in just about every matchup.

April 23: Zack Greinke, LAD (vs. PHI): Greinke’s last start was a pitching clinic, as the 30-year-old righthander struck out 11 Phillies en route to another  win, his fourth of the season. He surrendered just one walk and five hits, including a solo shot to Jayson Nix after he eclipsed 100 pitches. With the Dodgers being cautious about ace Clayton Kershaw, Greinke has been dominant with 40 strikeouts to five walks on the season.

April 23: Gio Gonzalez, WAS (vs. LAA): Gonzalez was removed from Wednesday’s start in the sixth inning with shoulder tightness after giving up a pair of earned runs on four hits. He struck out five and walked three and the Nationals say he’s dealing with normal soreness as he prepares for his next start on Tuesday. While it’s against the light-hitting Astros, who are hitting just .210, be cautious about going heavy with Gio in too many lineups. Still, he’s been cleared to pitch and manager Matt Williams said this weekend Gonzalez is fine.

This week’s Tuesday-Wednesday Pitcher Spotlight:

Tuesday, April 29

Zack Greinke, LAD (@MIN): Greinke’s consistency and upside in a roomy venue such as Target Field combine to earn him my top recommendation for Tuesday. I’ll be focusing most of my entries with Greinke, who makes the Dodgers a big favorite on the road. He should be able to notch eight-10 strikeouts and a win in Minnesota facing the Twins—an average lineup dealing with some injury issues.

Matt Cain, SF (vs. SD): Cain is off to slow start at 0-3 with a 4.35 ERA in five starts. I’m going to chalk up his early season struggles to an inflated HR/FB rate (14.7%) and poor run support as his other metrics aren’t that far off from his career numbers. His 3.87 xFIP is right about where it has been the past four seasons. The Padres are hitting .222 as a team so far this season, and since Cain’s price is depressed right now, he makes an excellent bargain among the middle tier starters.

Other options: Jose Fernandez, MIA (vs. ATL), C.C. Sabathia, NYY (vs. SEA), Chris Tillman, BAL (vs. PIT), Gio Gonzalez, WAS (@HOU)

Injured position players to watch/avoid
Mark Trumbo, ARI (foot, DL: possible early-June return)
Chris Davis, BAL (oblique, DL: possible mid-May return)
Manny Machado, BAL (knee, DL: possible May 2 return)
Justin Ruggiano, CHC (hamstring, DL: possible late-May return)
Devin Mesoraco, CIN (hamstring, DL: possible mid-May return)
Wilin Rosario, COL (hand, DTD)
Michael Cuddyer, COL (hamstring, DL: possible mid-May return)
Alex Avila, DET (leg, DTD)
Lorenzo Cain, KAN (groin, DL: possible early-May return)
Kole Calhoun, LAA (ankle, DL: possible May return)
Josh Hamilton, LAA (thumb, DL: possible early June return)
Hanley Ramirez, LAD (thumb, DTD)
Rafael Furcal, MIA (hamstring, DL: out indefinitely)
Ryan Braun, MIL (ribs, DTD)
Jean Segura, MIL (face, DTD)
Trevor Plouffe, MIN (triceps, DTD)
Josh Willingham, MIN (wrist, DL: possible late-April return)
Oswaldo Arcia, MIN (wrist, DL: possible late-April return)
Yangervis Solarte, NYY (shoulder, DTD)
Francisco Cervelli, NYY (hamstring, DL: possible mid-June return)
Yoenis Cespedes, OAK (hamstring, DTD)
Russell Martin, PIT (hamstring, DL: possible mid-May return)
Chase Headley, SD (calf, DL: possible mid-May return )
Seth Smith, SD (groin, DTD)
Marco Scutaro, SF (back, DL: out indefinitely)
Kevin Kouzmanoff, TEX (back, DL: out indefinitely)
Shin-Soo Choo, TEX (ankle, DTD)
Jurickson Profar, TEX (shoulder, DL: possible late-June return)
Adam Lind, TOR (back, DL: possible early-May return)
Maicer Izturis, TOR (knee, DL: possible September return)
Bryce Harper, WAS (thumb, DL: out indefinitely)
Ryan Zimmerman, WAS (thumb, DL: possible mid-May return)
Wilson Ramos, WAS (hand, DL: possible early-May return)

Wednesday, April 30

Max Scherzer, DET (@CWS): I’m continuing to roll with Scherzer despite the fact that his team isn’t giving him the run support to which he was accustomed in 2013, when he went 21-3. Still, he’s averaging 12.0 SO per nine in five starts and is 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA and 2.25 xFIP despite sporting a lofty 14.3% HR/FB rate. And the Tigers hitters should do well against the piecemeal Sox pitching staff this week, allowing Scherzer (and the other Tigers starters) to pitch a little more to contact and go deeper into games.

Homer Bailey, CIN (vs. CHC): Bailey is off to a rough start in 2014, with a 1-2 record and 6.15 ERA through five starts. The silver lining is a decent xFIP (3.09) and SO/9 rate (9.91) that, when reviewed in the context of his inflated BABIP (.416) and silly HR/FB rate (29.2%), means he’s bound to improve. Bailey himself has stated he’s made some bad pitches and he doesn’t think it’s a major issue going forward.

Other options:  Jordan Zimmermann, WAS (@HOU), C.J. Wilson, LAA (vs. CLE), Nathan Eovaldi, MIA (vs. ATL), Dan Haren, LAD (@ MIN)

NOTE: With rain in the forecast this week, 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 this week:

All Detroit Tigers hitters: The Tigers bats are starting to heat up and run producers like Miguel Cabrera and Torii Hunter are still at very affordable price points.Cabrera’s .720 OPS is only going to ascend over the next few weeks, and facing the horrendous White Sox pitching staff in Chi-Town is going to help bolster the whole lineup’s numbers.

All Oakland Athletics hitters: The A’s are in Arlington for a series with Texas, and once Brandon Moss, Josh Donaldson, Jed Lowrie and company get past Yu Darvish on Monday, they face Martin Perez on Tuesday and Robbie Ross on Wednesday before they pack up and head north to a weekend series in Fenway. It’s nice to get out of the Oakland Coliseum (and all of that foul territory) into some hitter’s parks … isn’t it, fellas?

All Colorado Rockies hitters: Like the aforementioned Tigers and A’s, the Rockies have a good matchup with some bas pitching in Arizona. While I tend to stay away from Rockies hitters outside of Coors since their values are Park-Factor-inflated, I’m not as concerned in this case since the D-Backs have a hitter-friendly park and their pitching is the worst in baseball so far this season. Any Rockies hitter who’s healthy, in the lineup and not dealing with a horrible slump (the price on Carlos Gonzalez has really been coming down) is in play the next few days.

Chase Utley, PHI: Utley has been quiet the past week, but he has some favorable matchups in the coming days and has played much better at home, where he’s hitting .464/.500/.714 this season.

Matt Joyce, TB: He’s only worth a look when he’s facing a righthander, and there’s always the risk of an early exit when a lefty reliever comes in, but Joyce hits in the heart of a potent Rays lineup and he’s got massive upside.

Billy Hamilton, CIN: Hamilton is another guy who’s yet to break out with a monster game, but his speed sets him apart from the rest of the fantasy field. He has nine SBs on the season but hasn’t swiped a bag since April 23. He’s due.

Omar Infante, KC: Infante is coming off a great performance on Sunday, when he was 2-3 with a HR, 6 RBI and a walk. He’s off to a good start this season for a middle infielder, batting .279/.352/.427 in 86 AB.

Yan Gomes, CLE: Gomes homered on Sunday (his third dinger of the season) and has a lot of upside for a relatively cheap catcher. I’m targeting him this week in a few lineups but it’s always important to check if he’s playing—his wife is expecting a child and he’s ready to accompany her during the delivery.

Jason Castro, HOU: He’s smacked four HRs this season but is hitting just .221. As the Astros offense improves this season (and it must), Castro’s price will come up. For now, he’s a decent value as your backstop with plenty of upside in the right matchup.

Kelly Johnson, NYY: I like Johnson facing righties in Yankee Stadium, and I’ve been impressed by his bat control. As teams continue to shift, Johnson will get the occasional opposite field hit and do what he can to keep the line moving for the Yankees. The fact that he’s a bottom of the order guy doesn’t bother me that much, as the Yanks have gotten plenty of production from most spots. He’s worth a look these next few days against the lesser pitchers in the Seattle staff.

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