It always seems to take some time for the baseball season to hit its stride. This early in the year, all analysts can seem to talk about is sample size. Hot starts and cold streaks don’t mean much after 162 games, but in the daily fantasy realm, sometimes the only things that matter are hot and cold streaks when every contest is determined on a sample size of one.
We have already hit our stride at DraftKings, with the $300,000 Hardball Hit Parade that started the season already past, and with users already accumulating points in the Chase for the Crown II. We have contests going on every day for every type of user, so how do you win them?
I’ve already talked about – and will keep talking about – the importance of choosing your pitchers, what with their ability to rack up points and the percentage of your salary cap they eat up. The thing with hitters is, it REALLY IS all about sample size… so you drive yourself crazy looking at daily pitching match-ups and career splits and weather reports and descriptions of the wind shear in right field at PNC Park in April. Because when you spend money on hitters, you are not buying the performance, like you are in basketball when top players are guaranteed some production just by stepping on the court, you are buying probabilities. The more you spend on a hitter, theoretically, the more likely he is to do well for you.
But we all know that’s not ALWAYS the case. So how do you go about building a lineup? Just like in any daily fantasy game, the first thing you do is identify as many cheap options as you can that you think have the potential to help you win a game. This leaves you with as much money as possible to spend on those “high probability” guys… ie, the expensive ones.
And yeah, sure drive yourself crazy analyzing potential lefty-righty bullpen matchups and day-night splits, but sometimes a guy is cheap just because they AREN’T consistent, and no matter how much research you do, choosing them is nothing more than a shot in the dark. But there are a few other reasons a player might be cheap, reasons with a little more promise: maybe he has a long track record of success, but is coming off an injury, or just a down year… or maybe he has no track record at all. Unlike seasonal leagues, you don’t have to worry about prospects taking up bench spots while they’re still in the minors, but once they do get called up, you better pay attention. Because while any random $3,000 hitter can go 4-4, with these resurgent players, or guys coming back from an injury, or rookies just hitting the scene, you are not just taking a random chance, you are actually finding value by buying the consistency – just like the more expensive guys – only without the price tag.
And that is where guys like Wil Myers come in. You HAVE to know when this guy gets called up. There certainly seems to be no scarcity of opportunities on the Rays, so he will get a shot – and if his talent translates right away, you have a value play on your hands before the price to draft him gradually starts to match the production. This is a guy who hit 37 HRs in the minors last year and is hitting .300 so far on the year this season – those kinds of numbers can help you win a fantasy tournament, so even though you are not in a yearly league, you need to have on your radar.
And there are others, like Jurickson Profar (TEX) and Oscar Tavares (STL), and they might very well have the same or even more potential than Myers. Profar was rated by some experts as THE #1 prospect in all of minor league baseball, and Tavares is consistently rated as a top-5 prospect, but the key to caring about these guys in 2013 is their path to actually getting big league at-bats, and with the loaded lineups boasted by Texas and St. Louis, the opportunities just don’t exist for them like they do for Myers. And that is why Myers might be owned in your seasonal league while the other guys aren’t. But Profar, for example, is already the centerpiece of trade talks with teams like the Marlins and others, and whether a trade, an injury or his own stellar performances at AAA get him an opportunity to play, you have to be paying attention right away, whether for your roto team or your DK drafts.
The same can be true for pitchers. Sometimes it just takes longer to trust a young arm because you only get to see them every 5 days – unless we’re talking about one of the very best prospects, it can take weeks before you’ve seen enough to trust a guy. Last night, for example, Jonathan Pettibone got his first start for the Phillies, throwing 5 and 1/3, giving up 6 hits, no walks, and getting 6 strikeouts. A solid outing, to be sure, and Phillies fans are probably psyched, but one game against the Pirates is probably not enough for you to run him out in your lineup for his next start. Now, Jose Fernandez, on the other hand, is a top-20 prospect, who is averaging more than 1 K per inning so far in his three starts, impressive for a 20 year old. But he might be hard-pressed to find W’s pitching for the Marlins, which is why if Zach Wheeler takes the mound for the Mets anytime soon, and immediately strikes out a dozen guys, you might not want to wait to take notice…