Jonathan Bales is the author of Fantasy Baseball for Smart People—a 197-page book created to help you win playing daily fantasy baseball on DraftKings.
Many DraftKings users start their daily fantasy sports careers by playing football—a sport in which you have an entire week to make decisions. Football does require some last-minute decision-making skills, but not in the same way as baseball—a true daily sport.
One of the reasons daily fantasy baseball players need to be quick on their toes is because we can’t make any conclusive decisions until we examine the actual MLB lineups. Lineup cards come out anywhere from a few hours before a team’s game until just before first pitch if there’s a late scratch. A good piece of daily fantasy baseball advice is it’s very important to analyze the lineup cards, for a variety of reasons.
DraftKings posts MLB lineups as they come in directly inside of contest pages. Below each matchup, you can click to examine a team’s lineup or depth chart (if the lineup has yet to be released).
There’s a lot to look for when it comes to MLB lineup cards:
Inevitably, you’ll probably need to do some MLB research before knowing team’s exact lineups. As lineups are released, I like to make sure there are no surprise scratches and that all of the players I’m considering are going to be in the game.
And there are always scratches, too. The most popular are catchers. Catchers frequently get rest during day games when their team played the night prior. I’m always cautious with catchers, in particular, until lineups are released.
Luckily, DraftKings has a late-swap feature, so that you don’t need to be scared off by making the wrong choice when it comes to starting a player without knowing a team’s lineup for that day. For early games, you’ll always have access to a team’s lineup prior to the game beginning, so as long as you do your research, you’ll be fine.
Even if all of the players who you’d expect to be playing are indeed in the lineup, the order in which they hit has a massive impact on their value. The most important moves are when a player slides up or down in the batting order. The Rockies, for example, often rotate their No. 2 hitters. Whoever is in that slot for the day—a player who otherwise doesn’t play or hits late in the order—frequently offers value. His price is usually not indicative of the new information you have regarding his spot in the batting order.
Another thing to consider is how lineups are structured. If you’re considering using a particular batter, it’s always best if there’s a stud hitting behind him. That will decrease the odds of him getting walked and increase the probability of him seeing quality pitches to hit.
The final daily fantasy baseball advice I can offer in terms of batting order is you must always consider lefty/righty splits. If you’re planning to stack an offense, it’s important to consider how the handedness of the batters you like matches up with the opposing pitcher. It’s not uncommon to see exclusively right-handed stacks, which can be lethal against southpaws, for example. The exact batting order will dictate how you want to structure the handedness of your batters.
Again, splits are incredibly important when analyzing both hitters and pitchers. For your arms, it’s of course ideal to face an offense that’s primarily the same handedness—lefty pitchers versus left-handed batters, for example.
Teams will often structure their batting orders based on the handedness of the opposing starter. If you don’t have perfect knowledge of a team’s lineup when you fill out your roster on DraftKings, you can sometimes guess how a coach will structure his batting order based on his history of managing handedness. Some batters hit at the top of the order versus righties but at the bottom against lefties, for example.
Weather isn’t directly related to MLB lineups, but you can see the weather for each matchup right on the DraftKings contest pages. I personally don’t take chances when it comes to my pitchers playing in poor weather; if there’s any chance of delay, I’ll avoid that guy. Since pitchers are a consistent source of fantasy production, it’s such a risk to roster a starting pitcher in a game that could see rain.
Meanwhile, I love to play hitters—especially stacks—in games with a decent chance of rain. First, tournament usage is often lower when there’s inclement weather. Second, batters don’t get pulled from games, but opposing pitchers do; if there’s a delay, that’s the best possible outcome for your hitters since it will almost always force the opposition to bring in relief early in the game. The only time I avoid rain with my hitters is in cash games if there’s a significant chance of the game actually getting rained out.
Working with Limited Knowledge
I mentioned that you’ll sometimes need to create your roster without perfect knowledge of MLB lineups, particularly for games that start late. DraftKings MLB contests usually start around 7pm EST—a time at which some teams playing on the West Coast have not yet released their lineup cards. This can be an advantage for you, if you manage it properly. Because DraftKings has a late-swap feature, you can start players in late games without hesitation.
Even if you don’t plan to play a guy in a late contest, it’s always smart to just take a look at those lineups whenever they come out. Sometimes, you’ll see an unexpected scratch that results in a cheap batter getting a spot start or moving up in the lineup. You can always use the late lineup release to your advantage by making a late-swap to secure unexpected value.
Continue Reading MLB Training Camp
MLB All-Star – Lesson 01 – Using MLB Lineups
NEXT LESSON – MLB All-Star – Lesson 02 – Hot and Cold Streaks
MLB All-Star – Lesson 03 – Importance of Left/Right Splits
MLB All-Star – Lesson 04 – Ballpark Factors
MLB All-Star – Lesson 05 – Vegas Lines