A DFS aficionado knows as well as anybody, identifying undervalued, affordable producers to round out their lineup is imperative if one has the aspirations of either keeping a hot streak going, or even better, continuing to win a substantial amount of coin. Lets face it, what’s better than waking up to that congratulatory DraftKings email? Or seeing that significant spike at the bottom of your FanDuel account? Okay, maybe a few things but not many.
The point is, while yes, you will most likely need strong performances from your exorbitant, more notable players. However, complimenting them with these aforementioned productive, and hopefully relatively lower owned players, that at times, you may scroll right past when adjusting your lineup, will prove beneficial in regards to obtaining a competitive edge, which presumably you’re looking for having clicked on this post.
Of course, this is easier said than done, especially in the cruel realm that is daily fantasy sports. Fear no more, though, DRS has you covered. Through an in-depth statistical analysis, taking into account all of the vital numerical data, as well as some variables like price, an “All-Underrated” team has been comprised based off the performances of the players through the All-Star break. This will mark the first post in a seven part series where each day a player, and an honorable mention from a position, will be detailed in hopes of helping you to discover some of the less-heralded, yet effective options the next time you sit-down to construct a lineup.
Certain statistics in regards to daily fantasy sports, generally carry more weight than those of the ones baseball traditionalists’ may be accustomed to following. Because of that, some of these categories might be confusing to some. So before jumping right in, a brief explanation will be provided of each category in order to help you further understand what we looked for, when it came time to discover the undervalued gems.
wOBA: wOBA or Weighted On-Base Average, is a statistic used to assign a different value for every potential outcome that a hitter can have at a given at bat. For instance, a double, is weighted more than say a single, a triple more than a double and so forth. wOBA is generally used as a better gauge in DFS than batting average and OBP, because of its ability to combine all aspects into one metric, as opposed to making no distinction between hits, as in the cases of average and OBP. When looking at wOBA, its important to note, that any player with a wOBA above .370, is most likely having a great season both on the field, and for fantasy purposes. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a player with a wOBA under a .310, is a player presumably in the midst of a trying year, and one that avoiding, may not be the worst option.
Hard Contact %: A degree in Astrophysics is not required for one to comprehend that hard contact%, is a statistic meant to portray the percentage of balls hardly hit by a player. Quality of contact data usually makes evident which players are swinging the bat well. Clearly the hitters with a tendency of going yard or supplying extra-base-hits more often than not, will have a higher hard% than your typical end of the order player. A hard % 35% and higher is usually indicative that a player is getting the most of his swings, where a 28% or lower, might represent a player who just may have not represented himself as being a power-hitter thus far into the 2016 campaign.
Isolated Power: Not to be confused with hard Contact, Isolated power, commonly referred to as ISO, is a measure of a hitter’s power and ability to get XBH. Similar to wOBA, ISO is a statistic that takes into account all hits, the difference is that ISO is used in determining the degree to which a hitter provides those aforementioned XBH, as opposed to singles. Given that DFS is a game where XBH are rewarded a significantly higher point total than singles and walks, taking into account ISO while filling out your lineup, can prove very beneficial in the grand scheme of things. Generally speaking, a player with an ISO of .170 and higher, are players that frequently supply more than just a source of singles. A player with a 0.120 ISO or lower, is not one you should expect to give you more than a few singles here and there.
LD%: LD% or line drive% is another member of the batted ball statistical category. Not only is a players LD% a good indicator of how well they are hitting the ball, but more importantly, line drives create roughly 25.2 times more runs than ground balls. Compare that with fly balls creating only around 2.6 times more runs than ground balls and it becomes clear to see why utilizing the line drive can surely be helpful. The league average usually hovers around that of 21%, so consider anything over about 24% to be very good, and everything under 17%, to be less desirable.
BABIP: Acrimonious for, “Batting Average on Balls in Play,” BABIP, is an excellent determent on whether or not a player is living up to expectations, overachieving, or possibly even having been the recipient of some rather unfortunate events. The league average centers around .300. As is the case with most stats, players with superior talent tend to have higher BABIP’s, while your typical major leaguer will find himself around that of the average .300. However, BABIP can be a little misleading at times. For instance, although player A could be carrying a .400 BABIP, and player B on the other hand say has a .276, one can not come to the conclusion that player A, is actually hitting the ball better than player B. The reason being is that BABIP, includes factors such as defense and even luck. A player can hit a ball extremely well only to have an outfielder make an incredible diving catch to record an out. In the same scenario, a different player can hit the ball into the outfield, only to have a player with less defensive prowess make an error, or not have the ability required to make a play on the ball. Those are the type of events that can see a players BABIP ascend to an uncharacteristically high number, while a player possessing a drastically lower BABIP in comparison to his career average, can for the most part, be expected to raise it gradually as the season progresses.
Stolen Bases: At once a focal point of some offense’s, stolen bases have declined throughout the years at the professional level. However, rostering some base-thieves in your FanDuel and DraftKings lineup’s, is quite enticing actually. With base stealing as previously mentioned trending downwards, it isn’t exactly far-fetched to consider it “rare.” The element of rarity usually carries great value, and value is a term sometimes often associated with underrated. See where I am going here? This isn’t an endorsement to target only speedsters, thus passing up on power-hitter’s. Consider it more of a “recommendation,” something to take into account next time you’re filling out a lineup. Stolen bases are awarded a point total double that of a single, and when a player steals, he immediately supplants himself in scoring position, one hit away from scoring a run, which is compensated with more points. Identifying players with a good balance of speed and power is ideal, and in the event they get you a bag or two, your confidence in them will more probably than not be rewarded as evidenced by the currency in your account rising.
Price-Range/Name Recognition: Because of the nature of DFS, the prices of players often fluctuate based off factors such as ballpark, the pitcher they’re facing, a hot-streak a given player might be on etc.. Incorporating all those factors, makes it hard to pinpoint a stable price of any one player. In light of this, every player appearing on our list, will generally be outside the top tier of pricing at their respected position. Affordability plays a role in assessing a player as underrated in DFS. It seems counter-intuitive to publish an underrated-player list, solely comprised of the premier options, with the top name recognition at each position. Name recognition, brings us to our next point. Your grandmother probably wont know the names of a lot of the players, if any, that we have selected as underrated. Which of course, maybe to your grandma’s disbelief, is a good thing. Variance in lineups is paramount in order to separate from the herd. With that in mind, aside from not only being affordable, these players will almost always be under-owned, despite being in the midst of a productive season.
Obviously when identifying underrated DFS pitchers, a completely different set of statistics is needed to be taken into account. While certainly the price-range/name recognition category that we used for hitters translates, it is for the most part, the only one that does so. When it came time to select the pitchers that we found to be underrated, the following statistical categories were the ones thoroughly examined before making the selections.
K/9: & BB/9: Both strikeouts per 9 innings and walks per 9 innings are a good place to start when not only looking at pitchers on a given night, but also when trying to locate that undervalued contrarian selection to take your lineup to the top. The reason such an emphasis is placed on these, is that strikeouts and walks are two outcomes that are pretty much controlled by the pitcher, as opposed to other outside factors. Therefore, the numbers a pitcher accumulates in regards to K/9 and BB/9, are a good representation of a pitchers performance for that season. As a reference, pitchers with a K/9 of 8.0, are those that possess the ability of striking out a large quantity of hitters, which exponentially increases their DFS stock. While it is unjust to say that pitchers with a K/9 7.0 and lower aren’t quality starters, who aren’t capable of putting up a high score, these for the most part are tactical pitchers, who often don’t have the upside as some of the flamethrowers with a higher K/9. In the case of BB/9, pitchers with a 2.5 or lower are ones with elite command and rarely allow base-runners via walk. Those with a 3.0 and higher, may suffer from erratic control, which in the process has the potential to lead to more base-runners, which never bodes well for a pitcher, and especially your lineup.
HR/9: There really isn’t too much to say about this one. Home-runs per nine innings is a stat which tracks the average number of homers a pitcher surrenders over the course of nine innings. A pitcher giving up a run or two here and there most likely isn’t enough to completely ruin your fantasy night. However, selecting a pitcher who notoriously serves up the lollipop is a quick way to see your evening take downward spiral.
xFIP: Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) is an intriguing statistic developed with the intention of creating an estimation of a pitchers run prevention, without taking into consideration the defense behind the pitcher. For DFS purposes, xFIP might actually be a better statistic to utilize than say ERA. The reason for that is because xFIP only weighs strikeouts, walks, hit by pitches, and fly balls allowed. By only factoring in the aforementioned outcomes, a representation which holds the pitcher accountable is the end result. Generally speaking, an xFIP of 3.50 or lower is telling that a particular pitcher, is enjoying his season. A pitcher with a xFIP of 4.00, might be a pitcher worth consideration of fading.
GB%: Denoted for ground ball percentage, GB% is a member of the batted ball profile, which measures the rate in which pitchers allow ground balls. The rate at which a pitcher induces ground balls can be paramount to achieving fantasy success on a given night. As we mentioned earlier in some of the batted ball hitting criteria, line drives and fly balls generate substantially more runs than ground balls. While it’s not accurate to assume that just because a pitchers GB% is high that they are immune to giving up HR, however, their ability to keep the ball on the ground as suggested by the statistics, greatly diminishes the risk of XBH.
Hard Contact%: While this was one of the categories we used in determining underrated batters, hard% also presents itself as useful when the intention is to diagnose underrated pitchers. Context, of course is the variance. A high hard% is what we are looking for in our hitters, because that’s a telling sign of a given player at least laying good wood on the ball, regardless of how the at bat concludes. In the case of pitchers, though, a low hard% indicates that a pitcher, pretty consistently is able to prevent batters from making good hard contact. A definitive plus when searching for the unsung pitchers of the DFS realm.
Now that you have been provided a brief explanation of all the statistical categories we valued when comprising our All-Underrated team, with no further adieu, we introduce to you the deserving members. First up, the catchers.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Chris Herrmann
Some people may have been anticipating seeing a different Diamondbacks catcher in this spot as opposed to the somewhat forgotten one of Arizona’s catching platoon. Yes, Wellington Castillo does have an edge in plate appearances, but it’s actually Chris Herrmann, who has an edge in most statistical categories not only on his team, but among all catchers with at least 150 plate appearances.
With only about two or three marquee options at catcher in DFS, it’s not uncommon to see the public decide to use a “punt” play at the position. It’s not to say that doing so is a bad decision, and in the event that a $2,000 catcher goes off, granted the rest of your lineup is solid, you are probably in-store for a lucrative payday. Chris Herrmann’s recent rise in price suggests that he isn’t exactly the quintessential “punt” anymore, but regardless, he is a very affordable, underrated option who has gotten off to an impressive start. Herrmann currently finds himself in second place with a 42.2% hard%, and an ISO of .220, which is tied for third among qualifying catchers. It’s safe to say that Herrmann is not only making hard contact at a high percentage, but when he does, he often accumulates XBH’s as a result. His wOBA trails only the Nationals Wilson Ramos, and despite playing a position where speed is relatively void, Herrmann, although not eye-popping numbers has four triples and three stolen bases to his name in 2016.
Due to the physical requirements which coincide with playing a taxing position like catcher, catchers often receive a greater amount of maintenance days. Herrmann on the other hand, isn’t always deployed just when Castillo needs a breather. In a D-Backs lineup which features a disproportionately high number of right-handed batters, Herrmann provides a lefty bat, which can be implemented to the middle of the lineup whenever manager Chip Hale deems necessary. Another thing which cannot exactly be backed up statistically, but can prove beneficial in an underrated player like Herrmann’s DFS value, is the perception the general public has on back-up catchers. Casual players may hear that Castillo is out for the night, and immediately opt to stay away from Herrmann assuming a back-up doesn’t present themselves as an ideal option, to which you can capitalize on a low-owned player, with an up-side as big any. In his 157 plate appearances this year, Herrman is batting .291 with 6 home-runs, 21 runs scored, and 28 RBI.
Philadelphia Phillies: Cameron Rupp
Don’t look now, but the Phillies are 7-3 and rolling over their last ten games. While World Series aspirations should be tempered momentarily, it’s undeniable that the Phillies have been the beneficiary of some great individual performances of late. Take Catcher, Cameron Rupp’s game on Sunday at the Rockies where he was 4/5 with a homer and 4 RBI for example if you don’t believe me. Not only has Rupp been playing well recently, the 27-year-old catcher has been taking care of business on the diamond and from a DFS stand-point rather quietly, all year.
Despite beginning the season with a perplexing catching situation, the up-and-coming Phil’s look to have found their long-term solution in the form of Cameron Rupp. Rupp has been a likely source of XBH’s all season as his .220 ISO, which is tied for third with Herrmann, would suggest. Another reason for Rupp’s success this year is the long-ball he has came accustomed to hitting more frequently. After hitting only nine homers last year, Rupp has the same amount this year, albeit in 77 fewer plate appearances, and another half of the season in front of him. And oh yeah, a .507 slugging percentage. That’s good, right?
Like Herrmann, It would be a rare instance when Rupp’s ownership reaches 10% or higher in a main slate field of competition. That of course, could potentially play out as quite the advantage for anyone taking notice of Rupp’s productively quiet year. Aside from the aforementioned statistics, Rupp currently sports a respectable .355 wOBA, to go along with a hard% of 33.3%. In his 222 appearances at the dish so far this year, Rupp is batting .287, with the 9 homers, 22 runs, and 26 RBI.
One could do much worse than selecting either Chris Herrmann or Cameron Rupp for their lineups. The position of catcher is a fascinating one in the aspect of the previously mentioned regularity of off-days, as well as for the most part, catchers aren’t ones that are known for contributing to the variety of DFS categories in which points are awarded. While Herrmann and Rupp may not steal a ton of bases or hit a bunch of triples, they can however, offer you one thing many of the top options cannot at their respected position: A contrarian option with a ton of upside.
Make sure to stay tuned tomorrow, as I break down the underrated options at first base, from the first half of the season.
Nick has been an avid MLB, NBA, NFL DFS player for a little over a year now. He has played season long fantasy since the age of 13.
He hopes to one day become a general manager for a professional sports team. Aside for writing about DFS, he also writes for
the FanSided affiliate, Call to the Pen