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.
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. After a minor break, we present to you the underrated options at shortstop.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Jake Lamb
In what will be his first full professional season, Jake Lamb has been everything the Diamondbacks could have dreamed he would be, and then some. Not only has Lamb succeeded in making the D-Backs managerial brass happy, but I’d be willing to bet that he has made quite a few DFS players nights with his versatile offensive game that can accrue fantasy points in a hurry. Looking for a third basemen who will provide you with some salary relief from Donaldson or Arenado, but can still check all the boxes? Look no further, than Lamb.
Opposing pitchers have learned the hard way, don’t let that baby-face fool you. This is indeed a wolf in lamb’s clothing (close enough). Lamb has been masterful at the dish all season. His ISO is an outlandish .303. More than .20 away from second place Donaldson in the category. His hard% of 40.7% to coincide with his 21 home-runs have clearly established Lamb as a power-threat. Unlike some of the other bulky power-hitters in the league, though, Lamb doesn’t always need to give a lucky fan a souvenir to maintain value, he can hit for contact, or if you would like, beat you with speed as his position leading eight triples suggest. Lamb is also the proud owner of an esteemed wOBA of .393, which has the young third basemen firmly tied for third with the Cubs Kris Bryant in the category.
Lamb looked poised to continue to take the league by storm post All-Star break. That is until the affects of a hand injury suffered against Toronto, seemed to have lingered longer than initially anticipated causing the breakout third basemen to enter into his first prolonged slump. However, after going six games without a hit, Lamb has now hit safely in his last three while simultaneously exhibiting that it was in fact injury, as opposed to any pitcher that is the only thing capable of slowing Lamb down this season. In his 333 plate appearances this year, Lamb is batting .282, has mashed the aforementioned 21 homers, to go along with 53 runs scored and 66 RBI.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Jung-Ho Kang
Jung-ho Kang has been an absolute force at times with the lumber in his hands this season. Unfortunately, though, “at times,” is one of the reasons he appears as an honorable mention, as consistency has been a bit of an issue. What calls for optimism, though, is that Kang has actually compiled some good numbers in imperative DFS categories, even despite being streaky. It’s those numbers, that make Kang an ideal underrated candidate.
After starting the year on the disabled list, Kang, has returned with a vengeance. The Pirates third baseman is currently collecting XBH’s by the masses as his .226 ISO would suggest. However, more surprising than Kang’s ISO might in-fact be his hard% of 40.9%, which has him fifth among all third basemen with at least 200 plate appearances, ahead of some guys you may have heard of, that just so happen to go by the names of: Arenado, Machado, and Bryant. Going by those numbers, one would expect to see Kang at least hovering around the .300 league average of BABIP, yet this is another instance of how BABIP can again be misleading. Kang hasn’t been around long enough for his career BABIP to carry much weight, but it is surprising to see that his 2016 BABIP, is almost .40 under the league average. With all the positive indicators at the plate, it’s not inconceivable to think that Kang could have actually been the victim of some unfortunate events, which in turn, prevented him from a few XBH’s here and there to further pad some of his stats, that quietly call for Kang to experience a good month of August.
As the calendar turns to August, you surely will not hear any complaints from Jung-Ho Kang. Kang’s unpleasant July, however, is the reason opportunistic DFS players can find him all the way marked down with the Chase Headley’s and reserve third basemen of the world. He is a better player than what his July stats suggest. Not to mention that Kang is now batting fifth in the order, and will be presented a plethora of opportunities to drive-in runs following the Pirates vaunted Polanco, McCutchen Marte trio. At a position loaded with expensive options, Kang offers a contrarian pivot off some of those premier players, with almost as much upside. Had he not missed time with injury, these stats would likely have been better, but in 223 plate appearances this year, Kang is batting .236, with 11 homers, 23 runs scored, and 36 RBI.
Jake Lamb and Jung-Ho Kang are more similar than they are different. Both are young, promising talents who man the hot-corner for their respective clubs, possess the ability, as well as the stats to back it up to say that they can change the landscape of a game, and for these purposes, the dynamic of a fantasy contest with one powerful swing. While the Pirates and D-Backs may not be experiencing the success they envisioned at the commencement of the year, this may actually benefit Lamb, but more so Kang in the aspect that their teams could potentially be inclined to play them more frequently, as a way for them continuing to grow and get accustomed to the game. Despite coming off minor slumps by their standards, these third basemen still find themselves at, or near the top of many of the categories that often translate to DFS success mentioned in the criteria. Throw in the fact that they are relatively affordable at a pricier position like third base, and you have two quintessential, contrarian, DFS third base options.
Outfielder’s are up next in the series. Stay tuned and find out who made the cut.
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