MLB DFS 2015: Daily Fantasy Baseball for Serious Beginners

R. Cory Smith@@RCorySmithSenior Writer I

MLB DFS 2015: Daily Fantasy Baseball for Serious Beginners

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    Whether you've played before, won a million dollars or have never even heard of DraftKings before now, MLB daily fantasy is for you. Anyone who loves the sport and knows how the game works can succeed with a little time and effort.

    Daily fantasy is a huge deviation from regular fantasy baseball in several aspects. Filling out a roster is based on a fixed salary cap of $50,000 per 10-man roster. Each owner chooses two pitchers, a first-baseman or designated hitter and all eight other positions to make a complete lineup.

    Once an applicable lineup is set, owners can enter myriad different contests including head-to-head, 50/50 and multipliers on a daily basis. Hence the name daily fantasy, where no day is the same and lineups are constantly changing.

    Now that the standard rules are out of the way, here's a look at some advice to dominate in DraftKings MLB leagues this year.


Focus on DraftKings "Beginner" Games

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    Not everyone can start out as a pro when they first enter tournaments. Take Kris Bryant for example. Even though he's mashed balls during spring training, no one is seriously considering him as an MVP candidate this year.

    That's why DraftKings beginner games were started.

    Cutting your teeth against players who have already gained their footing in DFS baseball isn't the best idea. In beginner games, the entire field is promised to be even, with inexperienced players who are learning the ropes along with you.

    For those who start gathering a better understanding through the beginner games, moving up to the regular format is the next move. Once you get to that point, the games should be easier to prepare for and lineups should be second nature.

Don't Fall in Love with Only Superstars

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    This is common knowledge for most daily fantasy players of any sport, but it's especially true with baseball. No DraftKings roster requires more players on a roster than the 10 lineup spots for MLB daily fantasy.

    While it's great to have a player such as Mike Trout in the lineup, it might not be the most cost-effective move. To provide stability throughout the lineup, steering clear of Trout and instead targeting outfielders who are scorching hot might be the better decision.

    If Trout has an off night and a huge chunk of the budget was spent on him, it's likely that another position will also suffer. Spending low at another position is tough in daily fantasy baseball due to the 10 players that make up a complete lineup.

    Also, don't swoon over big-name players either. Sure, Albert Pujols and Ryan Howard may have been worth the price in their prime, but spending big on them now isn't crucial. Instead, spending low on emerging stars should suffice to keep the budget intact.

Pay Attention to Trends in Multiple Categories

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    Anyone who saw Jose Altuve competing for a batting title last year, raise your hand. Now put it down and quit lying to yourself. That's the fun of daily fantasy; as the season changes, owners can adapt rather than being stuck with a lineup they drafted.

    One trend that owners began to notice with Altuve was that he consistently hit better when facing left-handed pitchers. The Houston Astros second baseman thrived with a .414 batting average against lefties last season.

    Watching for left/right splits is one strategy for owners along with checking out lineups that pitchers will be facing. For example, if a lineup consists of mostly right-handed batters, paying top dollar for a left-handed ace might not be a wise decision.

    Missing out on what's currently happening in the sport can be the downfall of even great daily fantasy owners. Don't overlook the trends, and success will likely be on the horizon.

Try 50/50s When You Are Ready – Where Half of Entries Win

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    This might be another general rule for all daily fantasy, but MLB players will want to ease into the tournaments after getting a grip on the format.

    Once you're able to build a winning lineup in formats like head-to-head or beginner games, the 50/50 tournaments can be a great way to test yourself against myriad other players. Whether it's against 10 players or a massive group, 50/50 payouts go to the top half of the field.

    There's a chance owners might face off with pros, but some novices will also be trying their hand. Checking out the strategies for winners will also help when learning how to construct a winning roster in MLB daily fantasy.

    Payouts for entering just $1 or $3 might not be great, but it helps toward future earnings. Slowly swelling the pot on DraftKings will also help enter larger tournaments to collect large sums of money on a weekly or nightly basis.

Closely Monitor Injuries and Rotation Changes

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    Both of these tips can be paired together, as they sometimes go hand-in-hand. Injuries can derail a lineup and rotation at the MLB level. They can also give opportunities to young players to step up and become fantasy gems.

    Take Chris Archer for example. Just two years ago, he was fighting for a spot in the Tampa Bay Rays rotation with the Durham Bulls. Now, he's considered the No. 2 starter for the team after two solid seasons.

    Due to an forearm injury for Alex Cobb, Archer was tabbed as the Rays' Opening Day starter. After finishing with eight strikeouts per nine innings, a 3.33 ERA and 173 strikeouts last season, Archer was ready for the task.

    That's just one way to find a low-value starter.

    Lineups and rotations are constantly changing due to injuries, which means the price on players will fluctuate on DraftKings. Don't miss out on these changes, or you'll be lapped by other owners paying attention.

Watch for Minor League Call-Ups Throughout the Season

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    Piggybacking off the last bit of advice, minor league players will be moving up to replace some injured stars. However, others will be there to stay and build a career for years to come. Identifying those players can be a difficult task for daily owners.

    Not all call-ups are created equal.

    Last season, Houston Astros fans were pining for the arrival of George Springer to the lineup. Yes, he struck out a staggering 114 times in 295 at bats, but he also hammered 20 home runs with an .804 OPS. All of that production came in just 78 games, so one can only imagine how he'll fare in a full season.

    This year, the crop includes the aforementioned Bryant, Francisco Lindor and another Astros top prospect in Carlos Correa, among others. When those players are called up, they'll likely have a low price tag until they begin putting up huge numbers. Snag them early on to fill out a complete lineup with hopes that they'll live up to the hype.

Know How the Scoring Works Compared to Other Sports

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    Being naive to the scoring in any fantasy sport can ruin a chance at being a successful owner. In baseball, where factors like stolen bases, complete-game shutouts and total bases per hit are taken into account, knowing exactly how many points each are worth is critical.

    Sure, every owner would love to have a plethora of home run hitters in their lineup, but sometimes having speedsters can be even more important—especially considering that two stolen bases account for the same total as a home run and the singles that get the runner on base are three points apiece.

    For pitchers, each inning pitched is worth an extra 2.25 points, and every strikeout accounts for two more. All of that and more can be found on the DraftKings website to learn before getting started. It's a lot to take in, but factoring in each ingredient is what winning owners are forced to do on a weekly basis.

    Even the youngest managers can thrive in baseball, like Mike Matheny did for the Cardinals in 2013. No one's saying you'll be visiting the World Series anytime soon, but finding success is all about knowing the rules first.

Focus on a Handful of Key Stats That Aren't Hard to Understand

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    This tip is similar to knowing how the scoring works. Rather than worrying about figuring out why a player is hitting just .241 recently but still has six home runs over his last five games, grab that player and hope the trend continues.

    Yes, sabermetrics are significant for teams and owners to understand. But daily fantasy is more about the here and now and how many points a player can put up through one of the points categories. Therefore, knowing a pitcher's ERA+ or FIP aren't as important as the K/9 or, you know, his ERA in general.

    Home runs are good. Being caught stealing is bad. Recording strikeouts are huge. Giving up a walk, well, that loses owners points. This is daily fantasy, not an algorithm that needs to be solved.

    Focusing on statistics that are easy to understand will also help to compose a lineup on a daily basis. With MLB games occurring on almost a daily basis, the action should never have to slow down if an owner knows exactly what he or she is looking for out of a batter and pitcher.

    Looking for low-cost players who fit those categories is crucial. So don't complicate things, and simply enjoy having fun and raking in some dough along the way.

Focus on Factors Outside of Statistics, Too

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    Outside of statistics, there are several other factors that play into putting together an effective lineup. Some of those might be matchups for pitchers and hitters, but not focusing on the weather and location of a game can also be a downfall for an owner.

    Let's take Coors Field for example. At the beginning of the season, games in Colorado can potentially be played in extreme cold or even snowed out. Later in the year, however, it's a launching pad for baseballs, with players like Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki thriving—if they're still healthy, of course.

    Owners who start a player when the game is rained out in the fourth or fifth inning won't get that production back. By the same token, missing out on a hot batter at a park that's a home run hitter's dream can also come back to bite an owner.

    A full list of some of those X-factors can be found here. Explore those throughout the season, and constructing a winning lineup will be easier as the year goes on.

Explore Free-Roll Games to Build Up a Higher Balance

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    There's nothing like doubling your money thanks to taking down half of the opponents in the game. Well, unless you'd rather not pay anything to earn money in return. That's exactly what happens if you place in the top half of free-roll 50/50 games.

    Early in the season will likely be the best chance to thrive in those free-roll games with so many opportunities offered by DraftKings. Owners will also earn a free entry into an MLB game for simply making a deposit.

    One example of such a game can be found below leading up to Opening Day. Now that you have a full list of tips to refer to, getting in on the fun has never been so easy on DraftKings.

    Are you ready to start the MLB 2015 season?  DraftKings is hosting a $15,000 FREE contest for MLB Opening Day. Spots are limited so get in now!

    Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter for more CBB, NHL and MLB DraftKings advice.

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