The Cardinals might be the most charmed organization in sports. It seems like no amount of bad luck, injuries or cap restriction can derail them from annually winning 85+ games and making a deep playoff run. St. Louis has made the postseason every year since 2008 when they still managed to win 86 games.
With an exaggerated string of injuries in 2015, many expected the Cardinals to falter. They’ve done the opposite, and as it stands right now, the Cards are 54-28. That’s a .659 winning percentage despite injuries to their most established hitter and pitcher (Matt Holliday and Adam Wainwright).
The key to the Cardinals success has been their ability to develop players internally who always seem to fill in without missing a beat. That’s been the case again as several unsung heroes have emerged to help carry the Red Birds to the best record in baseball.
Recently called up players always tend to provide daily fantasy value – especially those who step right into a starting role. Hitters with a low “count” (between 1 and 15 games played) have an average salary of $3,200 on DraftKings.
“Punt plays” in DFS are players selected primarily based on their value ahead of their expected performance. The goal with punt plays is to free up enough cap space to go after higher priced players.
A “high-low” strategy uses punt plays to even out a lineup that’s built around several of the day’s top players. It’s considered one of the higher-risk, higher-reward DFS strategies.
In his book “Fantasy Baseball for Smart People: How to Profit Big During MLB Season,” Jonathan Bales talks extensively about the subject of punt plays. He offers his take on the maximum punt play salaries for each position:
C – $3000
1B – $3800
2B – $3100
3B – $3400
SS – $3000
OF – $3500
My favorite punt plays come when I find value in a hitter I don’t consider to be a “punt player.” The Cardinals have presented several of these players as of late:
Power is the most coveted asset for hitters on DraftKings and pricing reflects this. At a minimum of 14 points per homer, it’s rare to find value in the slugging department. Twenty-three-year-old, former first-round pick, Randal Grichuk is that rare combination of power and value on DraftKings:
Grichuk has averaged .04 HR/AB over the 62 games, which puts him in the top-25 percent in terms of power hitters. If you dig deeper and search for players with premium power are priced for $3,500 or less, you will be left with just 4.3% of MLB hitters.
I don’t have any fancy trends or metrics for Xavier Scruggs – just a great value opportunity.
Scruggs has been seeing plenty of time at 1B and is priced under $3,000. His career has gone the way of a journeyman early on, but he has hit at every level despite his slow progress through the Cardinals system. It’s rare to find such an affordable price tag for a player that offers legitimate power upside (20+ homers in each of his last four minor league seasons).
Tommy Pham has been playing every day in the absence of Jon Jay. He’s found himself in the advantageous role of hitting leadoff for the best team in baseball.
Whereas the average salary for a leadoff hitter is $4,000, Pham has been priced at the DraftKings minimum (up to $3K today). Here is a look at the value of leadoff hitters priced at $3K or below:
When your “punt play” offers power, speed and the added upside of hitting leadoff, it’s a definitely situation to jump on.
Look to take advantage of these Cardinals while their value and playing time remains at their peak. Be sure to use the Fantasy Labs Bargain rating to pinpoint other “punt plays” that offer the most value.