April 4, 2014
Daily League Strategy
Navigating a 15-Game Slate
It feels sooo good to have baseball back, doesn’t it? Hopefully you’re enjoying some early success, whether on the heels of a two-homer game like we’ve seen from Brad Miller, Freddie Freeman, and Alejandro De Aza or maybe you’ve been leaning on hot pitching performances like the double gems we saw from Michael Wacha and Tony Cingrani on Wednesday or perhaps you’ve been bargain shopping and cashed in on Nathan Eovaldi and Erasmo Ramirez in their sharp 2014 debuts.
Play the $100K Big Score Challenge on Friday, April 4!
Lineup of the Day
DraftStreet offers one of the best lineup constructions in the industry allowing for three pitchers, two starters and a starter/reliever. Additionally, they don’t overvalue the win as it is worth just two points. The rest of the scoring and roster setup can be viewed here if you aren’t already familiar with it.
The Big Score Challenge is going to be a lot of fun, but it presents the interesting challenge of including day and night games. Most tournaments use either the early slate or the late slate, but the BSC uses the whole 15-game schedule. The upside is obviously more player options when putting together a winning lineup, but the downside is also obvious: the fact that we can’t be sure on the night lineups. Throw in sketchy April weather, and it can be a bit unnerving to have your 7 p.m. starter locked in at 1 p.m.
Don’t fret, though, I’ll guide you through my favorite lineup for tomorrow, taking into consideration those potential pitfalls.
CATCHER – Yan Gomes ($4,819)
Gomes fares better against lefties on the whole, but righty Mike Pelfrey is a nice remedy for a right-handed batter looking to improve against same-handers. Righties had an obscene .337 AVG against him in 308 PA last year along with an .821 OPS. Additionally, Gomes hits much better at home, so we could see a nice day from the low-priced backstop.
FIRST BASE – Albert Pujols ($8,304)
Pelfrey handled righties last year compared to Lucas Harrell. Harrell bested Pelfrey’s AVG allowing “only” a .329 mark, but it was a very powerful .329 resulting in a .905 OPS in 327 PA. In fact, it was the worst righty-righty OPS in the league (behind only lefty Joe Saunders for league-worst, but more on that later). I’m seeing Pujols’ big first game of the year here.
*Alternate option – Anthony Rizzo ($6,421): Roberto Hernandez is brutal against lefties plus the forecast has 26 MPH winds blowing out to center in Wrigley Field tomorrow. See the outfield section for the other alternate that would make up the nearly $2,000 saved by switching from Pujols to Rizzo.
**Alternate option – Prince Fielder ($8,451): Not confident in Pujols? You can swap him with Fielder and maintain the rest of the lineup given the scant difference in price between the pair. Jake Odorizzi has trouble with lefties, while Fielder’s mauls righties.
SECOND BASE – Aaron Hill ($5,921)
Hill isn’t going to be this cheap very often, so let’s jump in now while the gettin’ is good! By the way, I didn’t plan this, but Juan Nicasio is right there at the bottom of the righty-righty OPS ranks from last year with Mike Pelfrey and Lucas Harrell. Nicasio allowed a .302 AVG and .827 OPS (third-worst) in 2013 which was in line with his .325/.825 combo from 2012. Hill is better against lefties for his career, but he’s excelled versus righties the last two seasons with an .860 OPS in 729 PA.
THIRD BASE – Evan Longoria ($8,961)
I mentioned Saunders’ futility against righties last year, but he’s struggled against them forever. He’s simply not that good at pitching, particularly when a right-hander comes up to plate. Longoria, meanwhile, has a career .846 OPS against righties, and he’s been under 800 just once—last year at .799—but that still came with a .216 ISO. The Rays as a whole will get a lot of consideration.
SHORTSTOP – Hanley Ramirez ($5,978)
Even more so than Hill, this is a bargain play because Ramirez simply cannot stay this cheap very long. I’d advocate riding him until his price stabilizes, to be honest, but even beyond that great price, this also sets up as a great match for him. He handled righties well (1.001 OPS last year, .864 career), and Ryan Vogelsong was atrocious against them a season ago (.928 OPS) and reports on his stuff in the Cactus League didn’t suggest he was close to turning his fortune around anytime soon.
OUTFIELDER1 – Bryce Harper ($8,935)
I’m picking on rookie David Hale a bit with a pair of National studs. He made two excellent starts in late-September last year, but the Padres and Phillies lineups aren’t quite as stout as this Nationals nine. Harper hasn’t had his first big game of the season yet, but it’s coming… and I think it’s coming on Friday.
OUTFIELDER2 – Jayson Werth ($7,095)
Conversely, Werth is raking so far this season and I’m betting on him to stay hot. Hale had more trouble with righties throughout his minor league career while Werth bounced back against righties after a couple of down years in 2011-2012. His .884 OPS in 408 PA against righties last year was baseball’s seventh-best. Stay hot, werewolf!
OUTFIELDER3 – Junior Lake ($4,493)
I’d have preferred a lefty Cub here to expose Hernandez’s weakness, but given that this was my last pick and money was tight, I decided to take a shot on a do-everything player like Lake who could send one out in that insane wind or get on a couple of times and steal a base or two.
*Alternate option – Billy Hamilton ($6,571): Hamilton finally got on base on Thursday! Okay, so it hasn’t been a great start for the speedy Hamilton, but I’m not losing hope in less than a week. He could have just one hit and get on a second time via fielder’s choice and still log a 10-point day with the base hit, three steals, and two runs.
UTILITY – David Ortiz ($7,161)
And yet one more pick who immediately caught my eye because of his low price, but also sets up as a great option when you consider the matchup and venue. Ortiz obviously owns righties, he kills it at Fenway, and he’s facing a home run machine in Marco Estrada. Estrada doesn’t usually give up a lot of damage, but when he does, it’s usually via the long ball (career 1.3 HR/9).
STARTING PITCHER1 – Hyun-jin Ryu ($20,136)
He’s already two starts in and he’s picked up right where 2013 left off. His strong stateside debut plus a pair of gems under his belt already have inflated the price, but it’s worth paying. He’s been great against the Giants in short time as a major leaguer (faced them five times last year) and he had a 2.32 ERA in 97 innings at Dodger Stadium last year with a 3.8 K:BB ratio. Plus, I like the security of the game being in Los Angeles, so I don’t have to worry about weather.
STARTING PITCHER2 – Jordan Zimmermann ($15,707)
Zimmermann was scratched on Thursday afternoon with the flu and there could be some trepidation with the weather here, but it’s an early game so it’s something we could adjust if that became a factor. Assuming he does start as planned, I think he continues his prowess over the Braves in his season debut. He has a career 3.12 ERA against them including a sparkling 1.50 ERA in two starts last year. And while their offense can be high octane, it’s also prone to the strikeout. That’s not normally a part of Zimmermann’s game, but he’s leveraged there swinging ways into an 8.0 K/9 against them in 40 1/3 innings, boosted by a 9.8 K/9 in those two starts from 2013.
^Contingency Plan – Should either the weather or his illness prevent him from starting, you can make a simple swap up to Gerrit Cole. He is a bit of a weather concern as there will storms in the area tomorrow and Pittsburgh doesn’t get going against St. Louis until 7:05 p.m. ET, but it’s a worthy gamble should we need to switch. Cole looks to pick up where the 2013 postseason left off as he enjoyed a pair of strong outings against the eventual NL-winner in a great five-game NLDS.
PITCHER – David Robertson ($1,998)
With five bona fide superstar hitters and a $20K starter, getting a third starter was going to be next-to-impossible. Robertson made his 2014 debut on Thursday, but that shouldn’t preclude him from closing out Masahiro Tanaka’s MLB debut. Last year the Yankees used Robertson on back-to-back days 19 different times. He had a 2.04 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and 27 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings during those outings. He needed just 13 pitches for a clean inning in Houston last night. How about a three strikeout save for us, David? Seven points isn’t a huge night, but for under $2,000, it would be excellent!
Play the $100K Big Score Challenge on Friday, April 4th!
- Money left in primary lineup: $492
- Money left in primary lineup w/Fielder: $345
- Money left in alternate lineup: $297
- Money left in primary lineup: $345
- Money left in primary lineup w/Fielder: $68
- Money left in alternate lineup: $20
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Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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