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April 8, 2014

Daily League Strategy

Underpriced Studs

by Paul Sporer


A full slate of games on Tuesday night offers plenty of opportunities to find a winning lineup. There are big arms to invest in and back-end arms to pick on, not to mention a handful of enticing prices on superstar assets.

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.

CATCHER – Jose Lobaton ($3,989)
Dumpster-diving here at catcher and hoping that Lobaton’s growth against righties (from .584 to .745 OPS) last year has some juice. Plus, he’s seen Henderson Alvarez at least a few times with Tampa Bay—a rarity for a guy switching from AL to NL.

FIRST BASE – Jose Abreu ($7,749)
I don’t trust Franklin Morales, and I’m really giddy about Abreu in Coors even after his 0-for-4 on a whopping six pitches on Monday night. Looking for Morales to hang that curve one too many times.

SECOND BASE – Jose Altuve ($6,986)
All Joses, all the time! His first start aside, we know that Mark Buehrle is going to give up hits, and a high-contact hitter like Altuve is ripe to benefit.

THIRD BASE – Matt Carpenter ($5,956)
Carpenter kills righties to the tune of .361/.401/.470 in 767 career PA, and though he’s facing a strong pitcher in Homer Bailey, there hasn’t been much success for the Reds righty against the Cardinals or Carpenter specifically. We’re leaning on the career marks against righties, but an 11-for-19 against Bailey doesn’t hurt.

SHORTSTOP – Ian Desmond ($6,026)
I’m picking on Alvarez a bit today. Desmond has hit .298 off of righty sinkers and sliders in 284 PA over the last couple of seasons, and those are Alvarez’s two most-used pitches. Plus, he’s hitting exactly .298 against both pitches.

OUTFIELDER1 – Andrew McCutchen ($6,474)
Cost alone is reason enough for me to use McCutchen, as a slow start leaves him underpriced. As with Carpenter against Bailey, the fact that Cutch has smoked Edwin Jackson in his career is simply a bonus. Keep Cutch in your lineups while he remains undervalued.

OUTFIELDER2 – Bryce Harper ($5,895)
I offered up Harper on April 4, and he was $3,040 more expensive. At this point, he’s simply too cheap to ignore, because he won’t stay frigid forever. A Marlins team against which he has an 1.112 OPS might be the best remedy.

OUTFIELDER3 – Dayan Viciedo ($6,741)
The Tank has destroyed lefties throughout his career (.917 OPS in 342 PA) and playing in Coors adds to the potential for big damage. You will have to stay on top of the Chicago lineup to make sure Viciedo is playing, but there are easy switches if he’s not. First off, you could just slot in teammate Alejandro De Aza ($6,772), who will almost certainly be playing if Viciedo isn’t, or you could jump down to Jay Bruce ($6,493), who is discounted thanks to a modest .160 AVG early on.

UTILITY – David Wright ($7,867)
Call me crazy, but as with Buehrle, I’m also not buying into Aaron Harang’s killer first start. We saw his volatility last year with seven starts of six-plus earned runs and eight others allowing no more than one run including a pair of shutouts. Wright has a chance to get loose here and sharply improve his modest .701 OPS thus far.

STARTING PITCHER1 – Gio Gonzalez ($20,886)
The bargains around the diamond with star players off to slow starts allow us to invest heavily in the pitching staff with three starters. Gonzalez has destroyed the Marlins as a National, allowing a 2.16 ERA in 33 innings with 35 strikeouts in five starts over the past two seasons. Beyond that, the Marlins were baseball’s worst team against lefties last year, and while they’ve been better in the early going of 2014, color me skeptical.

STARTING PITCHER2 – Charlie Morton ($12,902)
Pittsburgh’s human ground-ball machine gets a rematch against the Cubs after opening his season with six shutout innings (along with six strikeouts) against them back on April 2. That adds to his 3.50 ERA and 1.11 WHIP from three starts last year, giving him a 2.63 ERA in 24 innings over the last two seasons with 22 strikeouts and just seven walks.

PITCHER – Yordano Ventura ($8,488)
This one is a bit risky, but we’re being given enough of a discount to take the risk. Ventura opens his 2014 season against the Rays after a rainout in Detroit last week pushed him back. He goes from a road start against a very strong opponent to a home start against one with some very capable bats, but a team that is seemingly prone to cold spells. Ventura was excellent in a call-up last year and has electric stuff; this might be the cheapest we see him by half.

Money left in lineup: $41

STRATEGY NOTE
I mentioned a few times with today’s lineup that some of these stars are underpriced thanks to rough starts. Additionally, they have a favorable split or two making them ripe for play today. However, something to consider is riding a star player for several days, especially if you don’t cash in big on the initial use. Unless it’s someone with a severe platoon split who faces the wrong side the next day (of course, with a severe platoon split, they aren’t likely to be a star player), get the most out of that player being discounted. Even if you do strike it big with a 3-for-4 day that includes a homer, bang the drum again the following day, especially if his price doesn’t sharply rise. Pegging the one day a hitter will explode isn’t easy, so you can have more success finding a couple of foundational players to ride for a week or so at a time.

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Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Paul's other articles. You can contact Paul by clicking here

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