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May 2, 2014

Daily League Strategy

May 2-4

by Paul Sporer


I’m going to mix it up a bit today with the Friday daily gaming piece, let me know how you like this format compared to the 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
Behind the dish I’m loving Derek Norris ($5,079) against any lefty as a great budget option while Miguel Montero ($5,519) isn’t much more expensive, and he’s averaging the seventh-most points per game among catchers, though he is headed to San Diego so maybe keep him tucked away until after the weekend. Travis D’Arnaud ($3,492) is dirt-cheap for a reason—his 1.62 PPG rate—but he gets a weekend in Colorad,o so if you want to skimp behind the dish, there’s some upside in the former blue-chip prospect.

Sunday Backup Special: The backup catchers often get a shot on Sundays, so we’ll stick with the Mets in Colorado and try out Anthony Recker ($5,954). He’s more expensive than the team’s starter, but that’s because he’s actually hitting a bit (relative to backup Cs).

FIRST BASE
If you want the elite, you’ve got to pay (even if they aren’t clicking on all cylinders yet Miguel Cabrera is still the highest-priced first baseman at $9,795) with the game’s hottest checking in at second (Albert Pujols: $9,665), third (Jose Abreu: $9,166), and fourth (Adrian Gonzalez: $8,529) in pricing at the position. The prime pick of the litter is Paul Goldschmidt at the veritable bargain-bin price of $7,232 relative to his peers.

Against the Grain Pick: Looking to stand out at a position that demands big production? You could ride Ryan Howard ($6,031) for a weekend against Washington. The slate includes Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, but he’s been quite good this year against both lefties and righties, plus he’s mashing at home.

SECOND BASE
Anthony Rendon ($6,352) just hasn’t seen his price rise to a level commensurate with his production and thus he’s a mainstay in my lineups. The weekend brings a tough slate that includes Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett, and Cole Hamels, but he’s destroyed lefties to the tune of a 1.577 OPS, so I wouldn’t be against using him in a Friday-Sunday combo when others might be shying away from Nationals.

Sub-$6,000 Picks: Neil Walker ($5,951) and Aaron Hill ($5,609) both present nice values given their upside, but it’s Daniel Murphy ($5,707) in Colorado who looks like the best value play for the weekend. He’s at 3.06 PPG despite not yet hitting his first homer. That could change this weekend.

THIRD BASE
For as great as he’s been, Josh Donaldson ($7,929) isn’t particularly expensive relative to other guys atop their position. He’s the 15th-most expensive hitter overall, despite turning in a top 10 PPG total at 4.38. Juan Francisco ($5,060) and Juan Uribe ($5,000) are both decimating righties and dropping nearly three points per game. Francisco gets a pair in Pittsburgh this weekend, while Uribe gets three in Miami, but one is Jose Fernandez so you’re probably avoiding Uribe on Sunday.

On the Cheap: Nick Castellanos ($4,531) and Martin Prado ($4,188) are both better than their prices right now, but Castellanos is hitting .233 and Prado has yet to homer, so they both find themselves on the cheap right now.

SHORTSTOP
Troy Tulowitzki ($9,853) is the most expensive hitter at DraftStreet right now, and yet he’s been so good that he’s almost worth it on a daily basis. That said, there is some depth to the position with Alexei Ramirez ($6,652), Jed Lowrie ($6,582), and Jimmy Rollins ($6,032) all doing nice work at good prices.

Waiting to Get Hot: J.J. Hardy ($4,541) hasn’t hit a single home run yet and Everth Cabrera ($3,874) only has four stolen bases (because he’s been caught three times), but both can catch fire in their respective field of excellence and they will be huge values. Jumping on now might still yield some more duds, but at the very least you should monitor them because their 1.78 and 1.74 PPG rates, respectively, won’t last.

OUTFIELD
Carlos Gomez ($7,264) and Justin Upton ($7,009) are both around four points per game, but well below their peers sitting in the 4.3-4.5 PPG range in terms of cost. The six outfielders in that range cost between $8,323 and $9,360 so you can save with Gomez and Upton without sacrificing much in the way of the production and upside. Moving down the list, both Michael Brantley ($5,865) and Jacoby Ellsbury ($5,635) are offering great value given their across-the-board capabilities, although the latter could be bargain priced because he’s facing a lefty on Friday (David Price).

Platoon Option: David Murphy ($5,264) is back to his righty-crushing ways this season with an 884 OPS against them in 62 PA. That’s much more in line with his 818 career mark, rebounding from last year’s disastrous 685 OPS. He gets a pair of uninspiring righties this weekend with Scott Carroll and Andre Rienzo of the White Sox. I know Carroll had an excellent debut, but I remain wary of the 29-year old rookie.

PITCHING
Friday features plenty of studs including three of the top starters: Felix Hernandez ($25,150; first), Cliff Lee ($22,375; sixth), and Stephen Strasburg ($21,672; eighth) with the latter two facing each other. I like Andrew Cashner ($18,570) most among the frontline options as his strikeout ability offers the potential for a strong double-digit points effort at home against Arizona and he’s much cheaper than the bigger name aces. Wily Peralta ($12,599) has been great through five starts, going deep into games and missing some bats. The homer allowed in each game is a bit alarming, but he’s priced to buy.

Looking Ahead: Hisashi Iwakuma ($19,006) makes his season debut against the Astros on Saturday. Strategies differ with guys returning from injury as some will avoid them initially while others will dive right in. I don’t have a set rule, but I’m generally more of the latter and I wouldn’t be afraid to go with Iwakuma immediately, especially with this matchup.

NOTES

Stackables – Offenses worth loading up on this weekend

  • Baltimore and Minnesota – They are squaring off against each other with none of the six arms slated to go presenting much of a challenge. It’s in Target Field, but both offenses have several nice options to jump on. I prefer Minnesota most on Friday against Ubaldo Jimenez and Baltimore on Friday and Saturday against Ricky Nolasco and Kevin Correia.
  • Pittsburgh – They are at home, but facing a weak Jays rotation that will have Brandon Morrow, R.A. Dickey, and Dustin McGowan toeing the slab this weekend. This is a gamble, but carries big payoff potential because you won’t see a lot of folks stacking Pirates.
  • Boston – This is only for the first two games of the series with Dan Straily and Tommy Milone on the mound as they face Sonny Gray on Sunday. The Red Sox haven’t really broken through offensively, but they have a nice chance to catch fire here against the weak end of the A’s rotation.
  • New York Yankees – Skip ‘em Friday against David Price, but then get acclimated with the Bronx Bombers over the weekend as they face Jake Odorizzi and Erik Bedard.

Stayaways – Offenses to pass on for the most part this weekend

  • San Diego and Arizona – They are tangling in Petco for a three-game set. The Padres are a perma-stayaway because they are just terrible, but the D’Backs have some very enticing options despite their team record. They get three solid arms in the spacious ballpark so you’re probably best looking elsewhere for the weekend.
  • Washington and Philadelphia – Tanner Roark with his 18-inning scoreless streak is the worst pitcher going in the series so runs will likely be tough to come by for both clubs. I might pick a guy here and there (such as Rendon), but by and large I’m avoiding these two clubs.

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Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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