May 20, 2014
Daily League Strategy
Two Stud Pitchers
Let’s change it up and go back to a singular lineup today because I’m going for it big time tonight. I’m going to build a lineup around the two superstud pitchers throwing on Tuesday. It won’t be easy with more than 50 percent of the allotted $100,000 budget absorbed by a pair of arms, but it’ll be a fun challenge.
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 top two players in points per game at DraftStreet are pitching Tuesday, and I’m going to roster both of them. Johnny Cueto ($26,140) is the most expensive player on the board right now, but his 14.58 PPG total is a full point higher than that of my other ace going tonight, Masahiro Tanaka ($24,067). It’s hard to consider Tanaka any sort of bargain at that price, but he is the fifth-most expensive despite being the second-best scorer at 13.56 PPG. Cueto has scored fewer than 12 points just once this season while Tanaka has dipped below 11 points just once. Obviously with a strategy like this, these two must excel for my lineup to have a chance. Basically anything under double digits is a failure.
I currently have Zach Britton ($1,590) slotted in as my third pitcher, but any of the guys under $1,700 will fit the bill, so I’ll research deeper to ensure that Britton is my favorite of that group. He hasn’t pitched since May 15, and he’s been handling both righties and lefties, so I’ll most likely stick with him.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia ($3,732) is having a great debut season with the Marlins, certainly much better than I expected to see when he signed with them. I was especially worried about that spacious ballpark. He has anywhere power, but I still thought it would seriously sap his non-homer production and yet he’s done his best work there (as have almost all of the Marlins) with a .348/.405/.591 line that includes seven doubles, three homers, and nine of his 13 RBIs. An awful road trip (0.5 points in nine games… not 0.5 points per game, but rather total) has no doubt depressed his price, just in time for us to take advantage as the Marlins return home.
With so much firepower at first base, it’s tough to really skimp here, but Mike Napoli ($5,913) gives us the chance to save some money while still getting a great bat. He’s been about equal in OPS against righties and lefties at .824 and .793, respectively, but the lefty mark is built on a .451 OBP as the power production has been done entirely against righties with all five homers against them. J.A. Happ has been a walk machine (6.1 BB/9) and his 2.0 HR/9 rate might help Napoli get his first big fly against a southpaw this year, too.
The rest of the infield is where I’m going to save my money so that I can afford a solid outfield/utility foursome with at least one big bat in that group (yes, I’m writing this as I put the roster together so you can kinda get a feel for my thought process). I really like Aaron Hill at just $4,307, but I’m sure part of that price is because he’s facing Adam Wainwright so I’m not exactly dying to use him in this spot. So I went with his second base counterpart for Tuesday night: Kolten Wong ($4,696). He’s only been back for a series, but he looked fantastic against the Braves. Hopefully the dip down to Triple-A got him going and the Braves series over the weekend was just the start of a big run for Wong.
When you’re balling on a budget like this, your eyes light up when you see someone like Manny Machado at just $4,419. He has a .571 OPS, so maybe he should be even cheaper, but obviously the upside is massive. Additionally, he has hits in seven of his last eight games after going 5-for-35 in his first nine games. Everything we’ve got for him is a tiny sample right now, but it looks like he’s getting his feet under him as the reps build up so sign me up here at a rock-bottom price.
There were some decent budget options at shortstop, but one of the cheapest stood out to me as the obvious pick: Everth Cabrera ($4,054). A super-chilly 2-for-30 spell to open May depressed his overall numbers, but he’s surging of late with 3.7 PPG over his last 10 games including at least 5.25 points in three of his last four. He’s picking up hits and steals, but he’s also in the midst of a power surge with a couple bombs in those four games getting him halfway to his 2013 home run total. Meanwhile, Kevin Correia has been brutal and he doesn’t discriminate against righties or lefties so Cabrera can choose whichever side he’d like to rake from against the Twins righty.
I’ve stressed in this space many times before that you shouldn’t ever get too crazy with batter v. pitcher numbers (unless it’s Goldschmidt v. Lincecum), but everything marries well for a stud pick at a bargain price who happens to smash the pitcher he’s facing on Tuesday. Carlos Gonzalez ($6,640) is at a great price, has three multi-hit games in his last four, and he owns Madison Bumgarner with a 1.252 OPS in 41 PA (second-most of any batter against Bumgarner) with five homers and nine RBIs. I was hoping to get at least one stud in the foursome of outfield/utility, but CarGo’s bargain price might allow for a couple of studs now.
I rounded out my outfield with a couple guys who haven’t been great to date, but find themselves on the upswing. Allen Craig ($5,462) has put up a positive score in each of his last nine games with hits in all but two (walks and runs scored helped him to a positive score in the other two). Stretching it out further, he has an .836 OPS over his last 19 games with five hitless games. And while Bronson Arroyo is on fire of late, I’m not exactly running away from him with opposing batters. Alex Gordon ($5,026) had a massive game Sunday with a pair of homers and while he only has hits in four of his last 10 games, all four are multi-hit efforts. Plus he has a pair of multi-walk efforts among the six hit-less games.
The nice savings in the outfield allowed me to get my most expensive hitter for utility. I had plenty of great options, but a lot of them had rough matchups. Carlos Gomez ($8,127) would’ve been easy had he not been facing Julio Teheran and my second choice of Jose Reyes ($8,148) was enticing, but I’m not sure he’s fully out of his funk just yet, plus I expected more of a discount given his composite numbers.
Brandon Moss ($8,148) rounds out my club facing Jake Odorizzi. Odorizzi has looked strong over his last two, but he’s struggled with lefties at the MLB level with an .844 OPS against them compared to a .664 against righties. Six of his eight homers have come against southpaws, too. Meanwhile, Moss is pummeling both righties and lefties so far this year, so he won’t necessarily be pulled later in the game should the Rays turn to Jake McGee for a late-inning plate appearance. I’m really surprised Moss is just the 19th-most expensive hitter on the board, not that I’m complaining.
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Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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