May 27, 2014
Daily League Strategy
Get Your Phil
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The full slate always brings a host of options ranging from high-dollar studs to low-dollar gambles and this Tuesday is no different in that respect. This crop of ace-level talent all face somewhat difficult matchups making them far less appealing than normal, even when we allow for the fact that they have the talent to stop any offense. Remember, we’re looking for value, so if we’re going to spend over 20 percent of our budget, we need the arm to produce, so taking chances on riskier matchups like the ones facing Chris Sale, Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, Sonny Gray, Cole Hamels, and Alex Cobb isn’t a great idea.
Yu Darvish ($26,256) has the easiest matchup among the aces with a trip to Minnesota, as they’ve fallen on hard times in May, but he’s also $2,500 more expensive than anyone else. His counterpart, Phil Hughes ($15,969), is certainly pitching like an ace of late with a 1.60 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 30-to-1 K:BB ratio in his last 39 1/3 innings spanning six starts. I’m definitely looking his way even with the Rangers hitting better in May.
Tim Hudson ($14,976) against the Cubbies will be a very popular pick while David Phelps ($13,750), Jon Niese ($13,498), and Wade Miley ($13,491) are off-the-radar value plays who are either pitching well of late, facing a juicy matchup, or both.
I would’ve expected to see Evan Gattis’ ($4,928) price surge with a lefty on the hill on Tuesday, but he’s dirt-cheap relative to his brilliant numbers against southpaws. He did his best work against lefties last year, too, but this year have been another level of mashing with a 1.323 OPS that includes three homers in his seven hits. Of course with seven hits the sample is obviously small, but I love the power at a sub-$5,000 price tag.
Speaking of lefty-mashing catchers, Jonathan Lucroy ($6,724) isn’t exactly a budget option as the fourth-most-expensive backstop, but the .924 OPS against lefties for his career makes him worth the price. Wei-Yin Chen spent his first two seasons as a homer-prone lefty and while he’s sliced his home run rate this year, he’s still allowing 11 hits per nine.
I’m reticent to bargain hunt at first base because of all the star power there, but sometimes you find an unexpectedly low-priced gem, as with Freddie Freeman ($6,115) on Tuesday. Sure, he’s facing a star talent in Jon Lester and he is over 100 points lower in OPS against lefties, but he’s never been downright worthless against them as we’ve seen with so many lefty hitters in the past. Plus, he’s been on the rise yearly since 2011, including an impressive .953 so far this year with four homers in 61 PA after just four in 196 PA last year.
Still prefer to spend the big bucks at first base? Paul Goldschmidt ($9,924) very rarely mistreats his daily fantasy users and we’ll see if he can crack his first bomb off of a lefty in 2014 as he faces Eric Stults. Despite the home run drought, he’s still posting a .910 OPS against them, well in line with his career .985 mark.
It wasn’t a conscious choice to seek out lefty-mashers on Tuesday, but I just kept veering toward them as I searched for my favorite options and Howie Kendrick ($7,247) fits the bill. He has a career .295 AVG against them—a figure he’s dipped below just twice in nine seasons—and his .786 OPS has been on the rise yearly since 2011. Even with a tough matchup on the mound, it’s hard not to like Kendrick’s counterpart, Robinson Cano ($7,080), as he surges. He’s the seventh-most-expensive keystoner despite being one of the two or three most talented in the game, even if his fantasy numbers don’t quite show it yet in Seattle.
Similar to Cano, David Wright ($5,885) is a bargain from a talent-to-pricing standpoint. He’s the 13th-most expensive third baseman on the board despite the ninth-most points per game (PPG) and a matchup against Edinson Volquez. Volquez’s 5.00 FIP says we probably haven’t even seen the worst of him yet, either.
Juan Francisco ($5,738) has been insane against righties this year with an 1.159 OPS and seven of his eight homers. He’s being perfectly deployed by the Jays as a platoon player. The matchup is far from easy with Cobb on the mound, but I think we’re getting more than a fair discount to accommodate for the difficult matchup making him still worth looking at on Tuesday.
If you find yourself needing a high-upside budget-friendly bat for your Utility pick, you might consider double-dipping at the hot corner and looking at Manny Machado ($4,910) or Evan Longoria ($4,801). Machado’s bottom line is ugly so far this year, but he’s played just 22 games as he comes back from injury. He has a solid little nine-game hitting streak going and I’ve been riding him for a while now at his depressed price. He’ll be up in the $7000s before we know it and possibly higher if he really catches fire, so enjoy the discount now while you can. Longo has always raked lefties with a .922 OPS against them and he’s certainly seen Buehrle enough to have a book on him with 34 PA against one another.
The speed-focused options at shortstop offer some nice value at the position with Elvis Andrus ($5,368), Alcides Escobar ($5,2014), Jonathan Villar ($4,892), and Everth Cabrera ($4,774) all under $5,500 with the latter three all getting solid matchups. Andrus and Escobar have been more consistently producing with 2.96 and 2.87 PPG, respectively, while Villar has sputtered at 2.23 PPG, but gets Jeremy Guthrie, and Cabrera has looked much better of late and even had a combo meal on Monday night.
Looking for your cornerstone on Tuesday? Check out the top of the outfield heap. Yasiel Puig ($10,027), Carlos Gomez ($9,749), Giancarlo Stanton ($9,545), Nelson Cruz ($9,304), and Mike Trout ($9,086) all get favorable matchups. Trout is lowest in that group at 3.94 PPG and yet he probably offers the most upside in that group as the cheapest option despite being the unquestioned best fantasy asset the last two years. Plus he’s improved yearly against lefties since joining the league and he gets a rookie southpaw on Tuesday. It’s hard to call a $9,000 player a bargain, but Trout could reasonably be considered relative to his potential.
A lot of the bargain options in the outfield have a tough matchup, but with three spots to fill, you’ll likely have to gamble on at least one of them. My favorites include Carlos Gonzalez ($5,954) even against a tough Hamels, Billy Hamilton ($5,684) and Jay Bruce ($5,386) facing off against Greinke, and Henderson Alvarez isn’t as fierce a matchup for Jayson Werth ($5,259) compared to what the others have, but he’s got just a 731 OPS against righties so far this year and he’s sputtered a bit in May, hence the decreased price.
Want a bargain bin hero play? Alejandro De Aza ($4,521) hasn’t done much of anything since popping three homers in the first three games, but he’s 11-for-33 against Justin Masterson, whose struggles against lefties have returned with a vengeance this year. The 33 PA sample isn’t large enough to be predictive, but Masterson’s chronic struggles against lefties are worth betting on and the career success for De Aza just helps push me closer to using him.
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Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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