May 30, 2014
Daily League Strategy
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There are plenty of studs to invest in on Friday, but you can offset them with some solid bargains. My favorites among the studs include Corey Kluber ($18,448) and Madison Bumgarner ($18,242), while I’m running the other way on Marco Estrada at $19,111. DraftStreet is no doubt giving Adam Wainwright his due at $24,184, which almost makes Stephen Strasburg a bargain by comparison at $20,778.
On the bargain end, John Danks ($12,864) gets the Padres, which of course makes him someone to look at, while J.A. Happ ($12,354) and Bronson Arroyo ($12,005) are unsexy names who need to be looked at given their matchups. Ian Kennedy ($15,915) and Mike Leake ($15,401) are more mid-range than bargain-bin at those prices, but they can almost be considered bargain picks based on their performance relative to those prices.
I usually try to go cheap at catcher, but I don’t like many of the lower tier matchups on Friday, so I’ll roll with a staple in my lineups this year, Jonathan Lucroy ($7,119). I often default to Lucroy, especially against lefties, if I don’t find some low-dollar option with a prime matchup. Lucroy is destroying lefties to the tune of a 1.029 OPS, but even if the Cubs go to a righty reliever later in the game, he’s still toting a healthy .825 OPS against them with a .319 AVG. If you’re steadfast about saving money with your backstop, you might consider rolling the dice on Buster Posey ($4,496) even against Wainwright because you’re unlikely to see him that low very often.
Anthony Rizzo ($5,973) gets to face the homer machine that is Estrada. Rizzo has done his best work against lefties this year, and he’s 1-for-21 against Estrada for his career, but I still like him at this price. C.J. Cron ($5,191) has impressed early on and while he’s been about even against righties and lefties in his 63 PA as a major leaguer, his best work routinely came against lefties as a minor leaguer.
Brian Dozier ($7,831) is the most expensive keystoner on the board, but he’s earned it with 4.12 PPG this year, and he gets a lefty in the form of Vidal Nuno on Friday. Nuno has actually struggled against lefties more than righties, but Dozier has crushed lefties in his career with an .881 OPS against them compared to just a .647 against righties. He’s been about equal this year with around an .800 mark against both. Jason Kipnis ($5,965) is back and priced to buy after a slow April. I’m going to be looking at a lot of Cleveland bats on Friday with Kipnis one of my favorite choices in that bunch given his lowered cost and massive upside.
Third base is a wasteland this year as the star pool just isn’t that deep. If you aren’t going to spend on Josh Donaldson ($7,464) or Adrian Beltre ($7,039)—and both have tough matchups—you’re better off bargain hunting. I love Lonnie Chisenhall ($5,155) if he can get a start here against Nicasio. Brett Lawrie ($5,005) has been mediocre at best this year, but Jason Vargas has faded in May and really hasn’t been that great against righties.
I love Starlin Castro ($5,190) at this price against Estrada. Castro’s in a bit of a dry spell lately, but that’s bound to happen with a road trip to San Diego and San Francisco—two pitcher’s parks and two teams with several solid arms. Ian Desmond ($5,805) has ugly season numbers, but he’s been better in May with a .783 OPS and he gets a struggling Colby Lewis. And even with his unimpressive season totals, Desmond still has nine homers—good for second-most among shortstops (tied with Jhonny Peralta).
The position isn’t exactly ripe after three or four studs at the top, but there are plenty of talented-but-flailing bats who could get loose at a moment’s notice including Hanley Ramirez ($6,934) and Jed Lowrie ($5,425).
Michael Brantley ($8,887) is one of the most expensive outfielders on the board, but he’s doing it all right now and it’s hard not to invest, especially with a prime matchup against Juan Nicasio. Nicasio has an .845 OPS against lefties this year and an .808 for his career while Brantley is mashing at home with a 1.008 OPS and six of his nine homers at the Jake. David Murphy ($6,416) carries a lot of appeal as a budget-conscious option for similar reasons. He’s killing it at home (.903 OPS) and four of his five homers have come against righties.
Maybe you prefer to spend your big bucks on a more power-oriented bat and you’d only need $13 more to get Nelson Cruz ($9,000) against a lefty. He has an obscene 1.414 OPS against southpaws so far this season while Brett Oberholtzer can’t really get righties out this year with a .323 AVG and .892 OPS against them. Depending on how many low-cost options you deem worthy of use, you could fit both Brantley and Cruz into your lineup—a strategy I’d fully recommend as long as you didn’t have too many gambles elsewhere.
Speaking of low-dollar options, there are a few in the outfield I’d look at if you are trying that Brantley-Cruz combo including Allen Craig ($4,768), Wil Myers ($4,613), and Jay Bruce ($4,534). Craig has a tough matchup, but he’s looked much better of late and he hits lefties well. Meanwhile Myers and Bruce are discounted because they’ve struggled this year. Neither of them has a particularly difficult matchup, facing Brandon Workman and Bronson Arroyo, respectively.
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Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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