June 6, 2014
Daily League Strategy
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I should’ve gone with my gut and taken Anibal Sanchez, as he did the seemingly impossible with a dominant outing against the white-hot Blue Jays. Friday brings a richer slate of arms with some of the game’s best toeing the rubber. Yu Darvish ($25,774), Johnny Cueto ($22,769), and Julio Teheran ($21,851) could all be yours, but they won’t come cheaply, so you’ll definitely be bargain hunting elsewhere if you want to roster one of them (let alone somehow finagling a pair of them into your lineup).
Thankfully, you can actually do some of that money-saving before you even leave the mound. Tanner Roark ($14,557) is sure to be a popular pick as the lucky one to be facing the San Diego Padres and in Petco, no less! Roark has three straight losses despite a 2.25 ERA in 20 innings, and while the strikeouts have been a little light with 10 in that span, the Padres will give him a chance to notch five or more for the first time in four starts. Brandon McCarthy’s ($13,995) season numbers are rough with a 5.20 ERA and 1-7 record, but he’s a solid risk-reward pick because he has been great in spells. He’s allowed five-plus ER in six of his 12 starts, but three or fewer in his other six. The Braves aren’t a scary matchup.
Rookies Marcus Stroman ($12,943) and Eddie Butler ($11,333) don’t have easy matchups with the Cardinals and Dodgers, respectively, but both are blue-chip prospects expected to be standout arms in the majors. Stroman’s first MLB start was great on May 31 against the Royals, as he went six with just one run allowed and six strikeouts while this is Butler’s debut. Meanwhile, Chase Whitley ($9,551) is an unheralded rookie and we’ve yet to see him go more than five innings, but at this price he doesn’t really have to go deep to be a plus value. He has a 15-to-3 K:BB ratio in his 19 innings of work with a 2.37 ERA and 1.26 WHIP.
I’m going to spend big again at catcher with someone I’ve touted several times in this space: Jonathan Lucroy ($7,198). I realize it might be getting a bit old, but he continues to deliver for us (assuming you also use him). Lefty-masher Derek Norris ($6,986) gets Wei-Yin Chen in Baltimore on Friday. He has a .982 OPS against southpaws this year, and he’s also held his own against righties with a .757 mark, so he won’t automatically be pulled later in the game when a reliever comes in.
Paul Goldschmidt ($7,224) can actually be considered a value at his price tag. Sure, he’s facing Teheran, but he’s got the fifth-best point total at the position (3.85 PPG) as the ninth-most expensive guy. It’s a tough matchup, but Goldschmidt can handle anyone. If you’ve been reading this piece much, you know I don’t really like to be a spendthrift at first base so I’ll also be looking at Jose Abreu ($8,315) and Adrian Gonzalez ($7,636), too. As much as I like Butler overall, it is his MLB debut and lefties have been markedly better against him this year making Gonzalez an appealing pick.
If you are dead-set on saving some cash here, then Adam Lind ($6,342) is the pick. He obliterates righties to the tune of a 1.112 OPS so far this season after a .924 last year and Lance Lynn has been maddeningly inconsistent this year.
You could go pure value and ignore the tough matchup by taking Jason Kipnis at $5,085 against Darvish because you know Kip won’t stay that cheap for very long, but I like another guy back from the DL recently who is also quite cheap in Ben Zobrist ($5,222). Color me skeptical on Chris Young’s 3.27 ERA through 63 1/3 innings so I like this spot for Zobrist even though the Rays are struggling mightily.
A couple other names to look at—Chase Utley ($5,977) is another underpriced star thanks to a fierce matchup against Cueto and I don’t really understand why Howie Kendrick ($5,709) is so cheap against Andre Rienzo, who has been okay this year, but certainly not a pitcher to run from at all.
This one is easy today. I’m looking at one of two players—spend big and go for Josh Donaldson ($10,259) against Chen to leverage Donaldson’s obscene .364/.418/.702 line against southpaws with six homers in 67 PA, or jump on Juan Francisco ($6,509), whose price remains extremely inviting despite his demolition of righties this year: .309/.396/.660 in 111 PA.
Drew Smyly’s transition into a full-time starter hasn’t been as smooth as many believed it would be thanks to some trouble with righties. They have an .873 OPS in 158 PA this year. Meanwhile, Xander Bogaerts ($6,388) has a filthy .940 OPS against lefties, and he’s been on fire since the start of May.
The best of the best in the outfield are undoubtedly appealing, but they may be tough to afford if you bought some big arms and went big at first base, but that second tier of outfielders is still loaded with big talent worth buying. Yoenis Cespedes ($7,227) is on fire of late and offers plenty of upside as the 14th-most expensive outfielder on the board. I touted Adam Jones ($7,346) a while back as someone who was on the rise, and he’s delivered, but he’s still cheap enough to be a value. I respect how good Kyle Lohse has been this year, but Andrew McCutchen at $5,661 is almost a must-buy.
Super speedsters Brett Gardner ($5,910), Billy Hamilton ($5,748), and Rajai Davis ($5,746) are all priced to buy under with price tags under $6,000 and as I’ve mentioned before, they carry extra appeal because they don’t have to collect a bunch of hits to have a big impact because of that speed. On the power end of the spectrum, Josh Willingham ($5,934) has been raking since getting off of the DL with a .344/.500/.750 line that includes four homers and hits in his last eight games. Dallas Keuchel has been great this year, but we’re getting a discount with Willingham to help account for the tough matchup.
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Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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