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August 5, 2014

Daily League Strategy

Everyone's Favorite Candy!

by Paul Sporer


With DraftKings’ acquisition of DraftStreet, I will now be using that site’s dollar values to select my players of the day.

PITCHING

1. Johnny Cueto ($9,500 CIN at CLE)
This is a veritable bargain for Cueto! Frankly, I’m not sure why he dropped below $10,000 a few starts ago, and I’m also not sure what’s missing in his last two starts (0.64 ERA in 14 IP with 18 K) to keep him under $10,000, but I’m not exactly complaining. I understand the challenge Cleveland poses to righties (.751 OPS, fourth in baseball), but they do that damage with a bevy of lefties (or switch-hitters), and Cueto doesn’t have an exploitable platoon split. His .545 OPS against lefties is barely distinguishable from his .532 mark against righties. In short, he’s been killing everyone this year. He’s been markedly better at home (1.77 ERA, 5.7 K:BB ratio in 86 1/3 IP), but even though we “only” get his road version, we’ll be okay—2.36 ERA, 2.7 K:BB ratio in 76 1/3 innings.

2. Dallas Keuchel ($6,600 HOU at PHI)
Keuchel appears to be healed from a bum wrist that cost him nearly two weeks plus a few poor starts upon returning, but he’s got back-to-back gems coming into this one including a complete game effort against the A’s on July 30. Even with a 6.07 ERA streak in the five starts surrounding the wrist injury, he still has a 2.97 ERA on the season, which tells you just how good he has been in those other 15 starts (2.11 ERA in 106 2/3 IP, in case you wanted to know for certain). The Phillies rank in the bottom 10 in OPS against lefties, and the home park doesn’t help them, as they actually drop a bit in OPS.

3. Danny Duffy ($7,000 KC at ARI)
Duffy has earned plenty of attention on his own accord with a 2.42 ERA in 104 innings. His K/9 rate is way down from 8.1 to 6.9, but the percentage of batters being fanned hasn’t dropped quite as much (21.2 percent to 19 percent) thanks to a precipitous drop in walk rate from 13.5 percent a year ago (and 14.9 the year before that) to a much more palatable 9.5 percent this year. His 2.0 K:BB ratio doesn’t scream mid-2.00s ERA—his BABIP (.232) and LOB rate (82 percent) are reliever-esque and due for some regression—but I can see him staving off any sort of steep fallback against a Diamondbacks team that recently lost Paul Goldschmidt, their best asset against lefties. They peel his 1.115 OPS from a .715 team mark that also recently lost Martin Prado (.881) via trade. Of course, they also lost Gerardo Parra and his sweet .568 OPS against lefties, so maybe it’s not all bad. But I think this team is ripe for the picking against southpaws.

HITTERS

1. Nolan Arenado ($4,500 COL v. CHC)
Hey, it’s everyone’s favorite candy—Coors Field hitters! None of this sets up well for Travis Wood. He’s got a near-200-point platoon split with an .826 OPS allowed to righties (.632 v. LHB), he’s more than two runs worse on the road with a 6.27 ERA (4.05 at home), a minuscule 5.7 K/9 rate (9.5 at home), and a 1.3 K:BB ratio (2.7 at home), and of course it’s in Coors. Arenado has enjoyed a breakout season thanks to sharp improvement against righties and continued dominance of lefties. His line against southpaws has ticked up from .296/.349/.496 last year to .305/.341/.524 so far this year.

2. Drew Stubbs ($4,500 COL v. CHC)
I expected Stubbs to be a bit more under the radar and check in closer to $4,000… so good on you, DraftKings! That said, I still like him quite a bit at this price point. In addition to everything working against Wood, Stubbs not only dominates lefties but also does so at home. He has a 1.036 OPS against lefties this year (continuing a trend of success against lefties, but never at this level) which jumps to a completely obscene 1.378 OPS at home (with a .480 AVG, albeit in just 56 PA).

3. Matt Adams ($3,800 STL v. BOS)
This feels like a fantastic bargain! Adams is raking since getting back from the DL with a .302/.331/.549 line including nine homers, 30 RBI, and 22 runs scored (numbers that pace to 34-113-83 over 162 games), and yet he’s south of $4,000? Again, I’m not complaining about what I deem an out-of-whack price, I’m just marveling at it and definitely taking full advantage. Adams has a .944 OPS at home and a .904 OPS against righties, and he’s facing a pitcher with a severe platoon split against lefties. Rubby de la Rosa’s .850 OPS against lefties (underscoring his issues with the changeup) is nearly 200 points clear of his .674 against righties.

4. Jason Castro ($4,000 HOU at PHI)
Castro’s price never really surges up to the top of the heap, even when he’s crushing the ball. Of course those periods of crushing the ball have been scant this year, as he carried a .655 OPS through the first three months of the season. He has been strong since July 1 with a .798 OPS powered by nine extra-base hits including four homers in the 20 games (33-HR pace over 162 games). He’s averaging 9.1 points per game in his last 10 with just one scoreless game, and he gets a righty in Kyle Kendrick who has always had issues with lefties (career 100-point split in OPS, 200-point split this year).

5. Ezequiel Carrera ($2,400 DET at NYY)
This is my flier-of-the-day pick. I won’t always have one of these because some days there simply isn’t anyone you’d be interested in at a sub-$3,000 price tag (or even sub-$3,500), but I’m considering riding Carrera for a while against righties in hope that his Triple-A surge is ready to bear some fruit. His .809 OPS in the International League is a career-best, and it was fueled by an .839 OPS against righties. He has modest MLB success in 405 career plate appearances, and while the split isn’t particularly good at .664, he did do his best work against righties (.602 v. LHP). These picks don’t need to do much to be positive values, either, but if they happen to go off, you’re going to gain a massive advantage from that spot.

Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Paul's other articles. You can contact Paul by clicking here

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