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August 19, 2015

Fantasy Rounders

Thieves Run Wild

by Doug Thorburn

Platoons

Target: LHB's Joey Votto 1B ($4900, +81 OPS and +.025 ISO career vs. RHP) and Jay Bruce OF ($4000, +95 OPS and +.026 ISO vs. RHP) against RHP Jeremy Guthrie ($4000, +122 OPS and +.051 ISO career vs. LHB)

A career innings eater, Guthrie is a stacking option versus any opponent and the 36-year old's 5.63 ERA this season underscores that point. He is particularly weak against left-handed bats, who have mashed their way to an obscene slash of .329/.390/.536 with 31 extra base hits – including 13 homers – off of Guthrie this year. Votto hits everyone but takes special aim at northpaws, and though his platoon split is off by just 4 points of OPS from being even this season, the career trends reveal that the mastermind of batsmanship enjoys a very real platoon advantage. Bruce has had a pretty consistent platoon split throughout his career and 2015 is no exception, with 15 of his 18 homers coming against right-handers and 39 of his 49 extra-base hits overall. Bruce has been off his game lately with a .130 batting average and little power over the past two weeks, but Guthrie might be just what the doctor ordered to get Bruce back hitting baseballs over the fences.

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Steals

Target: Rajai Davis OF ($3400, 17-of-22 SB this season), Anthony Gose OF ($2600, 19-of-27 SB), Jose Iglesias SS/3B ($2700, 10-of-17 SB) and Ian Kinsler 2B ($3900, 8-of-13 SB) against LHP Jon Lester ($9900, opponents 35-of-43 SB this season)

Despite his left-handedness, Lester is one of the easiest pitchers to steal against in the majors, and has issues with throwing over to first to shorten leads have become a major inconvenience for Cubbie catchers this season. Despite the steal-reducing advantages inherent in throwing left-handed, it's rather shocking that southpaw Lester leads the majors with 35 opponent steals and 43 attempts. - only one of the next 17 players on the list is left-handed (Cole Hamels). Davis gets a healthy platoon advantage against the southpaw Lester, with nary a hit to his frequency of taking off in pursuit of a steal and a greater likelihood that he'll find himself on base in order to make that happen. The entire Detroit lineup is packed with players who mash left-handers, such that I easily could have dumped these guys into the platoon section and listed half of the Tigers roster, but the overall effectiveness of Lester combined with his stolen-base struggles landed him on the target list specifically for opposing base thieves.

Target: Cameron Maybin OF ($3700, 18-of-23 SB this season) and Jace Peterson 2B/3B ($3000, 10-of-20 SB) against RHP Tyson Ross ($11100, opponents 32-of-42 SB this season)

It's not every day that the top two pitchers in giving up steals are both pitching on the same slate, but here we are. Ross plays in an early game so is not available to those building for the late slate, but his combination of free-pass gifts and inability to keep runners chained to first could spell doom on the basepaths. The cost to roster Ross today is absurdly prohibitive, especially given the weak links in his game, as not even the quadruple-A lineup of the Braves can justify a price tag above $11k.

Target: Curtis Granderson OF ($4200, 9-of-13 SB this season) and Juan Lagares OF ($3100, 7-of-10 SB) against RHP Ubaldo Jimenez ($7400, opponents 17-of-19 SB this season)

The day of thievery continues, and though runners take off on Ubaldo about half as often as they do Lester, any perception that Jimenez is a relatively light target is fueled mostly by Lester's egregious steal count – Ubaldo has given up the eighth-most thefts in baseball. And nearly every baserunner that has attempted to steal has been successful. The Mets don't steal a lot of bags as a team, so it's possible that Jimenez escapes this game unscathed despite the ease with which runners rack up the stolen bases against him – their 56 steal attempts as a team rank them at the bottom of the National League.

Recency Bias

Avoid: RHB Hanley Ramirez OF/SS ($3800) against RHP Corey Kluber ($11200)

Last 22 games (22 starts): .209/.233/.256 with zero HR in 90 plate appearances

Hanley really hasn't been the same since his physical run-in with the Green Monster back on May 4th that busted his shoulder. Since that time, he has slashed a meager .252/.287/.388, with neither of the three categories coming close to what the Red Sox thought they were getting when they signed Ramirez to a four-year deal in the off-season worth $88 million. Dings and dents have been par for the course for Ramirez for much of his career, but he has never struggled so badly at the plate when on the field, and concern is growing as he creates more of a time-gap between himself and the wall-induced injury yet the slash-line on the season continues to plummet. Despite his positional flexibility, Hanley is a player to avoid until he gets back on track (which frankly might not be until next season), and today's matchup with the ultra-trough Corey Kluber just seals the deal.

Price

Target: Danny Espinosa 2B/3B ($3400) against LHP Jorge de la Rosa ($6300)

The switch-hitting Espinosa smokes left-handed pitchers, with a robust career line of .273/.345/.453 in 596 plate appearances when he has the platoon advantage, so the $3400 price tag is easy to justify when he's facing a southpaw. What makes this a slam dunk is that Espinosa will be playing this game in Coors Field, where the thin air churns out extra-base hits like they're going out of style. Nearly every batter in tonight's Nats-Rox game has seen his price tag skyrocket due to the friendly environs of high-altitude baseball, but Espinosa' salary is mysteriously low in comparison, making him an automatic start for tonight's DFS rosters regardless of where he is batting in the order. The fact that a southpaw is on the mound just increases the odds that he is hitting higher up, and with eligibility at both second and third base there should be ample opportunity to fit Espinosa into the lineup. He has even been raking in the very recent past, and though he has only started two games since August 8, his August line tells a story with a slash of .269/.333/.615 for the month.

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

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