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Early-season grenades have blown up the stat lines of some of the game's top arms, including Clayton Kershaw, Jordan Zimmermann, and Madison Bumgarner. Add Jon Lester to the list after yesterday's six-run shellacking, an outing that stung DFS gamers who saw the left-hander as a safe choice due to: A) his being one of the top pitchers taking the hill that day, B) his having the massive platoon advantage against Cincy sluggers Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, and C) his facing a depleted lineup that was without Devin Mesoraco and Billy Hamilton.

Pitching is a different animal than hitting in DFS. Hurlers not only have the greatest potential for earning points, but they also have by far the greatest potential for going into the red. For example, when Mat Latos allowed seven earnies without escaping the first inning in his first game of the year, his final tally on Draft Kings was -17.2 points, a total that essentially erases a solid outing from the other pitcher in one's lineup. It's impossible for a position player to have such a detrimental effect to the bottom line, as the only stat that generates negative value on offense is a caught stealing. Keep this in mind today with a lot of cheap pitchers on the docket, enticing All Star lineups through cost savings on the hill, but choosing between the cheap arms involves stepping through a field of landmines.

Splits

Bryce Harper, OF, ($4700)

vs. LHP: .234/.315/.384 in 473 PA

vs. RHP: .289/.367/.503 in 1042 PA

Harper is still honing his game against fellow lefties, but the 22-year old is already a force to be reckoned with when he carries the platoon advantage. The phenom erupted in the playoffs, smoking three homers in four games against the Giants in the NLDS, and he showed up to camp looking like he had mainlined spinach all offseason in hopes of carrying that momentum into the 2015 season. Harper will be playing against Justin Masterson ($7000), a pitcher who has dealt with heavy platoon splits of his own.

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Masterson splits

vs. LHB: .287/.366/.426 in 2793 PA

vs. RHB: .219/.305/.300 in 2174 PA

Masterson has what amounts to a sidearm slot and a very low release point, the result from heavy flex in his knees that lowers his center of gravity – the six-foot-six right-hander has a vertical release point that is just five feet tall. The natural result is that Masterson has a lot of lateral variation on his pitches, a factor which contributes to the heavier platoon splits. Today's Nats-Sox game starts an hour before the rest of the slate, and players from the two clubs will only be available for “All Day” or “Early Only” tournaments on Draft Kings, but it might be worth jumping into an early tourney with Stephen Strasburg on the hill and Harper facing such a favorable matchup.

Adam Jones, OF ($4600)

Home: .292/.334/.489 in 2236 PA

Away: .269/.308/.438 in 2279 PA

Jones loves hitting in Camden Yards, with a career OPS advantage of 78 points when playing at home. He is facing CC Sabathia, and though Jones has an inverse platoon split for his career (OPS is 45 points higher against right-handers), he has a long history of overpowering Sabathia. Jones has faced CC more times than any other pitcher during his MLB tenure, and the career Oriole has slashed .266/.304/.500 in 69 plate appearances head-to-head. The power stands out in that line, with Jones amassing eight extra-base hits (including three homers) off of the southpaw, and the deck is stacked today for him to add to that total.

Carlos Santana, C/1B ($4100)

LHP: .285/.395/.469 in 919 PA

RHP: .231/.355/.429 in 1869 PA

Switch-hitter Santana has been effective when hitting from either side of the plate, but the contact issues that come stapled to his resume are essentially a non-issue when batting right-handed against southpaws. He's facing left-hander Jose Quintana today and will play a key role in the divisional clash with the White Sox, as the Indians lean to the left with the big hitters in their lineup (Michael Brantley, Brandon Moss, Jason Kipnis) and the absence of Yan Gomes puts extra offensive weight on Santana's shoulders. Quintana's curveball will be a key weapon in this matchup, given that Santana has historically struggled with breaking pitches and has relied on patience to get into fastball counts. Quintana effectively utilizes his excellent pitch command, but he will go to the fastball two-thirds of the time when behind in the count, a factor which plays right into Santana's hands.

Opponents

Jake Arrieta, CHC vs. CIN ($8600)

Arrieta's vast improvement last season was not a fluke, and he took a step toward proving it by blanking the Cardinals for seven innings in his first start of the season. There was a mechanical basis to Arrieta's breakout, as he worked to hone his transition through the phases of lift and stride which had previously been terribly inconsistent (occasionally invoking a pause at the top of his delivery). The right-hander was able to harness a more fluid pace of momentum that worked wonders for his repetition of timing and his finding a consistent release point. He already had the stuff to succeed at a high level, and the difference between the old Arrieta and the new one is an upshot in pitch command that is rooted in mechanics. The Reds will be without Devin Mesoraco in today's matchup, but keep an eye out for Billy Hamilton if he gets on the bases – Arrieta surrendered 22 steals last season (in 25 attempts) across 25 starts.

Daniel Norris, TOR vs. TB ($5600)

Norris is still working his way up the development curve, and though his raw velocity and tight slider are potentially plus attributes from the left side, there is still considerable work to be done by further developing his secondaries, ironing out his mechanics, and reaping the associated benefits with pitch command. He gets a soft landing for his third career MLB start, facing a Tampa club that lacks clout beyond Evan Longoria and Steven Souza. The platoon matchup is less than ideal, as the Rays have an offense that veers strongly toward right-handed hitters, but the price is intriguing for a young pitcher with high-K upside (he struck out 10.7 batters per nine innings in the minors.

Drew Rucinski, LAA @ TEX ($5500)

There are a couple of pitchers who are making their first big-league starts today, and an unfamiliar name attached to a cheap price tag is typically an invitation to stack a lineup against said starter. They are certainly priced accordingly, but while bottom-feeder Matt Andriese ($4200) is a stacking opportunity waiting to happen, Rucinski offers enough intrigue to garner attention. The low sticker price keeps him in the bottom quartile of today's pitcher pool, and though his approach is fueled more by deception than raw stuff, his lack of exposure to advanced scouting and big-league hitters could work to his advantage, at least in the early-going. The right-hander will be making the leap from Double-A to his first major-league start, where his minor-league ratio of 3.7 K's for every walk will be put to the test.

Recent Trends

Odrisamer Despaigne, SD vs. ARI ($6400)

The right-hander has patterned his game after fellow Cuban hurler El Duque, right down to his hiding behind the tall leg kick and the ever-changing arm angles. The various looks wreak havoc on the mechanical grading scale with so many different versions of his delivery, but the joy of watching him pitch is well worth the trade-off. He spun 4.7 innings of perfect baseball against the Giants last week, a team that has yet to solve Despaigne's riddle despite multiple encounters. The deception is part of his effectiveness, particularly when facing a ballclub for the first time, and every so often he tosses a gem as opposing batters adjust to the novelty. There will be no such adjustment period for the Diamondbacks, who faced Despaigne in four of his 16 starts last season, though Paul Goldschmidt's injury limited the first baseman to just three plate appearances head-to-head.

Injuries/Playing Time

  • Billy Hamilton (finger) took Monday off as a precaution, but the team is downplaying the injury and the expectation is that he will be in the lineup today against the Cubs

  • Devin Mesoraco's injury (hip) is more serious than anticipated, and he will go for an MRI today. Expect him to be out for a few days at the minimum, with a DL stint possible.

  • Stephen Vogt is day-to-day after he rolled his ankle in Monday's game.

  • X-Rays came back negative on Brett Gardner's wrist following an HBP, and he is listed as day-to-day.

  • Alex Guerrero been getting some playing time at third base for the Dodgers while Juan Uribe deals with a balky hamstring.

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Resources used for this article:

Baseball Prospectus Stats and Player Cards

Draft Kings player prices

Brooks Baseball

Baseball-Reference

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