With one full month in the books, we are starting to get a better feel for the landscape of the 2015 baseball season. We have reached a point where we might be unwilling to roster the player who is still slumping, or when we start to believe (at least in the short-term) those players that are playing above expectation. That said, we are early enough that a good weekend can still add 130 points of OPS to a stat line (just ask Charlie Blackmon).
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Details ($3 Moonshot):
Mike Trout, OF ($5300)
vs. RHP: .316/.399/.569, with 93-for-102 SB in 1688 PA
vs. Felix: .365/.386/.673 in 57 PA
I got through a full month of Fantasy Rounders without even mentioning a certain best player on the planet, and part of the reason is that he's always a good matchup, against everyone. Case in point, most of the hitters on the Angels must be dreading tonight's battle with Felix Hernandez, but Trout is ready for another day at the office. He hits righties a bit better than lefties, which is nice, but more impressive is how well he has hit King Felix in his career. The 57 plate appearances are by far the most that Trout has against any other pitcher in his career, and he wins this matchup of league's best bat versus AL's top arm. The line includes eight extra-base hits, including three doubles, two triples, and a trio of homers.
Trout vs. Pitch Types (AVG/SLG)
Fastballs: .300/.534 in 1228 AB
Off-speed: .335/.725 in 233 AB
Breaking: .306/.508 in 500 AB
A key ingredient to Trout's ownership of the King has been the changeup. Felix is relentless in his use of a devastating change, and he ha upped the frequency since the start of 2014 to a near 30-percent usage pattern. Trout absolutely murders off-speed pitches, and changeups in particular (.775 slugging percentage), such that he has the same number of homers against off-speed pitches as breaking balls (23 bombs) in less than half the at bats.
A.J. Pollock, OF ($4400)
vs. LHP: .282/.333/.492, 5-for-10 SB in 329 PA
vs. RHP: .276/.331/.396, 26-for-31 SB in 629 PA
Pollock is facing southpaw Tyler Matzek tonight in Colorado, and though facing a lefty dents his rates of take-offs and successful steals, Pollock enjoys an extra 90 points of ISO against left-handers. That aspect could play huge at altitude, and he's a good bet to knock the ball around Coors Field tonight against Matzek. Power is the one thing that's glaringly missing from Pollock's line in 2015, and I expect him to seize this opportunity to pad his slugging percentage.
Jhonny Peralta, SS ($4000)
vs. LHP: .262/.343/.449 in 1773 PA
vs. RHP: .270/.326/.419 in 4636 PA
Peralta has mashed lefties throughout his 13-year career, and he is likely to hit near the middle of the Cardinals batting order tonight against Travis Wood. They've faced off 17 times in the past, with Peralta tallying four hits including a pair of doubles, and Peralta's patience has resulted in three walks. PITCHf/x data only goes back to 2007, so this only covers recent history, but Peralta has his .303 against the hard stuff but sub-Mendoza for braking balls and off-speed pitches, a combo which meshes well with Wood, who throws cutters and other fastball variations on 79 percent of his pitches.
Phil Hughes, MIN vs. OAK ($8100)
Remarkably, Hughes is on pace to either meet or beat his insanely-low walk rate of last season. In 2014 he walked just 16 batters in 32 starts, and this year is right on track with two free passes allowed in five turns. Unfortunately, the skyscraper homer rate that tainted his New York tenure has returned this season, and the approach of throwing copious strikes is exposed when batters start to make adjustments by unloading on pitches earlier in the count. He's facing an Oakland club that has been very inconsistent this season, including several lopsided victories that underlie a 9-13 record but a run differential of plus-18, so this matchup is highly flammable.
Dallas Keuchel, HOU vs. TEX ($8000)
Keuchel has been applauded for doing all of the little things well, starting with exceptional defense that has him pouncing off the mound like a jack rabbit in the quest of making plays with his glove. The strikeout rate is uninspiring, checking in with just 22 punchouts across 37 frames, but the lowest ERA and WHIP in the big leagues (both stand at 0.73) has a way of garnering one's attention. Skepticism mounts when a pitcher relies so heavily on his defense to generate outs, but defense is part of the value that he brings to the table, and he gets a kind matchup tobight from the state-rival Rangers.
Jesse Hahn, OAK at MIN ($6000)
Hahn's another pitcher with an ultra-low K rate, with just 11 strikeouts so far in 22 innings, but the small sample combined with a game against the contact-oriented Royals sheds some light on his specifics. Hahn put up solid strikeout numbers in the minors, averaging 8.8 K's per nine innings, and he allowed just two homers in 163 frames. That trick doesn't work quite as well in the majors, as Hahn found out last year by giving up twice the homers in less than half the innings, but his rate of 0.5 homers per nine in his big-league career is still far better than average. Expect him to up the K rate a bit tonight against Minnesota, though the Twins recent offensive surge tempers enthusiasm.
Ryan Braun, OF ($4200)
Braun swung an empty stick for his first 18 games of the season, registering a .226/.273/.274 line with just one extra-base hit. His bat has since come alive, including four homers in last five games, though his next double will be his first of 2015. Braun gets hot at just the right time, with Carlos Gomez coming back to the lineup as the 7-18 Brewers work to get their season on track. Braun might not be the same player that won the MVP just three seasons ago, but his career platoon split includes a .336/.401/.631 line in 1184 PA against southpaws, a 157-point advantage in OPS when compared to his performance against right-handers.
Braun is also the rare hitter who has a decent track record against tonight's starter, the one and only Clayton Kershaw, with a .333/.355/.467 slash in 31 meetings head-to-head. With Kershaw on the mound it's a good day to avoid Brewers in general, but if reaching in any direction then one could do worse than to find Braun. Gamers are generally down on him for his extra-curricular activities and the PED use clouds expectation, but there are opportunities to reap value when Braun is facing a southpaw is on the hill.
Oswaldo Arcia (hip) was placed on the DL
Christian Yelich (back) is expected to be back in the Marlins lineup on Thursday
Nick Swisher (knee) is expected to come off the DL tomorrow
Austin Hedges was recalled by the Padres today
Mat Latos (hamstring) should be good to go for tomorrow's start
There is a good chance that the game between the Diamondbacks and Rockies gets rained out today, as thunderstorms are expected to hit just before gametime and continue throughout the evening. – click here for updates
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