The early slate means that there is no time to hang out by the water cooler, so let's get straight to the players of intrigue on today's slate.
Josh Donaldson, 3B ($5400)
vs. LHP: .294/.376/.578 in 510 PA
vs. RHP: .261/.338/.419 in 1304 PA
Donaldson has murdered lefties in his career, hitting 30 of his 69 homers against southpaws despite facing them in 39-percent as many plate appearances. The split has became more exaggerated last season, with an OPS that was 280 points higher against lefties last season than versus right-handers. As luck would have it, Donaldson has enjoyed just 16 plate appearances versus southpaws this season (107 PA against right-handers), but he has been undeterred. The new Jay has hit six homers and 12 of his 13 extra0base hits against same-side pitchers this year, and it's a bit scary to think of what he might do with some extra swings against southpaws. He'll get that opportunity today with CC Sabathia on the mound for the Yankees, and though his cost is prohibitive, gamers can take solace in the fact that he has earned that $5400 salary this season while facing a saturated slate of right-handers.
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Details ($3 Moonshot):
Kevin Kiermaier, OF ($4100)
vs. LHP: .227/.242/.320 in 345 PA
vs. RHP: .277/.332/.500 in 102 PA
We are dealing with a prohibitive sample size, but Kiermaier's penchant for hitting right-handers (or relative weakness against lefties) extends back to the minor leagues. He now has 447 plate appearances at the big league level, with a career slugging percentage of .457 and 45 extra-base hits in less than a full season's worth of work. He has traveled mostly under the radar, but I expect Kiermaier to become more of a household name as a regular cog in Tampa lineup when facing a right-hander on the mound.
Alex Rodriguez, 3B ($4000)
vs. LHP: .287/.387/.547 in 8538 PA
vs. RHP: .303/.382/.561 in 2909 PA
vs. Buehrle: .216/.293/.243 in 41 PA
The notable split in A-Rod's case has nothing to do with platoons, as he has basically ripped everyone in his career with indiscriminate malice, such that he actually has a small reverse platoon split in his career. The intrigues here lies in the head-to-head matchup between a couple of veterans with a combined 37 seasons of big league experience, with 36 of those seasons taking place in the American League. One might actually expect a more robust sample given the extensive historical opportunity to face one another, but A-Rod has been M.I.A. during the only stretch where they were playing in the same division. Buehrle has held a massive advantage when they have faced each other, with just one extra-base hit (a double) allowed and nine strikeouts against four walks.
Rodriguez vs. pitch types (AVG/SLG)
Hard: .298/.554 in 1779 AB
Breaking: .249/.425 in 610 AB
Off-Speed: .241/.399 in 316 AB
It's tough to peg the type of ballplayer that Alex Rodriguez is these days, and it's also difficult to be anything but skeptical when the 39-year old puts on an unexpected power display. The matchup favors Rodriguez in theory, with the low-end velocity that his waning bat speed will be able to handle, but Buehrle has been a soft-tosser his entire career yet had no trouble with retiring A-Rod in the past. Part of his success is a fastball-changeup arsenal with the low-end velocity to make everything feel off-speed, and though PITCHf/x only goes back to 2007, A-Rod's profile suggests that he has struggled most with the soft stuff over the past seven or eight years.
Max Scherzer, WAS vs. MIA ($12000)
Scherzer has adapted nicely to National League ball, and he is turning out to be an important addition to what was once thought to be an overly-stacked rotation in DC. With Jordan Zimmermann struggling to recapture the magic of the last couple seasons and Stephen Strasburg having to leave his last start with shoulder woes, the vaunted Nats rotation is suddenly looking vulnerable, serving as yet the latest example of the adage that says, “you can never have too much pitching.” Scherzer is doing everything in his power to hold down the fort, with a 1.26 ERA that leads the NL and a 1.88 FIP that leads the majors. His walk rate in 2015 is half of what it was in any previous season, and the uptick in control has not come at the expense of whiffs, as Scherzer is right near the 10 strikeouts-per-nine that he has established over the past few seasons. Giancarlo Stanton loves velocity and is likely licking his chops, but this is a Miami club that is still missing Christian Yelich and is still waiting for Marcel Ozuna to snap out of his funk. Scherzer can cough up a bomb to Stanton and still come through with a sparkling pitching line today.
Wily Peralta, MIL vs. LAD ($6900)
The connection between pitch celocity and strikeouts has been well established, and the theory backs the practice: pitchers who throw harder give a batter less time to identify the incoming pitch. So it always catches my attention when a pitcher who throws exceedingly hard posts pedestrian K rates (I'm looking at you Nate Eovaldi). Peralta is exhibit B, averaging better than 96 mph on his fastball for his career, and that velocity has held stable over the past three seasons. He did drop below 95 mph average in April, but it's common for pitchers to start slow and he was back up to 95.9 mph in his last start. Despite the impressive pitch speeds, Peralta has posted just 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings in his career, capping at 7.0 K/9 for a full season, and the mere 18 punchouts that he has recorded through his first 31 innings of 2015 leaves little room for optimism that he is on the doorstep of a breakout.
Mike Foltynewicz, ATL vs. PHI ($6000)
Folty draws the easiest possible opponent in his second start of 2015, squaring off against a Phillies club that is last in the majors in scoring runs at just 2.75 tallies per game. The best hitter on the Philly club, Chase Utley, is in a massive slump to start the year (he's just 9-for-99 thus far), and first-month spark plug Odubel Herrera is starting to come back to earth now that NL pitchers have a better read on his skills. Foltynewicz has the mechanical underpinnings of a B-grade delivery, but his struggles in repeating the timing aspects of his motion tarnish his mechanical efficiency as well as his pitch command. The result has been nearly four walks per nine innings in the minors, and though he has generally kept the ball in the yard in the bush leagues, an inability to hit spots could result in more mistakes that get punished at the highest level. The Phils rank in the bottom third of baseball in terms of taking the free pass, so Foltynewicz will get a theoretical reprieve, but when a pitcher's timing goes completely out of whack then big-league hitters take advantage.
Justin Maxwell, OF ($2900)
Maxwell was the shiny new toy in DFS a couple weeks ago, but the shine is already starting to wear. He went on an absolute tear in late April, and the small sample size of early-season baseball has buoyed his batting line despite a predictable fall from grace. The 31-year old journeyman has always flashed an enticing combination of power, patience, and speed, but it was the hit tool that struggled to survive. He broke camp with the big club but as the spare outfielder was used mostly as a pinch-hitter and occasional spot-starter for the first couple weeks of the season. He had a huge day against the Dodgers on April 21, with a triple, a homer, and three runs scored in the Giants' victory. Bruce Bochy rewarded Maxwell with his second start in a row (his first back-to-back starts of the year), and in fact he was penciled into the starting lineup for each contest in a five-game stretch, during which he went 7-for-20 with three home runs, a performance that has locked him into the starting lineup ever since.
The the run has earned Maxwell some additional playing time with which to prove himself while Hunter Pence is on the shelf, but the inconsistency that comes with his all-or-nothing approach has already begun to rear its ugly head. Two of those three homers were hit in Colorado, and since leaving the thin altitude Maxwell has gone just 4-for-26 (.154 average) with a double, a walk, and six strikeouts in his last seven ballgames. It was a fun ride while it lasted, but with Pence scheduled to return within two weeks, Maxwell looks to have a very brief stay of execution.
George Springer has been ruled out for today's game and is undergoing concussion tests after losing a collision with the outfield wall
Hanley Ramirez avoided major injury to his shoulder and should be back in the Red Sox lineup in the next couple of days.
Chase Headley (back) missed yesterday's game and is considered day-to-day
Steve Pearce sat out Tuesday and is day-to-day with an illness
Yonder Alonso (back) has been out of the Padre lineup for the past couple of games, and his return is uncertain
Heavy thunderstorms are scheduled to hit Minneapolis (OAK-MIN) tonight around game time and could threaten to cancel the ballgame if the rains don't take any breaks – click here for updates
Rain threatens to wash out Denver (ARI-COL) for the third consecutive day. The teams have a double-header currently scheduled, and though clear skies are expected this morning, the thunderstorms are expected to return right around the time that game one is scheduled to start – click here for updates
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