It's a half-slate today with only eight games, and though the games are concentrated after 7:00pm EST, Mother Nature is having her say regarding today's player pool.
Jose Bautista, OF ($5400)
vs. LHP: .271/.380/.523 in 1297 PA
vs. RHP: .253/.364/.482 in 3889 PA
at Rogers Centre: .279/.403/.569 in 1733 PA
It seems appropriate that The Bats section should lead off with none other than Joey Bats. The dome in Toronto agrees with the way that Bautista does business, with a career OPS of 972 at the Rogers Centre in 418 ballgames, including 108 of the 255 home runs that he has hit in his career. When he's in the lineup he hits homers, and though his days of .600 slugs are likely over, the combination of playing at home in the cozy confines of the Bats Cave and facing a non-threatening southpaw (Miami's Brad Hand) make Bautista a strong play even with the high price tag (he's the third-priciest bat in today's market).
Bautista splits, 2013-15
vs. LHP: .299/.411/.590 in 294 PA
vs. RHP: .263/.376/.490 in 1117 PA
The platoon splits have been much more pronounced over last 2-plus years, and that's with his performance against right-handers staying right on track with his career numbers. The difference was the degree to which Bautista battered lefties, as over the past few years he has taken special exception when a southpaw is on the mound. The career numbers suggest that Bautista has at least a 25-percent chance to go yard tonight.
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Joey Votto, 1B ($4500)
vs. LHP: .295/.390/.499 with 10-of-18 SB in 1332 PA
vs. RHP: .316/.428/.548 with 43-of-60 SB in 2961 PA
vs. Cole Hamels: .136/.208/.227 in 24 PA
After a surge out of the gate and then a multi-week lull, Votto has continued the rollercoaster ride of performance. On May 1st his slash stood at .329/.436/.647, only to plummet more than 200 points over the next four weeks, and the power that drove his early-season case for Comeback Player of the Year disappeared for nearly a month. Votto has since rediscovered his stroke, including hits in 8 of his last 9 games and three homers in that span. He has had little problem with southpaws in his career, with a platoon split that is more notable for his stellar performance versus right-handers (and all around) than any deficiencies versus lefties. Facing Cole Hamels is a tall order for any hitter, particularly one who takes his swings from the left side, and the track record backs up the difficulties in projecting a big day from Votto.
Neil Walker, 2B ($4000)
vs. LHP: .259/.318/.338 in 690 PA
vs. RHP: .275/.344/.455 in 2355 PA
Walker is a switch-hitter, but that fact is more of a distraction for a hitter who has struggled against southpaws for the entirety of his career. One would expect the righty-throwing infielder to have an easier time swinging the lumber from his dominant side, but that has not been the case, and playing Walker in DFS should be highly dependent on the identity of the pitcher he is facing that day. The 143-point swing in OPS is extra-heavy for a switch-hitter, and his pathetic performance against southpaws suggests that he should either give up on hitting right-handed or be benched when an opposing left-hander is on the mound. Today he faces Shelby Miller, allowing the superior half of his batting line to shine.
Cole Hamels, PHI at CIN ($10400)
Following a brutal first month of the season, Hamels has fixed the ailments that ailed him to resume his place among the more consistent starters in the game. The timing is right for Hamels and the Phils to explore more trade possibilities, and today's outing should help to bolster his case as Hamels draws a Reds lineup that has scored the third-fewest runs in the National League. The individual matchups support the narrative: Todd Frazier is 2-for-13 with 5 strikeouts in his career against Hamels; Joey Votto has the aforementioned legacy of brutality at the hands of Hamels; Billy Hamilton is 0-for-9 with a walk.
Jay Bruce does have a pair of homers against Hamels in their long history (30 plate appearances), but those bombs were hit back in 2009 and '11, respectively, back when Bruce was still a threat. The Cincy outfielder's two-homer day yesterday gives a glimmer of hope that he is finally turning the corner, but I would wait another day before banking that Bruce is back on track, while the only thing keeping me from rostering Hamels would be the local weather.
Shelby Miller, ATL vs. SD ($8400)
A critical element of Miller's resurgence has been a pitch that he added to his limited arsenal, a slutter that averages 87.7 mph to complement his 95-mph heat and high-70's curve. The new toy has reaped huge dividends in the first third of this season, allowing him to take advantage of batters that are sitting on heat by throwing a pitch that looks more similar to the fastball out of Miller's hand. The slutter has allowed Miller to effectively blend his arsenal with a 20-percent usage pattern of the pitch this season, and opposing batters are hitting just .093 with one double and 15 strikeouts in 54 at bats that have ended on the pitch. On the downside, the strikeouts have been few and far between for Miller in recent games, with just 12 punchouts in his last four starts, covering 26.3 innings. He has the lowest hit rate in the National League, a .217 BABIP that is unsustainable even for a pitcher whose career mark is just .262, and his performance has been trending in the wrong direction (average of 8.3 FPPG over his last three starts, average of 32.3 FPPG in previous four).
Eric Hosmer, 1B ($3900)
Hosmer's overall batting line has been excellent this season, currently standing at .302/.376/.490 with a blend of skills that he has flashed for years but rarely harnessed for long stretches. Unfortunately, he's currently in the midst of a freefall worthy of Wile E. Coyote, exemplifying the same volatile pattern of performance that drove Royals fans and fantasy managers batty the past couple of seasons. The last 17 games (non-arbitrary endpoint alert) have brought his OPS down from 984 on May 15th to its current state of 866, as Hosmer has hit 14-for-59 (.237) with four doubles but no homers, resulting in just a .305 slugging percentage over that span. He hasn't been hitting the ball very far in the past few weeks, underscoring the lack of authority behind his results on contact, and it might be time to worry if he can't drive any pitches from Phil Hughes in today's ballgame.
Pittsburgh looks dangerous (MIL-PIT), rain in the 60-to-100 percent
range leading up to and during game time – check here for updates
Heavy thunderstorms are expected in Cincinnati (PHI-CIN), rain chance at 35-100% – check here for updates
Isolated thunderstorms become scattered thunderstorms as the day gets later in Atlanta (SD-ATL), precipitation ranging from 25-to-40 percent right now – check for updates
There are isolated thunderstorms in Chicago (HOU-CHW), but rain is passing by and the game should be played – check here for updates
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