Evan Longoria, 3B ($3800)
vs. LHP: .289/.380/.535 in 1217 PA
vs. RHP: .264/.340/.471 in 3180 PA
Taking one glance up and down the Tampa lineup and one would assume this was a bottom-feeding ballclub rather than the club that is currently leading the AL East, and their pile of injuries on the mound just add to the intrigue surrounding this team. This is the club that had Asdrubal Cabrera penciled into the three-hole against right-handers at the start of the season, but they have mixed and matched the bats to make the most of their offensive potential. Longoria is the one bona fide stud in the lineup, and in mid-May it looked like he was shedding the poor performance of 2014 and leading the charge for the Rays, inspiring an Evan Almighty title to the May 11th article for Fantasy Rounders, but his bat went almost immediately into the tank after that piece published. The OPS has dropped more than 160 points since his May 9 peak, with a batting line that currently stands at .270/.349/.411, with a slugging percentage that is now lower than his OBP was six weeks ago. June has been particularly brutal, with a slash of .254/.324/.365 and just three extra-base hits in 19 games. The price tag is very enticing but his recent performance has failed to justify the modest cost, particularly against right-handers like today's opposing starter, Drew Hutchison. Longoria is technically hitting better than last season, but that's a low bar to clear, and the Rays will need their big bat to re-emerge if they are to hold onto their slim lead in the East.
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Details ($3 Entry):
Michael Bourn, OF ($3600)
vs. LHP: .249/.305/.330 with 71-of-100 SB in 1316 PA
vs. RHP: .275/.342/.373 with 243-of-299 SB in 3337 PA
Remember the days when Bourn was a formidable threat on the bases, one who got on base 35 percent of the time with 40-to-60 swipes per season? That was his reality from 2008-12, but he hasn't been the same player since arriving in Cleveland in the off-season of 2012-13. In the two-and-a-half years since, Bourn has hit just .256/.314/.348 with 38 steals in 59 attempts (64.4 percent success rate) in 299 games wearing an Indians uniform. He has hit in the bottom third of the order in 39 of his 54 starts this season, with just a 467 OPS in the 15 games where he was penciled into the leadoff spot, and the speed numbers have almost completely evaporated with just five steals in eight attempts this year. Facing rookie southpaw Kyle Ryan of the Tigers tonight, any benefits derived from facing a greenhorn is mitigated by his career-long issues with hitting southpaws.
Clayton Kershaw, LAD at CHC ($12700)
For the first six weeks of the season, Kershaw was hounded by singe-inning spurts of run-scoring that took the wind out of his ERA, with frustration that boiled the blood of him and his fantasy owners. The pitcher who has led the majors in ERA for four consecutive seasons (including back-to-back years of sub-2.00 marks) was sitting with a 4.32 ERA as late as May 21, but in the month since he has retaken his post as the greatest pitcher in all the land. The counts: five starts, 34.7 innings, 49 strikeouts, seven walks, and six earned runs allowed (1.56 ERA). He's posted double-digit K's in three consecutive turns (and four of five), and tonight's matchup with the league's most strikeout-prone ballclub will likely continue the string of gems. The disappointment that has chased his 2015 performance might be a thing of the past, and Kersh still has enough time to rebound his stat-line to compete for his third consecutive Cy Young Award (and fifth consecutive top-two finish), though he will need some help from Max Scherzer in order to stand tall in the National League.
Joe Blanton, KC at SEA ($4100)
On the other end of the performance spectrum is Joe Blanton, whose $4100 price tag is the cheapest available today, coming in at less than one-third the price of Kershaw. The Mariners have struggled to score runs all season, but this matchup presents a stacking opportunity that would have been golden a decade ago and which only grows more enticing with each passing season. The 34-year old Blanton has had a better-than-average ERA just three times in 11 seasons, and his best showing since 2010 was a 4.71 mark back in '11, this despite a 3.69-to-one ratio of K's to walks over that span. The right-hander came out of retirement to help out the Royals this season, and though his first 20 frames of '15 have been wildly successful, 15 of those innings came out of the bullpen and his longer track record is more indicative of what to expect tonight in Seattle.
Jose Altuve, 2B ($4500)
On May 15th of this year, Altuve was cruising along with a .338/.389/.500 line and 13 steals in 17 attempts, continuing the Mighty Mouse impression that made him one of the most productive fantasy players of 2014. He had a couple extra homers and fewer doubles than last season's blistering pace, but he was a reliable asset who found himself in my DFS lineups on a regular basis. Altuve has been in a freefall since, dropping 171 points of OPS with just two extra-base hits and four steals in his last 27 ballgames, and his recent hamstring injury has put his value on the brink of a crater.
Hammy injuries have a tendency to linger, sapping speed for weeks or months, and such an ailment is devastating for a player whose game is predicated on his wheels. The issue takes on added importance for a Houston club that is a surprise contender this season, as the former rock at the top of their lineup gives way to volatile rookies, but so far so good thanks to the early-career success of Carlos Correa and the recent surge of George Springer. Regardless of the team's ability to cover for Altuve's services in the short term (he's played in just two of the team's last five games), the Astros lineup is particularly formidable with the second baseman hitting near the top, but his injury woes and recent struggles at the plate have him asking to hit near the bottom of the lineup if he re-enters the equation. His price tag still reflects his potential impact, but there is little chance that he reaches that upside in the near-term, and the caution sign will be hanging from his neck until the hammy heals.
The skies look relatively clear for today, a refreshing change from the rain-soaked slates that have dotted the MLB landscape for the past couple of weeks. There are a couple of cities worth keeping an eye on, however, with one threat in particular:
Chicago (LAD-CHC) – check here for updates
Cleveland (DET-CLE) – check here for updates
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