Today’s expert daily baseball plays feature two middle of the road hurlers.
Top Pick: Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates, $15,900
2014: 22.3% K, 7.9% BB, 49.5% GB, 3.50 FIP
Cubs vs RHP: 23.3% K, 83 wRC+
Cole missed a substantial chunk of the summer due to shoulder fatigue, but his velocity is just fine since his return. The cheddar throwing RHP has made four starts since being activated from the DL, and his 4.26 ERA does a poor job of telling the story of how he’s performed. He has a gaudy 25.5% K rate and 7.6% BB rate, which result in a 2.69 FIP and 3.41 xFIP. A .353 BABIP has hurt him, and it’s possible he’s missing with some pitches while shaking off the rust. His 12.4% swinging strike rate is breathtaking and will allow him to continue to mow down hitters with regularity. The Cubs have the third highest K% against RHP this year and are tied for the third lowest wRC+. It’s okay to fade some of the big ticket arms with this nicely priced stud available.
Value Pick: Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals, $15,350
2014: 24.0% K, 9.2% BB, 46.0% GB, 3.26 FIP
Mets vs LHP: 24.0% K, 87 wRC+
Fun fact, in Gonzalez’s career he has an identical 3.61 ERA and 3.61 FIP. Seeing a more than half run gap between his 3.78 ERA and FIP is strange, and he’s really probably been better than his surface stats suggest. He’s missing bats (his 10.7% swinging strike rate is well above what FanGraphs has as the league average, 9.3%), and his K% would rank tied for 16th with Cole Hamels if he had enough IP to be a qualified pitcher this season. He has a shot at a monstrous strikeout game tonight facing a Mets squad with the second highest K% against LHP this year.
Top Pick: Russell Martin, Pittsburgh Pirates, $8,250
2014 vs LHP: 90 PA, 119 wRC+
Since 2012 vs LHP: 349 PA, 115 wRC+, .169 ISO, .338 wOBA
Martin has shaken off a poor year against LHP in 2013 and followed it up with an above average offensive season against them. His lineup slot, often fifth, is good, and his matchup with Tsuyoshi Wada is desirable. Wada has allowed a .330 wOBA to RHB.
Value Pick: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals, $7,700
2014 vs LHP: 92 PA, 133 wRC+
Since 2012 vs LHP: 332 PA, 153 wRC+, .216 ISO, .394 wOBA
Molina is by far my preferred choice at catcher tonight. He’s a bargain at under $8,000 when considering what he does against LHP. Among backstops with 300 or more PA against LHP since 2012 he ranks third in wRC+, and fourth in ISO. His opposition, Jorge de la Rosa, gives him an extra bump in value due to his .346 wOBA allowed to RHB this year. The .349 wOBA he’s served up since 2012 is tied for the seventh highest mark allowed among qualified pitchers.
Top Pick: Chris Carter, Houston Astros, $9,750
2014 vs LHP: 148 PA, 149 wRC+
Since 2012 vs LHP: 432 PA, 135 wRC+, .252 ISO, .434 wOBA
Carter’s power is of the hellacious variety. He is tied for the 11th highest ISO against LHP among all qualified hitters since 2012, and his .291 ISO against them this year is just silly. The power hitting Carter has been locked in during the second half of the season posting a 167 wRC+ and .322 ISO. C.J. Wilson and his .349 wOBA allowed to RHB this year are no match for Carter.
Value Pick: Adam Lind, Toronto Blue Jays, $8,400
2014 vs RHP: 240 PA, 167 wRC+
Since 2012 vs RHP: 918 PA, 144 wRC+, .201 ISO, .386
Lind is a little pricier than he’s been in the past when I’ve made him one of my expert daily baseball plays, but the other usual suspects for the value pick at first base have unfavorable pitching matchups and Lind is still well worth his cost. He’ll almost certainly be lifted for a pinch hitter late in the game if the Rays go to a LHP, but that’s one of the only blemishes I see. Lind hits cleanup for a Blue Jays squad with lots of firepower, and tonight’s game is at Rogers Centre where the LHB park factors are 130 for 2B/3B, 27 for HR, and 104 for runs.
Top Pick: Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays, $8,500
2014 vs LHP: 156 PA, 155 wRC+
Since 2012 vs LHP: 580 PA, 122 wRC+, .127 ISO, .342 wOBA
What a strange outlier last year was for Zobrist when facing a LHP. He posted an 81 wRC+ in 2013 versus LHP, and his next lowest wRC+ against them since 2011 is 143. A full 62 points higher than last year’s ugly mark. The switch-hitting Swiss Army Knife has ascended to the leadoff spot in Desmond Jennings absence, and Zobrist’s excellence against LHP will further compound J.A. Happ’s platoon split issues. Happ has allowed a .338 wOBA to RHB this year and a .336 wOBA since 2012 (15th highest among qualified pitchers in that time span).
Value Pick: Scooter Gennett, Milwaukee Brewers, $7,700
2014 vs RHP: 391 PA, 129 wRC+
Since 2013 vs RHP: 580 PA, 139 wRC+, .178 ISO, .378 wOBA
I’ve gotta sound like a broken record making Gennett a value pick among my expert daily baseball plays of late, but it’s hard not to like him. He hits second, sandwiched between Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy (cushy spot, to say the least), and has pulverized RHP since reaching The Show. The diminutive second baseman reached the majors last summer, and among second baseman with a minimum of 550 PA against RHP since the start of last year, he ranks second to Robinson Cano in wRC+.
Top Pick: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays, $10,000
2014 vs LHP: 163 PA, 139 wRC+
Since 2012 vs LHP: 442 PA, 156 wRC+, .252 ISO, .391 wOBA
It feels almost criminal not to use Josh Donaldson against a LHP as my top pick at third base. Addressing the elephant in the room, his matchup against James Paxton isn’t a cake walk, and Safeco Field doesn’t have as favorable of park factors as the Rogers Centre will award Longoria. Both are very good hitters, and Donaldson has been better against LHP, but the other variables push Longoria to the top of the heap tonight.
Value Pick: Conor Gillaspie, Chicago White Sox, $6,900
2014 vs RHP: 359 PA, 134 wRC+
Since 2012 vs RHP: 760 PA, 113 wRC+, .152 ISO, .341 wOBA
I can’t make a passionate plea for using anyone in DraftDay games at third base not named Longoria or Donaldson, but if you’re hellbent on doing so, you damn well better save substantial cash. Gillaspie can help you do that, and as a newly minted cleanup hitter (at least against RHP) he has run production upside. That said, I’d prefer just pony up for one of the two studs at the hot corner and save elsewhere.
Top Pick: Jhonny Peralta, St. Louis Cardinals, $8,650
2014 vs LHP: 128 PA, 144 wRC+
Since 2012 vs LHP: 439 PA, 127 wRC+, .196 ISO, .359 wOBA
I’ve already mentioned that de la Rosa is bad against LHP, so Peralta has that going in his favor. Oh, and he’s damn good against LHP. He ranks second in wRC+ versus LHP since 2012 among qualified shortstops, and his numbers are even more impressive since the start of last year. Since the start of the 2013 season Peralta has 264 PA and a 154 wRC+ with a .215 ISO. If that’s not reason enough to roster Peralta, the fact that he’ll hit third, fourth, or fifth in the Cardinals lineup (any of those position is plenty good) should push things over the top.
Value Pick: Jordy Mercer, Pittsburgh Pirates, $7,200
2014 vs LHP: 114 PA, 132 wRC+
Since 2012 vs LHP: 215 PA, 162 wRC+, .205 ISO, .402 wOBA
Mercer is ever so slightly my preferred shortstop option over Peralta, and the motivating factor is the difference in cost. Mercer is likely to hit second with a LHP on the hill, and that awards him more run production upside than most of his peers at the position. Peralta gets an edge in power against LHP, but he and Mercer are nearly offensive equals against LHP otherwise.
Top Pick: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates, $12,000
2014 vs LHP: 107 PA, 158 wRC+
Since 2012 vs LHP: 379 PA, 195 wRC+, .270 ISO, .452 wOBA
No qualified hitter has been better against LHP since 2012 than McCutchen, at least when measured by wRC+. He hits for power, has top notch speed that has helped him notch 17 SB in 19 chances this year, and is hitting third against Wada tonight.
Middle of the Pack: A.J. Pollock, Arizona Diamondbacks, $8,750
2014 vs LHP: 43 PA, 135 wRC+
Since 2012 vs LHP: 289 PA, 119 wRC+, .216 ISO, .352 wOBA
Pollock’s big league experience is limited enough that his hitting exploits against LHP might be a bit of a shocker to casual daily gamers. He rarely gives away an at-bat with a strikeout against LHP with just a 13.5% K rate, has pop in his bat that’s best reflected by his ISO as opposed to his fence clearing numbers, and his speed has resulted in 23 SB in 29 attempts in his career. Also, Eric Stults is bad against RHB. He’s allowed a .353 wOBA to RHB this year, and has tied for the 11th highest wOBA allowed to them since 2012 among qualified pitchers with a .339 wOBA ceded.
Value Pick: Mark Trumbo, Arizona Diamondbacks, $7,450
2014 vs LHP: 79 PA, 140 wRC+
Since 2012 vs LHP: 421 PA, 140 wRC+, .280 ISO, .371 wOBA
Just glancing up at Pollock’s write-up will reveal part of the reason for using Trumbo (i.e. Stults’ struggles with RHB). It’s not all about what the Padres pitcher can’t do (limit the effectiveness of RHB against him), as Trumbo is a nightmare for LHP too. His power is top shelf, and Trumbo has the sixth highest ISO against LHP since 2012 among all qualified hitters. His power will be amplified by Chase Field’s RHB park factor of 110.
Wild Card: Cody Ross, Arizona Diamondbacks, $5,250
2014 vs LHP: 68 PA, 90 wRC+
Since 2012 vs LHP: 339 PA, 154 wRC+, .230 ISO, .401 wOBA
Ross has missed the bulk of this year, but I can’t overlook his ability to annihilate LHP. Shocking fact, Ross has the eighth highest wRC+ against LHP among outfielders with a minimum of 300 PA since 2012. Throw in the park factors and Stults, and Ross looks like a sneaky good steal in the outfield.