The best expert fantasy baseball strategy tonight is to spend on arms.
Top Pick: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers, $22,300
2014: 31.8% K, 4.3% BB, 51.9% GB, 1.87 FIP
Giants vs LHP: 18.4% K, 102 wRC+
Kershaw is the ace of all aces. He’s from another planet this year. The Texan has the highest K% and best FIP among qualified starters, and the gap between his FIP and the second best (0.52) is greater than the gap between second and 13th. Kershaw is by far the priciest pitcher tonight, but with some bad arms to pick on with cheaper bats, he’s not a man to fade.
Value Pick: Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals, $15,850
2014: 23.8% K, 8.6% BB, 45.1% GB, 3.13 FIP
Mets vs LHP: 22.6% K, 88 wRC+
Not only should you not fade Kershaw, you shouldn’t skimp on your second pitcher. I went back and forth between Gonzalez and Jake Arrieta, but the matchup with the Mets ultimately swayed my decision in favor of Gonzalez. The Mets have the third highest K% versus LHP, and according to FanGraphs, they rank 26th in wRC+. Gonzalez can miss bats a plenty, and he should be a stellar source of points as a result.
Top Pick: Jason Castro, Houston Astros, $6,100
2014 vs RHP: 380 PA, 89 wRC+
Since 2012 vs RHP: 998 PA, 116 wRC+, .184 ISO, .340 wOBA
Let the savings to budget for the pricey arms begin with the catchers. The top catchers just aren’t worth their cost, so dipping into the bargain bin yields a nice value in Castro. He’s had a down year against RHP, but he hasn’t been an abomination and he often hits fifth for the Astros. His matchup with Lisalverto Bonilla should also prove fruitful too due to his erratic control, lack of sustainable success against LHB in the minors, and relative newness to starting as opposed to relieving.
Value Pick: Dioner Navarro, Toronto Blue Jays, $5,850
2014 vs RHP: 372 PA, 97 wRC+
Since 2012 vs RHP: 620 PA, 102 wRC+, .128 ISO, .322 wOBA
The cheap option at catcher I like even more is Navarro. He’s hit cleanup in his last three starts (he was off last night), and fifth in his nine prior starts. As a roughly average hitter, such a lineup spot is probably not warranted, but that doesn’t change the fact he has extra run production upside as a result. Taijuan Walker walked a tight rope in his last start, and allowing as many base runners as he did in that start once again tonight is likely to result in a much higher run scored number being hung on him.
Top Pick: Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals, $9,000
2014 vs RHP: 415 PA, 144 wRC+
Since 2012 vs RHP: 1,322 PA, 130 wRC+, .215 ISO, .363 wOBA
LaRoche, the Nationals cleanup hitter, is very good against RHP. His .215 ISO against RHP is tied for the eighth highest among qualified first basemen since 2012. His home ballpark has a park factor of 104 for 2B/3B for LHB according to StatCorner.
Value Pick: Adam Lind, Toronto Blue Jays, $8,500
2014 vs RHP: 265 PA, 169 wRC+
Since 2012 vs RHP: 943 PA, 145 wRC+, .205 ISO, .388 wOBA
Lind is another first baseman with a sweet lineup spot, often cleanup or third, that has a sizable platoon split. As a LHB, he’ll hit with superb park factors of 131 for 2B/3B, 126 for HR, and 106 for runs at the Rogers Centre.
Top Pick: Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays, $8,400
2014 vs RHP: 460 PA, 106 wRC+
Since 2012 vs RHP: 1,402 PA, 124 wRC+, .160 ISO, .345 wOBA
Zobrist is better against LHP than RHP, but his patience will play well atop the Rays order against Anthony Ranaudo and his ugly 10.6% BB rate in six starts. The Rays are a lineup built to take advantage of Ranaudo’s erratic control, and that should result in some runs scored and Zobrist being a primary beneficiary as the leadoff hitter for the team.
Value Pick: Scooter Gennett, Milwaukee Brewers, $6,800
2014 vs RHP: 426 PA, 120 wRC+
Since 2013 vs RHP: 615 PA, 133 wRC+, .168 ISO, .368 wOBA
Gennett’s hitting prowess against RHP speaks for itself in the stats, and that alone would make him worth his cost for rostering. He looks great tonight for some other reasons though. For starters, Great American Ballpark has a crazy LHB park factor of 157 for HR and is nearly neutral for 2B/3B and runs with park factors of 98 and 99 respectively. Facing Daniel Corcino will be awesome, too. The Reds pitcher totaled a 4.86 FIP in 26 games at the Double-A level this season.
Top Pick: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays, $9,550
2014 vs RHP: 499 PA, 99 wRC+
Since 2012 vs RHP: 1,225 PA, 115 wRC+, .185 ISO, .332 wOBA
Longoria has been a tick below average against RHP this year, literally, but he’s been above average against them since 2012 and hits third for the Rays. As I stated in Zobrist’s write-up, I expect the the Rays to get to Ranaudo and exploit his control issues, and that leaves Longoria in an advantageous spot to produce runs and pile up fantasy points. Furthermore, Ranaudo’s .373 wOBA allowed to RHB is quite tasty looking.
Value Pick: Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee Brewers, $7,800
2014 vs RHP: 404 PA, 90 wRC+
Since 2012 vs RHP: 1,153 PA, 115 wRC+, .159 ISO, .344 wOBA
Ramirez hasn’t had a banner year against RHP, but his numbers since 2012 are more favorable. He offers another cheap crack at Corcino, and as a RHB he’ll hit with park factors of 102 for 2B/3B, 130 for HR, and 99 for runs. Finally, he hits cleanup, and if you add it all up, he’s a steal at his cost.
Top Pick: Jose Reyes, Toronto Blue Jays, $9,650
2014 vs RHP: 456 PA, 108 wRC+
Since 2012 vs RHP: 1,281 PA, 112 wRC+, .133 ISO, .338 wOBA
Reyes is a little pricier than I’d like, but he’s the clear cut best shortstop today and that makes him a worthwhile investment on a few teams and the favorite to lead the position in scoring tonight. He hits leadoff for the Blue Jays, and if Walker’s erratic control gets the best of him, Reyes will be in a great spot to score runs in his cushy home ballpark.
Value Pick: Nick Franklin, Tampa Bay Rays, $5,850
2014 vs RHP: 55 PA, 79 wRC+
Since 2013 vs RHP: 332 PA, 100 wRC+, .180 ISO, .314 wOBA
Franklin got another start against a RHP yesterday, and he hit sixth. Strikeouts, which have been a problem for him in the majors reared their ugly head with two in four PA, but he did work a walk. He has enough offensive skills when he’s going right to be a positive contributor despite his propensity for whiffs, and if the Rays rough up Ranaudo like I expect, even a lower order hitter like Franklin can benefit. Also, as LHB he’ll have a chance to take advantage of Ranaudo’s .383 wOBA to them this year.
Top Pick: Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves, $9,350
2014 vs LHP: 134 PA, 165 wRC+
Since 2012 vs LHP: 487 PA, 151 wRC+, .246 ISO, .394 wOBA
The Braves have had the type of issues that resulted in their GM getting canned before the end of the year, but Upton hitting LHP isn’t one of them. In fact, it hasn’t been since he joined the squad prior to last season via trade. Among all qualified hitters since the start of last year he is tied for eighth in wRC+ against LHP with some guy named Mike Trout, and his power has been elite resulting in the fourth highest ISO.
Middle of the Pack: Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins, $8,300
2014 vs RHP: 477 PA, 116 wRC+
Since 2013 vs RHP: 648 PA, 129 wRC+, .123 ISO, .360 wOBA
It hurts the entire top of the Marlins order being without Giancarlo Stanton, and that includes Yelich. However, the club’s leadoff hitter looks like a strong play tonight facing Kyle Kendrick. Kendrick has allowed a bloated .364 wOBA to LHB this season, and an above average hitter like Yelich should have little trouble taking advantage of that.
Value Pick: Marlon Byrd, Philadelphia Phillies, $7,500
2014 vs LHP: 168 PA, 110 wRC+
Since 2012 vs LHP: 397 PA, 135 wRC+, .211 ISO, .365 wOBA
Byrd has hit fifth in the Phillies lineup the last three games versus LHP in American League ballparks, but hit third and cleanup in his previous two starts against LHP in a National League park. Any of those lineup slots would be good tonight. Byrd’s power against LHP since 2012 has been noteworthy as he ranks 19th among qualified outfielders in ISO. Facing Brad Hand is also quite noteworthy. Hand has allowed a .342 wOBA to RHB this year.
Wild Card: Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers, $9,650
2014 vs RHP: 491 PA, 128 wRC+
Since 2012 vs RHP: 1,229 PA, 118 wRC+, .190 ISO, .348 wOBA
Gomez is the last piece of exposure to Corcino that I’m advocating. His wRC+ versus RHP has gone up every year since a pathetic 54 wRC+ in 2011, and he’s posting a career high mark this year. His violent swings and power will play well in Great American Ballpark, and Corcino’s 28.2% GB rate and FB batted ball slant in the minors bodes well for Gomez lifting the ball against him and possibly reaching the seats.