Penny pinchers rejoice, my favorite daily fantasy baseball arms throwing today are cheap.
In fact, my favorite arm is the 15th most expensive pitcher and my value pick barely cracks the top-20 in cost ranking 17th. No stacks stand out today, but there are three pairings of teammates. One pairing is from the desert, and the other teammate duos play for northeast National League clubs.
My Pick: Tim Hudson, San Francisco Giants, $12,250
Hudson’s return to California one decade after he last pitched for a Bay area club has gotten off to a brilliant start. He’s yet to walk a batter in four starts that have spanned 30 innings, and he’s essentially pitching to his career rates (with the exception of 0.00 BB/9) in terms of strikeouts, groundballs and strand rate. A bit of BABIP luck has helped him post a 2.40 ERA, but he’s been roughly as good as his surface stats suggest. The 38-year old pitcher will get the benefit of pitching at home in run suppressing AT&T Park against a good, but not great, Indians’ offense that will be without it’s designated hitter since they’re visiting a National League park.
Value Pick: Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays, $11,750
I’m flabbergasted by Archer’s tiny price tag. Yes, I’ll admit that pitching at U.S. Cellular Field can be treacherous, but Archer is adept at keeping the ball on the ground (50.7 percent groundball rate this year and 46.9 percent in his career). As a fastball/slider pitcher that infrequently mixes in his changeup, Archer is susceptible against left-handed batters, but Adam Dunn is the only lefty in the lineup that could be considered scary (Alejandro De Aza is good, but he’s not striking fear in anyone).
My Pick: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins, $9,700
Mauer is striking out at an uncharacteristically high rate this year, but there is absolutely nothing in his plate discipline profile that suggests it’s more than some early season wonky oddity. The 31-year old catcher is still an incredibly patient hitter that makes a lot of contact, and his sweet left-handed swing is pounding out line drives at his usually high rate. The primary motivation for me highlighting the Twins number two hitter is that he’s facing Rick Porcello. I drank the Porcello Kool-Aid when he pitched well for a brief stretch last year, but eventually he got back to leaving people wanting more. With that in mind, I’ll need more than three starts to believe he’s turned the corner and shed his struggles with left-handed batters. Porcello has faced 2,091 left-handed batters and they’ve destroyed what he’s thrown their way hitting a collective .303/.357/.460.
Value Pick: Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds, $7,700
It’s taken a while, but Mesoraco is finally starting to resemble the well above average offensive backstop that he was projected to become when he ranked highly on prospect lists. He opened the year on the disabled list, and he hit the ground running immediately after his activation. In his first 11 games played this year he tallied at least one hit, though, his hit streak was snapped Thursday. The right-handed hitting catcher is spitting on pitches thrown out of the strike zone, 23.3 percent swing rate on pitches outside the strike zone (28.8 percent is the league average in 2014), and he’s jumping all over pitches thrown in the strike zone, 70.7 percent zone-swing rate (64.5 percent is the league average in 2014). The 25-year old catcher has above average power and he’s locked in, that’s a combination I love at a cost that’s far too good to pass up.
My Pick: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks, $11,850
The 2013 National League MVP runner-up is great, and while his team is struggling, he’s been just fine hitting .333/.381/.521 with three homers and two stolen bases. Goldschmidt has an unusual mix of above average power with sneaky stolen base skills (33 stolen bases from 2012-2013) that play mighty nicely into fantasy. Today he’ll take his cuts against uber-homer prone starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez. The artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona has served up 31 homers in 39 games pitched since the 2012 season.
Value Pick: Brandon Moss, Oakland Athletics, $9,450
Astros starter Brad Peacock was an arm that I liked for yearly leaguers prior to spring training thanks to a strong second-half of the 2013 season. He got knocked around in the spring and failed to break camp in the rotation, yet here he is, starting despite struggles out of the bullpen to open the year. Moss will do his best to help Peacock carry his struggles in relief over to starting. The late blooming first baseman/outfielder/designated hitter packs punch, and it has a history of appearing more often on the road. Moss has hit 40 of his 69 career homers on the road, and he hit 20 of his 30 homers in 2013 season away from the O.Co Coliseum.
My Pick: Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies, $9,650
The Arizona Diamondbacks have been a steaming pile of… well you get the idea. The biggest problem has been their pitching, and their rotation has undergone a face lift and received an injection of Josh Collmenter. His surprising success as a rookie starter back in 2011 is becoming a more distant memory each passing day. He’s been an effective swing-man, but as a starter he’s nothing more than average at best. Collmenter has pitched 206.2 innings as a starter in his big league career and posted a 4.14 ERA that’s backed by a 4.09 FIP. Those numbers ballooned to a 5.11 ERA and 4.67 FIP last year. Utley is on fire out of the gates, and he proved he still has something in the tank last year by hitting .302/.360/.495 against right-handed pitching. The 35-year old second baseman is still one of the best hitters at his position.
Value Pick: Martin Prado, Arizona Diamondbacks, $7,650
Prado’s 2013 debut with the Diamondbacks got off to a slow start, and it’s been much the same to open the 2014 season. Like Mauer, he’s seen his strikeout rate jump substantially above his career norm despite plate discipline stats that look almost identical to season’s past. Prado’s batted ball distribution isn’t pleasing to the eye, but it’s too early to draw much from that data, and his plate discipline data suggests this is the same guy he’s always been. Facing Hernandez has a funny way of making hitters look good, and that helps make gambling on Prado a worthwhile endeavor.
My Pick: Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates, $8,600
On a day where I don’t like the price tags of the third basemen relative to their matchups and playing environments, I’ll save some money with my top pick and roll the dice on Alvarez’s Three-True-Outcome (homer, walk or strikeout) approach. A whopping 40.8 percent of his plate appearances have ended with a tater, a free pass, or strike three. The left-handed hitting third baseman hit two of his six round-trippers off of St. Louis Cardinals starter Shelby Miller, which is nice, but not necessarily telling for future showdowns. That said, Miller hasn’t been sharp this year walking 14 batters (all unintentional) and serving up five homers in 22.2 innings spanning four starts. Hitters aren’t chasing his offerings outside the strike zone, he’s not getting ahead of batters with a first pitch strike as often as he did last year, and his swing strike percentage has taken a nose dive. That adds up to a nice matchup for Alvarez and his light tower power.
Value Pick: Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals, $7,700
Rendon has really cooled off since a scintillating start, but that was to be expected, and the things I loved about him when he was going well are the same things I love about him now. He is a patient hitter that doesn’t swing-and-miss much or go after pitches out of the strike zone. Rendon has bounced around the lineup a bit, but he hasn’t hit lower than fifth in the order since April 8th, and that’s promising for his run production potential. Padres southpaw Robbie Erlin is a solid strike thrower whose pedestrian fastball doesn’t leave a lot of room for error, and whose flyball heavy batted ball profile fits PETCO Park better than Nationals Park.
My Pick: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox, $9,500
I’m so infatuated with Bogaerts, I should probably throw that out there. I mean, a 21-year old isn’t supposed to be as polished as he is. He’s walking at a high rate, 13.5 percent walk rate, and that’s a product of a selective approach. The youngster has found himself penciled in near the bottom of the Red Sox lineup more often than not, but that’s more a product of the other options at John Farrell’s disposal than an indictment of Bogaerts abilities. His power hasn’t completely manifested at the big league level yet, but he had 44 extra base hits in the upper minors last season and is an above average offensive option at shortstop. Blue Jays starter Mark Buehrle couldn’t pitch much better to open the season, but he’s not this otherworldly good, and Bogaerts won’t make his life easy.
Value Pick: Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves, $7,350
Yet another down order shortstop, but Simmons is very different than Bogaerts. While the Red Sox shortstop works a lot of walks, the Braves shortstop doesn’t and instead makes up for it by rarely striking out. Simmons has struck out in a staggeringly low 3.8 percent of his plate appearances this year and struck out in only 8.4 percent of his plate appearances last year. He’s taken steps forward this year, albeit in a small sample, cutting way down on his infield flyball rate. He’s hit just one this year after posting infield flyball percentages of 17.5 percent in 2012 and 17.8 percent last year. Basically, Simmons has eliminated free outs. The 24-year old doesn’t have jaw dropping power, but he can put a charge into the ball and has hit 23 homers in 918 plate appearances which is solid. His power and contact rate is reason enough to use Simmons on the cheap at shortstop.
My Pick: Jayson Werth, Washington Nationals, $9,550
It’s hard to call Werth a secret, but priced at under $10,000 and facing a southpaw makes him feel like a special buy. Why is that? Werth is a monster against lefties, and he has been for the entirety of his career. In 1,245 plate appearances against lefties he has hit .293/.395/.539. That’s a superstar triple slash line, and it comes at a fraction of the cost of a superstar.
Value Pick: Domonic Brown, Philadelphia Phillies, $7,500
Brown’s power is down in his 87 plate appearances this year, but I’m going to keep beating his drum because I believe in his talent. He swatted 27 homers last year, and that power hasn’t disappeared in his age 26 season. The thing that has held his power down the most has been a groundball heavy batted ball distribution. Collmenter does a poor job of inducing groundballs (34.6 percent groundball rate in his career), and that could play into Brown’s hands today.
* Batted ball data and splits information comes from that which is provided at FanGraphs unless otherwise states, and ballpark factors are those found at StatCorner and are for a three-year rolling average.