There are a handful of really exciting young daily fantasy baseball arms toeing the rubber today.
It’s a pair of veteran daily fantasy baseball starters in a very exclusive club of $100-plus million men that I’m eying though. As for the hitters, a pair of Yankees and a couple of Nationals look good. That said, daily fantasy baseball money is going to be made stacking up on Red Sox and I’ve highlighted three, but could have easily added another trio to the mix.
Daily Fantasy Baseball Pitchers
My Pick: Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants, $15,750
It has been a Jekyll and Hyde season for Cain through five starts. Three of his turns have been good, and in those games he pitched a total of 19 innings allowing 15 hits, seven walks, and three earned runs with 18 strikeouts. One of those starts was a gem against a Padres team that he’s facing today. In the other two games Cain struggled with the long ball allowing five homers. One of those starts was at Coors Field, so Cain gets at least a partial pass. The Padres are without Chase Headley, who is on the disabled list, and they rank dead last in OPS against right-handed pitchers with a pathetic .608 mark.
Value Pick: Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies, $12,950
Hamels made his first start of the year last Wednesday and it was a solid effort against the Dodgers despite picking up the loss. More important than the surface stats, though, is that his PITCHf/x data available at Brooks Baseball looks good. His velocity matches that of the 2013 season, and with his full arsenal of stuff intact Hamels is an ace that priced super cheap. He should have little trouble picking on a Mets lineup that ranks 26th in OPS against southpaws with a .610 mark.
My Daily Fantasy Baseball Pick: Brian McCann, New York Yankees, $7,750
McCann hasn’t played to his usually well above average offensive standards to open his debut season with the Yankees, but he’s hit three homers already and swatted 20 last year. A little home cooking at Yankee Stadium is always welcomed by left-handed batters since they enjoy a homer park factor of 120. McCann has had little problem lifting the ball this year, hitting 50.7 percent of his balls in play in the air. He’s facing a starter, Chris Young, who has a flyball rate allowed of 60.7 percent this year and 54.2 percent over his career. Young has a remarkably low HR/FB rate in his career, but allowing so many flyballs has still resulted in him allowing 1.10 HR/9.
Daily Fantasy Baseball Value Pick: Dioner Navarro, Toronto Blue Jays, $7,150
Navarro isn’t a special hitter by any stretch, but he makes a lot of contact and hits line drives at a high rate. His first year as a Blue Jay is going well as he’s hitting .309/.333/.395 and striking out in just 5.7 percent of his plate appearances. The switch-hitting catcher is at his best against southpaws, owning a 107 wRC+ (100 is average) in 681 big league plate appearances against them. Navarro will also benefit from the fact that lefty Jason Vargas is better against left-handed batters, .308 wOBA, than righties, with a .324 wOBA in his big league career.
My Daily Fantasy Pick: Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox, $10,600
The first of three Red Sox to get the nod is Napoli. The former catcher feasts on left-handed pitches owning a .276/.381/.524 triple slash line with a monstrous 141 wRC+ in 956 plate appearances against lefties. Factor in the fact that Erik Bedard isn’t just any lefty, but one whose tank is now on empty, and you’ve got a player you simply can’t pass up using.
Daily Fantasy Baseball Value Pick: Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers, $8,100
As a switch-hitter with no noticeable platoon splits, Martinez is a player with a fair cost as opposed to a sneaky value. That’s not to say there isn’t value in using a guy with his hitting pedigree when he only costs $8,100 though. The veteran hitter has been tough to strikeout in his career, boasting a 10.7 percent strikeout rate, and he’s been damn near impossible to retire by strike three this year striking out in a minuscule 2.4 percent of his plate appearances. Power isn’t his calling card, but it is present in his bat, and U.S. Cellular Field will accentuate it with a right-handed batter homer park factor of 125. In the event that the White Sox opt to turn him around later in the game, the left-handed homer park factor of 120 is a nice fallback.
My Daily Fantasy Baseball Pick: Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers, $9,300
His teammate Victor Martinez doesn’t have huge platoon splits, but Kinsler certainly does. The former Ranger crushes lefties with a line of .311/.385/.526, a 139 wRC+, and more walks, 134, than strikeouts, 125 in 1,272 plate appearances against. Kinsler does a really good job of lifting the ball against lefties with a 45.8 percent flyball rate in his career, and that plays into the homer friendly ballpark’s wheelhouse.
Daily Fantasy Baseball Value Pick: Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates, $7,300
Walker’s power has been on full display in 2014 with six homers under his belt already. His .235 batting average is ugly, but it’s going to go up. Walker’s BABIP this year is .217, and he’s striking out in a career low 11.7 percent of his plate appearances. The 28-year old hitter will be playing in a homer friendly venue with a 136 left-handed batter home run park factor, against a pitcher in Chris Tillman who has been messy in consecutive starts.
My Daily Fantasy Baseball Pick: Will Middlebrooks, Boston Red Sox, $8,550
And here is the second member of the Red Sox stack, and if I didn’t love Kinsler against a lefty so much Dustin Pedroia would have joined the fun. Middlebrooks has played well in three games since being activated from the disabled list. The young third baseman has flaws in his offensive game, but he possesses plus-power and he’s facing arguably the worst starter pitching today. Bedard has made two starts and one relief appearance for the Rays, and his two starts have been awful. The southpaw pitched just four-plus innings in his last turn allowing four earned runs on five hits and five walks. The start before that he pitched 3.2 innings allowing four earned runs on six hits with one walk.
Daily Fantasy Baseball Value Pick: Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals, $7,500
Rendon’s sweet swinging ways have pushed him up to second in the Nationals lineup, and a showdown with Astros starter Jarred Cosart should allow him to add to his season hit total. Cosart had a passable start in his last turn, but in the start before that he was pummeled, allowing seven earned runs on three hits (two homers) and four walks in just one-third of an inning. I’m not saying Cosart will duplicate that dud, but his peripheral numbers have indicated for quite some time that he was flirting with disaster. Rendon will make the most of Cosart’s shortcomings.
My Daily Fantasy Baseball Pick: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox, $8,100
I’ve gone to the Bogaerts’ well many a time in this column, and here he is being featured once again. His inclusion is one part him being a talented hitter, and another part facing Bedard. As I’ve stated above, Bedard is toast and has basically become a sacrificial lamb for a Rays rotation ravaged by injuries.
Daily Fantasy Baseball Value Pick: Dee Gordon, Los Angeles Dodgers, $7,700
Gordon has struggled in his past playing opportunities, but he’s settling in at the big league level quite nicely this go-round. His 13 stolen bases lead the league, and if he reaches base against the Twins he’ll most assuredly add to that league leading total. Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki struggles to control the running game, allowing 57 stolen bases in 65 attempts last year in 93 games played. He’s already allowed five stolen bases in six attempts this year, and in 820 games played in his career he’s allowed 456 stolen bases in 616 attempts. For an elite base stealer like Gordon, 79 stolen bases in 99 attempts in his career, swiping bases on Suzuki will be a breeze. As for reaching base, Kyle Gibson is poor at preventing hitters from reaching (1.48 WHIP this year and a 1.66 WHIP in his career if you include last year’s work), and that’s good news for Gordon.
Daily Fantasy Baseball Outfield
My Pick: Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees, $10,700
Pinstripes have treated the former Red Sox outfielder mighty fine. Ellsbury has yet to hit a homer, but his .312 average and eight stolen bases are outstanding. The lefty has 2,280 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers in his career, and is hitting .300/.352/.456 with a 114 wRC+ and 54 of his career 65 homers coming against them. Even if he doesn’t add to his homer total facing flyball prone starter Chris Young, he can rack up points swiping bases. The 6-foot-10 pitcher is an easy guy to steal on, having allowed 163 stolen bases in 163 games pitched. There are a wide variety of ways Ellsbury can have a huge day, and that makes him well worth his price tag.
Value Pick: Nate McLouth, Washington Nationals, $7,000
A thumb injury that requires surgery has Bryce Harper on the disabled list until at least early July, and McLouth will serve on the heavy side of an outfield platoon in his stead. McLouth’s greatest fantasy asset is his base stealing ability. He stole 30 bases in 37 chances last season, and whether the Astros start Jason Castro at catcher or Carlos Corporan, they’ll be starting a catcher that struggles to cut down would-be base stealers. The lefty is an above average offensive player against right-handed pitchers in his career with a 109 wRC+. The ceiling isn’t limitless for McLouth, but it’s plenty high enough to make him a nice $7,000 investment.