Gamers who embrace my top pitching picks will save some cash in their daily fantasy baseball lineups tonight.
One of the best offensive catchers over the last few years is surprisingly cheap, and he’s an easy choice as my top play. First base features an odd pairing, one of which is enjoying a resurgence in power. The other has been terrible so far, but has a lengthy track record of hammering left-handed pitching and a price tag too cheap to ignore. Some familiar faces are sprinkled around the rest of the diamond, and a player who’s supposed to be activated from the disabled list today makes for a super cheap outfielder.
Daily Fantasy Baseball Pitchers
My Pick: Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals, $18,000
Among qualified starting pitchers, Strasburg’s 31.4 percent strikeout rate ranks third. With strikeouts worth three points in DraftDay games, that’s quite obviously worth noting. The right-handed flame thrower is limiting his walks, and his 1.35 WHIP is largely the product of a silly high .375 BABIP. If you think hitters are going to continue to post a .375 BABIP against him, you’re foolish. It isn’t going to happen. Strasburg has four straight quality starts and he’ll push it to five today against the Diamondbacks, while striking out at least a batter-per-inning in the process.
Value Pick: Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners, $9,950
Iwakuma has shown no ill effects from the finger injury that shelved him through April and into May. He’s made two starts this year, and both have been of the quality variety. The veteran split-finger throwing machine has walked only one batter in 14.2 innings pitched, and his 10 strikeouts aren’t gaudy, but they’ll certainly do. The 33-year old is getting ahead of hitters with strike one 75 percent of the time, and his 12.6 percent swinging strike rate is a harbinger of future strikeouts if he continues that rate. He’s facing a Rays squad that ranks 10th in OPS against right-handed pitchers this year, but that’s not enough to force me off of a stud with a sub-$10,000 price tag.
Daily Fantasy Baseball Catchers
My Pick: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals, $7,500
This is a pick where there is no reason to overthink the room. Molina is hitting .304/.331/.452 with a 119 wRC+ this season and is one of the best offensive catchers in the game. He has spent time hitting second and fifth in the lineup, both spots that provide run production potential. A showdown with Jake Arrieta and his 5.18 career ERA, along with unflattering underlying stats, makes this a no-brainer.
Value Pick: Josmil Pinto, Minnesota Twins, $7,000
Among qualified catchers, Pinto ranks seventh in on-base percentage. It’s easy to see how he’s tallied his .362 OBP. The young catcher walks a ton, as in 15.5 percent of the time this year. The second year major leaguer is more than just a hollow on-base percentage too, as he’s sporting a healthy 124 wRC+.
Today he’ll be standing in the batter’s box opposite Red Sox starter Felix Doubront. The southpaw has a 5.09 ERA, and for the second year in a row his strikeout rate has dropped. For a wild pitcher like Doubront, a 14.7 percent strikeout rate is unacceptable, and it’s no shocker he’s getting knocked around. The southpaw is a perfect matchup for Pinto. Doubront has faced 1,236 right-handed batters in his career, and they’ve hit .258/.342/.433 against him with a gaudy 10.8 percent walk rate. At worst, Pinto should earn a walk or two, and he has enough thump in his bat to inject a charge into mistakes.
Daily Fantasy Baseball First Basemen
My Pick: Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers, $8,250
Gonzalez’s home run resurgence this year has been an early season surprise. He’s already swatted nine homers in 164 plate appearances after hitting just 40 over his last 1,325. He has hit a few cheapies, but it is promising seeing him spread his homers out all over the field. The 32-year old isn’t selling out for pull power. His all-fields approach, and stellar 18.9 percent strikeout rate will help him improve upon his presently low batting average.
The left-handed hitting first baseman has always been at his best against right-handed pitching, owning a .301/.378/.532 triple slash line with a 141 wRC+ in his career. Even if you strip away the big numbers from earlier in his career, Gonzalez has hit .310/.372/.523 with a 142 wRC+ since 2011. Jacob Turner is one of the weakest starters throwing today, and as a right-handed pitcher he’s one that Gonzalez should torment.
Value Pick: Billy Butler, Kansas City Royals, $7,350
Butler has been awful this year, there is no other way to spin it. Manager Ned Yost continues to inexplicably hit Butler third in the Royals order, and while it is enough to make Royals fans want to pull their hair out, it’s beneficial to his fantasy value. His lineup spot isn’t what gets him the nod as the value pick at first base though. It’s a pretty sweet bonus, but the fact that he’s facing a southpaw is the motivating factor for highlighting him today. Butler has 1,176 plate appearances against lefties in his career with a slash line of .313/.392/.522, including a 141 wRC+. Butler also gets the benefit of Franklin Morales’ career struggles against righties. The Rockies starter has faced 978 right-handed batters in his career and they’ve hit .267/.365/.443 against him. This is a match made in heaven, and DraftDay gamers have to pay next to nothing to take advantage of it.
Daily Fantasy Baseball Second Basemen
My Pick: Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates, $8,600
Walker is playing at a very high level this year. His seven homers in 162 plate appearances put him on pace to easily surpass 20 for the first time in a single-season. He’s cut his strikeout rate down to an excellent 11.1 percent this year, and his 131 wRC+ speaks to just how valuable a hitter he’s been. The amazing thing is that he’s had some poor luck, and has just a .265 BABIP (.309 in his career) this season. The switch-hitting second baseman has been much better against right-handed pitchers in his career too, hitting .275/.345/.448 with a 120 wRC+ in 1,850 plate appearances against them. As a left-handed batter, he’ll also enjoy hitting at Miller Park today where the left-handed batter home run park factor is 120.
Value Pick: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros, $8,450
The right-handed hitting Altuve is a completely different man when he faces southpaws. The little man has 467 plate appearances against lefties in the majors, and has hit .334/.372/.461 with a 130 wRC+ off them. In addition to his lefty killing ways, he’s a headache for pitchers when he’s on the bases. Altuve has stolen 13 bases in 15 attempts this year, and has stolen 81 bases in 107 attempts since 2012. His ability to beat up on lefties like today’s starter for the Rangers Matt Harrison, and his stolen base acumen make him worth the cost.
Daily Fantasy Baseball Third Basemen
My Pick: David Wright, New York Mets, $10,600
If you like Atluve’s numbers against lefties, you’ll love Wright’s. The face of Major League Baseball, as voted on by fans in the spring is one lefties dread seeing opposing them in the batter’s box. Wright has 1,579 plate appearances against southpaws in his career, and has hit .340/.435/.577 with a mind boggling 167 wRC+. Yeah, he needs to be in lineups.
Value Pick: Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals, $7,200
Looking at a player’s projected pace less than a quarter of the way through the year is kind of silly, but ESPN has Rendon on pace for 98 runs, 21 homers, and 102 RBIs while hitting .284/.315/.484. Does that sound like a player that’s worth a little more than $7,200? It sure does to me. Looking at more meaningful numbers, Rendon’s plate discipline numbers indicate he’s a hitter with a plan, and one that knows that strike zone. He doesn’t really chase pitches, and when pitchers venture into the strike zone he’s making contact with 93.9 percent of their offerings. He’s a really good hitter and he continues to be grossly underpriced.
Daily Fantasy Baseball Shortstops
My Pick: Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins, $9,200
Only the other worldly hitting Troy Tulowitzki is averaging more points-per-game on DraftDay at the shortstop position than Dozier. He has a unique mix of power and speed, and he’s just one homer shy of a double-double (double digit homer and double digit steals) on the year. His .238 batting average is in line with his .240 career mark, but Dozier has walked in 16.0 percent of his plate appearances and has a juicy .366 OBP. As if those selling points weren’t enough motivation to pony up for Dozier, the right-handed hitters ability to beat up on lefties should be. Dozier has 279 plate appearances against lefties, and has hit .286/.349/.520 with a 139 wRC+ against them. Because that’s not a large sample size, I decided to glance at his work against lefties in the minors using splits pages, and the results confirm his ability to hammer them.
Value Pick: Dee Gordon, Los Angeles Dodgers, $7,900
Gordon has been killing it on the bases. His 24 stolen bases lead the league, and they’re 10 more than the 14 that the number two base stealer, Eric Young, has swiped this season. The son of Tom “Flash” Gordon hasn’t stopped hitting for a high average since the calendar has flipped from April to May, and if he can get on base against Jacob Turner and the Marlins, catcher Jarrod Saltalmacchia will have a hard time preventing him from stealing bases. Salty has allowed 416 stolen bases in 537 stolen base attempts in 549 games played.
Daily Fantasy Baseball Outfielders
My Pick: Nelson Cruz, Baltimore Orioles, $9,700
Cruz is the last of the players I chose due to facing a left-handed starter. The former Ranger is hitting very well in his first year with the Orioles. He’s crushed 10 homers and has a 143 wRC+. He’ll be playing today’s game in his hitter friendly home ballpark at Camden Yards. The ballpark has a right-handed batter homer park factor of 112. Circling back around, the primary reason I like Cruz today is that he’s facing lefty Drew Smyly. In 880 plate appearances against southpaws in Cruz’s big league career, he has hit .286/.359/.513 with a 126 RC+. Furthermore, he hasn’t posted a wRC+ below his 122 mark last year since the 2009 season, and from 2010 through this season he has a 154 wRC+. The guy pummels lefties.
Value Pick: Carlos Quentin, San Diego Padres, $7,350
Quentin is supposed to be activated from the disabled list today, and if that’s the case he’s a nifty option at a cheap cost. Over the last two years Quentin has tallied 660 plate appearances and hit .268/.368/.498 with 29 homers. Parsing data a little further reveals Quentin has been at his best away from PETCO Park. He has 388 plate appearances on the road the last two years and hit .301/.399/.558. Today he’ll be playing at Great American Park, and the ballpark has a right-handed batter homer factor of 143.