Most of the top daily fantasy baseball pitchers are playing in hitter friendly ballparks today.
The catchers I like today are super cheap, as each option highlighted costs less than $6,500. I’m also feeling awfully thrifty at shortstop. I do make up for my penny pinching with pricey options at the hot and cold corners. Ultimately, a couple of third basemen that demolish lefties were too hard to pick between, so I copped out and chose both.
Daily Fantasy Baseball Pitchers
My Pick: Andrew Cashner, San Diego Padres, $14,850
Cashner has been a bit rough around the edges in his last two starts, but his season numbers are sterling. The big man has retained his strong walk rate from his breakout 2013 season while inducing more groundballs and seeing his strikeout rate spike from 6.58 K/9 to 8.03 K/9. That said, the strikeout rate looks flukey since his swinging strike rate has dropped substantially and nothing stands out in his plate discipline numbers that explains the jump. Cashner is a horse that is able to pitch deep into games, and he’ll be pitching at home where he sported a silly 1.95 ERA in 78.1 innings last year. He has an 0.81 ERA in 22.1 innings at home this season.
Value Pick: Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians, $12,200
While Cashner has gotten off to a fantastic start to the year, the same can not be said for Indians hurler Danny Salazar. I tackled his struggles for The Fantasy Fix recently, and immediately after doing so he turned in his best outing of the year (his last start) at San Francisco. To completely absolve Salazar for his early season woes would be foolish, he’s not some mope that has been entirely helpless to the vagaries of baseball, but he has been very unlucky. The most important thing to note with Salazar is that he’s still got high quality bat missing stuff, and that he’s in the strike zone and starting batters off with a strike at roughly a league average rate. I’ll take his slightly depressed price tag and make the most of the cash savings elsewhere when constructing my rosters today.
Daily Fantasy Baseball Catchers
My Pick: Yan Gomes, Cleveland Indians, $6,400
Gomes inclusion as my play says more about what I think about the top options than what I think about him to be quite frank. The Indians backstop has some pop in his stick with 18 homers in 523 career big league plate appearances, including three this year. Also working in Gomes’ favor today is that he’ll be facing a pitcher who has been the polar opposite of his battery mate in regards to luck, John Danks. Danks has nearly as many walks allowed as strikeouts, a BABIP that’s 25 points below his career mark, and an unsustainable 2.6 percent HR/FB rate.
Value Pick: Travis d’Arnaud, New York Mets, $5,000
If you’re looking to really skimp at catcher, d’Arnaud is a great minimum salary option for a few reasons. The first is that despite flirting with the Mendoza-line, his plate discipline is very good and his batted ball profile isn’t too shabby. Also, the right-handed hitting benefits from facing a southpaw, Jorge de la Rosa, who is terrible against opposite-handed sluggers. De la Rosa has faced 3,389 right-handed batters in his career and allowed them to hit .269/.357/.448 against him with a .351 wOBA. The final, and most obvious reason for liking d’Arnaud is the fact he’ll be playing today’s game at uber-hitter friendly Coors Field. When in doubt, gamble on a guy playing in Rocky Mountain country.
Daily Fantasy Baseball First Basemen
My Pick: Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves, $9,550
The days of avoiding using hitters against “The Freak” are a thing of the past. Lincecum hasn’t resembled the two time Cy Young winning pitcher of yesteryear in some time, and while he still flashes brilliance with some of his secondary pitches, his fastball lacks the zip that allows for mistakes in the strike zone. Freeman is a line drive hitting machine that rarely gives away outs with infield fly balls and popups. He’s turned himself into one of the premier hitters in the game. The most exciting part about his early season showing is the uptick in power, as he’s already belted six homers and his .250 ISO is leaps and bounds above his career mark of .185. His homers haven’t been cheapies either, with ESPN’s hit tracker indicating that five of his six homers would have left 20 or more ballparks. Only one of his homers was deemed of the “Just Enough” variety.
Value Pick: Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers, $8,650
One of my favorite features of FanGraphs’ leaderboards is the ability to tinker with time frame splits. With that in mind, I wanted to take a look at how Martinez has done in the last calendar year. The reason for my curiosity is simple, Martinez got off to a slow start last year after returning from an entire year spent recovering and rehabbing from knee surgery. Now that we’ve reached the month of May, the last calendar year split eliminates April 2013 from his statistics, and in 659 plate appearances using that time guideline he’s hit .316/.366/.465 with a 124 wRC+. The 35-year old has rarely gone down on strikes in the last year, fanning in only 8.0 percent of his plate appearances. That rate has dropped to an almost unbelievable 3.2 percent this year.
Daily Fantasy Baseball Second Basemen
My Pick: Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays, $9,000
Zobrist’s high walk and high contact approach are yielding a high on-base percentage this year, and he’s ascended to the leadoff role for the Rays. The switch-hitting 32-year old doesn’t have a huge platoon split with handedness, but he has been a bit better against southpaws (118 wRC+ versus right-handed pitchers and 122 wRC+ versus left-handed pitchers in his career). That’s worth mentioning because he’ll be facing Yankees southpaw Vidal Nuno today. While all of these Zobrist nuggets of information are nice, I’m most inclined to use him because he’ll be playing at hitter friendly Yankee Stadium today.
Value Pick: Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates, $7,300
I don’t like the fact that Walker will be saddled with playing in his
run suppressing home ballpark, but that’s about all I don’t care for. His overall season line is dragged down by a low BABIP, but he’s pairing a career low strikeout rate with a career best ISO through the first month and change of the season. The biggest contributing factor in earning Walker inclusion in today’s article is that he’ll be facing Brandon Morrow. The Blue Jays starter was a mess in his last start, walking eight in only 2.2 innings. On the season Morrow has walked 16 in 22.1 innings, and it’s not hard to envision him scuffling again today.
Daily Fantasy Baseball Third Basemen
My Pick: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays, $9,850
Longoria joins teammate Ben Zobrist as a strong play, due in large part to playing at Yankee Stadium. As nice as today’s offensive environment is, the fact he’s facing a southpaw is the real selling point. In 998 career plate appearances against lefties Longoria has hit .289/.376/.549 and posted a 147 wRC+.
Value Pick: David Wright, New York Mets, $9,000
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. A player at the hot corner is a top option in DraftDay games primarily for his ability to pummel lefties with a southpaw facing him. Wright, like Longoria, is a destroyer of left-handed pitcher offerings. In 1,565 plate appearances against southpaws Wright has hit a staggering .337/.433/.575 with a 166 wRC+. As an added bonus, he’ll be playing at Coors Field against Jorge de la Rosa.
Daily Fantasy Baseball Shortstops
My Pick: Dee Gordon, Los Angeles Dodgers, $7,750
Gordon’s elite speed and excellent base running have helped him get to the top of the heap in stolen bases so far this season with 15. He’s hitting a sizzling .317 and his batted ball profile is ideal for a speedster, with a focus on spraying line drives and chopping the ball into the ground. Marlins starter Tom Koehler has done an extremely good job of controlling the running game in his limited time in the majors (42 appearances, 29 of which are starts), but his battery mate, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, is awful at cutting down base stealers. In 539 games played Salty has allowed 407 stolen bases in 525 attempts.
Value Pick: Scooter Gennett, Milwaukee Brewers, $6,750
The Brewers entered the year running a strict platoon at second base, and Gennett has held up his end hitting .329/.372/.452 with a 129 wRC+ in 81 plate appearances entering play Thursday. Looking back at his work against righties since his call-up last summer, he owns a .352/.388/.522 triple slash line with a 153 wRC+. He won’t continue to hit that well against right-handed pitching, but he has a smidge of power and a dash of speed in his skill-set. There’s also a track record of hitting well against right-handed pitchers in the minors to boot. The total package makes him a nifty investment at under $7,000 when facing a non-elite right-handed pitcher at home, as he’s doing today.
Daily Fantasy Baseball Outfielder
My Pick: Jayson Werth, Washington Nationals, $10,400
My previous endorsements of Werth in this column when he’s faced a southpaw have been made with great conviction, but today’s is a bit more of a tepid endorsement. When the lefty is Cliff Lee, that’ll happen. That said, we’re still talking about a hitter that has 1,255 plate appearances against lefties and has hit .294/.395/.538 with a 147 wRC+. He’s playing at Citizen’s Bank Park today, and the ballpark has a right-handed batter home run park factor of 131. It’s not the perfect scenario, but there are enough factors working in Werth’s factor to make him a player that will be on some of my rosters.
Value Pick: Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals, $8,200
Gordon has never lived up to the unrealistic George Brett comparisons heaped on him by hopeful Royals fans during his days of being a top prospect. The 30-year old converted third baseman has turned into a superb offensive player though. He is much better against right-handed pitchers, and has posted a wRC+ north of 145 against them two of the last three years. Last year was a down year against right-handed pitchers, but he’s totaled a 115 wRC+ in 81 plate appearances this season. Gordon should have little trouble serving as a thorn in the side of Tigers starter Rick Porcello today. Retiring left-handed batters is a Rubik’s Cube that Porcello has yet to figure out. The 25-year old starting pitcher has faced 2,100 left-handed batters, and they’ve hit .304/.357/.461 against him with a .357 wOBA. He hasn’t shown much improvement this season yielding a .292/.320/.458 slash line with a .341 wOBA to the 50 lefties he’s faced.
*Split stats are courtesy FanGraphs unless otherwise noted, and ballpark factors come from StatCorner where a three-year rolling average is used.