The theme of today’s daily fantasy baseball picks to click article is left-handed batters facing right-handed pitchers that struggle to get lefties out.
That theme resulted in me suggesting two stacks today, and a trio of teammates are touted from both the Mariners and Phillies. The two starting pitchers I highlighted today should provide plenty of strikeouts for DraftDay gamers wise enough to use them, and a surefire future Hall of Famer gets plugged as a strong play today against a southpaw.
My Pick: Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics, $14,400
There are five starting pitchers throwing today that stand head and shoulders above their peers, and the pricing is indicative of that. Of that group I like the cheapest hurler, Gray, the best. The second year in the bigs hasn’t resulted in a sophomore slump for the Vanderbilt product. In three starts this year he has tallied 31 fantasy points in his first start, 26 fantasy points in his second start, and 48 points in his last start.
The diminutive starter’s best offerings are his fastball and curveball, but he’s mixing in his changeup more frequently to try and keep lefties off-balance. Gray racks up strikeouts in bunches, producing a strikeout rate of 9.00 K/9 thus far this year and totaling a 9.33 K/9 in his career. His walk rate is up a bit this year, but he’s actually throwing more pitches in the strike zone this year according to FanGraphs. The Astros, Gray’s opponent today, have done an average job of working walks against right-handed pitchers this year, but that’s about the only thing they’ve had going for them. They’re posting a paltry .604 OPS and have struck out in 26.5 percent of their plate appearances against right-handed pitchers this year. Gray should have little trouble carving them up.
Value Pick: Kyle Lohse, Milwaukee Brewers, $10,800
Hiroki Kuroda nearly got the nod, but Lohse is the better pick. No team has struck out more against right-handed pitchers this year than his opponent, the Pirates. Of course no other team has more plate appearances against righties than the Pirates, so that needs to be mentioned as well. In 511 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers this year the Pirates have struck out 119 times entering play on Thursday which works out to a strikeout rate of 23.3 percent.
Lohse has contributed to that total this year twirling a gem in his last start in which he pitched 8.1 innings allowing one earned run on four hits with zero walks and nine strikeouts. That start came in hitter friendly Miller Park, and today he’ll benefit as a pitcher that doesn’t induce many groundballs by pitching in home run suppressing PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Use Lohse with confidence today.
My Pick: Chris Iannetta, Los Angeles Angels, $7,350
The top options at catcher aren’t that appealing today, and Iannetta is the pricier option between the two catchers I chose to highlight for today’s games. He’s a career .250/.383/.487 hitter against southpaws in 694 plate appearances. Iannetta has hit seventh and eighth in the Angels lineup this year, which hurts his run production potential, but he has enough thump to put a charge into the ball and reach the seats, which is always a plus. He’ll take his hacks against Drew Smyly, a starter that spent all of last year in the bullpen. In his young big league career Smyly has been death on lefties, but the 473 right-handed batters he has faced have a palatable slash line of .248/.311/.421, and one would expect that to go up as a starter since he won’t have the benefit of just “letting loose” in a short burst out of the pen.
Value Pick: Jarrod Salatalamacchia, Miami Marlins, $6,750
The Marlins ponied up this offseason signing Saltalamacchia to a three year contract worth $21 million. He hasn’t hit for much power in 2014, and he continues to strikeout at a high rate, but by and large Salty is what they paid for. The switch-hitting catcher has a track record of hitting better as a lefty and that’s what he’ll do today. In his career he has 1,598 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers and hit .262/.328/.467. That’s not a world beater line, but he has slugged .480 or higher each of the last three years against right-handed pitchers. He’s not a sexy pick, and playing in Miami will make it difficult for him to find the seats, but he’s a cheap option at catcher that should score some points and allow DraftDay gamers to spend more heavily elsewhere.
My Pick: Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels, $11,700
This isn’t peak years Pujols, no doubt, but his work against southpaws is awfully hard to ignore. “The Machine” has 2,016 plate appearances against lefties and demolished them hitting .331/.426/.635. He had a down year across the board last year while battling injuries, and that included his numbers against lefties, but he’s posted an OPS no lower than .926 in any other season in his 12 plus seasons in the majors against left-handed pitching. Pujols is off to a fast start against lefties this year rattling off three singles, one double, and two homers against them in 21 plate appearances. His odds of doing damage against Smyly are very good.
Value Pick: Justin Smoak, Seattle Mariners, $6,900
Smoak is just the type of guy to target in DraftDay games when hunting for value. Let me explain a bit. His overall numbers are dragged down by a big platoon split, and that keeps his cost down. The switch-hitting first baseman has an OPS that is 73 points higher against right-handed pitchers than lefties in his career, and that gap was even larger last year at 291 points (.839 OPS against right-handed pitchers in 2013). This year, albeit in a miniscule sample size, has been more of the same with all of his damage being done against right-handed pitchers (.899 OPS in 33 plate appearances). Smoak has been dropped to seventh in the order, which isn’t ideal for run production, but at least he’s taken to the change well recording at least one hit in all four games played in which he’s batted seventh.
Speaking of notable splits, the right-handed starter he’ll be facing today, Nathan Eovaldi, has not fared well against left-handed batters in his career. The hard throwing righty has faced 617 left-handed batters in his big league career and allowed a triple slash line of .287/.366/.412. There is some stack potential against Eovaldi today given the heavy left-handed makeup of the Mariners lineup.
My Pick: Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies,$11,000
Eovaldi isn’t the only starting pitcher taking the ball today that struggles to get left-handed hitters out, in fact Rockies starter Tyler Chatwood would love to have Eovaldi’s career line against lefties. Chatwood has faced 748 left-handed batters in his career and he’s befuddled on how to retire them allowing a line of .299/.391/.438. Making matters more difficult for the 24-year old starter is that he’ll be pitching at Coors Field today, a ballpark where lefties enjoy a homer park factor of 125. Chatwood keeps the ball on the ground at a high rate, but anything that is lifted against him has the potential to do big damage.
Utley is an all-time great hitter at the keystone position, and he was great against both lefties and righties in his peak, but his numbers have eroded a bit against southpaws. That said, his numbers have remained great against right-handed pitchers, against whom he’s hit .297/.375/.512 in his career and has posted an OPS north of .820 in all but two of his 11-plus years in the majors. The Phillies’ number three hitter has scorched the ball out of the gate, and there is little reason to think he’ll cool off tonight.
Value Pick: Marcus Semien, Chicago White Sox, $8,150
There are two factors that led to Semien’s inclusion in today’s article. The first is that he’s continuing to hit second in the White Sox lineup. The second is Semien’s high level of success against southpaws. The right-handed hitting second baseman has only 31 plate appearances against lefties, so while his .481 slugging percentage looks nice, the sample size in the Show isn’t very useful. However, Minor League Central has his splits since 2011 in the minors and he has 367 plate appearances against lefties and hit .301/.395/.532 in them. Those eye popping numbers against lefties in the minors are plenty of motivation for using Semien on the cheap in DraftDay lineups.
My Pick: Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners, $8,900
Seager has stunk up the joint in 2014. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for using him, but we’re not even a full month into the season. The former North Carolina Tar Heel is a left-handed batter whose overall numbers are dragged down by matchups against his same handed counterparts. In 1,054 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers, though, he’s hit .269/.345/.432. His production against right-handed pitchers has improved each year in the bigs, and coupled with Eovaldi’s struggles against lefties, he becomes a good option for gamers today.
Value Pick: Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals, $7,900
The story remains the same for Rendon, he’s a steal at his current cost. A broken thumb sidelining Ryan Zimmerman for four-to-six weeks has prompted manager Matt Williams to move Rendon back to his natural position, third base, and a concussion suffered by center fielder Denard Span has resulted in the former Rice Owl hitting leadoff for the Nationals. Rendon’s bat was the motivating factor behind the Nationals spending the sixth pick in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft on him, and that bat has punished baseballs this year. Keep using him while he’s under priced.
My Pick: Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies, $9,300
Much was made of a tiff between Rollins and manager Ryne Sandberg in spring training, but with that behind the two of them, the 35-year old shortstop is off to a good start this year. Rollins is batting second in the Phillies lineup and has shown off some power, two homers, and speed, three stolen bases. His average and on-base skills have often left something to be desired, but the power and speed elements of his game have long been there so the early season success is no fluke. Like his double-play partner Utley, he’ll be batting left-handed against Chatwood, and Chatwood, as I noted above, is pathetic against lefties.
Value Pick: Brad Miller, Seattle Mariners, $7,600
And it’s an official Mariners stack against Eovaldi. Miller has struck out at an uncharacteristically high rate in 68 plate appearances this year, but strikeouts have never been a problem so chalk it up to a small sample size blip on the radar. The second year big leaguer doesn’t have elite power or speed, but he has hit 11 homers and stolen five bases in 398 plate appearances in the majors. The best part of Miller’s game throughout his minor league career was his ability to hit for average, and in 999 plate appearances he hit .334 according to Baseball-Reference. If the Mariners jump all over Eovaldi, like I expect them to, the team’s number two hitter, Miller, is in a good position to get in on the fun.
My Pick: Domonic Brown, Philadelphia Phillies, $8,950
Two stacks are in play today. In addition to loading up on Mariners, I’d suggest loading up on left-handed Phillies batters, too. Brown enjoyed a breakout in 2013, and the athletic left fielder is following that up with a good start to his 2014 campaign. He has hit just one homer, but he’s stolen two bases and is hitting .288/.362/.385 with a strikeout rate under 20 percent in 58 plate appearances this season. Brown’s power will get a boost from the thin air in Colorado, and a left-handed batter homer park factor of 125 at Coors Field is tantalizing. When factoring in price, Brown is my favorite play today.
Value Pick: Melky Cabrera, Toronto Blue Jays, $7,950
A very good 2013 season helped hide the fact that Justin Masterson remains bad at getting left-handed hitters out. Even in his excellent 2013 campaign lefties got on base at a .340 clip and posted a .316 wOBA against him. Masterson has been even worse than that over the course of his career against left-handed batters allowing the 2,510 of them he’s faced to hit .278/.361/.417 with a .344 wOBA.
Cabrera is a switch-hitting outfielder, so he’ll be batting left-handed today. In his first year with the Blue Jays, following a PED suspension shortened 2012 season, the Melkman posted a pitiful .360 slugging percentage. The first thought is probably that his power evaporated as a result of no longer using substances banned by Major League Baseball, but that might not be entirely true. Cabrera underwent surgery last September to remove a benign tumor from his spine.
Amazingly, the Blue Jays’ outfielder has already hit one more homer in 2014, four, than he hit in 2013, three. He has also stolen two bases. Cabrera isn’t your prototypical leadoff hitter that gets on-base at a high rate, but he’s been a spark plug for the Blue Jays and had recorded at least one hit in every game of the season prior to the first game of yesterday’s double-header. He got back on the board with a hit in the second game of the double-header, and he’ll look to start a new streak today when he takes his cuts against Masterson and the Indians.