With a short slate of games, my fantasy baseball daily picks run the gamut of prices.
That said, it’s a must to spend on pitching today, namely one of the aces priced at over $20,000. I also love another stealth ace that can be had significantly cheaper. My first base choices today feature a pair of former teammates who have mutually benefited from a trade earlier in the season. Shortstop is another position I advise spending heavily on, as my top pick is the lone stud. The outfield is loaded with value as I unveil a revamped format for analyzing the position.
Join the $3.30 Wiz Walkoff tonight and put these top plays into action! I love winning big for just a couple bucks!
All salaries listed are for DraftDay player pricing.
Fantasy Baseball Daily Picks - Pitchers
My Pick: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers, $21,550
Could Felix Hernandez turn in a brilliant start today? Sure he could, he didn’t earn the nickname King for nothing. Given the choice though I’ll take Kershaw as my big ticket arm. Since these are the two pitchers that will likely be most heavily rostered (as they should be given the sky high scoring a strikeout pitcher is capable of in DraftDay games), let’s look at the two side-by-side. Hernandez is facing a Yankees team that, as an American League club playing in their home ballpark, will get to use a designated hitter. Kershaw, conversely, is facing an American League club playing in his digs, thus no designated hitter. King Felix is pitching in a home run and run scoring environment at Yankee Stadium, whereas the Dodgers’ lefty is hurling in a run suppressing stadium. Another check for Kershaw. Finally, Kershaw is likely to strikeout more batters than Hernandez since the southpaw is facing a White Sox team that has fanned in 23.6 percent of their plate appearances against lefties (and that’s before factoring in the fact that they’ll be replacing their designated hitter with a pitcher), and Hernandez is facing a Yankees team that has struck out in just 18.8 percent of their plate appearances against right-handed pitchers this season.
Value Pick: Alex Cobb, Tampa Bay Rays, $13,950
Cobb was an easy choice as my value pick at pitcher. The Marlins rank seventh in OPS against right-handed pitchers, but their patience and willingness to rip it leads to gaudy strikeout totals. They have posted the second most strikeouts against righties this year, ending 22.9 percent of their plate appearances with strike three. Cobb is no stranger to striking out batters. He’s struck out 22.1 percent of the hitters he has faced this year, and his low walk rate (6.6 percent) and high groundball rate (51.8 percent) will serve him well in muting the Marlins’ thunder and limiting baserunners. The Rays’ right-handed starter got knocked around a little bit in his last start, but that’s forgivable against a formidable Blue Jays offense in a game at the Rogers Centre. Speaking of ballparks, Cobb will get to face a pitcher instead of a designated hitter since the game between the Rays and Marlins is in Miami.
Fantasy Baseball Daily Picks - Catchers
My Pick: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins, $8,700
Mauer hasn’t been the dominant offensive force he usually is, but it’s awfully hard to argue with the left-handed batter’s 118 wRC+ against right-handed pitchers. In 3,497 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers, the former catcher has hit .335/.422/.505 with a 147 wRC+. He’s a tough out for right-handed pitchers, and while homers aren’t the first thing one thinks of with Mauer, ditching Target Field for a day to play at Miller Park, where the left-handed batter homer park factor is 119, doesn’t hurt his cause for reaching the seats.
Value Pick: Travis d’Arnaud, New York Mets, $5,000
On the rosters where I’m passing on Mauer, I want no part of spending on the ho-hum options that cost more. I initially looked at Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki, but Gomes is better against lefties than righties, and Progressive Field depresses run scoring and homers for right-handed batters. Suzuki hits for very little power and is facing a pitcher, Matt Garza, who carves up right-handed batters. I don’t love d’Arnaud, but I love the ballpark he’s playing in today. Citizens Bank Park has a silly right-handed homer park factor of 128. The once touted prospect’s power hasn’t manifested itself in the majors yet, but I’m not ready to give up on the notion that he has some pop in his bat. He swatted 37 homers in 769 plate appearances in Double-A and Triple-A combined during the 2011-12 seasons. Besides, it’s not as if a player needs much more than average power to touch ‘em all in Philly. Moving on from the thump, d’Arnaud’s patient approach at the dish has resulted in a 10.9 percent walk rate this year, and Roberto Hernandez is no stranger to walking batters (11.1 percent walk rate this year). That gives d’Arnaud another avenue of point scoring. At the bare minimum cost, d’Arnaud has a compelling case for ownership in DraftDay games tonight.
Fantasy Baseball Daily Picks - First Basemen
My Pick: Lucas Duda, New York Mets, $8,850
I like d’Arnaud’s teammate, “El Duderino,” a lot. The left-handed hitting first baseman (who also has outfield eligibility) is no great shake against lefties. He has a track record of above average offensive production against right-handed pitchers like Hernandez though. The 28-year old has totaled 1,090 plate appearances against righties in his career, and has hit .253/.354/.455 with a 126 wRC+ against them. His batted ball distribution includes a solid 21.2 percent line drive rate and an encouraging flyball rate of 46.9 percent. His flyball rate is especially interesting today because Citizens Bank Park has a left-handed batter homer park factor of 128. Duda cranked a pinch-hit homer on Sunday, and he hit three total dongs last week. Perhaps he’ll start this week off right with another tater.
Value Pick: Ike Davis, Pittsburgh Pirates, $7,800
Davis isn’t as likely as his former teammate, Duda, to go deep tonight, but the rest of the profile looks good. He’s thriving on the heavy side of the platoon at first base for the Pirates, and has hit .306/.408/.463 with a 147 wRC+. He has more walks, 21, than strikeouts, 18, in 142 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers. Clint Hurdle has seen enough in his brief time in black and yellow to feel comfortable moving him up to the cleanup slot in the lineup, and Davis has hit there in eight straight starts. Rounding things out, Padres starter Tim Stauffer was able to record only one out in his last start before exiting with six hits allowed and one walk, eventually being credited with seven earned runs allowed. Every pitcher has an off day, even the greats, but no one is calling Stauffer a great. Another shellacking is well within the realm of possibility.
Fantasy Baseball Daily Picks - Second Basemen
My Pick: Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians, $9,350
Kipnis has three starts and one pinch-hit appearance to shake off the rust after spending nearly a month on the disabled list. The missed time has served to drive Kipnis’ price tag down some, and getting his power, speed, and patience combination at less than five figures is superb. The Indians’ cleanup hitter has consecutive seasons of reaching the teens in homers, and 30 or more stolen bases. His .226 average is ugly, but he has actually reduced his strikeout rate this year from 21.7 percent to 15.1 percent, while raising his walk rate from 11.6 percent to 14.3 percent. His improved plate discipline rates will serve him well when his batted ball distribution works its way back to previous baselines. The Indians are facing right-handed starter John Lackey, who is no slouch, but the hand he’s throwing from is the important thing to note. The left-handed hitting Kipnis has just a 100 wRC+ against lefties in his career, but owns a 126 wRC+ in 1,053 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers.
Value Pick: Scooter Gennett, Milwaukee Brewers, $7,950
Kipnis isn’t the only left-handed hitting second baseman I like tonight. Gennett is on the strong side of a keystone platoon for the Brewers, and is carrying his weight by hitting .287/.325/.420 this year, and .328/.363/.492 since joining the bigs. His 98 wRC+ this year indicates he’s a couple ticks below a league average hitter, but hes facing one of the lesser starters throwing today, Kyle Gibson, and that bodes well. Gibson does a poor job of striking batters out, fanning a paltry 12.0 percent of the hitters he has faced this year. Unlike some pitchers that fail to miss bats, he doesn’t make up for it with a tiny walk rate (he’s walking 8.3 percent of the batters he has faced. FanGraphs has the league average walk rate for pitchers at 8.1 percent). Gennett doesn’t have sky high upside, but he’s a good glue guy with a fair price.
Fantasy Baseball Daily Picks - Third Basemen
My Pick: Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates, $8,100
Walker’s bat plays better at second base, but the top third basemen are poor values. The switch-hitting second baseman is slugging .271/.340/.440 overall this year, but he’s better as a left-handed batter facing right-handed pitchers, hitting .278/.349/.466 against them. Don’t worry, his work against righties this year is no fluke. In his career, Walker has hit .277/.347/.450 with a 121 wRC+ in 1,911 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers. If the Pirates jump all over Stauffer like I think they will, Walker should have a big hand in it.
Value Pick: Lonnie Chisenhall, Cleveland Indians, $7,850
What’s the biggest difference between this year’s version of Chisenhall and last year’s you ask? The answer is 174 points of BABIP. Okay, so maybe it isn’t that simple, and summing it up that way without pointing out that he’s ripped 29.1 percent of his balls in play for line drives is unfair to the young third baseman. He won’t continue to do that, and it takes a long time for line drive rates to stabilize, but it looks like the sweet swinging lefty is finally settling in at the major league level. He’s long hit right-handed pitchers better than lefties, and while I’m not one for chasing hot streaks, Chisenhall makes contact at a high rate and is doing damage this year when he does. With right-hander Lackey getting the ball for the Red Sox today, all signs are a go for Chisenhall at an economical $7,850.
Fantasy Baseball Daily Picks - Shortstops
My Pick: Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers, $11,800
When the gap in talent is as wide as it is at shortstop, ponying up for a legitimately star level offensive player like Ramirez is a must. Spending for the middle tier is a mistake. The thing I like most about Han-Ram tonight is that he’s facing a southpaw (Jose Quintana). In 1,249 plate appearances against lefties in his career, Ramirez has crushed them to the tune of a .307/.386/.531 triple slash line with a 142 wRC+. I mentioned above in Kershaw’s write-up that Dodgers Stadium suppresses run scoring, which is good for him, but I didn’t mention that it also has a favorable homer park factor for right-handed batters of 107. Quintana doesn’t have any homer problems, but he’s no match for Ramirez.
Value Pick: Stephen Drew, Boston Red Sox, $6,000
Like I stated at catcher when discussing Mauer, if I’m passing on the top option at an offensively poor position, I better be getting a hefty discount on an alternative. In his first game back in the majors after a lengthy stay as a free agent, Drew offers thrifty shoppers at shortstop a player with some hitting chops. Drew is a left-handed hitter who has slugged .275/.343/.451 with a 105 wRC+ in 2,847 plate appearances against righties in his career. He was at his all-time best last year hitting .284/.377/.498 with a 137 wRC+ against them. Double check to make sure he’s definitely activated for tonight’s game before the first pitch is thrown. If the reports are accurate, spending $6,000 on him at shortstop will allow gamers some serious roster flexibility to spend elsewhere.
Fantasy Baseball Daily Picks - Outfielders
My Pick: Curtis Granderson, New York Mets, $8,400
Granderson’s start to the season in Flushing has been, uh, flushable? Crappy puns aside, hardy har har, he’s playing in a park tonight that caters to what he does well. The left-handed hitting outfielder has turned into a three true outcomes hitter who has been light in the most important true outcome, homers. Of Granderson’s six homers, two were hit at Yankee Stadium, where the left-handed batter homer park factor is 134. One was hit at Coors Field, where the left-handed batter homer park factor is 117. You plop Granderson in a left-handed power friendly ballpark against a right-handed pitcher and you’ve got my attention. That’s the case tonight at Citizens Bank Park. His wRC+ is 42 points higher against right-handed pitchers than lefties (128 wRC+ versus right-handed pitchers compared to a crummy 86 wRC+ against southpaws), and for the second time I’ll mention that the left-handed batter homer park factor at Citizens Bank Park is 128. Use him tonight, you know you want to.
Middle of the Pack: Seth Smith, San Diego Padres, $7,700
Smith is the first outfielder highlighted in the new “Middle of the Pack” category. As the headline indicates, he’s not a pricey option, but he’s not cheap enough to slip into the value pick category. Back to the matter at hand, Smith has been an excellent addition to the Padres outfield mix. The left-handed product is hitting .309/.414/.553 in 182 plate appearances, and he’s murdering right-handed pitching to the tune of .324/.422/.581 with a 181 wRC+ in 162 plate appearances. He’s playing above his skills for sure, but he’s never been a slouch against right-handed pitchers. In 2,055 plate appearances against righties the 31-year old has hit .282/.363/.494 with a 125 wRC+. Furthermore, he’s facing a right-handed pitcher, Charlie Morton, who struggles mightily to keep left-handed batters off base. Morton’s ability to induce groundballs at a high rate has helped limit the power output against him in recent years, but the 484 lefties he’s faced since the start of the 2012 season have posted an astronomical .374 on-base percentage.
Value Pick: Bobby Abreu, New York Mets, $5,000
Abreu is settling into semi-regular playing time for the Mets, and he’s started five of their last eight games. The former Phillies outfielder of more than eight and a half seasons has been a thorn in his former employer’s side over the last few days. He made two starts against the Phillies last week, starting on May 30th and May 31st, and had multiple hits in each game. Abreu also stole his first base of the year in that series. A year away from the Show looks to have reinvigorated the 40-year old outfielder, and his bat has produced a potent .314/.390/.490 line with a 148 wRC+ in limited duty (59 plate appearances). If he’s starting, Abreu is a steal.
Wild Card: Oscar Taveras, St. Louis Cardinals, $7,900
Another new addition to the outfield highlights is the “Wild Card” spot. In short, the outfield requires three starters in DraftDay games and is generally loaded with talent. Some nights it will be worth spending buku bucks on more than one outfielder, while other nights there will be many outfielders who look like a steal on the cheap. This additional outfielder recommendation will allow me some wiggle room to pick a guy that I really like regardless of his cost. Taveras falls somewhere in between being expensive and being super cheap. He’s only played in two major league contests, but his bat has been monstrous in the minors. The young outfielder has hit .321/.377/.519 in 1,807 minor league plate appearances, and the scouting reports jibe with the production. He’s routinely been referred to as the best hitting prospect in the game, and Taveras won’t be priced this cheaply for long. Do not pass up a golden opportunity to get a gifted hitter.