Lately I’ve been all over cheap pitchers with my fantasy baseball expert daily picks.
That theme extends into today’s column as one flyball pitcher looks great on the road, and a stud starter making his second appearance since being activated from the disabled list comes at a discount. Usually my fantasy baseball expert daily picks have a youthful feel, but today’s group has a bit of gray in their beards. A pair of left-handed power hitters make for excellent options against the sub-par Hector Noesi, and a couple of Orioles look good with a southpaw toeing the rubber for the Indians. Sticking with pairs, another hitter duo looks good in a National League Central showdown.
Fantasy Baseball Expert Daily Picks - Pitchers
My Pick: Marco Estrada, Milwaukee Brewers, $13,950
The biggest knock on Estrada is that he’s homer prone. That’s what happens when you’ve allowed 1.38 HR/9 in your career and nearly two taters per-nine this year. His homer giving ways get some favorable suppression in Miami where the ballpark stymies right-handed and left-handed homer production. Estrada already does a sufficient job of tallying strikeouts (22.9 percent strikeout rate for Estrada versus a 20.4 percent league average this year per FanGraphs), but it’s doubtful he’ll argue with facing a Marlins’ lineup that has struck out more than any other against right-handed pitchers. Everything comes up roses for Estrada today.
Value Pick: Anibal Sanchez, Detroit Tigers, $13,000
If Sanchez hadn’t missed time with a lacerated finger it’s probable he’d cost far more than he does today. That’s not the case, though, so the important thing to check is whether his stuff is at pre-injury levels. From a velocity standpoint it is. He used his full arsenal of pitches in his last start, so there shouldn’t be any concerns about babying the finger injury that sidelined him for a 15-day disabled list stint. Through six starts Sanchez has a strong strikeout rate of 23.1 percent, but his walk rate has surged from 7.2 percent in 2013 to 12.0 percent this year. Have no fear, the underlying stats indicate the walk rate spike is a fluke. He’s throwing exactly the same percentage of first pitch strikes this year as last, and he’s actually throwing more pitches in the strike zone than last according to FanGraphs. A matchup with a Prince Fielder-less Rangers lineup that already struggled with right-handed pitchers this year is just what the doctor ordered for Sanchez.
Fantasy Baseball Expert Daily Picks - Catchers
My Pick: Brian McCann, New York Yankees, $7,850
A bad April has extended into May for McCann, but the track record of success dates back too far to get too worked up about a slow start. The two main reasons for McCann’s inclusion, though, have nothing to do with his history of being a well above average hitting catcher. The first is that he’ll be playing against garbage starter, and former Yankee, Hector Noesi. The right-handed hurler has already pitched for three big league squads this year, and that’s not because he was a sought after commodity. In 74 games pitched in the Show (25 starts), he owns a 5.76 ERA. Noesi is a flyball pitcher, and he’ll be playing at U.S. Cellular Field today, where the left-handed batter home run park factor is 117.
Value Pick: Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds, $5,250
Let me get this straight, I can use a once highly touted, offensive catching prospect who’s turning his promise into production for how much? Yup, Mesoraco can be had for nearly the minimum price and that makes him a steal. The young backstop has above average power that has helped him launch four balls into the stands this year in 73 plate appearances, and he’ll be playing at home where the right-handed batter home run park factor is 146. When something seems too good to be true it often is. In this case it’s the real deal and one that DraftDay gamers need to pounce on.
Fantasy Baseball Expert Daily Picks - First Basemen
My Pick: Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels, $11,450
Anyone who thought the tank was empty for Pujols was sadly mistaken. “The Machine” has ripped 13 homers this year in 204 plate appearances, and is rarely striking out (10.8 percent). He still looks like he’s laboring some when he runs, but he was never an offensive force as a result of legging out infield hits anyways. The bat is still well above average (139 wRC+), and he’s a beast against southpaws. Today he’ll face left-handed pitcher Danny Duffy. In his career Pujols has 2,057 plate appearances against lefties, and has hit .330/.423/.632 against them. Even in his twilight years as a member of the Angels (he joined them for the 2012 season) he’s posted a damn good 125 wRC+ in 334 plate appearances. It’s also worth noting that his play undoubtedly suffered last year when he was playing hurt. A healthy Pujols is still a dangerous bat and the price is right to use him today.
Value Pick: Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees, $9,050
Another elder statesman at first base is a nice option this evening. Teixeira is putting the wrist injury that shelved him for most of last year in his rear view mirror, and his power has been on full display. The switch-hitter has belted nine homers in 129 plate appearances entering play on Wednesday, and his .264/.372/.527 slash line passes the sniff test. He, like McCann, will benefit from being a left-handed batter playing at U.S. Cellular Field, and he’ll also be licking his chops in anticipation of pummeling Noesi.
Fantasy Baseball Expert Daily Picks - Second Basemen
My Pick: Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals, $9,550
Carpenter is built for daily games like DraftDay that reward more than the standard 5×5 yearly league categories. This line drive hitting machine has yet to hit an infield flyball this season according to FanGraphs, and his line drive rate of 29.1 percent is scintillating. Looking at one-plus month of batted ball data is unwise, but it’s essentially an extension of what this guy has done in his career (26.3 percent line drive rate and 1.3 percent infield flyball rate). The third baseman turned second baseman turned back to third baseman is an uber-patient hitter that walks at a high rate (13.2 percent this year), and his 18.4 percent strikeout rate belies his propensity for putting wood on the ball. Reds starter Homer Bailey is better than his surface stats would suggest, but he’s not pitching up to the level that earned him a nine figure contract extension in the offseason. He’ll struggle to retire Carpenter.
Value Pick: Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates, $7,600
Among qualified second baseman Walker ranks ninth in runs, second in homers, third in RBIs, and sixth in wRC+ despite an unlucky .255 BABIP. How in the world can he be had for less than $8,000? He’s striking out less often this year, and he’s ascended to second in the Pirates order. Playing at PNC Park today isn’t ideal for run production, but that’s basically the only big knock against him, and it’s certainly not enough to depress his price to $7,600.
Fantasy Baseball Expert Daily Picks - Third Basemen
My Pick: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers, $13,100
With all the savings I’ve provided around the diamond, DraftDay gamers can feel free to splurge on Cabrera. No one has been a better hitter than Cabrera since the start of the 2012 season, and the fact that his current line of .321/.361/.536 this year is considered down speaks volumes about how dominant he’s been with the lumber in his hands. The 31-year old first baseman would be a fine play against any pitcher, but facing a dud like Scott Baker is almost unfair. Baker has pitched in four games in the majors over the last two years since recovering from Tommy John surgery and he’s struck out a pitiful eight batters in 20.1 innings. His inability to miss bats or coax groundballs makes him susceptible to Cabrera, and Cabrera’s Tigers teammates, jumping all over him today.
Value Pick: Danny Valencia, Kansas City Royals, $8,200
If you’re not that familiar with Valencia, that’s understandable. He hasn’t exactly had a distinguished big league career. He does one thing at a well above average level, and that’s mash left-handed pitching. In 463 plate appearances accumulated since 2010 he’s hit .329/.365/.510 with a 139 wRC+. Because that’s not a huge sample, I extended my research to his minor league work since 2011. In 167 plate appearances he hit .327/.383/.587 according to Minor League Central. Mike Moustakas’s stand-in at third base is a cheap-ish option who should please bargain hunters today.
Fantasy Baseball Expert Daily Picks - Shortstops
My Pick: Jhonny Peralta, St. Louis Cardinals, $8,050
In the month of May, Peralta is ripping the cover off the ball, hitting .333/.408/.556 with a 173 wRC+ in 71 plate appearances. The right-hander is facing a right-handed starter today, but don’t sweat it, he’s been good against his same handed counterparts. In 4,207 plate appearances against righties he has hit .269/.326/.419 with a 100 wRC+ (exactly league average, but at a position that is not strong offensively). That’s not a great line, but it improves a bit if you remove his dreadful first two years in the majors. In 3,999 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers since 2005 he’s hit .272/.328/.427 with a 102 wRC+. He, like his right-handed hitting opponent highlighted above (Mesoraco), will get a shot in the arm with a 146 right-handed batter home run park factor.
Value Pick: J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles, $6,900
As much as I like the slightly more expensive Peralta at shortstop, I like Hardy more for a little less money. Hardy’s overall offensive profile leaves something to be desired, but not his power. He’s hit more than 20 homers in three straight seasons and five times in his career. The 31-year old shortstop has also been at his best against southpaws in his career, and he just so happens to get one today. The Indians are promoting T.J. House to make his first major league start six days after making his first appearance in the majors out of the bullpen last week. The southpaw doesn’t have exceptional stuff, and Camden Yards is a tough environment for a young pitcher getting his feet wet. Getting back to Hardy, in 1,246 plate appearances against lefties he has hit .265/.336/.463 with a 110 wRC+.
Fantasy Baseball Expert Daily Picks - Outfielders
My Pick: Nelson Cruz, Baltimore Orioles, $11,450
Back-to-back Orioles nearly round out today’s column. Cruz is significantly more expensive than his teammate Hardy, and for good reason. The former Ranger is tough on lefties, hitting .288/.362/.523 with a 130 wRC+ in 892 plate appearances. He’s also done a heck of a job of endearing himself to his new employer having already smashed 14 homer runs. That punch gets a boost at Camden Yards today where the right-handed batter home run park factor is 115. Spend some of your savings on the Orioles outfielder.
Value Pick: David DeJesus, Tampa Bay Rays, $7,650
DeJesus isn’t flashy. Let me get that out of the way. He is, however, solid. Entering play on Wednesday, DeJesus was hitting .263/.349/.465 with a 132 wRC+. All of his slash numbers are up from last year, and to the untrained eye it looks like he’s “bouncing back” from an okay year with the stick. The truth is, he’s being handled better. Manager Joe Maddon has only allowed the left-handed hitting outfielder to tally three plate appearances against lefties this year. If you take a look at his career work against right-handed pitchers you’ll see that his production this year isn’t a far cry from the norm. DeJesus has hit in one of the first three spots in the Rays’ order in each of his last eight starts, and that’s even more reason to like him today. He’s unlikely to carry DraftDay rosters, but he’ll round them out nicely.
* Batted ball data and splits information comes from that which is provided at FanGraphs unless otherwise stated, and ballpark factors are those found at StatCorner and are for a three-year rolling average.