All hail the ace of aces, he headlines today’s Fantasy Baseball Expert Picks.
Listen the Fantasy Sports Live Podcast to start your research. Then tune in to Fantasy Sports Live at 6/EST for real-time analysis up until lineups lock.
I had to show some patience on a Nationals stack with Orioles southpaw Wei-Yin Chen getting pushed back a day, but tonight #Natitude is in full force. Join me in picking from the Beltway series and use these Nats and the other Fantasy Baseball Expert Picks in games such as the $3.30 Wiz Walkoff, $15 Knuckleball, or really step up to the plate and play the $109 Field of Dreams. You can also play against the FSL crew in the FSL League!
All salaries listed use DraftDay pricing
My Pick: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers, $22,800
2014: 34.3% K, 3.6% BB, 58.3% GB, 1.49 FIP.
Padres vs LHP: 74 wRC+, 21.8% K.
Kershaw is the best pitcher in the game, and he’s leading the league in FIP among SP with more than 70 IP. He’s facing the league’s worst offense against LHP (and RHP for that matter), and he and the Dodgers are -290 betting favorites. I’d spend up to $25,000 to make Kershaw one of my Fantasy Baseball Expert Picks, and thankfully I don’t have to.
Value Pick: T.J. House, Cleveland Indians, $8,150
2014: 14.4% K, 5.2% BB, 61.0% GB, 4.63 FIP.
Yankees vs LHP: 92 wRC+, 18.6% K.
In sifting through a collection of crummy pitchers, House, thanks in large part to his minuscule price tag, stands out as my favorite choice for savings. Don’t be deceived by his 4.63 FIP, that’s driven by a HR/FB rate of 26.1%. His 3.42 xFIP is probably a better reflection of his true talent level.
My Pick: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals, $7,450
2014 vs LHP: 78 PA, 73 wRC+.
Since 2011 vs LHP: 346 PA, 141 wRC+, .207 ISO, .382 wOBA.
Perez is having a down year against LHP, but his track record is too good against them to ignore. Furthermore, Drew Smyly is a wreck against RHB allowing a .403 wOBA to the 251 he’s faced this year, and a .349 wOBA to the 714 he’s faced since entering the league in 2012.
Value Pick: Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals, $6,500
2014 vs LHP: 26 PA, 123 wRC+.
Since 2011 vs LHP: 213 PA, 111 wRC+, .109 ISO, .334 wOBA.
Ramos isn’t a world beater against LHP, and he’ll likely slot eighth in the Nationals lineup. Even hitting down order doesn’t completely sap him of run production upside on a squad that ranks fifth in wRC+ against LHP this year with a 112 mark. Already an above average hitter versus LHP, he’ll get a further boost against Wei-Yin Chen since he’s allowed a .339 wOBA to the 310 RHB he’s faced this year, and a .332 wOBA to them since joining MLB in 2012.
My Pick: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers, $12,550
2014 vs RHP: 268 PA, 154 wRC+.
Since 2011 vs RHP: 1,765 PA, 175 wRC+, .271 ISO, .432 wOBA.
There hasn’t been a better hitter in the game against RHP since 2011 than Cabrera. He hits for big power, yet not at the cost of fanning with a 13.9% K rate since 2011. The Tigers slugger hits third in the order, and that’s a sweet spot for run production upside on a team that ranks tied for fourth in wRC+ against RHP this year and a pitcher, Jeremy Guthrie, with a 4.71 FIP.
Value Pick: Billy Butler, Kansas City Royals, $6,550
2014 vs LHP: 89 PA, 85 wRC+.
Since 2011 vs LHP: 620 PA, 135 wRC+, .195 ISO, .373 wOBA.
Like Perez, Butler is having an uncharacteristically down year against LHP. He’s done too much damage against them since 2011 and over his career to be deterred by a sample size of less than 100 PA though. In addition to the numbers above, it should be noted he’s ripped LD at a 21.8% clip while hitting IFFB just 3.7% of the time with a 15.5% K rate. For a doubles hitter like Butler, Kauffman Stadium’s RHB park of 108 for 2B/3B plays perfectly.
My Pick: Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals, $9,950
2014 vs LHP: 89 PA, 172 wRC+.
Since 2013 vs LHP: 206 PA, 147 wRC+, .191 ISO, .384 wOBA.
If the Nationals pound Chen, as my Fantasy Baseball Expert Picks suggest I think they will, Rendon will be in a nifty spot to capitalize hitting second in the order. The marriage of his hitting skills against LHP, Chen’s struggles with RHB, and his lineup slot make him worth his near five figure cost at second base or third base.
Value Pick: Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates, $7,950
2014 vs RHP: 261 PA, 125 wRC+.
Since 2011 vs RHP: 1,598 PA, 122 wRC+, .177 ISO, .347 wOBA.
Walker turned in another stellar game on Wednesday night hitting a 2B and a HR in his four plate appearances. It’s hard to believe he remains priced under $8,000. That won’t last much longer for the Pirates cleanup hitter who also owns the third highest wRC+ against RHP of qualified second basemen since 2011.
My Pick: Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals, $9,350
2014 vs LHP: 42 PA, 123 wRC+.
Since 2011 vs LHP: 463 PA, 135 wRC+, .185 ISO, .370 wOBA.
Zimmerman has settled nicely into the fifth spot in the Nationals order, and that spot will suit him well tonight in a beat down of the Orioles. It’s not all about taking advantage of his team’s ability to punish LHP, though he’s damn good at it himself. He rarely gets cheated in his PA against LHP, and since 2011 he has a 12.7% BB rate and just a tiny 14.3% K rate.
Value Pick: Danny Valencia, Kansas City Royals, $6,550
2014 vs LHP: 56 PA, 149 wRC+.
Since 2010 vs LHP: 484 PA, 141 wRC+, .182 ISO, .382 wOBA.
Make sure you don’t get #Yosted and double-check Valencia is rightfully starting at the hot corner. He’s crushing LHP this year, and since reaching the Show in 2010 he’s done as much. His hammering of LHP extends down to the minors, too. Since 2011 he has 167 PA against them and has totaled a triple slash line of .327/.383/.587 with a whopping .260 ISO.
My Pick: Erick Aybar, Los Angeles Angels, $7,900
2014 vs RHP: 253 PA, 121 wRC+.
Since 2011 vs RHP: 1,477 PA, 104 wRC+, .127 ISO, .319 wOBA.
Shortstop stinks tonight, and I see no reason to spend heavily on the top options. Aybar is a slightly above average hitter against RHP, and he provides cheap exposure to Colby Lewis. Lewis has faced 198 LHB this year and allowed a staggering .423 wOBA. Since 2011 he’s faced 931 allowing a .366 wOBA.
Value Pick: Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians, $7,200
2014 vs RHP: 100 wRC+.
Since 2011 vs RHP: 1,489 PA, 110 wRC+, .171 ISO, .328 wOBA.
Cabrera is another cheap option at shortstop with upside. The switch-hitter continues to slot second for a Tribe squad that ranks tied for fourth in wRC+ versus RHP. The starting pitcher he’ll be standing in against, David Phelps, has been nothing special this year with a 4.38 FIP. In his career that dates back to 2012 he owns a 4.17 FIP.
My Pick: Jayson Werth, Washington Nationals, $10,250
2014 vs LHP: 83 PA, 168 wRC+.
Since 2011 vs LHP: 431 PA, 154 wRC+, .195 ISO, .396 wOBA, 14.4% BB, 17.9% K.
Werth is among the best hitters in baseball with a LHP on the hill. He ranks tied for 16th in wRC+ among hitters with a minimum of 400 PA against LHP since 2011. Of all the Nationals highlighted as my Fantasy Baseball Expert Picks today, he hits in the best spot in the order for run production potential slotting third.
Middle of the Pack: Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves, $8,350
2014 vs RHP: 296 PA, 126 wRC+.
Since 2011 vs RHP: 1,347 PA, 127 wRC+, .190 ISO, .357 wOBA.
Heyward is having a mediocre year with the stick, but that’s due only to his struggles against LHP. He’s a well above average hitter against RHP this year and over his career. The RHP he’s facing, Bartolo Colon, is having another stellar year against LHB. The Braves offense as a whole has been poor against RHP, but Heyward has a well rounded enough game to be worth his cost tonight.
Value Pick: Oscar Taveras, St. Louis Cardinals, $7,350
2014 vs RHP: 46 PA, 45 wRC+.
Since 2011 vs RHP (Minors): 918 PA, .348/.402/.578, .230 ISO.
Taveras moved up to the two spot in the order for the Cardinals last night with a RHP on the hill, and another night there would be great. As his line in the minors above suggests, he has destroyed RHP on his move up the professional ladder. I have zero concerns about his slow start, but it is still encouraging to see that he tallied a pair of hits last night (and that provides optimism for him hitting second again tonight). Pirates RHP Edinson Volquez is bad, and against LHB he’s allowed a .327 wOBA this year and a .345 wOBA to the 1,138 of them he’s faced since 2011.
Wild Card: Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels, $9,400
2014 vs RHP: 120 PA, 106 wRC+.
Since 2011 vs RHP: 1,390 PA, 132 wRC+, .234 ISO, .369 wOBA.
This decision came down to a pair of Angels outfielders, Hamilton and Kole Calhoun. Ultimately the club’s cleanup hitter got the nod. He’s hit a couple of dingers to open this month, which alleviates most of my concerns about his recovery from a thumb injury. I love Hamilton’s batted ball profile with a 22.8% LD rate since 2011 and just a 4.4% IFFB rate. Oh, and we’ve already established that Lewis is awful against LHB, so he has that going for him too.
* 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.
Glossary of important terms: Full definitions can be found by clicking on the stat. You’ll be directed to FanGraphs’ glossary. For the purpose of easy understanding, I’ve simplified FanGraphs’ definitions while retaining the integrity of the full explanation of the stat.
FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching)- This stat attempts to measure what a pitcher’s ERA should have been based on the things they have the most control over, walks, strikeouts, hit by pitches, and homers. Its goal is to credit the pitcher for what they’ve done and not what their fielders have or haven’t done on batted balls. It is a much better tool for predicting future performance than ERA. xFIP is a variation of FIP that goes further by neutralizing HR/FB to the league average.
wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plus)- This is a statistic that attempts to roll a player’s offensive value into one number to determine how many runs they’ve created. A 100 wRC+ represents league average, and every point above that is one percent above league average, and every point below represents a percentage point below league average. FanGraphs notes that the stat is park and league adjusted, thus, putting all players on an even playing field regardless of their offensive environment.
wOBA (Weighted On-Base Average)- This is another offensive stat that attempts to roll offensive performance into one number. It assigns a different weight to different types of hits and different means of reaching base since they are not all created equal. Unlike with wRC+, the league-average varies year-by-year so FanGraphs has a rough approximation of how to value various wOBA scores, for instance 0.400 is deemed excellent, and .290 is awful. The full chart can be seen here.
ISO (Isolated Power)- This statistic measures power by subtracting batting average from slugging percentage. Therefore it strips singles from slugging percentage leaving a number that represents extra bases divided by at-bats.
LHB: Left-handed batter(s)
RHP: Right-handed batter(s)
LHP: Left-handed pitcher(s)
RHP: Right-handed pitcher(s)
IP: Inning(s) pitched
LoB: Left on-base
PA: Plate appearance(s)
LD: Line drive
IFFB: Infield Flyball
HR: Home run(s)
SB: Stolen base(s)