One of our Daily Baseball Selections is an ace on a discount.
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Because my top pick at pitcher comes at a discount, I’ve taken some liberties and suggested a slightly pricier arm than I normally would for my Value Pick. Using a lineup filled with players at Coors Field last night didn’t payoff, but betting on runs being scored there in bunches is usually wise. I have selected four players that I think will have a heavy hand in the scoring tonight. My Daily Baseball Selections don’t often feature many Pirates players, but with a southpaw opposing them I like a trio of swashbucklers.
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All salaries listed use DraftDay pricing.
Daily Baseball Selections – Pitchers
My Pick: Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners, $15,350
How does one follow up finishing third in the American League Cy Young voting? By continuing to bewilder and dominate opposing hitters despite the fact they know he’ll be attacking the strike zone. Because Iwakuma missed the first month of the season with a finger injury, he doesn’t qualify for the ERA title yet. Among starting pitchers who have thrown at least 50 innings, he has issued the lowest percentage of walks at a dental floss thin 2.1 percent. It’s not as if he’s sacrificing hits for walks either, as he’s allowing just a .234 batting average. For a guy who pounds the zone, Iwakuma does an ample job of tallying strikeouts, too. He’s fanning 19.2 percent of the batters he faces, just a tick below the league average of 20.4 percent. That’s more than an adequate rate for someone who can pitch deep into games and tally fantasy points while simultaneously increasing his likelihood to earn a decision. The split finger specialist is facing a Yankees squad that has mustered just a .691 OPS against right-handed pitchers, and he’s opposing a not-so-good left-handed starter in Vidal Nuno. That should increase his odds of earning a win despite the fact the Mariners struggle against southpaws.
Value Pick: Marco Estrada, Milwaukee Brewers, $15,300
Homers allowed have long been the achilles heel of Estrada, but he’s been able to work around his propensity for serving up taters by limiting baserunners and tallying punch outs. The right-handed pitcher continues to strike batters out at a strong rate (22.0 percent strikeout rate), while not issuing too many walks (7.7 percent walk rate) or hits. His homer problems have been insane this year though. His home run rate of 2.22 HR/9 is unsustainable, as is his 18.0 percent HR/FB (5.3 percent higher than his career rate). The Brewers starter will get a break from pitching at his homer haven home ballpark, instead taking on the Mets at Citi Field. They rank in the bottom half of the league in homers hit against right-handed pitchers this year. Citi Field amplifies home run hitting some, but not nearly to the extent that Miller Park does. In addition to the Mets struggling with hitting homers against right-handed pitchers, they also struggle to avoid strikeouts having totaled the ninth most against them this year. Estrada might allow a homer tonight, in fact the odds are pretty good he will, but the rest of his stat line will make him one of the better Daily Baseball Selections when factoring in cost.
Daily Baseball Selections- Catchers
My Pick: Wilin Rosario, Colorado Rockies, $9,250
The last time I suggested Rosario at home against a left-handed pitcher, Rockies manager Walt Weiss had the brilliant idea of giving him a day off after using him against a right-handed pitcher the night before (not exactly maximizing his offensive minded catcher). Unless Weiss pulls another bonehead move, Rosario will serve as my catcher on almost all of, or perhaps all of, my DraftDay squads. The reason is simple, he’s a dinger machine against left-handed pitchers at home. The 25-year old backstop has swatted 18 homers in 163 plate appearances against lefties at Coors Field in his career, which breaks down to one homer per 9.06 plate appearances. That pace can’t be maintained throughout an entire career, but don’t worry, he’s not a one trick pony. Rosario owns a sick triple slash line of .337/.377/.748 with a 189 wRC+ in those plate appearances too. When Rosario faces a southpaw at home, regardless of the quality, he absolutely must be in DraftDay lineups. There aren’t many hard and fast rules with Daily Baseball Selections, but file that one away as one of them.
Value Pick: Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds, $7,250
All of the wonderful words I wrote about Mesoraco yesterday were all for naught, as he was given the day off. His assignment is tougher facing Josh Beckett (who has been death on right-handed hitters this year) tonight, but if I’m straying away from Rosario two conditions must be met. The first is that the catcher I turn to has to be substantially cheaper than Rosario. The second is that he has to be a power hitter playing in a homer friendly ballpark. Among catchers who have received 100 plate appearances or more, Mesoraco ranks first in ISO with a .304 mark, and as a right-handed hitter at Great American Ballpark he’ll enjoy a homer park factor of 144. He’s also $2,000 cheaper than Rosario, so check and check for my requirements being met.
Daily Baseball Selections- First Basemen
My Pick: Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves, $11,200
There isn’t a hitter in the game crushing line drives at a higher rate than Freeman’s 34.0 percent mark this year. Since it takes a long time for line drive rates to stabilize, it will comfort the mind’s of those making him one of their Daily Fantasy Baseball Selections to know that he trails only Joey Votto in line drive rate since 2011. Hard contact is always good, but at Coors Field it is downright delectable. Coors Field amplifies doubles/triples, homers, and runs for left-handed batters (and right-handed batters for that matter), and Freeman isn’t a player that needs any help beating up on pitchers. Speaking of pitchers, Juan Nicasio is a righty who is horrific against left-handed batters. He has faced 754 left-handed batters in his career and they’ve killed him hitting .272/.349/.481 with a .358 wOBA and 73 extra base hits.
Value Pick: Gaby Sanchez, Pittsburgh Pirates, $7,100
If a team is going to utilize a roster spot on a limited defensive player for the short side of a platoon, that hitter better be damn good at hitting lefties. Among hitters who have 400 or more plate appearances against left-handed pitchers since 2011, he ranks tied for 22nd in wRC+ with a mark of 148. To put his wRC+ in perspective, only three qualified first basemen this year have a mark higher than that, the trio being Brandon Moss, Edwin Encarnacion and Miguel Cabrera. That’s basically the cream of the crop at first base. As I’ve stated before, the risk gamers run into using one of their Daily Fantasy Baseball Selections on a platoon player (namely one that platoons against lefties) is that they’ll either face a right-handed reliever late in the game or be lifted for a pinch-hitter. That said, getting star level production as a result of a matchup with a lefty at a fraction of the cost of a star level player is too good to pass up.
Daily Baseball Selections- Second Basemen
My Pick: Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers, $9,850
Kinsler is already one of the best offensive players at the keystone position, and when he faces a left-handed pitcher it almost isn’t fair. Since 2011 the former Ranger has 609 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers, and he’s hit .307/.382/.498 with a 138 wRC+ against them. Adding John Danks, the lefty he’ll be facing, to the equation is like pouring fuel on the fire. Since 2011 Danks has faced 1,334 right-handed batters, and they’ve hit .261/.323/.451 with a .337 wOBA. While I don’t like to cite batter-versus-pitcher numbers because of the tiny sample size and the impact one good game can have on skewing things, I’ll say that Kinsler has owned Danks. There are enough other reasons to like Kinsler today that the batter-versus-pitcher matchup becomes secondary, but it is a nice cherry on top.
Value Pick: Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels, $7,450
Kinsler isn’t the only guy at the keystone position with a knack for hammering left-handed pitching, Kendrick does as well. In fact, since 2011 Kendrick has nearly been Kinsler’s equal. The Angels second baseman has 593 plate appearances against lefties over that period, and he’s hit .300/.352/.473 with a 130 wRC+. For the Angels last two games Kendrick has seen his name penciled atop the lineup, and it would be delightful if he could make it a third in a row. He’s a steal at under $7,500, and he’ll allow you to beef up your spending on your other Daily Baseball Selections around the diamond.
Daily Baseball Selections- Third Basemen
My Pick: Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics, $10,800
The only thing I don’t like about using Donaldson tonight is that the Athletics are playing at pitcher friendly Angel Stadium of Anaheim. That’s it. Seriously. The star third baseman has established that he can maul left-handed pitchers, hitting .303/.383/.594 with a 170 wRC+ in 366 plate appearances against them since 2011. Oh, and he’s facing a terrible lefty today. Hector Santiago got knocked around so badly as a member of the Angels rotation earlier this year that he got demoted to Triple-A. It’s not as if his work down there should have earned him a call-up. In three starts for Triple-A Salt Lake he pitched 14.0 innings allowing 12 runs (10 earned) on 23 hits, and seven walks with just nine strikeouts. Good luck against the Athletics and Donaldson, Santiago.
Value Pick: Trevor Plouffe, Minnesota Twins, $7,550
We can’t completely discount all of Plouffe’s previous play in the majors, but it’s hard not to notice that he’s become an exceptionally patient hitter this year. He’s offering at just 21.3 percent of pitches thrown outside the strike zone this season (league average is 29.8 percent according to FanGraphs). His unwillingness to expand his zone has helped him walk in a career high 9.3 percent of his plate appearances. He has an established track record of crushing lefties, against whom he’s hit .271/.340/.481 with a 126 wRC+ in 420 plate appearances since 2011. Factor in the game being played at the Rogers Centre where the right-handed batter homer park factor is 115, and I’m sold.
Daily Baseball Selections- Shortstops
My Pick: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies, $15,250
I could pretend that I’ll be dissuaded from using Tulowitzki because of his massive cost, but that would be a lie. He’s not even facing a bad left-handed pitcher, as Mike Minor is actually quite good. I fully expect the Braves hurler to struggle today though. Many great pitchers hit a speed bump at Coors Field, but Minor is especially prone to taking some lumps for two reasons in particular. The first is that he struggles to keep the ball on the ground with just a 41.7 percent groundball rate, complementing a 36.0 percent rate for his career. The second reason is that his only breaking ball is a curveball that he’s thrown almost 13 percent of the time according to Brooks Baseball. Anecdotal talk of curveballs not breaking as well at Coors Field was proven statistically accurate by Dan Rozenson in a piece written for Baseball Prospectus last April. Back to Tulo. In his career he has basically a full season’s worth of plate appearances (583) against lefties at Coors Field, and he’s hit .345/.432/.589 with a 161 wRC+. He’ll have Minor crying uncle tonight.
Value Pick: Jordy Mercer, Pittsburgh Pirates, $7,300
At less than half the cost, Mercer is a nifty little play for those considering stacking some Pirates against Travis Wood, or those simply looking at the non-Tulo tax bracket at shortstop. The right-hander made his major league debut in 2012, and in 126 plate appearances against lefties he’s hit .366/.411/.598 with a 181 wRC+ and 18 extra base hits. That sample isn’t very big, but don’t worry, his line against lefties in the minors since 2011 is reassuring. Minor League Central credits him with 236 plate appearances against lefties in that time frame, and he hit .295/.374/.444 with an excellent walk-to-strikeout rate of 25-to-32. Mercer is one of my favorite stealth Daily Baseball Selections today, and he’ll be on many of my rosters.
Daily Baseball Selections- Outfielders
My Pick: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates, $12,500
Don’t mind me, I’m just picking my jaw up off the floor. This is something I must do every time I look at McCutchen’s stunning numbers against lefties in his career. He has 756 plate appearances against them since reaching the Show, and he’s hit .333/.424/.580 with a 174 wRC+. Those numbers get even scarier if you look at what he’s done since 2011 against southpaws. During that time he’s totaled 476 plate appearances and hit .343/.440/.620 with the second highest wRC+ among qualified hitters with a 190 mark. I rarely like to spend big bucks on outfielders since the position is so deep and value can often be mined, but not owning stock in McCutchen today would be stupid.
Middle of the Pack: Drew Stubbs, Colorado Rockies, $8,150
Remember that little tidbit I dropped above about curveballs not being as effective at Coors Field? That’s really good for Stubbs. According to pitch run values data at FanGraphs, the pitch Stubbs struggles with most is, you guessed it, curveballs. The pitch that give Stubbs the second most amount of trouble is the changeup, a pitch that Minor has in his repertoire and figures to break out against the right-handed hitting Stubbs since it is a pitch often used to neutralize opposite-handed hitters. That might not be a problem. If you took the time to click the link to Rozenson’s awesome piece looking at the Coors Field effect on pitch types (and you really should, it’s a superb piece that should be committed to memory for daily fantasy gamers), you might have noticed that the biggest jump in ISO by pitch from all MLB parks to Coors is suffered by changeups. The ISO on changeups outside of Coors Field is .144 and in the thin air that rises to .222. Stubbs should get consideration against most lefties anyways because in 512 plate appearances against them since 2011 he’s hit .299/.375/.449 with a 127 wRC+, but considering the pitch factors I’ve laid out, he’s a no-brainer.
Value Pick: Seth Smith, San Diego Padres, $7,100
The Padres have an interesting collection of outfielders that manager Bud Black does a thorough job of mixing and matching based on the handedness of the opposing hurler. Smith plays when a right-handed pitcher is on the hill, and for good reason. This year he’s hitting .312/.404/.554 with a 170 wRC+ in 184 plate appearances against righties. That’s better than he can be reasonably expected to do for the remainder of the year, and even if you look at his numbers against righties since 2011 they are still tremendous. In 1,297 plate appearances he has hit .280/.361/.481 with a 127 wRC+. That’s plenty good enough to justify spending a smidge above $7,000 on him, and against a right-handed pitcher trending the wrong way against left-handed batters, and at a ballpark that amplifies homers, it makes him one of the better Daily Baseball Selections in the outfield.
Wild Card: Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins, $8,550
Yelich is a young hitter whose patience at the plate belies his youth. He has walked in 11.3 percent of his major league plate appearances, and his ability to earn free passes has helped him to a .352 on-base percentage through his first 122 games played. He’s a supremely efficient base stealer at a fairly high volume (20 stolen bases in 21 chances), and even though he doesn’t hit the ball in the air that often, he’s managed to muscle 10 balls out of the yard. While he figures to hit both left-handed and right-handed pitchers in the long run, he’s been world’s better against righties than lefties thus far. In 386 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers he’s hit .291/.379/.442 with a 131 wRC+ and nine of his 10 homers. His extreme platoon split extends down to his minor league career, where he had a respectable .754 OPS against left-handed pitchers, but a much more impressive .962 OPS against right-handers. Tonight he’ll be taking his hacks against starter Colby Lewis. Lewis’ career reclamation after spending time in the Japanese NPB league is a fun story, but he just hasn’t been the same guy the last few years. He’s been downright pitiful against left-handed batters. Since 2011 Lewis has faced 872 lefties, and they’ve hit a scintillating .278/.341/.488 with a .359 wOBA. The total package with Yelich today is dreamy, and this stud can be had for a price that’s too good to resist.
* 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.