A southpaw ace headlines today’s Daily Baseball Selections.
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And just for the fun of it, let’s make it a pair of southpaws with our Daily Baseball Selections today. Many of the hitters share a common thread, and it’s that a whopping five of them are Tigers. With lefty John Danks pushed back a day after Tuesday’s rain out, I simply couldn’t resist a stack at U.S. Cellular Field. They aren’t the only team I chose to pick multiple players from, as a trio of Braves facing an erratic lefty making his MLB debut at Coors Field is too good to pass up.
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All salaries listed use DraftDay pricing.
Daily Baseball Selections – Pitchers
My Pick: Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies, $16,200
Hamels’ season got off to a late start, and it took him a few turns to shake off the rust. Since then he’s been brilliant of late. Over the last 30 days, the talented lefty has made six starts spanning 42.2 innings, in which he’s totaled a 2.11 ERA with an excellent groundball rate of 52.7 percent. Hamels has also added a better than three-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio while fanning over a batter-per-inning. Tonight he be faces a Padres lineup that ranks dead last in the league in OPS against left-handed pitchers. Between Hamels’ track record of success over his career, his recent run of sterling play, and a matchup that looks very juicy, you’ve got a pitcher who needs to be rostered heavily. The best part is, he’s only the eighth most expensive hurler throwing today, which will allow you to spend on the rest of your Daily Baseball Selections.
Value Pick: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers, $12,800
Ryu doesn’t have the strikeout upside of Hamels, but he does have a dreamy matchup against a lineup that struggles with southpaws. He’ll be facing a Reds team that ranks next to last in OPS against lefties. The second-year major leaguer mixes a fourseam fastball, changeup, curveball, and slider. His repertoire has helped him avoid any huge platoon issues, and while his groundball rate is down some this year, he’s shown he’s capable of coaxing them despite lacking a sinker. At homer friendly Great American Ballpark, that skill will serve him well. Opposing pitcher Johnny Cueto could make it tough for him to earn a win, but at less than $13,000 Ryu can earn his keep without a decision.
Daily Baseball Selections- Catchers
My Pick: Evan Gattis, Atlanta Braves, $9,700
Gattis has had a well chronicled, unorthodox, time in the majors. He’s shown his above average power has staying power in just over a season though. In 559 plate appearances he has belted 33 homers, 12 of them coming this year in just 177 plate appearances. He lifts a ton of balls, and hitting it into the thin air of Coors Field is always a plus. Right-handed batters have a homer park factor of 117 there. The sample isn’t big, but Gattis has crushed lefties. According to Baseball-reference he has 128 plate appearances against them in the majors, and has hit .297/.344/.593 with eight homers. His dominance extends to the minors, too, where he’s had 160 plate appearances since 2011 and hit .428/.500/.899 with 16 homers. He’ll be taking his cuts against a wild lefty, Tyler Matzek, who is making his first start in the majors. It could get ugly for the rookie, and in fact, I believe it will. When the Braves jump all over him, Gattis is a strong bet to have a hand in it.
Value Pick: Chris Iannetta, Los Angeles Angels, $5,850
Iannetta has shared time behind the plate with Hank Conger, but you can count on him facing lefty Tommy Milone tonight because the Angels would be foolish to sit him in such a matchup. In his career, Iannetta has roughed up lefties thoroughly, hitting .253/.385/.493 in 745 plate appearances against them. Equally exciting is Milone’s struggles pitching away from home. Baseball-reference credits him with 998 plate appearances on the road, and hitters have slashed .284/.325/.458 against him in those appearances. Even a down order hitter like Iannetta can pile up points when splits like these jibe the way they do.
Daily Baseball Selections- First Basemen
My Pick: Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers, $10,000
Martinez has never been a more valuable hitter than he is this year, and that’s saying something for a 35-year old who been a well above average hitter for all of his career. He’s batting .332/.387/.597 with a 162 wRC+ this season, and as the baseball media rightfully enjoys pointing out, he has as many homers, 15, as strikeouts. The career .304 hitter is tapping into power beyond what we’ve ever seen, and he’s not selling out for it. His power will get an added boost today at U.S. Cellular Field where the right-handed batter homer park factor is 122. The switch-hitting catcher is excellent against both lefties and righties, so if he faces a right-handed reliever he’ll be fine. He has been better against southpaws in his career posting a 125 wRC+ against them compared to a 121 wRC+ against right-handed pitchers. As a right-handed hitter facing starter John Danks, he’ll give him fits. The White Sox southpaw has faced 1,334 right-handed batters since 2011, and they’ve hit .261/.323/.451 against him. Remember that, because Martinez won’t be the only right-handed batter I suggest using against Danks.
Value Pick: Jonathan Singleton, Houston Astros, $8,000
Singleton has shown some swing-and-miss with 11 strikeouts in his first 35 major league plate appearances, but he’s also made up for it with power rattling off a couple doubles and a pair of homers. It’s extremely early to glean too much useful info about his batted ball data, but it’s encouraging to see a power hitter like him hitting the ball in the air right out of the gate. The 22-year old left-handed hitter has a huge minor league platoon split, and is much better facing right-handed pitchers according to Minor League Central. In 1,167 plate appearances against righties in the minors since 2011 he has hit .291/.407/.511. He’ll be facing a right-handed pitcher, Brandon McCarthy, who has platoon issues of his own. McCarthy’s lack of a usable changeup has left him susceptible against left-handed batters, and since 2011 the 1,072 of them that he’s faced according to FanGraphs have hit .278/.315/.422 against him, and 23.1 percent of their batted balls have been line drives. If you don’t want to unload a substantial chunk of cash on your Daily Baseball Selections at first base, Singleton is a sweet cheap option.
Daily Baseball Selections- Second Basemen
My Pick: Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers, $9,700
A rain out in yesterday’s contest at U.S. Cellular meant no Kinsler versus Danks matchup. Thankfully, both clubs will be throwing Tuesday’s probable starters tonight, and Kinsler is one of my favorite Daily Baseball Selections as a result. As I noted in yesterday’s write-up, the former Rangers second baseman has hit .307/.382/.498 with a 138 wRC+ in 609 plate appearances against southpaws since 2011. He’s also annihilated Danks, which is more of a cherry on top than a primary sales pitch for using him.
Value Pick: Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels, $7,600
It’s the same second base pairing in today’s article with Kendrick also facing a lefty. He didn’t deliver against Drew Pomeranz last night, but he did slot in the leadoff spot and his work since 2011 against southpaws makes it easy to overlook one bad game. Prior to yesterday’s “0-fer” he’d tallied 593 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers since 2011, hitting .300/.352/.473 with a 130 wRC+ over that span. When you couple Kendrick’s hitting prowess against lefties with Milone’s messy road numbers, you’ve got a great buy at second base at a cheap price.
Daily Baseball Selections- Third Basemen
My Pick: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers, $13,650
A hamstring injury that forced Cabrera out of Sunday night’s game against the Red Sox relegated him to designated hitter duties on Monday, but it didn’t keep him from rapping out a couple of hits including a homer off Hector Noesi. Another game in the bandbox that is U.S. Cellular Field is almost an unfair boost to Cabrera’s already sky-high offensive upside. The back-to-back American League MVP has been the greatest offensive force in baseball since 2011, hitting .339/.422/.605 with a league leading 176 wRC+ (Mike Trout is next closest at 163). It’s not like he needs to play in a bandbox to have a case for inclusion in my Daily Fantasy Baseball Selections, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. The final nudges necessary to pony up for his extremely pricey services are Danks’ struggles against right-handed batters, and my expectation that the Tigers will pummel him. Budget for Cabrera, or be sorry you didn’t.
Value Pick: Chris Johnson, Atlanta Braves, $7,050
Johnson is a thrifty pick for those hoping to get a piece of the Matzek pinata. Coors Field is tough for good pitchers (just ask Mike Minor after last night’s clunker), and Matzek is a rookie who has walked more than 10 percent of the batters he’s faced in the minors this year (and this has been a good year in term of walk rate for him). If you think it’s going to be smooth sailing for the southpaw, I think you’re crazy. Back to Johnson, though, as he exhibited a weird reverse platoon split in his early years, but has shown a more traditional platoon split since joining the Braves last year. Completely ignoring his stats against lefties prior to 2013 would be foolish if he were a pricier play, but gambling on him actually turning into a guy that sees and squares up lefties for this price is more acceptable. Since the beginning of last season, Johnson has 179 plate appearances against lefties and has hit .386/.413/.518 with a 161 wRC+ against them. His .484 BABIP against lefties over that span is insane, but so is his 36.7 percent line drive rate. Again, those rates can’t be expected to continue long-term, but they could be an indicator that things are changing for the 29-year old third baseman.
Daily Baseball Selections- Shortstops
My Pick: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox, $8,800
I have a man crush on Bogaerts, it’s true. Young players with his plate discipline get me every time. But outside of fans of other American League East teams, how can anyone not love him? The 21-year old shortstop/third baseman trails only superstars Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez in wRC+ among qualified shortstops, with a healthy mark of 127. Tonight he’ll be playing in the cozy confines of Camden Yards, where right-handed batters have a homer park factor of 109. Adding fuel to the already scorching hot flame is that he’ll be facing lefty Wei-Yin Chen. The Orioles southpaw has faced 1,263 right-handed batters in his time in the majors, and they’ve hit .264/.315/.443 against him while creaming 64 doubles, four triples, and 43 homers. Bogaerts packs some punch in his stick, and Chen holds the key to unlocking it tonight.
Value Pick: Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves, $7,300
I must have more of the Matzek matchup at Coors Field. Simmons is already having fun on the road trip to the Mile High City after hitting a grandslam on Tuesday night, so why stop there? The right-handed hitting shortstop has 254 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers in the majors, and he’s hit .263/.319/.448 with a 112 wRC+ and a tiny walk rate of just 7.1 percent. Infield flyballs hurt him badly against lefties last year according to FanGraphs’ batted ball data, but he’s curbed his popups this season. His elite ability to avoid strikeouts (he has the ninth lowest strikeout percentage at 10.0 percent) is a good starting point for taking advantage of his surroundings. Steve Staude wrote about ballpark factors for FanGraphs in March of last year, and he looked at the 2009-2012 seasons for his study. Surprise, surprise, Coors Field had the biggest positive impact on BABIP and checked in with a 105.5 mark (where 100 is neutral). What that means is that even high contact hitters that aren’t hulking home run hitters enjoy a bump in value in Colorado. Simmons leather gets all the love, but tonight his stick will make him one of the better Daily Baseball Selections at shortstop.
Daily Baseball Selections- Outfielders
My Pick: Dexter Fowler, Houston Astros, $10,500
The switch-hitting Fowler is in the midst of an eight game hit streak in which he has six multi-hit efforts. I’m not just looking to chase a hot streak with this pick, though, I’m looking to take advantage of another player who will be batting lefty against McCarthy. It goes beyond that, too. The former Rockies outfielder is an on-base machine, and his 15.1 percent walk rate has helped him rank tied for seventh in the league in on-base percentage among qualified hitters. There were concerns by many that him leaving Coors Field would hurt him offensively, but he’s actually in the middle of his most successful offensive campaign according to his 131 wRC+. The toolsy 28-year old has never fully tapped into his power, but he’s not punchless either. He’s also never efficiently turned his above average speed into a gaggle of stolen bases, but he has reached double digits every full season he’s been in the majors. Fowler is a perfect example of a points league and daily game darling who is easy to overlook by the yearly 5×5 roto and H2H crowd. The yearly crowd might be shocked to know that Fowler ranks 27th in points-per-game in DraftDay games.
Middle of the Pack: Rajai Davis, Detroit Tigers, $8,150
Davis is a regular atop the Tigers order when a lefty is on the hill, and he should sit there tonight against Danks. The speedy right-handed outfielder has a big platoon split in his career, and has been a below average hitter with a 76 wRC+ against right-handed pitchers. He becomes an above average one against lefties with a 112 wRC+ though. Since 2011 he has 440 plate appearances against southpaws and has hit .294/.359/.457 with a 124 wRC+. In addition to his ability to hit lefties, he’s also a great base stealer. Davis has stolen 17 bases in 20 chances this year, and he leads the league since 2011 with 142. There are plenty of ways for Davis to acquire points, and he should score them in bunches today.
Value Pick: Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers, $6,300
Castellanos’ six game hitting streaking came to an end on Monday, and now it’s time for him to start a new one. The rookie third baseman is settling into a groove in his first full year in the majors, and his improving approach has helped fuel his run of good hitting. Castellanos hasn’t hit for much power this year, but his line drive swing has led to a .286 average in the last 30 days. His growing willingness to take walks has resulted in a .348 on-base percentage as well. He’s doing his best work in year one against lefties, and in 61 plate appearances against them he’s hit three of his five homers with a triple slash line of .283/.344/.528 and a 136 wRC+. The right-handed hitter was better against lefties in the minors, too, and since 2011 he has 394 plate appearances against southpaws with a line of .311/.384/.455. Get him in your Tigers stack.
Wild Card: Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates, $6,750
Much excitement surrounded the promotion of Polanco to the majors yesterday. The Pirates disappointed the home crowd with a loss, but Polanco provided excitement with a hit and a run scored. The blue chip prospect can rake, as he led the Triple-A International League in wOBA (.424) with seven homers and a .193 ISO. He also has speed, with 15 stolen bases in 20 chances. Every prospect adjusts to the majors differently, but Polanco has the type of electric skill set that will make an immediate splash. The left-handed hitting outfielder will be facing resurgent Jason Hammel of the Cubs tonight. The right-handed pitcher has been outstanding this year, and that includes his dealings with lefties. His reliance on a mostly fastball/slider pitch mix will make it difficult to keep up his current pace though. Furthermore, since 2011 Hammel has faced 1,085 left-handed batters and they’ve hit .256/.343/.422 with a .337 wOBA against him, so recent history isn’t kind in regards to suggesting he can continue to baffle lefties. Rounding out your Daily Baseball Selections with a special talent like Polanco under $7,000, allows for a ton of creative spending throughout the rest of your roster.
* 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.