The best strikeout pitcher in the game has to be one of your Daily Baseball Selections today.
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Only four of today’s probable starting pitchers rank top-30 in strikeout percentage, and that makes the top dog well worth budgeting for. My value pitcher today doesn’t have huge strikeout upside, but he does have a soft matchup with other favorable stats and variables working in his favor. As for the hitters, a trio of left-handed hitting Red Sox players comprise my Daily Baseball Selections, and I suggest snagging a piece of the action at Coors Field as well. I have identified three players I’ll be using there tonight.
Do you need a pick-me-up from your case of the Mondays? Join me in my favorite DraftDay game, the $3.30 Wiz Walkoff. With many players in favorable situations, I’ll be entering multiple lineups, mixing and matching these guys. I recommend you do the same and enter your lineups now!
All salaries listed use DraftDay pricing.
Daily Baseball Selections – Pitchers
My Pick: Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals, $20,250
Your major league leader in strikeout percentage at a staggering 29.3 percent is Strasburg. He’s walking only 5.5 percent of the batters he’s faced this year, which is good enough to crack the top-30 among qualified starters. With juicy rates like those, his ERA should sit comfortably below three. It’s just a tick over at 3.10 though, because of some poor batted ball luck (.358 BABIP this year versus .300 for his career) and some strand rate issues that are out of the ordinary (69.7 left-on-base percentage this year versus 73.1 percent for his career). The studly right-handed starter is facing a Giants lineup that is solid against right-handed pitchers, but not one that assaults them. When you add in that tonight’s game is at pitcher friendly AT&T Park, you have a recipe for a big point total from Strasburg.
Value Pick: Charlie Morton, Pittsburgh Pirates, $13,550
Morton lacks the point upside of Strasburg, but so does everyone else throwing today. He is a good value at less than $14,000 facing a Cubs lineup that is bad against right-handed pitching. The Cubs rank next to last in OPS against right-handed pitchers with a .640 mark, and they have the sixth most strikeouts against them. Morton isn’t a big bat misser with just a 16.9 percent strikeout rate, but his 55.0 percent groundball rate, a mark that ranks 11th best among qualified starters, helps limit the damage of all the batted balls against him. The right-handed starter has a notable platoon split, fairing much better against same handed hitters than lefties. Outside of Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs left-handed batters are a non-threatening bunch. Backed by his pitcher friendly home ballpark, Morton should pitch a game much closer to his season opening gem against the Cubs at home than the clunker at Wrigley Field in his second start of the year.
Daily Baseball Selections- Catchers
My Pick: A.J. Pierzynski, Boston Red Sox, $8,450
We have a splits matchup made in heaven for the left-handed hitting Pierzynski. Since 2011 he has 1,206 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers and has hit .283/.319/.455 with a 104 wRC+ (100 is league average) against them. That’s not great production, but it is four percent better than league average, and he’ll get a boost facing a right-handed pitcher who struggles mightily against left-handed batters. Orioles starter Bud Norris has faced 1,798 left-handed batters in his career, and they’ve hit .267/.356/.449 with a .353 wOBA against him. Norris’ problems will be compounded tonight by pitching at Camden Yards, where left-handed batters get a hearty boost with a homer park factor of 134 and a runs park factor of 115. The variables are all playing in Pierzynski’s favor tonight, and make him an easy selection for the top pick at catcher.
Value Pick: Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds, $7,400
Mesoraco has cooled off from his torrid start, which was inevitable, but he still owns a .304 ISO and 163 wRC+ through 125 plate appearances. Because the Reds catcher missed time with injuries earlier this year, he doesn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify for a batting title. Dropping the minimum plate appearances to 120 lands him atop the catcher heap in wRC+ though. Further putting his offensive dominance in perspective, he ranks second in homers with nine, tied for fifth in RBIs with 27, and first in ISO among catchers with 120 plate appearances. The guy is flat out mashing. He will be facing Dan Haren tonight, and the Dodgers starter isn’t missing many bats with a pitch mix suffering from diminished velocity this season. Haren has a paltry swinging strike percentage of 6.9 percent, well below what FanGraphs lists as the league average of 9.2 percent. The 33-year old pitcher is doing a better job of inducing groundballs this year than he has at any other point in his career, but he’s still serving up over a homer-per-nine innings (1.21 HR/9). I fully expect him to be taken deep by someone today at Great American Ballpark, and with a right-handed batter homer park factor of 143 the power packed Mesoraco is the man for the job.
Daily Baseball Selections- First Basemen
M y Pick: David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox, $10,900
Get your stopwatches ready, Big Papi and his notoriously slow tater trots could be in line to admire another long ball tonight. The circumstances are prime for a big effort from the big left-handed batter. Since 2011 Ortiz has swatted 66 homers in 1,011 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers, and sports a triple slash line of .310/.411/.585. Among batters with 1,000 plate appearances he ranks fourth in wRC+ with a 161 mark. I illustrated Norris’s struggles against left-handed batters in Pierzynski’s write-up, and I also pointed out the ample pick-me-up left-handers get playing at Camden Yards. At a talented offensive position like first base everything must come up roses for a special player to justify spending five figures, and that’s the case with Ortiz tonight.
Value Pick: Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox, $8,450
The Big Donkey surpassed 450 career homers recently thanks to a binge in which he reached the seats in three straight starts from June 4th through June 7th. Dunn has 174 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers this year, and is hitting .250/.385/.521 with a 148 wRC+ against them, including 10 of his 11 homers on the year. U.S. Cellular Field and its 114 left-handed batter park factor can make even a player with average power look good, and Dunn has top shelf thump even in his mid-30s. The starting pitcher tasked with keeping Dunn in check tonight is Rick Porcello. The young Tigers hurler is posting the lowest ERA of his career (3.69), but a huge dip in groundball percentage this season (43.6 percent in 2014 compared to 52.2 percent for his career) won’t play well at The Cell. Furthermore, his struggles against left-handed batters over his career (2,205 left-handed batters he’s faced have hit .301/.355/.457 with a .355 wOBA against him) don’t portend well for him holding Dunn down.
Daily Baseball Selections- Second Basemen
My Pick: Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates, $8,350
My love for Walker at the keystone position is well chronicled in this column, yet he remains a steal at under $8,500. The Pirates second baseman ranks tied for second in homers with 11, tied for ninth in runs scored with 29, second in RBIs with 35, and second in wRC+ with a 129 mark at second base. He’s one of the most talented offensive players at the position, yet it feels like he gets no love. The switch-hitter is better as a left-handed batter, and he’s facing a starter, Edwin Jackson, who would rather not face lefties. Since 2011 E-Jax has faced 1,332 left-handed batters, and the .345 wOBA he’s allowed is tied for the 29th worst mark among qualified starters according to FanGraphs. No need to overspend at second base tonight. Save some money and get one of the best offensive players at the position.
Value Pick: Tommy La Stella, Atlanta Braves, $6,350
La Stella has started in nine games thus far in his major league career, and he’s recorded a hit in all but two of those contests, including five multi-hit efforts. He makes a ton of contact, having struck out just one time in 33 plate appearances. He’ll be facing a rookie right-handed starter, Christian Bergman, who is making his first start at Coors Field. I ended up with egg on my face touting rookie Eddie Butler last Friday in his first big league start there, and Bergman isn’t nearly the same quality prospect as Butler. If the Braves give him a rude introduction to the majors, even a down-order hitter like La Stella can enjoy some run production stats.
Daily Baseball Selections- Third Basemen
My Pick: Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers, $11,000
Even in a lineup that has been crippled with injuries, Beltre remains one of the best Daily Baseball Selections at the hot corner. Beltre will be facing left-handed rookie starter T.J. House today, and since 2011 the third baseman has 521 plate appearances against southpaws. In those appearances he’s drilled 25 homers and hit .301/.369/.531 with a 138 wRC+. House has done a serviceable job in his first three major league starts, but he’s not the type of top notch starter that can be expected to give Beltre trouble. If you’re going to spend big bucks at the hot corner, Beltre is the best pick.
Value Pick: Juan Francisco, Toronto Blue Jays, $7,650
The trouble with suggesting a strikeout prone hitter like Francisco is that he’ll occasionally lay an egg. I’m not going to shy away from him as a result of his failing to deliver on my endorsements in the past though. The power hitting third baseman no longer leads the league in average homer plus flyball distance, but Baseball Heatmaps shows that he still owns the fourth longest average distance. He’s in the midst of a breakout this year, and almost all of his damage is being done against right-handed pitchers. Francisco has 107 plate appearances against righties, and has hit .290/.372/.636 with a 176 wRC+, 10.7 percent walk rate, and nine homers against them. His power has played against right-handed pitchers in past seasons, too, with an ISO north of .200 in semi-regular work each of the last two years. The Rogers Centre, where the Blue Jays are playing tonight, is a great environment for left-handed power with a homer park factor of 123. Twins right-handed starter Ricky Nolasco doesn’t do a very good job of striking batters out, and he doesn’t keep balls on the ground at a high rate. The mighty Francisco isn’t the type of hitter that a pitcher should want hitting flyballs off of them, but DraftDay gamers will like the results if he does so.
Daily Baseball Selections- Shortstops
My Pick: Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers, $12,150
Ramirez is expensive, I’ll get that fact out of the way. He’s also worth the money. The Dodgers are facing left-handed starter Tony Cingrani, and the league seems to be catching up to the southpaw and his lackluster changeup and fastball heavy pitch mix. Without a weapon to neutralize right-handed batters, the 183 that have faced him this year have hit .262/.343/.491 with a .364 wOBA and nine homers. Cingrani is also striking out fewer than 20 percent of the right-handed batters he’s faced, and they are hitting 44.4 percent of balls they put in play in the air. Ramirez is a masher of left-handed pitching, and since 2011 he has hit .289/.368/.547 with a 150 wRC+. He’ll be taking his hacks at Great American Ballpark where the right-handed batter homer park factor is 143. Ramirez offers elite corner infield production from a position that has a dearth of offensively talented options.
Value Pick: Stephen Drew, Boston Red Sox, $6,900
Drew hasn’t lit the world on fire since rejoining the team he won a World Series with last year, but as he’s shaking the rust off he’s still showcasing strong plate discipline and the ability to hit pitcher’s offerings in the strike zone at an acceptable rate. Everything will click soon enough, and at his exceptionally cheap cost he’s worth gambling on against Norris at Camden Yards today. In addition to playing against a pitcher who’s crummy against left-handed batters in a ballpark that enhances power and runs for lefties, Drew has hit right-handed pitching well since 2011. In that time frame he has totaled 836 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers, hitting .261/.346/.426 with a 110 wRC+. That’s the fifth highest wRC+ against right-handed pitchers among shortstops with more than 700 plate appearances. Drew is one of the sneakiest Daily Baseball Selections and could provide a nice return on a minimal investment.
Daily Baseball Selections- Outfielders
My Pick: Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves, $11,200
Heyward stumbled out of the gate this year, but he’s heating up with the weather. The left-handed outfielder has hit .289/.385/.422 with a 130 wRC+ against right-handed pitchers this year. In his four-plus seasons in the majors the 24-year old has hit .275/.372/469 with a 132 wRC+ in 1,672 plate appearances against righties. Heyward is a better offensive player than fellow touted Brave La Stella, and he’ll get the same benefit of playing at Coors Field against a rookie starter making his big league debut. He also gets the boost of hitting leadoff. Let others sleep on Heyward and make foolish Daily Baseball Selections in the outfield.
Middle of the Pack: Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians, $8,250
The Indians number three hitter, Brantley, hasn’t hit a home run since May 19. His power production this year looked a little flukey anyways though. The left-handed hitting outfielder can do a little bit of everything, and slotting him third in the lineup has awarded a ton of run production opportunities that he’s cashed in on. Brantley ranks tied for 14th in runs this year with 40, and his 42 RBIs are tied for 11th best. He has complimented his nine taters nicely with eight stolen bases, and his 139 wRC+ ranks tied with Jose Abreu for the 21st best mark this year. Abreu has taken the league by storm, yet Brantley has matched him in arguably the best measure of offensive performance. He’s a steal at $8,250, and he’s facing a right-handed starter, Nick Martinez, who has been roughed up by the 103 left-handed batters he’s faced to the tune of a .307/.412/.523 slash line with a .408 wOBA.
Value Pick: Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers, $6,300
Castellanos became a serious prospect with his stick, and now that he’s settling in at the major league level it is easy to see why. The rookie third baseman is in the midst of a modest six-game hitting streak, and he has tallied exactly three hits in three straight starts from June 5th through June 7th. He’s ridden his hot streak up the Tigers order, and is now hitting sixth in a potent offense that ranks tied for third in OPS. Castellanos trails only Freddie Freeman in line drive percentage this year, and while it takes quite a while to establish that as his baseline, it does indicate he’s squaring up the ball. His patience has taken a huge leap forward in recent weeks, and waiting for pitches he can handle will serve him well. The cost hasn’t caught up with his offensive advancements, so take advantage of the discount while you can.
Wild Card: Corey Dickerson, Colorado Rockies, $9,600
It almost feels criminal that only one Rockies hitter is part of my Daily Baseball Selections. Justin Morneau and Charlie Blackmon nearly got nods at their respective positions (and they should be used in some lineups), but I couldn’t totally pass all of them up. Dickerson looks like the best value. The left-handed hitting outfielder is seeing regular playing in the outfield in the absence of Carlos Gonzalez, and before that while Michael Cuddyer was on the shelf. He’s making the most of the playing time too, hitting .324/.376/.600 with a 152 wRC+ in 117 plate appearances this year. He’s been even better against just right-handed pitching as evidenced by his 165 wRC+ against them. He doesn’t make contact at as high of a rate or steal as many bases as fellow outfielder Blackmon, but otherwise he’s been a similar offensive producer. Dickerson has hit for power, reaching the seats seven times, and even though he hasn’t been efficient stealing bases, he still has three under his belt. Gamers have to love the Coors Field effect for all hitters, but an easy to overlook factor working in Dickerson’s favor tonight is that he’ll be facing Gavin Floyd. The right-handed Braves pitcher has been torched by left-handed batters in his career, and since 2011 he has the 20th highest wOBA allowed to lefties at .355. He doesn’t throw his changeup often, which in theory should be his best pitch to keep lefties in check, and his best secondary pitch, a curveball, is a lousy pitch choice in the thin Rocky Mountain air. Dickerson is easily one of the best Daily Baseball Selections, and he’ll be on most of my rosters tonight.
* 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.