Alright two days in the books and for the most part Mike and I have been on point. I may not have been able to live up to Mike's 2 HR day from Bryce Harper, but Jon Jay, Ryan Braun, and Carlos Gonzalez all left the yard while Jean Segura, Rickie Weeks, and Matt Carpenter all earned their value as well. Oh and of course our man Yu Darvish was phenomenal. Jarrod Parker on the other hand, yuck. Let's see if we can keep it rolling!
Before we get into today's recommendations, it is important to remind everyone to understand your scoring format and the pricing of the individual players on the site you're playing. These vary from site to site and all daily sites price their players differently, which could make someone a must start on one site but not another. In the space below I will break down the best and worst plays by position and make notes as to which type of formats to utilize players. If you are new to the daily fantasy baseball scene, there are daily fantasy websites which offer one day contests. These contests are mostly salary cap games where you can take any players you want as long as you stay under the cap and meet the positional requirements and all are points-based (not roto). Please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any further questions regarding daily fantasy baseball.
Jesus Montero (SEA) - On the surface you wouldn't think the matchup against a pitcher who posted a 2.74 ERA and 1.05 WHIP at home last year is the one to take advantage of, but there are a couple reasons I like Montero today. The first is Montero, in his limited major league career, has been a completely different hitter against left-handed pitching. Montero has hit .337/.383/.473 in his 205 AB's against LHP. The opposing pitcher, Tommy Milone, has been strong at home thanks to the big park in Oakland which helps suppress his HR Rate despite a lofty Fly Ball Rate (career 38.8%). Against RHB's, Milone has allowed over 60% of the balls in the air, either through FB's (39.70%) or Line Drives (24.3%). With that many balls in the air he's bound to give up some extra base hits tomorrow and with Montero's prowess against LHP, I'm betting he gets in on the action. Throw in a healthy, but small, pitcher vs. batter sample in which Montero has gone 5-11 with 1 2B and 1 HR and I've got a nice combination of splits-advantage and PvB to rely on for a value play.
Miguel Montero (ARZ) - We're going to keep it simple for you at the Catcher position today; you can't go wrong selecting a guy named Montero. The Arizona version, Miguel, gets a favorable matchup against Lance Lynn of the Cardinals. Lynn had a really nice season last year but he's always been hittable. Even in the minor leagues he allowed over a hit per inning in his final two seasons at AAA and at the big league level he's allowed a 22.1% LD Rate. Lynn improves that number slightly to 20.5% LD Rate allowed against LHB's but all of the other peripherals get far worse. Lynn walks 14% of the LHB's he faces and gives up 1.27 HR/9 while posting a 5.13 FIP and 4.85 xFIP in his career against LHB's. Chase Field really plays up left-handed power and Montero posted a .299/.414/.444 line against RHP last year, buoyed by a sparkling 22% LD Rate. A line drive hitter facing a pitcher who happens to allow a ton of line drives to LHB's? In a park that exaggerates LH power? Yes, please.
Jonathan Lucroy (MIL) - Daily fantasy baseball is a fickle game. Just one day after appearing on our best values list (and letting us down), Lucroy finds himself on the "avoid" list. Lucroy is priced like an elite catcher on a day he faces a right-handed pitcher and against RHP Lucroy is very average. In his career, he's hit just .263/.315/.361 against RHP. Juan Nicasio might look like a friendly matchup, but he's actually posted a strong 2.81 FIP in his career against RHB's and has limited them to just 0.39 HR/9. There are simply too many reasons to avoid Lucroy on a day with some better values priced below him at the catcher position.
Best Value Play:
Brandon Belt (SF) - Belt missed last night's game with a stomach issue so you'll have to check the lineups to make sure he's available but if he is I like the matchup with Josh Beckett. Beckett allowed 1.24 HR/9 to LHB's over the last 3 years along with a 20% LD Rate. Belt has actually hit better against LHP in his short time in the majors than RHP, but his underlying peripherals against RHP are a bit more solid. He walks in almost 12% of his PA's against RHP and his strikeout rate is down a bit against RHP as well. Coming off a monstrous spring in which Belt hit .410/.432/.833, I think Belt gets his breakout season going on Wednesday. If you're looking to save some money at 1B, Belt is your guy.
Other Strong Value Plays: Eric Hosmer (KC)
Must Play of the Day:
Freddie Freeman (ATL) - Freddie is the 1B I'll be most likely to use across daily sites tomorrow. In his career against Roy Halladay he's gone 7-15 with 3 HR's, 2 BB's, and 2 K's. Some of those AB's came against the good Roy Halladay from two years ago and so far this spring we've seen more reasons for concern than excitement over Halladay's 2013 campaign. His velocity has been down and he served up 3 HR's in 16 spring innings while also yielding a 1.84 WHIP. Meanwhile Freeman homered on opening day and is coming off a spring in which he hit 7 HR's on his way to a .342/.366/.658 line. With two players looking like they're heading in opposite directions I think Freeman could be our Must-play of the day.
Paul Konerko (CHW) - Ervin Santana is the ideal opposing SP to stream daily hitters against because he's so homer prone and getting him in the Cell where balls fly out at a very high rate is an ideal matchup, but for whatever reason Konerko just doesn't see Santana very well. Over their careers, they've met 35 times and Konerko has struck out more times (9) than he's reached base (8). He has just one extra base hit and has posted a .444 OPS. It's also supposed to be in the 40's in Chicago on Wednesday and the thick air should knock down some of those fly balls, making it less likely for Santana's HR tendencies to come back to hurt him.
Scott Sizemore (OAK) - Sizemore is platooning with Eric Sogard to start the season and with lefty Joe Saunders scheduled to take the hill Sizemore should draw the start on Wednesday night. In his career Sizemore has hit .274/.361/.423 against LHP while Joe Saunders has posted a 4.97 FIP and 4.84 xFIP against RHB's. Sizemore's biggest issue is contact as he strikes out a bunch but Saunders only strikes out 11.3% of RHB's, while also serving up 1.3 HR/9 and a 20% LD Rate. You'll have to check for 2B or 3B eligibility for Sizemore depending on whether they list him where he played last year or where he's expected to be this year, but Sizemore is a very strong value play if you're paying up for some other stud hitters.
Boom or Bust GPP Play:
Dan Uggla (ATL) - Uggla is almost always a boom-or-bust play but his matchup with Roy Halladay presents a particularly high risk/high reward scenario. In Uggla's career against Halladay he's struck out in 13 of his 34 AB's (38%) but he's also racked up 5 extra-base hits including 3 HR's. Both players have been trending in the wrong direction this spring with Halladay struggling and Uggla striking out in over 30% of his spring training AB's. On sites where Uggla is priced cheaply and you're in a big field he's not a bad play as his performance should be volatile. On the flip-side an inexperienced user might just see the 11-34 (.324/.343/.676) line against Halladay (ignoring the 13 K's) and think Uggla is a terrific play, meaning he might be highly-owned. High ownership players make it more difficult to win large fields, so Scott Sizemore might still be a better GPP play, but Uggla's performance profile in this matchup certainly fits the bill of boom or bust.
If you can Afford:
Robinson Cano (NYY) - Cano, like Ryan Braun yesterday, ranges from expensive to outrageous across the different daily sites. Still, he's the kind of guy who can be worth reaching for in the right matchups and Wednesday vs. Clay Buchholz might offer that opportunity. Cano has seen plenty of Buchholz in their time in the AL East against each other and he sure has liked what he's seen. Cano has gone 12-25 with 4 2B's, 1 HR and just 1 K in those 25 AB's. Buchholz has always struggled finding an "out-pitch" against LHB's and as a result he's walked nearly 10% and struck out a below league average 16% of the LHB's he's faced. In his career Cano has an .885 OPS against RHP and last year he posted a career best 1.108 OPS vs. RHP along with a .941 OPS at Yankee Stadium. If the price were a bit more friendly he'd be a must play of the day.
Jed Lowrie (OAK) - We just covered some of Joe Saunders struggles against RHB's and Jed Lowrie, a switch-hitter, has traditionally done the majority of his damage from the RH side. Lowrie's .292/.362/.486 line against LHP in his career also comes with a tidy 0.72 EYE and a healthy 46% fly ball rate. Lowrie hit 5th in the order last night for the A's and given their affinity for splits it's likely he'll hit in the middle of the order again tomorrow night. For roughly 70% of the price of most of the elite SS's, Lowrie has the kind of matchup that should allow him to be a great value.
Starlin Castro (CHC) - This one is more site-dependent on pricing as Castro is treated like an elite SS on a few sites and a 2nd tier one on others. Starlin is a really good young hitter who makes a lot of contact and drives the ball into the gaps. At PNC Park in Pittsburgh where there are big gaps, especially in left-center, Starlin's swing fits perfectly. He also has stronger splits against LHP having hit .324/.376/.461 in his career against LHP. His numbers vs. Wandy Rodriguez haven't been as exciting just 4-19, but he has walked 3 times and never been struck out by Wandy. Hitting in the middle of the Cubs order with another lefty-masher Scott Hairston right behind him, Castro figures to have some nice opportunities to get on base and score runs.
Juan Francisco (ATL) - A bit of a bet on Roy Halladay not being Roy Halladay anymore, but Juan Francisco is the type of free swinging power bat that benefits from Halladay's willingness to work around the zone. Francisco has been pretty effective against RHP (.272/.320/.487) but he still strikes out in 30% of his PA's against RHP's and walks in just 6.6%. With the success the Braves have had historically against Halladay, he figures to see some RBI opportunities and I think Halladay's stinginess with walks actually works to Francisco's favor. If you're trying to save some money at third base to fit in some of the other stars, I think Francisco is a viable play. He'd admittedly be better used on sites that don't punish strikeouts.
Miguel Cabrera (DET) - On sites where Cabrera is priced within reason of the other top 3B, he's an excellent selection. Cabrera will face Kevin Correia on Wednesday who he's gone 9-19 with 2 2B's, 1 HR and just 1 BB against 1 K. Even without the great pitcher-vs.-batter numbers, Miggy would be a strong play against Correia. Correia is a replacement level starter who somehow has been forced into the #2 spot of a depleted Twins rotation. He's allowed 1.66 HR/9 to RHB's over the last 3 years and doesn't figure to last long in this one. All of your Tigers are pretty strong plays on Wednesday, but Miggy (far and away the most expensive of the bunch) tops the list.
Other Strong Expensive Plays: Evan Longoria (TB), David Wright (NYM) - both face LH starters and both players are much stronger against LHP than RHP. If there's an enormous gap in pricing between Cabrera and these two and you're spending at 3B, I'd recommend choosing one of these two. If they're tighter, Cabrera is probably your man.
Best Value Plays:
Scott Hairston (CHC) - Hairston was brought to the Cubs to do one thing: Mash left-handed pitching. Hairston figures to platoon mostly in RF with Nate Schierholtz and with left-hander Wandy Rodriguez on the hill on Wednesday, we expect Hairston to not only get the start but likely hit in the middle of the order. For his career, Hairston has hit .276/.325/.500 vs. LHP and against Wandy Rodriguez he's gone 7-19 with 3 2B's and 2 HR's. He has struck out 6 times in those 19 AB's so this could be a bit boom or bust, but Hairston makes for a nice value pick with pop in the outfield.
Brett Gardner (NYY) - As always make sure to check your site's pricing, but on some sites Gardner is being forgotten about after a lost year due to injury. Gardner has been a neutral split guy in his career (.730 OPS vs. RHP, .699 OPS vs. LHP) but Clay Buchholz's splits have not been particularly neutral. Buchholz has allowed a .324 wOBA against LHB's compared to a .304 wOBA against RHB's in his career and has walked over 9% of the LHB's he's faced over the last three years. This isn't quite Jorge de la Rosa and Rickie Weeks in terms of likelihood of a walk, but Gardner (who walks in 10.4% of his PA's vs. RHP) is a solid value play hitting atop the Yankees lineup in a favorable run-scoring environment. Clay Buchholz won't exactly have to face the same Yankees lineup he has in the past but in 4 career starts in the new Yankee Stadium he's posted a 6.14 ERA, 1.55 WHIP and allowed 2.61 HR/9.
Jason Kubel (ARZ) - Kubel is fairly priced across most sites, but he has a plus matchup tonight. We talked about Lance Lynn's struggles against LHB's in the blurb on Miguel Montero and Jason Kubel is another power-hitting LHB who has dominated right-handed pitching in his career. Kubel has posted a .280/.343/.498 line against RHP while producing a strong 21% LD Rate. Last year after moving to Arizona he was even better against RHP hitting .264/.348/.540 with a 23.5% LD Rate overall and increasing that production to .264/.366/.574 against RHP when hitting in Chase Field. With Kubel getting the night off last night against a LHP, it's a near-lock he'll be in the lineup tonight and I love the matchup with Lance Lynn. While he isn't "cheap" anywhere, getting a plus split advantage in a homer-prone park that inflates LHB's in a game with the highest run total on the board (9) is a nice way to build your OF.
Bryce Harper (WAS) - We're going back to the well after the mutli-HR game to open the season. In the 2nd game of the year Bryce Harper gets Kevin Slowey. Slowey is an extreme fly-ball pitcher who used to get by with a mix of outstanding command and just enough swing and miss stuff to remain a mid-rotation starter. In the last few years though Slowey has lost some of his stuff and given the thin margin of error he was already working with as an extreme fly-ball pitcher, he's become a vagabond 6th starter. Unfortunately for the Marlins (in part due to injuries), he's starting the 2nd game of the season. Slowey allows almost 50% of the batted balls against LHB's in the air and his last stint in the big leagues he allowed 1.52 HR/9 in just under 60 innings with the Twins. Last year in AAA, he allowed 1.29 HR/9 pitching for the Columbus Indians in the International League. Harper's prodigious power should be on display yet again.
Yoenis Cespedes (OAK) - More Joe Saunders hate. Cespedes didn't have gigantic splits last season against RHP and LHP, he crushed them evenly, but Joe Saunders stinks against RHB's having allowed a .359 wOBA and 1.3 HR/9 over the last three years. With the A's figuring to have a lot of favorable splits matchups in the middle of their order, I think Cespedes is one of the stronger plays for the high priced OFs.
Jay Bruce (CIN) - Bruce is making strides as a young player, but the one area he continues to struggle is against LHP. In his career Bruce has hit just .231/.310/.436 against LHP and on Wednesday CJ Wilson will take the bump for the Angels. Wilson has his faults, mainly shaky command, but he has been fairly dominant against LHB's in his career. He's yielded just a 2.52 FIP and he's struck out a whopping 26% of the LHB's he's faced over the last 3 years. Lefties also have a hard time elevating the ball against Wilson (49% GB Rate vs. LHB's) and that negates much of Bruce's value in his power stroke. It's best to just sit this one out.
Best Value Plays:
Edwin Jackson (CHC) - We're going to pick on the Pirates a bunch during the course of this season, so I apologize to Pirates fans in advance. The Pirates were 27th best in wOBA against RHP last year and they had the highest strikeout rate in all of baseball against RHP (23%). While that data is from last year, the Pirates didn't take many steps forward in their first game against the Cubs as they struck out 10 times against RHP. Edwin Jackson will be the beneficiary on Wednesday as he gets his crack at the strikeout prone lineup. Jackson improved his K% last year to a career best 21.3% and an awesome 12.2% swinging strike percentage suggest there could be even more on the way. Jackson was particularly dominant against RHB's holding them to a .231/.293/.385 line and the Pirates lineup today figures to feature 5-6 RHB's with their best overall player, Andrew McCutchen, swinging it from the right side as well. Jackson might have his struggles against left-handed heavy lineups in small ballparks, but this matchup looks tailor made for a strong performance.
Alexei Ogando (TEX) - Well Pirates fans... at least you're not the Astros because I'm REALLY going to pick on those guys this year. I mentioned it yesterday when writing up Yu Darvish but the Astros just have so many swing and miss guys in their lineup it's hard not to stream against them. With 7 guys in the lineup who strike out more than 20% of the time and 4 guys in the lineup who strike out more than 27%, it's a streamers dream. Ogando posted adequate strikeout rates in his time as a starter in 2011 (18.2% K%) and in this matchup I'd expect him to push 20+%. The Rangers are also the 2nd heaviest favorite in Vegas today suggesting run support and the chance for a win should be strong. Priced in most cases off of his year as a reliever last year, Ogando is the premier value play of the day.
Matt Harvey (NYM) - Harvey was sensational in his debut last season as he struck out nearly 29% of the batters he faced and posted a 3.30 FIP in just under 60 innings. Today he gets a Padres lineup that ranked 28th against RHP last year in wOBA and struck out in over 20% of their PA's. In addition the wind appears likely to be blowing in which should help mitigate Harvey's one weakness - the home run. Look for Harvey to continue to pile up the strikeouts in a favorable home start.
Boom or Bust GPP Play:
Wily Peralta (MIL) - Wily Peralta is a fascinating young pitching prospect. We always look for three things from pitchers when they're coming up: 1) an ability to miss bats 2) an ability to limit BB's and 3) an ability to keep the ball on the ground; and Peralta can do two of those three things exceptionally well. Peralta struck out 8.8 batters per 9 innings at AAA last year and while that number dipped to 7.1 K/9 at the major league level last year it remained above the league average. The other part of the equation that Peralta already has is an ability to generate ground balls. In his 29 major league innings last year he posted a 55.3% GB Rate and didn't allow a single HR. Unfortunately for Peralta he appears far away from mastering that 3rd essential component: the walks. Peralta walked over 4 batters per 9 innings at AAA last year and that was consistent with his previous minor league seasons. In the majors Peralta improved that rate to 3.4 batters per 9 innings but his 41% zone % suggests it could've been FAR worse. Peralta has some upside to him because on any given day he could strike out 6+ and work his way out of jams with double-plays but there's also TONS of risk. He's priced very affordably on all sites so if you're in a HUGE tournament, he's not a bad contrarian play with sites that use multiple starting pitchers.
Roy Halladay (PHI) - In the most optimistic case with what's going on with Halladay I think a wait-and-see approach is prudent. Halladay looked awful all spring and continues to battle declining velocity. Last year he lost his ability to generate ground balls and the home-runs plus line-drives started becoming a bigger part of the batted ball distribution. In addition a number of the Braves hitters have strong career numbers against Halladay and he's still priced in some areas like he's the Roy Halladay of old. I'd pass on this start.