Well our "Must play of the day" streak came to an end yesterday as Josh Hamilton wasn't all that he could be. Granted a 1-4 with 2 RBI efforts didn't leave you high and dry but the three strikeouts certainly hurt. I'm just glad it was Mike Leone who stopped our streak and not me, clearly that guy is a bum as only FIVE of the hitters he mentioned yesterday homered. Don't worry I'm back to get us on the right track.
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) - Get used to me writing about Jesus Montero when they're facing a LHP, even more so when the game is in a friendly hitters' park. "The Cell" in Chicago has played 13% above the league average in run-scoring over the last three years and has allowed 37% more HR's than the league average park. Montero gets a matchup against left-handed starter Jose Quintana who has posted a 4.55 xFIP and .336 wOBA against RHB's. Quintana does do a good job keeping the ball on the ground, career 47% GB Rate and 48.5% vs. RHB's, but he's also allowed a 23% LD Rate to RH's. As I've noted in previous entries, Montero crushes LHP. In his career he's hit .341/.387/.476 against left-handers and on the road vs. LHP he's hit .365/.404/.500. With a favorable splits advantage and a strong run-scoring environment, Montero makes for one of the better value plays at catcher today.
Jonathan Lucroy (MIL) - Another catcher who does almost all of his damage against LHP and gets a matchup with a LHP in a great run-scoring environment. Lucroy will get to face Wade Miley tonight at home in Milwaukee. Miller Park played 7% above average over the last three years for runs scored and a whopping 31% above average for HR's. In his career Lucroy has hit .321/.355/.564 against LHP and at home against LHP he's hit .328/.368/.586. Wade Miley wasn't particularly poor against RHB's last year as he allowed them to hit .265/.304/.419, but most of his great rookie campaign was built on his success against LHB's which he limited to .200/.238/.306. The Brewers are rolling out lineups consistently with 7-8 RHB's and as a result it's going to be a tough matchup for Miley. If the Brewers do what they usually do against LHP, Lucroy should get plenty of Run/RBI opportunities and be able to pay off his value on most sites. Make sure to check where you're using Lucroy though because on sites that take into account splits in their pricing, he'll be very expensive.
Nick Hundley (SD) - Hundley isn't a particularly great hitter. He's hit .239/.298/.390 in his career. He's actually even worse against LHP (.198/.274/.322) so why is he even being mentioned today? Because Jeff Francis and Jason Marquis are on the mound in Colorado and the total for the game is 11.5. Hundley is priced at the bare minimum on most sites and if you're going to load up with stud hitters you're going to need some cheapies to fill out the rest of your lineup. If you're looking for some extreme salary relief, taking a shot on a player in a game with a total of 11.5 isn't the worst idea in the world. Francis allows a .357 wOBA, gives up 1.1 HR/9, and only strikes out 12% of RHB's. The matchup is very favorable and the scoring environment couldn't be better. If only Hundley could actually hit, he'd be a heck of a steal. Of course that last part is probably the reason he's the bare minimum.
Other Value Options: Salvador Perez (KC)
Best Value Play:
Todd Helton (COL) - Get ready to read a lot about Rockies and Padres today. Helton is in the twilight of his career no doubt but he hit .310/.411/.483 at home against RHP in 2012 and has gone 10-32 with 6 XBH's and a sparkling 7:4 BB:K Ratio against Jason Marquis. Over the last three years, Marquis has posted a 6.11 FIP and 4.96 xFIP against LHB's and Coors Field is the #1 offensive environment for batters over the last three years (43% above average for runs, 45% above average for HR's) by a WIDE margin. On plenty of sites Helton is priced well below the average 1B and his strong track record against Marquis plus the strong environment makes him a nice value play.
Chris Davis (BAL) - Davis is on fire to start the season as he's 7-11 with 6 XBH's on his way to a .636/.692/1.727 (that's his current slugging %) line. On Friday, Davis gets the benefit of facing Liam Hendricks in Camden Yards. Camden allowed 24% more HR's than the average park over the last three years and has allowed 9% more runs. Hendricks has surrendered a 28% LD Rate and 1.21 HR/9 over the last three years to LHB's. For his career Davis has hit .266/.321/.485 against RHP and last year he hit .2809/.343/.580 against RHP in Camden Yards. With Davis piping hot and a plus splits advantage on the mound, he continues to make an excellent value play. Ride that hot streak.
Albert Pujols (LAA) - Albert isn't the best hitter in the game anymore, but he's still damn good and a matchup in Arlington against Derek Holland is one that suits him well. Pujols hit .290/.345/.581 against LHP last year and Holland has served up 1.51 HR/9 to RHB's over the last 3 years. Throw in some tasty pitcher-vs.-batter data in which Pujols has gone 6-13 with 2 2B's, 2 HR's, and 0 K's and if you've got a dream matchup. There are some other elite studs that will earn potential must play of the day status, but if you have money to spend at 1B, I'm not sure there's a better option than Pujols.
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) - Rizzo has hit just .198/.259/.351 in his career against LHB's and Mike Minor has struck out over 24% of the LHB's he's faced over the last three years. In general I try to avoid same handed matchups (RHB vs. RHP, LHB vs. LHP) but this one really stands out as a horrible matchup.
Howie Kendrick (LAA) - Shop around on Kendrick because some sites he's priced near the middle of the pack and others he's priced more above average. Kendrick has been slightly better against LHP than RHP in his career (.775 OPS vs. LHP, .748 OPS vs. RHP), but last year he was far better. Kendrick hit .309/.348/.448 against LHP and in his career he's gone 12-38 with 8 XBH's against Derek Holland. He has struck out 11 times in those 38 AB's so there might be some boom or bust potential here, but I'm willing to take that risk. In a game with a 10.5 total, I'm willing to take the chance on a player with strong splits and above average pitcher-vs.-batter data, who also happens to be hitting near the middle of a strong Angels lineup.
Ian Kinsler (TEX) - If you're paying up at the 2B position today, Kinsler is probably your best bet. Kinsler has hit .310/.385/.537 in his career against LHP and he's done it with a sparkling 1.06 EYE. The numbers get even better when you hone in on his performance at home against LHP as he's hit .354/.434/.646 in those situations. He'll be at home on Friday taking on Jason Vargas who has allowed a 46% Fly Ball Rate and 1.18 HR/9 over the last three seasons to right-handed batters. His 4.56 xFIP against RHB's is one of the worst amongst starters throwing today and as mentioned before in the Kendrick blurb, the total in Texas is 10.5. I'd happily take Kinsler over Cano, Pedroia and other high priced 2B options on Friday.
Erick Aybar (LAA) - Aybar is hitting 2nd in the vaunted Angels lineup and he's hit Holland pretty well in his career. He's gone 11-35 with 5 XBH's and just 3 K's. Aybar's career doesn't suggest a significant difference in production between RHP and LHP but the switch hitter is hitting 2nd in a high projected total. On most sites he's priced as a mid-tier SS and that makes him a nice value at a thin position.
If you're going with studs at the SS position Jose Reyes and Troy Tulowitzki are fine plays. They both have plus matchups so it all depends on pricing. Tulo is the preferred bet if they're priced similarly, but if there is a heavy discount on Reyes he's a strong value play as well. He's generally been a bit better in his career from his natural side at the plate, posting a .794 career OPS vs. LHP.
Best Value Play:
Jed Gyorko (SD) - Gyorko is priced way down on sites because of his rookie status but this is a player who hit .328/.380/.588 last year at AAA. Some would say that's where Jeff Francis belongs and that's who Gyorko will be facing on Friday. Francis allows that .357 wOBA against RHB's and Gyorko has spent much of the early part of the season hitting 5th in the Padres lineup. With some strong OBP options in front of him against LHP (Denorfia, Quentin), Gyorko is a great value play today.
Expensive Value Play:
Adrian Beltre (TEX) - On some sites Beltre's poor start to the season (2-13, 2 K's) has forced his price away from some of the other top-tier 3B. If that's the case jump on him! Beltre in his career has murdered LHP to the tune of .292/.355/.507. I'm hoping some people get deterred by the pitcher vs. batter data in which Beltre has gone just 1-18 against Vargas. His 1 hit is a 2B and his BB:K (3:1) is very strong. In a very small sample like that, I'm happy to lean on Beltre's longer success against LHP as a whole.
Best Value Plays:
Chris Denorfia (SD) - Denorfia leads off against LHP and with good reason, he's hit .318/.383/.452 in his career against LHP. Certain sites that focus on splits have him priced very expensive, but most sites have him near the minimum. If you can get Denorfia for anything of an average price, he's a tremendous play today. An above average hitter against LHP, in the best run-scoring environment in baseball, likely hitting leadoff... Sign. Me. Up.
Carlos Quentin (SD) - Same deal as Denorfia above. Quentin on the whole is a very average hitter, but in plus power environments against LHP, he's elite. Quentin has hit .242/.359/.474 against LHP in his career and he's done it with a tidy 0.86 EYE. In the last three years at Coors Field he's hit .241/.353/.552 with 5 XBH's in 25 AB's. As we've noted throughout today's blurbs, Jeff Francis struggles against RHB's, making Quentin an above average option priced as an average one on most sites.
Alex Gordon (KC) - Kyle Kendrick has allowed 1.27 HR/9 and a .287/.361/.487 line to LHB's in his career. Alex Gordon has hit .284/.365/.462 against RHP in his career and the rest of the Royals offense is significantly better against RHP than LHP. In Philadelphia I think Gordon and the Royals offense get going today against Kendrick. As a mid-priced option on most sites, Gordon makes for a strong play.
Other Potential Values: Dexter Fowler (COL), Nelson Cruz (TEX), Brett Gardner (NYY), Chris Heisey (CIN)
Must Play of the Day:
Carlos Gonzalez (COL) - Jason Marquis has allowed opposing LHB's to hit .306/.388/.521 over the last 3 years. Meanwhile Carlos Gonzalez has hit a ridiculous .348/.404/.644 in his career at home against RHP. If CarGo is priced anywhere in the vicinity of the other hitter options today, he is absolutely the "Must Play of the Day". On a site like Draftstreet you're going to have to do some maneuvering to get him in, but even there I'd consider pulling the trigger.
Other Studs to Consider: Mike Trout (LAA), Ryan Braun (MIL), Allen Craig (STL)
Best Value Plays:
Dan Straily (OAK) - You know the drill... the Astros are striking out in over 44% of their plate appearances currently. That number will come down, but it wouldn't surprise me if they finish the season in the high 20% range. They just have so many swings and misses in that lineup. Straily was dominant at AAA last year posting a 11.07 K/9 and a 2.23 FIP. He struggled a bit more at the major league level, specifically against LHP (which the Astros do have some of), but because of those struggles his price is discounted a bit. Straily can be homer prone and that's the big risk here, but all the strikeouts should help dim any effects of the long-ball. The upside remains strong for streaming SP against HOU and I'm taking advantage of this one.
Mike Minor (ATL) - The Cubs are striking out in 30% of their AB's to start the season and they've posted a .225 OPS (extremely small sample) so far against LHP. The Cubs have beefed up their lineup to have a bit more splits advantage against LHP by bringing in Scott Hairston and Brent Lilliibridge, but they were the 2nd worst offense in the majors last year against LHP so any improvements are starting from a very low base. Minor also hasn't really struggled with RHB's much more than he has LHB's in his career (.322 wOBA vs. 331 wOBA), he's actually been a bit better. The big issue with Minor is the home-run ball and Atlanta's Turner Field suppresses home runs by 5%. This seems like a good matchup to rely on Minor.
Matt Moore (TB) - If you believe that Matt Moore is going to take that big step forward this year, then using him early in the season when he is priced like an average pitcher is the time to get him. The Indians ranked in the bottom 5 of offenses against LHP last year and have added some hefty swing and miss bats to their lineup (Reynolds, Bourn, Swisher). Moore posted a 3.01 ERA in the 2nd half of 2012 and struck out 79 batters in 77 2/3 IP. He posted a 3.55 ERA at home last year and limited hitters to a .240/.320/.357 line. Most of his "problems" came on the road. He's a future ace who right now is priced like a strong #3 starter. In daily leagues, now is the time to pounce on Moore.
Zack Greinke (LAD) - Greinke gets the strikeout prone Pirates at home in one of the better pitchers' parks in all of baseball. Dodger Stadium suppressed run-scoring by 9% over the last 3 years and has been especially tough at night. The Pirates struck out in 23% of their PA's against RHP last year and Greinke has 31 strikeouts in 36 1/3 career innings against them. Greinke is the only true "ace" throwing today and is worth spending on for sites where you're only using 1 SP. The matchup against Jonathan Sanchez also figures to allow Greinke plenty of run support giving him a strong chance for a Win.
Boom or Bust GPP Play:
Jake Arrieta (BAL) - Arrieta torments the fantasy analyst community because he has the stuff to be a really successful starter but it hasn't clicked yet. His 8.56 K/9, 2.75 BB/9 combo last year yielded a strong 3.65 xFIP but his 6.20 ERA looked nothing like the tidy peripherals. The reason? Arrieta allowed a crazy 23.8% LD Rate on top of a 14.5% HR/FB Rate. As a result, he had plenty of base-runners on thanks to a high LD Rate and a high % of those base-runners found their way across home plate thanks to his homer issues. The 57.3% LOB% last year is about 14 percentage points below the league average. This should correct over time and drive Arrieta's ERA closer to the low 4's than the mid 6's. If Arrieta is a league average ERA pitcher with an above average K Rate (like I believe), then we're looking at a player who is vastly underpriced. You're not going to consider him on sites where you're only using 1 SP, but on sites with multiple SP's his salary relief could come in handy.