MLB Payoff Pitch Week 1
Welcome to the first edition of “The Payoff Pitch” where I discuss the happenings of the week before and how it impacts the week ahead. If you miss a few days of the past week’s MLB action and want to stay in the game then this will be the article for you. I’ll take a look at who’s hot and who’s not, discuss injuries and how those injuries will affect that team’s lineup.
This week’s version will be a little bit different because we have just one regular season game played at this point, but the theme will ultimately stay the same. What has happened this past Spring Training and how does it affect the first week of baseball?
I talked about the Denard Span injury in my National League DFS Preview with concern to Michael Taylor‘s Fantasy potential, but it looks like Span’s injury will affect other Nationals. The biggest benefactor should be Yunel Escobar ($3,200 DK, $3,000 FD). He should receive a big boost in value moving from the bottom third of the order to leadoff. If for some reason the Nationals decide to go with Michael Taylor ($2,900 DK, $2,500 FD) at the top of the order then he would receive that same boost in value.
With J.J. Hardy out for at least the first week of the season, Everth Cabrera ($3,200 DK, $2,700 FD) is another shortstop eligible option that sneaks into a little bit of value this Spring Training. A left shoulder strain for Hardy opens up a spot in the lineup, but it’s likely that it won’t be in the top half like in Span’s case. Cabrera is slotted seventh in the batting order and has great speed, but would receive a huge boost if the Orioles decide move either Manny Machado or Alejandro De Aza to the middle or bottom of the order.
Domonic Brown is on the DL, so now we have an outfield opening for the Phillies. The man likely to win it is none other than Grady Sizemore ($3,300 DK, $2,500 FD), one of the hottest flashes in the pan from years’ past. Sizemore should be slotted into the five hole in what is likely an average at best lineup, but he does stay within that top five in the order we like to target. With guys like Chase Utley and Ryan Howard hitting in front of him, Sizemore could have some solid RBI opportunities when they face RHP. And without getting too narrative street on you, the Phillies open up regular season play against the Red Sox, Sizemore’s former team.
With all of the injuries to the Oakland outfield, it’s no surprise there is value to be had in that batting order. Josh Reddick and Coco Crisp will be starting the season on the DL, but the A’s have a little bit of depth at that position for the time being. So, who is going to replace those two? As it stands, we could see a Craig Gentry ($3,600 DK, $2,600 FD) and Sam Fuld ($3,400 DK, $2,600 FD) twosome at the top of the order. And we could possibly see Billy Burns ($2,500 DK, $2,600 FD) get some time as well with the way he’s been playing in the Spring. He’s an interesting option with him being 1B eligible on DraftKings instead of the outfield. All three batters have stolen base potential and are efficient on the base paths. Gentry stole 20 of 22 bases last season in 94 games while Fuld stole 21 of 25 bases in 114 games. Burns has been mighty impressive in the minors with 128 stolen bases in AA/AAA in the last two seasons. Look to these three for extreme value especially on Fanduel where there is no negative for caught stealing.
Call me a homer all you want, but you can’t deny that the Tigers have one of the best, if not the best, group of five hitters in the top part of the order. I say it like that because Ian Kinsler could hit leadoff or second any day of the week depending on the pitcher throwing. It looks like Anthony Gose ($3,500 DK, $2,500 FD) has made the decision easy on Brad Ausmus when RHP are on the mound though. Luckily for Gose, the Tigers should see five RHP in their first six games. With Gose as leadoff, the Tigers pose as one of the best 2-6 in all of baseball. There is extreme value in being the guy hitting in front of all of that and Gose is that guy. He was 15 for 20 stealing bases in 94 games last season and will have plenty of opportunities to score in that lineup.
Staying in the American League Central, I think this is going to be a great week for the top of the White Sox order. They have a great group of hitters at the top that crush RHP and they should see four in their first six games of the season. While Adam Laroche ($4,200 DK, $3,300 FD) could be risky due to starting slow some seasons (wasn’t the case in 2014), Adam Eaton ($3,800 DK, $3,100 FD), Melky Cabrera ($4,100 DK, $3,100 FD) and Jose Abreu ($4,800 DK, $4,500 FD) are all great options against right handed throwers. All three of them hit over .300 against RHP last season. When a southpaw faces them, definitely don’t shy away from Abreu. He hit .353 with a .462 wOBA against LHP last season.
The Mets have a tough matchup ahead of them when they face the Nationals the first three games of their season, but that should just mean their prices drop off for us at the end of the week. There they’ll be facing the back end of the Braves rotation, which you need to take advantage of. While Trevor Cahill will be a great target for the left handed bats due to his .404 wOBA against left handed hitters (compared to .298 against right handed hitters), Eric Stults is the guy I really want to target for this Mets team. Juan Lagares ($3,400 DK, $2,900 FD) has had a nice Spring even showing some pop and David Wright ($3,900 DK, $3,500 FD) is looking to bounce back in 2015. While Wright struggled against RHP last season (.241 average with .283 wOBA), he hit very well against southpaws, batting .367 with a .398 wOBA. And we can’t forget about Michael Cuddyer ($3,900 DK, $3,100 FD), who has a career .215 ISO against LHP. Monitor their prices as the week goes on and jump on them if the price is right against the Braves at end the week.
Jose Abreu ($4,800 DK, $4,500 FD) – Abreu led all of baseball this Spring with a .508 batting average. He was so hot this spring that he had as many extra base hits (7) as strikeouts and did this in 59 at bats.
Mookie Betts ($4,000 DK, $3,300 FD) – Betts has more hype than ever with the way his Spring went, hitting .444. Half of his hits went for extra bases and he struck out just six times in 54 at bats.
C.J. Cron ($3,200 DK, $2,700 FD) – Cron could be a really good option for those looking for variance at first base due to his price and recent play. There are too many first basemen to count in front of him, so you’re not paying a crazy amount for him. This spring he hit .429 with 11 doubles and three home runs in 70 at bats.
Shane Victorino ($3,600 DK, $2,700 FD) – The Flying Hawaiian struggled this Spring, but still did enough to win the starting right field job in Boston. He managed just six hits in 38 at bats with just two extra base hits and eight strikeouts. This early in the season, I don’t see him as an option even with a cheap price tag on Fanduel.
Brett Gardner ($4,400 DK, $3,300 FD) – This speedster needs to get on base to be effective and he’s doing that despite a terrible batting average. His nine walks and 16 strikeouts really confuse me considering those are both high numbers with just 63 plate appearances. His batting average was just .167 this spring.
Ryan Howard ($3,700 DK, $3,400 FD) – Howard is going to have some decent matchups early on this season facing the Red Sox and their rotation of solid, but not great starters, but don’t fall for him. He’s clearly not seeing the ball well with 22 strikeouts in 70 at bats. He also has hit only .171 this Spring.
*I’ll go deeper into hot and cold hitters and how their prices are fluctuating in the upcoming weeks. With prices changing, these statistics will be more relevant to picking your Fantasy lineup and finding the best bargains whether it is an underpriced hot hitter or a cold hitter who has seen his price drop significantly.