Editor’s Note: As part of our expanded fantasy coverage, this season Baseball America will dedicate a weekly column to daily fantasy baseball, a growing part of the fantasy landscape that offers a lot of flexibility to competitors. These stories will include general tips and strategy, as well as a list of players to target in your daily games each week.
There are a lot of casualties hitting (and coming off) the disabled list this time of year, and while it’s usually obvious what starting pitchers will be unavailable—since most daily sites provide a probable pitchers filter—there are plenty of position players getting routine days off and a multitude of minor and major injuries to keep track of—whether it’s a day-to-day issue or a prolonged stint on the DL. I provide a handy guide within this column each week, but it’s always a good idea to double check their status and the projected starting lineups before choosing your daily fantasy teams.
Even if you think a guy is 100 percent healthy and won’t get a day off, it’s worth checking the projected lineups, which are usually available about an hour or two before game time.
Last week’s Tuesday/Wednesday starter review
May 6: Clayton Kershaw, LAD (@WAS)—While he gave up three earned runs in his last start, Kershaw’s May 6 performance at Washington showed why he’s the best pitcher on the planet, regardless of the chatter that he’s lost some velocity. Kershaw fanned nine Nationals hitters and gave up nine hits, but blanked the opposition and didn’t walk a batter. He’s been somewhat unlucky, yielding a BABIP of .429 over his last two starts. He’s worth a look in all daily fantasy formats and can still be considered a decent value—even as the top salaried pitcher on the board.
May 6: Jesse Chavez, OAK (vs. SEA)—Chavez took his first loss of 2014 last Tuesday, giving up seven hits and four ER to the suddenly hot-hitting Mariners – although three of those runs crossed the plate in an uncharacteristically sloppy first inning. He remains a worthwhile option, but you’ll have to factor in his opponent and park factors the next few times he pitches, since he’s not missing bats and inducing ground balls at the same rate he began the season. Keep any eye on his Monday night start against the White Sox in Oakland before you consider him for the weekend.
May 7: Rick Porcello, DET (vs. HOU)—After dispatching the Astros last Tuesday (W, 6.2 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO), Porcello owns a .277 OBP-against and is 5-1 on the season. He’s throwing a heavy two-seamer and an effective changeup, and still hasn’t reached his potential when it comes to balancing a high groundball rate with consistently diminishing contact rates. I’m still buying low on Porcello and plan to use him in my contests until he proves me wrong.
May 7: Felix Hernandez, SEA (@OAK)—Hernandez got battered by the Athletics last Wednesday, giving up three earned runs on 11 hits and two walks over 6 1/3 innings. More surprisingly, he didn’t strike out a single batter (the first time that’s happened since August 2008) and still managed to avoid taking a loss. Regardless of his recent struggles, I’m counting on the power righty to get his fastball going and mow down the Rays on Monday night—thus resuming his place among the top pitchers in the AL.
This week’s Tuesday-Wednesday Pitcher Spotlight
Tuesday, May 13
Adam Wainwright, STL (vs. CHC)—Wainwright has gone at least seven innings in all but one of his eight starts of 2014, and he’s 6-2, 2.02. He faces the Cubs on Tuesday, and should be able to make quick work of the majority of their lineup. As a team, the Cubs hit just .228/.297/.351 and have driven in just 127 runs on the season (27th in the league). The Cards bats have yet to come alive as well, but Wainwright still makes a great play this week.
Stephen Strasburg, WAS (@ ARI)—He’s been lit up a couple times this season , but Strasburg got back to business last week with a win over the potent Dodgers (7.1 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 6 SO, 2 BB) and sports a 3.42 ERA this season. His xFIP, however, is just 2.32, so you just know the lofty .375 BABIP is going to regress (in his favor) toward his career mark of .297. The D-Backs are playing much better baseball, but they’re not the most patient bunch of hitters (.306 OBP as a team), and Strasburg will likely use that to his advantage.
Wednesday, May 14
Masahiro Tanaka, NYY (@NYM)—Tanaka hasn’t lost since August 2012, dating back 41 starts.He’s 5-0 for the Yankees this season, and takes the hill Wednesday night against the Mets in the third game of the Subway Series. With his dazzling array of pitches and ability to induce groundballs and whiffs with his splitter, I don’t think he’ll see much inflation on his .289 BABIP, and could actually see some movement toward the .275 mark as the season wears on. His xFIP is at 2.16 – tops in baseball – and his 8.29 SO/BB ratio is third in the majors behind pinpoint hurlers David Price and Tim Hudson.
Johnny Cueto, CIN (vs. SDP)—Cueto is flat-out dealing right now, and while his BABIP of .160 is bound to normalize, the opposition is hitting a paltry .137 off him this season. On Wednesday he gets to face the Padres, who as a team sport a league-worst .623 OPS this season. He’s striking guys out with ease and going deep into games, with two CGs so far this year. Cueto has gone at least seven innings in every start and is guaranteed to get you strikeouts and innings—the heart of most fantasy scoring formats.
NOTE: Make sure you check the weather forecast and any changes in probable starters from the revised schedule. There’s not much worse than a zero from one of your starters – and it’s usually avoidable if you’re prudent about the risks you’re willing to take.
Hitters to watch this week
Angels hitters: Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Howie Kendrick and the rest of the Angels travel to Philadelphia this week. The Phillies pitching staff has a .783 OPS-against this season and even trusty starter Cliff Lee hasn’t been the model of consistency this season. Catchers Hank Conger and Chris Iannetta are both hitting the ball well, and their smattering of young outfielders have done a good job as table setters for this prolific offense. I’ll be deploying some Angels stacks this week to capitalize on the matchup.
Tigers hitters: Until further notice, all these guys are worth considering for your lineups. A slow start from some of their studs made for decent value the past couple of weeks, and now they are just seeing the ball well. Factor in the Orioles weak pitching staff, and you’ve got the makings of some obscene box scores. While Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler and Victor Martinez are easy to remember, make sure you take advantage of the opportunities coming to Rajai Davis, Austin Jackson and even role players like Don Kelly and J.D. Martinez this week.
Indians hitters: While Jason Kipnis is on the shelf, there’s no reason to ignore Michael Brantley, who is really coming into his own as a hitter. Brantley, Yan Gomes and Lonnie Chisenhall—not to mention Asdrubal Cabrera—should all feast on Blue Jays pitching this week in the Rogers Centre.
Rangers hitters: The Rangers take the short trip to Houston and square off against the most inexperienced pitching staff (except Scott Feldman, of course) in the majors. Just about all of the Rangers hitters (Shin-Soo Choo, Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus) are heating up and remain in play this week, regardless of splits.