Daily Fantasy Decisions: Targeting Top Base-Stealers

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.

STEALS LEADERS (AS OF MAY 5)
Player SB OBP
Dee Gordon 19 .387
Eric Young, Jr. 12 .318
Brian Dozier 11 .373
Rajai Davis 11 .391
Jose Altuve 11 .345
Billy Hamilton 11 .280
Emilio Bonifacio 10 .377
Jacoby Ellsbury 10 .390
Ben Revere 10 .296
Elvis Andrus 10 .288

There’s been a glaring resurgence in stolen bases in the majors this season, largely due to some high on-base percentages among the league’s elite base-stealers. Leadoff hitters Dee Gordon, Brian Dozier, Rajai Davis, Emilio Bonifacio and Jacoby Ellsbury all have OBPs north of .370 and steals totals in double digits—making them hot daily fantasy commodities capable of putting up numbers like the game’s elite sluggers.

These players get lots of opportunities at the plate, are a constant threat on the base paths regardless of who’s at the plate, and should be included in just about all of your guaranteed prize pool tournament lineups for their upside.

While the better hitters among them (such as Ellsbury, Dozier, Mike Trout and Charlie Blackmon) can cost a pretty penny, some of the less costly options can carry a lineup as well. In the last seven games, Dee Gordon has racked up 13 hits, seven steals and scored seven runs—to go along with four RBIs. His performance on Sunday alone helped win big money for thousands of fortunate fantasy speculators. Dozier has scored 31 runs in the first 29 games of 2014, and boasts a 16.2 percent walk—a number that’s bound to regress but shows he’s developing some important habits at the dish.

I’m recommending that with at least one or two of your slots in every lineup you compile, you should include at least one elite leadoff hitter facing a weaker pitcher—and it wouldn’t hurt if the opposing catcher failed to throw out base-stealers at an impressive rate.

Last week’s Tuesday/Wednesday starter review

April 29: Zack Greinke, LAD (@MIN)–Greinke just continues to roll, striking out six batters and walking just one in his latest start, moved to last Wednesday after a Tuesday rainout. He went six innings and gave up a run (unearned), but it’s apparent that hitters just don’t have an answer to the utter filth that the Dodgers ace has been flinging this season. Keep him in mind in all your fantasy games until further notice.

Max Scherzer

Max Scherzer (Photo by Tomasso DeRosa)

April 29: Matt Cain, SF (vs. SD)—I don’t even know where to begin, other than with severe consternation at the late-night developments resulting from Tuesday’s sandwich-cutting debacle that forced Cain to miss a start and land on the DL. While I understand that accidents happen, you’d think that major league pitchers would be a bit more careful preparing their pre-game victuals—and not slicing open their fingers grabbing for knives as they fell to the floor in the clubhouse. Cain’s missed start gave me a zero (the announcement came well after lineups were locked) along with the other 16 percent of contestants who had him plugged in as their starter. Hopefully, Chef Matt will be back soon, and wearing one of those chain-mail gloves they next time he’s toiling away in the galley.

April 30: Max Scherzer, DET (@CWS)—Scherzer had another solid performance (6 IP, 4H, O ER, 3 BB, 7 SO) on the road Wednesday against the White Sox, and now sports a 2.08 ERA with 51 SO and just 11 BB on the season. He remains a trustworthy play in cash games and is worth rolling out in a high percentage of guaranteed prize pool tournaments.

April 30: Homer Bailey, CIN (vs. CHC)—Like Greinke, Bailey’s start came a day later than anticipated because of a rainout, and while the Reds righthander gave up three earned runs on eight hits and a walk (and struck out four Brewers), he earned a win and evened his record at 2-2. I still think he’s getting unlucky and throwing well enough to target in tournaments whenever he’s on the hill, but you’ll have to follow his metrics a little more closely as the seasons wears on.

This week’s Tuesday-Wednesday Pitcher Spotlight:

May 6

Clayton Kershaw, LAD (@WAS)—Last season’s NL Cy Young award winner makes his first major league start of the 2014 season on American soil against the Nationals in D.C. (he pitched a game in Australia in the season-opening series with the D-Backs and a couple rehab starts in the minors). He’s looked sharp and should be worth considering in all formats on Tuesday despite a shoulder injury forced him to miss about a month of baseball. He’s probably not 100 percent just yet, but expect at least six innings and handful of Ks from the best pitcher on the planet.

Jessie Chavez, OAK (vs. SEA)—Chavez improved to 2-0 with a decisive win on Wednesday, blanking the Rangers and giving up just one hit and one walk with eight strikeouts over seven innings. He’s struck out 41 and walked just eight batters in 38 innings this season, and faces the punchless Mariners lineup in Oaktown. His price is still relatively low on most sites, so I’ll be targeting him until he disappoints me, and then I might still work him into a few contests—because I’m smitten with his ratios and his highly effective curveball and cutter.

Other options: C.J. Wilson, LAA (vs. NYY), Marco Estrada, MIL (vs. ARI), Josh Tomlin, CLE (vs. MIN), Robbie Erlin, SD (vs. KAN)

May 7

Rick Porcello, DET (vs. HOU)—I’m not the only one, but I was all over Porcello heading into 2014 and he hasn’t disappointed, posting a 4-1, 3.66 in five starts. What’s most impressive are his SO/BB ratio and xFIP, which are at 5.50 and 3.06, respectively. A classic ground ball pitcher, the 25-year-old hurler has been missing more bats and showing excellent command as he works in a much-improved changeup this season. I’ll be using him as a bargain option to squeeze a few more big bats in my lineups on Wednesday.

Felix Hernandez, SEA (@OAK)—King Felix draws the Athletics in Oakland on Wednesday, and while their lineup is capable of turning some (pitchers’) heads, they’ve yet to announce their starter for the second game of the doubleheader and it’s likely to be someone woefully unprepared to face Hernandez. The veteran pitcher is already 3-1, 2.53 and is striking out 10.3 batters per nine innings while walking just 1.94.

Other options:  Stephen Strasburg, WAS (vs. LAD), James Shields, KAN (@SD), Wily Peralta, MIL (vs. ARI), Adam Wainwright, STL (@ ATL)

NOTE: With more rain in the forecast this week, 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. Of course, it’s much harder to predict flying knives.

Injured position players to avoid
A.J. Pollock, ARI (groin, DTD)
Mark Trumbo, ARI (foot, DL: possible early-June return)
Chris Davis, BAL (oblique, DL: possible mid-May return)
Justin Ruggiano, CHC (hamstring, DL: possible late-May return)
Adam Eaton, CWS (hamstring, DL: possible late May return)
Jay Bruce, CIN (knee, DL; possible June return)
Billy Hamilton, finger (DTD)
Devin Mesoraco, CIN (hamstring, DL: possible mid-May return)
Michael Bourn, CLE (hamstring, DTD)
Jason Kipnis, oblique, DL (possible June return)
Wilin Rosario, COL (illness, DL: possible mid-May return)
Michael Cuddyer, COL (hamstring, DL: possible mid-May return)
Salvador Perez, KAN (leg, DTD)
David Freese, LAA (finger, DL: DTD)
Kole Calhoun, LAA (ankle, DL: possible May return)
Josh Hamilton, LAA (thumb, DL: possible early June return)
Yasiel Puig, LAD (shoulder, DTD)
Rafael Furcal, MIA (hamstring, DL: out indefinitely)
Ryan Braun, MIL (ribs, DL: possible mid-May return)
Joe Mauer, MIN (back, DTD)
Aaron Hicks, MIN (concussion, DL: out indefinitely)
Josh Willingham, MIN (wrist, DL: out indefinitely)
Oswaldo Arcia, MIN (wrist, DL: possible May return)
Eric Young, Jr. NYM (eye, status uncertain)
Francisco Cervelli, NYY (hamstring, DL: possible mid-June return)
Josh Reddick, OAK (ankle, DTD)
Russell Martin, PIT (hamstring, DL: possible mid-May return)
Chase Headley, SD (calf, DL: possible mid-May return )
Marco Scutaro, SF (back, DL: out indefinitely)
Kevin Kouzmanoff, TEX (back, DL: out indefinitely)
Jurickson Profar, TEX (shoulder, DL: possible late-June return)
Dioner Navarro, TOR (quad, DTD)
Adam Lind, TOR (back, DL: possible early-May return)
Maicer Izturis, TOR (knee, DL: possible September return)
Bryce Harper, WAS (thumb, DL: possible early-July return)
Ryan Zimmerman, WAS (thumb, DL: possible mid-May return)
Wilson Ramos, WAS (hand, DL: May 9 return)

Hitters to watch this week:

All Tigers hitters: The big bats are starting to produce and Detroit gets to face the worst pitching staff in baseball this week (the Astros) at home. I’m anticipating monster stat lines from Ian Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera, but don’t overlook outfielders Rajai Davis, Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter—they are still underpriced on most sites and are well worth targeting in all formats.

All Cubs hitters: There’s not a pitching staff in the majors with more issues right now than the White Sox, who have their ace on the DL and are running guys such as Hector Noesi out there on the bump. Noesi is already with his third team of 2014. Bonifacio, Anthony Rizzo, Junior Lake and Nate Schierholtz are all worth targeting against Noesi on Wednesday.

All Indians hitters: The Twins have struggled to get quality starts from their pitching staff as well, with just 10 qualifying starts out of 29 games. Cleveland hitters Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes—and even platoon options such as Lonnie Chisenhall and recalled Nyjer Morgan—can provide a lot of bang for your buck.

Phillies/Blue Jays hitters: I have a feeling this series is going to be a run-scoring bloodbath, even with Cliff Lee going Wednesday against Mark Buehrle, I’m sensing they’ll have little trouble hitter the over. Lee’s not quite himself right now and Buehrle’s 5-1 record and 2.25 ERA belie a 4.14 xFIP and HR/FB rate that cannot hold. Target Toronto’s  Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera and even low-priced infield options like Chris Getz and Juan Francisco (though don’t run the lefties out there against Lee). For the Phillies, you can save some money at 1B with Ryan Howard and at OF with Domonic Brown and Marlon Byrd—as well as enjoy decent production from bargain guys like John Mayberry and Ben Revere.

Fantasy | #Clayton Kershaw #Daily Fantasy Decisions #Eric Young Jr. #Zack Greinke

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