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.
If you’ve been following the exploits of some of the game’s most powerful sluggers the past week or so, you know things were heating up for Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion, Pablo Sandoval, Josh Donaldson and George Springer. They all had scorching stretches that featured glorious moon shots and obscene numbers in daily fantasy lineups. But as we saw with Troy Tulowitzki on his recent road trip, you have to know when to get off the streaking train and stop paying up for top salaried hitters.
If you’re going to fade a hot hitter, wait until there’s a transition out of his current comfort zone. For me, the start of a road trip after a successful home stand might be a good time—or when the slugger in question is facing a particular pitcher who might have a good track record against him. While I don’t advocate just looking at batter-versus-pitcher data, it can be helpful in determining when to jump off (or on) a particular hitter that’s riding a big wave or battling a slump. Playing hunches is fine, too, but make sure there’s something to support your inkling, not something random. Latching on to blistering bats for a short stretch is nice when it happens, but there’s no way for these streaks to last more than a week or two. Don’t continue to chase the numbers, and you won’t get caught holding the bag when the bats go quiet.
Tuesday/Wednesday starter review
Jered Weaver, LAA (@ SEA)—While Weaver was hit hard in Sunday’s loss to the Athletics, he pitched well enough on Tuesday to get a victory in Seattle (6 IP, 3 ER, 7 H, 3 BB, 4 SO). His main problem this season has been the longball. He’s given up 10 HRs this season, including one each in his last four starts. His HR/FB rate is at 9.3 percent, and that’s too high for a fly ball pitcher. Since Weaver’s SO/9 is just 6.55 this season, he’ll need to work a little harder to miss bats and focus on getting batters to swing at more sliders outside the zone (his 22.8 O-Swing% is significantly lower than his career average of 28.1).
Chris Sale, CWS (vs. CLE)—Sale’s start on Tuesday ended prematurely due to a rain delay (3 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 1 BB, 4 SO), but he threw a complete game two-hitter on Sunday against the Padres, with the lone run coming on Chase Headley’s solo HR in the fifth inning. Sale was economical, throwing 100 pitches, notching nine strikeouts without walking a batter. Right now, he is sporting a 1.59 ERA and .125 BAA through seven starts. He’s definitely among the best four starting pitchers in the AL—along with Masahiro Tanaka, Felix Hernandez and Yu Darvish.
Felix Hernandez, SEA (vs. LAA)—King Felix was masterful again on Wednesday, whiffing nine Angels en route to his seventh victory of the season, and fourth in as many starts. Hernandez now boasts an impressive 2.57 ERA with similarly low 2.23 FIP and 2.71 XFIP, as well as a 8.89 SO/9 rate. He’s given up just three HRs all season and definitely benefits from pitching in Safeco Field. Continue to target him in head-to-head and tournament formats.
Clayton Kershaw, LAD (vs. CIN)—Kershaw took his second loss in three games but struck out nine Reds on Wednesday and walked just one. He was victimized by a Brandon Phillips two-run homer in the first inning and yielded just one run after the opening frame. His BABIP is at .374 and the HR/FB rate is abnormally high at 8.3 percent, so I’m not really too worried about his slow start.With his cost coming down, I’ll be targeting him in his next few starts since I feel most of his problems this season are due to a combination of bad luck and early season arm strength issues that will improve tremendously by mid-season.
Tuesday-Wednesday Pitcher Spotlight
Gerrit Cole, PIT (@SD)—Cole (5-3, 3.80 ERA, 63 SO) heads to pitcher-friendly Petco Park to take on the Padres on Tuesday. He’s worth targeting in a few tournaments and could even be a decent H2H option on a day with some shaky starters. Cole’s last outing was effective, and he’s been changing speeds well to keep hitters off balance. I’m buying him at his relatively low price.
Zack Wheeler, NYM (@CHC)—Wheeler had the best start of his young career last week against the Phillies and may have turned a corner in terms of confidence. The Cubs have some decent lefties who could punish him, but he’s a clear value on a day that features a few veteran pitchers who might not be worth their current salary because of difficult matchups. I might not trust him in a head-to-head format, but he’s getting strikeouts and is definitely worth a shot in tournament play for his upside.
Stephen Strasburg, WAS (vs. PHI)—Strasburg pitched a gem on Friday, giving up two runs (both unearned) and six hits while striking out nine batters in six innings. He’s been far from perfect this season, but Strasburg remains a solid option in all formats because of his strikeouts and excellent control.
David Price, TAM (vs. MIA)—He’s had a few tough losses this season and he stands at just 4-4, 4.27, but he’s posted 90 strikeouts this season. When Price is under control, he’s among the best pitchers in baseball, and he’s not facing an especially challenging lineup on Wednesday, so I’m buying.
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/target this week
Rockies hitters. The Rockies are back at home, where they make their hay. Charlie Blackmon is coming off a big game and there’s no reason not to start Troy Tulowitzki this week in Coors Field. It’s a lineup that is eminently stackable against most opponents—just make sure the guys you are targeting aren’t sitting.
Diamondbacks hitters. Overall, it’s a pretty feckless bunch, but Martin Prado is getting hot with some big outputs, while Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Montero are always decent options. Gerardo Parra and Cody Ross are OFs worth a look because of their low salaries across the daily fantasy landscape.
Nationals hitters. It’s been a pretty quiet season for the Nats’ lineup, but this series with Philly could give some of their hitters a boost, including the streaky-but-dynamic Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth, who’s hitting .290/.371/.405 this season despite a two-week long HR drought. I also like the fact that Anthony Rendon seems to be getting hot again; he’s got enormous upside and is capable of monster games when he’s seeing the ball well.
Rangers hitters. The Baltimore pitching staff isn’t that awesome, and the games in Texas are bound to be slugfests. Adrian Beltre may be a little long in the tooth, but he can still mash, and rostering Shin-Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus for their upside isn’t bas given their relatively low prices.
Giants hitters: The Giants should enjoy their series in the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. I’m looking for some big games from Buster Posey, Angel Pagan, the hot-hitting Pablo Sandoval and middle infielders Brandon Crawford and Brandon Hicks.
Other hitters to watch/target this week: Matt Kemp, LAD; Yasiel Puig, LAD; Hanley Ramirez, LAD; Carlos Ruiz, PHI; Ryan Braun, MIL; Jonathan Lucroy, MIL; Brian McCann, NYY; Jacoby Ellsbury, NYY: Nelson Cruz, BAL; Adam Jones, BAL; Jason Kipnis, CLE; Lonnie Chisenhall, CLE; Oscar Taveras, STL; Eric Hosmer, KAN; Everth Cabrera, SD; Seth Smith, SD; Chase Headley, SD; Brock Holt, BOS