Kenley Jansen over his career has thrown 436.1 innings, has struck out 40.1% of batters faced, walked 7% to go with a .64 HR/9. He’s been worth 15.4 WAR over his career, which is pretty good for a reliever. His last 2 years, he’s basically done away with those walks, walking 4% and 4.4% of batters. And this year, he’s down to 0%. Yes, that’s right, he’s walked no one this year. Yes, I know he’s a reliever and he’s only thrown 27.2 innings this year, but it’s still pretty impressive. His 45% K-BB% would be the best since 1946, except Craig Kimbrel this year exists with his 49.5% K-BB%. But, the thing that makes Kenley Jansen so amazing is that unlike pretty much everyone else, he really only throws one pitch over and over again (Kimbrel throws fastball, curve). Once Jansen mostly junked his slider earlier in his career he’s thrown his cutter nearly 90% of the time, which is similar to the great Mariano Rivera. Kenley Jansen is able to get Major League hitters out throwing one pitch over and over again and is one of the main reasons why the Dodgers pen is so good. Now I know you’re saying – this is a DFS article, why is Kenley Jansen being discussed? Well, first of all, you actually can play relievers (just unclick the “Show Probable Pitchers Only” button), and there actually are some theoretical situations where you can justify it (2 or 3-game slates with a juicy Coors matchup is the most obvious one). But more importantly, with baseball (correctly) moving more and more to the “starting pitcher goes 5-6 innings, 7 innings tops, and the bullpen handles the rest”, bullpens become more and more relevant for analyzing whether or not a hitter has a good matchup. If the hitter is going to get 2 at-bats against the starter and then 2 at-bats against relievers, a batter facing a weak Dodgers starter becomes less attractive if half of his at-bats will be against Ross Stripling and Kenley “I Just Get Hitters Out With One Pitch, Man” Jansen. Meanwhile, facing the Twins becomes that much more attractive when their best reliever is Chris Gimenez. So while your main focus when analyzing a hitter’s matchup should always be on the starting pitcher, the bullpen is absolutely part of the equation so ignore it at your own peril.
On to the picks once Kenley Jansen walks a batter…
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Max Scherzer, SP: $12,400 – Do I really need to tell you that Max Scherzer is the elite pitching play of the day? He’s upped his K% to 35.1% this year and his BB% is a paltry 6%. Yeah, he was once traded by the Diamondbacks to the Tigers for Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy. Although, it took 2 years after the trade for Scherzer to make the jump to be the elite pitcher we know and love today. And while the Nationals bullpen is so bad that I found blogs by Nationals fans that want Jonathan Papelbon back (although Bryce Harper may say something about that), it’s much less relevant when you are discussing Scherzer as he leads all of baseball with 7.1 innings per start. Also, while everyone thinks the Nationals bullpen is the worst in baseball due to some high profile blown saves, it’s actually only the 5th worst (by FIP) and 4th worst (by WAR). I know, huge difference.
Cameron Rupp, C: $2,000 – He’s going to bat low in the order vs Patrick Corbin, but Rupp still murders lefties over his career (.380 wOBA) and Patrick Corbin isn’t particularly good and the Dbacks pen is above average, but nothing special. And given the lack of value options on this slate, running a stone-minimum catcher in a good matchup makes a lot of sense.
Edwin Encarnacion, 1B: $3,600 – If you believe Nik Turley’s 2017 is for real, you play Nik Turley and you don’t play any players from Cleveland. I’m a healthy skeptic and would play Edwin, because Edwin is really good at hitting baseballs a long way and has a .377 wOBA vs lefties the last 3 years. And as an added bonus, the Twins bullpen is hot garbage fire.
Carlos Santana, 1B: $3,200 – While I prefer Edwin versus left-handed pitchers, Carlos Santana is solid in his own right (career .351 wOBA against lefties), so if you agree with my skepticism of Nik Turley’s 2017, Santana will be batting in the middle of a Cleveland order that should be putting up runs (especially against the Twins disaster of a bullpen), just like Edwin and will be a solid play in his own right. If the $400 matters to your lineup, Santana is a perfectly reasonable play, but if you can get to Edwin, I would do so.
Robinson Cano, 2B: $3,300 – This pains me. Tyson Ross was a borderline ace before he got hurt last year. He got a massive number of ground-balls and got a lot of swings and misses. He always had a bit of a walk issue, but with the right catcher, he could have cut down on those as well. But the combination of Ross being hurt, being downright atrocious in his rehab starts, pitching in Texas, and Cano’s price being too low means that Cano is a good play here. Texas also has a brutal bullpen, so if Ross is on a 75 pitch limit and uses them up in the first inning, you’re facing a bullpen that tries to put out fires with gasoline. On the other hand, if you want to bet on Ross just making sure he’s healthy during his rehab starts and that he still is that elite guy and he’ll get the innings, Ross would make a good deep GPP play.
Jaycob Brugman, OF: $2,200 – I’m not going to try to spin some stats to say that Jaycob Brugman is some amazing sleeper prospect. He’s not. He’s basically a 5th/6th outfielder who is kind of just there. But this slate does not have a lot of value and since the Rays and Nationals are both facing a left-handed pitcher, everyone’s favorite outfield punts this past week (Mallex Smith and Brian Goodwin) likely won’t be batting at the top of the order (and may not play at all). The other punt everyone’s been using this past week, Jose Pirela, is no longer cheap (he’s $2,800, so while he’s still playable, you have to actually like the matchup instead of just throwing him into a lineup because he’s $2,200 and leading off). If no other value opens up, Brugman is likely to be the only leadoff hitter close to the minimum. And as readers of this article know, sometimes the best value plays are just guys batting leadoff, even if they’re not particularly good hitters. It doesn’t change too much here, but the Yankee bullpen is elite, though a little less elite with Chapman not around.
Josh Donaldson, 3B: $4,100 – Donaldson has a .420 wOBA vs lefties the last 3 years. He feasts on lefties like pandas feast on cheeseburgers (note: I do not mean to demean cheeseburgers, which when done right are the one of the great foods in the world).
Corey Seager, SS: $3,700 – Seager has a career .395 wOBA vs righties and Tim Adleman doesn’t strike out many players, he walks guys and gives up a lot of fly balls. Seager is the best combination of performance and price of the elite SS’s. Reds bullpen is straight up average, nothing to see here.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS: $2,700 – Tulo might be broken. The injuries may have caught up to him, as they do for 32 year old injury prone shortstops. But, we, as a people, are still pretty terrible at figuring when players are stick-a-fork-in-them done, so as long as the Blue Jays keep running him out there and he’s facing a lefty (.343 wOBA vs lefties the last 3 years) and he’s cheap enough, he’s a viable option on a lot of slates. Given the SS options on this slate, it’s either pay down here or pay up for the aforementioned Seager. White Sox have an above average bullpen, if it helps.
Adam Frazier, OF: $3,300 & Gregory Polanco, OF: $2,900 – Eddie Butler is the kind of guy I like to target, he does everything below average except for ground ball rate, which is average. So any time I can get a leadoff hitter and a 3 hitter with the platoon advantage for relatively cheap, I’ll take it. The Cubs have a good bullpen, but nothing that would push you off a guy.
Every Single Milwaukee Brewer – Miguel Diaz is a Rule 5 pick who had pitched well in Rookie and A-Ball…but has no business being in the major leagues right now if performance was the only qualification (I get that he has to stay in the majors under the Rule 5 Draft rules – this article isn’t concerned with that – just that he is not good enough right now to be considered a legitimate big leaguer). He only strikes out 16% of batters, he walks 13.5%, and he only gets ground balls 46.3% of the time…and those are numbers as a reliever. He’s starting tomorrow in Milwaukee. So, target the Brewers, especially the lefties like Eric Thames and Travis…actually wait, hold on…
Eric Thames, 1B, $3,300 – Play him.
Every Single Milwaukee Brewer – Anyway, back to the Brewers. Partly because Diaz isn’t a Major Leaguer right now, and partly because it’s unlikely the Padres let a 22-year old reliever who has only started once this season (5 days ago, when he threw 46 pitches over 2 innings and then was pulled), it’s highly likely Diaz will go no more than 3 or so innings. The Padre bullpen is below average and they are out of San Diego. They get some strikeouts, but they walk guys and give up home runs, which is exactly what you want in Milwaukee, a homer prone bullpen who walk guys. Also, there’s a chance Lewis Brinson is back in the lineup, which would give this slate the quality value-OF we need at $2,400 if he’s leading off, and give this slate a decent punt OF for GPPs if he’s batting 7th-9th.
Coors Field – Given that there is a game in Coors today, I felt it should be at least mentioned. Here’s the break down – Jeff Samardzija is pretty good, and given that the good hitting Rockies are all really expensive, and the not-good hitting Rockies are also expensive, it’s not a particularly good cash game spot. And then we get to the San Francisco Giants – the team with the single lowest wOBA in the league (.284) – by far. They rank dead last in wRC+ too (77). Posey’s quite good, but he hurt his ankle yesterday and is almost definitely not playing (and in general I don’t like paying that much for a catcher in cash games), and Belt’s solid, but do you really want to pay the Coors premium for one hitter surrounded by total ineptitude? Brandon Belt is not Barry Bonds (and even Bonds had Jeff Kent). It’s Coors, so anyone’s playable in GPPs, but feels like a cash game fade, unless a lot of value opens up tomorrow – and even then, a $3,800 Brandon Crawford and a $4,800 Charlie Blackmon (versus Shark) still seem like a tough sell.
I’m Only Happy When It Rains
Philadelphia has a chance of thunderstorms throughout the day and so does Baltimore.
Doing Lines In Vegas
So I just got done pointing out that Jeff Samardzjia’s pretty good, and the San Francisco Giants can’t hit as a team (and also, that their best hitter is likely out for the next game or two). I know it’s Coors Field, but an o/u of 11 just seems too high. I also think the Nationals (-158) and Brewers (-157) are favorites who should have slightly worse odds (like in the -170 range).