Before I get to today’s picks, let me start with one specific element of today’s FanDuel slate that I felt needed to be addressed. I wasn’t sure what to do with the Colorado Rockies @ Arizona Diamondbacks game. On its face, the game looks like a stay-away from hitters as both Jon Gray and Zack Greinke are solid enough pitchers that there will be far better matchups elsewhere. However, it is expected to be 102 degrees in Phoenix at first pitch. That is stupidly hot. Arizona normally closes the roof when it gets to be such temperatures (because what’s the point of a retractable roof dome in Phoenix but for using it when it’s insanely hot; you don’t need it for when it rains because it never rains in Arizona). But last night, they did not close the roof and thus it’s entirely possible the roof is open again tonight. If they do close it, then only Jarrod Dyson is cash viable at $2900, and even then he’s probably on the periphery of viability. But if the roof is open, Dyson, David Peralta ($3,500) and Adam Jones ($3,200) are all viable, although neither Peralta nor Adam Jones are particularly cheap. On the other side, David Dahl at $3,200 is also playable, and Charlie Blackmon is in play at $4,400 if you’re running a cheap pitcher and thus can afford whatever bats you want. Additionally, this game has tremendous GPP value as the Vegas projected totals (which are a very good barometer of chalkiness) are on the lower side. And while both Jon Gray and Zack Greinke are normally good enough that we want to avoid them, the extreme heat boosts the hitters to the point where they are good GPP plays. Given those facts, if the roof is open and the forecast remains for a 100+ degree game, roll up a full stack of this game and hope the heat turns enough otherwise routine fly balls into barely-clearing-the-fence HRs. You get 18.7 for a solo HR regardless of whether it clears the fence by two inches or by 50 feet. So monitor twitter or make a phone call to whatever number the Diamondbacks provide for roof information tonight because it’s definitely an important consideration.
On to the picks…
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Rich Hill, P: $9,600 – Hill is the strikeout pitcher today (27.2%) and that says something about the pitching on the slate (Note: Max Scherzer broke his nose doing something that he shouldn’t have been doing and it’s likely he’s not starting today, but if he is, play him). He has a solid 7.8% walk rate and an above average 44% groundball rate. He also has the advantage of facing the Giants, who are garbage supreme with a 24% strikeout rate and a .273 wOBA vs lefties.
Jon Lester, P: $7,500 – The wind in Wrigley is projected to be blowing in at 12 MPH, and it’s supposed to be high 50s, making it perfect pitching weather. At this point in his career, Lester is a below average strikeout pitcher (20.8%) who throws the ball over the plate (7.5% walks) and is slightly below average at keeping the ball on the ground (40%). So he’s not a good pitcher, but the price is good for the Wrigley weather combined with the White Sox bats.
Los Angeles Angels – Aaron Sanchez has only one skill at this point in his career, and that is to get groundballs. His strikeout rate (18.5%) and walk rate rate (12.4%) are well below average. The best way to attack this is to get guys who have patience, power and get the ball in the air. The Angels just happen to have one of these who is pretty good. Mike Trout ($4,700) isn’t the best hitter in baseball for no reason; againt righties he has a .472 wOBA, a .347 ISO and a 28.9% groundball rate. He’s by far the best play on the slate and you should just start here. Shohei Ohtani ($3,900), Justin Upton, Kole Calhoun ($3,300) and Justin Bour ($2,700) are all within a tight 39.5%-41.4% range. Ohtani (.413 wOBA and .316 ISO) is clearly the next best guy and his price is still good. Upton (.382 wOBA and .238 ISO) is back and lengthens the Angels lineup so it’s not quite as bad (they still think Pujols is good and mess around with replacement level bats way too often). Calhoun (.312 wOBA and .209 ISO) is clearly a step down, but his price makes him cash viable. Justin Bour (.340 wOBA and .225 ISO) is one of the better salary relief plays in the slate on a day when you’re going to want to load up on Angels.
Texas Rangers – Adam Plutko isn’t a particularly good pitcher, but against lefties he has no way to get them out and he strikes out only 12.9% more than me, and I can only throw roughly 60 MPH due to my shredded labrum and torn UCL. He’s an extreme fly baller who actually is OK vs righties (23.5% strikeouts, 4.1% walks) which keeps the Rangers lineup as a whole from being one of the top stacks since they will probably do something like stick Elvis Andrus and Delino Deshields up at the top of the lineup and then not start Willie Calhoun. Shin-Soo Choo (.399 wOBA and .229 ISO) is probably leading off and at $3,700 is the top play on the team. Rougned Odor ($2,900, .308 wOBA and .182 ISO) is a very good play for the price, even hitting lower in the order. Nomar Mazara ($3,100, .340 wOBA and .167 ISO) and Willie Calhoun ($3,200) are perfectly solid plays in any cash lineup, especially with Plutko negating some of their worst tendencies of hitting the ball on the ground. Although Calhoun may not be in the lineup as he’s not a regular fixture in the Rangers lineup, even though he should be, at least today. Asdrubal Cabrera ($3,000, .350 wOBA and .225 ISO) may wind up being a priority over Mazara and Calhoun based on roster construction. Danny Santana (.366 wOBA and .192 ISO) is also viable, though you obviously need him to be in the top half of the lineup.
Nelson Cruz, OF: $3,700 – Nelson Cruz mashes baseballs. And since he’s a righty, he mashes left-handed pitching at even more obscene rates than he does right handed pitching (.419 wOBA and .328 ISO). Eduardo Rodriguez is fairly solid in totality, but his strikeout rate dips from 26.3% to 22.8%, and his walk rate rises from 6.3% to 8.3% when the batter flips from being a lefty to a righty. In other words, quality right handed bats are very good bets to make contact, and are also likely to draw a walk if need be. Nelson Cruz, as previously mentioned, is a quality right handed bat – he’s more than that, as he mashes baseballs. While the price isn’t amazing, this isn’t a slate where money will be particularly tight as the pitchers of choice are all under $10,000 (unless Scherzer pitches through a broken nose, something he may be the only pitcher currently in baseball who it’s conceivable that he will). And when Cruz is in play, C.J. Cron (.416 wOBA and .282 ISO) at $3,300 is usually a pretty solid play and today is no different.
Los Angeles Dodgers – Drew Pomeranz isn’t the pitcher he was in his prime, and he no longer has strikeout abilities (21.6% vs righties). His once below average control is now a horrendous 13.1% vs righties. The Dodgers are going to send a bunch of righties up there vs Pomeranz, and we can take advantage. The Dodgers righties are all pretty cheap and Justin Turner ($3,100, .387 wOBA and .198 ISO) is the best play, and David Freese ($2,900, .404 wOBA and .226 ISO) is right behind him. For the low price of $2,500 you can get Chris Taylor (.333 wOBA and .194 ISO) and the hope is we get Kyle Garlick at stone minimum of $2,000 in the lineup as one of the better value plays of the day. Now you’re probably saying, what about Enrique Hernandez ($3,000)? Kiki’s a fine play as well because he bats right handed and is a Dodger and has a .334 wOBA and .176 ISO.
I’m Only Happy When It Rains
Of course it might rain in Washington today, but even if it doesn’t, we might get a rainout. Who knows, Washington doesn’t care for your “weather” and may cancel just because. Pittsburgh might have some light drizzle coming its way. Cubs may have some rain but it doesn’t look like enough to postpone the game. But if we’re lucky the rain causes a late start and it’s even colder in Chicago, all the better for Jon Lester. St. Louis is 50% rain during game time, and we will need to monitor that. Everything else should be good.
Doing Lines In Vegas
If the roof is open at Chase Field, hammer the over if you can get it at 9 or 9.5, and do so with all you are comfortable doing. Note – I have the over/under currently at 9, although a lot of places are not offering it at the moment – maybe they’re waiting for roof news themselves.