Eric Thames is in Arizona vs Randall Delgado. Yes please. Delgado historically has been a fly ball pitcher with a career 42.4% ground ball rate. You know what Thames does to fly ball pitchers? He takes them in and spits them out and slugs nearly 1 vs them. Randall Delgado throws with his right hand and you know what Eric Thames does to pitchers who throw with their right hand? He hits .422/.576 with a .303 ISO. Player X (I’m sure you can guess who it is, given that this article is about Eric Thames) has a .417 wOBA, hits 2nd vs a below average fly ball pitcher in a top hitters park. What would you expect this player to cost? For comparison’s sake – Joey Votto has a .410 wOBA and costs $4,300 and is in a pitchers park. So, maybe $4,300 for Player X? Nope. Not $4,300. Paul Goldschmidt has a .416 wOBA and in Arizona and costs $4,500 without the platoon advantage, so Player X must be priced comparably to that, right? Nope, incorrect. Player X inexplicably costs $3,000. Player X is Eric Thames (huge shocking surprise there, I know). Three thousand dollars for one of the better hitters in baseball in a hitters park vs a fly ball pitcher with the platoon advantage.
On to the picks once The Thames inspires you to win money…
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Corey Kluber, SP: $10,500 – Kluber is the best pitcher on the slate who won’t be pitch counted and pulled after he gets a blister. And he gets to face a White Sox team who is hot dumpster fire vs right handed pitchers. They combine an 80 wRC+ with a league worst 6% walk rate and the 6th highest K rate. I don’t think this is the place to get cute in cash games and you should just play Kluber.
Jhoulys Chacin, SP: $7,000 – The Royals offense is what happens when you listen to the people who complain about hitting too many home runs. There isn’t a lot of power and not much speed. While there are plenty of good hitters in baseball who don’t hit HRs – the Royals don’t have many of them. What they have is just have bad hitters who don’t hit HRs. The result is terrible. They have an 83 wRC+ vs righties and they have the 2nd worst walk rate, while they don’t strike out a ton, they also don’t avoid strikeouts (they are middle of the pack). So given all that, Chacin now gets to face them in San Diego without a DH. It’s a good matchup, in a good park with a pitcher who is an extreme ground ball pitcher who’s biggest weakness (walks) is neutralized by the Royals inability to walk.
Eric Skoglund, SP: $6,500 – As bad as the Royals are vs righties, the Padres are way worse vs lefties. Their numbers are as follows: 61 wRC+, .262 wOBA and a .274/.321 OBP/SLG. The Padres are unbelievably bad offense and especially in San Diego where offense goes to die. Skoglund isn’t anything special except he’s almost as tall as James Comey. He’s a strike thrower with no plus offering, but he throws with his left hand and in San Diego vs the Padres, so he’s worth a GPP dart.
Adam Frazier, OF: $3,200 – Vance Worley has a 4.6% swinging strike rate the last 2 years, which is really bad for the uninitiated. He combines the lack of any sort of out pitch with a below average ground ball rate. Pittsburgh isn’t a fun place to hit, but facing Vance Worley should lead to bunch of runs and Frazier should be leading off and will have platoon advantage. As I’ve noted before, the phrase I’ve used is “Respect The Leadoff” – sometimes it’s as simple as playing leadoff hitters in good spots.
Washington Nationals – Teamonator has the Nats scoring 5.3 runs. Vegas has the Nats scoring 5.2 runs. I don’t love attacking pitchers who have a well above average ground ball rate, but Cashner is so bad at getting swings and misses (5.8%) and so generous with free passes (11.4%) that you can’t pass up the chance to attack him. Focus on Nats who have power and can hit GB-pitchers well – Harper, Murphy, Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon stand out to me. And if Dusty Baker makes a bad decision and has Brian Goodwin batting 2nd, he’s too cheap at $2,100 not to play, given the matchup and total.
Cleveland Indians – Miguel Gonzalez over the last 2 years has combined a well below average ground ball rate (39.6%) with a well below average K% (16.4%) and an above average walk rate (7.1%). The entire team is in play vs Miguel Gonzalez, you can play anyone and everyone.
Boston Red Sox – Jordan Zimmermann is no longer a low walk, medium strikeout guy who throws a lot of innings. He’s now a guy who walks some guys, gets no strikeouts and is an extreme fly baller. For a team with a high total, the only players I really like are Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts. Benintendi is too cheap at $2,900 and is an excellent cash game play and Mookie Betts is coming in at $3,800, which is a pretty good price for such an elite hitter who won’t continue to have a .257 BABIP. I’m not wild about Bogaerts because he’s once again not hitting the ball with any authority, but when a total is this high across the board, anyone who hits in the top of the order is a defensible play.
Detroit Tigers – Brian Johnson has pitched quite well this year, striking out 24.6% and only walking 5.3%, but with a 32.5% ground ball rate. His Minor League numbers don’t support this sort of strikeout rate and walk rate, and he’s only averaging around 87 mph this year. If you’re a believer in a lefty throwing 87 mph with his fly ball rate continuing to dominate the league, you’d obviously not want to play the Tigers. But, I’m a believer that he’s a pitcher who should pitch more to his projections than how he’s pitched in his 14 innings this year. You want to target Johnson with power hitting right handers and that’s pretty much the entire Tigers lineup. Nick Castellanos is too cheap at $2,800 for someone with his power. Miguel Cabrera is one of the best hitters in baseball and someone of his skills should never be priced as cheap as $3,600. JD Martinez is always an elite play vs lefties and even more so vs a fly ball lefty where he does even more damage. Justin Upton is another option who demolishes fly ballers and lefties. Kinsler is decent, but he’s clearly not as good as the the other 3 and not as cheap as Castellanos, so he’s more of a GPP pivot or in a Tigers stack.
Michael Conforto, OF: $4,000 – Conforto is smashing righties for a .422 wOBA. Julio Teheran has always been a little overrated and this year he’s been legitimately awful with a 5.41 xFIP. Teheran vs lefties this year has been abysmal with a -1.2% K-BB%. Yes. You read that right. He’s walked more lefties than he’s struck out and over his career, he’s struggled vs lefties (7.6% K-BB% and a 4.83xFIP).
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS: $2,900 – Cabrera is just flat out too cheap for a lefty hitting at the top of the lineup vs Teheran. Given the lack of other good SS on this slate, I don’t even think I have to write too much more. Play him.
Gregor Blanco, OF: $2,800 – Zach Davies is an uninspiring pitcher, and while Arizona is not Coors, it still remains one of the best hitters parks in baseball (at least until they start using the humidor). Blanco is usually the leadoff batter for Arizona with Pollock out. Although Blanco isn’t a good hitter, as I’ve often stressed in this column, sometimes you just have to #respecttheleadoff and play the inexpensive leadoff batter for a good offense in a good hitters park. I’ve recommended Andrew Romine and Dixon Machado in similar spots, and Blanco’s no worse than either of them. Finally, I repeat the point I always make whenever I recommend Gregor Blanco – if for some reason Reymond Fuentes is playing and batting leadoff instead of Blanco, he’s not quite as good but he’s also cheaper so he’s also quite playable.
Jake Lamb, 3B: $4,200 – Now we get to the good hitters on this team. Jake Lamb is proving last year’s .249/.332/.509 was no fluke as he’s currently doing .286/.376/.576 (.392 wOBA) for the season. He’s also continuing his beyond absurd splits (this year he’s at .440 wOBA versus righties and .240 versus lefties), and while it’s doubtful someone has THAT extreme splits (they will probably regress a bit as the season wears on), it’s clear he’s a fairly extreme platoon player, and is a masher against righties and worthless against lefties. Thankfully, Zach Davies is a righty.
David Peralta, OF: $3,400 – I’ve recommended Peralta a few times this season, pointing out that (as of the time of that writing), Peralta had returned to his 2015 form. However, he has struggled a bit in the intervening weeks, and his 2017 now looks like a weird combination where he’s kept the walk rate of his good season, improved his contact rate, but somehow lost all power (even worse than his 2016). However, there is some silver lining – he apparently still can mash when he’s playing in the hitter’s paradise that is his home stadium. Small sample size beware – he’s doing .320/.382/.500 at home and .276/.326/.356 on the road. That home line looks very much like his 2015. That away line is even worse than his 2016. While the “truth” is somewhere in the middle, he’s at home, versus a righty (he’s also had a fairly big split in his career), and not too expensive at $3,400.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B: $4,500 – While I think Goldschmidt is certainly in a good spot to do well today, it’s actually tough to recommend him because two of the previous listed teams (Tigers and Indians) feature three 1Bs in better matchups, and all three are $900 or $1,000 cheaper. But I did feel I should at least mention Goldschmidt so that if you want to stack Arizona, you don’t forget to include their best hitter.
Chris Herrmann, C: $2,200 – I’m not a fan of paying up for catcher, so I often just look for someone with good power in a decent spot who is cheap and hope for the best. Herrmann beasted last year (.284/.352/.493) and has stunk this season (.155/.276/.357), but since you’re reading this article on a site that does fairly advanced baseball analytics, your brain probably immediately went to “BABIP!” – and sure enough, his 2016 BABIP was .364, and his 2017 BABIP is .145. His fairly-impressive-for-a-catcher-ISO has stayed the same – .209 last year, .202 this year. His K-rate has dropped and his BB-rate has actually increased. The only difference was he was absurdly lucky last year on balls in play, and this year he’s been even more absurdly unlucky. He’s $2,200 and that’s a severe underprice for him once he starts having normal, standard luck on balls in play.
Logan Forsythe, 3B: $2,500. Amir Garrett is below average in ground balls (42.6%), walking way too many batters (10.4%), and his K-rate is also well below average (17.0%). While he’s gotten slightly unlucky in sporting a 7.17 ERA, it’s not like his 5.23 xFIP is anything resembling acceptable. He’s actually shown some ability to get lefties out – in the interests of brevity, I’ll simply note the 22.8% K-BB versus lefties, but versus righties he’s beyond atrocious (again, for brevity, I’ll just note it’s a 3.4% K-BB versus righties). I encourage you to check out his insane splits more in-depth for yourself because they’re truly absurd. Turning to the actual batter I’m recommending – Logan has always hit lefties well – .283/.352/.479 is his career line versus them, and his struggles this season have caused his price to plummet into the punt range. Presuming he’s leading off, he’s another example of #respecttheleadoff, except he’s a better hitter than many of my other leadoff recommendations (although every bit as affordable).
I’m Only Happy When It Rains
Cleveland has a chance of thunderstorms a little before game time. Otherwise it’s mostly a west coast, dome day.
Doing Lines In Vegas
In this column I recommended the Tigers and said that the only two Red Sox hitters I have interest in are the two best. So it only makes sense that I think the Tigers at +136 are a good value. If the line moves more towards even on both sides, I’d probably stay away, but if it stays in the ballpark of +136 it’s a good bet. Also, the Royals and Padres are two horrific offenses in an offensive-supressing ballpark. An over/under of 8 is still too high.