FanDuel MLB Plays for Monday, April 14th
by Owen O’Brien (follow Owen on Twitter @0wen0Brien)
We’re barely two weeks into the 2014 MLB season and already there’s been an abundance of compelling stories and thrilling outcomes on FanDuel. Whether you’re sitting on top of the world, struggling to dig yourself out of an early hole, or riding that fine line in between don’t forget that we’re just fighting the skirmishes of a much larger battle with so much of the season left to come. It starts with nine games on Monday’s schedule, and I’m here to help you sort through all those potential options with two recommended plays at each position. A dreaded day off or thunderstorm can strike at any time, so make sure to confirm that all of the players you include in your roster are actually in their team’s starting lineups and that the games are unlikely to be affected by bad weather before contests begin.
1. Ervin Santana, ATL @ PHI ($6,500) – Santana was brilliant in his first outing of the season on April 9th giving up just three hits in eight shutout innings with six strikeouts and no walks against the Mets. Philadelphia should offer a little bit more resistance on Monday, but Santana has pretty good numbers against the important Phillies in their limited historical matchups. It’s easy to forget how good he was last year with his career having been a memoir of inconsistency for almost a decade, but it looks like Santana is poised to carried his strong second half of 2013 into the beginning of 2014. Atlanta has some hot hitters right now and even if the Phils put a couple on the board, Santana should be in line for the win with a strong bullpen behind him.
2. Jesse Chavez, OAK @ LAA ($4,900) – The pitching ranks are a bit thinner than usual on Monday, which could lead many FanDuel users to go cheap at the position. If that’s your plan, Jesse Chavez is my top available option under $6,500 in salary. The young Oakland hurler has made two fine starts already this season giving up just one earned run in each while striking out 13 and walking only two. He’s averaged 12 fantasy points per outing even though he has yet to get a decision, something that seems destined to change on Monday one way or the other. The Angels are not the easiest matchup and might do some surface damage against Chavez, but Los Angeles is fielding a shaky opposing starter in Hector Santiago that could give an early lead to Oakland and a comfort zone to Chavez.
1. Russell Martin, PIT @ CIN ($3,000) – Martin is riding a four-game hitting streak with three extra-base hits into the Pirates’ series in Cincinnati. He’s also coming off of a day off on Sunday, which means he’s pretty likely to be behind the plate on Monday facing off against an aptly named Homer Bailey. Martin has swatted two homeruns off of Bailey in past meetings, posting an 1.186 OPS in 14 career at bats versus the Reds starter. Due to the small sample size BvP alone isn’t necessarily a mandate to play a hitter, but combined with a hot streak and recent power as in the case of Martin, you’re starting to build a compelling story. I expect an extra-base hit from the Pittsburgh backstop in this one with upside for plenty more production hitting behind Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez.
2. Devin Mesoraco, CIN v. PIT ($2,500) – There may not be a hotter hitting catcher in baseball right now than Mesoraco, owner of an extra-base hit in all four games he’s played this season racking up two homeruns and three doubles in just 11 at bats. He should get another start behind the plate on Monday against lefty Wandy Rodriguez, a pitcher that Mesoraco is hitless against in five career at bats but a good matchup nonetheless for a righty on a hot streak. Obviously there is no way the Reds catcher keeps up his 1.429 OPS, but he’s always been a big prospect and maybe he’s finally due for his post-hype deliverance after a few quiet seasons spent waiting in the wings in Cincinnati. Given the money he’ll save you for other positions and the way he’s been raking, it’ll be hard not to roll with Mesoraco on Monday.
1. Freddie Freeman, ATL @ PHI ($4,100) – We’re starting to see what the next evolution of Freddie Freeman might be, and it’s pretty damn scary for opposing pitchers and FanDuel users that haven’t been a part of his recent run. The young Braves first baseman is on a nine-game hitting streak that includes six extra-base hits including back-to-back games with a homerun entering Monday. Freeman has five hits and five RBI in his last two games and has an appetizing matchup on tap against righty Roberto Hernandez. I’m looking for both the hitting streak and the homerun streak to continue in Philadelphia on Monday, and although Freeman will be widely owned he’s still a smart play to keep pace with the peloton in tournaments and establish a solid foundation in cash games.
2. Adam LaRoche, WAS @ MIA ($3,600) – If you don’t have quite enough room in your salary cap for Freeman or simply think he’s due for an 0-fer, take a look at Adam LaRoche, the slow and steady tortoise to Freeman’s hare. Washington’s first baseman is up to his usual quietly powerful ways with a pair of homers and a .429 OBP bolstering his .941 OPS through the season’s first two weeks. He’s coming off a bomb on Sunday and although he’s facing a lefty on Monday that lefty’s name is Brad Hand. It’s possible the handedness could bump LaRoche from the lineup, but that seems unlikely given his 1.867 OPS including a homerun in five previous at bats against Hand. It’s a tiny sample size, but baseball managers tend to prioritize these types of stats and Davey Johnson is a manager’s manager. I also don’t expect Hand to last too long, which should leave plenty of at bats against right handed relief pitching for LaRoche.
1. Chase Utley, PHI v. ATL ($3,900) – Utley is on fire to start the season carrying a .500 batting average with three homeruns into his 11th game of 2014 on Monday. Any time a second baseman is slugging .700 he’s a pretty obvious choice on FanDuel, and although I listed his opponent Ervin Santana in my pitcher recommendations above, Utley is the one Philadelphia hitter I would include in a lineup along with Santana. In cash games it’s a bit of a hedge and in tournaments it’s definitely possible for both Utley to have a good game and Santana to still come away with a productive outing and a win. No holds are barred in daily fantasy leagues on FanDuel and a counterintuitive move like that can sometimes be a difference maker. With four extra-base hits in his last two games and eight in his last seven, Utley is just seeing the ball too well to leave out of your lineup no matter who your pitcher is.
2. Ben Zobrist, TAM @ BAL ($3,500) – Zobrist is one of the few second basemen capable of keeping Utley from being majority owned on Monday. The Tampa Bay veteran is coming off a two homer game on Sunday and carries a fantastic 1.067 OPS with a homer and 10 hits in 23 career at bats against opposing starter Wei-Yin Chen. That’s a recipe for high ownership percentage on FanDuel and although Utley is hard to ignore there will be plenty of users swayed by even just the $400 discount with Zobrist. I can’t argue with either choice, but Utley’s recent consistency makes him the top pick at the position in my mind. Of course, that probably means Zobrist will sock another bomb or two on Monday. For those of you that use more than one lineup, this is a good opportunity to diversify with multiple good options.
1. Pedro Alvarez, PIT @ CIN ($4,100) – It’s not every day you recommend a $4,100 player with a .178 batting average, particularly when you wouldn’t be surprised if that batting average persisted for the rest of the season. But that’s what makes Pedro Alvarez a special player, one of those rare weird prototypes that’s just better suited for fantasy than reality. The Pittsburgh third baseman has just eight hits on the season but five of them are homeruns and another is a double. I dare say Alvarez is showing an improved eye at the plate with eight walks against nine strikeouts, and even with a pitcher’s batting average he’s managing a .912 OPS so far in 2014. He gets to be part of the bomb squad defusing Homer Bailey’s fastball on Monday and mixed results like three K’s and a HR would still be a helpful fantasy outcome. It would also be right in line with the two HRs and eight Ks Alvarez has put up in 20 career at bats versus Bailey.
2. Kevin Kouzmanoff, TEX v. SEA ($3,000) – Kouzmanoff occupies a fond place in my fantasy heart as one of those familiar names from the past that disappeared and returned with similar abruptness. I remember him well hitting 23 HR as an up and coming option at a relatively thin third base position in 2008, and despite a couple of acceptable seasons that followed he hasn’t had meaningful run in MLB since 2010. Now he’s been thrust into the everyday starting third base job in Texas with Adrian Beltre hitting the shelf with a strained quad. He’s responded well with at least one hit in each of his first four games including a double on Sunday. I don’t expect consistency or flashy numbers at season’s end, but I do see Kouzmanoff hitting at least one homerun before Beltre returns. Facing off against rookie lefty Roenis Elias on Monday seems like as good a time as any.
1. Jean Segura, MIL v. STL ($3,800) – Shortstop is a bit of a head scratcher on Monday compared to other positions. There are definitely some good names available and even some guys that offer good to-date value for their price, but I can’t say I am in love with any particular player on the board. If you have the money to pay for Tulowitzki I can’t argue with his dominance at the position, but for those restricted to a more reasonable budget I like Jean Segura as the best of the rest. The Brewers shortstop hasn’t done much over his last four games, but he’s capable of a point explosion any day with his diverse tools. I like Milwaukee to put at least a few runs on the board and Segura will be in the middle of that attack, boasting a 1.200 OPS with five hits in 10 career at bats against opposing starter Lance Lynn. That should help him steal first base and his legs and the hot bats behind him will do the rest.
2. Jhonny Peralta, STL @ MIL ($2,900) – I’m kind of feeling the idea of going cheap at shortstop on Monday and Jhonny Peralta is catching my eye in the sub-$3,000 range. I think Matt Garza will have a decent game against the Cardinals, but Peralta is likely to have a few men on base when he’s at the plate at some point in this game, and his lifetime .960 OPS with 11 hits in 25 at bats against Garza indicates he’s likely to have some success. Peralta’s numbers look terrible so far this season but he’s a streaky hitter and is coming off two hits including his first double of the year on Sunday. You can’t bank on the homeruns like you once could with him, but Peralta still rakes doubles better than most middle infielders these days. He’s due for a bit of a stat adjustment and Garza has been known to be a bit prone to the big fly in his career.
1. Justin Upton, ATL @ PHI ($4,000) – Justin Upton really loves the month of April with four homers already this year, all in his last four games, after blasting 12 bombs in the season’s first month in 2013. Throw in the two doubles he had on Saturday and you’re looking at six extra-base hits in four games for the better Upton brother. It’s bound to end at some point, but don’t be the one standing disappointed on the sidelines as this eruption continues over the next few days. It’s hard to imagine Roberto Hernandez bringing anything to the table that will disrupt Mt. Upton, and if Mr. April decides to steal a base he could easily be looking at his fourth double-digit fantasy point game in five days. That’s value you’re not likely to get from anyone else priced under $5,200 in the outfield.
2. Chris Heisey, CIN v. PIT ($2,400) – Every lineup needs a bargain punt play that’s still capable of being the most productive player of the day. Usually even a few crumbs of storyline will be enough to encourage buy-in on a stealthy near-minimum priced option, but in Heisey’s case there is a pretty compelling tale. He doesn’t play close to every day, but having not started since April 9th and with lefty Wandy Rodriguez on the mound for the Pirates it would be hard to believe Heisey won’t be in Cincinnati’s Monday lineup. Heisey has pinch-hit each of the last three days and hit a grand slam on Sunday. He’s also torched Rodriguez for three homeruns and a 1.072 OPS in 23 career at bats and there is more than one song in the annals of FanDuel lore honoring Heisey as a hero from games gone by. Monday may be another one with the statistical stars aligning for the underused and multi-talented Reds dynamo to be one of the top values of the day if he plays.