by Owen O’Brien
There are 13 games on Monday’s crowded Cinco de Mayo MLB schedule, which means a full 26 teams worth of players to choose from on FanDuel. Before you knock back too many celebratory beverages, let me help you start sorting through all those options with two recommended plays at each position. A dreaded day off or thunderstorm can strike at any time, so make sure to confirm before contests begin that all of the players in your lineup are actually starting for their teams and that their games are unlikely to be affected by bad weather.
1. Yordano Ventura, KAN @ SDP ($8,400) – Ventura has been impressive through five starts this year, delivering on the high expectations that accompanied him into his rookie season. Aside from a few too many walks the early returns are dominant with a 1.50 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 31 K’s in 30 innings. Coming off back-to-back appearances with no runs allowed and facing a feeble San Diego lineup for the first time, there’s a good chance those numbers will look even better when Monday comes to an end. The fact that the game is in San Diego is just icing on the cake as Petco is one of the league’s best pitcher’s parks, as evidenced by the fewest runs being scored there out of any stadium in 2013. Ventura has given up just one earned run in 15 innings away from home so far and will be favored to snag the win in what should be a very low scoring game.
2. Nathan Eovaldi, MIA v. NYM ($6,500) – Eovaldi has come out of the gates strong in 2014 with significantly improved control and a rising strikeout rate, two evolutions that pair well with his continued aversion to allowing home runs. Maybe he’s picked up a trick or two from teammate Jose Fernandez as Eovaldi has looked like a budding ace in giving up a total of just three earned runs in his last three starts. On Monday he’ll face a Mets team coming off a weekend series in Coors Field and doomed to a rude awakening in returning to the ho-hum world of sea level baseball. The usual suspects in the Mets lineup have struggled for the most part in limited history against Eovaldi, and with the Miami offense riding a relative high note these days the probability of him securing a win with a quality start looks pretty good.
1. Carlos Ruiz, PHI v. TOR ($3,400) – You can’t go wrong with the top options on the catching board in either Buster Posey or Victor Martinez as they’re both hitting well, but paying top dollar at catcher can quickly eat up the margin of leeway in your salary cap. That $500 you can save on a guy like Carlos Ruiz might be enough to afford a safer pitcher or a more explosive bat at another position, and I don’t think the drop-off in expected production is too severe. He’s definitely quieted down a bit from his torrid stretch of a couple weeks ago, but the plate discipline continues to be there and the bat remains lethal versus left-handed pitching. Ruiz is rocking a ridiculous 1.449 OPS in 16 at bats against lefties this season, and with hittable southpaw J.A. Happ taking the mound for Toronto on Monday there’s good reason to anticipate some fireworks from Philly’s veteran backstop.
2. Miguel Olivo, LOS @ WAS ($2,200) – I’ve been skeptical in seeing Olivo’s name atop the catcher projection lists the last few days given the fact that he’s played in only three games so far this year and is a notorious all-or-nothing option with a sub-.300 OBP in seven of the last eight seasons. I don’t suddenly think he’s the second coming of Johnny Bench, but with five hits in those first three games in May and a minimum price tag on FanDuel, Olivo is starting to look like a decent situational investment. You’re signing up for a few negative scores if you play him with regularity, but as an option to free up significant cap space you can certainly do worse. He’s never had a problem in the power department and given that upside to produce a big day, there’s a place for this free swinger in FanDuel lineups.
1. Brandon Moss, OAK v. SEA ($3,300) – The sheen might have worn off the Oakland stack after three underwhelming games in Boston, but they’re still hitting well as a team and they get a favorable matchup on Monday with Seattle featuring tall journeyman Chris Young on the mound. Brandon Moss hasn’t exactly been tearing the cover off the ball over the last week, but he did smack a double on Sunday and can blame a string of left-handed opponents for most of his quiet week. Expect him to make some noise at home on Monday in what should be a lopsided outcome against the Mariners. You could always pony up for the top flight options at first base, but Moss offers the same pop with a better matchup at a fraction of the cost.
2. Juan Francisco, TOR @ PHI ($2,200) – It’s hard to find a more valuable minimum-priced player on FanDuel right now than Juan Francisco, owner of a .558 slugging percentage and a proven ability to mash baseballs thrown by right-handed pitchers. He’s hitless against lefties this year but raking against righties with an 1.169 OPS in 34 at bats. A strikeout or two is nearly guaranteed every time he takes the field, but so is a hard hit ball. He’s launched three into the stands in his last eight games, and Monday’s opponent Kyle Kendrick doesn’t exactly strike fear into my fantasy heart. It may come early or it may come late, it may fair or it may be foul, but Francisco seems likely to maul at least one pitch on Monday.
1. Dee Gordon, LOS @ WAS ($4,000) – Second base has not been kind to fantasy players this year with multiple top options struggling, the rest of the pack as mediocre as ever, and only a handful of unheralded vagabonds having career years left to save the position from utter irrelevance. Dee Gordon is one of those surprise saviors as although he was a hyped prospect in the past, a few disappointing tryouts over the last three years left him overlooked and forgotten. Oh how things can change from one year to the next with Gordon sporting a .357 BA and an an incredible 19 steals through his first 28 games of 2014. He’s having the kind of impact many expected from Billy Hamilton, and with six steals in his last five games including at least one attempt in each, he’s one of the very few players you can expect to run almost every time out. He’s done nearly all of his damage against right-handed pitching this season with a .965 OPS, seven extra-base hits, and 17 steals in the matchup, so he should be worth the premium price tag against Jordan Zimmerman on Monday.
2. Jeff Baker, MIA v. NYM ($2,400) – Baker doesn’t play close to every day so this is definitely a pick you’ll want to make sure is playing before locking your lineup on FanDuel. His numbers look pretty ugly this season, but he’s definitely got pop for a second baseman and has shown it over the last two days socking a double and a homer in back-to-back appearances this weekend. I’m hoping Marlins manager Mike Redmond noticed those efforts and looks at BvP stats, as the 1.083 OPS Baker has put up against Mets starter Jon Niese over 12 at bats indicates an opportunity to extend his emerging hot streak. Baker also has significantly better, if still mediocre, splits against lefties including an even walk to strikeout ratio and both of his extra-base hits. If he gets another on Monday, he’ll be great value priced at just $2,400.
1. Nolan Arenado, COL v. TEX ($3,600) – Arenado just keeps on hitting in his sophomore season carrying a fantastic 24-game hitting streak into Monday. He’s not just hitting singles either with five homers and eight doubles among his 40 hits this year. The Rockies homestand continues through their two-game series against Texas, which gives Arenado a great chance to run his hitting streak to 25 games. He’s got three extra-base hits in his last two games and has a favorable outlook for another one on Monday going up against lefty Martin Perez. The law of averages caught up with Perez in his last outing to the tune of eight earned runs, and his misfortune could easily continue in Colorado. Arenado should be a big part of that hitting behind Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki with plus splits against lefties and a seemingly unquenchable thirst for baseball destruction.
2. Adrian Beltre, TEX @ COL ($3,200) – It’s strange to see Beltre priced lower than Arenado, not to mention guys like Marcus Semien, Casey McGehee, and Juan Uribe. It’s also hard to argue with that pricing as Beltre has done very little in the 16 games his health has allowed him to play in 2014. He sits just 24 homers shy of joining the 400-HR club but has made zero progress toward that goal this season, something that seems destined to change during the Rangers two-game series at the Rockies to begin the week. His recent returns may not suggest much value coming off a stretch of only one hit over 17 at bats, but Beltre reached base four times on Sunday and was involved in some serious run production to to the tune of 8 fantasy points on FanDuel. With an .824 OPS in 17 previous at bats against Colorado starter Jordan Lyles and the thin air of Coors Field to aid him on Monday, it would be no surprise to see Beltre circling the bases on his first round-tripper of the year.
1. Jed Lowrie, OAK v. SEA ($3,300) – Lowrie has been an extra-base hit machine with nine doubles and two homers this season while occupying a central part in the heart of the Oakland lineup. He’s also taken his usually reliable plate discipline to another level with 20 walks against just 14 strikeouts through his first 29 games. A .400 OBP seems an inevitability and the extra-base hits should keep coming with that kind of discerning eye. As I mentioned with Brandon Moss above, Lowrie should benefit from a matchup against soft-tosser Chris Young and helpful splits against right-handed pitching in general. Oakland’s shortstop is rocking a .427 OBP with eight extra-base hits and nearly twice as many walks as strikeouts when facing righties this year. He’s also hit a double in each of his last two games and could be heating up again after a bit of a quiet stretch last week.
2. Jose Reyes, TOR @ PHI ($3,300) – Just about everyone who’s drafted Jose Reyes in either season-long or daily fantasy baseball leagues has been burned by him on more than one occasion, which makes him as untrustworthy a fantasy asset as they come. Still, even sporting a sub-.200 batting average with as many DL stints as homers and steals this season, Reyes is not to be overlooked in the world of position scarcity at shortstop. He’s got a double in each of his last two games and brings an enticing 1.171 OPS over a long history of 38 previous plate appearances against Philly starter Kyle Kendrick into Monday’s game. With Reyes sticking in Toronto’s leadoff spot and finally starting to break the ice, expect a helpful outcome in what should be a high-scoring game.
1. Giancarlo Stanton, MIA v. NYM ($4,500) – I try to steer clear of the super obvious names in these recommendations but sometimes it’s helpful to identify the best high-priced options if you have leftover salary cap, and other times there’s a player with such a ridiculously good storyline that they’re a great value despite the luxury price tag. Stanton fits both categories mightily with countless reasons to play him on Monday. Aside from the 17 extra-base hits he’s already ripped this season, he boasts a 1.073 OPS against left-handed pitching and an even better 1.151 OPS with two homers in 20 plate appearances against Mets lefty Jon Niese. Stanton has also produced far superior results at home this year and he’s riding a hot streak with a double and two homers in his last two games and seven extra-base hits in his last 10 games. All signs point to another big game from the monster in Miami.
2. Mike Morse, SFG @ PIT ($3,600) – While I recommend spending on a big name outfielder or two this time around, you’ll probably need to fill in at least one spot with a more reasonably priced option. I gave serious consideration to Coco Crisp, but Mike Morse offers a sheer power advantage and carries a more impressive stretch of productivity from late April and early May into Monday’s games. Morse had a quiet Sunday but prior to that had eight hits in his five previous games including two doubles and two home runs. He’s hit both righties and lefties hard this year but has been more consistent against lefties with a 1.025 OPS and eight extra-base hits in 60 at bats. The Pirates are throwing lefty Jeff Locke for the first time this season on Monday, and with Locke’s minor-league ERA sitting at 5.04 in 2014 to date expect the fireworks to continue for Morse.