Go Fishing for Pollock’s Speed

Two pitchers who have allowed the most stolen bases this season are both scheduled to start on Saturday, so target speedsters on this day. Here are my plays for Saturday, June 20:

Infield:

Brian Dozier, Twins, – After watching Billy Hamilton run wild and steal five bases against Jon Lester, just about any player with an ounce of speed becomes worthy of a play against him. Brian Dozier is a rare combination of power (13 HR) and speed (four SB). Okay, so he isn’t quite Hamilton or an elite speed threat, but he did steal 21 SB last year, so he has potential. If there ever was a time for him to steal a base, it would be against one of the league’s two easiest pitchers to run on. The other great thing about Dozier in this matchup is he absolutely crushes LHP. Of all players with at least 30 AB versus lefties this season, Dozier’s .400 wOBA ranks 38th. He leads all Twins with a career .376 wOBA, .237 ISO and .522 SLG on a team full of lefty killers (Torii Hunter, Trevor Plouffe). This matchup simply plays perfectly to his skill set in just about every way possible, so he’s a must-start everywhere.

Mike Moustakas, Royals – I have a tendency to glance over Royals hitters on most nights due to their overall lack of power. Only the White Sox, Braves and Phillies have hit less homers as a team. This matchup for Mike Moustakas jumped off the page in glancing, so I will not be overlooking him tomorrow. In the friendly confines of Kauffman Stadium, the Red Sox will throw Rick Porcello. It has already been discussed in previous articles, but Porcello is relying on his fastball more than ever this season, for whatever reason. Only Lorenzo Cain rates higher against fastballs this season, according to FanGraphs pitch type linear weight. Beyond just pitch type, Moustakas is just seeing righties incredibly well this year; he is hitting .344 against them with a .399 OBP and .487 SLG. All factors fall into place and the fact that he hits second means he should have plenty of opportunities. Let the “Moose” loose on Saturday.

Outfield:

Yoenis Cespedes, Tigers, – Not sure if Nathan Eovaldi or pitching machine? There really wasn’t much difference between the two in Eovaldi’s last start, as he allowed eight ER in 0.2 IP against the Marlins. Detroit’s offense is much more potent, so Eovaldi seems to be in line for another long (or short) day. Miguel Cabrera is always an obvious choice, so let’s focus on the less obvious Yoenis Cespedes. In a limited sample size, Cespedes has gone 3-9 off of Eovaldi with 2 RBI. It makes sense considering Cespedes sports a .371 wOBA against RHP this year, which ranks behind Cabrera and Bryan Holaday for third on the team. Yankee Stadium ranks third in home run percentage allowed to right-handed batters over the past two seasons. Cespedes is a well above average fastball hitter according to FanGraphs, and Eovaldi relies on his elite fastball velocity to get outs. If Eovaldi fires one in at 98 mph, Cespedes may be sending it out of the ballpark at 120 mph.

A.J. Pollock, Diamondbacks, – See Dozier, Brian. While Dozier is facing the SP who’s allowed the second most SB this season, A.J. Pollock faces number one. Pollock has been one of baseball’s most pleasant surprises this season, as he’s morphed from a platoon player to a stud. Through 65 games, Pollock is hitting .306 with eight HR, 31 RBI and 14 SB. Against RHP, he is hitting .295 and has stolen 10 of his 14 bases. With his contact skills, he should be able to find himself on base at least once. If he ends up on first, whether it be via single or walk, you can bet he will attempt a steal. The game will be played in Arizona as well, which is much more hitter friendly than Tyson Ross‘ home park in San Diego. Pollock possesses power upside and the best opportunity he will ever have to steal a base. Like Dozier, do not overthink this and just use him.

Pitcher:

Max Scherzer, Nationals, – Statistics tell you all you need to know about Max Scherzer: 1.93 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 113 K (versus just 14 BB) in 93.1 IP. He is an elite starting pitcher and draws a matchup against the Pirates at home on Saturday. His splits suggest this is a less than favorable situation for him, as he’s produced a better ERA on the road and at night. Do not use these as excuses to fade him though, because he’s facing a Pirates team that ranks just outside the bottom 10 in wOBA against RHP. Their ISO ranks bottom six in the majors against RHP, so the threat of power bats is minimal. For Scherzer, opening as only a -135 favorite is unusual, but he faces off against another solid SP in Francisco Liriano. It’s not the best matchup Scherzer has ever seen, but the Pirates do not exactly strike fear into his heart. As per usual, he’s rock solid.

Corey Kluber, Indians,- Of the two aces, Corey Kluber is my strong preference and here’s my justification: Kluber’s K/9 (10.3) ranks just slightly behind Scherzer’s (10.9) and he squares off a team essentially helpless when opposing righties. The Tampa Bay Rays rank bottom 10 in wOBA, ISO, BB rate, AVG and OBP against righties and rank bottom 12 in ISO. Their K rate ranks inside the top 10 as well, so Kluber should be able to register the strikeouts aplenty. In a matchup with the K upside and low dud potential, Kluber is the must-own high-priced pitcher of the day.

John Lackey, Cardinals – Despite not having the best season of his career, Lackey is still chugging along and eating up innings like he seems to always do. He’ll toe the mound in Citzens Bank Ballpark and draw the start against the Phillies. As you might expect, the Phillies offensive numbers are as terrible as they come. They rank dead last in just about every offensive category against RHP… and really overall. The Padres, who rank 29th in wOBA against RHP, have a wOBA nearly 20 percentage points higher than the last place Phillies. Offensively, the Phillies are the baseball equivalent of a dumpster fire. Target the opposing starting pitcher almost regardless, but when it is a proven veteran like Lackey, you can feel all the more confident.

Taijuan Walker, Mariners – The matchup is far from perfect here as the Astros rank eight in wOBA and first in ISO against RHP. This is more a tribute to how polished I think Walker is becoming as a pitcher over his last handful of starts. Earlier in the season, he could not get anyone out, despite projecting to be an ace as a prospect. FanGraphs wrote an article on just how much his command has improved recently. In his last four starts, Walker has walked just three batters in 29 IP and his stuff has nearly been unhittable. The Astros strike out more than any team in baseball so if Walker is missing bats then he could literally finish as the highest scoring pitcher of the night. He also strongly favors pitching at home and he’ll be awarded that opportunity in this one. This may just be the classic case of an ace taking some time to blossom. Count me in as a believer, so although he’s probably too risky for cash, he is an elite tournament play.

 

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders is a fantasy sports expert with over 15 years of playing experience. After starting several freelance fantasy sports blogs, Ricky moved up in the fantasy industry when he joined Going9 Baseball. He wrote fantasy baseball content and had a weekly radio spot on the site’s SiriusXM Satellite Radio show. Shortly thereafter, in early 2013, Ricky joined RotoExperts as a three-sport fantasy contributor, eventually becoming one of the site’s lead basketball writers. While writing for RotoExperts, Ricky was introduced to daily fantasy sports and immediately fell in love. With help from some of his mentors, some of the best DFS players in the world, he honed his skills and became the daily fantasy expert he is today. When RotoExperts created a daily-focused website called DailyRoto.com, Ricky was brought on as one of the main contributors. He still makes frequent appearances on the RotoExperts SiriusXM Radio show and on the FNTSY Sports Television Network, talking daily fantasy sports. He also continues to write for a few DFS content sites: RotoCurve and The Fantasy Fix. Ricky is a proud and active member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He has agreed to be a writer and representative for the FantasyDraft brand and serves as an ambassador to the site. He has no more access to the site than the typical user. Don’t hesitate to contact Ricky with questions on Twitter @RSandersDFS.

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