The Contrarian Corner will provide a list of players that can separate your MLB lineups from the rest of the pack. We’ll take a look at those players that will likely be low-owned, who have high-upside for the day. Here is the list of today’s daily fantasy baseball picks in the Contrarian Corner at DraftKings.
Jimmy Nelson ($6,200) – Milwaukee Brewers – On a night loaded with star-caliber pitchers, Nelson might fly below the radar. His 4.03 ERA will turn some gamers off, but with just five starts, that’s muddied by an ugly 2.1 inning, seven earned run clunker on April 27. His 9.7% walk rate is greatly impacted by that ugly turn too. What Nelson does really well is keep the ball on the ground, 51.3%, according to FanGraphs, and miss bats. His 21.1% strikeout rate is a tick above league average (20.0%), but it’s a poor reflection of his ability to avoid contact. His 11.4% swinging strike rate is tied for the 10th highest among qualified starters with Felix Hernandez. Elite company, indeed. The Cubs are a middle of the road offense against right-handed pitchers this year ranking tied for 13th in wRC+ (97), but they have a lot of swing-and-miss leading the way in strikeout rate at 24.4%.
Jason Hammel ($7,300) – Chicago Cubs – This might turn some heads, but I also really like Hammel tonight. Yes, my preferred contrarian pick is Nelson at pitcher, but I’ll be using some shares of Hammel as well. Odds makers have thrown a low-ish 7.5 run total on the game, per Pinnacle Sports, and the Brewers are one of the worst offenses in the majors when facing a righty. They rank 26th in wRC+ (79) and own the fourth highest strikeout rate (22.8%). Hammel’s 3.73 ERA doesn’t tell the whole story as his ERA estimators all like his work much more. He’s posted a 3.36 FIP, 3.31 XFIP and 3.25 SIERA and has been piling up punchouts, 21.4% strikeout rate, while limiting free passes, 1.6% walk rate. You can’t get a win from both of your pitchers if you pair Nelson and Hammel, but using them together will allow for significant spending on bats, provide you a unique pitching combination that can score you plenty of points if both pitch well (as I expect them too) and increase your odds of getting at least one win from your starting pitchers.
Others to Consider – James Shields ($8,800), Tim Lincecum ($7,500)
Derek Norris ($3,800) – San Diego Padres – Usually Norris is reserved for using against southpaws, and for that reason, he’ll be under owned tonight. He hit sixth against a righty last night, which isn’t an ideal lineup spot, but it’s not the worst. He has a great pitching matchup tonight. Jeremy Hellickson has exhibited a reverse platoon split allowing a .340 wOBA to right-handed batters since 2012. Hellickson will have trouble navigating the Padres lineup and that should result in ducks on the pond for Norris.
Adam LaRoche ($4,400) – Chicago White Sox – First base is loaded with offensive options and many are priced similarly to LaRoche. The beauty of that is that he’ll slip through the cracks. His slow start with the Pale Hose will also drive his ownership down. The left-handed batter has one of the best matchups of the night facing Jason Marquis. Since 2012, Marquis’ .376 wOBA allowed to left-handed batters is the fifth highest among qualified hitters, per FanGraphs. In addition to the juicy matchup, LaRoche makes for a great play as a result of a left-handed batter park factor at U.S. Cellular field of 111 for homers, according to StatCorner.
Luis Valbuena ($3,600) – Houston Astros – Jered Weaver lacks sizzle on his fourseam fastball. Now, he hasn’t exactly been popping the mitt in recent years, but he’s really lacking cheddar this year. Among starting pitchers who have thrown a minimum of 100 fourseam fastballs, his 84.60 mph average velocity is the lowest in the majors, according to Baseball Prosectus. In fact, it’s not even close with lefty Tommy Milone checking in second at 88.01 mph. His diminished velocity has resulted in him taking beatdowns this year. Through six starts, Weaver has tallied a 5.82 FIP and lefties have tattooed him to the tune of a .445 wOBA. Valbuena is one of the few left-handed bats in the Astros lineup, and he’s typically slotted second in the lineup. That’s prime position for jumping on an offering from Weaver and putting himself in position to score runs.
Alex Rodriguez ($3,900) – New York Yankees – A-Rod is the beneficiary of Nolan Arenado facing a lefty at Coors Field and Josh Donaldson facing a lefty at Rogers Centre. I wouldn’t advise totally fading that duo, but on a handful of rosters Rodriguez makes for a cost effective alternative with a high ceiling in his own right. Rodriguez has swatted seven homers this year, and five have come off of right-handed pitchers. Orioles right-handed pitcher Miguel Gonzalez isn’t an imposing mound presence allowing a .315 wOBA and 1.56 HR/9 to right-handed batters since 2012. His homer problems won’t be aided by Yankee Stadium, where the right-handed batter park factor for homers is 130.
Jose Bautista ($4,900) – Toronto Blue Jays – Joey Bats is exactly what my favorite type of contrarian pick looks like. He’s expensive and surrounded by many other talented options. That’s one check in his favor for low ownership. The other check in his favor is the result of his .198 batting average. There are tons of better ways to measure offensive success than batting average, and Bautista has been above average in those other categories. He’s hitting the ball for big power with a .212 ISO, walking at a high rate, 17.0%, and he’s reached the seats five times. Since 2012, among batters who have totaled a minimum of 300 plate appearances against southpaws, Bautista ranks tied for 11th in ISO (.264). Power plays at the Rogers Centre, where the right-handed batter park factor doubles/triples is 121 and for homers is 120.
Colby Rasmus ($3,800) – Houston Astros – I already discussed Weaver’s struggles with reduced velocity and lefties this year in Valbuena’s write-up. Rasmus offers gamers another left-handed batting option on the cheap who is capable of exploiting Weaver’s struggles. With George Springer on the disabled list, the Astros have been forced to do some roster shuffling and the result was Rasmus hitting cleanup last night. Rasmus’ price is a bargain for a cleanup hitter. He struggles with strikeouts, but Weaver doesn’t have bat-missing stuff at this moment in time, and that should allow Rasmus to tap into his well above average power. In fact, while he’s not typically thought of as one of the elite power hitters in the game, Rasmus owns the 14th highest ISO (.231) against right-handed pitchers among hitters who have totaled a minimum of 1,000 plate appearances since 2012.
Others to Consider – Melky Cabrera ($4,500), Michael Brantley ($5,500)