We have a 10-game MLB Tiers fantasy baseball slate for Friday. Something to always remember when playing Tiers is with a player pool so limited, it is likely a large portion of the field is aware of who the “best plays” are. But in a sport such as baseball, where variance reigns supreme, you will need to avoid the chalk in a few spots in order to take down a GPP. Stacking in Tiers where you can is another thing to take advantage of.
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Tier 1OF Mike Trout, LAA at BOS
OF Yordan Alvarez, HOU at BAL
OF Nelson Cruz, MIN vs. CLE
OF George Springer, HOU at BAL
This is really a three-player tier tonight, as we should not expect to see Cruz in the lineup for Minnesota. He left early Thursday night with a strained left wrist and is listed as day-to-day. Given that Cruz dealt with a wrist injury earlier this year and how vital he is to the Twins’ lineup, a day off Friday would seem prudent. It’s a shame because he has been extremely hot at the dish.
With regards to the rest of the tier, we have two Astro teammates together with a team total of 6.4. I would expect them to be the chalk here, which has me contemplating a fade with the best player in baseball the other option. If you wanted to play an Astro here for stacking purposes or just to eat the chalk, I would recommend Springer over Alvarez. The lefty outfielder has the platoon advantage and likely will be higher owned than the right-handed Springer, but that ignores opposing pitcher Dylan Bundy showing reverse-splits tendencies. He has allowed 99 more points of ISO to righties this season.
Trout’s Angels have just a 4.5 team total for today’s contest, but the star outfielder is still the best overall hitter in the league, with an MLB-leading 185 wRC+ this season. He has the platoon against Brian Johnson, who has a 5.37 xFIP, and a .378 wOBA allowed to right-handers the past two seasons. Trout has a .315 ISO and .432 wOBA against lefties this year. Anytime you can get Trout without being the projected top-owned player in his tier, it is a situation to take advantage of.
Tier 3OF Mookie Betts, BOS vs. LAA
1B/3B Yuli Gurriel, HOU at BAL
SS Xander Bogaerts, BOS vs. LAA
OF Starling Marte, PIT at STL
OF Michael Brantley, HOU at BAL
1B Freddie Freeman, ATL at MIA
Boston is another team with a high total (6.6), but this tier is flushed with options, so we might not see a ton of true chalk. We have two players each from the Red Sox and Astros, and while I expect ownership to be concentrated on them, that comprises most of this tier. For Houston, I like Gurriel over Brantley. Again, I think if you stack Astro righties, that will mitigate some of the ownership and still give you tremendous upside against Bundy. Even without the platoon, Gurriel has 33 more points of ISO against righties this season than Brantley.
My preferred Boston option is Betts. The leadoff man for the Red Sox really has turned up after a relatively slow (by his standards) start to the year. He posted a 173 wRC+ in July, indicating he is on his way back to being one of the best overall players in baseball. Jamie Barria is among the worst pitchers in the league, especially when facing righties. He has a 5.42 xFIP, with a .379 wOBA and .234 ISO allowed to righties the past two seasons. This year, righties have a .323 ISO against him! The big edge Betts has over Bogaerts is in pitch type. Barria throws his slider 48% of the time, and Betts has 39 more points of wOBA and 65 more points of ISO than his teammate against righty sliders since 2016.
The two non-HOU/BOS options each lack the platoon advantage and are playing for teams with low run totals. I prefer Freeman to Marte, and it comes down to the pitch-type matchups. Dakota Hudson for the Cardinals is a heavy sinker-baller, throwing the pitch 58% of the time to righties. Marte has just a .336 wOBA and .156 ISO against sinkers since 2016. Caleb Smith, meanwhile, while he has been a better pitcher than Hudson, throws a ton of fastballs — 48% of the time against lefties this year. Freeman has a .328 ISO and .426 wOBA against left-handed fastballs since the start of 2016.
Tier 4OF J.D. Martinez, BOS vs. LAA
SS Francisco Lindor, CLE at MIN
OF Ronald Acuna, ATL at MIA
OF Bryan Reynolds, PIT at STL
OF Andrew Benintendi, BOS vs. LAA
2B Keston Hiura, MIL vs. TEX
OF Hunter Pence, TEX at MIL
Here we have no Houston players, so expect the ownership to flood to the Boston guys. I wouldn’t recommend playing them outside of stacks. Lindor has more name value than actual value this season and is facing a bit of a tough matchup with Devin Smeltzer from a pitch-selection perspective. Same goes for Pence against Gio Gonzalez, who doesn’t allow balls to leave the yard. Avoiding these players thins out this tier enough to focus on the best plays.
Acuna is an excellent play, and an even better one if you plan on using Freeman in Tier 3. Unlike his teammate, Acuna has the platoon advantage against Smith, which certainly is to his benefit. Smith allows a lot more power to the right-handed side, with an average hit distance 28 feet further than when facing lefties. Acuna this year has a .283 ISO and .412 wOBA when facing left-handed pitching. And much like Freeman, Acuna crushes lefty fastballs. He has a .403 wOBA and .317 ISO against them for his career.
If you were just scrolling the list of top hitters in 2019, the name that would stand out as most outrageous is probably Hiura’s. The right-handed second baseman has come out of nowhere this year to be 13th in wRC+, 10th in wOBA and 14th in ISO (minimum 200 plate appearances). And since he isn’t a household name, we can expect a bit of an ownership discount. Hiura will have the platoon advantage against Kolby Allard, a 21 year-old making his second career start. Allard is just the 23rd-rated prospect for the Rangers according to Fangraphs and had a 4.39 xFIP for the Braves’ AAA affiliate before being traded to Texas (he has made just one start for their AAA team). Allard pitched eight innings in 2018 for Atlanta and allowed three homers and 11 earned runs. Hiura has a shot to tee off on this young man tonight.
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