Full Tuesday slates from here on out, save the All-Star Game in mid-July. There are a few stud arms going, but for the most part it’s back-end guys, so offense could be sky high on Tuesday and there are some opportunities for widely available bats to cash in.
Mike Leake (St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, 37 percent ownership in ESPN leagues): There aren’t any substantial changes driving Leake’s early success (0.60 ERA, 0.73 WHIP), so I have no delusions of some forthcoming breakout. Rather, I’m acknowledging that he’s on one of his upswings. He will eventually meander back to the upper 3.00s where his ERA generally lives, but I’m riding the wave against a solid-but-unspectacular Pirates offense. It’s also a two-start week so I’m holding him for the start at Milwaukee on Sunday, too.
Luis Severino (New York Yankees vs. Chicago White Sox, 26 percent): A brilliant outing against the Rays caught the eye of many, perhaps most notably Pedro Martinez, who worked with Severino this offseason. The 23-year-old draws a woefully inept White Sox team that has one start with an OPS north of .711 (Avisail Garcia at 1.185). They have a league-worst 6 percent walk rate against righties, and their 25 percent strikeout rate is fifth highest.
Shelby Miller (Arizona Diamondbacks at San Diego Padres, 8 percent): It’s not great when your 5.06 ERA is an improvement over your previous season (6.15 in 101 innings pitched), but Miller’s strikeout rate is back up to 23 percent and the Padres are still a team you definitely don’t mind attacking with waiver arms. Miller closed strong after a tough start in his season debut and then had one bad inning (all three runs in the fifth) in his second start. The velocity is up, he’s missing bats again and he has a great matchup.
It isn’t often that you want to stream Colorado Rockies starters into your lineup, but even in the past when there was an arm you liked, you had to worry about their usually horrible bullpens either tacking runs onto your guy’s ledger, blowing a lead or, of course, both. That has not been the case this year and it has actually made their young arms a bit more interesting. The bullpen’s 1.00 WHIP is fourth best in baseball and they comfortably lead the league in “Shutdowns,” Fangraphs alternative to saves (though Greg Holland has an MLB-high seven saves).
Projected game scores
Note: W-L, ERA and WHIP are full-year 2016 statistics. GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. A “*” means that the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author’s ratings.
Jason Castro (Minnesota Twins, 33 percent): This isn’t so much about Castro than it is about the starter he’s facing, Josh Tomlin. Tomlin’s been a nightmare in two starts, allowing 13 runs in just 6.1 innings, and while I’m not tabbing him for an 18.47 ERA all year, I think he’s a mid-to-high 4.00s arm because of his consistent home run issue (1.6 career HRs per nine innings). When speculating on catchers, you’re usually hoping for a long ball anyway, and Castro has 20 of his 22 home runs over the past two years against righties.
Steve Pearce (Toronto Blue Jays, 4 percent): Don’t let the brutal start dissuade you from trying to cash in on Pearce’s historical dominance of lefties. He has a .546 slugging percentage against them since 2014 and should be slated for a jump in the order with Josh Donaldson out. Eduardo Rodriguez really struggled at home last year (6.02 ERA, .269 average against) and righties in particular with 15 of his 16 homers allowed coming against them. In fact, 20 percent of the hits he allowed to righties last year were home runs.
Cesar Hernandez (Philadelphia Phillies, 39 percent): If I told you that Hernandez would be the top second baseman on the Player Rater through the first couple of weeks, you’d have likely laughed at me. Even if you would’ve believed me, you no doubt would’ve expected a handful of stolen bases to be propping up the rating, but it’s been three homers and a 1.008 OPS driving the success. The switch-hitter is historically better against lefties, but he has been essentially neutral since the start of 2016, and Zack Wheeler has always been worse against lefties.
Chase Headley (New York Yankees, 30 percent): He’s off to a blazing hot start with his 1.146 OPS propped up by an MLB-best .531 OBP as he’s taken 10 walks against just nine strikeouts. The 33-year-old has disappointed as a Yankee, but he did quietly go 8-for-10 on the base paths last year, so his three stolen bases early on could be leading toward his first double-digit output since that amazing 2012 campaign. He will return to earth, but given that there is an excellent approach in addition to everything going his way (.500 BABIP), let’s ride the wave against Miguel Gonzalez.
Asdrubal Cabrera (New York Mets, 49 percent): The switch-hitting shortstop has been a steady option throughout his career and enjoyed a power spike last year with 23 home runs, his highest total since 2011. He has never had much of a platoon split and Philadelphia has only one lefty reliever anyway, so Cabrera is likely to face righties (.803 OPS, .208 ISO vs. right-handed pitchers last year) after starter Zach Eflin leaves.
Max Kepler (Minnesota Twins, 30 percent): Doubling up on going against Tomlin, and Kepler is the better bet of the two. His career .801 OPS against righties is 201 points better than his work against lefties with 16 of his 18 home runs coming against them, too.
Michael Conforto (New York Mets, 16 percent): All 23 of Conforto’s MLB home runs have come against righties, while Eflin has a 216-point platoon split favoring lefties (.939 OPS).
Scott Schebler (Cincinnati Reds, 3 percent): I’m always down to go against Ubaldo Jimenez. Schebler hasn’t done a ton yet (.205 average), but he has shown the power that was expected (.487 SLG, 3 HR), and Jimenez has been battered by southpaws lately with a disgusting 38 percent extra-base hit rate against them since 2014 (righties are at 26 percent).