Reminder: Always double check the lineup card before rosters lock to make sure that a player you've chosen to roster is playing that day, and check the weather to make sure your players won't get rained out of their game.
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The toughest part of early season fantasy baseball is balancing out which players have had legitimate changes in their skill set and what is just small sample size noise. Now the second week into May, most players have had over 100 PAs, and bad starts or good starts begin to raise eyebrows.
It's important to not put too much weight into small samples, but some players do have changes in skill from one season to the next, whether declines or developments, and that can be difficult to pinpoint. I don't subscribe to the idea that offseasons are arbitrary endpoints; 5 months is a long time to be off from live baseball games, especially for a sport that is so timing heavy, and sometimes players start their declines or ascensions without much notice. Players also work on new techniques and concepts all off season and in spring training, and sometimes a light goes off. Justin Turner is a good example of this; he completely changed his swing during the 2013-14 winter and hit to a very high level in 2014 and 2015.
A good example of early season SSS is Lorenzo Cain. He raised his wRC+ by 27% in just one night when he hit 3 HR at Yankee Stadium Tuesday. The overall production line was night and day, and it changed so quickly. He went from a significantly below average hitter numbers wise to a slightly above average hitter overnight, but I doubt his skill set changed all that much in just one night unless he made some sort of pregame adjustment that fueled the home runs.
Another example is David Price. Price had been a very high level pitcher prior to this year, but is currently running a 6.75 ERA. His FIP and strand rate suggests his ERA will bounce back into a similar range that it's always been, but FIP is not a gospel stat because it doesn't take into account the type of contact a pitcher allows, and Price has some concerning measures. His velocity is down, he's giving up more line drives and he's even admitting himself that he isn't getting away with mistake pitches as often anymore with his drop in velocity. So using Price's overall line dating back to the start of last season might not paint the best picture for this year, because there's a chance his skill set isn't the same as it was then. It's a difficult thing for a fantasy owner to balance.
Anyway, onto today's Thursday game.
The pitching option I like most, considering price and matchup, is Vincent Velasquez ($9,100) vs an anemic Braves offense. As of the time I'm writing this, the Braves have the worst ISO (.076) and wRC+ (65) against RHP this year. Velasquez is blossoming into an outstanding starting pitcher on the back of a 30% strikeout rate, 2.75 FIP, and 11.7% swinging strike rate. It's led to a 2.17 ERA so far. His change up is also developing into a solid third pitch, which has helped hold lefties to a .177/.270/.303 slash against him. Velasquez has gone less than 6 innings only once all year, and he looks to be a good bet to prevent runs and get strikeouts. Run support will likely be limited, though, because the Phillies offense is the 2nd least productive offense in baseball vs RHP behind only the Braves.
For hitting, two matchups stand out. The first is in Baltimore. Mike Pelfrey takes his 6 ERA and 6 FIP to Camden Yards to take on the Orioles, who have second highest wRC+ against RHP at 127 and third best ISO at .196. The best of the Orioles is Manny Machado ($4,300), who has hit RHP to an outrageously good 230 wRC+ and .411 ISO, including a 260 wRC+ and .481 ISO at home against RHP. Those are Ruthian numbers, and Machado appears to be making legitimate improvements in skill level this year. ISO stabilizes around 160 AB, and Machado is about two weeks away from that point. It's incredibly difficult to maintain an ISO over .400 and a wRC+ over 200 for a full season; the only players who have done that are Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, and Mark McGwire, so Machado is almost certainly going to regress at some point, but I expect him to continue to hit at an MVP type level, well above what he hit last season.
The second matchup that stands out is in in California. St. Louis takes their 124 team wRC+ vs RHP, third best in baseball, to Anaheim to face Jered Weaver, who tops out at 84 mph and has been significantly below average this year. A guy from that lineup who is priced under 3k is Brandon Moss ($2,900), who has hit RHP to a 130 wRC+ and .348 ISO this year. The ISO is especially encouraging.
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