Note: All player prices are as of Friday (5/2), with the exception of players in action (and available) Thursday night, whose prices are based on Thursday’s games.
Teams playing Thursday night: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox; Seattle Mariners at New York Yankees; Milwaukee Brewers at Cincinnati Reds; Atlanta Braves at Miami Marlins; Toronto Blue Jays at Kansas City Royals; New York Mets at Colorado Rockies
Now, on to some of the top plays for the first weekend of May….
Hiroki Kuroda, NYY (Thu. vs. SEA), $7100 – Kuroda’s off to a slow start and took a beating from the Angels last time out, but he should turn things around Thursday night, with a friendly matchup that’s made even more attractive by a dirt-cheap price. While the right-hander’s peripheral numbers are perhaps a bit disappointing, his 5.28 ERA can largely be explained by a 61.1 percent strand rate (72.9 percent career mark). Sure, an 8.9 percent swinging-strike rate (career 9.9) and 14.4 percent strikeout rate (career 18.1) aren’t what we were expecting, but Kuroda’s walk rate (4.8 percent) looks better than ever. His velocity is only down a smidgen from last season, and that can probably be explained by the cold April weather. Even if we accept that the 39-year-old is unlikely to match last season’s production – hardly a given – he still makes for a strong daily play Thursday night.
Colby Lewis, TEX (Fri at LAA), $6200 – Though it’s still unclear whether Lewis will return to his pre-surgery form, the 34-year-old righty is worth a shot in the dark at this price, even in a difficult matchup. He’s averaging just 88.3 pitches through three starts, so a big game is rather unlikely. What Lewis should provide is five or six solid innings at a price typically reserved for the truly awful starters. The more obvious and better discount play is Mike Minor ($6800 vs. SF), but you probably don’t need any convincing there. With 2 good options available on the low end, daily gamers can either fit in one of the many aces in action, or go for a loaded batting lineup.
Ian Kennedy, SD (Sat. vs. ARI) – Kennedy’s price will almost certainly rise from the $8200 it sat at last week, yet he still figures to offer good value. Facing off against his old team, Kennedy will get to pitch in Petco Park, and should have a good shot at the W given how awful the D-Backs have been. Kennedy’s gone in the opposite direction of his former team, posting a 3.16 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 9.00 K/9 and 1.95 BB/9 through his first six starts. His average fastball velocity is over 91 mph, after hovering around 90 in each of the previous four seasons.
Cole Hamels, PHI (Sun. vs. WAS) – This one is admittedly risky, as Hamels will face a Nats team that has teed off on left-handed pitching to the tune of a league-best .407 wOBA. However, Hamels offers tremendous upside each time he takes the hill, and he should come at a friendly price, after taking a beating while listed at just $8300 in his last start. I might shy away in a 50/50 or smaller contest, but Hamels has the low price/high ceiling combo that’s so valuable for bigger tournaments.
Other intriguing options: Homer Bailey, CIN (Thu. vs. MIL), $7400;
Stephen Strasburg, WAS (Fri. at PHI), $11,400; Hisashi Iwakuma, SEA (Sat. at HOU); Madison Bumgarner, SF (Sun. at ATL)
Josmil Pinto, C, MIN, $3600 – Pinto was one of April’s more pleasant surprises, as his five home runs in 83 plate appearances came along with a sky-high 20.5 percent walk rate. Walks may not have the same value in the fantasy game that they have in real life, but the indicator of good plate discipline is an excellent sign for Pinto’s chances to maintain his early success. The 25-year-old catcher raked in the minors and did the same during last season’s call-up, so it’s not as if this came out of nowhere.
Edwin Encaranacion, 1B, TOR, $3800 – The cheap price tag may not last beyond Thursday and Friday, as the slow-starting Encarnacion is suddenly on fire. Heading into Thursday, he has four extra-base hits (one home run) and five RBI over his last three games, yet his Friday price is only up $100 to $3900. Even when he gets back to the more expensive side of things, a hot Encarnacion will be worth a close look.
Scooter Gennett, 2B/SS, MIL, $4000/$3400 – Gennett isn’t a great choice at this price against Homer Bailey on Thursday, but he’s scheduled to drop down to $3400 for Friday. With the Brewers playing at Great American Ballpark and only scheduled to face right-handed starters, Gennett should be a strong play all weekend. His lineup spot is worth keeping a close eye on, as he’s mostly hit toward the top of the order recently, but could drop down to No. 6 or 7 some days, particularly if the Brewers get Ryan Braun (oblique) back soon.
Jose Reyes, SS, TOR, $4000 – Reyes is making a second straight appearance in this space, despite his early struggles at the plate. There’s little question that he has looked bad thus far, but the track record is just too strong to put much emphasis on 48 plate appearances. At a position with only a few strong hitters, you can get arguably the second or third best of the bunch for the eighth-highest price. Clear top dog Troy Tulowitzki is now listed at a sky-high $6,100.
Danny Valencia, 2B/3B, KC, $2600 – Valencia isn’t a very good player, but he owns a career .381 wOBA against left-handed pitching, and the Royals face manageable southpaws on Thursday (Toronto’s Mark Buehrle) and Saturday (Detroit’s Drew Smyly). If Valencia can maintain his platoon with the flailing Mike Moustakas, the 29-year-old should be a strong value play against lefties for a while.
Wil Myers, OF, TB, $3200 – Myers isn’t off to a strong start at the plate, but it’s not like he’s a complete mess, either. With the Rays facing three lefties (Thu-Fri-Sun) in the next four days, this would be as good of a time as any for the talented young outfielder to get going. The price is quite obviously attractive, and Myers typically bats either third, fourth, or fifth against southpaws.
Jason Heyward, OF, ATL, $3200 – Heyward still carries a surprisingly low price, even though his slow start no longer seems worrisome. He hasn’t homered since Apr. 10, but he’s 13-for-43 (.302 BA) over his last 10 games and 5-for-21 (.238 BA) over his last five. The numbers aren’t impressive, but they’re enough to tell us that Heyward’s approach is just fine, and he should get going soon. Seemingly a victim of poor batted-ball luck last season, the sweet-swinging lefty is still a strong bounce-back candidate. His early 22.6 percent strikeout rate isn’t what you’d like to see, but his swinging-strike rate (9.5 percent) matches up perfectly with his career-long mark.
Other intriguing options: Brian McCann, C, NYY, $3200; Joey Votto, 1B, CIN, $4000; Todd Frazier, 1B/3B, CIN, $3400; Casey McGehee, 1B/3B, MIA, $3000 ($3200); Desmond Jennings, OF, TB, $3800; Alfonso Soriano, OF, NYY, $3800; Yoenis Cespedes, OF, OAK, $4200