Note: All player prices are as of Friday (5/9), with the exception of players in action (and available) Thursday night, whose prices are based on Thursday’s games. Any significant price changes (>$200) from Thursday to Friday will be noted. Prices for Saturday and Sunday starting pitchers are not yet available.
Teams playing Thursday night: Philadelphia Phillies at Toronto Blue Jays; Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays; Colorado Rockies at Texas Rangers; Chicago Cubs at Chicago White Sox; Kansas City Royals at Seattle Mariners, Miami Marlins at San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers
Now, on to some of the top plays for the second weekend of May….
Ubaldo Jimenez, BAL (Thu. at TB), $7400 – Jimenez looked terrible through his first five starts, allowing five home runs and 17 walks (5.6 BB/9), with just 21 strikeouts (6.9 K/9) and an unsightly 6.59 ERA. Then, Friday in Minnesota, he pitched as we all know he can, striking out 10 over 7.1 scoreless innings, while surrendering just one free pass. The low price wasn’t all that tempting when Jimenez looked terrible, but it’s hard to pass up now that he has a top-notch start in the books. As always, he’s a risky play, perhaps better suited for large tournaments than 50/50s or other formats. A matchup against Tampa’s David Price means the win probably won’t come easy, but Jimenez does get to take the mound in a pitcher’s park, and defensive wizard Manny Machado is back in the O’s lineup.
Michael Wacha, STL (Fri. at PIT), $10,000 – Wacha has yet to turn in a dud this season, with six quality starts in seven tries, and a 10-K performance in that other outing. Much like last year, his strong numbers are backed by excellent peripherals, yet he comes at a third-tier price. Among all major league starters, Wacha ranks eighth in K/9 (10.6), eighth in swinging-strike rate (13.2 percent), 11th in contact percentage (73.3), and 22nd in xFIP (3.06). It would take a scary matchup to keep me away from him at $10,000, and the Pirates are merely a decent offensive ballclub, with a pitcher-friendly home stadium to boot.
Nathan Eovaldi, MIA (Sat. at SD) – One of the hardest-throwing starters in all of baseball, Eovaldi seems to have made a leap from decent to very good in his third season as a full-time starter. His 2.78 ERA is backed by a 2.51 FIP and 45:6 K:BB ratio, with an unsustainably-low 10.3 percent line-drive rate which indicates that batters are having trouble squaring the right-hander up, even when they do make contact. Perhaps most impressive about Eovaldi’s start is that he’s done a good job missing bats – 41st in swinging-strike rate – while throwing a higher percentage of his pitches in the strike zone than any other starter in baseball. In fact, Eovaldi’s 62.4 zone percentage leaves a bigger gap between him and second-place Phil Hughes (56.1) than between Hughes and 25th-place Madison Bumgarner (49.9). Eovaldi may not quite be the ace we’ve seen so far, but he probably isn’t that far from it. Facing a lousy offensive team in a pitcher-friendly park, the fire-balling righty should offer excellent value, even if there’s a significant jump from last start’s $9,200 price tag.
Gio Gonzalez, WAS (Sun. at OAK) – On a day with shaky pitching options, Gonzalez gets to face his former team in a pitcher-friendly ballpark. The A’s are obviously no easy matchup, but they’ve at least been mediocre against southpaws this season, ranking ninth in the AL in wOBA (.308) and seventh in strikeout rate (19.4). Not exactly known for his consistency, Gio has been surprisingly solid this season, allowing more than three runs in only one of his seven starts, while striking out at least five in every outing. He was listed at a very reasonable $10,000 last time out, but I don’t like the matchup enough to go much higher. If Gonzalez creeps into the $10,500-$11,000 range this time around, It will probably make more sense to scour the cheaper options. Drew Hutchison and Cole Hamels should both offer excellent upside at a reasonable price, though both are more likely than Gonzalez to take a beating.
Other intriguing options: Ian Kennedy, SD (Thu. vs. MIA), $9700; Hisashi Iwakuma, SEA (Thu. vs. KC), $8900; Doug Fister, WAS (Fri. at OAK), $5900; Jose Fernandez, MIA (Fri. at SD), $12,800; Yordano Ventura, KC (Sat. at SEA); Drew Hutchison, TOR (Sun. vs. LAA); Cole Hamels, PHI (Sun. at NYM)
Wilson Ramos, C, WAS, $3400 – Ramos (wrist) crushed the ball during his rehab stint, then went 1-for-2 with a double and a walk in his Wednesday return to the Nationals’ lineup. He owns a strong .269/.324/.445 batting line through 923 career plate appearances, but given his age (26) and injury history, such a line very likely understates his capability at the plate. Ramos smacked 16 home runs in 303 plate appearances last season, when his .199 ISO ranked fourth among the 46 catchers who recorded 200-plus PAs. A weekend series in Oakland won’t provide great matchups, but Ramos is still a strong choice at this price, and he should be a nice value option into next week.
Yasmani Grandal, C, SD, $3500 – Grandal is starting to heat up at the plate, showing exactly why the Padres were so excited to have him back this season. His .250/.329/.487 slash line is backed by solid peripherals, and the young backstop was even more productive in 2012. He has the potential to be a top-five offensive catcher, and that should come to fruition this season. Grandal seems to be underrated because of the torn ACL he suffered last year, yet there’s little reason to believe he won’t be one of the top batters at his position. The Padres have even given their cleanup hitter a pair of starts at first base as he eases his way back into full-time catching duties.
Jose Abreu, 1B, CHI-A, $4900 – There isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been said, and Abreu is about to run into some fantastic matchups. The White Sox have a three-game home series against the Diamondbacks this weekend, which means the Cuban slugger will face some lousy pitchers in a ballpark made for home runs. His price is still rather reasonable, ranking among the more expensive players, but still well short of the elite guys like Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout.
Manny Machado, 3B, BAL, $3600 – Though he’s just 4-for-24 since making his debut, Machado hasn’t struck out and has already drawn two walks. He hit well during his rehab assignment, and should soon find his way in the majors. With the O’s facing the Astros at Camden Yards this weekend, Machado should be on track within the next few days. Daily gamers probably won’t have many chances to get him at this price, so don’t wait for him to get things going.
Skip Schumaker, 2B/OF, CIN, $2400 – This one comes with an asterisk the size of Billy Hamilton’s projected stolen base totals, as Schumaker’s playing time is dependent on Hamilton’s continued absence from the lineup due to a hand injury. Schumaker is a known commodity, and there’s not a single exciting thing to say about him, but he’s been batting leadoff in Hamilton’s absence, and the Reds are slated to face a trio of Rockies right-handers over the weekend.
Adam Jones, OF, BAL, $4000 – Off to a disappointing start, Jones has been one of the more consistent batters over the last half-decade, and he seemed to break out of his slump with a pair of solo home runs on Wednesday. The peripheral numbers indicate that he’s essentially the same player, so everything should be back to business as usual once a few more of those fly balls find their way out of the park. Both of Wedneday’s homers were 430-foot blasts to center field, leaving little doubt that Jones can drive the ball as well as ever. What’s more, the O’s face the Astros at Camden Yards this weekend, making for some of the better hitting matchups you’ll see.
Stefen Romero, OF, SEA, $2400 – Romero is a decent but not great prospect who could use more seasoning in the minors, but the M’s have an immediate need in the outfield, and he’s thus been getting regular playing time against lefties. With the M’s scheduled to face manageable southpaws – KC’s Danny Duffy and Jason Vargas –Thursday and Friday, Romero will likely bat second both days. He probably won’t have much success at the plate this season, but he’s at least held his own with a .241/.279/.397 batting line through 58 at-bats.
Other intriguing options: Miguel Cabrera, 1B/3B, DET, $5900; Edwin Encaranacion, 1B, TOR, $4400; Gordon Beckham, 2B, CHI-A, $3400; Ben Zobrist, 2B/OF, TB, $3800; Jose Reyes, SS, TOR, $4300; Jed Lowrie, 2B/SS, OAK, $3600; Cameron Maybin, OF, SD, $3200; Brad Miller, SS, SEA, $3200