Francisco Liriano (SP-PIT): While Jake Arrieta did Jake Arrieta things to the Pirates, Francisco Liriano did Francisco Liriano things to the Cubs, walking 5 and allowing 4 earned runs in 5 and 2/3 innings. While Liriano has been unfortunate with his 21% HR/FB rate, he has always been extremely erratic not only start-to-start, but inning-to-inning. The walks have been a problem, but because of his inconsistencies, his chase rate is down 7% and his swinging-strike rate is down 4%. As a result, hitters are working him into fastball counts and pummeling him to a 37% hard hit rate (his previous career high was under 30%). I still advise owners to bench and hold, but in 12-team mixed leagues with shallow benches, cutting bait at this point is understandable.
Billy Hamilton (OF-CIN): Billy Hamilton (concussion) returned to the lineup and went 2-for-4 while scoring a run out of the 7-hole. While he continues to underperform based on his prospect pedigree, don't sleep on Hamilton as a valuable asset in ROTO leagues. He has quietly lowered his chase and swinging-strike rates while improving his contact rate. Add in the fact that he's hitting more groundballs, which allows him to utilize his speed, and we may finally have an everyday OF who can earn enough AB's to be an asset in both SB's and runs.
Brandon Belt (1B-SF): Brandon Belt hit his 9th homer as part of a 2-for-3 night to back Jeff Samardzija's complete game against the Rays. I said it before and I'll say it again: Brandon Belt should garner serious consideration for MVP, both in the real game and in the fantasy world. He now has 33 runs, 34 RBI, and a 42:43 BB:K ratio through 65 games and the peripherals suggest this is just the beginning. While his batted ball speed on home runs doesn't support an elite HR/FB rate, Belt's elite hard hit rate coupled with his 45% flyball rate support his 22-25 HR pace. There is a changing of the guard at 1st base occurring in fantasy baseball, and it's being led by Brandon Belt in the NL and Eric Hosmer in the AL.
Joe Ross (SP-WAS): Joe Ross took advantage of his start on the road at PETCO, allowing 3 earned runs and striking out 6 in 6 innings in picking up the W. While Ross is a must-start option in all 12-team mixed leagues, be careful not to overvalue him for the second half. His 3.96 xFIP indicates some negative regression is on the horizon, and his 20% K-rate limits his upside to that of a solid #4 fantasy starter. The next frontier for Ross is improving against left-handed batters, as the 5 MPH delta between his changeup and fastball has led to a 25:15 K:BB ratio and .330 wOBA against them.
Cody Reed (SP-CIN): While the law firm of Scherzer, Lester, Greinke and Matz will attract the most clientele today, those looking for a bold tournament play should look to Cody Reed, who is making his MLB debut against the Astros. At $5100 on FanDuel, he's almost working pro bono. Reed has posted a 63:17 K:BB ratio in 64 AAA innings while maintaining a GB/FB ratio of nearly 2:1. Houston is 19th in total offense against lefties, and while he'll be on a limited pitch count, Reed has the plus fastball, a deceptive delivery, and the unknown factor working in his favor.
FanDuel Value Plays:
Matt Holliday $3300
Zack Cozart $3100
Adrian Gonzalez $2900
Scooter Gennett $2900