Trust the Scherz-est Thing

Mighty Max rules the day even with other excellent options available on Friday’s slate. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster.

Infield:

Luis Valbuena, Astros, – Has a hitter ever had a season as “all or nothing” as Luis Valbuena is having this season? In 65 games this season, Valbuena is barely hitting over the mendoza line (.201) with 19 HRs and 35 RBI. The only players in baseball with more HRs than Valbuena are as follows: Giancarlo Stanton, Bryce Harper, Albert Pujols, Todd Frazier, Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt. So yeah, I would say he is in an elite class with the level of power he has displayed. However, the difference is all of those players mentioned have at least 47 RBI. Most of Valbuena’s offensive production has come from HRs with very few (if any) men on base. In order to use him, there has to be serious home run potential in the matchup, and squaring off against Nate Eovaldi in Minute Maid Park certainly qualifies. Valbuena ranks second on the team this season in wOBA versus RHP behind just Hank Conger. Eovaldi has allowed an absurd .421 wOBA to left-handed hitters this season. It’s the perfect setup for blast off, although he’s best left for tournaments due to the low AVG.

Derek Norris, Padres – Maybe FantasyDraft’s format is a little more catcher-friendly than I initially led on. Despite not requiring a catcher, many times they have an overly affordable price for their skill sets. According to FanGraphs’ wOBA scaleDerek Norris‘ career .374 mark rates above the “great” plateau. His season numbers are in line with his career data, so hitting in the unfavorable home hitters’ park is not affecting his ability to rock the southpaws. Opposing starter Robbie Ray‘s last outing came against the Padres at home on Jun. 20 and was rather mediocre. He allowed four runs in 5.2 IP and now the Padres’ hitters possess the advantage of having seen him recently. Norris hit second in that game and homered. He’ll likely be slated in the two hole yet again. I expect more power hitting to come in his platoon advantage against a pitcher who won’t be showing him anything he hasn’t (recently) seen.

Outfield:

Bryce Harper, Nationals – Honestly, Bryce Harper is worth consideration no matter who he faces because he has established himself as one of the best hitters in the game. Of all hitters with at least 40 career AB against RHP, Harper ranks eighth with a .395 wOBA. This season, no one has hit more HR (20) against RHP than Harper. Aaron Harang, he of a career 4.18 ERA and 1.35 WHIP, sported an ERA barely above 2.00 (2.02) heading into the month of June. Since the month began, Harang has done Harang things and has become as hittable as ever (7.61 ERA in four starts this month). Whichever Harang decides to show up in this one, whether it be the good, lights-out version or the June version, the advantage still goes to Harper. Citizen’s Bank Ballpark has played as the second-most home run friendly park in all of baseball over the past two seasons. I’m expecting Harper to add a notch to his belt. Note: This is if he is in the lineup. Otherwise, Denard Span and Yunel Escobar make for fine options as well.

Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins – Sorry to my audience because I have written about Giancarlo Stanton a lot lately, but his historic run against LHP is hard to ignore. I legitimately would not be doing my job if I did not recommend Stanton in this matchup. It’s getting to the point where if he doesn’t homer in a game against a lefty then his game is a giant disappointment. He has hit nine HRs in 56 ABs versus LHP this season, which equates to one HR every 6.22 ABs. Hitting fourth, he’ll more than likely see at least four plate appearances, which makes him an excellent bet yet again to go yard. Brett Anderson is a soft-tossing lefty. The last starting pitcher Stanton faced who fit that description (C.C. Sabathia), he took deep. This is becoming routine.

Pitcher:

Max Scherzer, Nationals, $24,400 – This matchup is the equivalent of throwing one of your grandparents in the ring with Mike Tyson and telling them to give it their best shot. Max Scherzer may be the best pitcher in baseball right now and he’ll square off against the Phillies and their last place offense against RHP. Recently the Phillies’ offense has been surging as they’ve scored at least nine runs in three of their last four games. Nevertheless, facing starters such as Michael Wacha, Michael Pineda and C.C. Sabathia are not accurate simulations of what it will be like to face Scherzer. He’s the leading candidate for NL Cy Young for a reason (well, many reasons), so there should be absolutely no reason for trepidation in using him. The Phillies strike out among the bottom-11 in baseball against RHP, but they’ll likely still whiff 10 times in this one. Max Scherzer equals max profits on Friday.

Johnny Cueto, Reds, $21,700 – Baserunners and Johnny Cueto are not friends, considering how well of a job Cueto has done keeping them off base this season. In 90.2 IP, Cueto has walked just 16 hitters and is producing by far the best BB rate (1.6 BB/9) of his career. Eight years is how long his career has spanned and during that time he has never produced a K/BB ratio greater than 3.72 over an entire season. In 2015, Cueto’s K/BB ratio sits at 5.38! He’ll head from his hitter-friendly home ballpark to the worst hitters’ park in baseball over the past two seasons in Citi Field. Fortunately for Cueto, the Mets play in Citi Field as well. The Mets rank bottom-10 in wOBA, wRC+, ISO, BB rate, AVG and SLG versus RHP while also striking out at the 10th highest percentage (20.10 percent). If you need a cheaper alternative to Scherzer, or want to pair two sure things together, Cueto is your man.

Francisco Liriano, Pirates, $20,100 – At home in the friendly confines of PNC Park, Francisco Liriano and the Pittsburgh Pirates opened as -194 favorites against the Braves on Friday. Freddie Freeman remains on the disabled list, which certainly helps, but many of the Braves hitters’ platoon splits favor facing right-handers. It shows in their season wOBA splits: .310 versus RHP but only .297 versus LHP. They rank in the bottom-ten in K rate versus RHP, but strike out at the 11th-highest rate versus LHP. No player on the team possesses a wOBA over .345 other than lefty platoon specialist Jonny Gomes and youngster Joey Terdoslavich (only 31 career plate appearances versus lefties). All of this is a long-winded way of saying Liriano is a big favorite in a game with an excellent matchup. The K upside is there, so he’s an option in both cash games and tournaments.

Anibal Sanchez, Tigers, $16,800 – Small sample sizes can be excellent deterrents. On Thursday, the White Sox beat the Tigers by scoring eight runs, five of which came off starter Alfredo Simon. This does not signify the White Sox’ ascension into an elite offense by any means, but rather signifies an anomaly. Their offense ranks in the bottom five of wOBA, wRC+ and ISO against RHP. So far, 2015 has been a disappointing season for Anibal Sanchez, but there are some signs he is turning it around. After producing ERAs greater than 5.00 in both April and May, Sanchez’s June ERA sits at 2.05 through four starts. He had allowed at least five home runs in each previous month and had only allowed one in June heading into his last start (in which he allowed two). Starting Sanchez can be risky considering his volatility, but this should be one of his Dr. Jekyll games as opposed to Mr. Hyde.

Additional Note: Similarly to the Robbie Ray tidbit, the Diamondbacks also just saw Tyson Ross last week, who tossed a gem against them. Generally, seeing the same pitcher in a short span is an advantage for the offense. All the typical Diamondbacks will be in play in this one and do not forget about the SB potential against Ross either.

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders is a fantasy sports expert with over 15 years of playing experience. After starting several freelance fantasy sports blogs, Ricky moved up in the fantasy industry when he joined Going9 Baseball. He wrote fantasy baseball content and had a weekly radio spot on the site’s SiriusXM Satellite Radio show. Shortly thereafter, in early 2013, Ricky joined RotoExperts as a three-sport fantasy contributor, eventually becoming one of the site’s lead basketball writers. While writing for RotoExperts, Ricky was introduced to daily fantasy sports and immediately fell in love. With help from some of his mentors, some of the best DFS players in the world, he honed his skills and became the daily fantasy expert he is today. When RotoExperts created a daily-focused website called DailyRoto.com, Ricky was brought on as one of the main contributors. He still makes frequent appearances on the RotoExperts SiriusXM Radio show and on the FNTSY Sports Television Network, talking daily fantasy sports. He also continues to write for a few DFS content sites: RotoCurve and The Fantasy Fix. Ricky is a proud and active member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He has agreed to be a writer and representative for the FantasyDraft brand and serves as an ambassador to the site. He has no more access to the site than the typical user. Don’t hesitate to contact Ricky with questions on Twitter @RSandersDFS.

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