After looking like an ace this spring, Marcus Stroman will open the season with a matchup against a Rays team that ranked 23th in wOBA versus RHP last season. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB contests.
Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays, $9,500 – Last season, Josh Donaldson certainly silenced all the non-believers who did not believe he could continue on a similar pace as he had in the previous two seasons with the Athletics. Instead, Donaldson turned into one of the best hitters in the game as he hit .297 with 41 HRs 123 RBI and scored 122 R. Even though Donaldson became known as a lefty killer due to his .428 wOBA against LHP last season (which ranked fifth among all qualified hitters), he wasn’t too shabby against righties either. He still managed a .390 wOBA which put him in the top 15 among qualified hitters against RHP as well. The matchup against the Rays’ ace Chris Archer is not an easy one but very few hitters will enjoy fantastic matchups the first few days of the season. All teams will be throwing out their best pitchers so you might as well just use the best hitters against them. Without many overly viable alternatives on the slate to spend up on, you may as well take the guy who is arguably the best overall hitter in action.
Eric Hosmer, Royals, $7,600 – One of my gut feelings for Opening Night is Matt Harvey may not be at his best. Harvey is still recovering from a blood clot in his bladder and allowed three runs in two innings in his only start after being diagnosed with the ailment. Supposedly his velocity is fine but he may take some time to get right especially considering he’ll be squaring off against the most difficult team in the majors to strike out as of last season. In fact, four of the Royals’ six qualified hitters versus RHP last season struck out at a rate below 16-percent (in ascending order): Alcides Escobar (11.2), Mike Moustakas (13.8), Salvador Perez (14.8) and Hosmer (15.7). Assuming Harvey cannot rely on the strikeout to retire opposing hitters, he could struggle and I expect Hosmer to take advantage. Only Kendrys Morales sported a higher wOBA versus righties last season than Hosmer on the team and no one produced a higher line drive rate (LD%). Since Hosmer will not be striking out and likely will be hitting ropes, he is a solid bet at just $7,600 in all formats.
Curtis Granderson, Mets, $7,900 – Pretty much the only favorable matchup for any group of hitters on Sunday’s slate is the Mets offense against Edinson Volquez. Aside from Volquez, who allowed a .320-plus wOBA to each side of the plate last season, only Francisco Liriano (.315 wOBA versus righties) and Adam Wainwright (.302 wOBA versus lefties) allowed a greater than .300 wOBA to either side of the plate (among starting pitchers (SP) on the slate). No hitter on the Mets produced a greater wOBA (.384) versus RHP last season than Curtis Granderson and he also led the team in LD% against the handedness. Granderson’s .225 isolated power (ISO) and team leading on-base percentage (OBP) are just icing on the cake for the hitter with probably the best individual matchup. Deploy him in all formats with confidence.
Michael Conforto, Mets, $7,700 – Similarly to Granderson, I love the matchup for left-handed hitters against the right-handed Volquez, so Michael Conforto is also worth considering. While Granderson should lead off, Conforto will also hit near the top of the lineup whether it be third, fourth or fifth. For cash game purposes, as long as a hitter is in the top six of the order then they are worthy of consideration assuming their matchup is favorable. To reiterate a statistic from the Granderson tidbit, Volquez’s wOBA versus lefties is the worst of any pitcher versus any handedness on the slate by a decent margin. Therefore, starting multiple hits lefties (or really hitters) is the preferred cash strategy on this slate as they clearly possess the highest probability of succeeding in their cake matchup compared to other offenses.
Chris Archer, Rays, $18,100 – In terms of priority, Chris Archer ranks third on my list for Opening Night. For me, Archer is tournament only play as he’ll face the MLB’s top offense from a year ago. With that being said, Archer is incredibly talented and can get it done against anyone…including the Blue Jays. For what it’s worth, Archer squared off against the Blue Jays six times last season and produced a 3.11 ERA with a .197 opponents’ average (AVG) and 37 strikeouts (Ks) in 37.2 IP. The Blue Jays struck out in the bottom ten against righties last season but were nowhere as difficult to K as the Royals were. Sure Adam Wainwright’s matchup looks slightly more enticing but Archer’s elite K potential (252 last season) provides him a higher ceiling than Wainwright. For that reason, he is my preferred tournament option if you feel like swaying away from the two obvious starts of the slate.
Francisco Liriano, Pirates, $17,300 – Speaking of obvious starts, Francisco Liriano is option 1B for me on the first slate of the 2016 season. Only two teams produced lower wOBAs versus LHP than the Cardinals last year: the Padres and the Braves. Furthermore, the Cardinals struck out at the sixth highest rate against the handedness and produced the sixth lowest ISO. Considering Liriano struck out 200-plus batters last season, facing a team that Ks at a favorable rate raises his already substantial floor. With a matchup more favorable than any more expensive pitcher, saving the salary and rostering Liriano instead makes all the sense in the world for cash games.
Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays, $16,000 – Last but certainly not least, Marcus Stroman is the pitcher to roster on Sunday evening. Despite missing a large portion of the season last year, it was due to an ACL injury in his knee as opposed to an arm injury. Therefore, worrying about an innings limit or anything of the sort is probably overthinking the situation, especially because Stroman returned in September of 2015. He looked dominant all spring as he finished with a 1.98 ERA and will face a Rays team that struggled against right-handers during the entire 2015 season. Looking at the Rays’ personnel, nothing has changed too drastically other than the acquisition of Corey Dickerson who struggled mightily away from Coors Field. Consequently, Stroman is a superb option in all formats and I expect him to be in the GPP winning lineups.