A middling lefty will head to Chase Field against one of the game’s best lefty mashers in Paul Goldschmidt. You know what to do. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB contests.
Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks, $9,900 – Only one active player sports a higher career wOBA against LHP (min. 150 ABs) than Paul Goldschmidt (Ryan Braun). Unlike Braun, Goldschmidt will draw a matchup against a favorable lefty in Jorge De La Rosa who allowed a 4.17 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in 2015. Batter versus pitcher data is overrated but some may look at Goldschmidt’s career .250 average (4-16) against De La Rosa and look to find an alternative option…that would be a mistake. Even with only four career hits against De La Rosa, two were extra base hits and he still managed a .400 on-base percentage (OBP). Furthermore, Chase Field, like Coors Field, has ranked in the top three of hitters’ parks over the past three seasons. In other words, Chase Field isn’t exactly going to provide De La Rosa with much relief. Simply put: Goldschmidt versus a weak lefty is always an excellent investment and he is one of the best hitting plays on the entire slate.
Kyle Schwarber, Cubs, $7,600 – On FantasyDraft, often times it makes sense to fade all catchers considering you have the flexibility to roster any offensive position. Typically, corner and middle infielders provide owners with a more well-rounded offensive skill set especially because most catchers are slow and do not score many runs. Also, a monster season for a corner infielder is around 30 home runs (HRs) while catchers rarely manage more than 20 or so. Last season, Kyle Schwarber proved there is an exception to any rule as he brought elite power potential to the backstop position as he launched 16 bombs (HRs) in only 69 games. With the addition of Jason Heyward, Schwarber will move down to the six spot in the order which still provides enough value for cash game consideration. Although the Cubs will draw the Angels’ ace in Garrett Richards on Monday, Schwarber can hit the ball out against anybody…and Richards is actually one of the less intimidating aces in action. For a sub-$8,000 price tag, Schwarber is worthy of a roster spot against almost any RHP. Start him with confidence.
Chris Davis, Orioles, $10,000 – Ervin Santana’s splits were pretty significant last season; he only allowed a .286 wOBA to opposing righties but that total jumped to a whopping .346 wOBA versus left-handed batters. Following a down year in 2014, Chris Davis rebounded in a huge manner with 47 HR and 117 RBI last season, which actually was his second 47-plus HR season over the past three years. Players with a sub-.260 career AVG are typically better fits for tournaments but Davis reached base at a .361 clip last year and .370 clip in 2013. If he is going to walk 80 times a season, theoretically he possesses a slightly higher floor than your average boom-or-bust type power guy. For that reason, and due to Santana’s recent struggles against lefties, I’d call Davis viable in all formats and would not hesitate to use him anywhere.
Jay Bruce, Reds, $8,100 – Speaking of boom-or-bust guys, Jay Bruce personifies exactly the type of player I eluded to in the Davis tidbit. With a career .240 AVG and .309 OBP, Bruce relies solely on power to provide his owners with value. According to masseyratings, the Reds are favored in one of only five games with a projected 8.5 total or higher, which makes sense considering they’ll face off against Jeremy Hellickson and the Phillies. In 146 IP last season, Hellickson allowed the highest HR to fly ball ratio of his career: 13.3-percent. Hellickson prefers to force hitters to pound the ball into the ground but he hasn’t been nearly effective in doing so since his 2011 breakout campaign. Also, Bruce struggles with strikeouts and Hellickson rarely ever eclipses a 6.0 K/9 so he very likely will not be able to take advantage of the weakness. In hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark, a mistake from a recently HR-prone pitcher to a fly ball hitter will result in a blast to the seats. Even though Bruce is a volatile asset, Monday is a great time to try and catch lightning in a bottle.
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, $24,100 – Well that didn’t take long…the new season has begun and already the GOAT Clayton Kershaw is not only viable but probably the best overall play on the board. I know it’s not stepping out on a limb to call Kershaw a must-play but on a slate where names such as Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, Jake Arrieta, David Price and Zack Greinke are in action (to name a few), it actually is significant that Kershaw still stands out from the crowd. Kershaw will head to Petco Park, baseball’s third most favorable pitchers’ park over the past two seasons, and face a Padres team that ranked 23rd in wOBA versus LHP last season (.294). The Padres struck out at a 23.3-percent rate against lefties last season and Kershaw led the majors with 301 Ks. His strikeout upside is as high as ever plus he will be pitching in a ballpark that helps forgive pitchers’ mistakes, so the odds are very likely that Kershaw will throw an absolute gem.
Madison Bumgarner, Giants, $17,700 – Deciphering between pitchers not named Kershaw is a difficult task on Opening Day because there are just so many studs. Scherzer, Sale and Arrieta face teams with unfavorable strikeout rates versus their handedness, Price pitches in the MLB’s second most favorable hitters’ park from last season (Progressive Field) and Greinke squares off against a team that ranked second in wOBA versus RHP last season. Unlike all of the aforementioned names, there isn’t much not to like about Madison Bumgarner’s matchup. Although Vegas lists the over/under at 7.5, the Giants are -170 favorites and the Brewers absolutely struggled against southpaws in 2015. In fact, only four teams produced lower wOBAs versus lefties and only two ranked lower in wRC+. Now factor in the Brewers’ 23.3-percent K rate against lefties last season and it’s easy to grasp how great of a matchup this is for Bumgarner. Oh by the way, he’ll face a lesser talent in Wily Peralta so all signs project towards a solid outing with a better than average chance at a win.
Raisel Iglesias, Reds, $17,200 – Looking to go contrarian and look past all the aces in action? Look no further than the Reds’ Raisel Iglesias who came on at the end of last season. After the All-Star break last season, Iglesias allowed a .193 batting average (AVG), 3.39 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and struck out 77 batters in 66.1 innings pitched (IP). Though he battled shoulder fatigue early in spring, Iglesias came out of the pre-season feeling healthy despite spotty results. When the games actually count, I expect Iglesias to pick up where he left off, especially in a matchup versus the lowly Phillies. Only one team produced a lower wOBA against RHP last season than the Phillies and only seven teams struck out at a higher rate versus the handedness. While the Phillies offense seems poised to improve on last year’s catastrophe, they still have a long ways to go to even reach mediocrity. If looking for a non-elite tier starter with 30-plus fantasy point upside, Iglesias is the guy, although he’s admittedly best left for GPPs.
*Stats are accurate as of Sunday, Apr. 3