Stephen Strasburg will face a Braves team that struggled to hit right-handers last season so expect an ace-like performance from him. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB contests.
Miguel Sano, Twins, $8,800 (Late) – The young Twins designated hitter (DH) is one of the rare cases of a hitter who possesses reverse splits. What do I mean by that? Miguel Sano has produced a higher wOBA against RHP than LHP despite the fact he is a right-handed hitter. In fact, he leads the team in career wOBA, edging out Joe Mauer by 14 percentage points (.397 to .383). On Wednesday, the Twins will square off against Yovani Gallardo and the Orioles in Camden Yards, which doesn’t seem like the best of fits for his skill set. Gallardo had not allowed less than 18 HRs in a season since 2010 before last year…though he did allow a 1.42 WHIP. According to ESPN Park Factors, only Miller Park rated as more HR-friendly last season and Oriole Park at Camden Yards played as the third best hitters’ park in baseball. Combine all of these factors and Sano looks primed to take advantage of a susceptible pitcher in an extremely favorable environment. Other than a certain outfielder on the Nationals, Sano is probably the top bet to drive one out of the ballpark.
Evan Longoria, Rays, $8,000 (Early) – In a sharp contrast to Sano, Evan Longoria possesses substantial splits in the classic fashion. For his career, Longoria’s wOBA against LHP is 0.05 percentage points higher than it is against RHP, and he leads the team against lefties by a whopping 29 percentage points. It doesn’t end at wOBA for Longoria as he sports a .249 career ISO and .295/.379/.544 slash line. Unsurprisingly, Longoria’s career numbers against probable starter and middling lefty J.A. Happ are substantial: 7-18 (.389) with a .455 OBP and .500 SLG. Frankly, Longoria’s skill set against the handedness should accompany a more expensive price tag. Since it does not, Longoria is one of the better dollar-for-dollar plays, especially in the early slate.
Bryce Harper, Nationals, $9,900 (Late) – In the Sano tidbit, I eluded to the fact that there is one better bet for a HR on Wednesday…and that man is Bryce Harper. Of all pitchers who threw at least 40 innings against left-handed batters last season, Bud Norris’ .386 wOBA ranked ninth worst in all of baseball. That is bad news for Norris who will square off against 2015’s leader in wOBA versus RHP (.478). Oh and Harper also accompanied that ridiculous total with a .354 ISO! Expect a monster game from Harper in one of the best possible matchups he could ever ask for.
Ryan Braun, Brewers, $8,700 (Early) – As a whole, the Brewers offense is pretty terrible against RHP so Jeff Samardzija looks like a solid DFS option for the most part. However, Samardzija presents a solid matchup for Ryan Braun for a few reasons. For one, Braun leads the Brewers in career wOBA versus RHP by 32 percentage points…so by a significant differential. Second of all, Braun sports a career .355 OBP versus righties and Samardzija’s Achilles Heel has always been his control. Basically Braun should smash Samardzija if he pounds the strike zone but also is patient enough to take a walk if need be. For these reasons, I feel comfortable using Braun in cash games despite the fact he favors the platoon split against lefties.
Stephen Strasburg, Nationals, $21,600 (Late) – Okay, let me be clear: Stephen Strasburg is an absolute must-play. Admittedly, I have always been a gigantic fan of Strasburg’s so I may sound like a fan boy here, but I have numbers to back it up. In spring, Strasburg started four games and struck out 16 batters in 14 IP with a 3.21 ERA. Typically, spring numbers mean nothing but Strasburg is approaching his prime in terms of age. Having been drafted number one overall by the Nationals in 2009 MLB Draft, he has been marketed as the next big ace for a long time now. He has the feel of one of those post-hype sleepers who everyone now overlooks because he hasn’t reached his peak yet, so people feel he never will. We’re still talking about a pitcher with a career 10.40 K/9 who approached 11 K/9 (10.96) last season…so the upside is clearly elite. I believe this is the season he puts it all together and will start against a Braves team that ranked bottom 10 in wOBA versus RHP last season. The Braves also ranked in the bottom 10 of wRC+, ISO, BB rate and hard hit percentage last season so they aren’t exactly a formidable foe. All signs point to a gem from Strasburg and I wouldn’t want to be the one to fade and miss out.
Patrick Corbin, Diamondbacks, $15,200 (Early) – People may be afraid of the Rockies bats after back-to-back solid performances but, you have to remember, those were both against RHP. Last season, the Rockies ranked 26th in wOBA against LHP and struck out at a higher percentage than any other team. Sure the team added Ryan Raburn this offseason to come in and act as their lefty specialist but one guy isn’t going to change the entire culture. Furthermore, Patrick Corbin will be pitching fully healthy this season as it took him awhile to regain form last season because he was returning from Tommy John surgery. Corbin still managed a 3.60 ERA with 3.35 FIP and 3.27 xFIP while striking out 8.26 batters per nine innings. If he can come close to copying those totals, he figures to be one of the better pitchers in the National League. In a matchup against one of the weakest squads against his handedness, look for him to start of the season with a bang. Due to the strikeout potential against the Rockies, Corbin in viable in all formats including GPPs despite the deceivingly high over/under (9.0).
Kenta Maeda, Dodgers, $17,600 (Late) – Ah, the old “pitcher without big league statistics” conundrum rears its head once again as it does many times early each season. Basically the new guys in the league take a leap of faith to roster due to a lack of data. In this case, I am willing to take a leap of faith on former Japanese league pitching Triple Crown winner Kenta Maeda. Last season, the Padres ranked second to last in wOBA versus righties while also ranking in the bottom 10 of wRC+, ISO, BB rate, AVG, OBP, hard hit rate and line drive percentage against the handedness. In other words, they played as one of the best overall matchups against opposing RHP. Now factor in the game will be played in spacious Petco Park and Maeda actually looks like a rather safe bet for a guy who has yet to step on a major league mound.
*Stats are accurate as of Tuesday, Apr. 5