Darin Ruf is an underrated hitter against LHP and his bargain price makes him easy to squeeze into any lineup. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB contests.
Adrian Beltre, Rangers, $8,400 – As a whole, the Rangers are a very left-handed team. Shin-Soo Choo (on the disabled list), Nomar Mazara, Prince Fielder, Mitch Moreland and Roguned Odor are all lefties so opposing LHPs have the advantage over most of this lineup…but not Adrian Beltre. In fact, Beltre absolutely rips southpaws and has for his entire career. Beltre ranks ahead of such names as Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, Ryan Raburn and Todd Frazier as he sits with a career wOBA of .376 versus the handedness. Last season, Beltre produced a wOBA tally nearly 30 percentage points higher than his career average (.393) so he apparently is aging like fine wine (at least against LHP). Opposing starter Wade Miley allowed a favorable slash line of .271/.334/.425 to RHHs last season including 14 of the 17 total HRs he gave up. The only downside to the matchup is the ballpark (Safeco Field) but Beltre connects the rest of the dots especially considering his $8,400 price tag. While the park may limit the HR potential, Beltre remains a rock solid cash play.
Darin Ruf, Phillies, $6,900 – Simply put: Darin Ruf is an elite hitter versus LHP. In 97 ABs versus the handedness last season, Ruf very nearly put together a wOBA against lefties (.466) equivalent to Bryce Harper’s total against righties (.478). The Phillies will square off against Robbie Erlin who will move into the rotation to replace an injured Tyson Ross. While Erlin went 3.2 scoreless IP in his first outing this season, that came in long relief. In 136.2 career IP, Erlin sports a 4.48 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. Very often Erlin struggles to even flirt with 90mph and he doesn’t miss many bats (6.45 career K/9). If he is going to pitch to contact against one of the game’s best against his side of the platoon, he is going to get smoked. Dollar-for-dollar there may not be a better hitting play on the entire slate. NOTE: If he is out of the lineup, Maikel Franco, Cameron Rupp and Andres Blanco are all viable alternatives.
Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies, $9,000 – Sure Ruf is an enticing option but I would not want to head into cash games on Tuesday without some exposure to Coors Field. The park is always an incredibly favorable hitting environment but Jeff Samardzija coming to town can only make things better. Essentially Samardzija has pitched like a below average major league pitcher for more than a season consecutively now. Regardless of the size of his contract, he just is not very effective. Last year, Samardzija registered a significantly lower K rate (6.86 K/9) than in any previous season since he became a full-fledged starter. In fact, the lowest prior to 2015 was 2014’s 8.28 so he has been on a steep decline. The frightening part is his peripherals (4.23 FIP, 4.31 xFIP last season) suggest he hasn’t been getting incredibly unlucky; he has simply been pitching lousy. If he continues that trend in Coors Field, he is toast. Considering Samardzija allowed a .357 wOBA to LHHs last season, those most likely to roast him are the Rockies’ left-handers…and they have some good ones. Carlos Gonzalez homered twice his last time out in Coors, oh and 40 total times last season, so he is the likeliest of candidates to go off. Under no circumstance will I be fading this monster in cash games and neither should you.
Charlie Blackmon, Rockies, $9,000 – Speaking of monsters in the Rockies lineup, Charlie Blackmon didn’t have himself a too shabby 2015 season either. In total, Blackmon produced a .287/.347/.450 slash line with 17 HRs and 43 stolen bases (SBs) but the numbers were even more impressive at home. In the friendly confines of the thin Colorado air, Blackmon slashed .331/.390/.500…so, yeah, he liked hitting in that environment. While Gonzalez handily led the team in wOBA versus RHP last season (.415), Blackmon still produced a respectable .357 tally. While Buster Posey isn’t an easy catcher to steal on, the SB potential is still in play against Samardzija, who is slow to home plate. Most of all, Blackmon is just a safe bet to get on base multiple times in the hitters’ haven of Coors and against a sub-par hurler. For those reasons, Blackmon is a preferred cash game play, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable heading into cash games without at least two Rockies in my lineup.
Corey Kluber, Indians, $23,600 – This is a no-brainer: a former Cy Young Winner against a strikeout prone team in a positive ballpark shift (meaning Tropicana Field is a lot less hitter-friendly than his home park). Yes, Corey Kluber is the definition of a must-play against a Rays team that really only possesses one true threat against RHP: Corey Dickerson. Almost all of the other notable hitters in the lineup favor the platoon split against LHPs. Furthermore, the Rays struck out at the ninth highest rate of any team versus righties in 2015. All-in-all, this is just one of those situations where you do not want to fade the top pitching option on the slate…at least in cash games. Tuesday feels like one of those 10-plus K games for Kluber so don’t be left in the dust.
Noah Syndergaard, Mets, $20,100 – Another talented starter with an intriguing matchup is Noah Syndergaard versus the Marlins in Citi Field. Over the past two seasons, Citi Field has played as one of the two most favorable pitchers’ parks, so it’s no surprised Syndergaard sported an ERA nearly half as high at home (2.46) as he did on the road (4.23) last season. Oh by the way, the Marlins ranked in the bottom four of wOBA to RHP pitchers last season, though to be fair, Giancarlo Stanton was hurt for an extended period of time. Either way, it’s not like this current lineup for the Marlins should set the world on fire against RHPs and this game has a projected 6.0 run over/under. Okay so he’s pitching against another ace in Jose Fernandez but still that total stands out. Although his win potential is hampered by squaring off against one of the game’s top aces, Syndergaard still possesses enough upside to deploy in all formats.
Hector Santiago, Angels, $13,600 – In order to fit all the bats you want, fading either Kluber or Syndergaard will be necessary. To reiterate, the two of them are clearly the top pitching plays on the slate. However, if you want to take a little risk, or just maximize your offensive upside, Hector Santiago is a viable alternative. In 2015, the Athletics ranked in the bottom 10 of ISO, AVG and hard hit percentage against LHPs while producing the 11th worst wOBA. Most of all, I like the skills-to-ballpark match for Santiago; only three ballparks were more difficult to hit the ball out of last season than the Oakland Coliseum according to ESPN Park Factors. Santiago is a pure fly ball pitcher so utilizing him in a spot where the ballpark enhances his strength is certainly advantageous. At only $13,600, Santiago is in a fantastic spot and should come through at his price tag.
*Stats are accurate as of Monday, Apr. 11