Francisco Liriano draws a date with the feeble Padres offense in Petco Park so he’s the first pitcher worth inserting into your lineups on Tuesday. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB contests.
Note: We are almost getting to the point where I am okay with using 2016 as a sample size. Until we reach 20-25 games, it is not a large enough sample and I will continue to rely on past statistics.
Carlos Correa, Astros, $8,800 – When the Astros face an opposing lefty, their middle infield duo automatically enters the conversation. Both Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve have produced career wOBAs of .382 or greater although Correa’s sample size is a bit more limited (143 plate appearances). Still, the limited time has been enough to make a conclusion: Correa absolute rakes against lefties, or more specifically, everyone. At just 21 years old, Correa is one of the best hitters in the game already, and he even led the team in HRs versus LHP last season despite less ABs than Altuve, George Springer, Luis Valbuena and Evan Gattis against the handedness. Probable starter Derek Holland has been sharp in two starts so far this season but he has literally played in the two most pitcher-friendly ballparks in the AL over the past two seasons, per ESPN Park Factors. Now, pitching at home in the AL’s fourth most hitter-friendly environment against arguably the MLB’s most powerful team, he will face his first true test. I would give the advantage to the all-worldly hitter and I would have no problem deploying Correa in both cash games and GPPs even against a locked-in pitcher. He’s just that good.
Eric Hosmer, Royals, $8,700 – Among all starting pitchers who threw at least 40 IP versus LHHs last season, Shane Greene allowed the second worst wOBA (.425) to the handedness behind only Michael Lorenzen (.428). In other words, Greene is virtually as favorable as it gets as a matchup for an opposing lefty. Luckily for the Royals, they have a few of them in Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer. Coincidentally, the two of them led the team in hard hit percentage versus RHP last season but Homser finished with the superior wOBA (.378) of the two. While Kendrys Morales edged him out with a .385 tally, he hits right-handed and Greene possesses splits that suggest he can retire RHHs at just about a league average rate. Therefore, Hosmer is the best play on this offense which inevitably is going to put the ball in play. Considering Greene pitches to contact and has allowed a 22-plus percent line drive rate for his career, it should be a long night for him. Expect Hosmer to lead the laser show, but due to his lack of HR power, he is more of an ideal fit for cash games.
Aaron Hicks, Yankees, $8,100 – Platoon splits are a magical thing in the game of daily fantasy baseball. Some players just only excel hitting a certain handedness of pitcher and Aaron Hicks certainly fits the bill. In 2015, Hicks only managed a .292 wOBA against RHP but he overshadowed those struggles with a .375 wOBA against lefties. By comparison, his wOBA exceeded the tallies produced by Buster Posey, Jose Bautista, Mookie Betts and Edwin Encarnacion against the handedness. Pretty crazy, right? The Yankees will draw a matchup against lefty Erik Surkamp who has yet to make it out of the fifth inning in two starts this season. Why hasn’t he been able to pitch deep into games? Well, he has thrown 81 and 96 pitches respectively in the two games respectively. Furthermore, although his ERA sits at a decent 4.00, he currently sports a FIP and xFIP of 6.22 and 7.13…meaning he has pitched way worse than his numbers suggest. In Yankee Stadium, those sort of things have a way of evening themselves out. While $8,100 seems like a steep price for Hicks, he is a borderline elite hitter against LHP. He draws a matchup against a very beatable pitcher in an incredibly hitter-friendly environment so he has one of the best chances of any hitter on the slate for a HR.
Michael Saunders, Blue Jays, $7,600 – Manager John Gibbons conceded on Monday that he will be leaving Michael Saunders in the leadoff spot for the foreseeable future. In a Blue Jays offense that saw three players score 94-plus runs last season and averaged 5.5 runs per game last season, hitting atop the order is a big deal. Not only does this increase the probability of seeing additional plate appearances because of the spot in the order but it also increases both his run and stolen base potential. The purpose of a leadoff hitter is to “get him on, get him over and get him in.” In other words, the leadoff hitter is supposed to get on, get moved over (either via contact by the second hitter or a stolen base) and then the heart of the order is supposed to drive him in. On this excellent Blue Jays offense, this is a pretty streamlined process and the odds of him being both moved over and in are greatly increased. For all these reasons, I feel like he is not yet properly priced, and $7,600 is just too cheap…especially against Mike Wright and his 7.20 ERA.
Francisco Liriano, Pirates, $18,800 – A couple of the hitters on the Padres enjoy favorable platoon split numbers against LHP: Matt Kemp and Derek Norris to name a few. Here’s the thing with a majority of their other hitters: they are really, really bad. The last time the Padres faced a left-hander (Jorge De La Rosa), this was the lineup they threw out there against hiM:
- Jon Jay
- Melvin Upton
- Matt Kemp
- Wil Myers
- Yangervis Solarte
- Derek Norris
- Alexei Ramirez
- Cory Spangenberg
Amongst the bunch, only Kemp and Norris own a career wOBA greater than .339. As a whole the Padres struck out 22.0-percent of the time against LHP last season and the K is Francisco Liriano’s specialty. Oh by the way, Liriano will enjoy a significant positive ballpark shift, moving to the massive dimensions of Petco Park. Despite playing on the road, the Pirates are listed as -137 favorites in a game with an over/under of seven runs. Liriano is simply one of the safest options on the slate and should be a staple in cash rosters.
Vince Velasquez, Phillies, $18,400 – Whew, talk about a ridiculous start to the season. In just two starts, the en fuego Vincent Velasquez has struck out a whopping 25 batters including 16 last game in a complete game shutout. Velasquez was forced to throw 113 pitches last game, so they may watch his pitch count a bit closely in this one, but he is difficult to overlook. He forced 20 swings and misses on his four-seam fastball alone which tied Max Scherzer, Matt Harvey and David Price for the most ever in the (FanGraphs) Pitchf/x era. The kid’s stuff is just electric and he’ll square off against a Mets team that has produced just a .290 wOBA against RHP this season (23rd in the bigs). There is downside to the matchup because the Mets just saw Velasquez two weeks ago (although he dominated them) and the Mets bats are both hot and better than the early numbers suggest. For those reasons, and the possible pitch count, I feel best about deploying Velasquez in GPPs because the sky could still be the ceiling.
Michael Pineda, Yankees, $16,800 – I’m curious to see Michael Pineda’s ownership numbers on Tuesday, especially in cash games, because I absolutely love him in this matchup. Only the White Sox, Angels and Padres have produced lower wOBA tallies than the Athletics’ .269 mark thus far. While they struck out at sub-20-percent rate, they rank in the bottom 10 of wRC+, BB rate, AVG, OBP and line drive rate. Although Pineda’s numbers do not look great so far on the surface, his xFIP of just 3.85 suggest he has pitched better than the numbers show. Pineda’s current strand rate is 8.0 percentage points lower than his career average and both his HR rate and BABIP are above and beyond his career totals as well. Basically this means he should regress to the norm sooner rather than later. Considering one of the teams he has faced so far is the offensive juggernaut Blue Jays, the numbers aren’t incredibly surprising over such a small sample size. Now facing a much weaker opponent, I expect Pineda to get back to his old, dominant ways. At just $16,800, you can fit a ton of bats along with him and he has the upside of an 8.0 IP, zero ER type start. Use him wherever you see fit because I expect a vintage Pineda performance is on the way.
*Stats are accurate as of Monday, Apr. 18