Facing literally the worst active pitcher against left-handed hitters, Jason Kipnis is a rock solid play in all formats on Sunday. 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.
Trevor Story, Rockies, $10,200 – There isn’t much data on Trevor Story in his young career, and he obviously kicked the year off with a bang (well multiple bangs), but he has fared awfully well against LHPs thus far. Among all Rockies hitters with at least 10 plate appearances so far this season, Trevor Story’s .509 wOBA ranks second behind Nolan Arenado’s ridiculous .612 tally. So far, Alex Wood has been nothing short of terrible as he his ERA currently sits north of 5.00, he has only struck out 3.94 batters per nine innings and he has allowed at least a .346 wOBA to each handedness of hitters. All Rockies hitters are in play but there is a reason I like Story best. Part of the reason for Wood’s struggles has been the fact he has relied on his fastball at by far the lowest percentage of his career (54.0-percent) this season. Basically, he is going to need to start throwing it more instead of just being a pure junk-baller. If he begins to do so in this start, Story has rated as by far the team’s best hitter against the pitch according to pitch type linear weights. Assuming Wood throws him a fastball, he is going to hit it a long way.
Jason Kipnis, Indians, $8,100 – Among active pitchers who have thrown at least 70 innings against LHHs in their career, none have allowed a higher wOBA to the handedness than probable starter Shane Greene. In fact, Greene’s tally in the category ranks 10 percentage points worse than second place Rubby De La Rosa. If Greene were superman, lefties would be his kryptonite. Guess who my favorite lefty is on the Indians…ding ding ding: it’s Jason Kipnis. Last season, Kipnis’ .389 wOBA and .334 AVG versus LHPs easily led the team and he actually ranked amongst the league leaders in both statistical categories. He is simply a fantastic hitter against righties so hitting in the two hole against a susceptible one is clearly a favorable spot. While people will rightfully focus on Coors Field, do not forget to include Kipnis in cash lineups because he is in a fantastic spot.
Dexter Fowler, Cubs, $9,600 – According to the “Ace of MLB Stats” Twitter account (a very informative account on in-depth statistics), Dexter Fowler is your leader in the clubhouse for National League (NL) MVP…and it’s hard to argue otherwise. After the conclusion on Saturday night’s game against the Reds, Fowler is now slashing .385/.506/.692 this season with three HRs and two stolen bases (SBs). Furthermore, his 17 runs scored rank second in baseball behind only Josh Donaldson. With an OBP of over .500, it’s clear he is getting on base enough to warrant cash game consideration every game due to that statistic alone. However, he possesses far more upside than just getting on base in a matchup versus Alfredo Simon and his 12.15 ERA so far this season. Over 187.0 IP last year, Simon only managed a 5.05 ERA and 1.44 WHIP so his early struggles are no shocker. He is just a gas can at this point in his career and is a candidate to get lit up any time he steps on the mound. Sure Fowler is expensive but he’s an incredibly safe bet and that is worth paying up for. If you have the salary available, he is a viable candidate in all formats on Sunday. UPDATE: Dexter Fowler is not in the lineup. Literally every other Cubs bat is in play so this is an easy swap.
Michael Conforto, Mets, $6,300 – Man, his price just refuses to catch up to his production. To this point, Michael Conforto has produced a .391 wOBA against RHP which, by comparison, would have ranked 25th among all hitters last season…higher than such players as Josh Donaldson and Freddie Freeman. Hell, last season Conforto produced a wOBA of .371 versus the handedness so this recent production doesn’t exactly seem unsustainably high. Like the aforementioned hitters, Conforto is in an excellent spot as he’ll be facing a pitcher making his major league debut (Aaron Blair). Over the course of his minor league career, Blair has registered a 4.02 ERA, 3.92 FIP, 1.32 FIP, 3.37 BB/9 and 7.98 K/9…none of which are overly impressive. To be fair, he has strung together three excellent starts (1.42 ERA) to begin this season but the overall sample size suggests the recent data is more of a mirage. Therefore, you’ll want to go ahead and keep throwing a drastically underpriced Conforto into your lineups and reaping the serious profit potential above his price tag.
Stephen Strasburg, Nationals, $22,200 – This is an incredible spot for an exceptionally talented pitcher. Not only will Stephen Strasburg be facing a mediocre Minnesota Twins offense but he’ll be doing so in a National League ballpark. Consequently, at least one of Miguel Sano, Byung-Ho Park and/or Joe Mauer will not be able to crack the lineup. In other words, one of their top three hitters will not be in their lineup and will be replaced by a pitcher instead. The Twins have been surprisingly effective against RHP to this point as they rank 10th in wOBA, but I do not expect that to continue, and they still have struck out at the 10th highest rate. If there’s one thing Strasburg does well, it is strikeout opposing hitters, so this should be a prime spot for him to mow down double-digits. Not only is Strasburg worthy of cash game consideration but he probably possesses the highest overall upside of any pitcher on the slate as well.
Michael Pineda, Yankees, $17,700 – Deciding who to pair Strasburg with is the difficult part of this slate as many high-priced hitters are in enticing spots. Rostering guys like Carlos Carrasco or Jacob deGrom with Strasburg would hamstring your ability to roster such hitters. The guy who makes the most sense in terms of combination of salary and upside is none other than Michael Pineda. Okay, so he has been frustrating to this point, but the Rays have displayed an inability to hit RHP since the beginning of last season. They ranked in the bottom 10 of wOBA last year and rank there once again while also falling in the bottom 10 of wRC+, AVG, OBP and hard hit percentage versus the handedness. Oh by the way, they have also struck out at the second highest percentage versus righties (behind only the Astros). Pineda will draw a date with a light-hitting team that punches out a lot so he’ll have a golden opportunity to shine. Like Strasburg, Pineda can be used in whatever format you see fit.
Derek Holland, Rangers, $15,600 – If even additional salary is needed beyond Pineda’s bargain price, or you’re simply looking for an elite tournament option, look no further than Derek Holland. Last season, the White Sox ranked dead last in wOBA against LHP and also ranked in the bottom 10 of wRC+, ISO, BB rate, AVG, OBP and line drive percentage. The team went out and acquired Todd Fraizer in the offseason, and guess what, they still rank in the bottom 10 of all those categories other than line drive rate. Even though they have improved on their hard contact, they are striking out at the sixth highest rate against LHP, which is a complete 180 from their very low strikeout rate last season. All-in-all there is nothing scary about the matchup, and Holland has opened the season with three respectable outings, so do not hesitate to deploy him once again.
*Stats are accurate as of Saturday, Apr. 23