Nathan Eovaldi is struggling in a big way to begin this season and you expect those struggles to continue at the hands of a nice young player amidst a hot streak: Nomar Mazara. Roster him. 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.
John Jaso, Pirates, $8,400 – Needless to say, Coors Field is a prime target for bats on Monday. Headlining the list of potential options is the criminally underpriced leadoff hitter for the visiting Pirates: John Jaso. In 2015, the only Pirate who produced a superior wOBA to Jaso’s .358 tally was Andrew McCutchen (.376). While opposing starter Chad Bettis sports some reverse splits (faring better against LHHs than RHHs) both last season and so far this season, Jaso is just too cheap for his skill set. Generally leadoff hitters in Coors see their prices balloon to the mid-$9,000s but Jaso remains affordable. Overall, Bettis allowed a .365 wOBA and .294/.360/.486 slash line at home in 2015 so it’s not like he was overly effective against anyone. Clearly Andrew McCutchen is the slightly preferred option if you can fit him in under the salary cap but that will be difficult to do in cash games if rostering two aces. Jaso is the right combination of price and skill set to warrant consideration in all formats.
Mike Napoli, Indians, $7,200 – Mike Napoli is the team’s starting first basemen, and will start versus every handedness, but his platoon splits have always favored facing LHP. Among all active players who have racked up at least 500 career ABs versus southpaws, Napoli’s .393 wOBA ranks 15th behind ahead of such names as Matt Holliday, Nelson Cruz and Alex Rodriguez. Quite clearly, his bat is a force to be reckoned with in this split if he is edging out future Hall-of-Famers (well, at least one). Probable starter Tommy Milone on the other hand struggled against RHHs last season as he allowed 14 of his 17 HRs against them. Righties also managed a .331 wOBA against him which was slightly worse than his career .323 total. His 6.47 career K/9 suggests he pitches mostly to contact. If he pitches to contact against Napoli, the ball is likely going a long way. At this price tag, Napoli is absolutely usable in cash as he is amongst the best non-Coors Field bets for a bomb on Monday evening.
Ryan Raburn, Rockies, $7,600 – After sitting on Sunday, Ryan Raburn is a stone cold lock to return to the lineup on Monday against a LHP. The last time I wrote about him, the Rockies decided to sit him, so let’s review why he is always in play versus a lefty…Quietly, Raburn is one of the best hitters in the game versus LHPs as only Nelson Cruz, Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson produced superior wOBAs against southpaws last season. Now he’ll be in a borderline unfair hitting atmosphere in Coors Field which consistently allows the most runs of any ballpark. We haven’t seen much of Raburn in Coors yet but at some point it is going to prove to be magical. Jeff Locke is a prime target for any lefty killer in any ballpark let alone the hitting mecca in Colorado. Even if Raburn is hitting seventh, I have no problem bending the “top six” hitter rule for him and inserting his crazy talent into any and every lineup, regardless of format.
Nomar Mazara, Rangers, $6,800 – For someone with league leading velocity, Nathan Eovaldi pretty much stinks. I really thought he could possibly take the next step as a pitcher this season but his 6.11 ERA this season is proving to be more of the same crap with him. A disturbing early trend developing for him has been the 2.04 HR/9 rate. In his career, Eovaldi has typically been successful at keeping the ball in the ballpark…at least at a reasonable rate. So while his strikeouts are up and his walks are down, his hard hit percentage would rank as an all-time high for him (which is notable). Trends like these tend to regress to the norm over the long haul but now he’ll now head to the Ballpark in Arlington to face a very solid Rangers lineup. In other words, this probably will not be the start to right the ship for him. Instead, Nomar Mazara is in an ideal spot to continue his ongoing hot streak that he has been on since his call up (.356, two HRs, six RBI in 12 games). Considering Mazara sports a .453 wOBA against RHP versus a .230 tally against lefties, it’s clear where most of his production is coming from. There is nothing scary about this matchup so continue to expect big things from him at this bargain price.
Madison Bumgarner, Giants, $23,200 – As eluded to earlier in the piece, pretty much all of the aces on the slate are viable plays. Hell, Danny Salazar isn’t even specifically mentioned by name in this pitcher section and he faces a poor hitting Twins team…that’s how loaded the position is on Monday. What could be better than a Salazar/Twins matchup? How about Madison Bumgarner at home against the lowly Padres in a game with a 6.5 projected over/under? The Padres ranked in the bottom 10 of wOBA against LHP last season and surprisingly rank seventh in the category so far this season. Although this trend is a little concerning, I feel it is a bit of a mirage. Many of the Padres hitters favor the platoon split versus lefties but that still does not necessarily make them good hitters. Also, both the talent of the pitcher and the ballpark (AT&T Park ranks as a top five hitters’ park over the past two seasons according to ESPN Park Factors) will help negate their new found power. A split worth paying attention to for Bumgarner has been his home/away numbers since the beginning of 2015. Last year, he allowed a 4.15 ERA away from AT&T Park but dominated at home en route to a 1.94 ERA. This season, there is a gigantic gap developing yet again (2.08 ERA at home versus 6.30 on the road) so it’s clear he just is more comfortable in his familiar atmosphere. He is the second best option on the slate behind only the Mets’ ace.
Noah Syndergaard, Mets, $22,000 – In three starts so far in 2016, Noah Syndergaard is averaging a whopping 31.86 fantasy points per start, or more than four more per game than any other pitcher on the slate…and Jaime Garcia dropped a 54-burger two starts ago! Yeah, Syndergaard has absolutely dominated and has managed at least nine Ks in each outing. His upcoming opponent, the Reds, were just shut down by Jon Lester and Jason Hammel in consecutive games, and oh yeah, they were no-hit by Jake Arrieta on Friday night. While Syndergaard isn’t Arrieta just yet, he certainly possesses similar talent and can be as dominant in any given start. Simply put: the sky is the ceiling for him in this start.
Taijuan Walker, Mariners, $17,400 – While the other two starters are fantastic options for all formats, Taijuan Walker comes with an inherent level of risk. The Astros are amongst the most powerful teams in baseball as they were tied for fourth in HRs heading into Sunday night. However, last season only the Cubs struck out at a higher rate than their 23.6-percent, and this season they yet again rank second in percentage (but this time behind the Rays). According to ESPN Park Factors, Safeco Field has played as the major league’s worst hitters’ park over the past two seasons, which would explain why Walker allowed an opponents’ AVG 35 percentage points less at home last year. To this point, Walker’s best asset as a professional has been his ability to strike out opposing hitters (8.11 K/9) and he strangely has done so at a much greater rate at home (9.15) versus on the road (7.36). If he can get in the zone and avoid a string of line drive base hits, Walker possesses double-digit strikeout upside. While I would avoid him in cash, he is an elite GPP option as he has the potential to lead you to the top of the $10,000 Home Run contest.
*Stats are accurate as of Sunday, Apr. 24