Yordano Ventura and the Royals will head to the friendly confines of Safeco Field where Ventura should make himself at home on Saturday. 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.
Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks (Late) – Among all active players with at least 100 career ABs versus LHPs, Paul Goldschmidt’s .430 wOBA ranks third behind only Kike Hernandez (.468) and Ryan Braun (.434). On Saturday, Chris Rusin will make his first start of the season after making four relief appearances so far this season. In his first appearance of the season, he allowed three earned runs (ERs) in 1.1 IP and has thrown 9.2 consecutive scoreless innings since that time. Rusin has thrown 251.1 IP as a professional and he owns a career 5.05 ERA and 1.51 WHIP so relying on the recent success would likely be putting false hope in a small sample size. The prime candidate to start the regression is quite clearly Goldschmidt and he should be rostered in all formats.
John Jaso, Pirates (Late) – Probable starter Alfredo Simon has allegedly done some terrible things but here’s one thing that is more than an accusation: he has been absolutely awful this season. In four total appearances (three starts), Simon’s ERA currently sits at 16.39 and his 8.68 FIP and 5.39 xFIP suggest it has hardly been due to “bad luck.” To this point, he has allowed an astounding .674 wOBA to LHHs as well as a .500/.560/1.091 slash line. Simon owns a career 4.33 ERA, so even if things get better for him, they will only rise to his usual level of mediocrity. On the other hand, John Jaso ranks third on the Pirates in career wOBA versus RHPs behind only Andrew McCutchen and Jason Rogers. The nice thing about Jaso is his price remains so much more affordable than McCutchen’s despite the fact that he continues to lead off. Take the discount and deploy him in cash lineups if choosing between him and McCutchen but honestly both are viable in a matchup with a complete gas can.
Dexter Fowler, Cubs (Early) – For those keeping up with the MLB OBP leaders, Dexter Fowler has fallen behind Aledmys Diaz and Christian Yelich as his tally has dropped all the way to .473 (sarcasm). After surprisingly re-signing with the Cubs in the offseason, Fowler has been quite the pleasant surprise as he currently leads the MLB in wins above replacement (WAR) with 1.9. He has played the role of table-setter atop the Cubs lineup to near perfection as only the Cardinals (6.23) average more runs per game than the Cubs (6.19). Their offensively loaded squad will square off against Julio Teheran the Braves at 1:20 pm CST in Wrigley Field. Teheran, who was once knocking on the door of becoming an ace, has been held back for one reason and one reason alone: he struggles to retire LHHs. So far this year, Teheran has allowed a .407 wOBA to the handedness which is only slightly worse than the .386 tally he allowed last season. They are basically his kryptonite and the Cubs possess a few excellent ones but none of them possess a higher floor than Fowler. Roster Fowler for his safety, but there’s always a possibility he’ll rip one of the park and/or steal a base, which provides him with an intriguing ceiling as well.
Nomar Mazara, Rangers (Late) – All of the Rangers bats are in play against a struggling Matt Shoemaker. After a magical 2014 season where he produced a 3.04 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, his production has significantly regressed. Last season he only managed a mediocre 4.46 ERA and 1.26 WHIP and this season has been nothing short of a disaster so far (6.87 ERA and 1.64 WHIP). He once looked like a promising talent but now he is more of a guy struggling to keep his rotation spot if he doesn’t shape up quickly. Although Nomar Mazara has cooled down a bit since his hot start after his call up, he still leads the team with a .480 wOBA against RHP so far this season and has produced a .429/.500/.629 slash line against the handedness in 35 ABs. He hits in a prime spot in the order (second) and ranks first on the team in wOBA against righties by almost 150 percentage points. While I expect him to come back down to Earth at some point, it’s clear the kid is talented and he can swing the bat in his preferred side of the platoon split. In yet another favorable matchup for the Rangers, Mazara is just too cheap and is one of my favorite bets of the evening for a bomb.
Yordano Ventura, Royals (Late) – On the surface, the matchup versus the Mariners is only mediocre. The Mariners rank in the top 10 of wRC+ and BB rate and they don’t rank in the bottom 10 of any offensive category I put any weight into. Furthermore, they strike out at just about the league average and possess a few excellent hitters against RHP (Robinson Cano, Adam Lind) in their lineup. However, there is a major factor working in Ventura’s favor in this game: the ballpark. Yes, Safeco Field has rated as baseball’s worst hitters’ park over the past two seasons, per ESPN Park Factors. Notably, ESPN’s Derek Carty believes strikeouts are more likely in certain ballpark because pitchers could change their approach/mentality due to the dimensions. Taijuan Walker is a prime example as his career K rate in Safeco (9.47) is substantially higher than on the road (7.36). My thinking is Ventura could enjoy a similar phenomenon and the park could turn a neutral matchup into a positive one. Due to a lack of other elite options, Ventura ranks as pitching option 1A for the late slate by default.
Jordan Zimmermann, Tigers (Early) – Similarly to the Mariners, the Twins rate as sort of a neutral matchup but they do have a glaring weakness: their strikeout rate. Only eight teams have struck out at a higher rate than the Twins versus RHP this season although their offense does walk a lot (9.3-percent BB rate) and hit their fair share of line drives (24.0-percent line drive rate). Look, you’re already rostering Jacob deGrom at home where he posted a 1.99 ERA last season, so it’s not even worth talking about him. Zimmermann on the other hand isn’t a no-brainer considering he has only struck out 5.54 batters per nine innings to this point in 2016. His career average of 7.38 suggests more Ks are on the horizon and this should be the matchup to spark the uptick. Still, it’s hard to argue with how he has gotten opposing hitters out because he currently sports a 0.35 ERA. At some point, he will allow a HR but he has not yet this season. If choosing between him and John Lackey as SP2, Zimmermann takes the cake for him because his career-high ground ball rate has led to some fantastic results…and I expect that to continue against the Twins.
Ross Stripling, Dodgers (Late) – This is a simple case of “Oh, there’s a right-hander facing the Padres.” Even in a league that includes the Braves, the Padres by far have produced the lowest wOBA against RHP this season (.265). They also rank in the bottom 10 of wRC+, ISO, BB rate, AVG, OBP and hard hit percentage. The icing on the cake is the fact that they have struck out at the fourth highest percentage versus the handedness (25.8-percent) so any RHP is pretty much automatically in play against them. While Stripling hasn’t been amazing by any stretch of the imagination, he hasn’t allowed more than three ER in any start thus far and his 3.22 ERA, 1.30 WHIP aren’t terrible. The price tag is low enough where you can load up bats alongside him which is probably the strongest case for him…other than the fact that the Padres stink. Those reasons combined are enough to warrant consideration in all formats, because if he were ever going to throw a masterpiece, this would be the time.
*Stats are accurate as of Friday, Apr. 29