Go ahead and start all 5’6″ of Jose Altuve on Wednesday evening because his combination of high floor and lofty ceiling deem him an elite play in any format. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB contests.
Jose Altuve, Astros, $9,200 (Late) – Phil Hughes has long been known for being susceptible to the long ball and for good reason considering his career HR/9 rate sits at 1.22. Over the course of his career, righties have actually homered at a higher rate (1.33 HR/9) than lefties (1.12 HR/9) against him. This statistic coincides with the fact that he has allowed a higher career wOBA to RHHs as opposed to LHHs as well. His skill set, or lack thereof, coincides nicely with the guy who is probably the American League MVP thus far: Jose Altuve. In an admittedly limited sample size, Altuve leads the Astros in wOBA against RHP (.424) with a .321 ISO (second to Colby Rasmus’ .338) and is currently slashing .296/.380/.617 versus the handedness. Hell, Altuve has already hit six HRs and stole eight bases against the handedness…in just about a month. He is on pace for a monster season which is no surprise because he is simply one of the game’s best players. With Minute Maid Park’s short porch in left field, Altuve could hit one out by accident. The guy is so good he could reach 20 fantasy points in about a million different ways. There just isn’t a player with a higher floor than Altuve on the slate so lock and load him in cash games.
Logan Forsythe, Rays, $8,800 (Late) – After accumulating only a walk (two stinking fantasy points) against a LHP on Tuesday, the matchup gets even gushier for Logan Forsythe on Wednesday. In recent years, Scott Kazmir has fared better against RHHs than LHHs en route to producing some reverse splits. Alex Wood, on the other hand, allowed a wOBA almost 120 percentage points higher to righties last year so this matchup is a bit more favorable for Forsythe’s skill set. To review from yesterday’s Today’s Plays article, Forsythe’s .405 wOBA versus LHP last year ranked 11th among qualified hitters…or slightly superior to the tallies of such names like Lorenzo Cain, George Springer, Mike Napoli and Evan Longoria. He’ll lead off for the Rays so the lineup spot is obviously as good as it gets for DFS so go back to the well with Forsythe for the second straight night. It is unlikely he’ll make it back-to-back duds considering his near elite skill set in the platoon split.
Ryan Braun, Brewers, $9,600 (Early) – Speaking of elite skill sets versus left-handers, the well-rested (he got the night off Tuesday) Ryan Braun will return to the lineup on Wednesday to face a fly-ball lefty in Miller Park. According to ESPN Park Factors, no park has played more conducive to the HR ball over the past two seasons than, you guessed it, Miller Park. In other words, it is a horrible place for Hector Santiago and his career 9.9-percent HR/FB ratio to pitch. On the plus side for Santiago, his 45.7-percent ground ball rate so far this year would be the highest of his career. Still, Santiago’s HR/9 rate still sits at a less than stellar 1.39 so opposing hitters are still finding ways to hit the ball out of the park. Among all active players with at least 150 career ABs versus LHP, Ryan Braun’s .433 wOBA ranks first ahead of all of them. When a top-tier hitter faces a fly ball pitcher in a HR-prone park, it is not a smart idea to fade him.
Joey Rickard, Orioles, $6,400 (Late) – With all the previous expensive hitters mentioned, finding value is going to be essential, and Orioles’ leadoff man Joey Rickard certainly fits the bill. Baltimore will square off against one of my personal favorites to target against in his elder age: C.C. Sabathia. In 21.1 IP, Sabathia has nearly walked (11) as many hitters as he has struck out (15) and currently sports a 5.06 ERA and 1.69 WHIP. Digging into the splits, both side of the plate have hit him pretty evenly, as he has allowed a .350 wOBA to RHHs and .348 wOBA to LHHs. Against righties, he has allowed a .306/.380/.408 slash line to this point so the matchup is obviously favorable for Rickard. Furthermore, Rickard hasn’t been too shabby against LHPs either this season as he has produced a .403 wOBA and .333/.379/.556 slash line to this point. At just $6,400, this mixture of upside is way too juicy to pass on.
Drew Smyly, Rays, $21,300 (Late) – I know what you’re probably thinking, “But Ricky, didn’t a LHP (Matt Moore) just get crushed by the Dodgers just yesterday?” The answer to that question is yes but that does not dissuade me from rostering Drew Smyly. Heading into yesterday’s matchup, the Dodgers ranked in the bottom 12 of wOBA versus LHP and ranked in the bottom 110 of wRC+ and OBP versus the handedness. While they don’t strike out much, Smyly is underrated in terms of his craftiness. He has started five games in 2016, including two against the Toronto Blue Jays, and has struck out at least five every time out. In fact, he has even managed 11 Ks twice and only his first start of the year (versus the Blue Jays) did not result in a “quality start.” While Moore struggles with control at times, pitching to spots is Smyly’s strong point (1.56 BB/9 this year). Assuming he can keep the ball in the ballpark, I love taking the shot on Smyly in all formats as a -161 favorite at home in a game with a projected 7.5 over/under.
Steven Matz, Mets, $17,600 (Early) – The Braves rank dead last in wOBA versus RHP but heading into Tuesday they were only tied for dead last against LHP. However, they actually have played as a more favorable matchup versus lefties because they have struck out at a rate of 27.2-percent versus the handedness (which ranks second worst behind only the Phillies’ 28.7-percent). Matz’s bread and butter is retiring hitters via the strikeout as his K/9 sits at 9.43 this season. His ERA is a bit high at the moment (3.86) but his 2.74 FIP and 3.07 xFIP suggest he has been a bit unlucky. Against a Braves team that cannot hit, Matz has serious gem potential and is in a great spot to turn his luck around. He is the top pitching value on the early slate by a large margin.
Carlos Rodon, White Sox, $14,800 (Late) – Did you see what Jose Quintana did to the Red Sox last night? Surprisingly, the Red Sox rank dead last so far this season in terms of wOBA against LHP and Quintana only lowered that total with eight innings of one run ball on Tuesday evening. Carlos Rodon is a bit more volatile than Quintana but he possesses superior swing-and-miss type stuff than his teammate. This skill will be vital to throwing a gem against the Red Sox as their 26.1-percent K rate ranks third against the handedness. The Red Sox also rank in the bottom 10 of wRC+, ISO, AVG, OBP, hard hit percentage and line drive rate against the handedness so their struggles have been substantial. Therefore, continue to ride the trend until the Red Sox prove their current numbers are a mirage and start Rodon for his double-digit strikeout potential. Even if Boston gets to him a little bit, the K potential provides a nice, safe floor so he can and should be deployed in all formats with confidence.
*Stats are accurate as of Tuesday, May 3