In spite of all of Felix Hernandez’s exposed flaws so far this season, he draws the absolute perfect matchup on Monday. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB contests.
Nolan Arenado, Rockies, $10,800 – One day Archie Bradley may become a productive Major League pitcher, however, that day has not arrived yet. Through 40.0 career IP in the big leagues (combining his 2015 and 2016 numbers), Bradley sports a 6.30 ERA, 5.28 FIP, 5.24 xFIP, 1.73 WHIP, 5.85 BB/9 and 5.63 K/9. There is no sugar coating the fact that all of these numbers are absolutely horrendous. Coors Field never did a pitcher any favors so Bradley’s struggles will only be enhanced in the MLB’s above and beyond most favorable hitters’ park. In Bradley’s young career, he has actually fared worse against RHHs (4.07 wOBA) as opposed to LHHs (.315 wOBA). If there’s one likely right-handed candidate to take advantage of Bradley’s struggles, it is none other than Nolan Arenado. Even on the unfavorable side of Arenado’s platoon split, he has produced a .389 wOBA this season against RHP so far with a .286/.356/.549 slash line. At home, he is hitting .362 compared to .243 on the road. All of the statistics signify one thing: a big day is coming for Arenado and you do not want to fade him despite the outrageous price.
Justin Bour, Marlins, $6,800 – In order to fit the necessary Rockies bats alongside aces, salary is going to need to be saved in multiple spots. One of the best combinations of salary relief and upside is the Marlins’ Justin Bour. While the over/under of the game only sits at 7.5, the Marlins are listed as overwhelming favorites at -230. It is a battle between one very good pitcher (Jose Fernandez) versus one very mediocre one (Wily Peralta). Luckily for Bour, his team will face the mediocre one. So far in 2016, Peralta’s ERA sits at 7.50 with a 1.93 WHIP. He has been so terrible that he actually has allowed at least a .421 wOBA to each side of the plate. Hell, lefties are hitting .328 against him and righties are hitting .362. The guy is simply a gas can so all Marlins bats are firmly in play. Over the past few days, Justin Bour has raised his average from .273 to .280, hit a HR and has driven in three runs. Although his .359 wOBA against RHP ranks fifth on the team so far this year, his .233 ISO ranks third behind only Giancarlo Stanton and Derek Dietrich. Bour is nothing if not consistent as his .359 wOBA against righties is identical to his tally from last year. Basically, this is a whole lot of talent packed into a $6,800 price tag, especially factoring in the elite matchup against a weak opposing starting pitcher.
Charlie Blackmon, Rockies, $8,800 – Okay so in the Arenado tidbit I eluded to the fact that righties actually hit Bradley better than lefties but that doesn’t take the Rockies’ LHHs out of consideration. This is Coors Field we are talking about and both Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez are incredibly skilled hitters against RHPs. In cash games, Blackmon is the preferred play amongst the two solely based on his $1,100 cheaper price. With that being said, stacking Rockies in cash is probably the route I’m going to go. They are in such an excellent spot that masseyratings has the projected total of this game a full run higher than the next game. While the official Vegas line isn’t out yet, it appears the Diamondbacks will be favored. I disagree with this assessment as Tyler Chatwood’s ERA currently sits at 2.15 and he has pitched extremely well. I think those rostering Diamondbacks bats are going to be disappointed while those relying on Rockies bats in Coors will be properly fulfilled as per usual.
Franklin Gutierrez, Mariners, $5,400 – Remember the “.359 wOBA” statistic from Bour’s tidbit? Well, that is the exact tally Franklin Gutierrez has produced against LHPs for his career and he is priced $1,400 less than Bour. Okay, so Gutierrez will be hitting in the worst hitters’ park in the American League but that difference is certainly over-factored into this price tag if that was the thought behind it. Again, salary relief will be necessary alongside Rockies and aces so it’s nice to be able to actually roster an inexpensive player with upside. Matt Moore just had his start pushed back a day due to fatigue and he allowed seven ERs in his last start. Obviously, something is up for him and he isn’t quite 100-percent. Take advantage of an underpriced respectable hitter in his platoon split against the recently susceptible opponent.
Jon Lester, Cubs, $22,800 – In one sense, Jon Lester’s matchup is, in poker terms, ”the nuts.” No team has struck out a higher percentage against either handedness of pitchers than the Padres have against LHPs (27-percent). They also rank in the bottom 10 of wOBA, wRC+, ISO, BB rate, OBP and line drive percentage against the handedness as well. In other words, Lester’s strikeout potential will never be greater and the Padres do not hit well either. Furthermore, only Melvin Upton is a real stolen base threat which is a real positive considering Lester is the absolute worst at holding runners. All-in-all, I prefer Lester’s matchup to any other pitcher’s on the slate. For that reason, he should be locked and loaded into cash games and can obviously be considered in GPPs as well with that sort of K potential.
Jose Fernandez, Marlins, $21,900 – “Too many feelings, not enough time” accurately portrays how I feel about Jose Fernandez against the Brewers at home on Monday. On one hand, something is up with Fernandez and his control. He had decreased his BB/9 rate each season since 2013 until this year. In 2016, that total has ballooned to 4.28, which would rate substantially higher than his career high 3.02 BB/9 (his rookie season). The lack of control has led to a 4.28 ERA although both his FIP and xFIP suggest he has been a bit unlucky (although the wildness is clearly the main culprit). On the other hand, he’ll square off against a Brewers team that has struck out at the fourth highest percentage of any team against RHP. Also, Fernandez’s 12.59 K/9 would rank as a career high if it were to hold. I am hesitant to use a struggling pitcher in cash games knowing his downside is lower than if he were amidst a typical dominant Fernandez streak. With all the K potential and a strikeout-prone opponent, he absolutely has to be considered in GPPs. I think a lot of people will likely lean to him in cash games as well but I just see way more risk to him than the next stud at a similar price.
Felix Hernandez, Mariners, $21,200 – Okay, so first and foremost, there is definitely an element of risk to Felix Hernandez as well. I do not want to make it seem like he is bulletproof because he absolutely is not. The Rays rank 12th in ISO against RHPs and Hernandez’s velocity is down more than 2.0 mph since last season. His 92.1 mph average last season was already down more than 2.0 mph since his prime (94.4 mph average velocity in 2010). With depreciated velocity, it’s unsurprising that his 7.12 K/9 this season would rank the lowest of his career. Also, he is walking 4.42 batters per nine innings so far this season which would rate as almost a full batter worse per inning than his career worst (3.59 BB/9 in 2008). Even with all of that being said, he still currently sports a 2.21 ERA and draws an elite matchup. In two starts at home this season, Hernandez has yet to allow an ER as opposed to a 3.68 ERA on the road. Last season, he experienced a similar phenomenon as his ERA ranked well over a run better at home (3.03) as opposed to away from Safeco Park (4.25). This makes sense because Safeco is the American League’s most favorable pitchers’ park. It helps neutralize the power of opposing teams…and guess whose strength is their power…the answer is his opponent: the Rays. Despite all the possible downside, this matchup simply is the best he could ask for in many ways, especially with his diminished skill set. Start him in all formats and watch Hernandez put together a vintage “King Felix”-esque gem.
*Stats are accurate as of Sunday, May 8