Ian Desmond and the Rangers will square off against a pitcher who does not look ready to compete at the big league level just yet. The advantage goes to Desmond. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB contests.
Chase Utley, Dodgers, $7,800 – In a battle of the “Los Angeles” squads, the Dodgers opened as heavy -178 favorites despite the fact that they’ll be playing at home in front of a split fan base. Why are they such huge favorites? For one, Kenta Maeda and his 2.30 ERA will take the mound, but also Matt Shoemaker is 1-5 with a whopping 9.12 ERA. You saw that right…nine point one two. Shoemaker’s ERA is only slightly higher than a pitching machine’s would be at this point. RHHs have actually fared better (.444 wOBA) to this point against him but four of the six HRs he has allowed has come off of the bat of LHHs (.381 wOBA). Essentially everyone has hit him well so the focus should be more on the talent of the hitters squaring off against him. Chase Utley leads the Dodgers in wOBA against RHP so far this season (.406) and has hit the ball hard a whopping 41.8-percent of the time. Assuming Utley draws a start in the leadoff spot as he did on Sunday evening, he will be hitting in a prime spot with a solid skillset against a susceptible pitcher. At a sub-$8,000 price, he is a fantastic value in all formats.
Travis Shaw, Red Sox, $7,600 – Speaking of skilled players in excellent matchups, Travis Shaw and the top offense in terms of wOBA against RHP (.366) will square off against Yordano Ventura and his 4.62 ERA. Naturally when the Red Sox square off against a struggling righty, David Ortiz is the first name that comes to mind. However, Ortiz’s price has risen to a ridiculous $10,400 tag. Clearly he is in play as he always is against RHPs but Shaw is the much better value-per-dollar player. While Ortiz’s .478 wOBA against the handedness earns him a price tag in the mid-$10,000s, Shaw’s .469 wOBA somehow only requires you pay $7,600 to roster him. Despite playing on the road, Shaw and the Red Sox are favored (-112) in a game with an over/under of 8.5 runs. In other words, Vegas believes they should be a safe bet for four-plus runs. Shaw hits in the heart of the order in an elite offense and has flashed upper-echelon skills versus the handedness so far. With this price tag, it just feels foolish to not use him.
Ian Desmond, Rangers, $7,600 – Value is the name of the game on this slate because you can add Ian Desmond to the list of hitters with flabbergasting salaries. If Shoemaker is a pitching machine, Sean Manaea is a batting tee; his 11.37 ERA ranks second worst in all of baseball amongst pitchers who have thrown at least 10 innings this season. In three starts, Manaea has allowed at least four ERs in each and has not pitched into the sixth inning once. His last time out, the Red Sox absolutely lit him up to the tune of 12 baserunners, eight ERs and just one K in 2.2 IP…and the Rangers are the next ranked team in wOBA against LHP in the American League (AL) behind the Red Sox. While an all-out blitz shouldn’t be expected once again, Manaea has shown very little signs of hope at the big league level at this point. On the other hand, Ian Desmond leads the Rangers in wOBA versus LHP so far this season with a .456 tally and a .351/.415/.676 slash line against the handedness. Incredibly, his current ISO sits at .324. Desmond is the perfect combination of skill set and matchup where he should not be faded anywhere. He is my top hitting play on the entire slate.
Ryan Rua, Rangers, $6,000 – Did I mention Manaea’s ERA currently sits above 11.00? More than one hitter can and should be used against him. While he is touted as the “Samoan Randy Johnson,” Manaea more closely resembles the Samoan Randy Wolf (in his elder years) at this point. According to a report, Ryan Rua will serve as the everyday left fielder for at least another week until Shin-Soo Choo returns from the disabled list. Rua, one of the teams’ few right-handed bats, ranks second on the team in wOBA versus LHP (.428) so far this season behind only Desmond…and he only costs $6,000! This pricing reminds me of Darin Ruf’s last season which never ever adjusted to his borderline elite skill set versus the handedness. While Rua (career .349 wOBA versus LHP) isn’t in Ruf’s tier just yet, he has always shown the ability to hit against southpaws. He will likely hit low enough in the order that most will disregard him in cash games but his matchup is hard to argue with. All-in-all, I wouldn’t be mad at you for deploying him in cash although he stands out as one of the best overall plays in tournaments specifically.
Jordan Zimmermann, Tigers, $20,000 – Strangely, a move to the AL has resulted in the lowest career ERA (at least to this point) for Jordan Zimmermann. Usually, a switch to the more difficult league to pitch in results in an ERA jump of about a half-to-three-quarters of a run. According to FIP and xFIP, Zimmermann has enjoyed a bit of luck to this point, but he’s allowing hard contact at his lowest rate since 2011 (his breakout season). Usually when paying $20,000-plus for a pitcher, a high strikeout rate is preferable. In this regard, Zimmermann and his 5.25 K/9 do not fit the bill. Nevertheless, the Twins strike out at the ninth highest rate in baseball versus RHPs so he has a chance for an outlier K performance. Also, the Twins rate as just about a neutral matchup in most important statistical categories including wOBA, wRC+, ISO, BB rate, AVG and OBP. In other words, this should be just another day at the office for a pitcher who has been outstanding to this point. Zimmermann is a rock solid play in cash game formats.
Adam Conley, Marlins, $16,000 – Anyone subscribing to the recency bias will be dissuaded from rostering Adam Conley in his first game after producing just 3.00 lousy fantasy points against the Brewers. To be fair, it was the second time he faced them in a two week span so they weren’t exactly fooled by his arsenal having just seen it. His upcoming opponent, the Phillies, have yet to face him this season. Even after his disastrous start, he still sports just a 3.72 ERA which would best his 3.76 tally last season. To this point, Conley has dominated RHHs to the tune of a .263 wOBA and .185/.277/.302 slash line. Lefties have been the ones who have killed him and the Phillies offense really does not possess any real threats of the handedness…especially against LHP. Therefore, it should be smooth sailing for Conley against an offense that ranks in the bottom 10 of wOBA, wRC+, ISO, AVG, OBP, hard hit rate and line drive percentage versus LHP and Ks at the eight highest rate. Conley would be my favorite value pitcher on most slates but the next guy happens to take the cake…
Jonathon Niese, Pirates, $11,400 – There is anemic and then there is the Braves against LHP. The Braves rank dead last in wOBA, wRC+, ISO and OBP versus LHP this season and have struck out at a rate of 23.8-percent. Although Jonathon Niese has thrown a quality start in three of his last six games, people will just look at the overall numbers (5.63 ERA) and write off the skill set. If you take a closer look, all three of his letdowns have come at the hands of teams that rank in the top seven of wOBA overall against LHP…including a game against the Rockies in Coors Field. It’s not so much that Niese has pitched terribly but more so that he has drawn terrible matchups. Pitching against the Rockies in Coors Field versus pitching against the Braves and Williams Perez at home is the difference between playing the Monstars and playing the Monstars when they were tiny baby aliens. If that wasn’t clear, Niese will draw a metaphorical date against the tiny baby aliens sans the talent, so rostering him is a move with unlimited upside. Not only do you insert a pitcher with serious potential into your lineup but you can fit all the bats you want alongside him as well. You’re welcome.
*Stats are accurate as of Sunday, May 15