Masahiro Tanaka will enjoy an extremely positive ballpark shift and will square off against an Athletics lineup sans a few of their best hitters. Lock him in. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB contests.
Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays, $10,800 (Early) – When I saw P.Dean starting against the Blue Jays on Saturday, my initial instinct was “Paula Deen is pitching in the majors now?” Bad jokes aside, Pat Dean is the probable starter for the Twins and he presents a juicy matchup for Josh Donaldson and company. The first statistic that stands out in his minor league numbers is the fact that he does not miss bats. No matter which level he has been at since the end of the 2011 season, he has not produced a K/9 rate greater than 5.59. Donaldson has proved time and time again that when a LHP presents him with the opportunity to hit a baseball, he’s going to hit it a long way. Only four active players (min. 200 ABs) own a greater career wOBA versus LHP than Donaldson’s .417 tally: Ryan Braun (.435), Paul Goldschmidt (.425), David Wright (.422) and Andrew McCutchen (.417). Yet again, Donaldson has been a monster against the handedness this season (.488 wOBA so far), so there’s no reason to doubt his prospects in this game. I would almost be shocked if he did not hit a bomb in this game even after homering last night.
Cesar Hernandez, Phillies, $6,000 (Early) – Last year’s cash game darling Cesar Hernandez was back in the two hole in the Phillies lineup on Friday night and was up to his old tricks. He finished with a hit and a run scored against a starter (Matt Wisler) who continues to pitch lights out this season. Although his price rose by $400, the matchup gets a whole lot easier against Williams Perez. Speaking of Major League pitchers that struggle to produce swings-and-misses, Perez’s 4.10 would literally rank dead last among qualified starters if he were to qualify (which he does not with only 26.1 IP). Furthermore, lefties so far this season are slashing .286/.404/.438 against him this season with a .368 wOBA. Hernandez is a pesky little hitter so seeing an OBP allowed of over .400 should raise an eyebrow. If he were to just reach base at an average rate for a Perez opponent this season, he should reach first in at least two of five ABs. Assuming Hernandez earns another start batting second, he is an elite cash play at this miniscule cost. By comparison, the leadoff hitter Odubel Herrera is priced at $8,400 with a somewhat similar skillset. UPDATE: Hernandez is not in the lineup. Andres Blanco is hitting third and is an easy substitute for him.
George Springer, Astros, $10,500 (Late) – The late slate is going to be interesting on Saturday because Jose Fernandez and his league-leading 35.2-percent K rate is really the only starter worth spending up for. While you could roster both him and Jon Lester, that would severely limit the offensive potential. In my opinion, the best move is just use both Fernandez and Joe Ross in cash in order to fit the Astros bats. As a whole, the Astros .322 wOBA against LHP ranks 11th in the majors but their ISO and BB rate both sit in the top 10. Opposing pitcher Cesar Ramos will head into the game having almost walked as many (eight) as he has struck out (11) in 16.2 IP this season. He is currently sporting a 4.32 ERA but he’s a soft-tosser with a 5.56 FIP…gloomier days are on the horizon. Both Jose Altuve and George Springer are the prime candidates to take advantage of his mediocre skillset as they are the Astros career leaders in wOBA (.393 and .383 respectively). Ideally, rostering both (and even Carlos Correa) would be the preferred strategy for this slate because Vegas has them projected as by far the highest scoring offense amongst the late games (5.0 runs compared to the 4.3 implied runs for the Orioles).
Stephen Piscotty, Cardinals, $8,000 (Early) – Stephen Piscotty’s slash line versus LHP in 40 ABs this season: .400/.500/.700. Probable starter Robbie Ray’s slash line allowed to RHHs in 29.1 IP: .293/.390/.459. Sometimes matchups just make too much damn sense especially when you factor in Piscotty’s $8,000 price tag. Don’t even bother overthinking this one because players of his skill set should be priced around $10,000. There is a whole bundle of skills piled into his extremely reasonable price so just use him and move on.
Jose Fernandez, Marlins, $24,400 (Late) – As mentioned in an earlier tidbit, Jose Fernandez is a must-play in the late slate. Bryce Harper obviously looms large in the Nationals lineup but overall they rate as a favorable matchup for opposing RHPs; they rank in the bottom 10 of wOBA, ISO, wRC+, AVG and line drive rate. One admittedly concerning statistic is their propensity to walk (9.9-percent BB rate) because Fernandez has struggled a bit with his control in 2016 (4.34 BB/9). Still, he is listed as a -150 favorite against a solid pitcher (Joe Ross) at home with a projected 7.0 run over/under. With his strikeout potential, especially comparatively to all the other pitchers on the slate, fading him is an extremely dangerous idea.
Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees, $20,000 (Early) – Damaged UCL and all, Masahiro Tanaka is firmly in play on the early slate as a road favorite against Sean Manaea and the Athletics. Notably, the Athletics most talented hitter against RHP (Josh Reddick) broke his thumb earlier this week and will miss the next 4-6 weeks. So now an Athletics team that already ranked in the bottom 10 of wOBA, wRC+, BB rate, AVG and OBP should depreciate further in potency…not to mention Jed Lowrie will not return from the disabled list until at least Wednesday at the earliest. As a whole, the team does not strike out a whole lot (18.2-percent), but that just presents Tanaka with the opportunity to potentially pitch deeper into the game. He is a better fit for cash games than GPPs but I wouldn’t be mad at you if you wanted to roster him in any and all formats.
J.A. Happ, Blue Jays, $15,600 (Early) – Last but not least, J.A. Happ makes sense for a multitude of reasons. For one, the offense should go nuts against the aforementioned Pat Dean as they ranked as the number one wOBA team by far against LHP last season and it’s only a matter of time until they regain at least a percentage of their luster. Secondly, Happ is a -148 favorite on the road which is pretty substantial number for a mid-tier priced pitcher. Most applicably, the Twins rank as the American League’s worst team in terms of wOBA versus LHP this season. They rank in the bottom 10 of wRC+, ISO, AVG and OBP while striking out at 22.5-percent against the handedness. Happ is coming off by far the worst outing of his season (2.0 IP, eight ER) but he started the year with seven consecutive quality starts. Against a weak opponent like the Twins, I expect him to immediately revert back to his productive ways and provide an exceptional amount of value at his bargain cost.
*Stats are accurate as of Friday, May 20