Steve Pearce leads the majors in wOBA against LHP, is priced incredibly reasonably and there are plenty of aces worth rostering on the slate. Therefore, he (rightfully) should be heavily owned on Monday. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB contests.
Eric Hosmer, Royals, $8,700 – After losing to the White Sox on Sunday, the disappointing Royals only sit one game above .500. To this point, the lone bright spot in their offense has been Eric Hosmer and his .311 average (the only regular hitting over .277). It appears opposing starter Ricky Nolasco’s hot streak to begin the season is over as his ERA has regressed to 4.74 after he started the month with a 3.25 ERA. He has fared pretty evenly against both sides of the plate this season as righties own a .314 wOBA against him versus the .332 tally lefties have produced. Even the HRs he has allowed have been rather evenly distributed (four to RHHs and three to LHHs). Therefore, I’m just targeting the best overall bat against him because both Vegas (Royals -130 road favorites with projected 8.5 over/under) and his season and career ERA suggest he is about to take yet another beating. Hosmer’s team-leading .432 wOBA against RHPs along with a .375/.427/.580 slash line against the handedness deem him the prime play on this offense.
Steve Pearce, Rays, $6,800 – Among qualified hitters, Steve Pearce’s .573 wOBA against LHP ranks first in all of baseball. While Wei-Yen Chen isn’t in top three or even five of pitchers I’m enticed to target hitters against on Monday, his 4.22 ERA, career-high 32.7-percent hard hit rate and 1.10 HR/9 rate aren’t exactly deterrents. Marlins ballpark is a difficult ballpark to hit it out of but it has played a neutral overall hitters’ park over the past two seasons, per ESPN Park Factors. This is likely because the gaps are huge and there is a massive triple alley in right-center field. Although Chen has shut down LHHs to this point (.280 wOBA), RHHs have managed a .322 wOBA against him including all six HRs he has allowed. This is a simple case of elite talent in a hitter not priced anywhere near the elite range. When that phenomenon occurs, it is time to pounce.
Trayce Thompson, Dodgers, $6,400 – Okay so Trayce Thompson isn’t exactly Pearce but his .389 wOBA against LHP so far this season is nothing to sneeze at either. Unlike Pearce though, Thompson and the Dodgers do draw a matchup against one of the pitchers worth targeting on the slate: Brandon Finnegan. Strangely, Finnegan’s skill set resembled a ground-baller in 48.0 IP last season (54.3-percent GB rate) but more closely resembles a fly-baller in 48.2 IP this season (40.3-percent GB rate). This trend helps explain his uptick in HR rate (1.50 HR/9 in 2015 to 1.66 HR/9 this year) and is also partially to blame for his ERA uptick…although that can also be partially attributed to his first season as a full-time starting pitcher at the Major League level. His ERA currently sits at 4.44 and his peripherals suggest that is no accident. RHHs are responsible for all nine HRs he has allowed so Thompson’s .306 ISO against the handedness looks like it should be put to use in this matchup. At an affordable price, Thompson draws a fantastic matchup, and is a great under-the-radar bet for a bomb.
Nomar Mazara, Rangers, $7,200 – The Rougned Odor suspension presents an opportunity for Nomar Mazara to temporarily move back up the lineup. In recent days, he has dipped as low as seventh in the order, but was slotted in the fifth spot against a LHP (the wrong end of his platoon split) on Sunday. My guess would be he either remains in the five spot or moves up to second in the order for the team’s matchup against right-hander Nick Tropeano. In 2016, lefties have been Tropeano’s kryptonite considering his .380 wOBA allowed to the handedness is more than 40 percentage points higher than his career total (which already is the worse end of his splits). Hell, LHHs are slashing a whopping .295/.402/.484 against him so he hasn’t exactly presented a difficult matchup for opposing lefties. Mazara’s wOBA total against the handedness, though aided by a hot start, ranks third on the team behind only Drew Stubbs and Shin-Soo Choo. I’m not nearly as confident either of those two will be in the lineup, but if they are, they are worthy of consideration as well against a pitcher projected to allow the most implied runs (five) on the slate. Of all Rangers hitters, Mazara is the best combination of skills, price and likelihood of hitting in a favorable lineup spot.
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, $27,200 – Clayton Kershaw is head and shoulders above every pitcher in the league not named Jake Arrieta or Chris Sale. Guys of his ilk are viable every single time out and he showed why in the last start. Against an Angels team that Ks the least of any team versus LHP (by percentage), Kershaw struck out 11 in 8.0 IP and only allowed on ER. If that was considered a difficult start, this matchup against the Reds very possibly could be the worst draw for a LHP in the entire league. They only strike out at a rate 0.1-percentage points less than the Angels, but unlike the Angels, the Reds rank in the top 10 of wOBA, wRC+, AVG and OBP against LHPs. If there ever was a time to fade Kershaw, this would be the matchup…but that begs the question, “Is there ever a good time to fade Kershaw?” In cash games, the answer is probably no due to his consistent high ownership and insane ceiling if he happens to be on top of his game in any given start.
Johnny Cueto, Giants, $24,400 – If actually considering fading Kershaw, Johnny Cueto is a logical alternative in a matchup at home against the Padres. The main issue I have with Cueto’s matchup is the fact that he just faced them in his last start (May 18). In other words, the Padres are well aware of what they are dealing with in terms of his arsenal…there will be no surprises. Still, if a team can’t hit they can’t hit, and the Padres rank dead last in terms of wOBA and wRC+ against RHP. AT&T Park and Petco Park (the location of his last start) both rank in the bottom five of hitters’ parks so there isn’t much of a ballpark shift impact from the last game either. All-in-all, worrying about his lack of deception is probably overthinking it against a team at this level of ineptitude. Even with Kershaw on the slate, Cueto is my option 1A at starting pitcher (which is definitely saying something).
Taijuan Walker, Mariners, $15,600 – Rich Hill and Taijuan Walker will square off in the pitchers’ haven of Safeco Field and both are viable options quite honestly. Despite the fact that no one seems to be able to figure out Hill this season, my preference of the two is Walker. Admittedly, Hill probably possesses the higher ceiling, but I lean towards Walker (especially in cash games) due to the higher floor. The Athletics already rated as a sub-par offense prior to the injury to Josh Reddick so now they’re just terrible. For the season, they rank 29th in wOBA against RHP and that’s mostly with Reddick in the lineup. Now, with Stephen Vogt as their three hitter, they’re arguably the best possible matchup for a RHP in the American League; they rank in the bottom 10 of wRC+, ISO, BB rate, AVG and OBP although they do not strike out much (18.6-percent K rate). In his career, Walker has understandably preferred pitching at home as he sports a substantially higher K rate (9.61) and lower FIP/xFIP (3.53/3.25) in Safeco Field as opposed to the road (7.20 K/9 and 4.10/4.12 FIP/xFIP). It would be shocking if he didn’t finish this start with a quality start and I actually believe it’s likely he excels in this matchup. Consequently, I am strongly considering the Kershaw fade everywhere because of the much superior bats you can complement the Cueto/Walker duo with.
*Stats are accurate as of Sunday, May 22