Fly High Free(man) Bird

Wily Peralta owns the MLB’s worst ERA so targeting opposing hitters such as Freddie Freeman against him is a smart idea on Thursday night. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB contests.

Infield:

Freddie Freeman, Braves, $8,000 – Thursday evening is a joyous holiday for daily fantasy baseball players. What day is it? Wily Peralta day. Among all qualified starting pitchers this season, Peralta’s 6.99 ERA ranks dead last and his FIP ranks seventh worst so it’s not like he’s been lucky. Peralta isn’t missing many bats (6.02 K/9) while walking too many hitters (3.88 BB/9) and serving up the long ball regularly (1.55 HR/9). Combine all these factors with his .394 wOBA allowed to LHHs this season and Freddie Freeman looks primed for a productive night. Although Freeman has struggled a bit to begin the year, his .350 wOBA against RHP still ranks fourth on the team and his five HRs against the handedness lead the team. Typically the Braves offense is safely overlooked but even they should be able to tee off against one of the game’s poorest quality pitchers.

Daniel Murphy, Nationals, $8,800 – Bryce Harper gets all the publicity for the Nationals but Daniel Murphy is somewhat quietly leading the team in nearly every statistical category against RHP. To this point, Murphy owns a .394/.434/.630 slash line and .453 wOBA, which ranks second to just David Ortiz among regulars, against the handedness. Mike Leake is nowhere near my favorite pitcher to target against on the slate due that he has limited hard contact to both sides of the plate (.309 wOBA to RHHs, .282 wOBA to LHHs) but Murphy’s skillset has translated to hits against just about everyone lately. He is hitting .411 in the month of May with five HR and 19 RBI. Last postseason, he demonstrated just how dominant he can be when he is amidst a hot streak and he appears to be rolling once again. Whether you believe in hot streaks or not, his elite numbers versus righties deem him worthy of consideration by themselves, so fade him at your own risk. UPDATE: Daniel Murphy for some reason is not in the lineup. Focus on Bryce Harper and Ben Revere as the core plays from the Nationals lineup in all formats.

Outfield:

Mookie Betts, Red Sox, $10,200 – Another day, another occurrence where the Red Sox stack is a viable play yet again. Due to their torrid May, the Red Sox lead all of baseball in runs scored per game (5.87), slightly edging out the Cubs (5.61). The opposing pitcher in this start will be Jon Gray, and although he has pitched well, Vegas isn’t expecting a crisp start out of him in this one. Opening lines list the Red Sox as -163 favorites in a game with a 9.5 projected over/under meaning the Red Sox are supposed to score around five runs. All of the bats are in play once again pretty much down the lineup but the reason I like Mookie Betts is simple; he’s guaranteed to at least tie for the most plate appearances on the team. Five Red Sox rate higher so far in terms of wOBA against the handedness (David Ortiz, Jackie Bradley Jr., Travis Shaw, Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia) but Betts remains the premier play in cash games due to his opportunities (and the fact that his .368 wOBA ain’t too shabby either). Expect a respectable performance from the best baseball once again which should mean some hits, runs and possibly even RBIs/stolen bases (SBs) from their leadoff man. UPDATE: Sheesh, Mookie Betts isn’t in the lineup either but Jackie Bradley Jr. interestingly is leading off. Just use Bradley Jr. instead and load up on Red Sox bats as they seem to be “the play” just about every evening.

Charlie Blackmon, Rockies, $8,400 – Speaking of leadoff men, did I mentioned this game projects to score a Coors Field-esque amount of runs even though the Rockies will not be playing in Coors Field? The Red Sox are listed as heavy favorites because of their bats and not the performance so far of projected starter Clay Buchholz. Already Buchholz has allowed nine HRs total, six of which have been given up to RHHs. Even though righties have managed a majority of the bombs against Bucchholz, he is allowing a wOBA 92 percentage points higher to LHHs (.393 versus .301). Hell, lefties are slashing .304/.407/.500 against him and Charlie Blackmon is a left-hander built to hit for average and reach base at a high-level. If it weren’t for Carlos Gonzalez’s recent struggles, he would probably be the preferred option, but it’s hard to use a guy hitting just .203 this month. Therefore, lean on Blackmon to get the ball rolling for his respective offense in what should be a shootout. Similarly to Betts, there are multiple ways for Blackmon to reach 15-20 fantasy points and all of them are reasonably attainable in this matchup.

Pitcher:

Lance McCullers, Astros, $16,800 – Hitting on this slate is aplenty while the pitching options are far scarcer. Two of the three options listed are here are mostly based on talent level as opposed to matchup because this is no perfect combo of both unfortunately. Lance McCullers is coming off a season with a 3.22 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 3.50 xFIP and 9.24 K/9. While his ERA so far is inflated after just a few starts (5.91), his 2.69 FIP, 3.72 xFIP and 9.28 K/9 line up with last year’s numbers. The one aspect that has hurt him so far is the walks (six in 10.2 IP) but it’s a small sample size and he has been shaking off the rust of missing the first month and a half. He’ll battle Ubaldo Jimenez and the Orioles at home in what odds-makers essentially list as a pick’em (Orioles favored by a slim -104 margin) so this one could go either way. The Orioles are a stout offense but they do have weaknesses in terms of their K rate (22.2-percent) and their low walk rate (6.9-percent). McCullers excels in the strikeout category and can be hurt by the base-on-balls which both line up perfectly in this matchup. If the Orioles aren’t walking and they’re striking out, McCullers has an excellent opportunity to string together a solid start…even if he gives up a long ball or two.

Matt Wisler, Braves, $17,700 – After faring like a gas can last season, Matt Wisler has all the makings of a much improved pitcher. Wisler has improved on his FIP, xFIP, GB rate, HR rate K rate and BB rate this season and, maybe most importantly, is shutting down LHHs (.261 wOBA) instead of getting absolutely lit up by them (.419 wOBA) last year. Consequently, the matchup against the Brewers, which looks difficult on paper, shouldn’t be nearly as difficult. Guys like Scooter Gennett and Kirk Nieuwenhuis would have automatically smoked him in 2015 but not against the new, excellent against both sides of the plate version of this 23-year old. The icing on the cake to the matchup is the fact he is listed as -134 in the game with the lowest projected score (7.5) on the slate. All-in-all, even against a team ranking in the top 10 of wOBA, Wisler appears to do the safest overall option for cash games.

Kevin Gausman, Orioles, $18,000 – Baseball writers sold Kevin Gausman to the public as a prospect with nasty stuff with elite swing-and-miss type stuff. Sure, he could develop into that guy one day, but he doesn’t appear to have anywhere near league-leading strikeout ability. That’s okay because he is still pitching like an above-average Major League starter and he has the opportunity to strikeout more than usual in this upcoming matchup against the Astros. Like virtually every other pitcher on Thursday night, he’s facing a formidable opposing offense but at least the Astros strike out at 23.9-percent. Unfortunately, the splits do not align so perfectly since Gausman has been beat up by RHHs (.365) and dominated LHHs (.157)…other than Colby Rasmus, all of the Astros’ top hitters are right-handed so using Gausman is a leap of faith on his overall skill set. Overall, he is viable in all formats but is best left for GPPs due to the volatile nature of the start.

*Stats are accurate as of Wednesday, May 25

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders is a fantasy sports expert with over 15 years of playing experience. After starting several freelance fantasy sports blogs, Ricky moved up in the fantasy industry when he joined Going9 Baseball. He wrote fantasy baseball content and had a weekly radio spot on the site’s SiriusXM Satellite Radio show. Shortly thereafter, in early 2013, Ricky joined RotoExperts as a three-sport fantasy contributor, eventually becoming one of the site’s lead basketball writers. While writing for RotoExperts, Ricky was introduced to daily fantasy sports and immediately fell in love. With help from some of his mentors, some of the best DFS players in the world, he honed his skills and became the daily fantasy expert he is today. When RotoExperts created a daily-focused website called DailyRoto.com, Ricky was brought on as one of the main contributors. He still makes frequent appearances on the RotoExperts SiriusXM Radio show and on the FNTSY Sports Television Network, talking daily fantasy sports. He also continues to write for a few DFS content sites: RotoCurve and The Fantasy Fix. Ricky is a proud and active member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He has agreed to be a writer and representative for the FantasyDraft brand and serves as an ambassador to the site. He has no more access to the site than the typical user. Don’t hesitate to contact Ricky with questions on Twitter @RSandersDFS.

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