Johnny Cueto isn’t typically a starter to target bats against but he’s pitching in Coors Field and Gerardo Parra’s career record against him is quite substantial. It takes some cojones but rostering the Rockies left-hander is a fine strategy on Sunday’s slate. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB contests.
Freddie Freeman, Braves – On a team full of virtual scrubs, Freddie Freeman somehow is not leading the team in wOBA against RHP this season. There’s no doubt he has been struggling but his .315 tally is nowhere near indicative of his overall skill set. Eventually, Freeman is going to turn things around and start hitting at the All-Star caliber level his is capable of. Opposing starter Tom Koehler is amidst an interesting season to say the least. While he is limiting hard contact at a career-best rate (24.5-percent) and producing a strikeout rate (7.09 K/9) well above his career average (6.68 K/9), he is struggling horribly with control (5.74) and falling victim to a career-worst 4.79 ERA and 5.14 xFIP. Most importantly, he is struggling worst against LHHs as they have managed a .385 wOBA and .316/.427/.454 slash line against him this season. I truly believe this is the game he turns things around and it’s worth rostering him to get ahead of the curve. At this discounted price, there is enough value to consider Freeman in any and all formats.
Kelby Tomlinson, Giants – The last time the Giants squared off against a left-handed starter was Monday night and Kelby Tomlinson was slated second in their order. Considering Tomlinson’s .393 wOBA against LHP ranks second on the team so far behind only Brandon Belt, it would make sense for him to hit in the identical spot against Chris Rusin on Sunday. While Rusin isn’t exactly a gas can, he has allowed a wOBA 44 percentage points higher at home this season as opposed to on the road. Furthermore, the Rockies left-hander has completely shut down left-handed bats but right-handers have managed a .270 AVG against him (though they haven’t shown much power). In Coors Field, the park helps accentuate the power potential of any and all hitters so it’s hard to say with any level of surety that Rusin will not allow extra base hits. However, Tomlinson is admittedly a better cash option considering his 0.079 ISO to this point. He probably will not dong in this game but I like his chances for 2-3 base hits. In a game with a 10.5 over/under, he is a cheap way to get a share and still roster at least one ace.
Kole Calhoun, Angels – Doug Fister is a groundball pitcher in theory yet this year he has allowed a 15.4-percent HR/FB percentage and 1.32 HR/9 rate. Most of the damage that has been done off Fister has come of the bat of LHHs as they have hit six of the eight HRs he has allowed and are slashing a hefty .304/.360/.548 against him. Although Kole Calhoun’s .339 wOBA against RHP this season doesn’t seem overly impressive, he is hitting .295 against the handedness with a .366 OBP and has begun heating up in the month of May. Overall for the month, Calhoun is hitting .326 but he has produced a .364 AVG and .391 OBP over the last seven days alone. Like Tomlinson, he’s not typically a threat to hit one out but this could be an exception. Calhoun has multiple base hits written all over him and this could actually be a game where he’s a threat to homer because the wind has been blowing out at 10-plus mph all weekend. Calhoun is a nice bargain hitter to plug in amidst a Coors stack to make it all work on this slate.
Gerardo Parra, Rockies – Speaking of the Coors stack, I wonder if the Rockies overall are going to go under-owned because of the perceived difficult matchup against Johnny Cueto. In 157 ABs, the Rockies’ active hitters are slashing .268/.311/.408 against Cueto including five HRs and no one owns better numbers against him on the team than Gerardo Parra. In 32 career ABs, Parra has 11 hits including three doubles and two HRs en route to a .344/.400/.625 slash line. Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez are often the Rockies lefty bats to focus on but it’s hard to argue with the past data here in what is a bit of an extended sample size. The other lefties are in play as well but Parra is actually my favorite among the bunch for GPP formats. Do not be afraid to target against Cueto and do not be afraid to roster Parra just because he’s hitting fifth or sixth in the order. This is a prime spot for him to come through at a relatively low ownership for a player starting in Coors Field.
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers – Here inlies the challenge…how the hell do you roster Coors bats and still fit Clayton Kershaw? As much as I keep attempting to crown guys such as Jake Arrieta and Chris Sale as the best pitchers in baseball, Kershaw continues to be bullet proof, and they, well, do not. There is no safer bet in baseball than Kershaw at this point who has thrown three complete game shutouts (CGSOs) in the month of May alone! The Mets rank in the top half of wOBA against LHP but they strike out at higher percentage against LHP than any other team. Their strikeout-prone nature alone awards Kershaw a safe enough floor to deploy in cash but, as always, the sky is the limit for him. He’ll probably end up close to 100-percent owned in cash games and about 80-percent in tournaments so fade him at your own risk.
Taijuan Walker, Mariners – Taking advantage of Taijuan Walker’s favorable splits at home are one my favorite trend exploitations in the daily fantasy game. This season, Walker seems to be taking a giant step forward overall yet he still sports a .265 wOBA allowed at home versus .310 on the road. Not coincidentally, Safeco Field has played as the most pitcher-friendly park over the past two seasons, per ESPN Park Factors. Part of the reason for his success is the fact that he relies less on the ground ball at home (45.6-percent) than on the road (50.0-percent) because he isn’t afraid to throw the ball high in the zone. His home park will hold most fly balls in the yard which should help ease his concerns about potentially pitching to contact and helps his relax. That phenomenon has led to an increased K rate and just a more effective version of Walker consistently throughout his career at home as opposed to on the road. He’ll face a Twins team that ranks in the bottom half of wOBA, wRC+ and OBP against RHP while striking out at the eighth highest percentage versus the handedness. Walker is the safest starter on the slate to pair with Kershaw in cash games and he still possesses plenty of upside for GPPs as well.
Nathan Eovaldi, Yankees – May 24th’s start against the Blue Jays marked the second consecutive gem Nathan Eovladi has thrown and his third over his past four starts. Is it possible Eovaldi is starting to put it together considering he’s always been a pitcher with elite velocity and nasty stuff? Hell, in the month of May, Eovaldi has only allowed a .239/.298/.348 slash and .287 wOBA. Sure the Rays absolutely rocked Michael Pineda yesterday but we’re still talking about a team that ranks in the bottom 10 of wOBA, wRC+, AVG, OBP and ranks dead last in line drive percentage against RHPs. As icing on the cake, the Rays have struck out at the highest percentage in the league against the handedness as well. I trust the skills of Eovaldi much more than those of Pineda at this point so I’m willing to take the chance going back to the well against a recently hot-hitting Rays team. Eovaldi is best saved for the GPP format, but rostering him could lead to comfortably fitting Coors bats in cash, so it’s quite the conundrum. If necessary, I don’t mind going a little bold in cash games, especially when relying on a pitcher throwing 97 with movement against a strikeout-prone offense.
*Stats are accurate as of Saturday, May 28