Amidst a dominant season, Stephen Strasburg draws a favorable matchup against the Reds and should be considered a must-start. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB.
Ben Zobrist, Cubs (Early) – After posting underwhelming numbers in the Minor Leagues since basically the beginning of the 2014 season, opposing starter Edwin Escobar’s Major League numbers in his one start pretty accurately reflected his talent level (or lack thereof). In his first big league start at home against the Astros, Escobar only lasted 3.1 IP with seven ER (eight total), 11 baserunners and he struck out just two. Well, let’s just say the matchup won’t get any easier for him on Saturday as he’ll go from facing the 10th ranked offense in terms of wOBA against LHP to the fourth…the Chicago Cubs. Of all players who have registered at least 13 ABs versus the handedness, four are currently sporting wOBAs of at least .392 but the only regular in the top four is none other than Ben Zobrist. In 45 ABs versus the handedness this season, Zobrist has produced a .430 wOBA, .200 ISO and .356/.453/.556 slash line. It’s not like this year’s numbers have come out of nowhere considering he ranks second on the team behind only Dexter Fowler in terms of career wOBA versus lefties as well. To top it all off, Zobrist slashed .406/.483/.653 in the month of May with six HRs and 25 RBIs so he’s certainly feeling good at the plate right now. Lock and load Zobrist, and really most Cubs, into your lineup on the early slate as they look primed to explode.
Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers (Late) – Adrian Gonzalez isn’t having a terrible season (.294, five HRs and 27 RBIs) but he’s only on pace for about 16 HRs and 86 RBIs, which isn’t up to his usual standards. Gonzalez improved upon his numbers in May and it’s only a matter of time until his usual mid-20s level of HR power shows up as well. On Saturday, Gonzalez faces an ideal matchup against Mike Foltynewicz and his .421 wOBA allowed to LHHs in what should be a perfect time to spark the power. Not only is Foltynewicz allowing a .302/.351/.673 slash line to lefties so far this season but those numbers are almost identical to his career totals allowed of .319/.369/.612 to the handedness. Even though Foltynewicz has shown improvement this season, he still has not been able to figure out how to retire left-handers and Gonzalez is the prime suspect to make him pay in this game. Not only is Gonzalez and his .294/.371/.412 slash line so far this season worthy of cash game consideration, but I think his multiple extra-base hit upside deems him an excellent GPP play as well.
Christian Yelich, Marlins (Early) – Only six players in the National League (NL) have hit for a higher AVG so far than Christian Yelich (.320): Daniel Murphy (.394), Ryan Braun (.348), Ben Zobrist (.339), Aledmys Diaz (.328) and teammate Marcell Ozuna (.327). While Bartolo Colon has only allowed more than three ERs in a start one time this season, his pitching style just assures a total beat-down is on the horizon. Colon leads the league in fastball percentage (86.9-percent) and pounds the strike zone at the second highest rate (55.2-percent ranks second behind only Steven Matz) so his 3.39 ERA is due to regress closer to his 3.96 career mark eventually. One guy who will not let him get away with his style is Christian Yelich. To this point in 2016, Yelcih owns a .410 wOBA versus RHP and is slashing a formidable .321/.416/.512. The aspect of this matchup I really dig about Yelich is the fact that he has enjoyed success versus Colon before as he is 7-25 off of him (.280) with three extra-base hits and three RBIs. Assuming Colon pounds the strike zone once again, expect Yelich to put some nice swings on the ball as per usual. Although Yelich does not possess the upside of, say, Zobrist, he is a perfect target for cash games as it’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t reach base multiple times in this matchup (and possibly score multiple runs).
Franklin Gutierrez, Mariners (Late) – On Thursday evening, the Mariners were trailing 12-2 after five innings…they then went on to stun the Padres by scoring 12 runs in two innings to emerge victorious and win 16-13. This offensive display marked the second time in two games the Mariners reached 16 runs and it’s clear they’re clicking on all cylinders right now. One guy who never seems to get enough love is Franklin Gutierrez hitting out of the two spot in the order against LHP. Sure he is mostly a platoon guy but he has mastered his craft; he sports a .384 wOBA, .204 ISO and .296/.391/.500 slash line against the handedness in 54 ABs this season. According to ESPN Park Factors, Globe Life Park in Arlington has ranked as a top five hitters’ park over the past two seasons, which results in a gigantic positive ballpark shift for the entire Mariners offense (compared to Safeco Field which is the absolute worst hitters’ park in the American League (AL)). Probable starter Martin Perez has allowed five HRs this season and all have come off the bats of RHHs. Somehow, someway Gutierrez’s price never comes close to approaching $8,000, so until that time he needs to continue to be deployed against all susceptible LHPs.
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers (Late) – Using Vegas lines is useless for starts involving Clayton Kershaw because he is always listed as a gigantic favorite. In a matchup at home against the team that has produced by far the lowest wOBA against LHP so far this season, Vegas probably couldn’t set a money line high enough to accurately depict Kershaw’s true odds to win this game. The Braves literally rank dead last in all of the following categories against southpaws in 2016: wOBA, wRC+, ISO, AVG and OBP. Additionally, they have struck out at a rate of 23-percent and all their top hitters are left-handed. As if that weren’t enough to convince you, opposing starter Mike Foltynewicz struggles against LHHs and nearly all of the Dodgers’ best hitters are left-handed and should be poised for productive games. Fading Kershaw almost never makes sense in cash games but fading Kershaw anywhere on Saturday would be a huge mistake.
Stephen Strasburg, Nationals (Early) – If the NL weren’t so damn stacked with top starting pitchers, maybe Stephen Strasburg’s magical season would be receiving more coverage from the national media. Somewhat quietly, Strasburg sits at 9-0 through 11 starts with a 2.69 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 4.50 K/BB and 11.00 K/9. Apparently the days of Strasburg routinely blowing leads and frustrating those who attempt to roster him are a thing of the past. On Saturday afternoon, he’ll have a chance to keep the momentum going against a lowly Reds offensive squad. Not only have the Reds struck out at 21.8-percent against RHP but they rank in the bottom 10 of wOBA, wRC+, BB rate, AVG and OBP against the handedness. Essentially, there are hardly any matchups more favorable than squaring off against the Reds for a RHP in the NL, and there are only one or two more talented pitchers in the league. If you do not roster Strasburg in this game, you are missing out on a potential gem, and could be drawing dead without him (due to his likely 75-plus percent ownership in cash games).
Steven Wright, Red Sox (Early) – I do not know how we got here but we now live in a world where a knuckleballer is consistently worthy of consideration in cash games. Amazingly, both Steven Wright’s 2.45 ERA and 1.06 WHIP rank sixth best in the AL. Wright’s superb season began with back-to-back quality starts against the Blue Jays…one of which was played in Boston and one was played in Toronto. All of the Blue Jays’ active hitters combined own a career .234 AVG/.298/.286 slash line against Wright in 77 ABs with only one HR and three RBI. Last season, it would be crazy to contemplate using a pitcher against Toronto but my how the times have changed. As a whole, the Blue Jays rank as a neutral matchup against the handedness but they do rank in the bottom 10 of AVG and strike out at the seventh highest rate. Unless Wright implodes early, which he has yet to do this season, his K floor should provide a fair degree of safety. Using him isn’t for the faint of heart but the benefit should outweigh the risk.
*Stats are accurate as of Friday, June 3