Tom Koehler is used to playing by National League rules, aka without a DH, and has struggled to retire LHHs this season. Consequently, Joe Mauer is an excellent target for cash games on Thursday night. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB.
Daniel Murphy, Nationals, $10,400 – Thursday’s slate can only be described as “interesting” because there are no aces on the slate and one offense stands out beyond all the others: the Nationals. After scoring seven runs in two-plus innings against James Shields last night and 10 overall, Washington will now draw a matchup against Miguel Gonzalez, who had recently been demoted to the bullpen. However, with Carlos Rodon suffering neck soreness, Gonzalez will get the call to fill-in despite his 1.1 IP appearance just four days ago (Jun. 5). Although Gonzalez will probably be on a pitch count so the team doesn’t ruin his arm, he has allowed a .269/.380/.415 slash line to LHHs this season and a .350 wOBA. Right now Daniel Murphy is in play against pretty much anyone considering he is leading the league in hitting with a .379 AVG but he prefers hitting against RHPs. So far this season, Murphy sports a ridiculous .465 wOBA, .277 ISO and .394/.430/.671 slash line against the handedness, and U.S. Cellular Field plays as a HR-friendly park. Not only is Murphy a threat to create his own offense but the Nationals are implied to score nearly the most runs (5.0) on the slate yet again. Therefore, he has the opportunity to add in some runs and RBIs along the way, so just lock him in and don’t get cute.
Joe Mauer, Twins, $8,100 – As it usually goes with Joe Mauer, even in a solid matchup he is nothing more than a rock solid cash option with limited GPP upside. Yesterday night he launched his seventh HR of the season in just his 57th game. In 2015, he only managed 10 HRs in 158 games. In other words, he is flashing more power this season and that’s partially why I feel comfortable deploying him at this inflated price tag. Most importantly, there are no pitchers worth paying up for so starting the safest bet hitters is a must. Even beyond just the “by default” theory, Mauer and the Twins will face Tom Koehler as -120 favorites. Not only is Koehler used to pitching in the National League without a designated hitter, but his kryptonite is facing LHHs; they have slashed .290/.401/.434 against him with a .365 wOBA this season. Considering Mauer leads all the regulars (min. 35 ABs) in wOBA against the handedness while slashing .287/.420/.433, he’s a likely source of multiple base hits in a favorable game environment (9.0 run over/under).
Stephen Piscotty, Cardinals, $9,300 – Only nine hitters currently own a superior wOBA than Stephen Piscotty against LHP this season (min. 20 ABs, in descending order): Danny Valencia, Marcell Ozuna, Jimmy Rollins, Steve Pearce, Yangervis Solarte, Robbie Grossman, Cameron Maybin, Xander Bogaerts and Ezequiel Carrera. Of that group, only Ozuna and Pearce qualify for the league lead so technically Piscotty’s .514 wOBA against the handedness is third best in baseball. With the game being played in Cincinnati, the Cardinals hitters will enjoy a bit of a positive ballpark shift. According to ESPN Park Factors, Busch Stadium has ranked as the 12th best hitters park over the past two seasons compared to the Great American Ballpark’s ranking of ninth. In this favorable hitting environment, Brandon Finnegan will toe the mound against a Cardinals offense coming off a 12 run explosion on Wednesday. Finnegan has allowed 10 HRs this season and all 10 have come off the bats of RHHs. Oh and the Cardinals are listed as -155 road favorites so Vegas seriously believes in them. No hitter has a better shot for a bomb than Piscotty on this slate so act accordingly.
Brett Gardner, Yankees, $7,600 – Carlos Beltran is on a power binge of late but quietly Brett Gardner managed at least 12 fantasy points for the fourth time in five games last night (he finished with 21). Heading into Wednesday night’s slate, Gardner quietly led the team in wOBA, slightly edging out Beltran .359 to .358. The real reason to like Gardner in this matchup is because of his price combined with his team-leading .384 OBP. Squaring off against Jhoulys Chacin, there’s no reason Gardner shouldn’t reach base multiple times. Chacin not only allows a higher walk rate to LHHs (7.6-percent compared to 7.0-percent to RHHs) but he strikes out hitters at a far less efficient rate (5.28 K/9 compared to 9.62 against RHHs). Gardner mostly relies on bleeder type hits as evident by his 14.1-percent line drive rate and 24.8-percent hard hit rate. As long as Gardner isn’t striking out and puts the ball in play, he has a solid chance to beat out anything put in play. At arguably $1,000 less than fair value, Gardner is an elite cash play.
Gio Gonzalez, Nationals, $17,200 – Pitching is honestly as ugly as I’ve ever seen on this slate so Gio Gonzalez rates as the top starter on the slate almost by default. First of all, I have the most faith in his offense of any team on the slate to produce 5-6 runs, so I like his chances for the win. Vegas concurs with my sentiments listening him as a -150 road favorite, which typically is only reserved for aces. Secondly, his matchup isn’t that bad on paper, which is more than can be said for most pitchers with any semblance of talent on the slate. To this point, the White Sox rank below league average in terms of wOBA, wRC+, ISO and hard hit rate versus LHP this season. Most of their success this year can be attributed to the additions of Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie because they ranked dead last in wOBA against the handedness last season. Furthermore, the White Sox have struck out at the 13th highest percentage against the handedness (21.6-percent) so Gonzalez should possess his usual K expectations. On any other slate he probably wouldn’t rank in my top three of starters but this slate is so bad that he stands out above all others.
Jimmy Nelson, Brewers, $16,800 – Early in the year, the Mets offense was a force to be reckoned with. As of late, the team has struggled mightily, and Yoenis Cespedes was even quoted as saying he, “feels lost at the plate.” Both he and Michael Conforto saw their averages tumble in May and those trends have continued into June. Jimmy Nelson, who struggled mightily against LHHs in 2015, has made an adjustment this season in order to retire them at a respectable clip. In fact, he has allowed a lower wOBA to LHHs (.316) than RHHs (.318). Other than Cespedes, most of the Mets top hitters are left-handed (Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker (switch) and Asdrubal Cabrera (switch)), so it’s encouraging to deploy a pitcher allowing a .199 AVG to the handedness. The Mets rank in the bottom 10 of wOBA, AVG, OBP and line drive rate versus RHP and have struck out at the third highest rate against righties as well (24.5-percent). Basically 2015 Nelson would be unusable in this matchup but 2016 Nelson matches up nicely against this struggling and injured Mets offense. I know it’s cliché but it makes sense to just roster the two most expensive pitchers in cash games and move on.
Ervin Santana, Twins, $12,000 – Do you feel lucky, punk? Well do you? Every other starter other than the aforementioned duo are crap shoots but the best combination of price and upside for my money is Ervin Santana. Listed as a -120 favorite at home against a mediocre opposing starter (Tom Koehler), Santana has a shot to string together a quality start. Santana sports a 4.50 ERA and 4.55 FIP to this point but a lot of his issues have stemmed from a career-worst 3.50 BB/9 rate this season. Fortunately, the Marlins only walk at a 7.60-percent rate, or 11th lowest against RHP. Miami also ranks in the bottom 10 of ISO and hard hit percentage and Santana is suffering through the second highest HR/FB rate of his career (14.5-percent). If he can limit the walks and keep the ball in the ballpark, there’s no reason Vegas’ prediction of a Twins victory should not come true. At just $12,000, there really isn’t a whole lot to lose…especially in tournaments.
*Stats are accurate as of Wednesday, June 8