Javier Baez and the Cubs RHHs are excellent starts on Saturday against a starting pitcher (Jon Niese) who has allowed a .301/.358/.530 slash line to the handedness so far this season. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB.
Zack Cozart, Reds, $7,500 (Early) – Last season, Dallas Keuchel fared better at home than he did on the road, and similar is true this season. However, Keuchel is not the same pitcher as last year, and his home ERA still sits at 4.88 (compared to 5.91 on the road). With that being said, he’s allowed a .285 opponents’ AVG and 1.40 WHIP at home compared to .278 and 1.46 on the road. Zack Cozart hits in the prime lineup spot for the Reds (leadoff) and is slashing .294/.327/.529 against LHP this season. The part I really like about this matchup is the short porch in left field which translates nicely to right-handed power hitters. Considering Cozart’s .235 ISO against the handedness ranks third on the team behind only Eugenio Suarez and Adam Duvall, he certainly qualifies as a power hitter. Keuchel has already allowed eight HRs to RHHs this season and a .347 wOBA so I expect Cozart to put together a productive afternoon.
Javier Baez, Cubs, $7,500 (Late) – The Cubs are undoubtedly one of the MLB’s top offenses and Javier Baez leads the team in wOBA against LHP (min. 35 ABs versus the handedness). Although he hits lower (usually sixth) the order, the stats show he arguably packs the most punch of any single hitter. Meanwhile, opposing starter Jon Niese has been torched by RHHs this season; they are slashing .301/.358/.530 with a .377 wOBA and have hit 12 of the 14 HRs he has allowed this season. Baez’s offensive game is primarily reliant upon his power so this matchup is the perfect fit for his skill set. Expect Baez to put some of his power on display and manage one extra base hit minimum at an extremely reasonable price.
Michael Saunders, Blue Jays, $10,000 (Early) – After not one, not two, but three HRs last night, it’s clear Michael Saunders is in some sort of rhythm at the plate. According to the Ace of MLB Stats, Saunders is slashing .285/.360/.512 over his last 162 games and he was already leading a team full of All-Star caliber bats in wOBA against RHP this season (.385) heading into his monster Friday night. On Saturday, he and the Blue Jays will square off against right-handed Yovani Gallardo and his 7.00 ERA in just 18.0 IP this season. Last year, Gallardo posted a respectable 3.42 ERA and 8.8-percent HR/FB rate, so he’s not exactly the typical candidate for an all-out stack against him. Nevertheless, the Blue Jays offense has now scored 13 runs in back-to-back games, 11 runs in three of the last four and at least seven runs in each of their last four games. Apparently the Blue Jays are ready to revert back to their dominant 2015 form when they ranked first in wOBA against both RHP and LHP. With the way they’re going right now, I’d start them against a pitcher (it doesn’t matter who), and Gallardo certainly isn’t a matchup to run and hide from. Ride the hot hand and enjoy the results while the baseball must look like a beach ball to him.
Curtis Granderson, Mets, $9,900 (Late) – Another bat coming around is Curtis Granderson who has a reputation as a streaky hitter himself. After hitting just .190 in June, Granderson is hitting .268 in June and has nearly hit as many homers this month already (four) as he did last month (five)…and this month’s total already matched his entire April. In fact, his June SLG (.554) is more than 75 percentage points higher than his previous high total in a month this season and is closer to what we expect from a hitter with a career .474 SLG over 1,562 games played. In 2015, Granderson led the Mets with a .384 wOBA, barely edging out Yoenis Cespedes. He has struggled so far this season but his .344 tally should be on the rise especially in a matchup against gas can Aaron Blair. Among all pitchers who have thrown at least 40 innings this season, Blair’s 7.59 ERA ranks third worst and he is not missing bats (7.48) while walking too many (5.58 BB/9) as well. In other words, there isn’t really a glimpse of hope for him in the near future. As icing on the cake, Blair has allowed a .301/.443/.500 slash line to LHHs this season with a .409 wOBA. All left-handers are simply teeing off on this guy and the ascending Granderson should be no exception.
Max Scherzer, Nationals, $27,000 (Late) – Okay, so this price tag is beyond Clayton Kershaw-esque which makes it a little painful to pay up for, but you almost have to on the night slate. After Scherzer, Jon Lester and Steven Matz, the safety drops off considerably, so there are really only three options to choose from in cash games. Knowing the goal is to roster a pitcher with a high floor when you only have to finish in the top half of the contest, fading Scherzer seems like a foolish proposition on this small slate. He’ll enjoy a positive ballpark shift by toeing the mound in pitcher-friendly Petco Park and will face one of the best matchups a RHP could ask for; the Padres rank dead last in wOBA and AVG while also ranking in the bottom 10 of wRC+, ISO, BB rate and OBP. Maybe most importantly, the Padres strike out at a rate of 23.5-percent against a pitcher that can rack up the Ks in bunches. It would be shocking if Scherzer didn’t finish this game with a quality start and seven or more strikeouts. On this slate, this is extremely valuable and deems him a must-start in all formats.
Steven Matz, Mets, $21,200 (Late) – Dollar-for-dollar, I actually prefer Steven Matz to Scherzer, but realistically I’ll just be pairing the two together. Matz draws the LHP equivalent of the matchup for Scherzer. Basically, he’ll face the absolute worst team in terms of wOBA…expect they rank dead last by a whopping 15 percentage points below the next team. The Braves rank dead last in wRC+, ISO, AVG and OBP against LHPs and strike out at a rate of 23.5-percent. Almost regardless of skillset, LHPs are worth deploying against Atlanta by default. Now factor in Matz owns a 2.71 ERA, 8.95 K/9 rate, 53.0-percent GB rate and is only allowing a 24.1-percent hard contact rate, and the Braves offense clearly appears to be outmatched.
Tim Lincecum, Angels, $12,000 (Early) – On Saturday, the early slate is clearly highlighted by Zack Greinke so I wanted to offer an off-the-grid pick: Tim Lincecum. This will be Lincecum’s first start in the majors since Jun. 27 of last season and Lincecum hasn’t been the same Cy Young version of himself over the past three seasons. In order words, this is a bit of a shot in the dark. News from his Minor League starts were all positive and he dominated in his final start, allowing just one hit and a walk over seven scoreless innings. Last season’s Lincecum rarely made it through a start walking only one so this could be a positive sign of things to come. Even with all of this being said, the real reason to take the shot on him is because of the weak opponent. The Athletics rank in the bottom 10 of wOBA, wRC+, ISO, BB rate (very important), OBP and hard hit percentage versus RHP this season and most of those numbers rank last among American League teams versus the handedness. While it’s his first start back, it may be worth jumping on him early and getting ahead of the curve.
*Stats are accurate as of Friday, June 18