The Kempire Strikes Back

John Lamb strung together a quality start last time out but Matt Kemp and his team-leading wOBA against LHPs will make that a difficult proposition to repeat on Thursday evening. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB.

Infield:

David Ortiz, Red Sox, $10,800 (Early) – Has there ever been a safer spot to deploy hitters than on Thursday afternoon where the best offense in baseball will square off against James Shields? At this point, it isn’t a stretch to call Shields the worst pitcher in Major League Baseball after allowing 31 ERs in his last four starts spanning 11.1 IP. Let me repeat: 31 runs! Over that span, Shields has produced a combined -51.5 fantasy points. In other words, Shields is averaging -12.88 fantasy points per start over his last four. Whew, that is just beyond awful, but as long as he is in the majors, it should be the top priority to stack against him every single time out. It just so happens David Ortiz, the best hitter in baseball against RHPs, and the offense averaging the most runs per game this season (5.60) will face him next. Not only is Ortiz the absolute top priority asset to start on the early slate, regardless of position (including pitcher), but you basically cannot roster enough Boston bats. It would be a shocker if the Red Sox didn’t drop at least a seven spot on Shields in Fenway Park, so it would be to your detriment to fade their offense in any format.

Jake Lamb, Diamondbacks, $10,400 (Late) – If Ortiz is the cream on the crop during the day time (and he is), Jake Lamb is the equivalent at night. While Eddie Butler hasn’t fared quite as poorly as Shields in recent starts, he is still a gas can in his own right…especially in Coors Field. At home this season, Butler has allowed at least four ERs in each game he has started (came out of the bullpen in his first appearance in Coors so I’m not going to count that game). Overall, his ERA at home currently sits at 9.37 with a 1.78 WHIP and 2.20 HR/9 rate. Both sides of the plate have lit him up this year but he’s allowed a higher wOBA to LHHs (.389) and they’re currently slashing .317/.391/.526 against him. Even with Paul Goldschmidt on the squad (and listed as more expensive), Lamb leads the team in wOBA (.402) and ISO (.291) against RHP. In fact, he has hit the ball hard a whopping 43.9-percent of the team against the handedness this season. Considering Butler allows hard contact at a 37.3-percent rate to LHHs, Lamb is not doubt going to make solid contact at least once. In Coors Field, that means a ball could be traveling a long way. Due to the elite matchup, Lamb possesses the highest floor of any hitter on the entire slate, and should be a building block for both cash games and GPPs.

Outfield:

Matt Kemp, Padres, $9,600 (Late) – Other than Coors Field, the red hot Padres offense appears worth targeting against John Lamb and the Reds. Lamb is coming off a surprising productive start in Minute Maid Park against a powerful offense but it’s doubtful he strings a second together. Only three teams have scored more runs in the month of June than the Padres: the Orioles, Blue Jays and Tigers.  Most of their hitters have been on fire this month but the best combination of production and price is Matt Kemp. In 84 plate appearances in June, Kemp is slashing .364/.393/.519 with a .384 wOBA and 147 wRC+. For full disclosure, Wil Myers has produced the best overall numbers this month, but there are a few reasons to prefer Kemp…First of all, Myers costs $900 more but paying up does not make sense. Why? Kemp leads the team in wOBA against LHP this season (.447) and is slashing .358/.366/.731 against them…all of which are superior numbers to Myers. Meanwhile, Lamb has allowed seven HRs this season and six have come off the bats of RHHs. Coming off a shutdown performance, Lamb’s wOBA allowed to righties still sits at .355, and the Padres hitters will enjoy a substantial positive ballpark shift heading from Petco Park to the Great American Ballpark. Although his price isn’t cheap, he is bordering on must-play due to a combination of all the aforementioned factors.

Peter O’Brien, Diamondbacks, $7,600 (Late) – A great way to gain some exposure to Coors Field without paying full retail price is by rostering Peter O’Brien. The issue with O’Brien is he’s sort of an all-or-nothing proposition; he has managed five total hits at the big league level in 33 ABs and four of them have left the park. While a player of that skill set isn’t typically the ideal fit for cash games, an exception can be made against a bad pitcher in Coors Field. The aspect I really like about this matchup is Butler has allowed a .587 SLG to RHHs this season (compared to .526 to LHHs) including six of the nine total HRs hitters have managed off of him. Furthermore, righties have made hard contact a greater percent of the time (40.2-percent) than lefties and Butler pitches to contact (1.9-percent BB rate) against O’Brien’s handedness as well. If you’re going to start a power specialist right-handed bat against anyone, this is literally the ideal situation, and the price tag presents just too much damn value to pass on.

Pitcher:

Jon Lester, Cubs, $22,800 (Late) – Thursday night is a strange pitching slate because all the starters worth paying up for are in questionable spots. Sure Matt Harvey is priced $7,000 less than Jon Lester but he’s facing an offense that just roasted him and I hate using pitchers against the same offense for the second time in a short period. In terms of aces, you’re not paying for Greinke in Coors Field (at least in cash), so Lester wins by default. At least his matchup is halfway decent considering the Marlins rank in the dead middle of wOBA against LHP. They also rank in the bottom 10 of ISO and BB rate at strike out at the 12th highest percentage against the handedness. Honestly, the Marlins’ team speed is a little concerning because any runner that reaches base with a single probably turns into a double (via the stolen base) against Lester. Still, it’s hard to argue with just how dominant Lester has been in 2016, currently sporting a 2.06 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 9.03 K/9. As icing on the cake, his dominant offense behind him will likely tee off of Wei-Yin Chen and his 5.22 ERA, and therefore Lester is listed as a -173 favorite. On this slate, a quality start with 6-8 Ks should be enough to build the basis for cash lineups.

Rick Porcello, Red Sox, $19,200 (Early) – The thought process for rostering Rick Porcello is similar to that of rostering Lester…he is a virtual lock for a win. Porcello, he of a 3.76 ERA and 1.09 WHIP (good but not great), is listed as a ridiculous -220 favorite in a game with a projected 10.5 run over/under. When a pitcher opens as such a heavy favorite, it’s clear the projected runs are mostly supposed to come in the form of run support as opposed to runs he would allow. If this game script mimics any of the last four games for Shields, Porcello should be pitching with a giant lead from the get-go. The early slate is about as ugly as it gets in terms of pitching so anyone with a substantial chance for a victory should just be locked and loaded. To be frank, I’m not sure any pitcher has been more of a lock for a victory this season than Porcello is in this game.

Tim Lincecum, Angels, $14,100 (Late) – In order to fit the bats in Coors, salary is going to need to be saved at the SP2 spot on the late slate. Among the value pitchers, Tim Lincecum clearly stands out as the best value. Unlike most on the slate, he will actually draw a superb matchup on paper; the Athletics rank dead last in the American League in wOBA against RHP. They also rank in the bottom 10 of wOBA, ISO, BB rate, AVG and hard hit rate versus the handedness as well. One major issue with Lincecum is the fact that he just faced the Athletics in his last start but, to be fair, he limited them to six baserunners and one ER in 6.0 IP. The last start doesn’t even tell the full story because Lincecum produced a 2.65 ERA in three starts at Triple-A prior to his activation. In other words, he has looked pretty good so far in his return this season at all levels. Due to the velocity regression and inflated walk rate, the recent run is bound to come to an end, but an Athletics team sans Josh Reddick likely isn’t the team to send him into a tailspin. As long as he can just come close to recreating his last start, the ability to fit bats next to him will make it all worthwhile.

*Stats are accurate as of Wednesday, June 22

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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