A.J. Reed is so insanely cheap, and there are multiple aces on the slate, so rostering him is the perfect way to complement pitching safety with an upside bat. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB.
Josh Phegley, Athletics, $6,000 – You’ll quickly notice an ongoing theme amongst hitters in this edition of Today’s Plays: they’re all cheap. Why? Sunday’s slate includes three aces in favorable spots so they are all viable starts. In order to fit two of them into a cash lineup, you’re going to have to get creative on offense. One spot where a hitter’s skill set doesn’t coincide with the price tag is Josh Phegley against left-handed Hector Santiago. In 200 career ABs against LHPs, Phegley sports a .329 wOBA and .270/.307/.455 slash line. While the numbers aren’t fantastic, they’re respectable, and Santiago is susceptible to the long ball. Among qualified starters, Santiago’s 39.2-percent GB rate ranks 16th lowest and has led to a whopping 1.70 HR/9 rate. Of the 15 HRs he has already allowed, 13 have come off the bats of righties. To this point, Santiago’s ERA at home (6.55) is nearly double his total on the road (3.88) and this start will take place in Angel Stadium. Essentially there is enough upside for Phegley to deem him worthy of consideration in all formats as he at least has a chance to reach double-digit fantasy points (and beyond).
A.J. Reed, Astros, $5,400 – In his first game as a Major Leaguer, A.J. Reed certainly did not seem to be overmatched. After walking in his first AB, he drove in his first career run the second time around and just overall looked like he belonged. Facing a weak right-hander, the Astros produced double-digit runs and will once again face a RHP with an ERA over 4.00 (4.19) on Sunday: Ian Kennedy. Through 81.2 IP, Kennedy sports ugly peripherals (5.47 FIP, 4.90 xFIP) and has allowed a 1.98 HR/9 ratio…making Santiago seem like a lightweight. After mentioning Santiago’s GB rate, I should note Kennedy’s 32.9-percent rate ranks third lowest behind only Jered Weaver and Drew Smyly. Reed, who hit 35 HRs across three levels in 2015, is generally considered a top power prospect. Considering Kennedy has allowed exactly nine HRs to each handedness this season, and lefties sport a wOBA nearly 40 percentage points higher than righties, Reed appears to be in an excellent spot to launch his first career HR. Even if he does not, his upside well exceeds the miniscule price tag.
Ryan Raburn, Rockies, $7,800 – If “paying up” for one player to pair with the aces, Ryan Raburn makes all the sense in the world against a left-hander in Coors Field. With the Diamondbacks facing Chad Bettis, it is a bit painful to completely fade them in cash, but the exposure to Raburn should at least ease concerns a bit. Fortunately, Raburn will square off against Patrick Corbin who has allowed RHHs to slash .283/.338/.475 against him this season with a .349 wOBA. Of the 13 HRs he has allowed, 12 have been hit by right-handers including one by Raburn earlier in this season. When they met on Apr. 6 in Arizona, Raburn went 2-3 with a solo blast, which was the first time they had ever faced one another. Now, the Rockies’ 6.5 implied run total ranks tops on the entire slate. At just $7,800, it just makes too much sense to go ahead and pair Raburn’s career .357 wOBA against LHPs in an incredibly favorable spot with the stone cold lead pipe locks at starting pitcher.
Alex Gordon, Royals, $5,600 – Here’s a price tag some may overlook and I think it will be a giant mistake. If Alex Gordon had not just returned from a long stint on the disabled list literally yesterday, he would probably cost around $2,000 more than he does now. As if the insane bargain price wasn’t enough, the Royals will square off against Doug Fister, who has struggle to retire LHHs this season. In 43.2 IP, lefties are slashing .279/.344/.512 against him with a .365 wOBA. Just in case you forgot the kind of player Gordon is, he slashed .266/.377/.428 against RHP last season with a 120 wRC+ and 27.7-percent line drive rate. While he isn’t Eric Hosmer, he is far from a scrub, and that is the way he has priced. If the lineup structure is similar on Sunday as it was on Saturday, Gordon will hit second ahead of Hosmer and the run producers, and should be in line for a productive day. UPDATE: Gordon managed two hits on Saturday night including a double and a HR. He projects as the best value of the entire day.
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, $27,600 – Clayton Kershaw is the Floyd Mayweather of daily fantasy baseball, meaning he is expected to win every time he steps into the ring…only his ring is a baseball field. Despite both Jose Fernandez and Johnny Cueto pitching on the slate as well, Kershaw is easily listed as the largest favorite at -265. He’ll square off against Chad Kuhl making his first career start, which in itself is a mismatch. On paper, the Pirates are a respectable hitting team against LHP, as they rank about league-average in terms of wOBA (.325) and in the top 10 of wRC+, BB rate and hard hit percentage. However, they strike out at the second highest percentage and hit the ball hard at the fourth worst percentage against LHPs. Since pitchers with the ability to miss bats appear to be their weakness, consider Kershaw their (and everyone else’s) kryptonite.
Jose Fernandez, Marlins, $26,400 – Speaking of teams who struggle with the strikeout, the Cubs K at a rate of 22.5-percent and now will have to deal with Jose Fernandez. Unfortunately for the Cubs, Fernandez’s 12.83 K/9 leads all of baseball and his 2.05 FIP ranks third behind only Clayton Kershaw and Noah Syndergaard. Neither side of the plate has managed a wOBA greater than .282 nor an AVG of .219 against Fernandez. While the Cubs rank second in the majors in runs per game with 5.25, their total is down to just 4.68 in the month of June (or roughly the equivalent the Giants are averaging for the season). Vegas only implies the Cubs will score 2.9 runs and Fernandez is listed as a -151 favorite so he can deployed as per usual despite a bit of a tough matchup. Whatever downside there is to be projected by the damage Cubs bats could potentially do is cancelled out by the fact that Fernandez should approach double-digits in strikeouts.
Nathan Eovaldi, Twins, $10,200 – As I’m writing this article on Saturday night, 97-percent of the public betting money has been laid on the Yankees money line. 97! Vegas lists Nathan Eovaldi as a -218 favorite, aka a much heavier favorite than the aforementioned Fernandez (and third highest on the slate behind just Kershaw and Cueto). After watching Michael Pineda shutdown the Twins on Saturday afternoon, going back to the well with a power righty seems reasonable. The Twins rank in the bottom 10 of wOBA, ISO and hard hit percentage versus RHP this season and have struck out at about the league average (20.0-percent). Their best hitter (Miguel Sano) is still on a rehab assignment and their other top assets (Eduardo Nunez, Robbie Grossman) favor the platoon split against LHP. Sure Eovaldi hasn’t thrown a quality start since May 29 but this is maybe the cheapest his price will ever dip. Regardless of the format you choose to deploy him in, he’s priced cheaper than top hitters such as Paul Goldschmidt and Xander Bogaerts. In order to fit top bats alongside one of the aces, starting a pitcher priced like a hitter is really the only way to do it, and Eovaldi possesses a fairly safe floor despite the cost. While it’s definitely risky, the thought of potentially pairing Kershaw/Fernandez/Cueto with Coors bats is awfully enticing.
*Stats are accurate as of Saturday, June 25