On a slate filled with pitchers in questionable spots, John Lackey stands out as the one (and maybe only) truly safe option. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB.
Matt Carpenter, Cardinals, $10,800 – Sort of like Josh Donaldson yesterday on the turbo slate, Matt Carpenter simply cannot be ignored, despite the outrageous price tag. On Thursday, the Cardinals will square off against Chris Young and his insane 3.52 HR/9 in 53.2 IP so far this season. By taking a dive into the splits, it’s amazing how nearly all the damage has been done by LHHs. In 32.2 IP versus RHHs, Young has allowed seven HRs (still a hefty total) with a .210/.266/.424 slash line and .294 wOBA…but against LHHs (21.0 IP), he has allowed a whopping 14 HRs to go along with a .364/.442/.867 slash line and .529 wOBA. On the other hand, Carpenter is one of the toughest outs in baseball especially against RHPs, as evident by his .300/.395/.483 slash line against the handedness. As difficult as it is to fit his price tag in next to two aces, it’s worth the investment because he is a stone cold lead pipe lock.
Javier Baez, Cubs, $6,900 – I’m expecting the masses to look at the name “Steven Matz” and immediately assume avoiding bats against him is the correct play. Honestly, I think this game should prove to be the opposite because Matz is suffering through bone spurs in his elbow that are clearly affecting him. In his last start, Matz struck out zero hitters and drew just two swinging strikes the entire start! Compared to the season numbers that suggest he misses bats at an above-average level (8.57 K/9) and draws swinging strikes 9.5-percent of the time, this is a gigantic red flag. In other words, five days likely isn’t going to fix this issue, therefore the Cubs usuals are all in play. My favorite value on the Cubs against LHP is always Javier Baez as he’s slashing .327/.400/.531 against the handedness with a .394 wOBA and is once again priced below $7,000. While the Cubs go drastically under-owned, make sure you are the one who rosters Baez and reaps the benefits.
Christian Yelich, Marlins, $8,400 – Probable starter Mike Foltynewicz will be making his first start following a stint on the disabled for a sore elbow in this game so it’s possible he could be on a pitch count. If Foltynewicz were to leave the game early, that would actually rate as a negative in the matchup for Christian Yelich because Foltynewicz has been torched by lefties in his young career. This year alone, Foltynewicz has allowed a .302/.351/.673 slash line to LHHs with a .419 wOBA in 13.0 IP. Amazingly, over a larger sample size for his career (62.2 IP) against the handedness, the numbers are nearly identical: .319/.369/.612 slash line with a .412 wOBA. There’s no doubt Foltynewicz has improved his effectiveness against righties this season but left-handers are still his kryptonite. Among all lefties on the Marlins, Yelich is tied for the highest wOBA against the handedness with Justin Bour, who costs $400 more and will likely bat fifth in the order compared to third for Yelich. Essentially, Yelich is the best combination of skill set and price among the team’s lefties, but they are literally all in play.
Seth Smith, Mariners, $6,000 – In order to fit the aces, concessions are going to need to be made at some point, and Seth Smith for this bargain price fits the bill. The downside to the matchup is the fact that Safeco Field has rated as baseball’s worst hitters’ park over the past two seasons, per ESPN Park Factors. Even so, Smith has managed an AVG nearly 30 percentage points higher at home (.272) as opposed to on the road (.245) this season. Hell, he has even launched four of his six homers in the supposed pitcher-friendly atmosphere of Safeco. As is the case with most platoon players, there is risk to rostering Smith as he could get pulled if/when a left-handed reliever is brought in to face the top of the order at any point. In Seattle’s case, this is a legitimate threat because Leonys Martin, Smith and Robinson Cano are all left-handed. Still, the risk is worth the reward because Smith possesses a .358 wOBA against RHP so far this season and opposing starter Chris Tillman has already allowed seven HRs and a .341 wOBA to the handedness. If needing a value play to fill holes in rosters of any format, Smith is a fine investment.
Madison Bumgarner, Giants, $25,200 – As mentioned multiple times already, there are a pair of viable aces worthy of rostering in any and all formats on this slate, beginning with Madison Bumgarner. Despite pitching in one of the most pitcher-friendly National League ballparks, Bumgarner has actually preferred pitching on the road this season. In nine starts at home, he has produced a 2.04 ERA, compared to a 1.93 ERA in seven road starts. Obviously Bumgarner will be dealing with an unfavorable league switch as he’ll now have to deal with a designated hitter instead of a pitcher but at least the ballpark shift is nominal. On paper, the Athletics rate pretty highly against LHP; they rank in the top 10 of wOBA, wRC+, ISO, AVG and line drive percentage. Call it blind faith, or call it agreeing with Vegas’ assessment of listing Bumgarner as a -183 favorite in a game with a projected 7.0 run over/under, but I like Bumgarner’s prospects regardless. Against rookie Dillon Overton, I expect the Giants offense to put up some runs, and Bumgarner to pitch deep into the game. While he’s probably best reserved for cash games because the Athletics are a difficult team to strike out, he’s one of the few pitchers on the slate with a double-digit fantasy point floor, and that alone deems his worthy of consideration.
John Lackey, Cubs, $20,400 – John Lackey is probably the only pitcher on the entire slate that connects all the dots. Not only is he a talented pitcher but he draws a favorable matchup in a pitcher-friendly environment and even Vegas is on him as they list him as a road favorite (-131). Without Michael Conforto, David Wright and Lucas Duda active, the Mets active roster ranks in the bottom 10 of wOBA, wRC+, BB rate, AVG and OBP against RHP while striking out at 22.1-percent. In fact, Curtis Granderson was even scratched again last night and he may even miss this contest. At this point, 91-percent of the public money has been bet on the Cubs money line in this game, so many have noticed the trend of Matz’s recent ineffectiveness as well it seems. All-in-all, Lackey is the safest pitcher on the entire slate, so use him anywhere and everywhere you see fit.
Jake Odorizzi, Rays, $15,200 – If looking for a bargain option in order to fit bats, Jake Odorizzi is an interesting proposition at home against a J.D. Martinez-less Tigers team. This is a tournament-only play but the Tigers do strike out at the 12th highest percentage versus RHP and Tropicana is a below-average hitting environment. Vegas lists Odorizzi as a slight favorite against Jordan Zimmermann and I expect Zimmermann to get smacked around a little by a team mostly susceptible to pitchers who miss bats (and Zimmermann doesn’t). Splits are the key to the matchup because Odorizzi’s home ERA this season (3.04) is nearly 2.0 full runs less than his tally on the road (4.93). The difference is so extreme that Odorizzi has actually allowed an AVG at home (.213) nearly 60 percentage points lower than away from Tropicana (.270). Is it a sure thing? Absolutely not. Is there a scenario where Odorizzi finishes with 20-plus fantasy points at a mid-tier price tag? Definitely.
*Stats are accurate as of Wednesday, June 29