J.A. Happ has struggled with the longball against RHHs this season and Mike Napoli has made a career out of mashing LHPs. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB.
Robinson Cano, Mariners – Opposing starter Ubaldo Jimenez is the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of the Major Leagues. His game log is crazy because he has literally either been absolutely horrendous or solid in his starts this year…there is literally no in-between. Since May 12, Jimenez has allowed five-plus runs in a start seven times and he has allowed two runs or less on three occasions…and that’s the entirety of his outcomes during that stretch. However, one thing has remained solid all season with Jimenez: lefties hit the crap out of him. In 30.2 IP versus LHHs this year, lefties have slashed a ridiculous .341/.431/.553 against him with a .420 wOBA. This sets up an incredibly enticing matchup for Robinson Cano who leads the team in wOBA versus RHP (.427) in 2016. In fact, he also leads the team in ISO (.302) and is slashing .332/.391/.633 against the handedness. Although both the hitter and the matchup are elite, he is priced as a secondary option. For that reason, it would be foolish to not attempt to take advantage in cash games at the very least.
Mike Napoli, Indians – Sunday’s slate features a plethora of horrendous starters and J.A. Happ isn’t one of them. Nevertheless, Mike Napoli and the red hot Indians offense is still in play as they have been virtually all month. The juicy aspect of the matchup for Napoli (and the Indians righties) is the fact that Happ has allowed 11 HRs already to RHHs compared to just two to LHHs. Over the course of his career, Happ has fared as a fly ball pitcher (39.1-percent GB rate, and this season has been no different. Therefore, his 1.19 HR/9 rate is not an anomaly and can be counted on to continue, especially with Happ missing bats less and less as his career goes on. Not only does Napoli lead the team in HRs versus LHPs this season (three) but he sports a career .389 wOBA against the handedness. While everyone is picking on the bums (and rightfully so), rostering Napoli should lead to a sneaky source of power.
Kole Calhoun, Angels – Probably the worst pitcher to toe the mound on Sunday will be Sean O’Sullivan and his career 6.03 ERA over the span of 313.2 IP. This season, O’Sullivan has pitched worse than ever as his ERA currently sits at 7.94 plus he owns both a career worst 1.85 WHIP and 34.1-percent GB rate. Despite a career average of a 32.2-percent hard hit rate, hitters have managed a 37.0-percent rate this year along with a 31.8-percent line drive rate. Basically one out of three balls put in play against him are a line drive and more than that are hit “hard.” Over his career, lefties have given him the most trouble as they have hit 36 of the 58 HRs he has allowed and have slashed .296/.371/.547 against him. Although he has produced some reverse splits in a small sample size this season, lefties are once again ripping him to the tune of .344/.344/.500. Sure Mike Trout and Albert Pujols are viable as per usual but I prefer the matchup for the lefties. On the Angels, that means one guy stands out above all the others: Kole Calhoun. With a 34.8-percent hard hit rate versus RHP this season, there should be no reservations about rolling out Calhoun in any format.
Corey Dickerson, Rays – Nearly everything in the Calhoun tidbit fits the logic for starting Corey Dickerson against Mike Pelfrey. Like O’Sullivan, Pelfrey is one of the least talented pitchers to take the mound on Sunday, and he has struggled mightily against everyone. Not to sound like a broken record but a majority of the damage has come off the bats of LHHs; they have hit six HRs off Pelfrey this year to complement their.342/.401/.519 slash line and .392 wOBA. Meanwhile, Dickerson quietly leads the Rays in wOBA against right-handers this season with a .269 tally and has hit 13 HRs off of the handedness. The issue with rostering Dickerson typically is his propensity to strike out (25.8-percent K rate versus RHP) which has led to a low average. Considering the fact that Pelfrey hardly ever misses bats (3.97 K/9 against RHHs this season), Dickerson’s kryptonite is virtually negated. Although he is still best suited for tournaments, I expect him to come through and hit one a long way.
Jon Lester, Cubs – On paper, the matchup against the Mets is anything but a “gimme.” The Mets rank in the top 10 of wOBA, wRC+, ISO, AVG, hard hit rate and line drive percentage versus LHP this season. Fortunately, there is a chink in the armor: they strike out at the highest percentage against the handedness. Due to this aspect alone, Jon Lester can be expected to possess a high floor as he should end with a hefty amount of Ks (I have him projected around 7.5-8). Now factor in he’ll be facing Noah Syndergaard and the matchup becomes more favorable. Why? Since being diagnosed with a bone spur in his pitching elbow, Syndergaard’s effectiveness has taken a nose dive, as he has only eclipsed 15 fantasy points in one of his previous four starts. It has gotten so bad that Syndergaard isn’t even listed as a favorite at home. Earlier in the season, Syndergaard was rarely listed as anything below a -200 favorite at home, so the change is noteworthy. As a -111 favorite in a favorable park with a projected 6.5 run over/under, Lester still feels like a pretty safe SP1 for cash games despite the Mets’ excellent statistics.
Jon Gray, Rockies – What if I told you there was a pitcher with a 9.74 K/9, 3.67 FIP, 3.67 xFIP, 1.20 WHIP and .288 wOBA allowed that you could roster for a significant discount from the aces? Would that interest you? Well it should because those are Jon Gray’s road numbers this season despite a 4.65 ERA. Gray simply possesses elite stuff and is in the process of putting it all together while having to deal with pitching in Coors Field half the time. Instead of pitching in the thin atmosphere of Denver, Gray will enjoy a gigantic positive ballpark shift pitching in Dodgers Stadium. The real reason to like him is because the Dodgers rank in the bottom 10 of wOBA and ISO against RHP while striking out at about the league-average in terms of percentage. Taking him at a value compared to the aces on the slate opens up some bat possibilities which makes the move worthwhile.
Yordano Ventura, Royals – Considering Yordano Ventura will enter Sunday’s game with a 5.00 ERA and 1.45 WHIP, many will continue to overlook him on Sunday. He hasn’t factored into daily fantasy consideration much this season but this game may very well be the one opportunity to strike. His opponent, the Phillies, rank in the bottom 10 of wOBA, wRC+, BB rate (very important), AVG, OBP and hard hit percentage versus RHP this season while striking out at a rate of 21.7-percent. Ventura relies on the groundball with an excellent defense behind him. Although his strikeouts are down, his velocity is exactly in line with his career average, so this could be a case of small sample size. Last but not least, Vegas only projects a 7.5 run over/under with Ventura as a slight favorite despite his terrible struggles. While this is a GPP play only, Ventura possesses intriguing upside against the lowly Phillies.
*Stats are accurate as of Saturday, July 2