Jon Gray and his upper-echelon strikeout rate are sure to frustrate a substandard Phillies lineup on Friday. He will get by. He will survive. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB.
Evan Longoria, Rays, $8,700 – With 14 games on the night slate, most are rightfully going to look to spread in a mixture of the best values from each game. However, failing to recognize the best possible spots for hitters could be a mistake because a case could be made to fill all three infield spots with Rays against a struggling C.C. Sabathia. The easiest play of the slate is Evan Longoria who has crushed Sabathia in an extended sample size: 26-67 (.388) which includes nine doubles, six HRs, 14 RBI, a .494 OBP and .791 SLG. Considering Longoria sports a career .384 wOBA, .247 ISO and .293/.377/.540 slash line against LHP, the numbers against Sabathia make a ton of sense and cannot be viewed as fluke. Factor in the positive park shift to Yankee Stadium and Longoria simply rates as an elite play.
Logan Forsythe, Rays, $10,200 – As mentioned in the last tidbit, one Rays infielder (and really player) simply isn’t enough. Since the All-Star Break, Sabathia has regressed to the tune of a 5.40 ERA, .281/.356/.479 slash line and .358 wOBA allowed overall. Sabathia has been at his worst at home this season as he sports a 4.82 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 5.50 K/9 (!) and 1.03 HR/9 rate in the unfriendly confines of Yankee Stadium. While Longoria’s numbers are down against LHP this year slightly, Logan Forsythe’s are not, as he sports a .374 wOBA against the handedness heading in to Friday. Not only does Forsythe hit in the premiere lineup spot for cash games (leadoff) but he incorporates both power (.236 ISO) and average (.306) into his repertoire against the handedness. As icing on the cake, Forsythe also has produced some impressive batter versus pitcher (BvP) numbers off Sabathia: 8-18 (.444) with two HRs and five RBI. Start Forsythe in any and all formats.
Nelson Cruz, Mariners, $9,600 – In three career ABs against opposing starter Sean Manaea, Nelson Cruz has put all three balls in play for an average exit velocity of 109.9mph, per BaseballSavant. Of course, one of those hits was a bomb but, by comparison, Cruz leads the league in average exit velocity at 95.7mph. In other words, he has hit the ball significantly harder against Manaea than he has against the rest of the league…and he hits the ball hardest of anyone. Even though the Oakland Coliseum rates as a below-average hitters’ park, it’s still an upgrade from his home park (Safeco Field). Therefore, it’s important to take into consideration Cruz owns a .333/.432/.855 slash line and .517 wOBA against LHP on the road. Fading Cruz is an incredibly scary proposition as hard contact is all but virtually guaranteed.
George Springer, Astros, $9,200 – Francisco Liriano is a pitcher who comes with some significant name value but the numbers do not back up the reputation. Through 119.2 IP this year, Liriano owns a 5.34 ERA, 1.61 WHIP and a league-worst 71 walks. In fact, Brandon Finnegan’s 65 walks rank second worst and only three other plays have even issued 60. Although his control issues have been his main problem, his list of issues stretches far beyond any single issue. For example, RHHs have smoked the hell out of Liriano to the tune of 16 HRs (out of 20 allowed total), a .263/.374/.458 slash line and .360 wOBA. One hitter primed to take advantage is the powerful man atop the Astros lineup: George Springer. While Springer doesn’t lead the team in either wOBA or ISO against LHP (thanks to Jose Altuve and Evan Gattis), he’s the only player on the team who ranks top two in both categories. Furthermore, he is slashing .272/.378/.544 against the handedness and ranks second among the regulars in BB rate (behind Carlos Correa). He is the best combination of skill set for this matchup and he’s guaranteed to at least equal the most plate appearances against Liriano. What more could you want?
Stephen Strasburg, Nationals, $24,000 – “Feisty” has been an accurate word to describe the Braves offense against RHP as of late. They only strike out at a rate of 18.9-percent and BABIP pitchers to death. This is potentially bad news for Stephen Strasburg, a man who had been known for his BABIP issues until this season, but he is still one of the top few options for cash games. Why? The Braves rank in the bottom 10 of wOBA, wRC+, ISO, OBP and hard hit rate so they have to do a lot of “singling him to death” in order to create real havoc. In two previous meetings this season, Strasburg only allowed a combined 15 baserunners and three ERs while striking out 11 in 13.2 IP. While the numbers don’t jump off the page, they are solid, and that’s probably what we get from Strasburg once again. If you’re looking for 18-20 fantasy points, Strasburg is your man. If you’re looking for 30 fantasy points, well, Strasburg likely doesn’t provide it in this game.
Jon Gray, Rockies, $17,400 – The easiest pitching play of this entire slate is locking and loading Jon Gray on the road against a porous Phillies offense. Quietly, Gray ranks in the top 15 of all qualified starting pitchers in K-percentage (25.1-percent) and opponents have unsurprisingly hit for a wOBA 20 percentage points lower off of him on the road. None of Gray’s peripherals nor his SIERA tally (3.89) match his 4.26 ERA so it’s bound to experience some positive regression in the near future. Odds are the tumble will begin tonight against a Phillies team ranking in the bottom 10 of wOBA, wRC+, BB rate, AVG, OBP, hard hit rate and line drive percentage. As if that weren’t enough, the Phillies strike out at the 10th highest percentage against RHP (21.3-percent) as well. This is one of the few large slates where I would recommend using a pitcher regardless of format and how many lineups you choose to make. He is worthy of rostering anywhere and everywhere.
Joe Musgrove, Astros, $16,000 – For tournament purposes only, Joe Musgrove makes a ton of sense. After striking out around nine batters per nine innings through two minor league levels this season, Musgrove has continued to miss bats at the Major League level (11.12 K/9 through 11.1 IP). The combination of mid-90s velocity on his fastball, a solid pedigree, his deep arsenal of pitches and upper-echelon defense behind him makes him a safe bet to continue producing at a high level moving forward. The issue with Musgrove in the minors was he struggled with the HR ball. The Blue Jays strike out at the second highest percentage versus RHP and also possess the third highest ISO against the handedness. In other words, there are multiple potential outcomes in this matchup. One potential outcome is pushing double-digit strikeouts and shutting them down like his did on his first start on Aug. 2 (4.1 IP, two baserunners, eight Ks) and to the Rangers his last time out (7.0 IP, five hits, one ER, six Ks). Since there is potential downside, saving him for tournaments is the correct because he’s a fantastic play in the format. With that being said, feisty owners can use him in cash as well to potentially create a higher potential ceiling because of the bats you can fit next to the duo of Gray/Musgrove.
*Stats are accurate as of Thursday, August 11