James Shields is arguably one of the worst pitchers in the majors right now and rarely misses bats. Consequently, Khris Davis should be expected to bring the “boom stick” on Friday. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB.
Kris Bryant, Cubs, $10,800 – On Friday, Coors Field isn’t as enticing as per usual even though Vegas has set an 11.5 run over/under. Both pitchers rely on ground ball outs which means they won’t test the atmosphere as much as other pitchers. Therefore, it’s more reasonable to expect success from this duo than pitchers of differing skill sets. Still, a sinker is the best pitcher to throw in the altitude, and Tyler Anderson’s arsenal does not include that pitch type while Kyle Hendricks’ does. Somehow, someway Anderson has experienced a great degree of success at home (probably because he relies on his slider 26.6-percent of the time compared to just 1.4-percent for his curveball) but eventually that must come to an end. Despite the 3.04 ERA at home, he has allowed a substantially higher wOBA at home (.308) compared to on the road (.286). In fact, he’s allowed a .264/.317/.406 slash line at home compared to .224/.275/.387 outside of Denver. The reason is due to an unsustainable 79.5-percent strand rate at home which should come to an end soon. If there’s one team to send him into a regression spiral, it’s the Cubs. Kris Bryant leads the team in both wOBA (.432) and ISO (.318) against LHP to supplement his .310/.416/.628 slash line. While most look at this matchup as a battle between two respectable pitchers, I only see one worth avoiding.
Javier Baez, Cubs, $10,200 – While I wouldn’t fully commit to a Cubs stack in cash games, I do like Baez for most the same reasons discussed in the Bryant tidbit. Anderson has pitched over his head at home and is bound to succumb to regression sooner or later. The Cubs rank sixth in wOBA against LHP and Javier Baez has been a huge contributor to their success. Manager Joe Maddon has referred to Baez as “two different hitters” against each handedness of pitcher but it’s clear he strongly favors the platoon split against lefties. Baez’s .393 wOBA ranks third amongst Cubs regulars and he is slashing .330/.396/.527 against southpaws…which is awfully impressive for a guy with a career .241 AVG overall. Clearly Baez possesses some serious power against left-handers and this ballpark will only enhance his skill set. Anderson only misses bats at about an average rate (7.48 K/9) so expect the ball to go a long way if Baez gets ahold of one.
Rajai Davis, Indians, $10,000 – To this point, Rajai Davis sports a .327 wOBA against LHP, but that doesn’t tell the full story. Over the course of a much larger career sample size, Davis has hit for a .347 wOBA and .293/.349/.444 slash line against the handedness. Although the name “Francisco Liriano” carries some name value, he has fared like a gas can so far this season: 5.46 ERA, 5.27 FIP, 4.54 xFIP, 35.6-percent hard hit rate (by far the worst of his career), 1.62 WHIP and a league-worst (among qualified pitchers) 5.24 BB/9. The guy has been flat-out bad all season long and gives up baserunners in herds. Not only does Davis possess some sneaky power against the handedness but he has the speed to run on anyone. After allowing 11 SBs last season, Liriano has already allowed eight this year, so there is certainly some potential. The five tool appeal of Davis combined with likely run and RBI opportunities deems him an elite cash play on the slate.
Khris Davis, Athletics, $9,200 – Opposing starter James Shields is just a freaking disaster. Not that Shields’ statistics were so pretty prior to the All-Star break but they have been straight horrific since. In 31.0 IP in the second half thus far, Shields has allowed a 6.97 ERA, .295/.371/.591 slash line, .400 wOBA and has only struck out 3.77 batters per nine innings while walking 3.48 batters per nine. Oh, and to top it all off, Shields has been torched to the tune of a 2.32 HR/9 rate! While Khris Davis ranks second on the team in wOBA against RHP (behind Stephen Vogt), his Achilles Heel is his strikeout rate (27.4-percent). When he makes contact, it typically goes a long way as evident by his team-leading .264 ISO and .509 SLG. Hell, Davis even ranks in the top two on the team in terms of hard hit rate against RHP so serious damage should be expected if/when Shields fails to miss his bat. Pitch right into the heart of the beast and you’re going to get burned and that’s exactly what I’m expecting from the Shields/Davis matchup. He is my favorite bet on the entire slate for a bomb.
Johnny Cueto, Giants, $23,200 – Rostering Johnny Cueto is not my forte because he’s typically priced as an ultra-elite and yet only strikes out batters at an 8.10 K/9 rate. By default on this slate, Cueto factors into the cash SP1 conversation because most of the solid talents face horrendous matchups. Meanwhile, Cueto will pitch at home in a game with a projected 7.0 run over/under where he is listed as a -151 favorite. Without Yoenis Cespedes, the current construction of the Mets offense ranks in the bottom 10 of wOBA, wRC+, AVG and OBP while striking out at around the league average (20.8-percent). Unsurprisingly, Cueto has preferred pitching at home in arguably the most pitcher-friendly environment in all of baseball (2.74 home ERA versus 3.19 on the road). Although the price tag is steep, I have Cueto pegged for around 7.0 IP, 1-2 ERs and 6-8 Ks. Considering the lack of safe alternatives, he feels like a lock in cash games.
Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees, $18,000 – My favorite pitcher on the entire slate is none other than Masahiro Tanaka. Like Cueto, he does not likely have double-digit strikeout upside, but he also isn’t priced like an ace. Angel Stadium has fared like one of the most pitcher-friendly atmospheres in the American League and the general consensus suggests the rocks in center field are to blame. They are positioned in such a way that the ball blends into the background when a starter releases the ball. This makes the ball more difficult to pick up and gives pitchers a distinctive advantage. In most sabermetric categories, the Angels rank in the dead middle of the road, except they rank in the bottom 10 of ISO. Again, they rank dead last in strikeout rate, but that could be a positive if Tanaka is able to pitch deep into the game. Vegas agrees with my assessment as the Yankees are listed as -138 road favorites. While he will not light up the scoreboard in terms of Ks, he should be a safe bet for 15 fantasy points when all said and done. At this price tag, that’s more than enough for me, especially considering the bats that can be fit next to him (compared to Cole Hamels, etc.).
Tanner Roark, Nationals, $20,200 – In a battle between Tanner Roark and Julio Teheran in Turner Field, the over/under has been set at a measly 7.5 runs. Even with arguably the Braves ace on the mound, Roark opened as a -147 favorite. On the surface, the matchup looks iffy at best as active Braves hitters are slashing .299/.375/.542 against Roark in 107 ABs. However, A.J. Pierzynski (just placed on disabled list) accounts for 7-10 (.700) of those and otherwise a majority of the damage has been done by Freddie Freeman (11-28 with a .393/.433/.536 slash line). Although I would describe the Braves as “pesky” against RHP, they do rank in the bottom 10 of wOBA, wRC+, ISO and hard hit percentage even with Matt Kemp’s season statistics factored in. Fortunately for Roark, he forces opponents to pound the ball into the ground (50.6-percent GB rate) as opposed to relying on an elite strikeout rate. Since the Braves do not K much and make a lot of weak contact, ground ball pitchers are the way to go against them. Roark is a cheaper alternative to Cueto with a similar outlook although his probability of reaching his ceiling in this matchup is a lot less likely.
*Stats are accurate as of Thursday, August 18