Do not sleep on Brian Dozier and his insane numbers on the road against LHP this season. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB.
Brian Dozier, Twins, $10,200 – The name Francisco Liriano sounds a name recognition bell with most but to me he is simply a below-average Major League starter. Through 24 starts this season, Liriano sports a 5.21 ERA, 1.59 WHIP and .265 opponents’ AVG. A majority of the damage off of him has been done by RHHs: 17 HRs (out of 21 total) to go along with a .272/.373/.458 slash line, 34.2-percent hard hit rate and .358 wOBA. Since joining the Blue Jays, his numbers have been marginally better to the tune of a 3.57 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. Regardless, Brian Dozier is simply an elite hitter versus LHP and his numbers have reached new heights against them in the 2016 campaign. In 98 ABs versus the handedness, Dozier is slashing .327/.407/.724 with a .398 ISO and .460 wOBA…and those numbers rise to .364/.442/.864, .500 ISO and .518 wOBA against LHP on the road this season. Fading him against a southpaw is just a terrible idea and not one you’ll want to entertain on Friday.
Gary Sanchez, Yankees, $8,700 – If you’ve been listening to national sports talk radio, or following any sports personality on Twitter, you may have heard of Gary Sanchez. All he has done at the big league level in 19 games is hit nine HRs to complement a ridiculous .389/.450/.847 slash line and .527 wOBA. Against RHP alone, Sanchez has slashed .456/.500/.982 with a .526 ISO and .602 wOBA, so it’s clear he is at least serviceable against the handedness. The sample size is small but we’re talking about a top talent who was signed as a coveted international free agent by the Yankees in 2009. Meanwhile, opposing starter Yovani Gallardo has struggled his fair share on the road this year and Yankee Stadium is no walk in the park. Away from Camden Yards, opponents have managed a 6.14 ERA, .282/.362/.468 slash line and 30.2-percent hard hit rate off Gallardo. Oh and although he has allowed less than 1.0 HR/9 at home, he has allowed 1.23 HR/9 on the road. In other words, this is another prime opportunity for Sanchez to add to his already gaudy HR total in such a short period of time.
Bryce Harper, Nationals, $10,400 – Following a brutal month of July in which Bryce Harper only hit .176, Harper is back to his usual antics in August: .333/.435/.509 slash line, .175 ISO and .406 wOBA. The guy is a great hitter so it was only a matter of time before he got his act together. While Harper is in play against all RHPs, there is some added allure in a matchup against Jeff Hoffman at home. After producing mediocre numbers at Triple-A this season (4.04 ERA, 4.14 xFIP), Hoffman was roasted in his first MLB start for seven runs (six earned) in 4.0 IP…mind you it was at home. Still, a mediocre talent is still going to be mediocre on the road and faces a tough task against the Nationals world-class lefties. Hoffman has faced LHHs in 11 total ABs and allowed a .500/.545/.600 slash line. Over time, those numbers will obviously regress, but this could be an early indicator as to which side of the plate is more favorable against him. As icing on the cake, the Nationals are listed as -182 favorites at home in a game with a projected 9.0 run over/under. Both Harper and Murphy are borderline must-starts as per usual.
Hunter Pence, Giants, $7,200 – A pitcher’s record means next to nothing but Joel De La Cruz has pitched like a guy with a 0-6 record to this point. Not only does his ERA currently sit at 4.47 but he has struggled to keep the ball in the park (1.42 HR/9), walked too many hitters (3.25 BB/9) and hasn’t missed many bats (4.87 K/9). That combination is a recipe for trouble at the professional level over the long run and the Giants are actually a brutal matchup for a pitcher of this skill set (or lack thereof). They rarely strike out (16.8-percent K rate), walk a ton (9.3-percent BB rate) and hit a ton of ropes (21.3-percent line drive rate). Notably, opposing hitters have managed some substantial reverse splits against De La Cruz including a .494 SLG and .354 wOBA for RHHs. Even in pitcher-friendly AT&T Park, Hunter Pence stands out from the pack because his kryptonite comes in the form of pitchers who can strike him out. If De La Cruz isn’t going miss his bat, he’s going to do wreak some havoc as evident by his career .346 wOBA against RHP. Start him with confidence in any and all formats as a guy likely to go under-owned with some serious upside. UPDATE: Hunter Pence is not in the lineup. Buster Posey is an easy pivot.
Justin Verlander, Tigers, $20,100 – Justin Verlander is consistently worth rostering due to both his high floor and high ceiling but there is one issue with the matchup against the Angels: they strike out at the lowest percentage of any team versus RHP. In other words, Verlander probably does not possess his typical double-digit upside but he still projects as an excellent bet in cash game formats. Why? The Angels rate in the bottom half of wOBA, ISO, BB rate, OBP, hard hit rate and line drive percentage Essentially, Verlander should be able to pitch deeper into the game without relying as heavily on the strikeout. Also, Vegas believes Verlander has an excellent chance of a victory at home versus Ricky Nolasco because they list him as a -207 favorite. Tonight isn’t nearly as hitter-heavy as last night so Verlander can be started as a SP1 in cash games if willing to pay up for a pitcher who will more than likely not single-handedly ruin your night.
Steven Wright, Red Sox, $18,300 – Knuckleballers always come with a caveat that they can get blown up on any given start. With that being said, there are a lot of factors working in Steven Wright’s favor at home against the Royals. For one, Wright hasn’t allowed a run in 9.0 IP in August thus far and has allowed a .123 wOBA to opponents. Secondly, Royals active hitters are slashing a measly .200/.213/.356 against him with just one HR in 45 ABs. Lastly, although hitting the knuckleball is a skill of its own, the Royals rank dead last in the American League with a .301 wOBA against RHP. Tonight is one of the rare nights I feel confident deploying Wright in both cash games and GPPs.
David Phelps, Marlins, $16,800 – Let’s get this out of the way: David Phelps is a good pitcher. In 75.0 IP this season across multiple roles, Phelps sports a 2.28 ERA, 2.86 FIP, 3.18 xFIP, 1.11 WHIP and 11.40 K/9. Since moving to the rotation, Phelps hasn’t allowed more than two ERs in any of his four starts and has finished each start with at least a 8.31 K/9 in that respective game. The pricing algorithm has caught up with the trend but who cares? He’ll square off against a subpar Padres offense that ranks dead last in wOBA against RHP. Hell, the Padres also rank in the bottom handful of wRC+, AVG, OBP and hard hit rate versus RHP while striking out at a whopping 24.1-percent. Expect another respectable game from Phelps where he flirts with double-digit strikeouts yet again (eight and nine in his last two games). He’s one of the best point-per-dollar investments of the entire slate.
*Stats are accurate as of Thursday, August 25