Probable starter Anthony Ranaudo allows baserunners by the bunches so you can expect Joe Mauer to reach multiple times. He is a fantastic cash game play on Sunday’s slate. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB.
Freddie Freeman, Braves, $9,600 – Most would probably be surprised to hear the Braves’ .267 AVG over the past 30 days ranks ninth best in the league. Additionally, their .330 wOBA over that span ranks 13th, just slightly behind the Orioles and Diamondbacks. Opposing starter Jake Thompson finally threw his first career quality start (in his fifth try) his last time out but still only struck out three batters in seven innings. Despite the step in the right direction, opponents have still managed a 38.9-percent hard hit rate and 2.05 HR/9 rate against Thompson while only striking out at a 13.2-percent rate. None of these numbers are going to help Thompson’s cause against Freddie Freeman, one of the most consistent hitters. In 328 ABs against RHP this season, Freeman sports a .399 wOBA, .290 ISO, .290/.391/.579 slash line and 41.9-percent hard hit rate. The last time Freeman failed to reach seven fantasy points in a game was Aug. 9 (and he still managed four fantasy points in the game). The guy simply never puts up a goose egg, even in difficult matchups, so the result is incredibly unlikely when facing a gas can like Thompson. In fact, a monster game is much more likely and he is in my top three of hitting plays.
Joe Mauer, Twins, $7,600 – Anthony Ranaudo is in deep trouble against Joe Mauer and the Twins for a variety of reasons. First, Mauer leads the team in OBP and ranks second in walk rate so the floor should be high against a pitcher who has struggled mightily with command. In 24.2 IP, Ranaudo has walked a whopping 18 batters (6.57 BB/9) and that has partially led to a 1.66 WHIP against him. Next, Mauer rarely strikes out (15.4-percent K rate) and Ranaudo has only K-d 4.74 batters per nine innings. Now add in Ranaudo’s 8.76 ERA, 7.97 FIP, 6.74 xFIP, 2.55 HR/9 and 34.5-percent hard hit rate and it’s not difficult to fathom why he might struggle against a professional hitter like Mauer slashing .287/.394/.423 against RHP. Although the guy rarely hits one out of the park, he generates a healthy amount of line drives (29.9-percent). At worst, Mauer should produce enough to make him worthwhile in cash games, and his ceiling stretches far beyond just “satisfactory.”
Charlie Blackmon, Rockies, $10,400 – With Archie Bradley toeing the mound in Coors Field, all hands should be on deck to roster as many Rockies lefties against him as possible. Why? Bradley has surrendered 10 HRs (out of 16 total), a .319/.418/.550 slash line and .408 wOBA to LHHs this season…and he doesn’t pitch religiously in Coors Field. One can only assume the results would be even worse, and should be even worse in this game, pitching in the high altitude. The splits suggest Bradley has pitched better on the road but most parks aren’t like this one. Furthermore, the Rockies as a whole own the second best wOBA in baseball (.349) against RHP this year and hit the ball hard 33.0-percent of the time. Leadoff hitter Charlie Blackmon is slashing .306/.365/.561 with a .254 ISO, .388 wOBA and 12 SBs against RHP this year. Maybe most importantly, Bradley has allowed a 38.6-percent hard hit rate to LHHs and left-handed Blackmon has hit righties hard at a hefty 38.3-percent rate. A pitcher allowing hard contact to the handedness versus a hitter producing one is never promising for the pitcher. Taking into consideration the elite hitter-friendly environment and Bradley should be in for a long day. UPDATE: Blackmon was scratched on Saturday with back tightness so David Dahl would be the logical alternative if he were to sit again on Sunday.
Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies, $9,600 – One lefty is just not enough against Bradley and you cannot target Rockies lefties without including Carlos Gonzalez. Although David Dahl and Blackmon currently own superior wOBAs against the handedness, Gonzalez leads all left-handers in wOBA at home (.440). The guy absolutely flourishes in Coors Fields as evident by his .340/.406/.654 slash line, .315 ISO and .441 wOBA against righties at home. While Bradley only allows 0.83 HR/9 to righties, lefties have left the yard at a rate of 1.96 HR/9. As if that weren’t enough, Bradley walks righties at an unfortunate rate (6.65 BB/9) and only strikes them out at a rate of 7.43 per nine (compared to 2.77 BB/9 and 9.14 K/9 to RHHs). Hell, Bradley hasn’t even pitched very well since the All-Star Break so there are a ton of factors working against him. This should result in a short afternoon for Bradley and a big afternoon from Rockies hitters. Sure expensive pitching is enticing but the preferred play on this slate is to fit as many Rockies hitters as possible while still feeling reasonably confident in your arms.
Yu Darvish, Rangers, $22,800 – On paper, the Astros rate as a difficult matchup for opposing RHPs because they rank in the top 10 of wOBA, wRC+, BB rate, OBP and hard hit percentage. However, they do whiff at a notable 22.9-percent against the handedness when taking into consideration Yu Darvish’s career 11.23 K/9…the second highest career rate of any active pitcher (behind only Jose Fernandez). In two starts against the Astros this season, Darvish has struck out 15 batters in 12.0 IP while allowing just one ER and 12 total baserunners. Darvish’s home/away splits are minimal so it doesn’t matter what ballpark he’s pitching in although this game will be held at home. The Rangers opened as -165 favorites in a game against Collin McHugh with a projected 9.0 over/under. Hopefully the nine total runs scares people away because he is my top cash starting pitcher on the entire slate due to his strikeout floor. The guy could legitimately allow four ERs and still post a respectable outing so I’ll take that kind of safety (assuming value bats emerge to create salary room for expensive bats).
Carlos Martinez, Cardinals, $20,400 – Strangely, Carlos Martinez has preferred pitching on the road all season. Having allowed a .237/.302/.356 slash line and .290 wOBA at home, those numbers shrink to just .204/.297/.274 on the road with a .262 wOBA allowed. After losing Jay Bruce at the trade deadline, this Reds offense is rather pedestrian other than Billy Hamilton’s speed, Adam Duvall’s power and Joey Votto’s overall greatness. In total, the team ranks in the bottom 10 of wOBA, wRC+, ISO, BB rate, AVG, OBP and hard hit rate while striking out at a rate nearly identical to the league average (20.6-percent). Essentially, they present a favorable matchup for Martinez who opened as a -158 road favorite versus Tim Adelman. Do not let the road factor scare you because that has actually proved to be an advantage for Martinez and he should be primed for a productive afternoon at a slight discount from the studs.
Jose De Leon, Dodgers, $15,200 – Starting rookies in their Major League debut is always a shot in the dark because you never know what you’re going to get. With that being said, one thing nearly all of them have in common is they come at ridiculously cheap prices. Plus if you’re going to use a guy in his first start, you might as well take the shot when facing an opponent ranking dead last in wOBA against his handedness. Yes, the Padres rank 30th in wOBA, 29th in wRC+, 30th in AVG, 30th in OBP and have struck out at the second highest percentage against RHP. According to CBS Sports, De Leon is the personification of a player development success story. During his tenure in the minors, he “added velocity to his fastball and significantly improved his changeup, which was more or less nonexistent in college. It also helped that De Leon improved his conditioning in pro ball.” Here are De Leon’s K/9 rates at each level since 2014: 12.75 (2014 rookie ball), 16.68 (2014 Single-A), 13.86 (2015 High-A), 12.33 (2015 Double-A) and 11.57 (Triple-A). This 24-year old kid has elite strikeout skills so hopefully this should lead to a safe strikeout floor. Priced like a bum, De Leon certainly has the opportunity to lead all pitchers in fantasy-points-per-dollar on this slate if all (or even some) goes right.
*Stats are accurate as of Saturday, September 3