On Opening Day, Jon Gray draws a date with the strikeout-prone Brewers away from hitter-friendly Coors Field. Therefore, he is worth a play in all formats at his oddly affordable price tag. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB slate.
Joey Votto, Reds, $9,200 – How in the world does an Opening Day game feature a pitching matchup between Jeremy Hellickson and Scott Feldman? Unsurprisingly, this game opened as the highest over/under of the slate (tied with Pirates/Red Sox) and only the Red Sox are being implied to score more runs than the Reds. Therefore, targeting Reds hitters is of the utmost importance especially of the left-handed variety. Throughout the course of his career, Hellickson has allowed a .322 wOBA to LHHs plus his ERA on the road last year was nearly a run and a quarter higher compared to at home (4.33 versus 3.16). As icing on the cake, the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati rated the fourth most favorable in terms of home run (HR) favorability. Meanwhile, Joey Votto’s .419 career wOBA against RHPs ranks first amongst all active hitters with at least 150 career at-bats (ABs) versus the handedness. Votto easily rates as one of the safest plays on the first real slate of the MLB season.
Corey Seager, Dodgers, $8,400 – With Clayton Kershaw on the mound for the Dodgers, it is not shocking to see this game open with an over/under of just 6.0 runs. However, Jhoulys Chacin, coming off a 3.0 inning, six earned run (ER), three HRs allowed final spring start, is just not very good. Basically, Vegas is saying this game will finish with the Dodgers scoring 4.1 runs to just 2.0 for the Padres. Over the course of his career, Chacin has surrendered a .335 wOBA to LHHs compared to just .297 against RHHs. Last year, the differential between lefties and righties shrunk but left-handers still produced superior numbers against him. Corey Seager led the Dodgers in wOBA against RHP last season and he slashed a healthy .334/.391/.557 against them so he is the prime suspect to do a majority of the damage tonight. Since this game’s total is the lowest projected on the slate, Seager could actually prove to be a bit contrarian.
Bryce Harper, Nationals, $9,900 – There is nothing contrarian about Bryce Harper but it does not matter because he will draw a date against Edinson Volquez at home on Monday afternoon. Over the course of the last two seasons, Volquez has actually posted some subtle reverse splits but LHHs have produced a 33.1-percent line drive rate versus him during that span compared to 28.9-percent for RHHs. Harper is fresh off a monster spring in which he hit eight bombs and produced a .811 slugging percentage (SLG). What more needs to be said for one of the best hitters in the game? With him facing one of the weakest pitchers on the slate, it could be blastoff for the young stud.
Odubel Herrera, Phillies, $8,000 – In 2016, the aforementioned Feldman (Reds’ Opening Day starter) allowed a .377 wOBA to LHHs and they slashed a hefty .323/.387/.504 against him. There is no just no reason in the world why he should be a team’s first starter but the Reds pitching staff continues to be a nightmare so act accordingly. Feldman relies heavily on the sinker ball and Odubel Herrera relies heavily on speed. In other words, Herrera should be putting the ball in play and he coincidentally happens to be the team’s best hitter against the handedness (at least he was last year in terms of wOBA, average (AVG) and on-base percentage (OBP)). Although he is not the sexiest of names, he certainly is amongst the sexiest of plays tonight.
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, $24,900 – On a slate filled with aces, Clayton Kershaw still stands out from the past because he is simply above and beyond the best pitcher in the game, period. Furthermore, Kershaw will square off against a Padres team whose active players cumulatively struck out at the fourth highest percentage of any team last year. In 16.0 innings versus the Padres in 2016, all Kershaw did was allow a .078 AVG and surrender zero runs while striking out 23. As if that were not enough, the Padres ranked dead last in wOBA against LHP last year and ranked in the bottom 10 of wRC+, ISO, BB rate, AVG, OBP, hard hit rate and line drive percentage versus the handedness as well. The reason Kershaw is priced as above and beyond the most expensive pitcher on the slate is because he warrants it. Pay it and sleep like a baby (especially in cash games).
Danny Duffy, Royals, $16,800 – In tournaments, Danny Duffy rates as a great pivot as both a SP2 and even a SP1 in a sneakily solid matchup against the Twins on the road. Sure Vegas is expecting this game to be reasonably high-scoring (8.0 run over/under) and Duffy is listed as a slight underdog (Twins -109 favorites) but the numbers match up nicely for the Royals ace. Last season, the Twins’ current active hitters ranked cumulatively in the bottom 10 of wOBA, wRC+, AVG, SLG and hard hit percentage while striking out at the second highest rate versus the handedness. Amongst all qualified starters last year, Duffy’s 9.42 K/9 ranked 11th and only slightly behind Corey Kluber’s 9.50 for 10th. Duffy possesses serious strikeout potential in this spot and he should go drastically overlooked with the plethora of talent available at the position.
Jon Gray, Rockies, $15,200 – Probably the best pitcher on a per-dollar basis on the first night of real baseball is none other than Jon Gray. Only a year ago, Gray actually ranked higher on the K/9 list than both Duffy and Kluber as he struck out 9.91 batters per nine innings. Surprisingly, Gray’s numbers at home were actually slightly superior but over a larger sample size this trend should even itself out. Miller Park played as a below average park last year according to ESPN’s Park Factors so this is a gigantic positive park shift for him. Oh by the way, the Brewers struck out at the highest percentage of any team against RHPs last year and also ranked in the bottom 10 of wOBA, wRC+, ISO, AVG, OBP and line drive rate against the handedness. At a mid-tier price tag, Gray possesses 10-plus strikeout upside so there is nothing not to like…especially considering all the salary he opens up in the hitting department. Lock and load him into any and all lineups.
*Stats are accurate as of Sunday, April 2