In a matchup against pure fly baller A.J. Griffin, Khris Davis is one of the favorites of the night to go deep. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB.
Carlos Santana, Indians – Friday’s slate is a strange one because the Rockies play in the daytime and so does the pitching duo of Madison Bumgarner/Max Scherzer. Basically, this leaves the night slate devoid of top pitching options and filled with hitters in above average spots. One player who stands out above the pack is Carlos Santana on the road in Chase Field versus Shelby Miller who is coming off of a disastrous 2016 campaign…especially against LHHs. Last season, in a limited sample size, Miller allowed a ridiculous .375/.443/.513 slash line and .412 wOBA to lefties. Meanwhile, Santana posted a team-best .388 wOBA and .285 ISO against the handedness while mashing 30 of his 34 HRs against them. Although Progressive Field played as a top five hitters’ park last year, Chase Field actually rated even more favorably so this is actually a little bit of a positive park shift for him as well. With all the stars aligned, expect a big game from the Indians’ powerful leadoff man.
Brian Dozier, Twins – Although he is not large in stature, Brian Dozier is an incredibly formidable hitter against pitchers of the left-handed variety. In 2016, Dozier posted a .331 ISO against the handedness to complement a .397 wOBA and .282/.352/.613 slash line. By comparison, Mark Trumbo led the majors in HRs last season and he posted a .277 ISO overall so this should personify just how absurd Dozier’s numbers were specifically against southpaws. Now, he will square off against a pitcher, Derek Holland, who managed just a 4.95 ERA last year and 1.41 WHIP over 107.1 IP. In a stadium that played as a top 10 HR park last year, Dozier is certainly a threat to go deep.
Khris Davis, Athletics – Speaking of threats to go deep, Khris Davis versus a pure fly-baller in a hitters’ park is too favorable to overlook. Amongst all starters who threw at least 100 innings last year, A.J. Griffin’s 29.1-percent ground ball rate rated second lowest to only Jered Weaver (28.8-percent). Griffin is in the wrong park for a pitcher of his skill type which would explain his 5.07 ERA and 16.9-percent HR/FB rate. Looking at his splits, left-handers actually hit him harder but he still surrendered 10 HRs to RHHs and a .345 wOBA overall at home. Only three players hit more HRs against RHP last year than Davis: Mark Trumbo, David Ortiz (retired) and Edwin Encarnacion. Otherwise, Davis’ 32 HRs against the handedness held strong and that is still an awfully impressive number in itself. This game opened with a whopping 10.0 run over/under so runs should be aplenty in this contest. Neither starting pitcher is overly impressive but it would be surprising for Davis to not flash the power bat in this matchup.
Brett Gardner, Yankees – This matchup jumps off the page for Brett Gardner for a multitude of reasons, beginning with the fact Ubaldo Jimenez allowed the fourth most stolen bases against him last season, behind only Noah Syndergaard, Jimmy Nelson and Jon Lester. When/if Gardner gets on base, he should be looking to run so that certainly enhances his potential ceiling. Furthermore, Jimenez has struggled mightily against LHHs throughout the course of his career and has been getting progressively worse in recent seasons. This troubling trend led to Jimenez surrendering 10 HRs to LHHs last year, a .292/.378/.506 slash line and .378 wOBA. Combine all of these factors and you have arguably the safest cash game hitting play of the night.
Francisco Liriano, Blue Jays – If Spring Training means anything to you at all then Francisco Liriano is worthy of consideration on Friday because he was absolutely dominant. In 18.1 IP this spring, Liriano finished with a 2.00 ERA while striking out 29 and walking just six. If Liriano is able to improve upon his control, the sky is the limit as he showed back in his magical 2010 season. Since that time, control has been an issue for him and has resulted in a BB/9 rate over 3.25 in every season since that time. The good news here is the Rays lost a pretty awesome hitter against the handedness in the offseason (Logan Forsythe) and their remaining hitters cumulatively struck out at the third highest rate versus the handedness last year. As icing on the cake, they rated in the bottom 10 of BB rate (very important), AVG and OBP as well so this is a near ideal matchup for Liriano to begin the year. Due to lack of options, he stands out as the best combination of ceiling and floor on the slate.
Mike Leake, Cardinals – Did I mention pitching is ugly tonight? When you have to resort to Mike Leake, you know the alternatives are downright brutal. Unless Leake is in absolute peak form, he is not a guy who is going to strike out 10 batters so his upside is a bit limited. In fact, last year he produced a 6.37 K/9 and struck out double-digit batters just twice and those came in consecutive starts in July. Otherwise, Leake hovering around 3-5 strikeouts in just about every other game and he relied heavily on the ground ball outs instead. Leake hardly ever walks anyone (1.53 BB/9) and his peripherals suggest he has a bit unlucky last year so he should be able to battle a very average Reds offense. At his price point, a healthy amount of bats will be able to be fit alongside him in a lineup as well. For that reason, Leake is a fine play especially in cash games.
Zack Wheeler, Mets – Here is the cojones play of the night: Zack Wheeler. Similarly to Michael Pineda last night, there is a clear amount of potential downside in this matchup. For one, Wheeler is coming off arm issues and is one of the team’s up-and-coming players. Consequently, they will probably look to be conservative with his pitch count, limiting his total amount of innings. Additionally, Wheeler has dealt with some control issues throughout his young career as well so that could contribute to a rising pitch count as well. Keeping all of that in mind, Wheeler still possesses some serious K potential, especially compared to the alternatives pitching tonight. Also, Wheeler and the Mets opened as -145 home favorites in a game with just a 7.5 over/under so the Marlins are only being implied at around 3.5 runs. If they only score around 3-4 runs, what is the worst that can happen to Wheeler? He puts up a mediocre outing? In tournaments, it is worth the risk because the best case scenario is around 5-6 shutout innings with 7-9 Ks.
*Stats are accurate as of Thursday, April 6