In order to fit all the bats, pivoting to Dallas Keuchel instead of loading up on the top-tier aces is a solid way to create the most potential upside for a fantasy lineup tonight. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB.
Brandon Belt, Giants – Tonight’s slate is strange because there is both a plethora of pitching and hitting options. For some reason, this week there has only seemed to be one or the other but we finally get a top notch slate that includes Clayton Kershaw in Coors Field, Madison Bumgarner and a healthy amount of viable hitting plays. Of course, Coors Fields hitters are going to be in play, but Brandon Belt headlines the infielders despite playing in about the exact opposite park. Yes, Petco Park is amongst the most pitcher-friendly in the league but Jhoulys Chacin is so miserable that hitters could be played against him in the old Polo Grounds with confidence (it was a gigantic park). Coming off a horrendous final start in Spring Training, Chacin started the season equally as terrible in his regular season debut: 3.1 IP, eight hits, two walks and nine earned runs (ERs) with just two strikeouts. Oof, that is miserably and Chacin’s numbers from last year (4.81 ERA, 1.44 WHIP) suggest these two outings were not just anomalies. Last year, Chacin allowed a .327 wOBA to lefties and a 35.0-percent hard hit rate whereas Belt led the Giants in hard-hit rate versus RHP (min. 50 ABs). Since this game only possesses a 7.0 run over/under, Belt is likely going to go overlooked and can be rostered at a sub-10-pecent ownership in tournaments. In a matchup against a subpar opposing pitcher, count me in for contrarian Belt.
Justin Turner, Dodgers – It only took until Saturday of the first week of the season but Coors Field is finally included on a night slate. Unfortunately for those who love stacking this ballpark, it features a pitching matchup of each teams’ ace: Kershaw and Jon Gray. Strangely, Gray actually pitched slightly better at home last year compared to on the road but over a larger sample size it would make sense for that trend to even itself out. The notable stat when it comes to Gray is the fact he allowed some reverse splits to hitters last year in that RHHs produced a superior wOBA against him (.313) than LHHs (.300). Meanwhile, Justin Turner is the king of reverse splits himself as he posted a .305/.356/.563 slash line against righties last year compared to just .209/.303/.337 versus lefties. Hell, he put up a wOBA over 100 percentage points better against RHP than LHP. Combine that with a matchup against a reverse splits pitcher in the hitters’ haven of the Denver atmosphere and you have yourself an elite hitting play.
Mike Trout, Angels – Death, taxes and Mike Trout being a viable play in DFS are the three surest things in life. As always, the best hitter in baseball as viable although this situation stands out partially due to his outrageous amount of success against Felix Hernandez in the past. Again, I am not a true batter versus pitcher (BvP) data believer but here are Trout’s numbers against the “King”: 29-76 with seven HRs, 19 RBI, two steals and a .382/.424/.763 slash line. At some point, a sample size stops being a coincidence and just starts being a situation where Trout can identify the pitch as it leaves the pitcher’s hand and he just has some sort of advantage. To be fair, the numbers back it up as Trout led the Angels in wOBA (.419), ISO (.238), OBP (.442), SLG (.550), hard hit rate (40.3-percent) and then he even ranked second in AVG (.312) against RHP in 2016. Targeting against Hernandez does not seem like it would be a top priority on this slate but Trout is a borderline must-play.
Yoenis Cespedes, Mets – Let’s get this out of the way: Yoenis Cespedes is a phenomenal hitter against LHP. Just a season ago, Cespedes registered a .441 wOBA, .282 ISO, 18.1-percent BB rate and .341/.457/.624 slash line against the handedness. On the other hand, Adam Conley, who was coming off a breakout 2015 season, regressed in 2016. Although Conley’s strikeout rate increased, his control spiraled out of control (4.19 BB/9) and his FIP and xFIP both increased drastically. Conley morphed into even more of a fly baller last year as his ground ball rate dropped more than two percentage points. This is probably just a coincidence but Cespedes actually produced a superior wOBA in Citi Field (.375) compared to on the road (.364). In a matchup versus a non-dominant left-hander, the advantage certainly goes to Cespedes.
Madison Bumgarner, Giants – Every left-hander who has faced the Padres so far has dominated them as both Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill have thrown gems. Okay, so to be fair, those are two awfully good pitchers but Madison Bumgarner is certainly in a similar tier as well. When Bumgarner is not busy hitting bombs off of the opposing pitcher, he is busy doing work on the mound. Amongst qualified starters last year, only four produced superior FIPs: Noah Syndergaard, Jose Fernandez, Johnny Cueto and Kyle Hendricks. Now, Bumgarner will toe the mound in the only park in the division that gives AT&T Park a run for its money for being the most pitcher-friendly. Oh by the way, the Padres’ active hitters cumulatively ranked dead last in both wOBA and wRC+ against LHP last season while striking out at the fourth highest rate. It would be shocking if Bumgarner did not absolutely dominate this squad tonight.
Dallas Keuchel, Astros – After back-to-back years producing substantial home/away splits, I am officially declaring them “a thing” for Dallas Keuchel. Once again on Saturday, Keuchel will draw the start at home and this time he will face a Royals team that has one true weapon against the handedness: Lorenzo Cain. Other than Cain’s .418 wOBA against the handedness, their best hitter on paper is Mike Moustakas who is a lefty himself. This certainly explains why the Royals’ active hitters cumulatively ranked in the bottom 10 of wOBA, wRC+, ISO, BB rate, AVG, OBP, hard hit rate and line drive percentage last year as well. Pitching in the friendly confines of home versus a beatable opponent, spending down on Keuchel as opposed to the aces is a great way to fit bats and still roster a high-upside pitcher.
Robert Gsellman, Mets – Last but not least, Robert Gsellman is the cheap pitching option to pivot to if deciding bats are most important or if trying to stack an expensive game in tournaments. All Gsellman did in 44.2 IP in the majors last year was produce a 2.42 ERA, 2.63 FIP, 3.38 xFIP, 54.2-percent ground ball rate, 0.20 HR/9 and even a 8.46 K/9 rate. Citi Field is a below average hitters’ park and the Marlins are a below average hitting team against RHP; they ranked in the bottom 10 of wOBA, wRC+, ISO, BB rate and hard hit rate versus right-handers last season. Despite the fact they do not strike out a ton, Gsellman’s price tag basically alleviates the lack of strikeout concern. All-in-all, Gsellman leads my projections in terms of fantasy-points-per-dollar so he certainly projects as a usable player in all formats.
*Stats are accurate as of Friday, April 7