Jimmy Nelson allowed the second most stolen bases of any starting pitcher last season so Billy Hamilton quite obviously possesses a ton of speed upside against him tonight. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB.
Eric Thames, Brewers, $7,600 (Late) – A player most people are not incredibly familiar with this point is Eric Thames but you should be very soon. Prior to signing with the Brewers, Thames hit 40-plus homers in back-to-back years in the Korean League and he also stole 53 bases in two seasons. Obviously, that outrageous production led to a job audition and he has since nailed down a platoon role at first. So far this season, in 16 at-bats (ABs) versus RHP, Thames is slashing .375/.474/.688 with a .490 wOBA and .313 ISO. Now quite obviously this is due to a small sample size but the point here remains the same: Thames is very good hitter. On Thursday evening, he and the Brewers will square off against 40-year old Bronson Arroyo and his career .354 wOBA and .282/.339/.484 slash line allowed to LHHs. Targeting against Arroyo is of the utmost importance and Thames stands out as the best play on the team by a mile.
Ryon Healy, Athletics, $7,200 (Late) – After throwing a gem in his 2017 debut, it is about time for Jason Vargas to regress back to the norm. Vargas is a guy with a career 4.16 ERA, 4.30 FIP, 4.53 xFIP, 1.10 HR/9, 2.62 BB/9 and 5.95 K/9. Oh, and on top of all that, he has only allowed a career ground ball (GB) rate of 37.4-percent so almost everything off of opponents’ bats is a fly ball. In other words, facing a power hitter is a scary proposition for him because he does not miss bats and tries to rely on balls hit in the air to retire talented hitters such as Ryon Healy. Unfortunately for Vargas, he relies heavily on a fastball/changeup duo and Healy rated above and beyond the best hitter on the Athletics against changeups, per FanGraphs’ pitch type linear weights. In fact, a ton of the Athletics’ hitters rated well above average versus the pitch so this could be a tough matchup for him. To continue making the case for Healy, he leads all Athletics hitters in career wOBA against LHP (.367) as well as AVG (.297) and SLG (.554) against the handedness. Essentially, Healy’s skill set stretches far beyond his price tag so consider him a prime value on the night slate.
Billy Hamilton, Reds, $8,400 (Late) – If there were ever an ideal spot to roster Billy Hamilton, this would be it. Not only did Jimmy Nelson allow a .340 wOBA to LHHs last year but opposing players also stole 30 bases off of him which ranked the second most of any starting pitcher in the league (behind only Noah Syndergaard). It should also be noted, LHHs reached base at a .357 clip against him in 2016. Therefore, it is pretty easy to see the enticing nature of the matchup. If Hamilton is able to reach base, which hitters of his handedness did with ease last year, he should be able to swipe one or multiple bases. Hamilton does not really possess much power upside to the reason to roster him is because fantasy owners are looking for the multiple stolen base potential. With that being the case, you would be foolish to miss out on this opportunity to use him.
Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox, $8,000 (Early) – Back to the well with Andrew Benintendi today as the Red Sox will square off against another pitcher who has had his issues retiring hitters of the left-handed variety. Once again, the Red Sox will square off against the Pirates this afternoon and Chad Kuhl will take the mound in Fenway Park. Just a season ago, Kuhl was lit up by lefties to the tune of a 37.0-percent hard hit rate, .291/.358/.496 slash line and .363 wOBA in 31.0 innings. Meanwhile, Benintendi is one of the game’s up-and-coming stars and he has hit for average, power and even added speed at every level he has been at thus far. Hitting second for the Red Sox, he should have plenty of opportunities to take advantage of Kuhl in a park with a foul pole only 302 feet away in right field. A five tool player like Benintendi should not cost less than $9,000 in a matchup like this so take the discount all the way to the bank.
Madison Bumgarner, Giants, $24,400 (Late) – On the night slate, Madison Bumgarner stands out as above and beyond the top pitcher. Other than him, the position is a wasteland so it makes sense to just spend up for him, especially in cash games, in order to solidify a reliable floor. At home in 2016, Bumgarner absolutely dominated: 2.14 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 9.48 K/9 with a .193/.251/.293 slash line and .241 wOBA allowed in 117.2 IP. All of this makes sense because he is a top tier arm in an incredibly pitcher-friendly ballpark so good luck to opposing hitters who are forced to face him in this atmosphere. Away from home last season, the Rockies only produced a .300 wOBA, 84 wRC+, .148 ISO and struck out at a rate of 23.3-percent. By comparison, the Padres sported a league-worst wOBA on the road at .292 and the Royals tied for second worst at .300 (with the Rockies). Otherwise, every other team in the league produced better numbers on the road than this bunch from Colorado. Fading Bumgarner in the friendly confines of him is simply a bad idea.
Kevin Gausman, Orioles, $16,800 (Late) – There are not many viable pitching options to choose from on the night slate for the second starting pitching slot so Kevin Gausman pretty much wins by default. Actually, that is underselling him a bit because this matchup actually sets up pretty nicely for him. Although their bats are due to break out at some point, the Blue Jays currently rank dead last in wOBA against RHP so far this season. It makes sense because Jose Bautista is struggling mightily, Josh Donaldson is battling a leg injury and Edwin Encarnacion is gone. Other than just wOBA, the Blue Jays have been striking out a ton against the handedness (23.7-percent), not creating many runs (52 wRC+) and uncharacteristically hitting for almost no power (.093 ISO). Of course, the sample size is small but none of these numbers are encouraging whatsoever. On the other hand, Gausman is an up-and-coming pitcher coming off a season in which he posted respectable numbers across the board in 179.2 IP. While targeting the Blue Jays never feels right, this is a spot where it should be the correct play.
Brett Anderson, Cubs, $13,800 (Early) – Brett Anderson simply does not get enough love in fantasy circles. Okay so he has always been hurt throughout the course of his career, but when he has remained healthy for stretches, he has flashed real potential. Although he does not miss a ton of bats, he forces opponents to pound the ball into the ground (58.1-percent career GB rate), does not walk many guys (2.40 career BB/9) and now has an elite defense working behind him. Oh by the way, the Dodgers were historically bad against LHP last season so the additions of Logan Forsythe and Franklin Gutierrez are not exactly going to patch all of their holes…they are still a bad offense against the handedness. Vegas has not released a line on this game yet but it is safe to bet Anderson will be listed as a sizable home favorite. Pair him with Yu Darvish in the early slate and sleep like a baby.
*Stats are accurate as of Wednesday, April 12