At a pretty affordable price tag, Steve Pearce is destined to hit high in the order against an opposing lefty who allowed a .299/.351/.491 slash line to opposing right-handed hitters last year. Go ahead and start Pearce in both cash games and tournaments. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB.
Freddie Freeman, Braves, $9,000 – Death, taxes and Freddie Freeman registering fantasy points are just about the three surest things in life. Over his last 15 games (dating back to last year), Freeman has produced a goose egg just twice and has managed at least double-digit fantasy points in seven games during that span. On Friday, Freeman will draw an elite matchup against Jhoulys Chacin who is sporting a 8.10 ERA through two starts heading into this contest. After allowing a .327 wOBA to LHHs in 72.1 IP last year, lefties have smoked him to the tune of a .385 wOBA and .280/.333/.625 slash line in a limited sample so far this year. Basically, Chacin has been a gas can since Spring Training although his second start was much better than his first. His overall career sample suggests he is nothing more than an average talent who walks too many hitters (3.67 career BB/9) and does not miss too many bats (6.98). Therefore, Freeman and his career .386 wOBA and 39.7-percent hard hit rate against the handedness is an excellent spot to do serious damage.
Steve Pearce, Blue Jays, $6,800 – Despite this bargain price tag, Steve Pearce actually led all active Blue Jays players in wOBA against LHP last season and he will probably bat reasonably high in the order due to Josh Donaldson’s lingering calf injury (he will probably sit this one out). Amongst all players who racked up at least 75 at-bats (ABs) versus southpaws last year, Pearce’s 45.7-percent hard hit rate versus the handedness ranked 15th best, only slightly behind Mike Trout. Opposing starter Wade Miley is literally one of the worst pitchers in the league who continuously finds a starting job year after year. Last season alone, Miley allowed 22 homers, a .299/.351/.491 slash line and .360 wOBA to RHHs to go along with an absurd 24.2-percent line drive rate. In other words, Pearce crushes the ball against pitchers of Miley’s handedness and Miley allows a ton of hard contact. Advantage: Pearce.
Yoenis Cespedes, Mets, $8,800 – Whether or not hot streaks are real is uncertain but it definitely seems like Yoenis Cespedes is in a groove, doesn’t it? Over the course of his last three games, Cespedes has homered a whopping five times including seven total hits during that span. One thing we know for sure is Cespedes smokes the hell out of LHP as evident by his .441 wOBA, .282 ISO and 47.8-percent hard hit rate versus the handedness last year. Only Trevor Story, Giancarlo Stanton, Welington Castillo, Franklin Gutierrez, Sean Rodriguez and Marcel Ozuna (min. 75 ABs) hit the ball hard at a higher rate than the Mets’ superstar. Furthermore, Cespedes reached base at an impressive .457 clip and posted a monstrous .624 SLG. Any left-hander is in some trouble against him but especially a guy like Adam Conley who relies incredibly heavily on fly ball outs. In 2016, Conley posted a 38.2-percent ground ball (GB) rate which would have ranked 12th worst amongst qualified starters had he qualified. Overall, he did a pretty decent job of limiting of RHHs but they still managed 13 bombs and a 34.2-percent hard hit rate off of him. The way Cespedes is seeing the ball right now, a pitcher relying on hard, fly balls to get him is more likely to give up a bomb than to actually retire him. For these reasons, Cespedes is worthy of playing in any and all formats once again. UPDATE: Adam Conley will not start after entering the game late last night. Instead, Edinson Volquez will draw the start. Also, Cespedes is not in the lineup go ahead and fire up Jay Bruce and/or Michael Conforto if looking for Mets hitters.
Nelson Cruz, Mariners, $8,700 – The best hitting play on the entire slate tonight is Nelson Cruz against Martin Perez and it really is not that close. Not only does Cruz’s career .394 wOBA against LHP rank 15th in baseball (min. 50 ABs) but he is facing a pitcher who hardly ever misses bats (his 4.67 K/9 was lowest in baseball last year) and allows a ton of hard contact to RHH (.341 wOBA in 2016). When all said and done, Perez allowed 16 HRs and a .285/.353/.432 slash line to righties last year despite a 53.2-percent GB rate. In his career against Perez, Cruz is 5-10 with an absolutely ridiculous exit velocity of 103.2mph against him and two bombs. If Perez is going to pitch to contact against one of the most powerful hitters in the game, expect more 100-plus mph rockets flying off his bat once again. Fading Cruz is simply asking for trouble on this slate.
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, $26,100 – What really needs to be said here for the best pitcher in baseball? The man has posted a sub-2.15 ERA and sub-0.95 WHIP in four consecutive seasons and has struck out at least 10.39 batters per nine innings in each of his last four seasons. Now, he will toe the mound at home where he only allowed a .161 wOBA last year to complement his otherworldly 1.08 ERA and 0.57 WHIP. Add in the fact the Diamondbacks struck out at the fifth highest rate against LHP last season and are implied to score the fewest runs on the slate and Kershaw is quite obviously a must-play in cash (as pretty much always is the case).
Julio Teheran, Braves, $16,500 – If rostering Kershaw, which you certainly want to do, salary relief is going to be necessary in order to fit bats. Thankfully, Julio Teheran presents a solid amount of upside at a reasonable price as he will square off against the lowly Padres at home. Of course, the Padres were putrid against RHP last season as they struck out at the fifth highest percent in the league and their current active hitters cumulatively ranked in the bottom 10 of wOBA, wRC+, ISO, AVG, OBP and hard hit rate. Meanwhile, Julio Teheran absolutely dominated RHHs last season to the tune of a .243 wOBA and .211/.241/.322 slash line. Luckily for Teheran, Wil Myers, Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe are all right-handed so Ryan Schimpf and Yangervis Solarte are only their only two bats left with any form of upside that he could struggle against. Oh and Vegas actually implies the Padres for the second lowest total on the slate (behind only the aforementioned Diamondbacks) and list Teheran as the fifth heaviest favorite despite being the 10th most expensive starter. On a per-dollar basis, Teheran should give all pitchers on this slate a run for their money (including Kershaw).
Kendall Graveman, Athletics, $12,800 – Are you feeling lucky? If so, Kendall Graveman actually possesses a ton of upside and has a lot of different aspects working in his favor in this matchup. For one, Graveman will be pitcher at home in the pitcher-friendly environment of the Oakland Coliseum which played as the third worst hitters’ park in the game in 2016. Additionally, Graveman’s velocity is up across the board as his average cutter velocity is up 1.3mph, sinker velocity is up 1.6mph, slider velocity is up 2.9mph and changeup velocity is up 2.2mph since last season in his short 2017 sample size. Although he has barely missed bats in seasons past, the added oomph on all of his pitches could lead to uptick in strikeout rate…and it has so far. The way to beat the Astros is by missing bats as guys like Alex Bregman, George Springer and Evan Gattis struck out at a rate of 24-plus percent last year. Graveman also forces opponents to pound the ball on the ground so his career 0.96 HR/9 rate should depreciate as his career goes on and his stuff improves. Generally, the reason to like him is because he looks like a much improved starter and is pitching in a favorable environment. If those reasons are enough for you, go ahead and fire him up for cheap in tournaments.
*Stats are accurate as of Thursday, April 13