Heavy Doze of Reality

When Brian Dozier faces off against a lefty, fantasy owners should always take notice. Consequently, fantasy owners really need to think about rostering him in a matchup against a southpaw who literally misses bats at the lowest rate in the league. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB.

Infield:

Brian Dozier, Twins, $10,200 – Brian Dozier is always in play versus a LHP and this is no average southpaw. In fact, Martin Perez is a well below average left-hander considering the fact he posted the lowest strikeout rate (12.1-percent) of any qualified starter in baseball. Perez relies almost solely on contact to retire hitters which is a dangerous proposition in the Ballpark in Arlington. Therefore, it is no surprise Perez posted a 4.50 FIP, 4.77 xFIP and 5.11 SIERA (skill-interactive ERA) despite a BABIP allowed (.286) well below his career average. Whereas Perez only allowed 0.46 HR/9 in 2016, that number rose to 0.90 for right-handers and he only struck out 4.11 righties per nine innings. In other words, Dozier and his .397 wOBA against the handedness should have multiple opportunities to flash his powerful bat in a park conducive to power. Despite Coors Field being on the slate, Dozier is the number one overall hitter on the slate in my book.

Corey Seager, Dodgers, $8,000 – Hitting is aplenty on Monday and yet the Dodgers in a pitcher-friendly park are still in one of the best spots…especially the left-handers. Since the beginning of the 2015 season, Matt Cain has allowed a .396 wOBA to LHHs over a 69.1 IP sample size to go along with a .314/.391/.538 slash line. While AT&T Park is a difficult one to hit in overall, right field is still known as “triples alley” for a reason as the park plays above average in terms of triples, singles and AVG for lefties specifically. Oh by the way, Corey Seager has produced a .408 wOBA, .228 ISO, .338/.398/.567 slash line, 41.7-percent hard hit rate and 26.4-percent line drive against RHP as a professional. In this matchup, Seager should be closer to a $10,000 player so take the extreme discount all the way to the bank.

Outfield:

Charlie Blackmon, Rockies, $10,800 – Is Charlie Blackmon playing in Coors Field tonight? If the answer is yes then he is worthy of considering in daily fantasy baseball. The handedness of the pitcher does not even matter anymore as Blackmon interestingly posted a superior versus LHP in Coors Field (.421 wOBA) last year comparatively to RHP (.389). Today, Justin Turner will toe the mound in the hitters’ haven of Denver, and while he is a right-hander, Blackmon is still a fantastic play. So far as a professional, Turner has posted some substantial reverse splits, but he also has allowed a .321 wOBA to LHHs during that time. Although Turner has compiled a 51.3-percent career ground ball rate against lefties, they have produced a 31.1-percent hard hit rate against him. The atmosphere will only enhance this trend in a negative way for the pitcher which is obviously a positive for Blackmon. In a short sample size this year, Blackmon is sporting a .518 wOBA at home so his monstrous production at home has unsurprisingly continued. Start him at home as always.

Nomar Mazara, Rangers, $8,000 – A right-handed starter who pounds the strike zone and relies purely on fly ball outs is not a great fit for a hitter-friendly ballpark like the one in Arlington…especially against a solid offense like the Rangers. Amongst all starters who threw at least 50 innings last year, opposing starter Phil Hughes’ 50.5 zone percentage ranked fourth highest behind only Rich Hill, Steven Matz and Clayton Kershaw. He also allowed fly balls at the 26th highest rate last year including a 31.3-percent line drive rate to LHHs. Righties actually left the yard at a higher rate than lefties against Hughes but the matchup simply lines up well for a player who likes swinging. Only Rougned Odor and Carlos Gomez have walked at a lower rate than Nomar Mazara among Rangers’ regulars so he will no doubt enjoy facing a pitcher who pounds the zone and allows habitual hard contact. On paper, the righties have a slightly superior matchup but Mazara is underpriced and owns a career 21.7-percent line drive rate against the handedness. All aboard the Mazara train.

Pitcher:

Jason Vargas, Royals, $15,600 – Pitching on this slate is brutal as virtually all the most expensive pitchers slated to start tonight are worthy of avoiding. Strangely, the White Sox have produced impressive numbers against LHP across the board to this point: they rank in the top 10 of wOBA, wRC+, AVG and OBP versus the handedness while striking out at the second slowest rate. However, Jason Vargas has now thrown three excellent games in a row to begin the 2017 campaign. So far, the FIP and xFIP suggest this is not just a lucky start; Vargas is just pitching incredibly to start the year. Vargas is not walking anyone, his knuckle curveball rates better than ever and he is mixing in his two-seam fastball at the highest percentage since 2012. By the way, Vargas posted a 3.85 ERA in 2012 so it clearly rated as one of his best seasons in the big leagues. Opponents have only hit him hard at a 26.5-percent rate through three starts and he is forcing 2.0 ground balls per every fly ball. At some point, this will probably come to a crashing halt but he has not shown any signs to this point. He is a risk for sure but so is every other pitcher on this slate. At least by rostering Vargas, who by the way opened as a -113 road favorite, bats can be fit alongside him as well. If the excellent start is for real, he could obliterate value at this price tag for the fourth consecutive start.

Miguel Gonzalez, White Sox, $15,000 – On the other side of the same game, Miguel Gonzalez draws the superior matchup according to the numbers as he will face a Royals team that ranks 20th in wOBA against RHP heading into Monday. Furthermore, the Royals have only walked at a 7.6-percent rate and rate in the bottom 10 of both OBP and hard hit rate versus the handedness as well. Gonzalez did an excellent job of limiting hard contact last year and this season he is only allowing a 14.0-percent line drive rate and 22.4-percent hard hit rate. This game opened with a measly 7.5 run over/under, so despite being an American League battle between two rather unknown pitchers, it is expected to be a bit of a pitching duel. Since there are nine games on the slate, a contrarian strategy would be to just start both Vargas and Gonzalez together (regardless of format). While he is not likely to strike out a ton of hitters, he is also not likely to totally implode, and that high floor is noteworthy on such a difficult slate. On a slate devoid of true cash starting pitchers, Gonzalez is a reasonably safe investment.

Brett Anderson, Cubs, $14,400 – If all else fails, roll with a ground ball pitcher and Brett Anderson is the personification of just that. In 700.0 career IP, Anderson has forced opponents into a 58.0-percent ground ball (GB) rate and really health has been his largest obstacle to overcome. When in uniform, Anderson has held opponents to career a sub-4.00 ERA, sub-3.70 FIP and sub-3.55 xFIP which are all numbers of $16-18,000 pitchers minimum. Now that the Pirates are without Starling Marte, their current active hitters cumulative rank 23rd in wOBA against LHP this year with a wRC+, AVG, OBP and line drive rate in the bottom 10. The Pirates have hit the ball on the ground at the seventh highest rate in the league to this point so Anderson should, in all likelihood, be able to force his opponents to hit the ground into an elite infield defense. If that is the case, Anderson should compete for the fantasy points-per-dollar lead on the slate.

*Stats are accurate as of Sunday, April 23

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders is a fantasy sports expert with over 15 years of playing experience. After starting several freelance fantasy sports blogs, Ricky moved up in the fantasy industry when he joined Going9 Baseball. He wrote fantasy baseball content and had a weekly radio spot on the site’s SiriusXM Satellite Radio show. Shortly thereafter, in early 2013, Ricky joined RotoExperts as a three-sport fantasy contributor, eventually becoming one of the site’s lead basketball writers. While writing for RotoExperts, Ricky was introduced to daily fantasy sports and immediately fell in love. With help from some of his mentors, some of the best DFS players in the world, he honed his skills and became the daily fantasy expert he is today. When RotoExperts created a daily-focused website called DailyRoto.com, Ricky was brought on as one of the main contributors. He still makes frequent appearances on the RotoExperts SiriusXM Radio show and on the FNTSY Sports Television Network, talking daily fantasy sports. He also continues to write for a few DFS content sites: RotoCurve and The Fantasy Fix. Ricky is a proud and active member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He has agreed to be a writer and representative for the FantasyDraft brand and serves as an ambassador to the site. He has no more access to the site than the typical user. Don’t hesitate to contact Ricky with questions on Twitter @RSandersDFS.

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