Best Kep-t Secret

Max Kepler will draw a matchup against a starting pitcher who has allowed a near 50-percent fly ball rate to lefties and has only struck them out at a 12.6-percent rate. Since Kepler possesses a fair amount of power, he is a nice upside play on tonight’s slate. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB.

Infield:

Jose Altuve, Astros, $10,000 – The Astros seem to flirt with double-digit runs on a nightly basis at this point and they now lead the league in runs per game by a wide margin (0.11 runs per game above the Yankees). Rostering their hitters has been a profitable strategy to this point so do not stop going back to the well on Thursday evening. The Astros will square off against Francisco Liriano who is just about one of the most unpredictable pitchers in the league. Either he will have his best stuff and flirt with double-digit strikeouts or he will walk 4-5 hitters and flirt with negative fantasy points. Here is the bad news for Liriano: the Astros strike out at the second lowest rate versus LHP and walk at a 9.6-percent rate. Oh by the way, they have also produced a .349 wOBA and .193 ISO against the handedness. In other words, he is in deep trouble and Jose Altuve is one of the likeliest candidates to roast him. This season, Altuve has only struck out at an 11.9-percent rate against lefties plus he has produced a .390 wOBA, .219 ISO and .315/.398/.534 slash line. As icing on the cake, Liriano has thrown his slider at a 34.0-percent rate this year, or what would be the eighth highest rate in the league if he qualified, and Altuve has rated as the best slider hitter on the team this year (per FanGraph’s pitch type linear weights). All aboard the Altuve bandwagon tonight as he is my number one overall hitter on the slate.

Logan Forsythe, Dodgers, $7,600 – Unless stacking the most expensive offenses, this slate features so many upper-echelon pitchers that a hitter will inevitably need to be used against one of them. If choosing one to target against, Robbie Ray is not a bad call because the Dodgers lead the MLB in wOBA against LHP and Ray yields a ton of hard contact (40.1-percent hard hit rate to RHHs). Amongst active Dodgers hitters, only Justin Turner has posted a superior wOBA to Logan Forsythe’s .456 tally against southpaws, but no player on the team has edged out Forsythe’s absurd 41.0-percent line drive rate in the split. Additionally, Forsythe is priced nearly $1,000 cheaper than Turner and the salary relief will go a long way towards fitting the rest of the expensive hitters in this article. Forsythe makes sense for so many reasons so just go ahead and lock him in at this bargain price tag.

Outfield:

Bryce Harper, Nationals, $10,200 – Death, taxes and lefties against Mike Foltynewicz are the surest things in life. Okay, so maybe that saying is overselling it a bit but lefties have crushed Foltynewicz to tune of a .369 wOBA, 1.73 HR/9 rate, .290/.354/.513 slash line, 24.1-percent line drive rate, 31.7-percent hard hit rate and 45.9-percent fly ball rate over the course of his career. Again, those are not his numbers from just this season but the totals from his 145.2 career innings against lefties. It goes without saying but those numbers are not pretty and Harper has also rates as a top 10 hitter against the slider this season (which Foltynewicz throws Consider Harper will head into this game sporting a .446 wOBA against RHP, those numbers make perfect sense. Harper is worth every penny of this expensive price tag and he is one of the best bets on the slate to go deep.

Max Kepler, Twins, $8,700 – Speaking of players likely to go deep, Max Kepler will do battle with a starting pitcher coming off by far his worst month of the season. In June, opposing starter Dylan Bundy allowed a .252/.347/.535 slash line, .368 wOBA, 49.4-percent fly ball rate and 38.0-percent hard hit rate. There is no wonder why he posted a 6.37 FIP and 5.58 xFIP in the month with numbers like those and he began this month with a beatdown from the Rays (4.0 IP, five earned runs and seven total baserunners) so his freefall has continued. Although Bundy has struck out righties at a 24.7-percent rate this year, lefties have only struck out 12.6-percent of the time against him, and they have done a healthy amount of the damage against him. In 47.2 IP against righties, they have succeeded to the tune of a .346 wOBA, 9.1-percent BB rate, 1.51 HR/9 rate, .263/.333/.491 slash line, 21.7-percent line drive rate, 39.6-percent hard hit rate and a ridiculous 49.3-percent fly ball rate. On Thursday night, the wind is expected to be blowing out at 10-plus mph to right field in Minnesota so the ball should carry (especially off the bats of left-handers). Since Bundy allows nothing but fly balls, and Kepler owns a .376 wOBA against RHP, it would not be shocking to see the left-hander hit one out.

Pitchers:

Chris Sale, Red Sox, $25,600 – Even on a slate with names such as Jacob Faria, Jose Berrios, Robbie Ray, Rich Hill and Lance McCullers Jr. toeing the mound, Chris Sale is still a lock in cash games at the very least. The Rays active hitters cumulatively have struck out at a 24.4-percent rate against LHP this year which rates as the sixth highest rate in the league. Furthermore, the Rays rank in the bottom 10 of ISO and only Adeiny Hechavarria, Mallex Smith, Corey Dickerson and Logan Morrison have produced wOBAs greater than .329 against lefties in 2017. Of the players on that list, three of them are lefties, and Sale has absolutely shut down lefties this season: .243 wOBA, 23.1-percent hard hit rate and a ridiculous 32.8-percent K rate. Good luck to those Rays left-handers trying to figure out a hard-throwing, side-arming lefty who also happens to be arguably the best pitcher in the league. Advantage: Sale.

Lance McCullers, Astros, $21,200 – If fading Sale, or if more value bats emerge than expected, do not hesitate to roster Lance McCullers Jr. despite the fact he is on the road and facing a solid Blue Jays offense. No qualified starting pitcher has thrown the curveball more than McCullers and, in fact, no one has even come close. Whereas McCullers has thrown the pitch 46.1-percent of the time, Drew Pomeranz is currently in second having thrown the pitch 39.5-percent of the time. Amazingly, only three pitchers have thrown the pitch more than 29.6-percent of the time. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays rate as the second worst offense in the league against the pitch according to FanGraphs and the team still ranks in the bottom 10 of wOBA against RHP even with Josh Donaldson back. Their lineup is quite right-hander, and McCullers has struck out righties at a 30.7-percent rate, so it should be another monstrous outing for the talented righty.

Josh Tomlin, Indians, $12,600 – If needing a cheap option to pair with the aforementioned Sale, look no further than…Josh Tomlin? Yes, Tomlin is seriously an option on tonight’s slate with not much else to choose from. Yesterday, Trevor Bauer got in a bit of trouble due to his inability to find the strike zone but Tomlin has still allowed more homers than walks in his career. The Padres rank in the bottom 10 of wOBA, wRC+, ISO, BB rate, AVG, OBP, SLG, hard hit rate and line drive percentage while striking out at a 25.3-percent rate against the handedness. While Tomlin has been prone to giving up the long balls, the Padres hardly hit any. Assuming he pounds the strike zone and does not walk anybody, he should be able to fall into a quality start by accident. If pairing with Sale, that is all fantasy owners will need, so start him as an excellent source of salary relief.

*Stats are accurate as of Wednesday, July 5

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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