It’s clear that through roughly three weeks of the MLB season the most impactful element has been just that: the elements. Rain and snow have wrecked havoc on scheduling so far, with it all reaching its climax Sunday, when a grand total of six games being postponed including both halves of a doubleheader in Detroit.
However, delays will not headline Monday’s nine-game featured slate — apart from the Cardinals-Cubs postponement. No, that honor will be bestowed to left-handedness. Nine of this evening’s 20 projected starters are southpaws. Nine. So, unless you’ve come down with sinistrophobia, let’s get our splits ready and dive right in.EDITOR’S NOTE: Tonight’s game between the Blue Jays and Royals has been postponed due to a hole in the roof of the Rogers Centre.
StudJames Paxton, SEA vs. HOU, $8,000 — It’s not a top-heavy group of starting pitchers tonight with only Jacob deGrom ($11,500) and Aaron Nola ($10,400) cresting into five-digit price tags. Ownership should be high on both; however, I’m here to advocate for Paxton. In a vacuum, he’s right there with deGrom and Nola in terms of upside, it’s just the matchup that’ll scare people away — despite the fact the Astros have been about league-average in every offensive category to begin 2018. Houston is also — especially with Yulieski Gurriel’s return — incredibly right-handed. Generally, that would be a deterrent to roster a LHP, yet, Paxton tends to thrive against righties. Since the start of last season, Paxton has a 29.3 percent strikeout rate and 2.82 FIP versus RHBs, with both marks sitting just outside the top-10 among qualified pitchers. He’s no Bartolo Colon, but he’ll do. Other Option: Jacob deGrom ($11,500)
Other Option: Blake Snell ($7,800)
StudChris Iannetta, COL at PIT, $3,400 — In 22 plate appearances versus left-handed pitching in 2018, Iannetta has posted a 148 wRC+. Now, sure, you could chalk that up to a small sample size; however, that would be ignoring that Iannetta, in 94 plate appearances last year, also had a 148 wRC+ against LHPs. With that in mind and the veteran likely to be penciled into the two-spot for the Rockies tonight, there’s little reason to look elsewhere at catcher.
ValueWilson Ramos, TB vs. TEX, $2,800 — Ramos has not been good against lefties this season (1-for-13); however, more than half of those ABs have been against Chris Sale or David Price. Martin Perez is neither of those gentlemen. More importantly, Ramos has raked against left-handers over the past two years. Over that span, the catcher has hit .323 with a .248 ISO and .386 wOBA. Those figures aren’t completely dependent on his 2016 All-Star season, either. Ramos posted a .310 average and .806 OPS versus LHPs in an injury-shortened 2017 campaign. Look for those trends to continue facing Perez.
Russell Martin ($3,200), Robinson Chirinos ($3,100)
StudEDITOR’S NOTE: Tonight’s game between the Blue Jays and Royals has been postponed due to a hole in the roof of the Rogers Centre.
Other Option: Carlos Santana ($4,200)
Justin Smoak, TOR vs. KC, $4,800 — Smoak, since he turned his career around to begin 2017, has preferred batting from the right-side of the plate. The 2017 All-Star is 7-for-18 (.389) against left-handed pitching so far in 2018, yet, the really impressive numbers were put up a year ago. Smoak not only hit to a .412 wOBA over 142 plate appearances as a right-handed batter last season, he also walked as many times as he struck out. That’d be daunting for any pitcher to square off with, but especially a pitcher who has surrendered more runs in his career than he’s pitched innings. Good luck, Eric Skoglund.
ValueAdrian Gonzalez, NYM vs. WAS, $3,500 — For a while it looked like A.J. Cole, who struggles versus left-handed bats, was going to start this game, but then, Sunday afternoon, it was announced Jeremy Hellickson, who struggles versus left-handed bats, would be taking the mound for Washington. Points for consistency to the Nationals. Hellickson gave up a league-worst 1.92 home runs per nine last season, with lefties taking him deep over two times per nine frames on average (2.01). Gonzalez is well past his prime, but that shouldn’t matter against Hellickson.
Other Options: Kike Hernandez ($3,900), C.J. Cron ($3,500)
StudDJ LeMahieu, COL at PIT, $4,300 — Before discounting the following statistic, remember that LeMahieu hit .362 off lefties in a full season last year. In 31 plate appearances versus LHPs in 2018, LeMahieu has a .464 ISO and a .522 wOBA. Do the four home runs he’s already hit off southpaws in any way represent a sustainable pace? Of course not. Yet, the undeniable fact of the matter is: LeMahieu likes hitting against left-handers. Steven Brault is left-handed and not exceedingly good. You do the math.
ValueDaniel Robertson, TB vs. TEX, $2,900 — This is, moreso than it was with Ramos, almost completely about Martin Perez. It says a lot that with how awful Perez has pitched to begin 2018, I’m willing to ignore those two starts when crafting an argument against him. That’s how bad his 2017 was. Perez had a 5.11 FIP and 1.61 WHIP against RHBs last season. The differentiation between his strikeout rate and walk rate versus righties was only 3.8 percent. That’s horrible. Still, worst of all, Perez became an extreme fly ball pitcher when not opposed by a left-handed bat, with his GB/FB ratio dropping from 3.50 versus lefties to 1.48 when facing a righty. Considering Robertson had a 52.4 percent fly ball rate and 40.5 percent hard-contact rate against LHPs in 2017, we might have a sneaky home run candidate on our hands this evening.
Other Option: Jonathan Villar ($2,900)
StudMatt Chapman, OAK vs. CWS, $4,200 — Weather, injuries and suspensions have left the top-end of the third base cupboard pretty empty. But, thankfully for those of us in need, 2018 has been the year Chapman breaks out. Chapman has multiple hits in half of Oakland’s games heading into tonight; his improved discipline at the plate leading the way to his success. Chapman’s strikeout rate, which sat at 28.2 percent last season, is just 16.4 percent through 67 plate appearances as we also have seen massive drops in the 24-year-old’s swinging strike rate and chase rate. Now, Reynaldo Lopez has looked pretty good; however, his walk rate and BABIP scream regression and incoming crooked innings. Chapman will take advantage.
ValueAdrian Beltre, TEX at TB, $3,100 — He’s getting up there in years and there’s little in the way of a supporting cast right now in Texas, but $3,100 still feels like robbery when it comes to someone who hit .388 off left-handed pitching just last season. In 83 plate appearances against southpaws in 2017, Beltre posted insane figures in wRC+ (192), BB/K ratio (1.63), and OPS (1.124). At the very least, he’ll work a few counts versus Blake Snell and set the table for Joey Gallo.
Other Option: Travis Shaw ($3,400)
StudTrevor Story, COL at PIT, $4,100 — Historically, Story is quite good against LHPs. His .287 average and .409 wOBA almost make you forget about the 34.7 percent strikeout rate. Almost. That’s really the debate for this evening — and it’s a real chicken and the egg head-scratcher — does Story make pitchers into strikeout artists or do strikeout pitchers just prey on the shortstop? Well, Steven Brault’s career 16.1 percent strikeout rate wouldn’t put him in the latter group’s company, nor does a 1.71 WHIP against RHBs inspire much confidence in the matchup. In the end, I’d recommend diversifying shortstop exposure, but make sure to grab a piece of Story.
ValueEDITOR’S NOTE: Tonight’s game between the Blue Jays and Royals has been postponed due to a hole in the roof of the Rogers Centre.
Aledmys Diaz, TOR vs. KC, $3,100 — Diaz has reverse splits for his career, with only three of his 28 home runs coming off a left-handed hurler. That shouldn’t matter against Skoglund. Now, the young lefty has faced just 95 righties at the major league level, yet, he’s struggled so significantly that it’s impossible to ignore. Not only does Skoglund have a 2.35 WHIP in these 95 plate appearances, 15.8 percent — nearly one of every six right-handers he’s come up against — have produced an extra-base hit. Diaz, since beginning the year 0-for-9, is hitting .310 with four home runs across his past nine games. This one seems simple enough.
Other Option: Dansby Swanson ($3,200)
StudMichael Conforto, NYM vs. WAS, $4,600 — Imagine if you could apply every negative stat I mentioned about Jeremy Hellickson and his inability to pitch to left-handed batters and apply that to a non-Adrian Gonzalez hitter, you know, like, someone who still actually is good. Well, look no further than actually good Michael Conforto – a man who possesses a career .380 wOBA against right-handed pitching. Conforto should be able to squeeze-in three at-bats against Hellickson batting atop or near the top of the Mets lineup. We should all be so lucky. Other Options: George Springer ($4,900), Nelson Cruz ($4,400)
ValueCarlos Gomez, TB vs. TEX, $3,700 — In 17 plate appearances against LHP in 2018, Gomez has a .438 ISO. Great. He has also struck out seven times. Less great. However, going back to 2016, among 76 qualified starting pitchers, no one has struck out fewer opponents per nine innings than Martin Perez (5.07). The book on Gomez the past few seasons is simple: He’s dangerous when he’s able to make contact, which, to be fair, is a rare occurrence. Tonight he makes contact.
Steve Pearce ($3,100)
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theglt13) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.