Fantasy Baseball Picks: Top MLB Targets, Values for May 16

Fantasy baseball nights like this don’t often come around. Aside from the obvious abnormality of having just five MLB games on Wednesday evening’s featured slate, the pitching options are exceedingly top-heavy. Thirty percent of tonight’s starters are Cy Young Award winners and while, yes, that is a cute way to lump CC Sabathia in with Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, Chris Sale is scheduled, too. Throw in a few high-strikeout youngsters and a couple ground ball specialists, and we honestly are left with very few favorable matchups. Oh, it also might be raining all over the East Coast on top of everything else. So, where should people be spending their digital dollars? Let’s get into it.

Editor’s Note: Both of tonight’s games between the Yankees and Nationals have been postponed.

PITCHER

Stud

Chris Sale, BOS vs. OAK, $11,800 — There’s little need to ever have to talk someone into Sale’s immense upside — the fact he’s scored a combined 78.3 DKFP across his past two starts speaks for itself. The key here, as they always are, is strikeouts. Oakland is a team with some holes in its swings. Halfway through the month of May, the Athletics sit inside the top 10 in both strikeout rate (24.4 percent) and swinging strike rate (11.5 percent), which play right into Sale’s skill set. Consider that over the course of three starts this month, Sale is averaging 21 swings-and-misses per outing. He still is averaging 11.3 a start when you just isolate his slider. That’s filthy. Sure, it’s likely he’ll have the highest ownership with rain a probability in Washington and Verlander facing the red-hot Angels, but you’ll have to eat chalk somewhere on this short slate. Might as well be at SP1.

Value

Walker Buehler, LAD at MIA, $8,500 — Here’s where you can differentiate with Sale a little bit. While many could be in on Buehler tonight, a high percentage of people likely will look to pair him with the upside of Trevor Cahill or Garrett Richards, but you, you’ll be treating yourself at pitcher this evening. The Marlins are dead last in baseball in ISO, wOBA and wRC+. Buehler, who is carrying a 31.4 percent strikeout rate and 54.9 percent ground ball rate at the major-league level, is one of just three pitchers with 50-plus batted ball events yet to allow a barrel. For reference, 234 pitchers count themselves among that group. I’d say he’s established himself nicely so far.


CATCHER

Stud

Willson Contreras, CHC at ATL, $4,300 — Contreras has been racking up the extra-base hits in the month of May, compiling 10 through his first 48 plate appearances. That equates to a massive .386 ISO — a welcome sight after his underwhelming .154 figure in March and April. Catcher might not be where you choose to spend up tonight, but Contreras is the clear choice if you do.

Value

Tyler Flowers, ATL vs. CHC, $2,700 — Seems like the Braves are back to the 50/50 platoon they often deployed at catcher last season, meaning tonight would be Flowers’ turn to start. Really, you’d think Atlanta would want his bat in the lineup anyway. Flowers has made just eight starts in 2018 after returning from injury, yet he’s hit to a sterling 148 wRC+ in that small sample, including three multi-hit efforts in his past four games. In any case, he’s a bargain-priced option hitting in a premium lineup spot for the National League’s best offense. Take advantage.

Other Option: Austin Barnes ($3,100)


FIRST BASE

Stud

Anthony Rizzo, CHC at ATL, $4,800 — Rizzo is another player who’s seen his luck change with the calendar. After hitting just .148 prior to May 1, Rizzo has as many home runs as strikeouts in the month, as he’s posted a .436 wOBA over 54 plate appearances. Brandon McCarthy likely isn’t thrilled about the All-Star’s good fortune, especially considering the 6.32 FIP McCarthy’s posted when opposed by left-handed bats so far this season.

Other Options: Freddie Freeman ($5,200), Hanley Ramirez ($3,900)

Value

Neil Walker, NYY at WAS, $2,700 — The Yankees are employing a Tyler Austin/Neil Walker platoon at first base, with Walker seeing time against RHPs. Not to play spoiler, but it’s been working for Walker the past two weeks. Since May 3, the veteran switch-hitter is batting .360 with a 186 wRC+ — a direct result of quality contact. None of Walker’s 21 batted-ball events have been deemed “soft contact” per FanGraphs, meaning the former Pirate is seeing the ball well right now. He’ll need that to continue tonight with Max Scherzer as the right-handed opposition.

Other Option: Mark Reynolds ($3,500)


SECOND BASE

Stud

Jose Altuve, HOU at LAA, $4,600 — Right-handed batters have had far more success off of Richards in 2018 than their left-handed counterparts. Richards has held the 95 LHBs he’s faced this season to a .171 average — a figure nearly .100 points lower than than the rate at which righties have hit him. Part of that is BABIP luck, but, when digging into the contact numbers, that batted-ball fortune seems justified. RHBs have managed a 38.8 percent hard contact rate off Richards through his eight starts, while also striking out at a much lower clip than lefties. Altuve, as one of baseball’s best right-handed hitters, should be in a position to thrive.

Other Option: Javier Baez ($4,500)

Value

Howie Kendrick, WAS vs. NYY, $3,300 — Since April 13, due somewhat to a seemingly never-ending list of Nationals injuries, Kendrick has never started a game not hitting either second, third, fourth or fifth in Washington’s batting order. That value created by lineup spot, paired with Kendricks aggression at the plate, has created a situation where the veteran often finds himself a decent play on any given night. Kendrick, though not a switch-hitter, also has nearly identical splits versus left-handed and right-handed pitching for his career. With lots of rain in the forecast, not having someone dependent on CC Sabatha’s handedness is key.

Other Option: Kike Hernandez ($3,100)


THIRD BASE

Stud

Anthony Rendon, WAS vs. NYY, $3,800 — As much as you don’t want anyone dependent on their matchup with Sabathia, who has just pitched well in general this season, Rendon has proven to be one of baseball’s best hitters when facing LHPs going back to 2017. Rendon has managed a .331 average within the split, and his .448 wOBA is the seventh-best figure among those with over 100 plate appearances versus left-handers in that span of time. Sign me up for elite-level production and name value at under $4,000.

Other Option: Kris Bryant ($5,000)


SHORTSTOP

Stud

Xander Bogaerts, BOS vs. OAK, $4,100 — Bogaerts, like many of his Red Sox teammates, has hit RHPs incredibly well this year. All four of his home runs have come against righties, his .247 ISO versus right-handers dwarfs his figure when facing a lefty, and his 42.4 percent hard contact rate suggests none of this is likely to change any time soon. Bogaerts isn’t the only person in this matchup that possesses reverse splits, either. Trevor Cahill has surrendered a 50.0 percent hard contact rate to RHBs in 2018 — a small sample reinforced by a 5.60 FIP to righties last season. With all of Boston’s right-handed power, that’s a scary proposition.

Other Option: Carlos Correa ($4,700)

Value

Didi Gregorius, NYY at WAS, $3,600 — So, I’ll be the first to admit this doesn’t look like an amazing spot for Gregorius on the surface. If it wasn’t enough that Scherzer is his opposition, the 28-year-old is also in the midst of a 1-for-38 slump (.026). That’s rough. Still, lefties have proven to be the lone weakness in Scherzer’s game throughout the past few seasons. While Scherzer is striking out 51.9 percent of the RHBs he’s faced in 2018, a big reason for his 0.06 FIP within the split, lefties are making contact more often and doing so with a 58.0 percent fly ball rate — hence the four home runs surrendered to LHBs. Even going back to 2017, Scherzer’s 1.44 HR/9 to lefties seems almost, dare I say, human. This isn’t a play you’ll want maximum exposure to, but make sure to sprinkle Gregorius in a few lineups tonight.

Other Option: Marcus Semien ($3,200)


OUTFIELD

Stud

Mookie Betts, BOS vs. OAK, $5,700 — With the caliber of starting pitcher available tonight, monetary concerns could drive Betts’ ownership down despite what appears to be a fantastic matchup. As mentioned, Cahill has given up copious amounts of hard contact to RHBs this season — a fact that’s very apparent when looking at his average exit velocity on line drives and fly balls. That 96.7 mph figure is the sixth-highest mark in the league for a pitcher with 50-plus batted ball events. Now, to his credit, Cahill generally keeps the ball on the ground, but Betts is not a generic hitter. Boston’s leadoff man has managed a 0.72 GB/FB ratio when facing RHPs this season, and that elevation will play a huge factor tonight.

Other Options: J.D. Martinez ($5,000), Nick Markakis ($4,400)

Value

Shohei Ohtani, LAA vs. HOU, $3,700 — Verlander’s numbers have been otherworldly against left-handed batters so far this season, but it’s his extreme fly-ball tendencies that have me intrigued by Ohtani. Verlander leads baseball with a 57.0 percent fly-ball rate, something he’s been able to use to his advantage with his ability to suppress quality contact. However, as a 210 wRC+ would indicate, inducing bad contact as a RHP against Ohtani has been a tough task in 2018. Ohtani also is averaging the ninth-highest exit velocity on fly balls and line drives at 98.5 mph. Tonight’s the night Verlander gives up his first home run this year to a left-handed bat.

Other Options: Matt Kemp ($3,800), Chad Pinder ($2,800)


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.