We have a solid 14-game slate tonight, and I’m here to help you sift through the options and find the top plays and values to best construct your lineup(s). If you have any questions prior to first pitch, find me on Twitter, @RyNoonan. Let’s dig in.
Masahiro Tanaka – Yankees vs. Rays – $10,400 – I like getting Masahiro Tanaka on the road. He often struggles with the long ball, and his home park does him no favors. My hope here is that the Rays offense will do him plenty of favors. Their 25.7% K-rate against right-handed pitching is a welcomed sight for any starter, but it’s especially appealing for someone with Tanaka’s swing-and-miss arsenal. He’s not a huge favorite since he’s facing off against Rays’ starter Chris Archer, but I like his chances to compile a nice stat line.
Jacob deGrom – Mets vs. Dodgers – $9,900 – Jacob deGrom hasn’t really pitched well to start the season, but perhaps that’ll keep his ownership levels down tonight. His ERA is in line with his career numbers, but his hard-hit rate is up nearly 10% over last season and that’s troubling. His strikeouts are way down as well, but with an 11.7% swinging-strike rate I expect a return to his career mark sooner than later. The Dodgers enter play on Friday ranked 25th in wOBA against right-handed pitching and their .131 isolated power is nothing to fear.
Adam Conley – Marlins vs. Braves – $7,500 – Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Braves are terrible. That offense, particularly against left-handed pitching, is just incredibly weak, and they run out no right-handed bats that should make you pause when considering Conley tonight. They’re dead-last in wOBA, wRC+, and ISO against LHP. Conley enters play on Friday with a 97 cFIP, 3.77 DRA and an above-average strikeout rate (8.5 K/9).
Michael Fulmer – Tigers vs. A’s – $7,300 – Here’s a strong tournament option on Friday. With a decent amount of pitching options tonight, few will be giving Michael Fulmer a second look, but I think that’s a mistake. He has some solid strikeout upside with an 11.6% swinging-strike rate so far this season, and the A’s lineup took a sizable hit this week with Josh Reddick hitting the DL. My favorite pitching stats love him too, as Fulmer enters play with an 88 cFIP and 3.41 DRA, and he’ll get plenty of run support on Friday as well.
Miguel Cabrera (1B) – Tigers vs. A’s – $5,400 – Miggy is going to cost you a pretty penny on Friday but considering his current form, he just might be worth it. He’s raking over the past two weeks, with a hard-hit rate of 53%(!) and seven home runs in his last 11 games. A’s rookie Sean Manaea has really struggled to start the season and he should have his hands full with Detroit on Friday.
Nolan Arenado (3B) – Rockies vs. Giants – $5,500 – Nolan Arenado at home against Matt Cain. That’s just about as good as it gets. Cain gives up a ton of fly balls against right-handed bats, something that can work at times when he’s in San Francisco but won’t play quite as favorably in Colorado. Arenado is fairly split-neutral, but has showed more power in his career against right-handed pitching than when he’s facing a lefty.
Ian Desmond (OF) – Rangers vs. Pirates – $5,100 – Ian Desmond sees a nearly 100 point jump in both wOBA and isolated power when he’s facing a left-handed pitcher, and Desmond and the Rangers are lucky enough to welcome Jon Niese and the Pirates to town this weekend. He’s expensive and listed among the league’s very best, making him a viable “spend up to be contrarian” option on Friday.
Jose Bautista (OF) – Blue Jays vs. Red Sox – $5,000 – Red Sox starter Joe Kelly has some fairly pronounced splits in his career, making the Jays’ power hitters extremely appealing today. Since the start of 2015 Kelly has limited left-handed hitters to a .309 wOBA, while right-handed bats have pounded him to the tune of .365 wOBA. You can fire up all the Jays righties today.
“In a limited sample size this season, Dean has allowed an exceptionally high hard-hit contact rate”
Nelson Cruz (OF) – Mariners vs. Twins – $4,800 – I love the idea of getting an under owned Nelson Cruz when he’s facing an average-to-below-average left-handed pitcher, and that’ll likely be the case here as Cruz takes on Pat Dean. In a limited sample size this season, Dean has allowed an exceptionally high hard-hit contact rate so far and that’s music to the ears of you who roster Cruz.
Nick Castellanos (3B) – Tigers vs. A’s $4,600 – We’re having to pay up for Nick Castellanos, and that thought seems so foreign that I think it drives down his ownership in what should be a fantastic spot. He’s having an underrated offensive start to 2016, entering play with a 158 wRC+ which is 14th in all of baseball. He’s a line-drive machine who’ll likely hit with runners on early and often on Friday.
Yasmany Tomas (OF) – Diamondbacks vs. Padres – $4,700 – Just like the aforementioned Castellanos, I think people will be reluctant to pay elite prices for Yasmany Tomas, someone who’s usually available for much less. I think that market inefficiency is one that’s worth exploiting considering Tomas’ immense power upside against left-handed pitching which he’ll get with Christian Friedrich in the desert on Friday.
Jose Altuve (2B) – Astros vs. Angels – $4,900 – I like what the Astros are doing with Jose Altuve by moving him to the 2-hole in the lineup. On average, the 2-hole hitter comes to the plate with a runner on in 46% of his plate appearances, up from 32% for the leadoff guy. That’s a significant jump and something that Houston needed to do with the way Altuve is slugging the ball this season. Angels’ starter Michael Shoemaker gives up a lot of hard-hit contact, so paying up for Altuve makes sense.
Jonathan Villar (SS) – Brewers vs. Reds – $3,700 – The Brewers have one of the highest implied-team totals on the slate, so tabbing their likely leadoff man for just $3,700 is a wise move in cash games. Villar has stolen base upside which makes him tournament viable as well.
Brandon Drury (3B/OF) – Diamondbacks vs. Padres – $3,900 – The highest non-Coors Field implied-team total belongs to the Diamondbacks, so getting some exposure to them is optimal. Brandon Drury often hits second when facing a left-handed starter, and his multi-position eligibility helps to be able to work him into your lineup in different ways.
Ryan Rua (1B/OF) – Rangers vs. Pirates – $3,300 – I’d like to see the Rangers hit Ryan Rua higher in the lineup against left-handers, but regardless it’s a nice spot for Rua against Jonathon Niese. Rua’s wOBA is 170 points better against southpaws, and his home park is warming up and becoming the exceptional run-scoring environment that it is every summer.
“. . . if he’s not sharp with his command than Jayson Werth and the Nationals will have their way with him”
Jayson Werth (OF) – Nationals vs. Cardinals – $4,000 – Cardinals’ starter Jamie Garcia is an above average left-hander who doesn’t give up a lot of hard contact, but he got rocked last time out, and if he’s not sharp with his command than Jayson Werth and the Nationals will have their way with him. Werth’s handedness splits have become more pronounced through the years, and he’s a great play against most lefties if he’s hitting second in the lineup.
Franklin Gutierrez (OF) – Mariners vs. Twins – $2,700 – Another outfielder who’ll likely hit second against a lefty is Franklin Gutierrez who faces Pat Dean in Seattle. Over the course of his career, Gutierrez has shown significant power against soft-tossing lefties, and makes for a strong cash game option if he’s indeed hitting second.
Francisco Cervelli (CATCH) – Pirates vs. Rangers – $3,000 – Francisco Cervelli is an average hitting catcher against right-handers, with a career 100 wRC+ in those situations. He becomes an elite hitting catcher though when he’s facing a lefty like he does on Friday. That lefty is Cole Hamels, who’s obviously better than your average left-hander, but Cervelli has a career 127 wRC+ against them and gets a favorable park shift play in Arlington, Texas instead of Pittsburgh.