Each week I’ll be bringing you my top Saturday plays. Today, MLB has thrown us a seven-game day slate (E) and a seven-game late slate (L) on FanDuel. The Cleveland/Oakland game has an odd start time and is not included in any of the big tournaments, so I’m not including that game in my picks.
Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox, $11,600 (E) - There are some intriguing lower priced options for GPPs that I’ve listed below, but it’s really hard to overlook Sale’s upside for both cash games and GPPs. My main concern here is the win, as the White Sox offense has been dreadful against lefties, which makes Lester a very sneaky tournament option (and he allows you to fit more Coors bats). However, Sale has the ability to get 20 FD points in this matchup even without the win. He’s struck out at least 10 batters in eight of his nine games and now gets the strikeout happy Cubs. He’s also heading to an NL park, which means Jon Lester has to hit against him. Lester has one hit in 68 career at-bats and has struck out in half of his at-bats this year, so Sale is getting a nice strikeout boost. The other big issue to watch is if the weather will cooperate to provide a pitching window, as well as making sure that wind will not be gusting out, so be sure to check Kevin Roth’s report on the new weather page at RotoGrinders. If rain and/or wind is an issue, I like Matt Harvey and Jake Odorizzi as my pivots in the early slate.
A.J. Burnett, Pittsburgh Pirates, $9,000 - Unlike the early slate, the late slate pitching options don’t feature many pitchers that I’m overly enthused about. James Shields has the highest upside in my opinion, as he has shown high strikeout upside this season and the Rangers will strike out. However, he’s also getting a negative park shift and his biggest weakness has been the home run ball; also, the Rangers have a ton of left-handed power, so I’m viewing him more as a GPP option. If you’re looking to spend up at hitter, I think Ryan Vogelsong is in play - he’s pitched much better at home, and should be in line for an easy win against the Phillies. However, my preferred cash game play is Burnett. He’s at home in a spacious ball park and facing a watered down St. Louis lineup in a game with a very low total of 6.5 runs on the board. The win isn’t a sure thing, since John Lackey is solid in his own right, but Vegas is giving Burnett the edge in the matchup by installing him as a small favorite.
Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals, $2,400 (E) - If price isn’t a factor, Victor Martinez is my favorite catcher in the early slate. However, with an expensive pitcher like Sale on the mound, price is a factor, which has me looking to Perez or the catchers in Coors Field (I’m expecting the backups to draw the start). Perez hasn’t hit lefties well this season, but he has a career .347 wOBA against lefties and has homered in two straight games.
Yasmani Grandal, Los Angeles Dodgers, $3,600 (L) - Taylor Jungmann has been solid so far, but there aren’t a lot of pitchers to pick on in the late slate, and I’m not sold on him quite yet. Grandal has been hot at the plate and has recently been hitting fourth or fifth (although you never know with Don Mattingly). The Dodgers lead the majors in most categories against right-handed pitching, so this is a tough spot for Jungmann, and Grandal has hit righties for a .408 wOBA and .276 ISO this season. If you have the extra $800, Buster Posey is also in a great spot, as David Buchanan has shown major reverse splits in his career.
Late Slate - Buster Posey
Ben Paulsen, Colorado Rockies, $2,700 (E) - Oddly enough, the first base position is pretty thin in the early slate, and there isn’t that big upside play that jumps off the page at you. I don’t mind an Edwin Encarnacion, but I’m not going out of my way to spend on him, especially with Chris Sale on the hill. Given Sale’s expensive price tag, I’ll be looking to save at this position. The Rockies have the top team total of the day, and while it’s tough to do salary wise, I’m trying to fit a few of their bats in with Sale. One great way to do that is with Paulsen, who has a .384 wOBA against right-handed pitching in Coors Field this year. The big concern here is whether there will be a lineup out by early lock, as Paulsen and Wilin Rosario split time at 1B for Colorado. Looking ahead, Alex Wood, a lefty, is expected to start for the Braves tomorrow, so my guess is Paulsen starts today with Rosario getting the nod tomorrow.
David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox, $3,400 (L) - According to the RotoGrinders’ Vegas Odds and Line page, the Red Sox have the highest team total on the late slate with 4.74 runs (there are a few other games with totals TBD as I write this though). Ivan Nova has traditionally been a reverse splits pitcher, but he’s shown some rust against lefties in his return to the majors this season, allowing a .371 wOBA. Ortiz is showing some signs of his age, but he is still hammering right-handed pitching in Fenway Park, with a .414 wOBA this season.
Wilmer Flores, New York Mets, $2,300 (E) - I certainly don’t mind guys like Brian Dozier, Ian Kinsler or Dee Gordon today, and if you’re not going with Sale they’re guys I’d look to ahead of Flores. However, Sale is expensive and I’d prefer to spend up at a few other positions, so this is a position I’m likely to save at. Flores has recently been hitting cleanup for the Mets and has been hot, with hits in seven of his last eight games. He’s almost minimum price, is in a great lineup spot and has hit lefties for a .374 wOBA this season, so he’s my top cheap option in the early slate. Patrick Corbin is a solid pitcher, but he’s just coming back from a major injury, so I think we continue to see a little bit of rust from him.
Joe Panik, San Francisco Giants, $3,000 (L) - I prefer the right-handed bats on the Giants to target Buchanan’s reverse splits, but this is a tough position tonight, so I’m giving Panik a long look. He should be hitting second and has put together seven hits in his last 14 at-bats. The Giants have a solid team total of 4.23 runs, and the Phillies bullpen is an absolute mess, so they should continue to pile up runs if they chase Buchanan out of the game.
Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies, $4,300 (E) - He’ll be tough to fit into your Sale lineups, but if you’re spending down at pitcher, Tulo is the top target at a weak position. Matt Wisler is taking the hill for the Braves, and this is a tough spot for a young pitcher making only his fifth major league start. He’s struggled in both of his road starts, allowing seven earned runs in only 9.2 innings pitched, so a trip to Coors Field looks very daunting. Tulo got a day off yesterday, so he’ll be back in the lineup today, and he is riding a 21-game hit streak.
Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox, $3,000 (L) - Even more than most nights, the shortstop position is very thin on the late slate. Bogaerts is one of the few options that is hitting in a solid lineup spot (he’s been hitting third) and he’s been swinging a good bat. He has hits in nine of his last 10 games, and Ivan Nova has shown reverse splits for his career (.343 wOBA to righties), so the righty-on-righty matchup doesn’t concern me too much, especially combined with the Red Sox’ high team total.
Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds, $3,800 (E) - Frazier has been ice cold at the plate recently, however, this is a nice spot for him to break out, and his slump has depressed his price point from earlier this season. The Marlins are calling up left-handed pitcher Adam Conley from AAA to make a spot start. His minor league numbers don’t jump off the page at you, and Frazier has hit lefties for a .416 wOBA and .393 ISO this season; he’s homered nine times in only 84 at-bats against them. With all of the attention on Coors Field, I’m expecting Frazier’s ownership to be down, so he’s a terrific tournament play. If his price is too steep, I’m also really liking Chris Johnson against a lefty in Coors Field.
Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers, $3,200 (L) - Jungmann hasn’t shown it in the majors, but at the minor league level he was a reverse splits pitcher. Likewise, Justin Turner has shown reverse splits himself, as he has a career .359 wOBA against righties (.301 against lefties). This year those reverse splits have been even more drastic, as he has a .461 wOBA against righties but a .204 wOBA against lefties. He typically hits in the top half of the order and makes a solid target at a position that is fairly weak in the late slate.
Marlon Byrd, Cincinnati Reds, $2,600 (E) - Byrd draws the same matchup as Frazier against the Marlins’ young lefty, but he comes at a very cheap price point. He’s my favorite value outfielder in the early slate, as he’s hit lefties for a career .346 wOBA, including a .389 wOBA this season.
Charlie Blackmon & Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies (E) - Matt Wisler looks like the top target to stack against in the early slate. The Rockies bats are expensive, but I’d be looking to fit a few of them into your lineups. In his short major league career, Wisler is allowing a .334 wOBA to lefties, and he has been especially bad on the road with a .476 road wOBA to lefties. Gonzales has really heated up at the plate with seven hits in his last 13 at-bats, while Blackmon has multi-hit games in five of his last six.
Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners, $3,300 (L) - Cruz started the year off insanely hot but then went ice cold. However, he’s starting to swing the bat better as of late, and that slump brought his price way down. He’s destroyed left-handed pitching throughout his career and that has been the case this year as well, as he holds an absurd .542 wOBA and .458 ISO against lefties. C. J. Wilson isn’t a guy to pick on too much, but he’s had his struggles with Cruz in his career; Cruz is 7-for-16 with a home run.
Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants, $3,000 (L) - Pence and Cruz give you two middle-of-the-order bats at very affordable prices. David Buchanan is likely the worst pitcher going in the late slate and has shown extreme reverse splits in his career, allowing a .370 wOBA to righties (.289 to lefties). Pence is back in the lineup and hitting fifth, has shown neutral splits throughout his career, and hit a grand slam last night.