Another nice Friday on tap in Major League baseball. Let’s dig into some of these matchups and find some hidden gems tonight. Make sure to check the RotoGrinders DFS Alerts app - we’ll push injury and lineup news directly to your phone for free with a DFS spin.
Lance McCullers (vs. San Diego Padres)
We have every reason to believe that Lance McCullers is the number one pitching option on the slate today. The San Diego Padres have a slate low 3.1 implied run total tonight in Houston. Speaking of “in Houston”, McCullers has a career wOBA of .285 at home. That’s 37 points lower than he has on the road. I know ERA is a bit ancient, but he’s put up a 2.39 career ERA at Minute Maid as opposed to a 4.92 ERA on the road. This is his second start the season and in his first appearance he was every bit as dominant as we would expect in a tough environment, in Texas. He racked up 10 strikeouts and only allowed 2 runs in five innings. He’s my easy SP1 tonight.
Luis Castillo (vs. Pittsburgh Pirates)
You are getting a very solid price tag around the industry for Luis Castillo. It was a bit of a rough game to start the season but he still salvaged fantasy totals with six strikeouts and five innings. That’s what strikeouts do though, they allow you the ability to be imperfect but still put up great fantasy totals. Castillo struck out 9.9 batters per nine innings last season, his first in the big leagues. He does it with a deadly combination of fastball, changeup. He throws the fastball over 60% of the time and clocks in anywhere from 96 to 98 on the radar. Then he comes back with that 87 mile an hour changeup and creates a ton of strikeouts. He’s traveling to Pittsburgh tonight, an extreme pitchers Park, to take on an offense that I think is going to be near the bottom of the National League this season. On any site where you need multiple starting pitchers, Luis Castillo is an easy play for me.
Others to Consider: Trevor Williams, C.C. Sabathia
Gary Sanchez (vs. Baltimore Orioles)
Let me preface this position by saying that there are two ways to go about the catcher spot most nights. For me, the most likely scenario is that I find a catcher that is hitting in a decent spot in the order or has a good matchup for a cheap price later when lineups start to become released. The other thing you could do is spend up at catcher, and if that’s your plan of attack than Gary Sanchez is going to be the number one catcher on any slate he is playing where is not facing a great pitcher on the mound. Kevin Gausman is not a great pitcher, and at times he’s downright terrible. Pitching against this lineup in this ballpark is going to be hazardous for anybody, much less a guy this fragile. In his first start of the season he gave up three home runs to Minnesota. If you have problems keeping the ball in the yard than this is not the lineup you want to see. Gary Sanchez cracked 33 home runs last year and 525 plate appearances. If you don’t feel like a punt at this position is in order, then just pony up for the best offensive catcher in the game.
Justin Smoak (vs. Texas Rangers)
I don’t think that the Toronto offense is going to be very good this year, but baseball is a fantasy sport of matchup’s and tonight Toronto has the best matchup on the board, in my opinion. There in an extreme hitter’s environment in Texas against a terrible left-handed pitcher. Justin Smoak has started off the year with seven extra-base hits in 30 plate appearances, good for a .534 wOBA. Last season was a big breakout year for him as he put up a .259 ISO as a full-time starter for Toronto. In that breakout season last year his strikeout rate drops over 10% against left-handers while his walk rate, wOBA and wRC+ all increase versus southpaws. This is an extremely solid option at this position tonight.
Rougned Odor (vs. Toronto Blue Jays)
In that very friendly hitter’s environment down in Texas, the matchup for the Rangers isn’t so bad either. Marco Estrada is a pitcher with a decent 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings last season but also gave up 1.5 home runs per nine innings. He gave up multiple homerun games in nine of his 33 starts. If a pitcher is only going to work about 5 ½ innings a game and give up multiple home runs in those shortened innings over 27% of the time, then that becomes a serious recipe to stack against him. Against right-handed pitching last season, Odor slugged .449 with a .223 ISO. He cracked 25 home runs against right-handers. He is a boom or bust player that is more likely to strike out, but has elite homerun potential at this position.
Others to Consider: Jed Lowrie, Kike Hernandez
Josh Donaldson (vs. Texas Rangers)
Josh Donaldson is on the list. By list I mean this group of major league baseball players that you don’t even think about, you just start them when the correct split comes along. Josh Donaldson versus any non-elite left-handed pitcher is near the top of that list. Tonight, Donaldson gets that juicy matchup against Matt Moore in Texas. The numbers are so good there almost boring for Josh Donaldson. In his career a .412 wOBA, a .301 ISO (insane), a 12.9% walk rate/15.4% strikeout rate and he’s cracked a homerun once every 13.7 at-bats against left-handers. This is baseball and sometimes even the perfect situations don’t work out. But you must put your money on the absolute best horse in the race, and tonight that is Donaldson.
Manny Machado (vs. New York Yankees)
We don’t get the benefit of a typical Friday where every team is in play. We’re getting a reduced schedule here and options at shortstop are somewhat limited. I didn’t see a lot that I liked but one guy that stood out was Manny Machado. He’s in an extreme hitter’s ballpark tonight to take on aging left-hander, CC Sabathia. These guys have squared off 55 times since Machado has been in the big leagues and he has tuned up CC for a .439 wOBA. The most impressive thing is that in 55 plate appearances he’s only struck out five times against Sabathia. If he couldn’t strikeout Machado when he was a good pitcher then I think he may have trouble striking out Machado at this point. In a ballpark like this it’s going to be very difficult to keep Machado off the fantasy scoreboard if he can walk up to the plate and make contact every at-bat.
Brett Gardner (vs. Baltimore Orioles)
I’ve already discussed what a bad position Kevin Gausman is in tonight, so taking the leadoff hitter from this juggernaut offense is probably a pretty good proposition. Gardner has already faced Gausman in 40 at-bats in his career and converted that to a .370 wOBA. He’s got a very solid price tag around the industry and last year was an example of just how balanced he can be from a fantasy perspective. He cracked 21 home runs and stole 23 bases. You combine that balance with the number of runs he’s going to score for this offense by leading off, and you have a fantastic fantasy player for a very solid price.
Matt Kemp (vs. San Francisco Giants)
Earlier I mentioned how Josh Donaldson is on THE list. While Matt Kemp doesn’t quite make the list, he is in that second-tier of current MLB players that I absolutely flock to roster when they are in the correct split. Kemp has always found success against left-handed pitching and tonight gets a crack at below average left-hander Derek Holland. For his career against left-handers Kemp sees his walk rate go up, and his strikeout rate go down while his ISO sits at .222(27 points higher than vs RHP), wOBA cracks .389(49 points higher than vs RHP) and his hard-hit percentage rises to 38.8%. The best part of all this is the extremely affordable price tag on every site.