Another massive Friday on tap in Major League baseball. Let’s dig in deep and find some plays that stand out at each position. Baseball is a sport filled with variance, but these are some of the guys standing out to me today as top plays. 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.
Gerrit Cole (vs. Texas Rangers)
I think most people thought Gerrit Cole was going to have a good year for Houston this season. A change of scenery and moving to a competitive team tends to do that for talented guys. But his first two games of the season have looked beyond outstanding as he has combined for 14 innings pitched, zero earned runs and 22 strikeouts. He’s never been a slouch, so this is not a fluke. He’s averaged 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings in his career while only allowing 0.8 home runs per nine innings at a very solid 3.44 xFIP. I think the significant difference so far, and moving forward, is management that knows how to maximize the strengths of the players they have, and he also gets a very solid defensive catcher. We can classify this as a hot start, but I do not expect him to fall off the cliff anytime soon. He’s going to have a very good year and has a solid opportunity for another quality start tonight against a Texas team that he has already dominated once this season.
Chad Kuhl (vs. Miami Marlins)
There are a lot of games tonight which means a ton of pitching options. On nights like tonight I prefer to spend up at pitching and find value bats littered throughout the lineup that are hitting higher in the order than they typically are or hitters that have fantastic matchup’s. So, my recommendation is to grab a bona fide stud on one pitcher site’s and a stud + second tier pitcher on 2 pitcher sites. However, if you’re playing tournaments and you absolutely want to save money for some odd reason, I think Chad Kuhl is an option. His first two starts of the season have really been a good reflection of what he’s been since his debut in the major leagues. It’s a mixed bag of results. He’s gone 5+ innings in each start and combined for 11 strikeouts while giving up six combined earned runs. Last year he averaged 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings with a mediocre 4.61 xFIP. What puts him into play tonight is this incredible matchup against a Miami team that is terrible on offense. So far this season they’ve combined for a .273 wOBA and an absolute putrid .080 ISO to go along with a 23.7% strikeout rate. They can make even the most mediocre of pitchers look like a CY Young candidate, and I’m willing to take a chance on a talented pitcher and see if he can cash in on this matchup.
Others to Consider: Jordan Montgomery, Vincent Velasquez
Jonathan Lucroy (vs. Seattle Mariners)
My initial instinct was to write up Gary Sanchez here because I think is the most talented catcher on the slate and has a solid price tag around the industry with his struggles to start the year. But I can write up Gary Sanchez just about any time I do an article, and it’s not every day that you come across such solid batter versus pitcher numbers as I see with Jonathan Lucroy tonight. His price tag comes is low enough across most sites that we can consider him a punt. I usually like something statistically to make me feel decent about punting any player in baseball on my roster. Tonight, that statistical reinforcement comes in the form of 38 career at-bats against this opposing pitcher which he has converted into 19 hits and a .547 wOBA. In 38 at-bats he’s only struck out four times against Mike Leake. This is a near minimum salary across most sites, so you don’t need much in the way a performance to pay off this price tag, so this is the route I’m taking at the catcher position in lieu of a stud like Gary Sanchez.
Justin Bour (vs. Pittsburgh Pirates)
There’s literally only one guy in the entire Miami offense that scares me and that’s Justin Bour. If you can get around him then you can have a field day as a pitcher against this team. Now, while I don’t think he is a top 30 player in major league baseball, he still has some outstanding numbers in his career against right-handed pitching. A .361 wOBA and .231 ISO are two stats that jump out. Last year was a breakout year for him with 25 home runs and 18 doubles to go along with a solid 11% walk rate. There is not a lot of big time first baseman in good matchups tonight, so I think this may be one of the best plays at this position.
Howie Kendrick (vs. Colorado Rockies)
Second base is a good opportunity of save some money tonight and grab a player like Howie Kendrick against a left-handed pitcher. It’s the only time I want to play Kendrick. He’s been very solid in his career against left-handers having racked up a very acceptable .337 wOBA and 112 wRC+ to go along with that very solid 16.3% strikeout rate. A decent strikeout rate is key in this matchup as his mound opponent, Kyle Freeland only posted a 12.2% strikeout rate against right-handed batters last year. If we expect Kendrick to get four at-bats, and the chances are he doesn’t strikeout in any of them, that’s four opportunities to put the ball in play and rack up fantasy totals at a very modest price tag around the industry.
Rafael Devers (vs. Baltimore Orioles)
Las Vegas run totals play a huge part in my research for major league baseball. Unlike basketball, I put a lot of emphasis on who Las Vegas thinks are going to be the highest scoring teams on the night. Tonight, you are going to want to get a piece of this Boston Red Sox offense, and there slate leading 5.8 run total, on your roster tonight. They take on Chris Tillman who has been putrid for a while now. Some of the numbers he’s posted over the last year are a very high 89.9 average exit velocity and a whopping 42.9% of the hits against him have been greater than 95 mph. He’s allowed 37.7% of the hits against him to be of the hard-hit variety and has an extremely weak 7.1% swinging strike rate. He’s been terrible, and all those numbers are reflected in that massive team total for Boston tonight. Devers is a very solid hitter that posted 24 extra-base hits in only 240 plate appearances last season. He’s a left-hander that usually hits in the middle of this order and he should find some piece of the big run total tonight.
Carlos Correa (vs. Texas Rangers)
Carlos Correa is one of those elite players that doesn’t need to be in a particular split to make you feel comfortable about rostering them. In fact, his numbers against left-handers are marginally better than they are against right-handers. He does well against just about anybody. If he’s not the most talented offensive shortstop in the game that is pretty dang close. Over his career he’s put up a .374 wOBA against left-handers and a .374 wOBA at home. His ISO against left-handers sits at .214 and is ISO at home sits at .213. Basically, when he is at home against a left-hander he is a serious threat to be the leading fantasy performing shortstop on the slate. Tonight, he gets a rematch with Cole Hamels. I wanted to include a Houston Astro in this write up and Carlos Correa is the perfect guy because of the scarcity at this position. What’s interesting to me about this Astros team is that Cole Hamels was a pitcher in serious decline last year, then he made some changes to his game and has looked a lot better this season. However, I made the observation early in the year that once teams got a chance to see him in person they would start catching on and he would revert to the old Cole Hamels. So lucky for the Astros, and hopefully our fantasy teams tonight, they have already seen nearly 6 innings of him in an earlier series at Texas. Now two weeks later they get another crack at him in the friendly confines of their own home stadium. I think Houston may be one of the sneakier high upside offenses tonight, but at the very least I would feel great about getting this type of talent at shortstop in my lineup.
Starling Marte (vs. Miami Marlins)
Starling Marte is on the road tonight to take on left-handed pitcher Dillon Peters. Starling doesn’t have massive splits in this matchup but is been very solid in his career against left-handers. He’s slated to bat third in the order for this team, so he should catch a good chunk of the production if Pittsburgh has a big-time performance tonight on offense. Against this left-hander I think that’s very possible. Just five days ago against Philadelphia this same pitcher gave up nine earned runs in less than three innings including two home runs. So, over his last five starts Peters has given up 22 earned runs and failed to get out of the fourth inning on three of those occasions. He’s capable of having a good game and shutting down this offense but he has just as likely to give up a monster, GPP winning, offensive performance to the Pittsburgh Pirates. If that’s the case, then I’ll take the best hitter on this team at a very fair salary batting in the three hole.
Ryan Braun (vs. New York Mets)
I’ve eluded in the past to that elite list of certain players who are a lock when they face a left-hander. Ryan Braun is on that list, although he is in a bit of a decline. But he still good enough to make my roster just about every time he’s in a favorable matchup against a left-hander, especially with a price tag that sits so tantalizing at $2,900 on Fanduel tonight. That decline I spoke of was still good enough to grab a .358 wOBA and .253 ISO against left-handers last year. His eyes are still there as he drew 13.1% walk rate while only striking out 9.3% of the time against left-handers. The numbers may not be what they once were for Braun, but he is still an elite play in a matchup like this tonight.