MLB DFS Plays for 5/18/16

Afternoon baseball returns to start a 16-game day on Wednesday. With the high number of ‘aces’ throwing on Tuesday, the follow-up appears to be much more forgiving for hitters.


Currently, we are using xFIP and wOBA simply to compare one pitcher’s performance against another – especially against opposite-handed hitters. We aren’t using these numbers for calculation. To help with some calculations, we have assumed that each hitter and pitcher has played at least one game. Each pitcher was assigned an innings total relative to his average projection.

Check the starting lineups and weather reports prior to making any plays, as these change without notice.

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Gio Gonzalez – It is difficult to follow an outstanding performance, but the task is made a little easier when the previous starting pitcher was saddled with a loss. Gio Gonzalez toes the rubber one day after Max Scherzer struck out ten batters while essentially making two mistakes – that cost him the game. Normally, the shift from Scherzer to Gonzalez would aid an offense, but the Mets are especially susceptible to being dominated by left-handed pitching. Gonzalez might actually be the best encore for Scherzer – against this specific lineup – and stands atop the list of pitchers to target for Wednesday.

Julio Teheran/Francisco Liriano – The Braves and Pirates continue to exchange high-powered punches, but Pittsburgh has remained standing. The Braves’ offense – averaging 3.24 runs-per-game – has now scored a combined 14 runs in their last two losses – limiting the upside of opposing starting pitchers. Thankfully for Wednesday’s pitchers, both offenses are poised to regress – especially in a pitcher’s park – and both Julio Teheran and Francisco Liriano can be targeted. Liriano has the benefit of facing a left-handed-heavy Braves lineup, but Teheran – still winless on the year – has a 1.44 ERA over his last five starts.

Ian Kennedy – If any pitcher is making the most of his situation, it is Ian Kennedy. The journeyman appears thrilled to have landed in Kansas City, where his team’s defense has likely played a role in his 3.25 ERA – second-best of his career. Kennedy is, indeed, a product of his surroundings, where the ballpark tends to play a large role. Specifically, his last start – in the hitter-friendly ballpark of Yankee Stadium – was a complete dud. In his only two home starts of the season, Kennedy sports a 1.38 ERA with 14 strikeouts. The Royals’ right-handed starter might be the quietest ‘sleeper’ of the day, especially against a Red Sox offense that finally showed an indication of slowing down.

Johnny Cueto/Drew Pomeranz – Johnny Cueto and Drew Pomeranz will close out Wednesday’s slate of games in what projects to be one of the lowest-scoring contests of the day. Unfortunately, both come with some level of risk. Cueto is pitching one day after another fantastic Madison Bumgarner performance and, unlike Gio Gonzalez, Cueto’s matchup is not necessarily more favorable. Pomeranz is gaining traction as a ‘breakout’ candidate and enters Wednesday with the lowest season ERA among the day’s pitchers – excluding Mike Clevinger, who will be making his Major League debut – but he faces a Giants offense with the second-lowest team strikeout rate. Either pitcher can be used for their projected decent outing, but both carry an elevated level of risk.

Brandon Finnegan – In the beginning of the season, Brandon Finnegan’s relative lack of experience warranted caution. Now, Finnegan is the seasoned veteran when compared to his opponent on Wednesday – Cleveland’s Mike Clevinger in his first career Major League start. Simply put, Finnegan has a nearly ideal matchup against a strikeout-prone, left-handed-heavy Indians offense, which should negate the threat of a high-scoring outburst. For his price, Brandon Finnegan is arguably the steal of the day.

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Mike Trout/Kole Calhoun – Another day of baseball leads to another day of recommending Mike Trout, as the Angels’ star will attempt to rebound from an 0-for-4 performance against Clayton Kershaw. Both Trout and Calhoun had been stinging the baseball prior to their meeting with Kershaw, and the transition to Mike Bolsinger should yield far better results.

Anthony Rizzo – It is nearly impossible to quiet the bats of the 2016 Chicago Cubs, but Chase Anderson was able to do it for seven innings. Included in Anderson’s dominant performance was the 0-for-4 outing of Anthony Rizzo – in fact, Rizzo is now hitless in his last seven at-bats. In the hitter-friendly ballpark of Milwaukee, such offensive woes are unlikely to continue. Rizzo becomes one of the top hitting target of the days thanks to opposing pitcher Jimmy Nelson’s terrible peripherals against left-handed bats.

Colby Rasmus – Always a favorite of the chart, Colby Rasmus is targeted, yet again. The Astros’ typical cleanup hitter will face Mat Latos and his elevated hard hit percentage against left-handed bats. Especially after battling with left-handed Carlos Rodon the night before, Rasmus will feast on Latos in the encore.

Left-handed Dodgers Hitters – In what will certainly become a theme of the day, the Dodgers are poised to shred Nicholas Tropeano. Specifically, the right-handed pitcher struggles mightily against left-handed bats – although his hard hit percentage is not horrible, suggesting that the ball might not leave the yard. Asking Joc Pederson and Corey Seager to repeat Tuesday’s performance – the two combined for three home runs – is a stretch, but any and all left-handed hitters from Los Angeles should be targeted on Wednesday.

Left-handed Yankees hitters – Shelby Miller has clearly struggled in his transition to Arizona, and his peripherals against left-handed hitting are dreadful. Specifically, his hard hit percentage allowed to left-handed bats ranks as the highest among Wednesday’s starters – against opposite-handed hitters – pushing Brian McCann to the top of the list for catching targets, with the rest of the left-handed Yankees hitters following closely behind.



Be sure to check the above chart for more of the expensive hitters – and the statistics of their matchups. Below, we focus on some of the best upside plays for their price.

Yasiel Puig – While Yasiel Puig does not fit into the aforementioned category of ‘left-handed Dodgers hitters,’ he is still one of the better options for his price on Wednesday night. Surprisingly, Puig’s peripherals against right-handed pitching is actually better than against southpaws, making him a great bargain in a solid matchup.

Didi Gregorius – As noted, Shelby Miller struggles mightily against left-handed bats, and Didi Gregorius is the ideal discount play. The Yankees’ shortstop tends to bat towards the bottom of the lineup – which lowers both his potential and price – but has still produced over his last seven games – a .308 batting average with three doubles and a home run.

Howie Kendrick – Another right-handed hitter from Los Angeles, Howie Kendrick slips into the list of hitting targets thanks to his own personal performance of late. In his last five games, Kendrick has seven hits and no strikeouts. He has also not collected an extra-base hit, despite a hard hit percentage of nearly 50 percent. Kendrick is an inexpensive option if stacking Dodgers.

Featured Image Credit: Parkerjh at the English language Wikipedia [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Mario Mergola
Mario Mergola is a writer, avid sports fan, former ESPN Radio producer, husband, and father who specializes in finding the hidden gems of the less-explored option. Follow @MarioMergola