After a thin Thursday docket, thank goodness it's Friday, as the aces will return -- including Clayton Kershaw, albeit in a tough match-up with Johnny Cueto. We also will have the 2016 debut of Anthony DeSclafani, as well as another chance for Matt Harvey to show he's back. Get the skinny on all this and more in Friday's Daily Notes.
Clayton Kershaw is never in a bad spot, except perhaps at Coors Field. That said, facing Johnny Cueto in AT&T Park is about as difficult as it can get for the stud lefty. The San Francisco Giants have registered an above-average weighted on base average (wOBA) versus southpaws with a stingy strikeout rate. While Kershaw isn't just another left-hander, if there was a night to fade him -- dare it be said -- this is it.
Don't come to me with a problem, come to me with a solution. We've all heard that at the workplace. Here's your solution: In lieu of Kershaw, use Stephen Strasburg as the Washington Nationals entertain the Philadelphia Phillies. Strasburg's ethereal strikeout rate is further embellished facing a squad that fans at an above-average clip versus right-handers while sporting a wOBA well below the norm.
Chris Sale allowed just 13 runs over his first 10 starts, spanning 68⅓ innings. In his past three, he has surrendered 12 in just 16⅔ frames. Sometimes regression takes a while to rear its ugly head; other times the correction is more immediate. What's most important is that Sale's baseline skills, especially his 8.3 K/9, are down from previous campaigns. Further, the dip is commensurate with a drop in first pitch strike rate and swinging strike percentage, so the depressed rate might not pick back up, at least not to Sale's historical level. This is already being captured by the projected Game Score, as Sale barely makes the elite and isn't a great option for DFS, considering the opposing Kansas City Royals whiff at a below-average pace.
Corey Kluber joins Sale as a borderline ace, as the Cleveland Indians travel to Anaheim to open a weekend series with the Los Angeles Angels. Kluber's strikeout rate is also down from previous seasons, but it's still a lofty 8.9 K/9. The Halos do him no favors in that regard, as they are the toughest for right-handers to punch out. If you're looking for a small edge that could be more actionable in cash games than tournaments, both clubs played on Thursday night, with the Tribe making the short trip down the coast from Seattle and the Angels winging it from New York.
Let's think outside the box. Let's say you concur and fade Kershaw. Who stands to benefit the most? Even if we're right, the chances of a complete implosion are slim, which means stacking San Francisco hitters isn't efficient. That leaves Cueto as the chief benefactor. The numbers are on his side, as the Los Angeles Dodgers check in with a pedestrian 0.308 wOBA versus righties with a 21 percent strikeout rate. Cueto is a viable GPP play, as well as a comfortable cash anchor.
On a slate that seems to favor GPP action, Lance McCullers fits right in as the Houston Astros venture to St. Petersburg, Florida, to face the Tampa Bay Rays. McCullers gets a nice park upgrade in terms of suppressing runs in Tropicana Field, as well as facing a lineup that fans 26 percent of the time against righties.
Matt Harvey continues his trek down the comeback trail with a juicy encounter against the Milwaukee Brewers, albeit in hitter-friendly Miller Park. The once and perhaps future Dark Knight has tossed seven frames in each of his past two outings, walking just one total with a tempered nine whiffs. Look for the latter to rise as Harvey faces a club checking in with a 26 percent strikeout rate versus righties.
DFS cash game enthusiasts, Jason Hammel is for you. The Chicago Cubs right-hander takes the hill in Turner Field against the offensively challenged Atlanta Braves. Hammel's 8.0 K/9 is overly dominant, while the Braves' 20 percent whiff rate isn't terrible generous. But a 0.270 wOBA versus right-handers gives Hammel a great chance to hurl at least seven stanzas for the third time in four outings, which includes the two-inning stint he left with leg cramps.
It's generally wise to start right-handers against the Minnesota Twins and their 23 percent strikeout rate, in that scenario. This is not to say don't start Steven Wright; since this particular righty features a knuckleball, general stats may not apply. More so than any other pitcher, Wright has the ability to stone a team with a complete-game shutout or get shelled. The best time to get exposure to Wright is when playing multiple lineups or looking to go contrarian, as his ownership tends to be low, regardless of foe.
Encouraging is the best way to describe Sonny Gray's return from the disabled list, as he looked sharp against the Astros in fanning five with one walk over five frames, while allowing a homer for the only run. He's in a good spot to build on that 69-pitch effort with an interleague affair in the Great American Ballpark against the Cincinnati Reds. The hosts sport a pedestrian 0.310 wOBA and above-average 23 percent strikeout rate versus righties. The main concern is that Gray is in danger of being lifted for a pinch hitter earlier than if the game were in an American League park.
There's only one scenario where streaming a Colorado Rockies starter in Coors Field is in play: Jon Gray facing the San Diego Padres. That's exactly what's on the docket, so if you own Gray and his 10.5 K/9, he's viable against the Friars and their 0.284 wOBA and 24 percent strikeout clip versus right-handers.
Anthony DeSclafani encountered a couple of speed bumps on his road to recover from a spring training oblique injury, but he is ready to debit against the Oakland Athletics in a home affair. The Athletics' already-depleted lineup is short a lefty bat after sending Chris Coghlan to the Cubs for Arismendy Alcantara. The guests bring an already below-average attack into Cincinnati, so even though it's usually recommended to wait before activating a pitcher off the disabled list, DeSclafani is in a favorable enough spot to make an exception.
We've got a list of four arms that qualify simply based on a projected Game Score of 45 or below. Joining them are Bud Norris, who's too risky against the explosive Cubs -- even in Turner Field -- and Tyler Duffey facing the grinding Boston Red Sox in Target Field. There are several borderline calls. If you desire a little more analysis, please post in the comments or hit me up on Twitter @ToddZola.
What's a Friday night slate without a game in Coors to consider? With so many other great places to stack, let's fade the Padres against Jon Gray, however let's pick on Andrew Cashner with the home team hitters. Platoon splits aren't a factor; everyone is in play versus the volatile right-hander. Charlie Blackmon leads it off, and Nolan Arenado is always a threat. Carlos Gonzalez and DJ LeMahieu are also in the mix.
The top alternative is in Yankee Stadium, as Mike Pelfrey takes the famed hill for the Detroit Tigers. Starting it off for the New York Yankees are their standard pair of lefties, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner. Alex Rodriguez is back, while Brian McCann is always in play with a lesser righty on the bump. Carlos Beltran and Starlin Castro warrant consideration, along with Chris Parmelee, as part of a stack or a cheap stand-alone play.
Justin Nicolino and his meek 3.6 K/9 could be in for a long night -- or is that actually a short night? -- in the desert, as the Arizona Diamondbacks host the Miami Marlins. Paul Goldschmidt is getting it going, along with fellow righty swingers Jean Segura, Brandon Drury, Rickie Weeks and especially Welington Castillo.
Most likely to hit a home run: Ten of Carlos Beltran's 16 homers have been hit from the left-handed batter's box, which is where he'll set up against righty Mike Pelfrey.
Most likely to steal a base: Because his game isn't already good enough, Mookie Betts is perfect in eleven steal attempts this season and has been running more lately.