June 3rd MLB DFS Picks: If You Don’t Souza, You Lose-a
James Shields, SP, San Diego – Big game James has enjoyed the friendly confines of Petco Park this season despite an underwhelming overall performance thus far. Shields sports a 4.14 ERA on the road but knocks that down by almost a run with a 3.16 ERA at home. The batting averages against are nearly identical home or away but he allows a .318 versus .288 OBP at home and .496 vs .452 SLG. It’s not shocking that Petco is favorable to him (or any other pitcher for that matter). Shields will face the Mets and their 24th ranked wOBA vs RHP. Lucas Duda possesses some serious power and the home run ball has killed Shields so far (15 total allowed). He has actually allowed a higher home run rate (2.01 HR/9) at home than on the road (1.95 HR/9) but that trend is bound to change. The Mets have hit 28 HR versus RHP, which is tied for 24th in baseball and just four ahead of the 29th place Twins. Essentially they do not hit or homer very well against righties so this could be the perfect storm for Shields to finally settle down and not allow a long ball. If he can keep Duda at bay, this should be a very productive start for Shields who also comes with big strikeout upside. Fire him up in both cash and tournaments and sleep like a baby.
Nathan Karns, SP, Tampa Bay – This one is a bit of a gut call especially since Albert Pujols has been on absolute fire lately. Karns will pitch in Angel Stadium which, according to FanGraphs, tied for the third worst overall hitter’s park in 2014 so he will have the favorable stadium benefit (Tropicana was one of those parks tied with Angel Stadium). The over/under is not incredibly high (7.5) with the Angels as only a slight favorite. It feels like Vegas has this one wrong because the Rays crush left-handed pitching and the Angels do the exact opposite against righties. The Angels rank 29th in wOBA versus RHP and Karns is amidst a very respectable season (3-2 record, 3.32 ERA). I’ll mention a specific hitter later but the Rays should put up some runs against the lefty as well. I think Karns has a better chance for a win than Vegas is leading on. It will all come down to how well Karns can contain Pujols and Mike Trout. If he does a decent job at keeping them quiet, he will be in a good position to win the game. He’s more of a tournament option but I can see using him in cash if you really want to get in some expensive bats.
Lance McCullers, SP, Houston – Although the matchup is decent, McCullers is a risky option and best suited for tournaments. However, I think he is a tournament option with plenty of upside. Sure he has yet to eclipse six innings in any of his three big league starts and has only made it into the sixth once. He has also yet to allow more than two earned runs and has struck out at least five in all three starts. In fact, his K tallies have been five, six and then seven in the three starts. The Orioles rank 11th in the majors in wOBA versus RHP so they are a bottom-hand matchup in that respect. On the other hand, their 22.3 percent K rate ranks fourth against RHP behind only the Astros, Cubs and Mariners. There is plenty of strikeout potential here, which is why I like the upside. The problem is he will have to be efficient with his pitches and keep balls out of the seats (which are an extra short distance away especially in left). It is risky but how many lower priced pitchers come with double-digit strikeout potential?
Adrian Gonzalez/Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers – Okay so Chad Bettis‘ numbers are by far the best on the Rockies starting staff. Number one that is not saying much and number two that is bound to change tomorrow night. First of all, the over/under in the game is yet again greater than 10 runs (10.5). Both Adrian Gonzalez and Joc Pederson have had a field day so far in this series in Colorado and are bound to feast once again on Wednesday. Gonzalez registered four hits in the first game Monday and hit a home run in game two of the double-header on Tuesday. Pederson meanwhile has homered in each game so far this series. Both players have career wOBAs .380 or greater against RHP and the Dodgers as a whole lead the majors in wOBA vs RHP. Therefore these monsters will once again have an opportunity to do some damage and likely with men on base at some point because the whole team should contribute. Do not worry about Bettis’ respectable numbers and go back to the well one more time with these two beasts.
Dee Gordon, 2B, Miami – Jon Lester has now become famous for never ever throwing to first base. Seriously, he just cannot do it. He went over 212 IP between last year and this season before making his first pickoff attempt. I’m not sure if there is a mental block similar to Chuck Knoblauch but the team has had him working on it and he still has not been able to. If you look back to an article I wrote a few weeks ago, I focused on the pitchers and catchers that were easiest to steal on. Of all pitchers with at least six stolen base attempts against, Lester ranked fourth with a 12 percent caught stealing (CS) rate. He also was tied for the league lead in SB allowed with 15. Essentially he is one of the easiest pitchers, if not the single easiest, to steal on in all of baseball. If Dee Gordon is just able to get on base, he should steal at least one base easy…maybe even more. For that reason, it’s hard to recommend a different direction at second base in cash games even with the lefty versus lefty matchup. Gordon gets on with a bunt hit and his day is likely made. Do not underestimate the speed Dee-mon.
Steven Souza, OF, Tampa Bay – The Rays offense as a whole is not much to write home about but they do have a major strength: they are extremely right-handed and their right-handers crush lefties. Overall as a team, the team is tied for fifth in wOBA (.337) and ranks third in wRC+ (121) vs LHP. No one on the team has hit lefties harder than Steven Souza. In 52 plate appearances, Souza has a .451 OBP vs LHP with a 1.201 OPS and .450 ISO. His wOBA (.499) and wRC+ (232) numbers are equally off the charts and it just shows how dominant he has been. There is no need to worry about a favorable spot in the lineup as he always bats in the top six. Santiago has pitched well this far but is fly ball oriented and likely due for regression; it could be coming tonight against a team that feasts on lefties.