According to my very meticulous calculations, this will be the last MLB slate in 2023 with more than two games on it. Believe me. I’ve triple-checked the numbers.
We get things going with Game 3 in Philadelphia, then shift our collective focus to a pair of elimination games in Minnesota and Arizona.
It’s all quite exciting. Let’s not waste any more time and jump right in.
Editor’s Note: Braves SP Bryce Elder will start tonight’s game vs. the Phillies.
Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies vs. Atlanta Braves, $9,600 - At first glance, it seems insane to pay nearly $10K for a pitcher facing the best offense in baseball, especially one that struggled a bit in 2023 like Nola. However, this is a unique slate. Aside from Nola — and maybe Lance Lynn ($8,500) — there aren’t any pitchers on Wednesday that are guaranteed to work deep into their respective start. It seems like Houston and Atlanta might almost take a “bullpen game” approach. So, with that in mind, Nola’s ceiling is simply miles higher than his compatriots. The former All-Star has also tended to be at his best pitching at Citizens Bank Park. Nola maintained a 28.6% strikeout rate with a 0.97 WHIP when taking the mound at home during the regular season, then proceeded to toss seven scoreless innings in Philly against the Marlins last week.
Jose Urquidy, Houston Astros at Minnesota Twins, $6,700 - It was initially unclear if Urquidy or J.P. France ($8,100) would start Game 4 of this series against the Twins, but Houston decided to go with the former. It’s been an underwhelming campaign for the RHP, but Urquidy did look amazing in his final appearance of the regular season, holding the Diamondbacks scoreless across six innings of work. With a game in hand, the Astros can afford to be slightly more relaxed about their pitching strategy on Wednesday, which could buy Urquidy a bit of a longer leash. Combine that with Minnesota’s league-leading 26.6% strikeout rate, and Urquidy is easily the best option in a poor group of choices.
Freddie Freeman, Los Angeles Dodgers at Arizona Diamondbacks, $5,900 - There’s a chance Brandon Pfaadt ($5,700) follows a similar script to his outing against the Brewers in this start versus the Dodgers. Pfaadt faced just 16 opponents that day, surrendering three earned runs and seven hits. It wasn’t all that shocking a result. Pfaadt pitched to a 5.72 ERA during the regular season, with left-handed bats averaging 2.22 home runs per nine off the rookie. One such LHB with a long ball off Pfaadt? Freeman. In fact, Freeman is 4-for-6 with three extra-base hits off the young RHP. If you’re not into BvP, just know Freeman hits everyone well, as his .409 expected wOBA exemplifies.
Alex Bregman, Houston Astros at Minnesota Twins, $5,000 - It was a story of two seasons for Joe Ryan ($8,100). With a new split-change in his arsenal, Ryan began 2023 quite strong, but things fell apart over his final 16 starts, where the RHP posted a 6.00 ERA across 84.0 innings. It was RHBs that did most of the damage within that stretch, as the 196 Ryan faced combined to slash .316/.342/.690 with 3.92 home runs per nine. Woof. Houston has a lot of righty hitters with pop, but none as dangerous as Bregman. The third baseman registered a 138 wRC+ in right-on-right matchups this season.
Bryson Stott, Philadelphia Phillies vs. Atlanta Braves, $3,700 - While nothing has officially been announced, it seems like Atlanta will turn to 20-year-old AJ Smith-Shawver ($6,400) to at least pitch a bulk role on Wednesday. The top prospect has a lot of potential, yet Smith-Shawver also possessed a 6.69 FIP in his cup of coffee at the MLB level in 2023, surrendering five long balls to the 59 LHBs he faced. Stott is left-handed. Stott has some power in his bat. Stott also stole 31 bases in the regular season. He can contribute in several ways.
Gabriel Moreno, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, $3,400 - Moreno is on the cusp of being this October’s breakout star, as he’s already hit home runs off of Corbin Burnes and Clayton Kershaw through four playoff games. Why not add Lynn to that list? While things did get slightly better for the veteran RHP after being traded to Los Angeles, Lynn’s long ball issue persisted, as he conceded 2.25 per nine across 64.0 innings.
Corbin Carroll, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, $5,500 - Carroll is proving he’s already one of the league’s brightest new stars by absolutely dominating in the playoffs. It’s been only 19 plate appearances, but the rookie is slashing .500/.632/1.000 with a pair of home runs and four RBI. Not surprisingly, Carroll was at his best in opposite-hand matchups during the regular season, posting a .921 OPS and a 146 wRC+ against RHPs. With the right-handed Lynn set to throw for the Dodgers, Carroll is nearly a must-play on Wednesday.
Kyle Schwarber, Philadelphia Phillies vs. Atlanta Braves, $4,400 - I noted above that Smith-Shawver struggled to keep the ball in the park when pitching in the big leagues this season — especially to LHBs. Well, few left-handed bats have more power than Schwarber. This is also a nice buying window for the veteran, with Schwarber generally carrying a price tag in the high $5K range on a majority of slates this year.
Jason Heyward, Los Angeles Dodgers at Arizona Diamondbacks, $3,000 - Heyward has looked poor in the first two games of the NLDS, going 0-for-6 with four strikeouts. Still, the veteran was a vital part of the Dodgers’ success throughout the regular season. In fact, Heyward slashed .308/.338/.492 with a 124 wRC+ from August 1 onwards. He’ll likely hit in the six-spot once again and in a matchup with the shaky Pfaadt, Heyward has the potential to make this modest salary look silly.
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