It appears that tonight’s five-game featured MLB slate is going to be one that involves a certain level of risk when choosing a second starting pitcher. The crop of arms headed to the mound on Thursday night is a little underwhelming, so much so, Cristian Javier ($9,600), the second-most expensive asset, was just recalled from the alt site after willingly not pitching for the past two weeks.
Still, that just adds to the fun. Let’s go position-by-position and break down what should be an interesting evening of baseball.
Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Diego Padres, $10,000 - I’ll certainly preface this by saying that Buehler isn’t in a situation where I’m looking for complete exposure, but there’s no question he’s the best pitcher on this slate. He’s yet to generate swings and misses like he has in the past; however, Buehler does carry a 12.0 K/BB ratio through his first three outings of 2021 and, for his career, he owns a 0.87 WHIP while pitching at Dodger Stadium. Also, while the Padres do have baseball’s lowest strikeout rate against right-handed pitching (20.1%), they have the fifth-lowest ISO (.125) within the split, as well.
Alex Cobb, Los Angeles Angels at Houston Astros, $7,700 - There are other ways to go if you’d like to eat less chalk — Aaron Sanchez ($7,100) is interesting against the Marlins — but Cobb will be popular for good reason. In his last start, the veteran was able to induce 19 swings and misses, on his way to 10 strikeouts and 27.8 DKFP against the Royals. That will be slightly harder to accomplish this evening versus an Astros team that owns the league’s lowest swinging strike rate (8.7%); yet Houston’s offense definitely comes in cold. Despite a series at Coors Field, the Astros posted league-worst marks in ISO (.050), wOBA (.217) and wRC+ (40) across the past seven days. Getting the DH slot back will help, but I still think Cobb’s in a nice spot.
Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs vs. New York Mets, $4,600 - Contreras has been one of very few Chicago hitters to start 2021 red-hot. In fact, in 64 plate appearances, the backstop owns a .308 ISO and a .414 wOBA. Tonight, he’ll get the opportunity to face the left-handed Joey Lucchesi ($6,500) and I don’t think you could ask for a better matchup. Contreras has consistently hit southpaws well throughout his career, even possessing a 127 wRC+ within the split dating back to the start of 2019.
Editor’s Note: Giants C Buster Posey is not in the lineup for tonight’s game vs. the Marlins.
Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants vs. Miami Marlins , $3,900 - The outlook for Posey’s 2021 campaign didn’t look great a month ago. The veteran catcher had taken all of 2020 off, following a 2019 season that was easily the worst offensive stretch of his illustrious career. However, the time away seems to have done some good, as Posey’s returned to form through the first three weeks of April. The 34-year-old is slashing .310/.370/.619 with a 168 wRC+. He also owns a career 147 wRC+ against LHPs like Daniel Castano ($6,100) .
Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels at Houston Astros, $5,100 - If you’re going to attack the aforementioned Javier, you’ll have to do it with left-handed bats. The 24-year-old’s best pitch is his slider, an offering that’s particularly effective when breaking away from right-handed hitters. It’s the reason that Javier’s held RHBs to a paltry .278 slugging percentage for his brief career. Lefties are a different story, as they’ve made far more contact and have compiled 1.85 home runs per nine. Ohtani is about as threatening an LHB as there currently is in baseball, with a .737 expected slugging percentage that sits 10th among all qualified bats. Jared Walsh ($4,700) is also viable for many of the same reasons.
Darin Ruf, San Francisco Giants vs. Miami Marlins, $3,200 - Ruf is currently back in MLB for two reasons: He can hit left-handed pitching and he’s got some thunder in his bat. In fact, in 399 career plate appearances versus LHPs, Ruf owns a .912 OPS and a 147 wRC+. With Castano scheduled to start for the Marlins, expect to see Ruf in the lineup for the Giants, likely in a premium spot.
Jazz Chisholm, Miami Marlins at San Francisco Giants, $3,900 - I remain shocked at Chisholm’s stagnant price tag. While it could turn out to be nothing more than a mid-week experiment, the rookie hit leadoff for the Marlins on Wednesday. If that happens again this evening, Chisholm will almost be a must-play option, as he continues to showcase his tools. In 57 plate appearances in 2021, the 23-year-old has three home runs, four stolen bases and a 188 wRC+. What more do you need?
Ty France, Seattle Mariners at Boston Red Sox, $3,700 - If France is back in Seattle’s lineup on Thursday, he has the potential to provide a massive amount of value. Primarily hitting from the second-spot in the Mariners’ lineup, France is slashing .306/.405/.516 with a 166 wRC+ through his first 74 plate appearances of the season. He’ll also draw a nice matchup in Nick Pivetta ($7,400), who surrendered 1.80 home runs per nine to opposing RHBs throughout his rocky career.
Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Diego Padres, $5,500 - No need to overthink this one, as Turner’s been crushing left-handed pitching for the better part of the past decade. This season, in a sample of 28 plate appearances, Turner’s already produced six extra-base hits and a .547 wOBA. Ryan Weathers ($7,300) will want to tread carefully when it comes time to face the veteran third baseman.
Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs vs. New York Mets, $4,500 - Like Contreras, Bryant’s stood above his teammates’ struggles in the early going of 2021, possessing a .339 ISO and a 160 wRC+ through 67 plate appearances. Also like Contreras, Bryant has incredible career numbers versus southpaws, with the former top prospect owning an eye-popping .996 OPS within the split. One other thing to note in this game: The wind will be blowing out at Wrigley Field this evening. Suddenly, we’ve got ourselves a hitter’s park.
Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox vs. Seattle Mariners, $5,700 - When it comes to Bogaerts, there’s just something about the color green. The shortstop has long been one of the best hitters in baseball, but Bogaerts takes things to another level when stepping into the batter’s box at Fenway Park. Going back to the beginning of 2018, Bogaerts is slashing .323/.388/.574 with a .251 ISO in homes games. He’s always viable when the Sox are in Boston, especially when he’s clubbed home runs in back-to-back contests.
Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs vs. New York Mets, $4,600 - Shortstop is extremely top-heavy on tonight’s minuscule slate, though it’s important to remember that the aforementioned Chisholm does have SS eligibility if you’re really looking to save. With that out of the way, let’s finish off our Cubs stack with Baez — the epitome of a high-risk, high-reward DFS asset. There is so, so much swing and miss in the veteran’s game, but his aggressiveness plays well in daily fantasy and he’s always hit left-handed pitching better than right-handed pitching. That’ll work on Thursday.
Alex Verdugo, Boston Red Sox vs. Seattle Mariners, $4,400 - I’m hesitant to say that Justin Dunn ($6,800) struggles with left-handed hitters, as he mostly just struggles with his own command, but Seattle’s scheduled starter has surrendered 2.05 home runs per nine within the split for his career. That’s likely part of the reason that the Red Sox have the highest implied team total on tonight’s slate. It’s also part of the reason I love Verdugo, who sports a 165 wRC+ when facing RHPs so far in 2021.
Kyle Lewis, Seattle Mariners at Boston Red Sox, $3,100 - Why not? As mentioned above, Pivetta has had his issues with RHBs throughout his career and Lewis, who was activated off of the IL on Tuesday, hit in the top-third of the Mariners’ lineup in his 2021 debut. Maybe he’ll need some time to re-find his swing or maybe the reigning American League Rookie of the Year will hit the ground running with a great performance this evening. Either way, he’s too cheap considering we know what Lewis can be.
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