With less than a week to go before the MLB Trade deadline, many teams enter their weekend series with uncertainty about who exactly will be on their team coming down the stretch. While GMs work the phones to try to make the best deals for their teams, you can put your roster together for a fun night of fantasy baseball action this Thursday night on DraftKings. The first pitch of the eight-game slate is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET, when the Phillies and Pirates get things underway with an all-Pennsylvania matchup. Some teams are starting new series on Thursday, while others are wrapping up their series from earlier in the week.
To keep up with pregame lineups and player news, install the DK Live app and follow DK Live on Twitter (@dklive). I’m also on Twitter (@ZT_Sports), where you can keep up with all my picks as the season continues.
Set your DraftKings fantasy baseball lineups here: MLB $250K Relay Throw [$50K to 1st]
For up-to-the-minute news, analysis and lineups, download the DK Live app. You also can follow DK Live on Twitter @dklive.
Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels vs. Texas Rangers ($8,900) – Ohtani gave up six runs in 6 1⁄3 innings in his most recent start but still posted over 20 DKFP since he piled up 11 strikeouts. That loss to the Braves snapped an impressive six-start winning streak that featured 58 strikeouts in just 39 2⁄3 innings to go with a 0.45 ERA and 1.03 FIP. Ohtani has been excellent all year with a 12.92 K/9 rate which has been even higher at 15.55 K/9 over his five most recent outings. With such a high strikeout potential, Ohtani has an extremely high ceiling and low risk as demonstrated by his most recent start. Even if he does get hit, the strikeouts cover up so many mistakes. He is at home where he has been the most effective this season and should be in a good spot for another great outing as he takes on the Rangers, who have dropped five of their past six and scored more than four runs only once during that span.
Other Options – Zack Wheeler ($10,200), Jameson Taillon ($8,600)
Justin Steele, Chicago Cubs at San Francisco Giants ($7,000) – Steele gets the start in San Francisco as the Cubs look to win their seventh straight game. The 27-year-old lefty has gone 4-6 on the season with a 4.02 ERA, 3.64 FIP and 8.35 K/9. He beat the Phillies in his first start after the All-Star break and has been sharp over his past eight starts with a 2.85 ERA and 4.01 FIP. He has gone at least five innings in each of those eight starts with at least six full innings in four of those games. He gets a good matchup against San Francisco’s lineup that has plated just 19 runs in seven games since the All-Star break (2.7 runs per game) while hitting only .183 as a team, the second-lowest average of any team in the MLB since the break. Although he doesn’t have the strikeout ceiling of Ohtani or the other elite options on the slate, he does offer consistent strong production in a good matchup at only $7K.
Other Options – Yusei Kikuchi ($7,700), Kutter Crawford ($6,100)
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays vs. Detroit Tigers ($5,400) – Guerrero stole his first base of the season on Wednesday night, but if you’re paying over $5K for Vladdy, you’re counting on him to keep mashing not steal bases. Guerrero has hit safely in 10 of his past 11 games, going 18-for-46 (.391) with four doubles, two homers and a .432 wOBA. He has a favorable matchup highlighted below in stacks and will be back in Toronto, where he has hit 13 of his 21 homers this year.
Oneil Cruz, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Philadelphia Phillies ($4,600) – Cruz has made a nice splash since arriving in Pittsburgh 30 games ago and seems to be making the adjustment to MLB pitching. He has hit safely in six straight games and 10 of his past 12 with a double, a triple, three home runs and two stolen bases during that span. His low average of just .221 is mostly due to his early struggles, and his dynamic talent gives him a high ceiling in almost any matchup, even though the lineup around him isn’t extremely productive.
Other Options – DJ LeMahieu ($5,300), Amed Rosario ($5,200)
Luis Rengifo, Los Angeles Angels vs. Texas Rangers ($3,500) – Rengifo seems ill-cast as a cleanup hitter with his career .115 ISO, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t productive enough to be a good consideration at this salary. He’s hitting .263 in his 240 plate appearances this season with a .309 wOBA, but he’s filling in in the middle of the order for the Angels, who are dealing with multiple key injuries. Rengifo had a nine-game hitting streak snapped on Wednesday, during which he went 14-for-35 (.400) with three doubles. Even though he doesn’t provide a ton of power, he does provide consistent production from the middle of the lineup and gets a great matchup highlighted in stacks below. Even though his ceiling isn’t as high as the other power options, he is very steady and can help fill a middle infield spot with a middle-of-the-order bat at an affordable rate.
Santiago Espinal, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Detroit Tigers ($3,400) – Whenever the Blue Jays take on a lefty, Espinal is worth a look since he thrives against southpaws and hits in such a potent lineup (highlighted in stacks). The 27-year-old is hitting .345 against lefties this season with three homers and a .399 wOBA. He also will be glad to be back at Rogers Centre, where he’s hitting .301 with a .336 wOBA. He also comes in on a nice roll with a five-game hitting streak and hitting .309 across his past 22 contests with a .328 wOBA and a pair of stolen bases added for bonus production.
Other Options – Darrick Hall ($3,600), Aledmys Diaz ($3,400)
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees vs. Kansas City Royals ($6,100) – The Yankees and Dodgers are a little tricky coming into the day due to uncertainty regarding the weather. Still, whenever Judge takes the field, he’s a good play. He has picked right up where he left off before the All-Star break with five home runs in his past seven games, taking him to 38 homers for the season—just one short of his total from all of last year. He went 0-for-5 on Wednesday but had multiple hits in four straight games before that. He has gone 24-for-72 (.333) over his past 18 games with a .494 wOBA, and on the season, he is hitting .299 with a .426 wOBA at home.
Julio Rodríguez, Seattle Mariners at Houston Astros ($5,400) – Rodríguez made a splash at the home run derby, but he has been a regular in my picks all season as a great dual-threat producer across the board. He has 18 homers, 21 stolen bases and a .355 wOBA on the season with seven of those home runs coming over his 18 most recent games, during which he has an impressive .355 ISO and .411 wOBA. He has at least 16 DKFP in four of his past five games after hitting a key three-run shot on Wednesday on his way to 18 DKFP.
Other Options – George Springer ($5,500), Kyle Schwarber ($5,100), Teoscar Hernández ($4,600)
Hunter Dozier, Kansas City Royals at New York Yankees ($3,100) – Dozier will be one of several Royals who need to step into larger offensive roles after the trade of Andrew Benintendi ($4,200) from one side of this series to the other. Dozier has been playing well lately, hitting .321 in July with five doubles, a triple, two home runs and a .392 wOBA. He also has done his best hitting on the road this season, where he has a .367 wOBA and more than half of his nine home runs. He took Wednesday off but will likely be back in the cleanup spot for this matchup at hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium against Jameson Taillon ($8,600).
Austin Slater, San Francisco Giants vs. Chicago Cubs ($3,000) – Slater typically hits leadoff for the Giants against lefties like Steele and is hitting .297 with a .382 wOBA against southpaws on the year. Like Dozier, he’s been hitting the ball well lately, going 21-for-56 (.375) over his past 20 games with six doubles and a pair of stolen bases. He doesn’t have the power potential of Dozier, but his great lineup spot in favorable splits makes him a good play at $3K.
Other Options – Alex Verdugo ($3,700), Jake Lamb ($2,100)
TEAMS TO STACK
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Detroit Tigers – Despite padding their stats in a 28-run explosion against the Red Sox, the Blue Jays have been one of the most prolific offenses since the All-Star break, leading the majors with 51 runs scored despite playing just five games. They’re hitting .359 as a team and have hit eight home runs in those five contests. They’ll look to keep rolling as they come home and take on lefty Tyler Alexander ($5,000). The Blue Jays have hit .259 with a .326 wOBA against lefties and tend to be heavy on right-handed power bats. While it isn’t a cheap stack, the top of their order is extremely potent with George Springer ($5,500), Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (discussed above), Alejandro Kirk ($4,900), Bo Bichette ($5,300) and Teoscar Hernández ($4,600) all making strong plays. Santiago Espinal (discussed above) and Lourdes Gurriel ($3,900) are solid plays under $4K.
Los Angeles Angels vs. Texas Rangers – If you need a cheaper alternative stack to the Jays or want to create a tandem stack, the Angels offer interesting upside at a very affordable rate against Spencer Howard ($5,200). Howard was one of the key pieces acquired from the Phillies in the Kyle Gibson trade, but the former top prospect has struggled in the majors so far, allowing 21 runs in 25 1⁄3 innings and giving up 10 home runs in just seven games. He has been especially crushed by right-handed hitters, who have eight home runs and a .467 wOBA against him. Taylor Ward ($4,000) is the only player expected to be in the lineup priced at $4K or higher, meaning plays like Luis Rengifo (discussed above), Jared Walsh ($2,900) and Max Stassi ($3,400) are all affordable options to consider and bargains like Jo Adell ($2,200), Brandon Marsh ($2,400) and Phil Gosselin ($2,100) offer high ceilings as punt plays under $2.5K. Grabbing a few cheap Angels gives you the salary to pay up for the Blue Jays or to check out a pricey Dodgers or Yankees stack if the weather in those games looks like it will cooperate.
Set your DraftKings fantasy baseball lineups here: MLB $250K Relay Throw [$50K to 1st]
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is z.thompson) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups. I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
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