If there’s one thing to keep an eye on ahead of tonight’s five-game featured slate on DraftKings it’s the mystery surrounding who will start for the Blue Jays. There’s a very good chance that the recently demoted Tanner Roark ($6,700) will take the bump — either as a starter or in some sort of bulk role — yet that hasn’t been completely confirmed. Still, if that ends up being the case, your process on which team to stacks against just got a whole lot simpler.
Let’s go position-by-position and break down everything else you’ll need to know to set your lineups.
Editor’s Note: Blue Jays SP Anthony Kay will start tonight’s game vs. the Royals.
Patrick Corbin, Washington Nationals vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, $7,800 - I am fully ready to play the excuses game when it comes to Corbin’s disastrous first outing of 2021. The left-hander missed two weeks of action on the COVID-19 injury list and then was immediately thrown into the fire against a Dodgers team leads baseball in wOBA (.378) and wRC+ (139). Plus, while Corbin’s control was shaky at best, he still finished that outing with 10 swinging strikes on 80 pitches — pretty significant when you consider that Los Angeles is one of only three teams with a swinging strike rate lower than 10% on the season. The matchup is far more appealing on Thursday, with the 31-year-old set to face a Diamondbacks squad that remains without Ketel Marte.
Sean Manaea, Oakland Athletics vs. Detroit Tigers, $7,400 - The pitching on this slate is horrendous, so you can really only dip so low on the pricing list. That’s where someone like Manaea comes in. While the left-hander has seen his strikeout totals tumble across the past few seasons, his career numbers are decent and he’s coming off a fantastic outing versus the Astros last Friday. He’s also seen an uptick in his fastball velocity through two starts, with his 91.5 mph average representing his highest mark since all the way back in 2017. Both of those appearances came against Houston, a team that currently owns the American League’s lowest strikeout rate at just 18.6%. Detroit, on the other hand, is one of seven teams with a strikeout rate of at least 27%. The Tigers’ lineup should help raise Manaea’s somewhat boring ceiling.
Sal Perez, Kansas City Royals vs. Toronto Blue Jays, $4,900 - Through 43 plate appearances, Perez has picked up right where he left off in 2020, slashing .333/.395/.641 with a 185 wRC+. It doesn’t really matter the matchup, Perez is viable, and that’s a key point when it comes to this particular slate. Either the Jays do start Roark — who surrendered a massive .495 wOBA to the 118 RHBs he faced last season — or they have a bullpen day. Either way, you want Perez in your lineups.
Jose Trevino, Texas Rangers at Tampa Bay Rays, $3,100 - It’s hard to not like Trevino as a frugal option on this evening’s slate. Not only is the backstop a career .314 hitter against left-handers like Rich Hill ($9,000), but when Texas last drew a lefty opposing starter on Tuesday, Trevino hit clean-up. Even if 90% of his value is derived from lineup positioning, that’s still a lot of upside for an asset priced slightly above $3K.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays at Kansas City Royals, $5,100 - Though Jakob Junis ($6,400) was able to shut down Cleveland across five scoreless innings in his first start of the season, I wouldn’t be expecting a similar result on Thursday. The history just doesn’t back him up. Among the 50 pitchers to have thrown at least 350 innings from the beginning of 2018 to the end of 2020, Junis allowed the third-most home runs per nine (1.67). He’s not overpowering, he doesn’t miss bats and he basically has a two-pitch mix. Guerrero, who’s registered multiple hits in five of his last seven games, should be able to take advantage.
Rowdy Tellez, Toronto Blue Jays at Kansas City Royals, $2,900 - While Tellez’s statistics to begin 2021 look bleak, there’s a chance that his major slump to begin the season has come to an end. After getting his first hit of the year on Monday — off of Gerrit Cole of all people — Tellez finished the final two games of Toronto’s series against New York with three more base knocks, including his first home run. You have to remember, Tellez posted a .302 ISO against right-handed pitching in 2020. He possesses some enticing ceiling, especially for someone as cheap as he currently is.
Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals vs. Toronto Blue Jays, $5,700 - Merrifield is insanely expensive, but I do truly believe that this is going to be the highest-scoring game on tonight’s slate — particularly if Roark gets involved. Still, much like his aforementioned teammate, Merrifield’s viability exists in a vacuum. The infielder is currently slashing .375/.391/.650 and he’s a candidate to garner five plate appearances batting from the leadoff spot. Merrifield also rarely walks or strikes out, so those PAs usually translate to batted ball events.
Jed Lowrie, Oakland Athletics vs. Detroit Tigers, $3,600 - Should we be all that shocked that Lowrie’s good again now that he’s back in Oakland? The veteran mustered just eight plate appearances in two calendar years with the Mets, yet, so far in 2021, Lowrie is hitting .333 with a .214 ISO and a .455 wOBA. It’s likely that the infielder’s numbers will soon regress, but Lowrie comes into tonight’s matchup against the left-handed Tarik Skubal ($6,300) with multiple-hits in four-straight contests, batting primarily out of the three-spot. The switch-hitter is also 7-for-12 as an RHB to this point in the season.
Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Colorado Rockies, $5,500 - It’s easy to see why the Rockies were interested in acquiring Austin Gomber ($6,900), who has the ability to keep the ball on the ground; yet few things are as constant in life as Turner crushing left-handed pitching. The veteran is red-hot to start 2021, anyway, with a 213 wRC+ through his first 46 plate appearances. There’s also the matter of Colorado’s bullpen, which owns a 5.32 ERA — the worst mark in the National League. Turner’s in a fantastic spot.
Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics vs. Detroit Tigers, $4,300 - With four hits across his past two games, Chapman might finally be shaking off the rust of the offseason. I mean, it’s not like we don’t know what his bat is capable of. Just last year, Chapman ranked in the 98th percentile in both average exit velocity (93.6) and barrel rate (18.0%) — two metrics he’s tended to thrive within throughout his career. In a right-on-left matchup with Skubal, this seems like a fair price to take a chance on the upside of the Gold Glove third baseman.
Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays at Kansas City Royals, $4,900 - Bichette being just the fourth-most expensive shortstop on tonight’s tiny slate is, well, a choice. You really might not find a hitter that’s more locked in at the dish right now than Toronto’s former second-round pick. In his last 36 plate appearances, Bichette is slashing .394/.417/.848 with a .455 ISO and a 237 wRC+. It’s certainly a small sample, but we’re talking about the king of impressive small sample stats. Heck, with his pair of home runs yesterday, Bichette evoked the name of Joe DiMaggio. Not too shabby for a 23-year-old, right?
Nick Ahmed, Arizona Diamondbacks at Washington Nationals, $3,100 - Ahmed’s been generally unimpressive since returning from the IL, but the shortstop did find himself batting fifth in Arizona’s lineup when the team last faced a left-handed pitcher on Tuesday. That’s not just desperation from the Diamondbacks, either. For his career, Ahmed sports a 106 wRC+ when facing a southpaw, compared to an ugly 63 wRC+ against RHPs. Corbin isn’t the ideal LHP, but beggars can’t be choosers at this price point.
Juan Soto, Washington Nationals vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, $6,000 - There’s enough value on this slate to drop $6K on Soto. Believe me, you’ll find the money. As you might expect, Soto’s been a force against right-handed pitching to this point in 2021, slashing .500/.591/.556 across his first 22 plate appearances within the split. Meanwhile, Merrill Kelly ($7,100) has not looked sharp for Arizona, pitching to a 9.00 expected ERA and allowing LHBs to compile a whopping .439 wOBA. When you get the chance to put a phenom in your DFS lineups, you do it.
Stephen Piscotty, Oakland Athletics vs. Detroit Tigers, $2,400 - You could give me a thousand years and I still wouldn’t be able to explain this price tag. Piscotty, who hit his first home run of the season on Tuesday and sports a 132 wRC+, has proven himself to be a good hitter over the last half-decade. So, again, why is he this cheap in a matchup against a struggling LHP? In 2019, Piscotty registered a 1.019 OPS within the split. He can mash lefties. This is insanity.
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