For the second day in a row, we’ve got a massive MLB featured slate kicking off just after 1:00 p.m. ET. This time around, it’s a seven-game schedule, where not a single starting pitcher in priced above $10K. Still, don’t let that fool you into thinking navigating Thursday’s pricing will be easy, as we remain in the small sample guessing game that is April baseball.
Let’s go position-by-position and break down everything you’ll need to know to set your lineups.
Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals, $9,400 - Burnes isn’t going to strike out 52.4% of opponents in every start he makes in 2021, but it’s a little crazy to think the right-hander’s stuff might currently be better than it was last season. Just a reminder, Burnes struck out 36.7% of the batters he faced across 59.2 innings in 2020. He was amazing by every metric. However, in his outing against the Twins, Burnes saw huge velocity jumps from both his fastball (98.1) and his cutter (96.3). It’s almost not fair, particularly for RHBs, who struggled to a measly .194 slugging percentage off the RHP last year. With the Cardinals being a predominantly right-handed lineup, Burnes has a clear advantage on this slate.
Tyler Anderson, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs, $6,600 - Am I a little concerned about the fact that this is the second time Anderson will be facing the Cubs in a week? Sure. However, my worry is lessened with each and every second I spend looking over Chicago’s offensive stats. The Cubs entered play on Wednesday slashing .132/.265/.316 as a team, and that was before they were nearly no-hit over seven innings by Brandon Woodruff. Everyone is slumping and the dish, which might explain why Anderson was able to induce 21 swings and misses in 91 pitches back on Apr. 3. This is a good matchup in a good ballpark at a great price.
Christian Vazquez, Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles, $5,200 - There’s a lot to like in this matchup for Vazquez. First and foremost, the backstop is on absolute fire with eight hits in his past four games, but this is about way more than recency bias. Boston’s implied team total is the highest non-Coors mark on the slate and Vazquez’s strengths as a hitter line up well with Matt Harvey’s ($7,600) arsenal. To wit, the RHP used his fastball in 66.3% of counts in his first start of 2020. Going back to the beginning of 2019, Vazquez has a .239 ISO against fourseam offerings.
Pedro Severino, Baltimore Orioles vs. Boston Red Sox, $3,700 - While Severino has profiled as a relatively league-average bat over the past two seasons, he should have the advantage of premium lineup positioning on Thursday. The last time the Orioles faced an LHP, Severino hit fifth. I’d expect him to do the same against Eduardo Rodriguez ($7,900), who will be making his first MLB start since 2019. There might be some rust.
Pete Alonso, New York Mets vs. Miami Marlins, $4,900 - This feels cheap for Alonso, especially considering that Nick Neidert ($6,000) is making an emergency start for the Marlins on Thursday. The 24-year-old has only thrown 49.1 career innings above Double-A and, as you might imagine, those haven’t gone great, with Neidert pitching to a combined 5.11 ERA across two levels. Neidert also profiles as someone who pitches to contact, which is not the best strategy to deal with Alonso and his career barrel rate of 15.1%.
Colin Moran, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs, $3,400 - You know, I honestly didn’t think I’d be writing this much about the Pirates. Anyway, let’s talk Jake Arrieta ($8,500). From the beginning of 2019 to the end of 2020, there were 61 pitchers who threw at least 80.0 innings against left-handed opponents. Of those 61, Arrieta surrendered the highest slugging percentage (.530) and wOBA (.383) within the split. Moran’s cheap, he hits in the top of Pittsburgh’s order and, most importantly, he’s a lefty.
Ryan McMahon, Colorado Rockies vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, $4,500 - Every game won’t feature McMahon hitting three home runs, but an every day role in this Rockies lineup has been the dream going back to 2018. It seems like we’re finally there. Tonight, McMahon draws a nice opposite-hand matchup with Merrill Kelly ($6,800), a man who owns a career 5.38 FIP when pitching in the road, thanks primarily to a 1.71 HR/9 within the split. Well, Coors is about the worst road park in the world.
Jeff McNeil, New York Mets vs. Miami Marlins, $3,400 - McNeil hasn’t had an ideal start to the season — in both his lack of hitting and his lineup positioning — but an opposite-hand matchup against Neidert might be just the thing needed to turn it all around. I mean, at the end of the day, McNeil is a career .323 hitter versus right-handed pitching. He owns an impressive 145 wRC+ within the split. He’s due for a good performance and this salary doesn’t properly reflect his skill level.
Yoan Moncada, Chicago White Sox vs. Kansas City Royals, $4,600 - Strikeouts have been the big concern with Moncada through 28 plate appearances in 2021, yet that’s not generally an issue when it comes to Brad Keller ($6,900). The right-hander — who blew up for six earned runs over 1.1 innings on Opening Day — has struck out just 15.3% of opponents going back to the beginning of last season, which means Moncada should be in line for some contact on Thursday. Considering his power potential as a left-handed hitter, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Moncada break out of his mini-slump.
Bobby Dalbec, Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles, $3,500 - Dalbec secured his first two hits of 2021 in Wednesday’s win over Tampa Bay, giving him some momentum heading into this nice matchup with Harvey. Going back to the start of 2017, no active pitcher in baseball has conceded more opponent home runs per nine than Harvey (1.86), and his fastball velocity has only dropped as that time frame’s carried on. It’s a bad mix, especially with Dalbec’s incredible power. The rookie has some serious upside in this spot, even if he’s limited to just four plate appearances at best.
Francisco Lindor, New York Mets vs. Miami Marlins, $4,700 - I’ll continue to stack Mets assets with Lindor, who happens to be rocking his lowest price tag of the young season on Thursday. To be clear, we’re not just talking about an opportunity to score some runs off the inexperienced Neidert, but also a Marlins bullpen that has been underwhelming at best to begin 2021. In fact, coming into this afternoon’s slate, Miami’s 6.75 reliever ERA is the second-worst mark in the National League. New York’s going to light up the scoreboard.
Josh Rojas, Arizona Diamondbacks at Colorado Rockies, $4,400 - Is Rojas really a value? That’s debatable. However, unless we see something quirky with lineup construction on Thursday, there is absolutely no one I’d be willing to put in a lineup for less than $4K at this position. Rojas is struggling at the dish, but he has been batting second for the Diamondbacks. He’s also get to face Jon Gray ($7,000), who allowed the 66 LHBs he faced at Coors in 2020 to compile a massive .412 wOBA.
Nelson Cruz, Minnesota Twins vs. Seattle Mariners, $5,400 - Since the beginning of 2019, among qualified hitters, no one can compare to Cruz when it comes to hitting southpaws. The veteran ranks first in baseball within the split in ISO (.445), wOBA (.502) and wRC+ (221), while he’s also struck out in just 16.8% of those 197 plate appearances. If I were Marco Gonzales ($7,300), I would be extremely careful pitching to Cruz.
Adam Eaton, Chicago White Sox vs. Kansas City Royals, $3,700 - While it might feel like the 32-year-old is a little past his prime, Eaton’s still shown an ability to hit right-handed pitching in recent seasons. He’s also apparently earned the trust of manager Tony La Russa, because it’s been Eaton batting leadoff in place of the injured Tim Anderson (hamstring). Chicago is one of four teams with an implied team total better than five runs on this slate. If you can get a bat in the top-third of a lineup like that for less than $4K, you sort of have to.
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