It’s very rare we’re gifted a slate with a viable starting pitcher priced at the minimum, let alone a pitcher the caliber of Logan Gilbert ($4,000). I mean, is there some sort of record for how much ownership a rookie has carried in their first career outing? Is it 40%? Is it 50%? Anyway, it’s not totally clear how popular Gilbert will be on tonight’s six-game schedule, but the lack of “big-name” options certainly doesn’t help his chances to fly under the radar.
Let’s go position-by-position and break down everything you’ll need to know for Thursday’s action on the diamond.
Jameson Taillon, New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays, $7,700 - While I’ll definitely also have a piece of an expensive asset like Trevor Rogers ($9,300), Taillon seems like a good place to start tonight’s analysis. While the RHP hasn’t always looked comfortable in 2021, he has been much better across his last four outings, compiling a 3.51 xFIP, a 0.98 WHIP and a 30.0% strikeout rate in 20.1 innings of work. To make matters even more appealing, the Rays have been in an offensive tailspin over the past two weeks. In fact, Tampa ranks dead-last in wOBA within that time frame (.269), while it also sits first in strikeout rate (30.9%). If there were ever a spot to pick on the Rays, it’s this evening.
Logan Gilbert, Seattle Mariners vs. Cleveland Baseball Team, $4,000 - Much like paying my freelance wages, this is simply a mistake in money management by the good people at DraftKings. Gilbert is the seventh-best right-handed pitching prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline, but more importantly, he’s absolutely dominated at every stop he’s made. Heck, in his 140.0 career minor league innings, Gilbert’s posted a 2.12 ERA and a strikeout rate above 30.0%. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that success is going to translate to MLB — we literally just saw No. 1 right-handed pitching prospect Nate Pearson struggle this past weekend — however, there are some key differences between the two situations. One, Pearson was $1,700 more expensive. Two, Pearson was facing Houston, not Cleveland. Gilbert has a serious chance at 5x value on Thursday.
Carson Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Miami Marlins, $4,800 - Though Rogers is arguably the best pitcher on this slate, he’s still left-handed, and Kelly loves to hit lefties. This season, in 30 plate appearances within the split, Kelly is slashing .368/.567/.842 with a .551 wOBA. I mean, there’s a reason that the Diamondbacks recently moved their backstop up to the top of the lineup card — the guy can handle a bat.
Jason Castro, Houston Astros vs. Texas Rangers, $3,200 - It’s tough to say I know Castro will be behind the dish for the Astros this evening; however, if Dusty Baker looks at Mike Foltynewicz’s ($6,400) splits for more than a second, he’ll likely get the veteran in the lineup. Foltynewicz has been destroyed by left-handed bats all season, allowing the 72 he’s seen so far to compile a massive .688 slugging percentage. Castro’s also been great in his limited opportunities, posting a 138 wRC+ in 45 plate appearances.
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Mike Moustakas, Cincinnati Reds at Colorado Rockies, $4,700 - I’m a little surprised Moustakas isn’t over $5K on this slate, though with the state of the pitching, price really isn’t the biggest hurdle, anyway. Moose has been his usual self so far in 2021, sporting a .246 ISO and a 127 wRC+ in his opportunities against right-handed pitching. Well, tonight’s RHP is the struggling Chi Chi Gonzalez ($5,500) at Coors Field. It’s difficult to ask for anything more. Gonzalez has conceded a .399 wOBA to LHBs in his 28.2 innings this season, so Moustakas should eat.
Michael Chavis, Boston Red Sox vs. Oakland Athletics, $2,600 - With Enrique Hernandez (hamstring) on the IL, it’s been Marwin Gonzalez ($3,800) primarily filling in for the Red Sox as the team’s leadoff hitter. However, in Boston’s most recent matchup with a left-handed starter, that honor went to Chavis. The 25-year-old doesn’t have a lot of value if this lineup quirk doesn’t occur again on Thursday, though Chavis does own a career .236 ISO against southpaws. There’s some ceiling here.
Ryan McMahon, Colorado Rockies vs. Cincinnati Reds, $5,000 - I’m not quite breaking news here, but this should be a high-scoring tilt between two teams with struggling starting pitchers. It should surprise no one that the Reds and the Rockies own the two highest implied totals on tonight’s slate and Luis Castillo ($6,200) is partly to thank for that. The RHP has a robust 6.42 ERA over his first seven outings, a span in which he’s also surrendered a .413 wOBA to opposing LHBs. McMahon should be able to take advantage of Castillo’s inconsistency, as he’s posted a .355 wOBA in home games this season.
Nick Senzel, Cincinnati Reds at Colorado Rockies, $3,700 - This price tag makes no sense. While Senzel has showcased little to no power so far this season, he’s entrenched himself as the Reds’ leadoff man of late, hitting atop the team’s order in each of their past six games. With the possibility of getting five or more plate appearances at Coors Field — against a starter with a 89.2% zone contact rate — Senzel is a steal for less than $4K.
Alex Bregman, Houston Astros vs. Texas Rangers, $5,500 - While the bulk of Foltynewicz’s issues in 2021 have stemmed from his interactions with LHBs, it’s not like he’s been amazing against RHBs, either. In fact, coming into tonight’s start, the veteran has allowed 1.85 home runs per nine within the split. For Bregman, who’s slashing .333/.395/.513 so far in May, this looks to be another chance to pad his stats, especially with the Astros having an implied team total above five runs.
Gio Urshela, New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays, $4,300 - There’s nothing about Urshela’s numbers that are going to blow you away. In fact, he hasn’t actually hit a home run off an LHP since 2019 — a campaign where he posted an .876 OPS within the split. Still, Urshela has cemented himself as the Yankees’ cleanup hitter and he’ll draw an opposite-hand matchup with the always unpredictable Rich Hill ($7,200) on Thursday. For someone with all that going for them and a 171 wRC+ in May, this is a pretty modest price.
Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox vs. Oakland Athletics, $5,500 - By no means do I think Sean Manaea ($8,800) is a poor pitcher, I just think Bogaerts is a better hitter. By this point, we all know that the shortstop has Herculean numbers when the Red Sox are playing at Fenway, but I think it’s also important to note how red-hot Bogaerts is dating back to Apr. 20. That was the night the veteran hit his first home run of 2021. Since then, Bogaerts has registered a .321 ISO and a 169 wRC+ across 89 plate appearances. Again, he’s simply a really, really good hitter.
J.P. Crawford, Seattle Mariners at Cleveland Baseball Team, $3,800 - It can not be overstated that shortstop is a shallow position on this evening’s small slate; however, Crawford might be able to provide a little salary relief. While it’s unclear how the incoming Jarred Kelenic ($2,000) might alter the batting order, Crawford has hit leadoff for the Mariners in their past three games. The switch hasn’t exactly led to a lot of fantasy relevance, but beggars can’t be choosers, right?
Yordan Alvarez, Houston Astros vs. Texas Rangers, $5,200 - If you were to create the perfect hitter in a lab to use in a matchup with Foltynewicz, your Frankenstein’s monster of a player would look at lot like Alvarez. As mentioned above, lefties have plagued Texas’ RHP all season, with the veteran surrendering 3.45 home runs per nine within the split. Well, few enjoy hitting home runs like Alvarez, who has 35 in just 439 career at-bats. The 23-year-old’s 180 wRC+ — the sixth-highest qualified mark in baseball — is also an encouraging trait. Feel free to sample Michael Brantley ($4,600) or Kyle Tucker ($3,500) in this spot, as well.
Jarred Kelenic, Seattle Mariners vs. Cleveland Baseball Team, $2,000 - Why not? Kelenic is the No. 1 outfield prospect in all of baseball according to MLB Pipeline. The kid can hit, he’ll likely have a premium lineup spot and I guarantee he’ll never be this cheap again. I mean, if you start your lineups tonight with Kelenic and the aforementioned Gilbert, you’ll have about $5K to spend at every other position. That’s a nice luxury.
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