Let’s get weird. We’ve got ourselves a mini-slate this evening in the world of baseball, as just four nine-inning games are scheduled past 7:00 p.m. ET on Thursday night. It’s not exactly a bunch of aces taking the hill, either. As such, we might have to get a little creative with our pitching choices, but who doesn’t love taking a few mid-week risks?
Let’s go position-by-position and break down everything you’ll need to know.
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Sandy Alcantara, Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies, $9,300 - Alcantara got absolutely lit up by the Dodgers in his last start, but his numbers prior to that outing were fantastic. In eight starts and 49.2 innings, the right-hander maintained a pristine 2.72 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP, all while holding opposing hitters to an underwhelming .264 wOBA. I’d anticipate Alcantara getting back on track this evening against the Phillies, especially if J.T. Realmuto ($4,900; hand) remains sidelined. It certainly helps matters than Philadelphia has struck out in 27.5% of its plate appearances so far in May — the third-highest mark in the league.
Vince Velasquez, Philadelphia Phillies vs. Miami Marlins, $7,500 - Some people are completely opposed to using two pitchers from the same game, as the practice limits win equity and potential upside. However, on a slate this small, you have to break some rules; especially with Coors Field East (TD Ballpark) and a bulk situation for the Dodgers adding a few extra wrinkles into the mix. Plus, Velasquez has looked good in his first three starts since getting fully stretched out. In fact, dating back to May 3, the RHP has allowed just three earned runs in 17.0 innings of work. Sure, a .158 BABIP has helped his cause, yet a 27.9% strikeout rate somewhat mitigates that concern. This is also a great matchup against a Marlins lineup that’s dead-last among NL clubs in OBP (.273) so far in May, but one that leads the senior circuit in strikeout rate within that same span (28.2%).
Will Smith, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, $4,600 - Some of us have been waiting three days to stack against Merrill Kelly ($8,800). The right-hander has had his start pushed back on both Tuesday and Wednesday; however, mercifully, Kelly will finally take the mound this evening. I can sort of see why the Diamondbacks were putting off the occasion. Kelly ranks in just the 14th percentile of pitchers in expected slugging percentage (.499), while he sits in the 11th percentile in whiff rate. That’s a bad combination, and one a power bat like Smith can surely exploit.
Jacob Stallings, Pittsburgh Pirates at Atlanta Braves, $2,900 - Stallings has missed the last couple of games with a quadriceps bruise, but I really hope he’s back behind the dish tonight. The hulking backstop has crushed left-handed pitching in 2021, posting a .333 ISO and a 142 wRC+ in 29 plate appearances. He’s also been primarily batting clean-up for the Pirates the past week, which is not a trait you normally find in an asset priced below $3K.
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Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, $5,200 - After a horrendous slump to begin May, Freeman is starting to break out. In the 49 plate appearances the reigning National League MVP has taken since May 8, he’s slashing .317/.429/.683 with a .366 ISO and a 194 wRC+. Those are the kind of numbers you can produce when you’ve hit three home runs in your past five games. The good times should continue for Freeman with Wil Crowe ($6,200) toeing the rubber for Pittsburgh, as the RHP has conceded a .405 wOBA to lefties throughout his brief career.
Bobby Dalbec, Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays, $3,000 - Dalbec isn’t going to wow anyone with his lineup placement or his contact skills, but the man has some power. For his career, Dalbec sports a .245 ISO, and his numbers only get better when you isolate his plate appearances against left-handed pitching in 2021. The 25-year-old is hitting .326 within the split, with a .417 wOBA and a 167 wRC+. Dalbec’s likely capped at four at-bats in tonight’s contest, but Steven Matz ($9,000) will have to tread carefully with the first baseman in the batter’s box.
Max Muncy, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, $4,900 - While Muncy’s patience will always been a better trait in real-life than in DFS, no one can deny that the infielder has mashed right-handed pitching so far this season. Coming into Thursday, Muncy owns a 1.016 OPS and a 178 wRC+ within the split, as seven of his eight home runs have come against righties. Plus, the aforementioned Kelly has seriously struggled to pitch away from Chase Field in 2021, making this an even better matchup for the Dodgers. To wit, Kelly’s allowed a .375 opponent wOBA in his five outings on the road.
Enrique Hernandez, Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays, $3,500 - On the heels of a three-hit day — one that included his fifth home run of the season — Hernandez once again stands as a decent value option against Toronto. The veteran’s numbers versus left-handed pitching haven’t been as amazing as you might assume the past few seasons, yet, for his career, Hernandez has a 119 wRC+ within the split. More importantly, he’s going to hit leadoff in a game with the highest implied total on the slate.
Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, $5,000 - I’ll be honest, options are a little limited at the top-end of third base, with only three active players coming in with a price tag above $4.5K. Still, though you’d generally prefer to use Turner against a left-handed opponent, the veteran fits into a Dodgers stack with ease. It’s also not like he can’t get a hit in a right-on-right matchup, as Turner owns a 147 wRC+ across 114 plate appearances within the split so far this season.
Erik Gonzalez, Pittsburgh Pirates at Atlanta Braves, $2,600 - Look, there isn’t a statistic in the world that is going to make you believe Gonzalez is an elite hitter. However, the infielder’s numbers against left-handed pitching dating back to the beginning of 2019 are impressive in any context. Within that span, Gonzalez is slashing .312/.344/.480 with a 121 wRC+ in 132 plate appearances. Not bad for someone priced this close to the minimum, especially in a matchup with Drew Smyly ($8,400). A whopping 49.5% of the batted ball events Smyly has surrendered in 2021 have had an exit velocity of at least 95.0 mph, which is the fifth-highest mark of all pitchers with at least 90 BBEs.
Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays, $5,700 - I’ve always tended to prefer utilizing Bogaerts when the Red Sox are playing at Fenway, but setting hasn’t really mattered for the shortstop in recent weeks. Anywhere he’s located, he’s been crushing the baseball. Since the start of May, Bogaerts is batting .371 with a .306 ISO and a 209 wRC+. For the season as a whole, he also owns a .999 OPS against left-handed pitching, which bodes well for a matchup with the aforementioned Matz.
Gavin Lux, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, $3,600 - Lux hasn’t hit as well in the majors as most predicted he would, but his bat has been coming to life the past few days. Going back to May 11, the former top prospect is slashing .393/.469/.679 with a .488 wOBA in 32 plate appearances. Lux has also been slotted as high as fifth in Los Angeles’ batting order, as the Dodgers continue to deal with a bevy of injuries.
Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, $6,100 - With not a single pitching option priced above $10K, you’ll have the funds necessary to pay-up for Acuna if you so choose — and why wouldn’t you? In eight career MLB appearances, Crowe has pitched to a 6.74 FIP and he’s allowed opponents to hit 2.17 home runs per nine. Acuna, who leads the National League in both expected slugging percentage (.676) and expected wOBA (.458), should be able to take advantage of such a matchup.
Bryan Reynolds, Pittsburgh Pirates at Atlanta Braves, $3,600 - Reynolds might be my favorite dollar-for-dollar play on tonight’s slate. The 26-year-old has apparently bounced back from a horrendous 2020 campaign, as Reynolds is slashing .309/.397/.527 with a 152 wRC+ so far in May. However, the most enticing split Reynolds brings to the table is his ability to hit left-handed pitching. In 47 plate appearances this season, the young outfielder has posted a 1.053 OPS and a .444 wOBA. Smyly, who’s conceded 2.61 home runs per nine in 2021, could be in some danger on Thursday.
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