After a pair of massive MLB slates on Tuesday and Wednesday, we’ve got something a little more manageable on Thursday. There are only six scheduled games past 7:05 p.m. ET this evening, and one of them — the contest between the Giants and the Nationals — seems very likely to be postponed due to thunderstorms.
How does that effect lineup strategy? Let’s go position-by-position and break it all down.
Editor’s Note: Tonight’s game between the Giants and the Nationals has been postponed due to inclement weather.
Trevor Rogers, Miami Marlins vs. Colorado Rockies, $9,000 - Rogers’ ownership might be 214% if Max Scherzer ($11,400) and the Nationals get postponed, but it’s difficult to worry too much about exposure. The left-hander has been pitching beautifully heading into Thursday’s start, sporting a 1.97 ERA and a 2.49 FIP across his first 68.2 innings of work in 2021. There just isn’t anything here to dislike. Rogers rarely gets barreled, he possesses insane strikeout (29.7%) and swinging strike (14.6%) rates and, most important of all, he’s drawing the Rockies away from Coors Field. Colorado is dead-last in baseball in ISO (.091) and wOBA (.253) on the road.
Eduardo Rodriguez, Boston Red Sox vs. Houston Astros, $7,300 - This is another situation where the rain in the forecast plays a huge role. Anthony DeSclafani ($6,300) would be the perfect pay-down option at pitcher tonight, but as of writing, there’s too much uncertainty surrounding that contest. So, in his place, let’s talk about Rodriguez. This is far from an ideal matchup for the left-hander; however, Rodriguez has been pitching so much better than his surface stats suggest. While his ERA might be an ugly 5.59, the veteran’s xERA (3.57) and xFIP (3.24) are far more telling of his performance in 2021. Also, how often do you see someone striking out 10.09 opponents per nine priced this far below $8K? E-Rod is by no means a cash play with the Astros having crushed southpaws all season long, yet he needs to be considered in all GPPs.
Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees at Minnesota Twins, $4,600 - I’m always hesitant to say that Sanchez is heating up, as history has proven his offensive faults time and time again; however, the backstop is slashing .353/.436/.618 with a 188 wRC+ dating back to May 27. Sanchez also gets the privilege of facing J.A. Happ ($5,800) on Thursday. In his 51 prior plate appearances against left-handed pitching in 2021, Sanchez has registered a .289 ISO. There’s a lot of ceiling in this spot.
Riley Adams, Toronto Blue Jays at Chicago White Sox, $2,000 - This is a total punt play, but you could do worse than Adams at the minimum in a few lineups. The rookie was showcasing big power in Triple-A prior to his promotion — Adams had a .350 ISO and a 166 wRC+ in 78 plate appearances — and he hasn’t looked out of place in a big league uniform in his first two games with the Jays. Adams should draw the start with the left-handed Dallas Keuchel ($6,100) on the mound for Chicago, and Toronto does possess one of this slate’s highest implied team totals.
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Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays at Chicago White Sox, $5,400 - Let’s dive into Keuchel’s 2021 campaign. While the veteran’s ground ball rate is still elite (59.5%), Keuchel has almost completely lost his ability to miss bats. In fact, the lefty has struck out just 10.9% of the RHBs he’s faced so far this season and he’s surrendered the second-most barrels in the league (22) due mostly to the fact that few qualified pitchers have induced as many total batted ball events. For a pitcher, contact is not your friend, especially when the man leading baseball in wRC+ is standing in the batter’s box.
Yuli Gurriel, Houston Astros at Boston Red Sox, $4,000 - While I do support the use of the aforementioned Rodriguez, if you do decide to go another direction, Gurriel is far too cheap on Thursday’s slate. The 37-year-old has walked more times than he’s struck out in 2021, and that’s led to Gurriel posting an eye-popping 163 wRC+ through 239 plate appearances. The veteran also owns a .276 ISO and a 1.031 OPS when specifically facing left-handed opponents so far this season.
Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals at Oakland Athletics, $5,100 - The Royals might present a sneaky stacking opportunity on Thursday. While Frankie Montas ($8,100) has the raw stuff of an ace, the results just haven’t been there so far in 2021. In fact, on top of allowing the sixth-most opponent barrels per BBE among all qualified pitchers (11.0%), Montas has conceded a whopping 1.97 home runs per nine to right-handed batters. Merrifield, an RHB, should be able to do some damage hitting atop Kansas City’s lineup.
DJ LeMahieu, New York Yankees at Minnesota Twins, $4,200 - The term “underwhelming” probably doesn’t do justice to explain LeMahieu’s season to this point, but he’s got a chance to make amends this evening versus Happ, who has been absolutely shelled in his past five starts. Dating back to May 12, the left-hander owns an embarrassing 10.17 ERA, which he pairs with an opponent wOBA of .452. If LeMahieu, a career .320 hitter against LHPs, can’t get something going tonight, he might actually be broken.
Alex Bregman, Houston Astros at Boston Red Sox, $5,000 - Another spot to possibly take advantage of if you’re not feeling Eduardo Rodriguez’s advanced statistics. Bregman’s value tonight is pretty simple: He’s crushed left-handed pitching throughout his career and nothing’s changed so far in 2021. To wit, in 99 plate appearances within the split, Bregman is slashing .321/.424/.512 with a 160 wRC+. Plus, if you like BvP, the All-Star does have two home runs against Rodriguez in his prior nine at-bats.
Gio Urshela, New York Yankees at Minnesota Twins, $4,000 - There’s nothing breathtaking about Urshela’s profile — he does come into tonight’s contest riding an eight-game hitting steak — but he’s a middle-of-the-order bat for the Yankees hovering around the $4K mark. On a slate this small, that’s more than enough to be viable, especially considering that New York possesses the highest implied team total of the night. The .529 slugging percentage that Happ’s allowed to RHBs doesn’t hurt Urshela’s case, either.
Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays at Chicago White Sox, $4,400 - If this price tag feels a little inexpensive, it’s because it is. This is the lowest salary Bichette has had all season long, which is more than just a little odd considering the circumstances of tonight’s matchup with Keuchel. Not only does Bichette have five hits in his past two games, but he’s registered a .308 average and a 146 wRC+ when given the opportunity to face left-handed pitching so far in 2021. Bichette is also not the type of batter you want to be putting the ball in play, as 52.0% of his BBEs have had an exit velocity of at least 95.0 mph — a mark that is in the 91st percentile of the league. The contact-oriented Keuchel could be in trouble here.
Jorge Polanco, Minnesota Twins vs. New York Yankees, $4,100 - There isn’t much to get excited about below $4K at shortstop on tonight’s slate, so I wouldn’t advise dipping below Polanco. Why would you want to fade the Twins’ infielder, anyway? Polanco has been on fire the past two weeks, slashing .292/.352/.625 with a 163 wRC+ going back to May 28. He’ll likely be hitting leadoff this evening against Michael King ($5,700), who owns a 7.04 ERA as a starter so far this season. That’s not exactly intimidating.
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees at Minnesota Twins, $5,600 - There’s a reason that Judge is the most-expensive outfielder on this evening’s slate: He’s probably going to hit a home run. This shouldn’t come as too much of a shock — Judge does lead all qualified players in expected wOBA (.458) — and the veteran has demolished left-handed pitching so far this season to the tune of a .454 wOBA and a 196 wRC+. I’m just not quite sure how J.A Happ is going to survive this start, while Minnesota’s bullpen isn’t all that great, either.
Alex Kirilloff, Minnesota Twins vs. New York Yankees, $3,800 - There’s a lot of pop in Kirilloff’s bat. Going back to the Apr. 30, a span of 91 plate appearances for the rookie, Kirilloff is hitting .298 with a .226 ISO and a 136 wRC+. The outfielder has also been incredibly unlucky so far this season, as his .386 expected wOBA is nearly 80 points higher than his actual mark. In a contest that should be high-scoring, Kirilloff appears to be one of the better values on the slate.
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