As is generally the case on Thursday, we’ve got two different featured MLB slates to partake in, should you so choose. Things get going on DraftKings with a four-gamer at 12:20 p.m. ET, but if you’re someone with responsibilities in the afternoon on a weekday — a “job” I believe it’s called — there’s a second slate that get’s underway this evening at 7:05 p.m. ET. It’s eight games and it’ll be the focus of this article.
Let’s go position-by-position and break down what you need to know.
Lance Lynn, Chicago White Sox vs. Detroit Tigers, $9,700 - I’d assume that the biggest decision facing most people on tonight’s slate will end up being the choice between Lynn and Yu Darvish ($10,700). Both are pitching like All-Stars so far in 2021 and each has a reasonably enticing matchup on Thursday. However, despite improved offensive play from the Tigers, I think it’s pretty obvious that Lynn is the No. 1 option. Across his past five outings, the veteran has registered a 0.96 ERA and has held opponents to a modest .210 wOBA. Lynn’s also struck out 28 in 28.0 innings during that stretch, showcasing the type of strikeout upside necessary to carry a price tag this large. “Improved offensive play” is pretty relative, too. While Detroit’s been better, that’s still translated into a top 10 strikeout rate (25.5%) and a 99 wRC+ over the past two weeks. There’s nothing to fear here.
Casey Mize, Detroit Tigers at Chicago White Sox, $6,700 - Mize might be easier to pair with the aforementioned Darvish, at least if you’re someone looking to totally maximize ceiling in a build; but let’s approach the rookie’s viability in a vacuum. After struggling to start 2021, Mize showcased the stuff that made him a former first-overall pick in the month of May. Over 31.0 innings of work, the right-hander pitched to a 1.74 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP, as he held opponents within this span to an anemic .238 slugging percentage and .229 wOBA. Mize has also sported a 28.6% strikeout rate throughout his three most-recent starts, outings where he’s scored at least 20.0 DKFP each time. He’s far from a finished product and the White Sox can hit, but Mize is intriguing with a price tag below $7K.
Sal Perez, Kansas City Royals vs. Minnesota Twins, $5,100 - There are almost too many reasons to like Perez on this slate. First and foremost, he’ll get to face the left-handed J.A Happ ($7,000), which is something he’s rather enjoyed doing throughout his career. I’m usually not a huge fan of BvP statistics, however the fact that Perez owns an .818 expected slugging percentage against Happ in 20 plate appearances seems notable. Heck, even if you’re not in this for a history lesson, simply know that Happ is struggling at the moment. Coming into Thursday’s start, the veteran has surrendered a .442 wOBA to opponents dating back to May 12. That’s awful.
Carson Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks at Milwaukee Brewers, $4,000 - Kelly’s production has fallen off since a trip to the IL, but a matchup with Brett Anderson ($8,700) might be just what the doctor ordered. The backstop has always hit left-handed pitching well, and 2021 has been no exception. In 43 plate appearances within the split, Kelly is slashing .379/.558/.690 with a 227 wRC+. Expect to see him near the top of Arizona’s lineup this evening.
Refer a friend and get $20 DK Dollars! Head to the DraftKings Playbook Promo page for more details!
Garrett Cooper, Miami Marlins at Pittsburgh Pirates, $4,300 - You’ll have to keep an eye on this game, as Pittsburgh is expected to get some rain on Thursday, but if things clear up, Cooper is a great asset in a matchup against Tyler Anderson ($8,200). Going back to the beginning of 2020, Cooper is slashing .318/.362/.625 with a .307 ISO and a .415 wOBA against left-handed pitching. It’s the reason that he generally bats in the middle of the Marlins’ order when the team is facing a southpaw and it’s the reason he’ll fit comfortably into your lineups.
Dan Vogelbach, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, $2,600 - If there’s any indication of how pitching starved the Diamondbacks currently are, know that Jon Duplantier ($5,200) and his career 5.41 xERA seemed like a good option when juxtaposed to Seth Frankoff, the team’s initial probable starter. That’s where Vogelbach comes into the mix. If the veteran is hitting second — which he was the last time Milwaukee drew an RHP — he’s certainly viable at his bargain basement price point against any right-hander Arizona decides to throw his way.
Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals vs. Minnesota Twins, $5,400 - We all know the drill with Merrifield: Use him against below-average left-handed pitching and profit. Merrifield is a career .310 hitter within the split and, so far in 2021, the infielder has posted a 139 wRC+ in his 64 plate appearances against southpaws. Also helping Merrifield’s viability is the fact he leads baseball with 16 steals. He has many different ways of reaching value.
Kolten Wong, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, $4,200 - It’s been a little under the radar, as virtually no one else on the Brewers has been hitting at all, but Wong’s been hot at the plate the past three weeks. Going back to May 16, the second baseman is slashing .345/.379/.582 with a .236 ISO and a 161 wRC+. Those kind of numbers play in any circumstance, but they especially stand out when you’re about to face the aforementioned Duplantier and your team has the highest implied total on the slate.
Anthony Rendon, Los Angeles Angels vs. Seattle Mariners, $4,900 - Rendon has been completely underwhelming so far in 2021, though he did manage a three-hit game the last time he took the field on Tuesday. Maybe that gets things jump-started, or maybe the presence of Justus Sheffield ($7,900) will draw him out of his slump. For his career, Rendon has consistently punished left-handed pitching. In fact, going back to the start of 2017, the former All-Star has a .988 OPS and a .405 wOBA within the split. With the Angels in possession of one of the slate’s highest implied totals, this seems like a good night to bank on a Rendon breakout.
Travis Shaw, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, $3,300 - I could try and sugarcoat this a couple different ways, but here’s the honest truth: Travis Shaw is not a good hitter, but he’s left-handed and this is a good matchup. I am being 100% upfront when I tell you those are his only qualifications on Thursday’s slate. You’re not so much putting your trust in Shaw as you are stacking against Duplantier. He’s cheap, too. That’s fun.
Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres vs. New York Mets, $5,800 - There is a decent chance that Tatis returns to the Padres’ lineup this evening, which obviously makes one of the best hitters in all of baseball very, very viable. Tatis has been an offensive supernova when healthy and he’s statistically been the most dangerous National League hitter when it comes to drawing a right-handed pitcher. The shortstop leads baseball with a .429 ISO within the split, while only Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has a higher wRC+ than Tatis’ mark of 197.
Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants vs. Chicago Cubs, $3,700 - While Crawford started the season ice cold, he’s been a different hitter since the beginning of May. In that span of time, the veteran owns a .997 OPS and a 167 wRC+ — figures that you don’t normally see attached to someone with a price tag below $4K. Heck, in the 67 plate appearances he’s specifically had against right-handed pitchers dating back to May 1, Crawford has registered a massive .364 ISO and a .471 wOBA. Zach Davies ($6,100) has been better of late, but Crawford deserves your attention.
Nelson Cruz, Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals, $5,100 - Obviously Cruz has a long-standing history of crushing left-handed pitching — this season alone he owns a 152 wRC+ within the split — but for me, this play is more about Kris Bubic ($6,900). The lefty’s 1.52 ERA is nice, yet a 4.70 xFIP suggests that some serious regression is just around the corner. Cruz also saw Bubic as recently as May 28, hitting a double off the southpaw in three plate appearances. The element of surprise is out the window tonight.
Ketel Marte, Arizona Diamondbacks at Milwaukee Brewers, $4,100 - Why is Marte this cheap? Just last week, the outfielder found himself over $5K and now he’s barely cresting $4K? I don’t really understand, especially with the matchup he draws this evening. Anderson has survived so far in 2021, but an 8.14 xERA is a jaw-dropping weakness that Marte should have little issue exploiting. This is an asset that has racked up seven hits in his past four games and has managed a 161 wRC+ for the season as a whole. Pretty good stuff.
Put your knowledge to the test. Sign up for DraftKings and experience the game inside the game.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theglt13) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
21+ (18+ NH). CO/IL/IN/IA/NH/NJ/PA/TN/VA/WV/MI only. Eligibility restrictions apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for full terms and conditions.