Let’s end the week with a bang, shall we? All 30 teams are on the docket for tonight’s jam-packed 15-game MLB schedule, giving up one of our largest slates so far in 2021. It all gets going at 7:05 p.m. ET, so set your lineups and get ready for all the exciting baseball action.
Actually, before you do all that, let’s go position-by-position and break down what you need to know.
Zach Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies vs. Washington Nationals, $10,700 - I’m not here to suggest that people aren’t aware that Wheeler is good, more so that the general public may not understand that Wheeler’s recently taken things to a whole new level. Across his past five outings, the RHP has maintained a 1.49 ERA and a 1.45 FIP, thanks mostly to a massive 37.5% strikeout rate and a 12.8 K/BB ratio. The fact that he’s held opponents to a meager .206 wOBA doesn’t hurt, either. There’s a case to be made that he should be the second-most expensive starter on this slate, especially with how poorly the Nationals have hit lately, mustering just a .111 ISO over the past 14 days. Wheeler should have little issue keeping the good times going on Friday.
Josh Fleming, Tampa Bay Rays at Texas Rangers, $6,000 - This is probably about as good a matchup as Fleming could draw, with the Rangers having struggled to an MLB-low 74 wRC+ across the past two weeks. On top of that, Texas has had it’s issues hitting left-handed pitching for the season as a whole, coming into tonight’s contest with a .293 wOBA within the split — the fifth-worst mark in the league. Fleming isn’t super flashy and he doesn’t rack up strikeouts at an incredible clip — though his 38.4% chase rate does suggest some room for growth in that department — but he has held opponents to a .139/.225/.208 slash line in his first four starts of 2021. He’s solid, and that’s all you need to be to be viable at $6K.
Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs at San Francisco Giants, $4,400 - You start Contreras when the Cubs are facing a left-handed pitcher. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. For the season, the backstop is slashing .377/.414/.755 with a .377 ISO and a 209 wRC+ in his 58 plate appearances within the split. He also hit leadoff the last time Chicago faced an LHP, which is basically an unheard of level of lineup value at this position. Maybe he only gets one or two shots against Scott Kazmir ($4,000), but it’ll be worth the price.
Eric Hasse, Detroit Tigers at Chicago White Sox, $3,400 - Speaking of premium lineup positioning, Hasse hit sixth for the Tigers when they last faced a lefty on Tuesday, hitting a pair of home runs off of Eric Lauer. Now, that won’t be an every-night occurrence, but it is worth noting that in 24 plate appearances within the split in 2021, Hasse owns a 1.000 OPS and a .420 wOBA. With Dallas Keuchel ($6,800) and his 6.15 xERA taking the mound this evening for Chicago, Hasse could prove to be one of the better values on the slate.
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Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics at Colorado Rockies, $5,300 - I’m not sure Olson could ask for better circumstances surrounding tonight’s contest. First and foremost, he’s getting to hit at Coors Field. There’s an obvious benefit to that for anyone, but especially for someone like Olson, who is an extreme fly ball hitter and possesses a 167 wRC+ when hitting away from Oakland so far this season. The LHB is also red-hot, with seven hits in his past three games, including two doubles and a home run. Jon Gray ($9,000) has been good in the altitude in 2021, yet he’s only striking out 13.9% of the lefties he’s seen. That’s a lot of contact potential for someone with Olson’s plus-power.
Yuli Gurriel, Houston Astros at Toronto Blue Jays, $3,900 - I’m just a little confused by this price point. Less than two weeks ago, Gurriel was as expensive as $5.8K and now he’s less than $4K? In the famous words of Kenan Thompson, “What’s up with that?!” Yes, Hyun-Jin Ryu ($10,200) is a less than ideal matchup for anyone hoping to put up a big DKFP output; but at the same time, Gurriel has a .420 wOBA and a 178 wRC+ in his 90 plate appearances against left-handed pitching so far this season. He’s simply too cheap. Disrespectfully so.
Jazz Chisholm, Miami Marlins at Pittsburgh Pirates, $4,800 - You can never quite be sure which version of Mitch Keller ($5,600) is showing up on a given night, but for the season as a whole, the RHP has allowed opposing LHBs to slash .298/.388/.500 with a .383 wOBA. This is a man sporting a 6.54 ERA, after all. Chisholm hasn’t looked very good since coming off of the IL back on May 16, but he’s still hitting leadoff for the Marlins and this is the type of matchup that can get a player right.
Jonathan Schoop, Detroit Tigers at Chicago White Sox, $3,800 - I’d stop short of saying I’m advising a Tigers stack this evening, but there are a few bats that I think can be used against the struggling Keuchel, and Schoop is at the top of that list. Going back to May 15, a span of 81 plate appearances, the veteran is slashing .333/.407/.597 with a 179 wRC+. If you isolate Schoop’s 21 PAs versus LHPs within that sample, you’re left with an even more impressive 231 wRC+. It would appear that the infielder is heating up.
Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees, $4,700 - Anytime Devers is facing a right-handed pitcher and is less than $5K, you should be inclined to get some exposure. The 24-year-old is crushing RHPs in 2021, coming into tonight’s contest with a .372 ISO and a 160 wRC+ within the split. It’s unclear how long Michael King ($6,800) will be able to pitch in this game, and the Yankees have a great bullpen, but that doesn’t change the fact that Devers is too inexpensive.
Jeimer Candelario, Detroit Tigers at Chicago White Sox, $3,400 - Well... I guess I lied. We did it. We reached a three-man Detroit stack. I’d like to thank my parents for always believing in me and Dallas Keuchel for struggling to the point where this crazy idea almost makes sense. To be fair, Candelario has been a monster as a right-handed batter so far in 2021, hitting .354 with a 147 wRC+ in his 54 plate appearances. He’s super cheap, too. What’s not to like?
Jorge Polanco, Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals, $4,400 - With so many players injured, the Twins have turned to Polanco to bat leadoff the past three times they’ve faced a right-handed pitcher. That’s crucial to his value against Brad Keller ($5,500), but it’s also important to note that Polanco’s underwhelming season-long numbers are mostly the product of a poor start. In fact, since May 7, the infielder has a .241 ISO and a 142 wRC+. I’d expect Polanco to keep hitting against a pitcher that currently sports a 6.55 xERA.
Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants vs. Chicago Cubs, $3,700 - I wrote up Crawford in yesterday’s article and it worked so well that I figured I’d do it again. Honestly, I might just make Crawford an everyday play until he’s priced properly, which would easily have to be above $4K. In the veteran’s past 101 plate appearances, he’s slashing .298/.406/.643 with a 180 wRC+. Jake Arrieta ($7,800), who hasn’t retired an LHB since the Obama administration, is a pretty great matchup for Crawford, too.
Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs at San Francisco Giants, $5,800 - In 54 plate appearances against left-handed pitching in 2021, Bryant is hitting .404 with a .565 wOBA and a 262 wRC+. That isn’t just good, it’s hilarious. Kazmir is 37-years-old and has thrown five MLB innings since 2016. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Bryant has the advantage in this particular matchup. It’s also not like there’s much to fear past Kazmir, as the Giants own the league’s seventh-highest bullpen ERA (4.56).
Anthony Santander, Baltimore Orioles vs. Cleveland Baseball Team, $3,100 - I did want to make note of this matchup for the Orioles. Eli Morgan ($5,700) is expected to pitch in a bulk role for this game, and he simply isn’t a MLB caliber pitcher. In his only career appearance, the RHP pitched to an 11.30 xERA and half of the batted ball events he induced had an exit velocity of over 95 mph. Baltimore should be able to score a few runs tonight and an asset like Santander — who has primarily been hitting third in the team’s lineup — could prove to be a valuable salary-saving piece.
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