I know what you’re thinking. Each MLB team has had four full days of rest over the All-Star break. Surely that must mean teams are going to start the second-half of the season strong with their ace on the bump Friday evening. Well, while your logic is sound, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Though we have a few decent options above $9K, this is a slate where the pitching is more defined by depth than top-end talent.
With that in mind, let’s go position-by-position and break down who you should be rostering in your DFS lineups tonight.
Robbie Ray, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Texas Rangers, $9,300 - While there are a couple other tantalizing matchups on the board — Kevin Gausman ($10,300) against St. Louis, Chris Bassitt ($8,500) versus Cleveland — Ray would appear to have the greatest combination of price point and ceiling. The left-hander has been absolutely dominant going back to the beginning of June, a span of time where Ray has posted a 2.40 ERA, a 2.63 FIP and a strikeout rate of 36.2%. In fact, that’s the highest qualified strikeout rate in the American League in that seven-week stretch. With Texas in possession of the AL’s lowest ISO against southpaw opponents (.144), Ray should be able to thrive in Buffalo this evening.
Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs at Arizona Diamondbacks, $7,500 - It would appear that Kyle Hendricks is Kyle Hendricks again. Things were looking rough early on in 2021, but the right-hander has seemingly made it through, even somehow picking up an MLB-best 11 wins along the way. In Hendricks’ past five starts opponents are hitting just .219 with a dismal .254 wOBA. Not surprisingly, that’s translated into the veteran registering a 2.08 ERA and a 2.83 FIP in that same span of time. Yes, none of this magically means that Hendricks is suddenly a strikeout artist; however, he should volume his way to a nice outing against the Diamondbacks, who own the league’s lowest ISO over the past 30 days (.121).
Sal Perez, Kansas City Royals vs. Baltimore Orioles, $5,400 - In short, Perez has been a monster so far in 2021. To wit, the backstop is 99th percentile in hard hit rate (56.7%), which really starts to make sense when you take a look at his numbers against left-handed pitching. In 91 plate appearances within the split, Perez is slashing .356/.385/.747. He has almost four-times as many home runs (11) as he does walks (3) versus LHPs. I love the aggressiveness in DFS and Keegan Akin ($4,900) should be very afraid.
Editor’s Note: Rangers C John Hicks is not in the lineup for tonight’s game vs. the Blue Jays.
John Hicks, Texas Rangers at Toronto Blue Jays, $3,000 - If you’re someone who isn’t inclined to use the aforementioned Ray, punting at catcher with Hicks could be an extremely savvy move. The sample size is ridiculously small, but in 23 plate appearances this season, the veteran has four home runs and a 202 wRC+. That level of success is unlikely to carry over into the second-half, yet Ray’s lone flaw is his propensity to surrender long balls. Hicks should also be hitting fifth in the Rangers’ lineup this evening.
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Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics vs. Cleveland Baseball Team, $5,300 - While it might feel like Eli Morgan ($6,100) only ends up starting half the games he’s scheduled to, the right-hander will in fact be on the mound for Cleveland on Friday. Knowing that, it shouldn’t be all that big a shock that the Athletics’ implied team total opened up at a number well over five runs, as Morgan has conceded 3.38 opponent home runs per nine and owns a 6.68 FIP in 2021. Olson and the rest of Oakland’s lineup should be able to do some serious damage.
Editor’s Note: Today’s doubleheader between the Twins and the Tigers has been postponed due to inclement weather.
Alex Kirilloff, Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers , $2,800 - Even with Matt Manning ($4,600) struggling to begin his MLB career, the scheduling quirk of tonight’s Twins-Tigers game makes it tough to roster too many Minnesota assets. However, with the Twins playing on the road, they’ll have at least seven innings of at-bats, which should be enough to get someone like Kirilloff four plate appearances — especially if runs are being scored. The rookie has been impressive so far in 2021, posting a massive .381 expected wOBA against RHPs. There’s definite risk, but the trade-off is a salary under $3K. I’ll bite.
Marcus Semien, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Texas Rangers, $5,500 - Though Jordan Lyles ($6,600) has been pitching much better as of late, this doesn’t project to be a great matchup for the RHP. Lyles has shown reserve splits all season long, allowing RHBs to slash an impressive .313/.351/.540 with 2.08 home runs per nine. Meanwhile, Toronto is essentially a team comprised of right-handed All-Stars, as the Jays lead the league in right-on-right plate appearances (1,826). They also lead the league in right-on-right OPS (.810). Again, things could get ugly for Lyles.
Jed Lowrie, Oakland Athletics vs. Cleveland Baseball Team, $3,800 - It’s unclear how the four-day layoff will effect Lowrie, but the 37-year-old was one of the hottest hitters in baseball prior to the All-Star break. In his past 10 games, Lowrie has registered a 1.084 OPS and has more extra-base hits (7) than strikeouts (6). Maybe the veteran doesn’t pick up exactly where he left off, but Morgan isn’t an imposing matchup. I like Lowrie’s chances.
Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs at Arizona Diamondbacks, $4,300 - After a disastrous month of June, Bryant has started to heat up again in July. Still, that’s not the split we care about here. The key to using Bryant in DFS so far in 2021 has been to use him solely versus a left-handed starter. The All-Star is slashing .348/.423/.725 with a 205 wRC+ in his 78 plate appearances against LHPs, and he’ll draw another tonight in the form of Madison Bumgarner ($7,000). The former World Series MVP has pitched since June 2. I’m expecting some rust.
Luis Arraez, Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers, $2,600 - While worries about the likelihood of the aforementioned Kirilloff getting four plate appearances are justified, the same concerns don’t apply to Arraez, who will be hitting leadoff for the Twins this evening. So, with four PAs all but assured, you’re getting the infielder at the doubleheader discount for no good reason. I’ll take the savings, especially with Arraez hitting .321 against RHPs for the season and having produced 13 hits in his past seven games.
Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees, $4,800 - There’s a lot of reasons to like Bogaerts this evening. First and foremost, he’s hitting .321 with a .396 wOBA for the season as a whole. He’s also going up against Domingo German ($6,600), who has surrendered 1.90 home runs per nine to opposing RHBs in 2021. However, the top reason to roster Bogaerts this evening is far more simple: He’s just too cheap. This is only the sixth time this season that the shortstop has checked in at less than $5K.
Gavin Lux, Los Angeles Dodgers at Colorado Rockies, $3,200 - Lux isn’t going to be occupying a high-leverage spot in the Dodgers’ batting order this evening, but he will likely be the cheapest way to get exposure to Coors Field. Lux’s numbers are also pretty decent when you isolate his production against right-hander pitchers like Antonio Senzatela ($5,800), as the young infielder has a 112 wRC+ in his 224 plate appearances within the split. Remember, that’s a statistic weighted for a neutral setting, not the altitude in Colorado.
Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers at Colorado Rockies, $5,500 - Remember how Betts started the season sort of slowly? Well, across the past month, things have been much, much better at the plate. Going back to June 13, Betts has posted a .286 ISO and a 152 wRC+ in 109 plate appearances. Heck, in Mookie’s final two games before the All-Star break, he hit a pair of long balls and scored seven runs. There’s no denying he’s on fire right now and I doubt he cools off a Coors Field.
Austin Hays, Baltimore Orioles at Kansas City Royals, $3,200 - There’s a reason that Hays tends to hit second in the Orioles’ lineup when the team is facing a left-handed pitcher like Danny Duffy ($7,000). In 83 plate appearances within the split so far this season, Hays is slashing .351/.370/.597 with a .409 wOBA. His numbers fall off a cliff against RHPs, so Hays will have to do his damage early, but this is a fair price to pay for a platoon asset of his caliber.
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