With the month of July coming to an end, dare I say we’ve got a few games on Thursday night with massive playoff implications. The Red Sox are taking on the Yankees, the Giants and the Dodgers are squaring off for NL West supremacy and, maybe most surprising of all, the upstart Mariners are trying to hunt down the Athletics in the Wild Card standings.
How will these tightly contested matchups impact tonight’s slate from a fantasy perspective? Let’s go position-by-position and break it all down.
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Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants, $10,500 - On a slate that’s lacking in the pitching upside department, you might just have to swallow your pride and pay the big bucks for Buehler. Though the 26-year-old got off to a rough start in 2021, his production has been steadily on the rise. In fact, in Buehler’s past eight outings, he’s pitched to a 1.76 ERA with a 2.70 FIP. The right-hander has also limited opponents to a modest .225 slugging percentage and .215 wOBA within that stretch, a span than includes a dominant performance against these same Giants back in late June. With the likes of Brandon Belt (knee), Brandon Crawford (oblique) and Evan Longoria (shoulder) now all on the IL, expect Buehler to once again make easy work of this injury-ravaged San Francisco lineup.
Chris Flexen, Seattle Mariners vs. Oakland Athletics, $7,600 - While Flexen’s underwhelming strikeout rate will always prevent him from being a true DFS standout, his high-floor is perfect for a slate of this size. It’s just been hard for opponents to string hits together against the former KBO star, especially when he happens to be pitching in Seattle. Flexen comes into Thursday’s outing with a 1.76 ERA at home in 61.1 innings — a mark that trails only Jacob deGrom and Lance Lynn among qualified starters. Flexen’s also been great regardless of setting since the middle of June, registering a 1.36 ERA and holding opponents to a .235 wOBA across his last six appearances. Oakland isn’t the softest matchup in the world, but Flexen has a real chance for 3x value at this price point.
Editor’s Note: Twins C Mitch Garver has been placed on the paternity list.
Mitch Garver, Minnesota Twins vs. Los Angeles Angels, $4,400 - When the Twins faced a left-handed starter back on Tuesday, it was Garver hitting in the two-hole. That premium lineup placement all by itself is enough reason to be intrigued by the backstop on Thursday’s slate, but if I’m being honest, the presence of Andrew Heaney ($6,900) is also very welcome. The left-hander has been absolutely destroyed in his past four starts, sporting an ugly 9.33 ERA and allowing opponents to combine for 2.9 home runs per nine. Garver, who has great career numbers versus LHPs, is in a position to thrive.
Christian Vazquez, Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees, $2,900 - If you’re simply looking to save some salary at catcher, you could do a lot worse than Vazquez. Though the veteran has seen his power production fall off from where it sat in 2019 and 2020, Vazquez is still part of an explosive offensive attack. To wit, Boston is one of just two teams on this evening’s slate with an implied team total of at least five runs.
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Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies, $5,500 - While using Freeman against a left-handed starter isn’t his ideal split, it hasn’t really mattered to the first baseman who’s on the mound so far in July. In 69 plate appearances in the month, Freeman is slashing .397/.478/.707 with a .310 ISO and a 209 wRC+. The reigning NL MVP has been due for some positive regression all season long, and it appears he’s finally riding that wave. The left-hander is question is also Matt Moore ($5,800) — equipped with a 5.45 xERA — so that helps lessen the impact.
Ty France, Seattle Mariners vs. Oakland Athletics, $4,400 - I’m not exactly looking to stack against Sean Manaea ($9,600), but France appears to be a very solid asset this evening. Basically, he just hits left-handed pitching really, really well. France owns a .214 ISO and a 123 wRC+ within the split so far in 2021, with six of his nine home runs coming off of southpaws. The 27-year-old has also been swinging a hot bat since the All-Star break, with a .429 average (9-for-21) in the Mariners’ five contests.
Brandon Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays at Cleveland Baseball Team, $4,600 - Since transitioning to a starter on May 31, Cal Quantrill ($6,200) has struggled immensely, particularly when it comes to left-handed batters. In fact, the 87 LHBs that the former first-round pick has faced within that span have managed to hit .300 with a .563 slugging percentage. So, that brings us to Lowe. Though there are no shortage of holes in the infielder’s swing, Lowe does own a .283 ISO and a 150 wRC+ against RHPs in 2021. The upside is obvious.
Enrique Hernandez, Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees, $3,800 - As has been the case for the entirety of his career, you want to be using Hernandez when the veteran is facing a left-handed pitcher like Jordan Montgomery ($7,400). So far this season, Kiké is slashing .257/.348/.540 with a .283 ISO within the split. He’s also the Red Sox everyday leadoff hitter, so Hernandez has a real opportunity to see five plate appearances this evening.
Josh Donaldson, Minnesota Twins vs. Los Angeles Angels, $5,000 - Donaldson hasn’t received much acclaim for his play in 2021 — most of his headlines are Gerrit Cole adjacent — but the former MVP has been hitting left-handed pitching exceedingly well. In 95 plate appearances within the split, Donaldson is slashing .288/.389/.550 with a 153 wRC+. Considering how much the aforementioned Heaney has been struggling in July, I see no reason why Donaldson can’t continue this success.
Joey Wendle, Tampa Bay Rays at Cleveland Baseball Team, $4,300 - While it might have seemed like an odd choice, there’s a reason Wendle was selected to the All-Star team: He crushes right-handed pitching. In 218 plate appearances, Wendle owns a .307 average, a .211 ISO and a 142 wRC+ within the split — numbers that should make Quantrill very, very nervous. It’s also worth noting that Wendle is $900 cheaper than his teammate Wander Franco ($5,200), despite having far superiors numbers at the MLB level.
Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals, $5,800 - Like many of his teammates, Baez is generally only viable when facing a left-handed pitcher. Why? Well, it certainly doesn’t hurt that the shortstop is slashing .299/.365/.627 with a 164 wRC+ within the split so far this season. Also, while Kwang Hyun Kim ($8,100) has yet to allow an earned run in July, he possesses a 14th percentile strikeout rate and a 17th percentile whiff rate for the season as a whole. If Baez doesn’t have to worry about striking out, he’s suddenly an elite DFS option.
Miguel Rojas, Miami Marlins vs. San Diego Padres, $4,300 - With all of Miami’s injuries, Rojas once again finds himself as the team’s primary leadoff hitter. It’s obviously not an ideal situation for Don Mattingly, but it might just work to the Marlins’ benefit in tonight’s matchup with Blake Snell ($7,800). Rojas has thrived when facing LHPs in 2021, slashing .365/.433/.518 with a 164 wRC+ in his 97 plate appearances within the split. If he can reach five plate appearances this evening, he should have little issue paying off this modest salary.
J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees, $4,400 - If the price tag next to Martinez’s name looks odd, it should. At $4.4K, this is the cheapest the All-Star has been all season long. Count me among those that just don’t understand. Martinez is red-hot, slugging .725 with a 200 wRC+ so far in the month of July. He’s also mashed whenever he’s had a chance to hit at Fenway Park in 2021, as the veteran owns a 1.030 OPS as home. Add in the fact that Martinez is sporting a career 155 wRC+ versus LHPs, and you’ve got yourself a no-brainer asset.
Dylan Carlson, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Chicago Cubs, $3,100 - As odd as this might be to say, I truly believe Carlson is my favourite dollar-for-dollar play on Thursday’s slate. Yes, the 22-year-old has been scuffling at the dish so far in July, yet he’s remained the Cardinals’ leadoff man, which is more than enough incentive to use Carlson with a price tag just above $3K. However, the main draw here is Adbert Alzolay ($8,400). The Cubs’ RHP has struggled across his past six starts, with LHBs causing a majority of the issues. In fact, within that span, lefties have combined for an insane .845 slugging percentage and a .521 wOBA. Look for Carlson to take advantage.
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