This is already a small, seven-game slate, but there is serious potential for things to get even more condensed with the remnants of a tropical storm making their way up the East Coast. That means keeping an eye on Pirates-Mets and Blue Jays-Orioles, the latter representing the contest with the highest implied total of the evening.
For everything else, there’s Mastercard. ...I mean, for everything else, I’m here to break it all down position-by-position.
Editor’s Note: Tonight’s TOR/BAL and PIT/NYM games have been postponed due to inclement weather.
Yu Darvish, San Diego Padres vs. Washington Nationals, $10,200 - It’s tough to decide between Darvish and Max Scherzer ($10,400), but I do think I’m leaning towards the former. First and foremost, Darvish would appear to have the easier matchup, as the Padres lead the National League in wOBA (.363) and wRC+ (131) over the past two weeks. The Nationals have also been hitting extremely well — they registered 15 runs on Wednesday — yet the recent loss of Kyle Schwarber (hamstring) looms large for a lineup that has preferred to face left-handed pitching all season long. For his part, Darvish has also put up incredible numbers at home so far in 2021, sporting a 2.12 ERA with a 33.5% strikeout rate.
Alek Manoah, Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles , $6,800 - Slate size does play a role here, but this is a confusing price point for Manoah. The rookie has basically been hovering within a couple hundred dollars of $8K in every start he’s made since his debut, yet he now finds himself down below $7K on Thursday evening. Why? It’s certainly not a reflection of recent performance, as Manoah’s past two outings have been the best of his career. The right-hander has thrown 13.0 innings in that span, surrendering no earned runs and just seven opponent hits, all while racking up 16 strikeouts. Heck, in his last appearance versus Tampa Bay, Manoah produced an 18.3% swinging strike rate and finished with 37.4 DKFP. That’s a lot of ceiling headed into a relatively soft matchup with a high win expectancy.
Eric Haase, Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins, $4,300 - You had to know we were stacking against J.A. Happ ($5,700) on this slate. The Twins lefty has been stuck in a nightmare dating back to the beginning of June, pitching to an ugly 7.45 ERA in that span of time and allowing an eye-popping 3.4 opponent home runs per nine. Meanwhile, Haase has destroyed left-handers in every opportunity he’s received so far in 2021, as the 28-year-old owns a 199 wRC+ in his 60 plate appearances within the split. He’ll also likely be batting clean-up this evening.
J.T. Realmuto, Philadelphia Phillies at Chicago Cubs, $3,500 - I’m not going to pretend to understand Realmuto’s current price tag. I guess the backstop has been dealing with some injuries in 2021, and I guess his .177 ISO is a little underwhelming, but we’re talking about an asset whose current .371 expected wOBA is a career-best mark. Realmuto is exactly who he’s always been, he just happens to be about $1,500 cheaper than usual. Just take the savings and smile.
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Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles, $6,000 - Instead of me reeling off Guerrero’s insane statistics — of which there are many — let’s discuss Keegan Akin ($5,000) . The left-hander has a tough task ahead of him tonight, as the Jays possess this slate’s highest implied team total, and it’s not as if Akin comes into Thursday in the best form. In fact, the rookie has conceded 23 earned runs in his past 17.0 innings of work, a stretch that’s seen opponents combine for an insane .707 slugging percentage. Guerrero’s always a good play, but it almost seems impossible he won’t take advantage of this matchup.
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins, $3,000 - If you’re looking for value tonight, the answer is almost always turning to a Tigers’ asset. In this case, we have Miguel Cabrera, a man who has actually been hitting far better than you’d think going back to the beginning of June. In his last 112 plate appearances, the veteran is slashing .317/.357/.452. That span also includes 38 PAs specifically against left-handed opponents where Cabrera has posted a .404 wOBA and a 157 wRC+. Going up against Happ, this price tag is a steal.
Marcus Semien, Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles, $5,500 - If you’d like some very basic insight into how advantageous stacking the top three bats in the Jays’ order has been so far in 2021, look no further than the American League leaderboard for runs scored. Coming into play on Thursday, Bo Bichette ($5,500) sits first with 70, the aforementioned Guerrero Jr. is second (68) and Semien ranks just behind the duo in third (66). That’s actually insane. That’s not supposed to be a thing that happens. Anyway, this is a great matchup and the Semien has posted a 176 wRC+ in his past 10 games. What else is new?
Jean Segura, Philadelphia Phillies at Chicago Cubs, $3,400 - As discussed above in regards to Realmuto, it just seems like something is slightly off when it comes to the Phillies’ salaries the past few days. Segura is another prime example. Not only is the veteran currently batting leadoff for Philadelphia — a high-ceiling DFS trait — but he’s currently sporting career-bests in batting average (.324), expected wOBA (.321) and wRC+ (126). The Phillies’ implied total isn’t anything special this evening, but that doesn’t change the fact there’s some value to be had with Segura.
Manny Machado, San Diego Padres vs. Washington Nationals, $5,300 - It’s understandable to want to avoid Scherzer entirely, but Machado is hitting as well as he ever has the past few weeks. In fact, if you go back to Jun. 13, the infielder is slashing .372/.446/.718 with a .346 ISO and a 204 wRC+ in 92 plate appearances. This isn’t without precedent, either. We all know Machado is the type of hitter that can get red-hot and start carrying a team. His ownership will likely be low in this high-profile matchup and that’s a gift in GPPs.
Jeimer Candelario, Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins, $3,400 - I’m not going to pretend that a majority of Candelario’s viability isn’t supplied by Minnesota’s starting pitcher, but there are some non-Happ elements to like with the 27-year-old. First, the switch-hitting Candelario is batting an impressive .306 in his 81 plate appearances as an RHB in 2021. Second, all five of Candelario’s home runs this season have been hit outside of the spacious Comerica Park. These are the splits you want the third baseman in.
Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles, $5,500 - Might as well finish off the set, right? It sometimes feels like Bichette’s exploits are a little lost in the shuffle, juxtaposed to Guerrero Jr. gunning for a Triple Crown in the same dugout. However, let me be the one to tell you that Bichette is lighting the world ablaze dating back to Jun. 8. In that stretch, the All-Star is slashing .363/.415/.540 with a 161 wRC+ and just a 12.2% strikeout rate. He’s also got a 168 wRC+ against lefties for the season as a whole, so this is pretty much the perfect situation to use him.
Zack Short, Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins, $2,300 - If you really need to save some salary, you could do worse than Short. It’s a small sample, but the 26-year-old has really enjoyed his 21 plate appearances against left-handed pitching in 2021, posting a .493 wOBA and three extra-base hits in 14 at-bats. Short also showcased some pop in Triple-A, so it’s not like this is coming out of nowhere. Add in Happ’s .690 opponent slugging percentage since Jun. 1 and what’s not to like?
Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies at Chicago Cubs, $5,100 - Harper is feeling it at the dish right now, with four home runs and a 1.056 OPS in his past 10 games. The former MVP is also sporting a 159 wRC+ when getting the chance to face right-handed pitching in 2021. This is all good news, as Adbert Alzolay ($8,000) is a perfect matchup for the LHB. Lefties have plagued the Cubs’ starter all season long, as they’ve combined for a whopping .390 wOBA. Bryce should be licking his chops for this one.
Tyler Naquin, Cincinnati Reds at Milwaukee Brewers, $3,000 - Naquin’s cooled since a blistering April, but the outfielder still owns a .225 ISO and a respectable 112 wRC+ when facing an RHP so far this season. He’s also predominantly hit fifth in the Reds’ order when the team is up against a righty. That will be the case this evening with Adrian Houser ($7,000) taking the mound for Milwaukee. Houser has always had his issues with LHBs.
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