Well, I think I can safely say that this is the worst pitching slate I’ve seen all season. I mean, not to take anything away from Jake Odorizzi ($10,000) — who has been looking much better lately — but the highest-priced pitcher on a slate in July should probably have thrown 100 pitches at least once. Heck, not a single starter is even averaging 20.0 DKFP so far in 2021. Things are looking quite bleak.
Thankfully, I’m here to offer sage wisdom. Let’s go position-by-position and break things down.
Charlie Morton, Atlanta Braves at Miami Marlins, $9,600 - While I think that Taijuan Walker ($9,000) might have the highest floor of any pitching option above $9K, Morton presents the most ceiling. The veteran has had a bit of an up-and-down campaign to this point, but the overall numbers are actually pretty decent. Over 92.0 innings, Morton’s registered a 3.46 xFIP and a 27.6% strikeout rate, all while maintaining an above-average 47.2% ground ball rate. In particular, his last nine starts have been amazing, with Morton pitching to a 3.08 FIP and holding opponents to a modest .244 wOBA. Tonight, he’ll get a chance to improve those figures, as he takes on a Marlins squad that leads the National League in strikeout rate so far in July (27.2%). On a weak slate, Morton certainly stands out above the rest.
Alek Manoah, Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays, $7,000 - As was the case yesterday, this remains 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 at $7K on Friday 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 this same Tampa Bay lineup — Manoah produced an 18.3% swinging strike rate and finished with 37.4 DKFP. Maybe there’ll be some hesitation about trusting the RHP in a second-straight meeting with the Rays, yet on a slate this devoid of pitching talent, I’m willing to ignore the risk.
Sean Murphy, Oakland Athletics at Texas Rangers, $4,500 - Oakland’s implied total is hovering around five runs on Friday and Jordan Lyles ($8,400) is a huge reason why. The veteran comes into tonight’s start with an xERA of 5.02, as he’s allowed right-handed opponents to slash .310/.351/.548 with a .381 wOBA so far this season. Lyles has also surrendered 2.21 home runs per nine within the split. Murphy, who sports a .254 ISO on the road in 2021, should be able to do some serious damage.
J.T. Realmuto, Philadelphia Phillies at Boston Red Sox, $3,800 - I’m just going to keep riding this until Realmuto’s price point gets back to normal. Despite a .371 expected wOBA that currently a career-high, the perception of Realmuto’s as the game’s best catcher seems to have soured slightly in 2021. Well, I’m here to tell you he’s still great and he’s far too cheap in this matchup against Garrett Richards ($8,000). The RHP’s past five starts have been a nightmare, with Richards allowing opponents to compile a massive .460 wOBA. It’s been a barrage of barrels and walks, which bodes well for Philadelphia’s offense on Friday.
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Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox at Baltimore Orioles, $6,000 - It’s become customary for the team facing the Orioles to have one of the slate’s highest implied totals, and things are no different this evening with the White Sox. Considering how Jorge Lopez’s ($5,300) past six outings have gone, it’s not hard to see a path to Chicago lighting up the scoreboard. In that span, Lopez has conceded a .336/.417/.549 slash line to opponents, as he’s surrendered 24 earned runs in just 29.2 innings of work. Abreu should be able to take advantage and payoff his hefty salary.
Ryan Mountcastle, Baltimore Orioles vs. Chicago White Sox, $3,400 - On the other side of this matchup, Mountcastle is far too cheap for how well he’s been hitting since the beginning of June. Across his past 131 plate appearances, the rookie is hitting .303 with a .269 ISO and a 155 wRC+. Mountcastle also has better numbers on the season while hitting at Camden Yards and while facing left-handed opponents, so Dallas Keuchel ($7,200) would be wise to use caution when seeing the 24-year-old in the batter’s box.
Jose Altuve, Houston Astros vs. New York Yankees, $4,900 - With the Yankees essentially scheduling a bullpen game on Friday — Nestor Cortes ($4,000) threw 59 pitches in his last start — the Astros could be looking at a huge offensive performance. That’ll likely begin with Altuve, who has been as good as ever dating back to May 1. In that stretch, the All-Star has posted a .255 ISO, a 153 wRC+ and a .919 OPS. Altuve is also hitting .331 for his career against left-handers, which could play a huge role with Cortes likely to at least pitch into the fourth inning.
Jean Segura, Philadelphia Phillies at Boston Red Sox, $3,300 - This is the third time this week I’ve written up Segura, so we probably don’t need to spend too much time on his value. However, in general, when you can get the leadoff hitter of a team with an implied total well above five runs into your lineups for less than $4K — you do it. It also definitely helps when said leadoff hitter is batting .325 since the beginning of June and the aforementioned Richards is on the mound opposing him. Brad Miller ($3,200) could be an option here, as well, especially with AL rules likely getting him into the Phillies’ lineup, but I doubt we see anything like Thursday’s performance again.
Josh Donaldson, Minnesota Twins vs. Detroit Tigers, $5,300 - Though Matt Manning ($5,000) is one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, the early results have been ugly. The rookie has conceded 15 earned runs in his first 17.0 innings, while a 91.5% zone contact rate and a 4.5% swinging strike rate don’t inspire much confidence in the immediate future. RHBs have also crushed Manning to the tune of a .600 slugging percentage, which is where Donaldson comes into the mix. Even at 35-years-old with nagging leg injuries, the former MVP is still sporting an elite .389 expected wOBA in 2021. His ceiling is sky high in this matchup.
Jonathan Villar, New York Mets vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, $3,500 - It’s unclear if Luis Rojas is simply going to use the same lineup tonight he intended to use in last night’s postponed game, but if that’s the case, Villar has some serious value, as he was set to hit leadoff. The utility man has been far better as a left-handed hitter in 2021, posting a 113 wRC+ in his 161 plate appearances within the split. The Pirates are also a fantastic matchup, as the team’s bullpen has consistently imploded the past 30 days. In fact, in that stretch, Pittsburgh’s relievers sport a dreadful 5.53 ERA — the fifth-worst mark in the league.
Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays, $5,000 - It sometimes feels like Bichette’s exploits are a little lost in the shuffle, juxtaposed to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. ($5,600) 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 June 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 tonight should be the ideal time to use him, especially with a $500 discount from Thursday’s salary. Shane McClanahan ($7,700) has some serious potential, but he also possesses a 5.02 ERA since the start of June, a span where he’s allowing 1.88 opponent home runs per nine. Not great.
Didi Gregorius, Philadelphia Phillies at Boston Red Sox, $3,800 - If you haven’t figured it out yet, my fantasy mantra so far in 2021 is to stack against Garrett Richards as much as humanly possible. It’s worked pretty well the past month. Gregorius’ numbers are down this season, but the shortstop has looked good since returning from a lengthy injury absence on July 2. It’s just a sample of 27 plate appearances, but the veteran has registered five extra-base hits and a 172 wRC+. At this price? That’s all the evidence I need.
Juan Soto, Washington Nationals at San Francisco Giants, $5,300 - I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but the real Juan Soto is back and he’s deadly. Since June 19, Soto is slashing .347/.442/.542 with a 1.2 BB/K ratio and a 165 wRC+. The 22-year-old hasn’t quite impressed like Guerrero or Tatis or Acuna so far in 2021, yet the inevitable hot-streak has seemingly begun and I want to make sure I have some exposure to the generational talent this evening. Logan Webb ($7,000) is a decent pitcher, but he’ll be making his first start since late May and he’s surrendered a .366 wOBA to LHBs this season. That’s an alluring combination with Soto sitting at a relatively moderate salary.
Trevor Larnach, Minnesota Twins vs. Detroit Tigers, $2,800 - You could also save some salary with Alex Kirilloff ($3,800) this evening, but with Larnach much cheaper and consistently hitting in the top-third of the Twins’ order against RHPs, he’s the true value asset in Minnesota. It also helps that the top prospect has been absolutely mashing right-handed pitching in 2021, with a .400 OBP and a 145 wRC+ within the split.
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